Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2012

I’m always on the hunt for a great burger spot to satisfy my hunger and to possibly make it into my Toppings. Red Onion Burger was on my friends personal Top 10 as #5, so I figured it was worth a try. Cherry and I came here the other day after work, and as we pulled in, we saw a worker in the front of the store holding some sort of signage and waving people in. It wasn’t until we were inside that we figured out she was holding an American Cancer Society (ACS) sign – because on Tuesdays, Red Onion gives back to the community and ACS was their chosen organization for that day. As soon as we walked in we were greeted and a woman behind the counter handed us our menus and  we seated ourselves. The ceilings looked as though they were painted recently, but it did not cover up the fact that the restaurant is run down. The appearance didn’t deter me though, even though I was a little turned off by seeing cob webs in the corner behind me… By the time we ordered, there were several parties of customers also dining in – my guess is that they didn’t come for the décor.

interior + ice cream freezer

cob web in the corner

 

The Food:

 

the original baconator: 2 patties, loaded bacon, melted cheddar

My initial impression when I first saw this burger was, “Wow!” It looked to have copious amounts of bacon between two juicy beef patties and perfectly melted cheddar atop all between garlic onion buns… However looks can be deceiving. I will give credit where credit is due, and the bacon was delicious. It was thickly sliced and nicely cooked carrying with it a good savory crunch. The rest of the burger was ordinary at best. The lettuce they used looked to be the same kind you find in pre-packed salad bags – chopped into bite-sized pieces. I wouldn’t consider myself a burger snob , but I think if you’re going to put lettuce in a burger, it needs be the whole leaf. Not some chopped or shredded variety you find at a fast food taco joint! Toasted buns is also a judging criteria I have for a good burger and there was no toasting at Red Onion. Instead, the buns were flavorless and plain. After seeing the size of the side items, Cherry wanted to order two sides of tater bites. I walked up to the counter and ordered with the young man standing there. I even heard him relay the order to the manager, so there should have been no way to miss/forget this order….they never came.

 

the ring tails bacon mushroom fan’s: bacon, onion ring, sautéed  mushrooms, swiss & onion rings

 When the ring tails burger came out, after two bites in I said to myself, “Where’s the bacon, mushrooms and onion ring?!” I opened it up and it only had melted cheddar cheese, red onion and lettuce. I waved down our server and let her know that the burger I was served had none of the ingredients listed on the menu. The woman, I perceived as the owner, came by, acknowledged the mistake, and took the burger back to have the correct one made. She did come back and apologized stating, “I’m very sorry, I pushed the wrong button on the screen.” After a few more minutes, the correct burger was served and like the baconator, it looked great. But looks can only get you so far, you need substance to keep people coming back. Flavorless and ordinary seem to be a common theme with our meal here. Acting as the lighthouse shining on dark and lowly night, the bacon was the only thing that brought anything to the table. Swiss cheese isn’t the most flavorful cheese by any means and in this case it was no different. The mushrooms were meagerly sprinkled atop the melted cheese and beneath a plain onion ring. A good onion ring, to me, is one that has good crunch doesn’t have the entire onion come after one bite. Those two benchmarks were not met either. The single onion ring was forgettable and in the grand scheme of the burger, it was a non-factor. It didn’t stand out at all and was lost between everything else. I did order a side of onion rings with my burger and they were one in the same. I even got a what seemed like a mouthful of oil after biting into one – not an good lasting impression.

 

My Conclusion:

I have three words to describe Red Onion Burger: Ordinary, circus, dirty. The burgers were vanilla – something I could make myself on my backyard grill. Patties had no substance and honestly looked like the frozen patties you find at a grocery store. I’m not going to knock on family run businesses, but it looked a little awkward and inefficient to me to see six workers standing behind the counter and ice cream freezer with no apparent tasks or roles. Everyone just walked around aimlessly and did random tasks that were assigned by the owner. Also, it was very clear that routine cleanings rarely happen apparent by the cob webs behind our table on the dining floor. The red baskets that everything was served in were all very dirty. Black dirt and other various colors that appear after many months and maybe years of not washing the baskets lay under the parchment sheets… Needless to say, I will not be returning to Red Onion Burger.

dirty baskets…

Read Full Post »

After work one day, Cherry and I had a fixin’ for some shrimp and some friends of ours just so happened to have the same craving. We decided on The Cajun Crawfish because of some positive recommendations we’ve heard. It is a smaller restaurant (seating around 25-30) located in an Asian strip mall off Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Upon entering, I noticed that the inside is really clean and well kept. There are little coastal decorations around such as a shrimp net hanging from the ceiling, some life rings and buoys.  There are also two flat screens on the walls which was nice (since I got to watch the playoff game.)

 

 

The Food:

cajun fries

pound ‘o  gulf shrimp

pound‘o blue prawns

The fries came in a generously sized basket with some cajun seasoning sprinkled all over and two dipping cups of ketchup. The seasoning had a good bold flavor and to me, didn’t need any extra sauce. Overall however, the fries were just okay. As an appetizer, they did the trick, but nothing to write home about.

I’m going to combine the review for the shrimp and prawns because  it’s similarities. The main difference, that I saw between the two were the heads being bigger on the prawns. Everything else (taste and texture) was virtually the same. The shrimps and prawns were all boiled and then soaked in boom-bang sauce which is a combination of their original cajun seasoning, garlic butter and lemon pepper. When our food came out, it was served in a large plastic bag and plopped on our table. As tempting as it was to dump everything out on the parchment paper atop our table and go to town, we chose not to because of all the sauce that was also in the bag – it would have been hot mess!  Now, some of you may know, I tend to shy away from shrimp due to my past experiences with how small they turn out to be. However I was pleasantly surprised with Cajun’s shrimp and prawns – they were hearty, juicy and fresh! Now, the seafood in and of themselves were good, however the star of the show was definitely the boom-bang sauce! If I could describe the sauce in one word it would be: amazing! If anyone knows what a graveyard is, it’s like that, but sauces instead of sodas… and it works! The taste buds are initially hit with the bold cajun spices and garlic and ends with a kick of the lemon pepper. We chose to get it hot which is their equivalent to a three-star out of four and it carried perfect heat through the meal. It left my lips with a subtle and satisfying burn. One thing that was recommended by our server was to order some French bread to soak up the sauce at the end and order French bread we did. Toasted and buttered, the mini loaves were perfect – they had a great crunch on the outside and super soft inside to soak all the yummy sauce. I’m actually thinking of the sauce as I write this blog and am seriously considering bringing some tupperware to bottle that stuff up next time!!

My Conclusion:

 The Cajun Crawfish is tucked away in the middle of a busy Asian strip mall in south Seattle– not exactly the most appealing location for some. However, if you ever have a hankering for some fresh seafood served with some finger-licking good sauce (trust me you will be licking your fingers) then definitely come in and dig in! I would advise against wearing your Sunday’s Best… because things get messy! They do provide bibs, a roll of paper towels on each table and gloves upon request… but come on; you don’t want to be the person at a seafood boil with plastic gloves on… do you?

Read Full Post »

I am going to make a bold statement and say,  EVERYONE must put down Hash House a Go Go on their bucket list – it is that amazing! A major focus for Cherry and I whenever we travel, is to hit up places that have been featured on Foodnetwork. One of my favorites, Man vs. Food ,(now known as Man vs. Food Nation) featured Hash House, and am I sure glad he did! The location in Imperial Palace can be a little tricky to find – you have to take an escalator that’s located in the middle of the casino floor near the slot-machines. There isn’t a whole lot of signage, but asking any employee will get you there. The interior has a combination of industrial meets rocker. Signed photos of celebrities cover the wall as you enter and then you immediately notice the stainless steel tables and chairs that fill the floor. Our server was awesome! He literally ran from table to table but maintained a very friendly, composed and polite demeanor the entire time. Now, for the meat and potatoes!

farm scramble: hardwood smoked bacon, avocado, onion, swiss with crispy potatoes  & biscuit

 I would consider this a “lighter” selection from HH’s menu. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the combination of bacon and creamy avocado was great. I am not crazy for swiss cheese and felt pepperjack could have spiced up the dish a little bit more. The potatoes were tasty and had a nice crunch on the outside. Hash House definitely has awesome biscuits! They’re HUGE, always fresh, and baked to perfection!

 farm benedicts: (HH original) smoked bacon, fresh tomato, fresh spinach, roasted red pepper sauce cream and two basted eggs

This benedict was really good. The roasted red pepper sauce was rich and savory and did a wonderful job blending the flavors from the bacon, tomato, spinach and eggs. Instead of an english muffin, HH uses their delicious biscuits that taste like buttery bliss in your mouth. Let me try and take you on a mouthwatering journey of each bite. After the initial blast of savory goodness from the red pepper sauce and bacon, you’re transported to the creamy calmness of the basted egg and egg yolk. That trip doesn’t last long because you’re immediately thrown into the refreshing flavors of the tomato and spinach. Entering the final descent, you are driven through the buttery biscuit and you finally land in the soft arms of the griddled mashed potatoes….I love to travel 🙂

 farm benedicts: (featured on Man vs. Food) andy’s sage fried chicken, fresh spinach, hardwood smoked bacon, tomato, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs

When it comes to HH’s benedicts, one thing to keep in mind is that the pictures aren’t the most flattering or appealing. That is why you should never judge a book by its cover. Beneath that layer of chipotle sauce is the mouth watering (and high cholesterol inducing) treasure of; sage fried chicken, bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese and biscuit! Oh… and also fresh spinach and tomato. The fried chicken had great crunch and flavor – even with the sauce that was ladled all over. I had to finagle each humungous bite to make sure I was able to get everything in one shot. The bacon was full of savory goodness and really rang through this symphony of gluttony! The halved biscuit acted as the support to this structure and did a great job melding all the textures, layers and flavors together under its buttery coating. Griddled mashed potatoes also sat under this behemoth and acted as the cement that held the beams which everything rested on. Just imagine all the guilty foodie pleasures you would want – you have it in this dish. This benedict wasn’t the featured challenge on MVF but it definitely could have been! I unfortunately, was unable to conquer this meal… today, food won.

 

My Conclusion:

Do yourself a favor and go Hash House a Go Go.  Nevada is lucky to have five locations (four in Las Vegas) but there is also one in San Diego and one in Chicago. HH is truly a foodies paradise. The individual dishes are big enough to share and the prices are extremely reasonable for the amount of food that comes on each plate. Everything tastes amazing and you will not walk out hungry or disappointed. The only regret is forgetting the cot for the food coma that I suffered!

Read Full Post »

It has only been a few weeks since Irbille Edible’s hosted their last pop up dinner, but this quick turn-around was a hurdle that Chef Irbille and his team passed with ease and grace.

 

The Food:

lumpia sariwa: pork, grilled shrimp, jicama, tom thumb lettuce,  peanut sauce

lechon pugo: rice stuffed roasted quail, caramelized chayote, ginger sauce

tagalog steak: hanger steak, spring lilies, toyo mansi sauce

turon:  lady finger bananas,  jack fruit, caramel, vanilla pearls

 

The Review:

The lumpia was delicious! It was presented in Vietnamese spring roll fashion – with all the ingredients wrapped in rice paper wrapper. The pork was flavorfully seasoned and had good texture from the shrimp, and crunch from jicama and the lettuce. The element that stole the show in this dish was the peanut sauce! The sauce had an impeccable balance of sweetness and savory from the peanuts and did an excellent job combining all the elements in each bite. I almost asked Chef Irbille to bottle some sauce up for me to take home!

Much to my surprise, I’ve never actually come across quail on any menu before so I figured today was an ideal time to cross that off my list. I was very pleased with this dish. My eyes were immediately drawn to the plating of the quail. It sat atop an artistically arranged medley of ginger sauce and chayote. Eating chayote was also a first for me and it was really good! They looked like apples in an apple pie but were firmer and not as sweet. Texturally, they were like cooked radish – providing a nice crunch to the tender and juicy quail meat. The rice stuffing was a perfect addition. As I cut open the quail, the rice spilled out and soaked up all the sauce and really hit home!

The steak was also prepared and presented exquisitely. Laying on a bed of spring lilies, the steak had a great char on the outside and perfect pink in the middle. Each bite was extremely tender and juicy and was complimented nicely with the toyo mansi sauce. The char on top was also a nice textural layer to each bite. I wish I had an after shot because the plate was wiped clean when we were done!

I can really appreciate Chef Irbille’s rendition of turon. Taste-wise, it had everything that reminds you of your grandma or auntie’s famous turon. Visually, welcome to 2012! I almost didn’t want to dive into this dish as in an effort to maintain the artistry of this presentation. The caramel and vanilla pearls were great accents to the jackfruit and banana. All these ingredients came together wonderfully to transport you back to thePhilippines. The surprising addition to this dish was the toasted basil. They brought a surprisingly savory twist to your bite!

 

My Conclusion:

These pop-ups are great events on several fronts:

  1. It will open your foodie box to new foods and flavors. I had no idea what a chayote was before this event!
  2. 2. You get to trick your brain. It takes some processing to comprehend the visually sophisticated and modern presentations with the flavors of old comfort foods.
  3. 3. You get to be apart of cultural culinary progression. Filipino food has a stigma of being one pot cooking – nothing pretty or fancy. However at these pop-ups, you will see, first hand the culinary potential of Filipino cuisine! 
  4. 4. Who doesn’t love supporting local artists/talents/businesses!? It is extremely gratifying to know your support is directly going to the source and not some third party.

In the end, this review is only my opinion, my interpretation, random words on a screen…. To truly experience what I’m writing about, or anything for matter, you just have to jump!

Read Full Post »

The second place we had dinner while in Las Vegas was Serendipity 3. S3 carried a lot of praise and high expectations due to its extremely popular name and famous desserts, so we were all excited to see what all the hype was about. The first thing I noticed when walked up to the restaurant was the line that was outside the door. To me, a long line to an already full house is usually a very promising sign. We were seated a little after our reservation time and looking around, I wasn’t impressed. The dining floor is essentially a large concrete box – four walls with a roof. There was no real rhyme or reason to how the tables were set, as some were adjacent to each other while others were randomly placed to fill space. It was pretty chaotic seeing, what seemed like 100 servers dashing in and out between tables. The walls were randomly decorated with pink clocks, high school flags and whimsical painted swirls on the ceiling. The second thing I noticed was the noise level. Granted it’s a “touristy” themed restaurant in the middle of the  Vegas Strip, but the noise wasn’t so much from the all the patrons – it was from the music! It seemed like the Top-40 Pop Songs were playing on a loop which can drive anyone crazy. Seriously… how much Nicki Minaj needs to be aired before it is considered inhumane?!

The Food:

 the big chili

serendipity 3 chopped chicken salad: greens, grilled chicken, cucumber, baby tomatoes, sweet corn, hearts of palm, ranch

The Review

 The only thing “big” about this chili was the price! For $10 I was expecting a bowl of chili that would satisfy even a child’s appetite. What came out was a shallow saucer with maybe 1 ½ cup of chili and a huge glob of sour cream on top. Also to my disappointment, there was no cornbread! Serving chili with no cornbread is like getting a bowl of milk with no cereal…  The one thing I can say about this chili was that it was flavored well. The richness of the seasonings really came through and wasn’t masked behind the ground beef and kidney beans.

After a scorching afternoon in the Vegas sun, I was in the mood for something cool, refreshing and even a little healthier. Enter the Serendipity 3 Chopped Chicken Salad. If I could sum up this salad in one word, it would be: forgettable. Putting price aside ($16) what was presented was some chopped romaine lettuce mixed with some tomatoes, cucumbers and frozen chicken breast chunks tossed in ranch. The tomatoes did seem fresh, but the chicken breast was definitely of the frozen variety in which you could find at your local Coscto. I am still wondering how anyone could justify charging $16 dollars for this kind of salad.

My Complaint

 It is not unusual to have people in a large party order various things off the menu as their main dish – appetizers, entrées, soups, salads etc. We had a few people order soup with a side salad as their meal and even a person who ordered a sundae as his meal! With that said, its not unreasonable to expect that everyone’s order come out together so everyone can eat at the same time. I guess that expectation was too much for the staff at S3. One person got her soup before anything else came out… finished it, and then got her salad after while everyone else was still waiting for their food! Another friend ordered the Dinosaur Beef Ribs with a side of steamed broccoli. They’re steamer must have been out-of-order because she didn’t get her steamed broccoli until she was half way done with her ribs! Not only did everyone’s food come out at different times, sides of an entrée even  came out separately! I generally try to write positive reviews and tend to post on places I feel other people would enjoy. However, wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t share the horrible service at S3.

 My Conclusion:

 If you’re looking for a tourist prices and pretty pink décor that’s suited for a 12-year old girl’s bedroom, then S3 is your place. The food is mediocre at best and everything carries a hefty price tag… they have a $1,000 sundae for crying out loud! Don’t come here expecting to be a winner… because at Serendipity 3, the only winner is the house.

Read Full Post »

It’s been a while since my last post and what better way to brush off the dust than to report back from Las Vegas! Cherry and I recently returned from our close friend’s Birthday weekend in Vegas and decided to dine at places that were great for groups, satisfied our palates (and hunger) and didn’t burn a hole through our pockets. We definitely found that at Grand Lux Café! When we entered, we were immediately seated in a large booth that fit seven of us. The interior was nicely decorated with extremely high ceilings and well balanced lighting. One thing I noticed is that they played sweet music too! I don’t usually pay attention to the background music in a restaurant, but I was definitely vibin’ to the smooth hits of Pattie Labelle and Sade!

The Food:

crispy calamari

sunday night pasta: slow-simmered meat sauce with chunks of beef short ribs, fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic and parmesan over spaghettini

indochine shrimp & chicken: jumbo shrimp, chicken, onions and sweet ginger sautéed in a spicy curry, plum wine and cream sauce topped with sun-dried cherries and apricots

 

The Review:

The calamari was fried nicely with a good crunchy outer and a tender inside. It was served with a side of marinara that added a savory touch to the dish. Not the most memorable calamari ever, but it hit the spot!

The Sunday night pasta was ginormous! The meat sauce was extremely tasty with rich and bold flavors from the beef, onions and garlic. Everything about this plate was big! The huge chunks of beef, mushrooms, and tomatoes made it look almost like a beef stew. All this meaty goodness was resting atop a mountain of spaghettini which was cooked perfectly. This dish is ideal for pasta lovers that don’t mind getting bang for their buck!

I usually stray away from shrimp dishes when I’m at a restaurant because in my experience “jumbo” isn’t very jumbo… However much to my delight, these shrimp were as advertised and were a perfect paring to the chicken. The sauce was not as spicy as I’d like, but it nicely combined all the flavors in perfect harmony. The sun dried cherries and apricots caught me guard with how sweet they were – but they didn’t take away from the dish at all. The sweetness of the fruits and the savory of the meats and curry sauce really created an awesome flavor explosion! I was very happy with my choice.

My Conclusion:

I think I have found a new favorite spot in Vegas here. Not only do they serve delicious and reasonable priced food, they’re open late night! The Grand Lux located in the Venetian is open 24-hours! The only downfall I can say about my experience here was my physical inability to try everything on the menu! The seven entrees that were served amongst our group all looked delicious and from what our friends stated, they tasted even better than they looked. People often go to Las Vegas with dreams of winning big, but only a few actually come out on top. After this meal, I can honestly say, I was ahead of the house.

the crew 🙂

Read Full Post »

The culmination of our amazing Anniversary Weekend ended with the Pop-Up Dinner at Olivar on April 30th, 2012. Not only was it the exact day of our 2-year wedding anniversary, we got to spend it supporting Chef Irbille Donia of Irbille Edibles, for his second Pop-Up! If anyone is unfamiliar with the phrase, pop-up dinner, it is essentially a “kitchen take-over” by cooks/chefs that usually work under a restaurants’ executive chef. They normally take place on Mondays (when restaurants are closed) and it is an opportunity for up and coming chefs to display their talent featuring a new and original menu straight from their minds.

The Food:

papaya salad: papaya, watermelon radish, mizuna, smoked mussels, calamansi vinaigrette

kilawin: scallop ceviche,  rhubarb compote, cilantro oil

empanada: oyster mushrooms, bell peppers, banana hearts, bamboo shoots

leonor adobo: duck confit, rice , poached duck egg , grilled spring garlic, adobo sauce

mungo: painted hills flank steak, mung beans, grilled radicchio, sweet soy sauce

bibingka: casava tart, candied walnuts, coconut caramel, coconut sorbet

fruit cake: white wine cake, mango, kiwi, coconut crème anglaise

 

The Review:

The initial image of papaya salad, for most people, tends to be that of the Thai green papaya salad – with the papaya grated to look like noodles and tossed with bean sprouts, green onion and various types of dressing. However, Chef Irbille’s papaya salad presentation  consisted of a modern interpretation  and it was perfect. Standing alone among the myriad of color and flavor was the calamansi vinaigrette. It had the perfect blend of sour and sweet but also did not overpower the natural flavors of the fresh papaya, watermelon radish, and mizuna. I initially thought the leafy greens of the salad was arugula, mizuna has a milder spice – not as overpowering. I overheard the table behind me directly tell Chef Irbille, “This salad is the best dressed salad I’ve had in a long time… it was delicious!”

I’m a big fan of ceviche and this kilawin definitely satisfied my soul. The scallops were laid out like a set of fresh oysters – sitting atop cilantro oil with the rhubarb compote, fresh cilantro and edible flowers were also sprinkled atop. Some people cringe at the thought of raw seafood (like oysters) but I really enjoyed these scallops. The ingredients were not all diced up like a traditional South American ceviche, instead, all the ingredients were left as they are naturally and they were delicious! The scallops had a tender texture and the cilantro oil added a nice flavor depth with each bite.

Our empanadas were exactly how you’d want them; gold brown with a nice bite on the outside with savory goodness on the inside! For me personally, all the flavors blended together to provide a nice flavorful bite with the curry sauce acting a nice blanket.

 In honor of his Grandmother, Chef Irbille named our next dish after her – Leanor Adobo. Chef Irbille’s interpretation of adobo is definitely an elevated form of the traditional adobo that’s cooked in a single pot. The duck was cooked perfectly with tender meat that looked almost like a pulled-pork. There was also a single piece of duck skin that was fried just right,  adding a candy-like crunch. Bringing all these pieces together was the egg yolk and the adobo sauce. This was the first time I’ve had a poached duck egg and the yolk is considerably larger than the yolk a chicken egg. The yolk did not overpower or take away from the dish; it did a nice job holding everything together.

The flank stead over mungo beans were nicely presented. Mungo beans aren’t exactly the first I think of when I think of the word, cuisine; however they way the flank steak was plated atop the beans with a side of radicchio really lifted my impressions of mungo beans to a new level. The flank steak was cooked perfectly with a good medium rare color in the middle. Helping add rich flavor to the dish was the sweet soy sauce – a really good balance of sweet flavor to the bitter radicchio and savory steak. Cherry also stated she really enjoyed this dish and it was a refreshing change from the mungo beans that are cooked at home.

 The cassava tart was great. It wasn’t too sweet and the coconut caramel was a nice compliment to the tart while the candied walnuts added a slightly crunchy texture. I think the cassava alone, would have stole the show, but the coconut sorbet was an extra bonus.

I really enjoyed the fruitcake, provided by D’ Cupcakes. The cake itself was moist and did a wonderful job absorbing the crème anglaise. Being as how sour candies are one of my favorite candies, the kiwi on this dish added the perfect tartness to contrast against the subtle sweetness of the mango. 

 

My Conclusion:

Each and every dish we were served was prepared with great technique and presented wonderfully – which is a testament to Chef Irbille and his crew. If you, reading this were one of the fortunate ones to be apart of this Pop-Up, then I’m sure you share the same sentiment as I do. As a business of any kind, one major key to success is, repeat customers and I imagine it can be tough to keep ideas and menus fresh to maintain customer interest and attraction. However, like the dishes he served, Chef Irbille is definitely fresh and engaging. My only question for him is, what will he think of next?!

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »