Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Barcelona and San Sebastian

We recently took a week-long holiday in Spain, spending 3 days in Barcelona and a day in San Sebastian, eating and drinking our way around the cities. 

All I can really say that it's hard to go wrong with the food. Some places we went were more tourist-y than others, but all in all, the food was spectacular. As it stands, this will mainly be a photo only post because 1) as I said, there are so many places that serve great food and 2) I was somewhat tipsy for most of the trip so actually remembering where we went and what we ordered (especially in San Sebastian) proved a little difficult. 

Bormuth

Bormuth

Bormuth 

Bormuth

El Vaso de Oro

El Vaso de Oro

El Vaso de Oro

El Vaso de Oro

Betty Ford's

Bar Celta Pulperia

Bar Celta Pulperia

Bar Celta Pulperia

Bar Celta Pulperia

Bar Celta Pulperia 

L'amfora


La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia 

Barceloneta


La Vina

La Vina

La Vina

La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Cuchara de San Telmo

San Sebastian

La Guinda Deli & Coffe

La Guinda Deli & Coffe

Bar Ipotx

Bar Txalota

Bar Txalota

Bar Txalota (?)


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar

I rarely have much to write about regarding the restaurants I try while on work trips. Usually it's much to late in the evening for many places to be open that are also within walking distance of wherever I happen to be staying that night. Add in the amount of travel time and 75% of my meals turn out to be either be from the hotel restaurant or somewhere in an airport.

Luckily, during a recent whirlwind trip to Boston (I was there for 18 hours), there was a decent Greek/Mediterranean restaurant just on the other side of the road from the hotel. I headed out for dinner around 9 pm at night and was looking for something cosy and comforting. Doretta fit the bill, even though the restaurant is located in an area of equally expensive restaurants (one glance at the shops on the street would would tell you that)

I have yet to try many Greek restaurants in the US, even after almost 4 years here, but the cuisine is just as mouth-watering as I remembered.  The food was full-flavoured and wonderful, and the serving sizes were generous.

To start, there was a tangy mushroom appetizer on the house.

Mushroom Appetizer
While I like mushrooms, I don't exactly love them. That said, the sourness of the vinegar added a fresh kick to the earthiness of the thinly sliced, lightly sauteed mushrooms and I polished off the dish.

The star of the evening was however the lamb main.

Lamb shoulder with loukaniko, lentils, turnip, and kumquat
The lamb was juicy, and melt-off-your-fork tender. The loukaniko (a Greek sausage) was brightly flavoured with hints of orange peel and fennel seeds and all kinds of wonderful herbs and seeds. Lentils are always a little boring to me, but these soaked up the lamb juices wonderfully. What do you say about turnips? I'm not sure, but the kumquats added an unexpected but refreshing tang. Overall, it was a satisfying dish, with plenty of flavours and variety, and most importantly, superbly cooked lamb. Heaven.

The service here was great (attentive but not pushy), and there were quite a number of parties here just catching up over glasses of wine and small plates of food. The price tag was relatively steep ($32 for the lamb main) but given the location, it's understandable. 

I had a great time, and know where I'm going to eat next time I do a fly-in/fly-out of Boston. 

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar
79 Park Plaza Heritage On The Garden, MA 
Mon-Sun 5pm - 1am 

Doretta Tavern & Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Appellation

I've always had a soft spot for restaurant weeks. They remind me of the sheer number of options in the city, and to head out and try new restaurants. Since moving to Illinois, we've barely tested the Chicago  restaurant scene. Chicago Restaurant Week was as good of an excuse as we could get to catch up with friends and try a new place - multitasking sometimes works after all.

Our friends suggested we try Appellation because, wine. Appellation is a small wine bar attached to a cheese/wine/bread shop that serves food almost as an after-thought. However, it was cosy and inviting and had good reviews and seemed worth checking out. 

To kick things off, we each had a glass of Processo.

Prosecco
I didn't get the name of the wine, but it was crisp and refreshing - a perfect way to start. While the special dinner menu already consisted of an entree, main and dessert (or appetiser, entree and dessert if you're speaking American), we unanimously agreed that a charcuterie board was required. 
  
Charcuterie Board
On the board: housemade chicken liver mouse, duck rilette, coppa, dodge city salami, salami manzo. First impressions were that the board was nicely varied, with different flavours and textures, from creamy to crunchy, and silky with fat to sharply salty. Second impressions were that the bread was much too hard. Almost painfully so, which was the only disappointment for an otherwise solid dish. 

Onto the 'real' first course. There were 3 options; a mac and cheese, brussels sprouts, and a winter salad. No one particularly felt like a salad, and in-fact, 3/4 of the table chose the mac and cheese (I was the odd one out given my rocky relationship with dairy). 

Seasonal Mac and Cheese with Duck Confit and Roasted Kale
Who could blame them though .Mac and cheese is comfort food at its finest. More cheese than mac, with plenty of cream and just enough flavour to keep it from feeling overwhelming, this was a decent dish. Heavy, but satisfying. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Chermoula, Pickled Raisin and Essex Feta
I did enjoy my Brussels sprouts more, but I'm a little strange like that. A combination of crisp sprouts, with sweetness from the carrots and raisins, and a little tangy-ness from the feta made this a well-balanced dish. One that I could see myself trying to recreate at home actually.

After the lovely first course and a modest wait, it was onto the main meal. We ordered all three options between us. 

The hanger steak dish was a disappointment unfortunately.  
Hanger Steak with Bernaise Butter and Frites
Cold, dry and tasteless, I felt much happier with the fries than with the steak itself. I can understand it being difficult to time 4 dishes to come out at the same time, but I expected better.

The fish dish looked much better executed.
Sauteed Fish with Cauliflower Fennel Puree, Hazelnut Caper Brown B
This was not without it's issues, given the original dish was to be prepared with skate, but the kitchen ran out and so was replaced with halibut (if my memory serves me correctly). While I didn't taste the dish, it smelt good and appeared to be better cooked than the steak dish. 

The final offering was a cheese fondue. 
Fondue of Raclette and Hittisau served with Baguette and Cornichons
I'm not sure how M wasn't completely cheesed-out after the mac and cheese followed by this, but he enjoyed his choice. I personally would have preferred more cheese, less wine in this but it was definitely tasty (in small doses). 

And then onto more cheese for dessert! Well, not for M (maybe he was cheese-ed out). 

Restaurant Week Cheese Plate
A decent selection, some nice accompaniments, and thankfully soft bread. Nothing spectacular, but not a disappointment either. 

Option 2 was a winter Panna Cotta. Sweet and simple. 

Winter Panna Cotta
Option 3 (my choice) was a chocolate pudding. 

Chocolate Pudding with Orange Blossom with Whipped Cream and Pistachios
A light-weight dessert, the pistachios lent a nice salty contrast to the velvety, not-to-sweet chocolate pudding. I could have done without the whipped cream but each to their own. 

Overall thoughts on Appellation: good service and a cosy atmosphere in a simple, somewhat rustic setting. Wine selection is extensive, and product is good, although execution can sometimes be lacking. Perhaps this is more of a place for wine and bar snacks rather than a sit-down dinner. I'm glad we went and tried it though. 

Appellation
5212 North Clark Street, IL 60640
Mon-Thu 4pm - 12 midnight, Fri/Sat 4pm - 1am, Sun 4pm-11pm

Appellation Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, January 20, 2017

BluFish Sushi Robata

Over a year after my last post and it's time for a blog revival. Once a year is enough to justify site hosting fees right (if only)? Nevertheless, what this experience has taught me is:
  1. I love reminiscing over meals, weather they were days ago, or years ago.
  2. I should carry my Olympus camera around more rather than relying on my iPhone 6 camera - the depth of field really just isn't there.
  3. Japanese food in the US is overpriced and never meets craving expectations.

Even weak happy-hour Moscow mules couldn't make this a wonderful experience.

Moscow Mule
Ok, I'm being more than a bit harsh. Blufish is actually a decent Japanese restaurant for suburban Illinois. The decor is swanky and new, the service is fast, staff are friendly, the menu is extensive and while the prices are high, they're not unreasonable.

We started the night with some appetizers:

Takoyaki: Flour battered chopped octopus, Japanese mayo, sweet soy, nori powder
I have yet to find takoyaki as good as served by the streetside vendors in Hong Kong, but I haven't been to Japan yet. I found the dough was a little too thick, but there was a nice chunk of octopus and these were still tasty. 

Gyoza: 5 Pan fried dumplings, citrus soy sauce, scallions, togarashi, choice of pork or vegetable
We also got the pork gyoza but they were disappointing - no crunchy bottom and lackluster filling. The from-frozen ones we make at home are much more satisfying. Perhaps I should have asked for chilli oil to amp up the flavour here. 

For my main/entree, I ordered chirashi, which is essentially sashimi on a bed of rice. It comes with the standard miso soup and lettuce salad with too much dressing common around here. 

Salad & Miso Soup
Nothing special here, move along. 
.
Chirashi: Assorted fish, tamago, sushi rice, assorted Japanese pickle
The chirashi itself was beautifully presented, with a generous serving of sashimi. The fish was fresh and the pickled vegetables added a nice tangy pop. The serving of rice underneath was enormous however, and not particularly inspiring. I hate leaving food, and it seemed unreasonable to ask for a box to take out the rice, but M reminded me that I don't have to eat everything on my plate. Life lessons and such. Would order again, but would maybe ask for less rice to save both myself and BluFish some effort. 

M ordered a nice fatty piece of Blue Fin tuna as part of his main.
Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi
His verdict was that while it was good, it wasn't as good as the sashimi from Shakou Sushi up the road.

I took one look at the sushi he ordered and was confused. It was a hot mess compared to the simple sushi I'm used to, but that's not necessarily a bad thing just because it's different. 

King Kong: Snow crab, spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, breaded and deep fried, sweet soy, spicy mayo
King Kong definitely had a lot more texture interest and flavours than your standard sushi roll. You could also say it was over-sized. That was bad? Yeah, that was bad. Still, it was a whole host of seafood (I thought King Kong was a gorilla though...), cream cheese and avocado for well, creaminess, cucumber for a slight refreshment and then deep fried as only America can do. Not bad, but also a bit confusing.

Final thoughts on BluFish: the restaurant itself and the service are great, the quality of the food is decent if you're not after authenticity, but don't expect it to be easy on your wallet. Good for a relaxed date night out. 

BluFish Sushi Robata
Suite 128, 700 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Vernon Hills, IL
Mon-Fri 1130am-230pm, 5pm-930pm, Sat 5pm - 1030pm Sun 4pm-9pm

Blufish Sushi Robata Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato