September 20, 2010

Terry's was Wronged!

For those of you unfortunate, uninformed souls living in Cincinnati without a subscription to Cincinnati Magazine you are missing out and you definitely missed their recent July issue that rated the top burgers in the city.  But luckily you missed out feeling utter disbelief when you realized that Terry's came in 3rd place!  Really?  Now I haven't tried the top 2 (Wildflower Cafe and City View Tavern) but I felt shocked when I learned of the snub.  I have the top 2 on my list of "Must Try" but haven't seemed to get further than the ever so glitzy giant sized brightly lit woman dressed in blue that waves all angus craving maniacs into the dimly lit room.

Aside from having deliciously flavored burgers the sauces can't be beat.  Check out the same July issue for the "secret" recipe.  We made them recently for a BBQ but in slider version...turned out awesome!  I was pleasantly surprised when the recipe called for ground dark chocolate.  Now I'm just waiting for the recipe for those sauces to be published then I'll be on my way to heaven.

No need to re-rate this gritty paradise.  Let the burgers do the talking for you...if any of you have been to one of the Top 2 according to Cincinnati Magazine let me know your thoughts. I am going to make it up there soon as I can digest my last Terry's burger with Vermont Cheddar and bacon.

September 16, 2010

McSushi - The new Fast Food

The latest sushi phenom to hit the Cin City is surprisingly not another Thai/Sushi combo but a fast food solo sushi joint downtown! Walking up to the counter at Soho Sushi I had no idea what to expect let alone what to order and while it was busy the line did move quickly.  The talented crew rolled the sushi rolls as if they've trained with the professionals at Chipotle.  It was very fast paced and felt as if Seinfeld's Soup Nazi chucked the soup and started rolling fish.

It was a bit confusing who you were supposed to tell what to if you were making your own roll but I'm sure my 2nd visit it will come more naturally.   There was the person who got the seaweed, then the fish guy,  then passed to the "roller" and threw all the rolls into a slicer.  The final step was the topper guy - do you want spicy mayo, masago, sesame seeds and extra tempura? No problem.

Word to the wise - order less than you think you need.  My eyes are always bigger than my stomach but with the reasonable prices at Soho Sushi I assumed these rolls would be bite sized.  I was shocked when my two rolls were spilling over the sides of as were my husband's.  The rolls were filled with large pieces of fish which is very rare in our world of "half price sushi" nights when you find yourself asking..."where's the fish?" I got the spicy tuna and shrimp tempura.  For those sushi lovers that despise the minced up spicy "tuna" as much as I do at cheap sushi places have no fear here.  This is chunks of tuna that have marinated.  None of that spicy mayo mixed inside to hide that "not so sushi grade" fish.  I wasn't impressed with the eel but may give it another try since it's typically my favorite.  The best part was for less than $20 we both ate enough to want to unbutton our pants AND had extra left over for dinner that night!

Now don't get me wrong - there are better sushi joints in town with more gourmet selections. However, if you find yourselves downtown around lunch time hit this spot up. I don't think you'll be disappointed and your wallet won't be too much thinner.

Score: 32 points (3 Turkeys)
Ambiance (2), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (3), Drink Selection (2), Cost (8), Accessibility (4), Service (3), Location (4)

Soho Sushi on Urbanspoon

May 11, 2010

Coda - 4 Turkeys

Of all the restaurants we visited that weekend in Boston, I must say Coda was my favorite.  You'll find Coda in the South End, close to Copley, tucked around the corner from Cleary's.  They don't take reservations but that's not a problem...pull up a chair at their well stocked bar and pass the time away with a few Basil Gimlet Martinis. Who needs dinner with you have Gin?

Well if you do need something to fill your belly up you'll find plenty of comforting, filling food on Coda's menu.  The majority of our table ordered the Grilled Trout served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a pecan lemon butter sauce.  It was mouthwatering.

After some light begging my husband opted for the Steak Frites over a cheeseburger "off" the menu.  The steak was cooked to his order although the fries were a little soggy.  Although I had just had a bad run with Mac N Cheese at Post 390 I decided to renew my faith in the love of my life (I'm talking about the Mac N Cheese here).  And boy was I glad I did...I can't think of any other word except for delicious. Now it wasn't one of those attempts to fancy the dish up - it was simple, cheesy, creamy, amazing.  

We all washed down our delicious meals with some earthy Malbec.  This was a great compliment to our meals - a great recommendation by the waitress.

Score: 41 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (8), Menu (5), Drink Selection (4), Cost (8), Accessibility (3), Service (5), Location (4)

Post 390 - 3.5 Turkeys

Sorry for the delay in posting...been having a little too much fun these past few weeks.  I now have a pile that keeps growing.  I'm starting back at our trip to Boston.  That Friday night we met up with a couple we had met in Greece on our honeymoon.  They are from Dayton, OH and are Buckeyes but live in Beantown.  I think it was fate we met half way around the world.  Ok...enough with the cheesiness.  We met up at Post 390 based on reviews in Boston Magazine which noted the Beer Bacon Mac & Cheese as a highlight on the menu.  We of course got a few drinks to get the night started.  I went for a glass of the Tilia Malbec and Brian picked the Narragansett, not for the novelty of a local beer but for the classiness.

The waiter came over to take our order and immediately recommended the fried clams which tasted like the ones I get on the beaches on the South Shore except for $10 more.  Carrie, our friend we were with, hates seafood and all strange food.  While in Greece I some how coaxed her into trying snails.  Tonight would turn out no differently.  After much procrastination she finally bit the bullet.  By looking at her face you would have thought the clam startled wriggling around in her mouth.  Priceless.

Now on to the main courses.  I touted the Mac & Cheese based on the reviews I read and it was a big disappointment - Carried and I both ordered it.  The flavor was okay but the consistency resembled cheese soup rather than the thick creamy deliciousness one expects for a restaurant quality Mac & Cheese. I'd take Kraft instead the next time.  Brian went with the Coffee Rubbed Duck which was an excellent choice.  It was cooked to perfection with the right amount of pink.  Each bit literally melted in your mouth.  The bacon-cheddar polenta cake that accompanied it lacked flavor and was definitely over powered by the braised red cabbage.

Carrie's husband went with the daily special of Baked Cod with deviled crab meat with asparagus.  He was generous enough to give me a bite which was flaky and with a light buttery taste.

I don't know how the boys had room for dessert but considering Carrie and I didn't really eat all that much of our entree we had plenty for the classic creme brulee.  It was similar to any other creme brulee I've had but nonetheless a perfect ending to our dinner.

The restaurant is located in Copley Square so a perfect after work place for a few drinks a quick bite.  It was already getting crowded at 6 PM when we arrived.  I really liked the interior design and the fire places really made you feel comfortable.

Score: 35 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (3), Drink Selection (4), Cost (6), Accessibility (3), Service (5), Location (4)

April 21, 2010

Coppa - 4 Turkeys

Coppa was my 2nd stop on my food travels in Beantown.  Elyse and I stuffed ourselves silly at lunch but still had room to head to dinner that night in the South End in Boston.  After perusing a local boutique we stumbled upon (and Elyse buying half the store...haha) we made it to Coppa.  At 7 PM it was already overflowing with the after work crowd at the bar and we were at an hour wait.  After yelling over a couple's conversation to the bartender to order we moved over closer to the door.  The hostess saw us and asked if we want to go ahead and sit down at the counter at the window...Score!  As we are glancing over the extensive menu of small plates and pizzas I look at the drink list again to see what the heck is in my drink (it tastes like straight up bourbon).  I notice that the drink that I thought said "Macaroni" actually was listed as Marconi.  Not that it would have clued me into what was in the drink but I got it because I was starving and I thought a drink called Macaroni (one of my favorite meals you will see in upcoming posts) would satisfy that need. ha. While I really enjoy Bourbon drinks I am old enough to know it's a bad idea to drink on an empty stomach.  Meanwhile, Elyse was enjoying a fizzy concoction.  

Our initial plan was appetizers at Coppa then on to Franklin Cafe or another nearby locale but with all the yummy options at Coppa we knew we were hooked for the night with the selections here.  We chose the marinated cauliflower which was a melange of purple, white, orange florets. Elyse was disappointed because she thought they'd be hot...while I had no expectations.  Was I impressed? No but then again it's cauliflower. I don't know if I've ever been impressed.  On to the next few plates.  The cauliflower was followed by Arancini...very standard filled with risotto and fontina served with some sauce.  It was delicious.  The risotto was creamy and cheesy.  

The final couple plates were the Salted Cod Crostini which at first surprised me because I was expecting a couple pieces of cod on top of the crostini. Instead it resembled mashed potatoes but upon tasting it tasted really good and really salty.  For the weak hearted or if you are prone to high cholesterol steer clear.  This is salty...just as the name implies.  Just be prepared for the texture.  The pasta dish was amazing - it was stuffed with celery root with a parmesan sauce with a hint of apple.  Again, the perfect combo of salt and sweet except this time it had plenty of sauce (really the exact right amount).  There were toasted almonds on top as well which just complimented the celery root with crunchiness.  It was a special that night but if you are lucky to hear it on the special list again...Jump on it!  The waitress did a great job with this recommendation.   

The drink list was extensive but many ingredients we were clueless on so we decided to go with another of the waitress' recommendation...Aperol Spritz.  She described it as being similar to Campari.  It got better as we drank it...unsure if it was due to the increase alcohol levels or the taste itself.  I'd recommend not getting it though unless you are a fan of Campari.  

Elyse astutely pointed out to our waitress that we were charged $9 for the cocktails but they were listed on their blackboard as $8.  Not that a $1 is going to make or break our check for the evening but nonetheless it needed to be pointed out.  Anyway, I thought the blackboard was worthy of a picture so I started snapping.  The manager must have seen me because shortly afterwards we received a visit from the manager along with a refund for the difference.  Oh well - our waitress got a few extra bucks for the tip. It was a nice gesture.  

They don't take reservations so go early.  The bar area isn't very spacious so if you don't snag a seat you'll be dancing around the wait staff.  The food is worth the wait and in good weather there are some good patio seats.  

Score: 40 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (7), Menu (5), Drink Selection (4), Cost (8), Accessibility (3), Service (5), Location (4)

Coppa on Urbanspoon

Sportello's - 3.5 Turkeys

We made it to Boston and I am well into my food journey thru the city.  I started off with an old favorite in the Fort Point area - Barbara Lynch's Sportello. First, how can you go wrong eating at a Barbara Lynch restaurant?  She's an icon in the Boston restaurant scene and her new cookbook, Stir, has inspired me to attempt making my own homemade pasta.  I'm still researching it :)

Anyway, on to the yummy first review...Sportello is set up perfectly to cater to the lunch crowd.  With the white gleaming countertops and bar stools patrons can get an up close view of their food being prepared.  My friend, Elyse, and I came here a little over a year ago to celebrate my engagement (when our waitress heard the news they gave us complimentary champagne).  We sat down and immediately received some scallion bread accompanied by some rhubarb ricotta spread with a little olive oil.  As we munched on the bread we chose the tagliatelle bolognese and the squash cappellacci.

The tagliatelle was not up to par with what I remember from my first visit.  The pasta was clumped together and the sauce was much blander than I recall and was overrun with meat.  It tasted good but didn't live up to what I know Barbara Lynch's restaurants can offer.

The cappellacci combined sweet and salty very nicely. It was stuffed with squash, topped with brown butter, sage and marcona almonds.  A few dates were thrown in which added the right amount of sweetness, however, we both agreed there could be more dates and a bit more sauce.  Who doesn't love a little extra sauce to mop up with the bread?

Overall, the atmosphere is great. I'd like to give it a try for dinner and then hit up her new bar, Drink, where they mix up speciality drinks based on the customers likes and dislikes.  I have to try this place again...I'm not sure if we were just on some incredible high the first time (well me for sure) but this one didn't live up to the amazing lunch we held in our minds.  The polenta for one was a high light last time but they cut down the options to just one on this season's menu (note: our waiter did say the could make up the mushroom polenta if we wanted).

Score: 35 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (3), Drink Selection (4), Cost (6), Accessibility (3), Service (5), Location (4)

Sportello on Urbanspoon

April 12, 2010

5 Guys Burgers and Fries - 2.5 Turkeys

Since we moved here two years ago I've heard nothing but praises for Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  I unfortunately never make it to Clifton so when a new location popped up in right down the street at Rookwood Commons we jumped at the chance to finally have the famous burgers.

First of all, I had no idea this was a national chain so right off the bat it took it down a notch for me.  It was a typical diner set up with checkered tiles, however, I haven't been to many with sacks of potatoes stacked around you.  I liked that they really emphasized where their potatoes came from that day.

I had heard they oversize things so I got a Little Bacon Cheeseburger and I shared a small fry with my husband.  The burger had cheese oozing from under the bun which was pure eye candy to me.  The Little Burger is a misnomer because this thing was the size of a double quarter pounder at McDs (well maybe almost that big).  I asked what beers they had...answer was "none".  Strike 2.

Now for the first bite - the one we have been waiting two years to take.  It was, in one word, disappointing.  Not that it was bad but it just wasn't delicious.  I've had countless amazing burgers as I'm sure anyone who has visited Terry's can claim and this just wasn't one of them.  I know this is a "fast" burger joint but nonetheless I would prefer to go thru the drive-thru or wait the hour for Terry's than go back.  The burger was a bit overcooked to the point it was crumbly.

As for the fries - I had heard how they give you an excess so we opted for the small fry.  We finished the fries that were in the cup but when we looked in the bag this is what we found.

This is another entire small (or even medium) fry.  I couldn't believe how many fries we ended up wasting.  I know people like to get their money's worth but really?  If I wanted this many fries than I would have ordered them.

Overall, it's not terrible but I wouldn't shout it's praises from the mountain tops. It's convenient if you are shopping all day in Rookwood followed by dessert at Yagout.

Score: 28 points
Ambiance (2), Tastiness of Dishes (4), Menu (3), Drink Selection (2), Cost (6), Accessibility (4), Service (3), Location (4)

April 11, 2010

Who likes Music & Food???

I was checking recent posts of a fellow local blogger and thought some of you might enjoy this event.  Here's the link to her blog... Four Seasons: Music & Food Event.

I unfortunately won't be able to attend because we'll be heading to Boston this weekend to cheer our close friend, Paul, on as he takes on the grueling Marathon course for a 2nd time, however, this time as a qualifier!  We are so proud of him and can't wait to cheer him on.  Be sure to check in early next week for not only his results but I'll be sure to post reviews on all of our fun food adventures in Bean town.  I can't wait!  This is the city where I fell in love with food.

April 6, 2010

Via Vite - 4 Turkeys

I recently went here with my husband on what was likely my 10th visit.  I love the location of this restaurant...right in the heart of the city at Fountain Square.  The restaurant has clean, sleek lines but without being overly modern.  There is always a great weekday lunch crowd here taking advantage of their  lunch combo specials.  When you walk in during the week you feel the "power lunch" vibe immediately.

 I personally favor the Boucheron goat cheese salad with figs followed by the penne bolognese.  This time I was offered the option of adding a meatball to the dish - the waiter said it's how the dish is served at Nicola's (Via Vite's sister restaurant).  I was very disappointed by the quality of the meatball. It was overly dry and bland.  It added nothing to my dish and I will be sure to steer clear of it the next time.  However, the salad was as satisfying as ever.  I only like two salads - the Harvest at Dewey's and the Goat cheese salad here.  It's baked and topped with a spring mix.  It is absolutely delicious.

My husband's dish, Linguine with clams, was mediocre.  The pasta was swimming in a pool of oil which overshadowed the overall flavor of the dish.  The clams were tender and cooked well - definitely the highlight of the dish.  This was an unusual experience at Via Vite - usually I love everything.   I will be back based on my previous experiences - but if it was on this one then I'd have to think again.

Piece of Advice - if you go and the special is the lasagna GET IT!  It's delicious and comes with a very generous topping of creamy b├ęchamel.

Score: 41 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (5), Drink Selection (4), Cost (8), Accessibility (4), Service (5), Location (5)

Via Vite on Urbanspoon

April 5, 2010

BD's Happy Hour - 3.5 Turkeys

If you haven't made it to BD's Mongolian Grill in Mason for a Happy Hour you are doing your bank account a serious disservice.  You can get drafts from $1 for domestics to $2 for imports.  This is every weekday until 11 PM!  That's what I call a Happy Hour!

This particular Friday evening my girlfriend and I met up for this budget friendly happy hour and some apps before a movie.  It was one of the first nice nights after Daylight Savings and I jumped at the chance to sit on their patio.  We shared the Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Dumplings.  The Lettuce Wraps we salty and crunchy.  We found ourselves in need of more lettuce which I take to be a good sign.  The dumplings were pan friend perfectly and although I prefer the ones from Wild Ginger (mainly for their dipping sauce) these hit the spot.  I'm not a huge fan of the food at BDs but these appetizers were surprisingly yummy.

Located right next to the Deerfield Towne Center in Mason it's perfectly situated for a night out in suburbia.

Score: 36 points
Ambiance (3), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (2), Drink Selection (4), Cost (9), Accessibility (4), Service (4), Location (4)

BD's Mongolian Grill on Urbanspoon

March 18, 2010

Dewey's in Newport - 3 Turkeys

Just went out for date night to Dewey's Pizza at Newport on the Levee before finally seeing Avatar.  We grabbed a couple chairs at the bar and were immediately greeted by the bartender.  Upon seeing how indecisive I was he offered me 4 generous tastes of beers.  I opted for one from Missouri (Schlafly) which was a fairly hearty amber beer.  My better half chose the Brooklyn IPA which wasn't as hoppy as he was expecting but nevertheless refreshing.

For starters we had the Harvest Salad which has to be one of my all time favorite salads...this coming from someone who doesn't really like salads even!  It's a spring mix tossed with figs, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and bacon.  I usually get the dressing on the side just to avoid soaking the leaves too much - it is served with a tangy Apple Cider Dressing.  Part of the reason we came to Dewey's was because we were looking for a filling, no meat option in observation of Lent.  Well, I totally forgot that bacon toppings on a salad counted too!  Now I'm not Catholic and really only observe Lent to support my husband (and to take advantage of the McDonald's 2 fish filets for $3.33 deal...who wouldn't?).  Needless to say, the salad was covered in bacon crumbles and I started playing a game with myself to find all the bacon in my husband's half. I started to get a little overly excited when another overturned leaf would reveal yet another itsy bitsy bacon crumb.  I'm sure it also looked odd a grown woman rummaging through the salad on her husband's plate picking bacon bits up with her finger?  What can I say?  I love my bacon!  I just couldn't let it go to waste!

The pizza came out fairly quickly.  We got a 13" split between the Billy Goat and the Caprice.  I would never get the Caprice again - it read on paper that it'd be a pretty standard tomato, cheese pizza but the tomatoes were a bit pinkish (definitely not fresh from the garden) and it's served with their white sauce which really leaves the pizza lacking a significant amount of flavor.  The Billy Goat side though was delicious if you love goat cheese the way we do.  It was topped with goat cheese, green peppers, tomatoes which even seemed redder than their brethren on the other half of our pizza.  Again, this pizza was served with the white sauce but there was plenty of flavor to be had on this half.   The crust is a bit undercooked but I don't mind - I actually end up eating the crust here which I never do...not even on my PB&J sandwiches.  If you are looking for a crispy crust then go to Donatos because you won't find that here.

The location couldn't be more convenient for a night out - it's right in the mall at Newport on the Levee across from Bar Louie.  If the pizza didn't fill you up head over there for the best Tots around.  Yes I am a grown woman who loves her tater tots :)

Score: 32 points
Ambiance (3), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (4), Drink Selection (4), Cost (5), Accessibility (3), Service (4), Location (4)

Dewey's Pizza (Newport) on Urbanspoon

Montgomery Inn - 3 Turkeys

We finally convinced my grandparents to come visit us and when I say convinced I really should clarify and say we bribed them with a gift card to Montgomery Inn.  It's really the only thing that motivates my family (me included).  We took them to the Boathouse which I 100% prefer to the location in Montgomery.  That one reminds me an old smoky men's club, sans the smoke.  Now when you do sit at the Boathouse I only recommend seats by the window at night...otherwise you'll be distracted by all the floating objects passing by!  At one point I could have sworn a tree branch was a body.  I supposedly have 20/20 vision but I am seriously doubting it.  

The Ribs King Wrap has been a favorite of mine since the first time we went - it oozes sauce and cheese.  To compliment my very unhealthy dinner I chose the steamed broccoli as my side. Big mistake - it had ZERO flavor and was definitely over cooked.  My husband's Mac n Cheese was calling to me throughout the entire meal - he saw my puppy dog eyes so he generously left a decent amount in the bowl and said he was "so full he coudln't eat it" after devouring his pulled pork sandwich.  The pork was very moist per usual and had a satisfying amount of the famous sauce on it.  

My Grandpa went for the traditional experience - RIBS! He actually got the Ribs/Chicken combo plate - it came with a heaping pile of both.  It took him a good 45 minutes to get through half the plate.  My Grandma got the Special which I've had 2 times before so I really pushed her to it.  I forget the name (Tornedos something).  It comes with 2 filets topped with mounds of mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.  To finish it there is a generous amount of bourbon cream.  The dish has such a unique flavor. If you are going out for a special night and can drop $30 on a plate...GET THIS!  It's worth it.  And I always have left overs of it too.  

You can't go to Montgomery Inn without getting ribs so the three of us that didn't get it as the main course got a small appetizer of it to satiate out appetite for the sauce.  The meat just jumps off the bone when you look at it - almost right into your mouth with a bit of course hitting your cheek.  This is not a place for a first date!  

Bottom line - the main dishes, especially anything with the ribs and sauce, are delicious.  The sides are hit or miss - get the Mac N Cheese when in doubt. The green coleslaw just plain scares me - who eats this? Why even both making it green? 

Score: 33 points
Ambiance (2), Tastiness of Dishes (7), Menu (4), Drink Selection (3), Cost (6), Accessibility (4), Service (3), Location (4)

Montgomery Inn on Urbanspoon

March 9, 2010

The Wine Loft - 3 Turkeys

We went up to Kalamazoo, MI to visit some friends this past weekend and they took us out for the night.  I'm not too familiar with the restaurant scene in Kzoo but when we entered The Wine Loft I felt as if I had entered a chic big city lounge.  They had a DJ spinning and a mix of high top tables and little nooks around the bar with couches and plush chairs.  All the nooks were separated by sheer champagne curtains.  Interestingly, everyone I was with commented on how "cool" the bathrooms were.  I don't know about you but there aren't a lot of places where I've taken such an interest in the bathroom decor.  Almost more than the decor in the bar area.

We quickly grabbed a cozy couch near the entrance.  Although it was well past 10 PM I was still famished.  The table opted for some Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Butter and some Sliders.  The Ravioli lacked noticeable pumpkin flavor and the Sage Butter was really just pure butter.  It was overall too oily for my tastes.  The sliders were OK - the meat bordered on the overcooked side but the buns were perfectly grilled.

To go with our light fare we asked our waitress for some suggestions.  She recommended the Three Thieves Cabernet (California) which we thought sounded delicious.  However, she returned minutes later to tell us they were out - seems like a popular selection.  As we perused the remaining selections we came across one called Hullabaloo.  Although the waitress didn't seem too thrilled with our selection we stuck with it - we are heading to the music festival this summer in Louisville with the same nomer!  Check it out - HullabaLOU.

The wine turned out to be pretty good - much better than the waitress led us to believe.  When she tried to take the bottle away I asked to keep it so I could snap a photo and slipped that I was a blogger.  I couldn't believe I slipped that out - I hate that.  Then she kept making comments about me blogging and when she brought us extra water she said, "Blog It!"  At first I was a bit embarrassed but then I couldn't figure her out.  I wasn't sure if she was being rude or being overly friendly so I would blog about it.  Guess I'll never know.

Good note for us local Cincinnatians - there is a Wine Loft location in Dayton.  I'd be willing to check it out if there is a similar atmosphere.  The food just didn't impress me at the Kzoo location but it could have been just that location.  The menu had an interesting selection which included a few varieties of Ravioli, Lamb Wellington, and seafood cakes.  

The DJ definitely added to the mood of the bar until he started to pack things up at 12:30 AM.  A solid hour before last call.  Needless to say we headed to the next bar on the list where things were sure to stay lively for the next couple hours.  Right as we were heading out we spotted the Mayor of KZoo - from the sounds of it he likes to get out and enjoy the local restaurants.

Score: 30 points
Ambiance (4), Tastiness of Dishes (4), Menu (3), Drink Selection (4), Cost (5), Accessibility (3), Service (4), Location (3)

March 1, 2010

Blue Elephant - 3 Turkeys

Cincinnati has become home to yet another "much needed" Thai restaurant.  Well, to be fair Blue Elephant isn't your normal Thai also has the gull to serve Italian pasta dishes alongside sushi and Thai plates.  The thought of having meatballs & spaghetti after my appetizer of sushi thoroughly discouraged my taste buds.

I visited Blue Elephant the other night with two of my good friends.  The moment we sat down and took one look at the Italian portion of the menu we all agreed in unison we would steer clear of that menu.  Sorry for those of you that were looking to this review for insight as to if the Italian food was good.  But the moment you walk into the restaurant you are greeted with the familiar smells of Thai food along with the decor that seems prevalent in todays mainstream Thai/Sushi establishments.  Bare wooden tables sat along one stone wall while on the other side they bordered a brightly painted red wall with ornate pictures of gold elephants.  Does this scream Thai or Italian to you?  My senses were begging for some curry at this point.  The sushi bar is composed of 4 chairs - a sad excuse for a "sushi bar".  Our table's centerpiece (if you would call it that) was a small, battery powered fake tea light candle.  It looked like the battery was dying b/c the little light could barely stay on.

We opted to go for three maki rolls to start with - the Salmon Tempura Maki, the Tuna Avocado and I asked them to make my favorite: The Alligator.  When asked if that was possible, the waitress simply stated she can do everything.  I like that kind of attitude - more people in the service industry should respond like that.   The rolls were typical aside from the Alligator.  Wild Ginger still makes the best one (for those that didn't read my review on Kyoto, the Alligator is Cucumber with Shrimp Tempura on the inside and Eel with Avocado on the outside topped with eel sauce and lots and lots of tempura "crunch" flakes).  The Blue Elephant version lacked a sufficient amount of eel sauce to accent the fish well.

As for the entrees, be prepared to get a few snickers when you opt for the lowest spice level.  The waitress did give my fellow diners a few looks when they ordered their entrees at Level 1.  I took the risk and ordered the 3 (the hottest the offer) for my Red Curry dish.  While it was very spicy it didn't knock me out.  The curry though was delicious - the right levels of spice with coconut milk and a hearty helping of chicken and veggies.

 One of my friends got the Pad See Ew with Tofu.  When it came out you couldn't even see any of hte noodles there were so many chunks of Tofu.  Well partly because of the sheer amount of Tofu but also because they really skimped on the noodles and they were shorter and thicker than I am normal used to. I love the Pad See Ew noodles so I was very disappointed.  Overall, this dish would not get me to come back - the dish tip toed the bland line and just tumbled on over.

My other dining cohort got the Basil Noodle dish with Chicken.  While the flavor wasn't very strong the basil really did stand out.  The noodles resembled those that are typically used in Pad Thai dishes.  This dish too had an enormous helping of crisp, well cooked veggies.

The restaurant is located right off Wasson just a block from Green Papaya and less than a mile from Wild Ginger.  If Wild Ginger has a long wait give Blue Elephant a try otherwise I might be inclined to stick with Wild Ginger as my go to Thai restaurant especially if you like Pad See Ew.  Well, on second thought I may be re-visiting Blue Elephant for some more of that Red Curry - it's making me salivate just thinking about it.

Word of Caution: parking is limited so keep an eye out for spots on the street and side streets as you pull up.

Score: 33 points
Ambiance (3), Tastiness of Dishes (6), Menu (3), Drink Selection (3), Cost (7), Accessibility (3), Service (5), Location (3)

Blue Elephant on Urbanspoon

February 24, 2010

Kyoto - 3 Turkeys

One of my big worries when we moved to Cincy from Boston was how long I could go without seafood - primarily sushi.  I had come to crave it weekly in Boston and was sure that there would be no restaurant that had sushi grade fish.  I mean it's Ohio...a Landlocked state.  However, every time I turn around I am hearing of another Thai/Sushi eatery popping up.  My friends had kept recommending that I try out Kyoto in Mason but my prejudices held me back up until last month.  Since going last month with a good friend I have been 4 more times - most recently taking a client to lunch.  

Walking into the restaurnt it feels very comfortable - similar to every other sushi joint I've visited.  We are seated quickly and given both the lunch menu and sushi menu.  The one thing with there menu is there are TOO many choices.  I compared it to NYC.  All of my friends up there haven't really settled down (dated for more than 6 months) except for one.  I credit this to the fact that there are millions of people living on that island so the mentality is there is always a better "fish" rigiht around the corner.  I have trouble comitting to any rolls at Kyoto.  All of them sound good but also very similar to one anohter. This caused the waitress a lot of distress...she came no less than 5 times to check on us.  We hadn't even picked it up by the 3rd time.  She was a bit overly attentive for my taste. 

We decided to go for the Dragon, Rainbow, Fusion and Futomaki rolls.  We instantly had a salad and bowl of miso soup.  I don't really like the salad but the miso soup is decent.  I'd like to see more seaweed and tofu along with some more seasoning.  The rolls is really what keeps me coming back.  With no help from our waitress (she said she was new and had no idea which roll was which) we figured it all out on our own.  The Futomaki and Fusion rolls were almost the exact same - those I couldn't tell a differnece.  Both were fried in tempura.  The best roll there is the Dragon - it's shrimp tempura, cucumber, eel, eel sauce and avocado.  It reminds me of the "Alligator" which I got all the time in Boston (no place around here makes it).  The biggest differnece is the lack of tempora flakes on top.  You could easily have them add it to the roll if you wanted.  I personally think it makes the roll.  

The rolls were all very large...for those of you that have been to Dancing Wasabi these rolls put those to shame.  They are generous chunks of fish.  Each piece barely fit into my mouth.  I had to cover my mouth with my napkin every bit I took since I was with a client. 

The House Special rolls (Rainbow & Dragon) are the more expenisve ($8+) but the other rolls are usually part of their Half Price or Happy Hour specials.  Our lunch topped out at $37 before tip.  I will definitely keep coming back.  

Score: 34 points
Ambiance (2), Tastiness of Dishes (8), Menu (3), Drink Selection (3), Cost (7), Accessibility (4), Service (4), Location (3)

February 23, 2010

Top Ten Just Arrived

Check your mail boxes!  Check the newsstands!  The Cincinnati magazine just published it's annual "Best Restaurants: Where to Eat Now".  Good day to be a foodie!  I got some leg work to make it through all of the top restaurants in Cincy - I've only been to 3 of the top and Cumin got a new chef so guess I have to re-visit it.  Here's their list - in addition to these you'll find a plethora of "Best of the Best" at other eateries throughout Cin City such s "Black Seasame Ice Cream at Beluga" or the Turducken Sausage from Kroeger & Sons Meats".  I might have to start eating out for every meal - oh the pain I put my self through all for The Cincy Gobbler. ha.     

Cincinnati's Best Restaurants List - Which ones should I try first? 
1. Orchids
2. Boca
3. Daveed's
4. Nicola's
5. The Palace
6. Nectar
7. Cumin
8. Hugo
9. Slims
10 Riverside Korean Restaurant

February 21, 2010

Molly Malone's - 3 Turkeys

After moving from Boston, land of more Irish pubs than you can count, we've been on the search for an authentic pub in Cincy to quelch our hunger pangs for some good comfort food.  So last night we ventured to Pleasant Ridge to check out the food scene at Molly Malone's.  We've been before just for drinks and really enjoyed the overall atmosphere so we wanted to put it to the real pub test.

When we first arrived we were greeted by a crowd of 20 large inebriated men there for a bachelor party.  Pausing to rethink our decision we were reassured by multiple people that they were leaving shortly.  So we hung around until they slowly left and then pounced on a table (there isn't a hostess).  It took a while for the waiter to clean off the 20 or so empty glasses of what looked to have once been Irish car bombs.  Yum!  We started our night off a little more tame - a Guinness for him and a Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA for me. They had a good deal of beer on draught and in bottles to choose from but we stuck with these all night.

The menu was extensive with not only plenty of traditional dishes you'd expect to see but also some pasta, pizza, mexican, etc.  We both opted to go for a straight up Irish experience - I think at one point my husband started talking with an Irish accent even. ha.  My husband got the Shepherd's Pie - a combo of ground lamb and beef with fresh carrots and peas.  The flavor of the meat mixture was delicious and had a strong lamb taste.  He commented that the meat chunks were much bigger than he typically sees in Shepherd's Pie dishes.  The mashed potatoes that were on top were typical mashed potatoes.  What I liked were the chunks of potato that weren't all the way mashed up.

My fish and chips were pretty standard.  It was a an unusually thick piece of flaky white fish but other than that tasted normal.  The seasoned fries were good - nothing special but if I'm looking for a solid fish and chips meal again I may find myself back but in the meantime I'll be on the lookout for a tastier option.

One of the best parts of the meal was the Irish band that played the entire time - Fintan.  They even passed out a sheet with the refrains for their songs so we could sing along.  They played a lot of traditional Irish tunes.

For another night of music and drink we'll be back again.

Score: 32 points
Ambiance (3), Tastiness of Dishes (5), Menu (4), Drink Selection (4), Cost (7), Accessibility (3), Service (3), Location (3)
Molly Malone's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

February 17, 2010

Local 127 - 4 Turkeys

This past weekend my husband and I ate an indulgent 4-course meal at Local 127 for Valentine's Day. For those of you that read my first post (Lady in Red) the chef didn't douse all of my courses in the infamous hot sauce.  Phew - dodged that bullet. 

Local 127 is in a great spot downtown just a few blocks from Fountain Square on West 4th Street.  The dining room is very large with all the tables spread out.  We were seated in a half booth, side by side which would have been nice for the occasion if it weren't for the fact that in the spacious room we were facing another "half booth".  I don't really like to stare at people I don't know while they eat - I guess I was supposed to be staring at my husband but still I just found it a bit odd.  Overall, the ambience was very laid back for a higher end restaurant with the waiters wearing jeans and black shirts.  Also, the background music at upscale restaurants usually are so toned down you don't notice bit but my husband picked up almost every song in the dining room.  They were all American artists from what we could tell - we grooved to Jackson Browne, John Mayer, Tom Petty, and Michael Jackson among others.

The restaurant is based on a "Farm to Table" concept which was complemented well with the American music.  However, I was the under the impression that all the items on the menu (except for the fish...hopefully) were from a local provider.  We were served "Vermont Butter" and the ham starter was from West Virginia.  Could they not find butter from a local farm?  Oh well - at least we knew where everything came from.  I very much wanted the local experience so we opted a local white wine I'd never heard of - Meranda.  It was one of the lower priced wines too which made it even more attractive.  For an additional $25/person we could have had wine pairings with each course which is actually a great price but we couldn't agree on a DD so we opted to go a bit more low key.

Anyway, on to the meal.  We started with the potato skins with white cheddar cheese and the Aged Mountain Ham (from West Virginia) served with a tomato jam crouton.  The Aged Mountain Ham was very similar to prosciutto but less salty.  The tomato jam complimented the ham well.  The potato skins were excellent - almost a mashed consistency with a generous portion of cheddar to top it off.  I think it was served with a creme fraiche.  We'd definitely choose the potato skins again.

The next course was a Caesar salad for me and a white bean soup for my hubby.  The white bean soup tasted exactly like bean puree.  It wasn't that it tasted bad but it just didn't have a really unique flavor.  The Caesar salad had an extra lemony flavor which didn't leave me wanting more.  It also said it was served with anchovies which I have to say while I wasn't overly excited to have them I always try things once so when the salad came out "naked" I found myself a little wanting.  Overall, this course was a bit disappointing.

The main entrees were a step up after the second courses.  We both split the Bison with potato cakes, fried shallots and bourbon cream and the Sea Scallops (note the word Sea...) which were served with sweet potato puree, citrus essences and some crispy rice krispies on top.  While the Sea Scallops won this battle both were delicious.  The Bison was cooked to perfection and was topped off well with the fried shallots and bourbon cream.  The chef seems to like to put an aspect of crispiness into his entress, well at least this night.  The citrus essence made the scallops really pop.  While the rice 
krispies added a cool texture to the dish I would have preferred the fried shallots.

The dessert did not dissapoint.  Again we split - he got the chocolate pudding (where did my husband go...he hates chocolate) and I went with the cheesecake.  I didn't even recognize the dish that was presented to me as my dessert - it was unlike any cheesecake I had ever seen.  It was a sour cream cheesecake served in a glass cup with the graham cracker crumbs on top along with the sweet basil and apple gastric.  The pudding was served with a sweet wine syrup and candied pumpkin seeds.  To me it tasted more like chocolate cake batter but either way you slice it was delicious!

I'll be back to Local 127 - I definitely think their strength lies in the entrees.  And for $45 for 4 courses I felt like this meal was definitely worth it.  For more info check them out at Local 127.

Score: 41 points
Ambiance (3), Tastiness of Dishes (7), Menu (5), Drink Selection (4), Cost (8), Accessibility (5), Service (4), Location (5)
Local 127  on Urbanspoon