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

February 8, 2010

Terry's Turf Club - 3.5 Turkeys

I finally feel like I am truly a part of Cincinnati again with my first visit to Terry's Turf Club.  For the past two years I've heard great things about this place so I must say I did have high expectations.  However, the few times I've tried to make a visit we had been told that we'd have to wait for 2+ hours for a table.  I kept thinking next time we'll go earlier. That never pans out because people start going at least by 5 PM for dinner (i refuse to eat dinner earlier than that).  Anyway, we finally sucked it up and only had to wait an hour this past Saturday for a table for four.  I don't want to foreshadow too much but in the future you can count on me to wait the hour again.

Let me warn you - if you have an ounce of claustrophobia do not attempt to wait inside.  You are better off freezing outside, standing with your cold beer in your gloved hand, shivering while the stray cat looks cozy and warm under the heaters sitting on the only chair left.  It's better than inside...trust me.  After about 20 minutes of dancing around the waiters in the tight quarters between tables we finally squeezed our way over to a small corner right outside the Men's bathroom.  Classy is all I have to say.   We ordered a couple rounds of beers to keep us entertained while we waited including the Two Hearted Ale by Great Lakes and Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA.  I got a bit overheated (again with the claustrophobia) so I had to take off the sleeping bag I call a coat and ask the people at the table we were hovering over if I could slide it on the back of one of their chairs.  They so obliged. Although I'm feeling a bit crowded I am liking this place if only for the patrons that are there this night.  Then I start to notice the crunching beneath my feet...who thought throwing peanut shells onto the ground at a restaurant was a good idea? I know some find this "cool" or "authentic"...whatever. I don't and maybe it's just me.  Anyway, thankfully the tables are high tops so your feet are off the crunchiness when you sit down.

The menu is pretty straightforward and while fairly sparse does include a decent amount of "non-burger" options.  Upon sitting my husband and I immediately decided to split the bowl of Filet Mignon Chili.  It just sounded indulgent.  Then we opted go halvsies on a burger too (we had a GIGANTIC brunch...that's another post).   We chose the burger with English Cheddar and caramelized Onions with the Red Curry Wasabi sauce on the side along with a side of fries to share.  The four of us ordered a 25 oz bottle of Three Philosophers - a hefty beer weighing in at over 9% alcohol content.  The beer was perfect to split between the four of us.  It had a sweet flavor with an undertone of cherry which I'm not normally crazy about but I think it was done with the right amount in this beer.

I have to start with the Chili - this was really really good.  There were a number of good size chunks of "filet" and the flavoring was perfect.  Our friend pointed out that it tasted like liquid smoke was added to it and I think I may have to agree.  I may have to try that in my next batch of chili...stay tuned for the posting on that one :)

The burger came out and I have to say I was a bit worried about the cheddar especially when I saw my buddy's burger with beautiful, yellow, melted American cheese.   While it appeared thick and unmelted,  once you took a bite you instantly realized you were mistaken.  Delicious!  It was just sharp enough to give a definite taste to the burger but not so strong that all you noticed was the cheese.  I was a bit disappointed with the lack of onions on my burger...not sure where they disappeared to.  The sauce we got on the side (Red Curry Wasabi) had a unique flavor that surprisingly meshed well with the English cheddar.  Who would have thought?!  Our waitress...that's who.  She (who I will just call "Ma'am" for now...you know who you are) gave us the recommendation which we jumped at blindly.  Props to her!  However, at $2 a pop I had imagined the sauce to come in a much larger container...we didn't even use it all. My recommendation - split it between 4 people.

Now on to the fries - I know I will get a lot of arguments about this one but I am not a fan.  I mean they were tasty but mainly because I love all things salted.  I am not a huge fan of thick cut fries especially those that are bit browned.  They weren't burnt but I like the color you find at the Golden Arches.  Maybe that discounts me as a "Fry" critic but I wasn't jumping up and down for joy over the fries.

All in all I will be going back to Terry's Turf Club despite the squished waiting conditions (which really wouldn't be a problem in better weather).  It had an eclectic mix of patrons - some you could tell have been going since the beginning of time.  If asked...I'd pick Terry's over Zips any day.  To make up your own mind check Terry's out at: 4618 Eastern Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45226

Score: 36 points
Ambiance (2), Tastiness of Dishes (8), Menu (3), Drink Selection (4), Cost (6), Accessibility (5), Service (5), Location (3)

Terry's Turf Club on Urbanspoon

February 7, 2010

Lady in Red - 3.5 Turkeys

So me and the girls headed down to Tonic Friday night for the CincyChic event - Lady in Red.  We (in addition to 200 or so others) were dedicated enough to the cause (the event benefited the American Heart Association) that we hiked in our peep toe heels in our cocktail chic red dresses thru rain, sleet, slush and snow to attend.  It was well worth it.  Upon arrival to Tonic we were ushered to a room upstairs, above Local 127.  We were barely greeted by the ladies checking everyone in and they all failed to mention anything regarding the silent auction, the raffle, and most importantly forgot to give us our Swag Bags.  Luckily my girlfriend realized this and ran back for them.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed but for $10 shouldn't have expected too much.  There were some worthwhile items...a sample of the M&Ms premiums dark chocolate, a $50 off coupon to Cincy Shoes, a coupon to Paris J boutique in addition to some others.  After getting settled with our swag bags we perused the array of items up for bid in the silent auction in a room above Local 127. I'm not a huge fan of silent auctions but they had some solid items.  One friend put a bid in for Reds tix and another for a box of surprises from Pure Romance.  Love that girl :)  Still not sure if we've won yet - if we did our credit cards were billed supposedly.  It was a good system except the minimum bids were very high - most of them were $80+ and you were supposed to do increases of $80 too.  A bit too pricey for this girl. 

To get the night started right we ordered a Red drink special - some concoction of Vodka, cranberry and a fizzy drink.  It was good the first go around but down at the bar in Tonic it was very watered down.   Then I threw down a couple dollars for a donation in order to taste some sweet treats - red velvet cupcakes. Delicious!  I of course got white icing over my top lip a few times and spent about 10 minutes trying to lick it off.  I can only imagine what passerbys thought.
Down in Tonic which is connected to Local 127 we quickly grabbed a few leather snake skin ottomans.  It was pretty crowded down at the bar at this point and the "fashion show" had already begun.  There were platforms throughout the bar with models standing in a frozen pose staring off into space.  It was  a bit creepy at first but after getting over the emptiness of their eyes it was fun to take in all of the new trendy outfits.  After my first watered down Red Drink Special I switched to the Aviation. Not sure if this was just a special for the event or one of Tonic's traditional drink list items but it was a heavy hitter for sure.  It better be for $9 a pop.  I had to alternate between the drink and water just to avoid a black out. haha.  It was a mix of gin, creme de violet, and maraschino.  I'm not a huge fan of gin but this combination was interesting enough to keep me coming back for more thru the night.  Also, a quick shout out to our waiter, Dan. He made sure our glasses were never empty and dealt with our request to split our bills up every which way with a smile on his face. 
The DJ was spinning some solid tunes all night and more than once we were encouraged by the music to get out of our seats to start dancing.  He also ran the raffle very well - I may be a bit biased because my girlfriend won TWICE.  The first was a $100 gift card to Embers which she has promised to take me with her when she goes and the 2nd was a gift basket of a Tshirt, hat, etc.  

As I made my way to the coat check I ran into the chef from Local 127.  For those of you who haven't been yet check out my post next week after my husband & I give it another whirl for Vday.  Anyway, I went up to the chef and stated, "Hi, I'm Mrs. Minno.  I really love your restaurant but I think the hot sauce on the cheesy bacon grits doesn't do the dish justice and really takes away from the overall flavor."  Wow!  really? I mean sure I agree with the statement and it's sort of haunted me since I first ate at Local but really...going up to a renowned chef and not only giving him a piece of advice but also stating my first AND last name like he should know me.  And it probably came out a bit slurred even. Oh goodness.  Not the impression I was looking to make.  And I didn't stop there either...I proceeded to give him more helpful hints how to market his local wines on the wine list.  This can turn out a few ways - he forgets, he says "Hi" to my husband and I next Sunday or he pours hot sauce on all of my dishes during dinner next Sunday. I'm praying against the latter.  

All in all I think the event was a success for us girls and probably any single men that decided to take advantage of the opportunity to be one of the few straight men in attendance with beautiful ladies dressed to the nines in their best red & black dresses.  Those men are smart.  With proceeds going to the American Heart Association it wasn't a bad way to spend $10 and a Friday night.  I'll be there next year! For more info check out the site...Lady in Red

Score: 38 Points
Ambiance (3), Food/Drink Selection (3), Cost of Food/Drink (3), Guests in Attendance (5), Accessibility (5), Reason for Event (5), Cost of Event (4), Suitability of Location (4), Entertainment (3), Service of Event Staff (3).