Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rome September 2014

Stay tuned for 2 restaurant reviews in Roma. Urbana 47 and Trattoria Monti.  Both great restaurants located in the hipster Monti District.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bar Sajor Seattle

Open and Inviting
You are in the Kitchen
I have been to Seattle 2 dozen times and each time I go there the weather is perfect.  The views are spectacular to one side you have Mount Ranier the other side you have the sound and all the islands and in the middle you have Lake Washington.  Seattle tends to lure people that love the outdoors and the fresh fish and produce it brings to us.  Near SoDo there is a great little mall with lots of open urban space,  an area that has been revived by the ball parks .  One of the restaurants is Bar Sajor, built in an old Bank Building.  It even has an eating area in the safe.  This restaurant has 20 foot high ceilings, lots of windows to bring in the long day light, painted almost entirely white with accents of Wedgewood blue.  As you walk in, there is a bar island and towards the back right there is a wood burning oven and stove in a very open cooking and prep area.  It is a well lit spacious chef's kitchen that is integrated with the eating area.  Another feature of the high ceilings is that it results in a very quiet restaurant that you do not have to yell over others to talk.
When you sit you are presented a glass of green mint tea to cleanse your palate.  One thing I found in Seattle is that they cater to folks like me that do not drink alcohol with their own creative not necessarily sugar laden drinks.  I chose a refreshing Cucumber Jalapeno Soda but there were others like Strawberry or Rhubarb Vinegar. 
Halibut look at the detail

Savory Scallops
The menu is very simple and it represents fresh in season ingredients and tonight the two of us went with vegetable starters and seafood for the main.  I started for the Fire Roasted Radishes and English peas a combination that I had never had.  They were accompanied with a anchovy dressing sprinkled with Goat Cheese and Marjoram.  The resulting taste was different combinations of crunch and consistency.  the fire roasting took a little of the heat out of the radishes and the peas just popped in your mouth with that fresh cut grass aroma.  Mr. T had a spring salad with ash roasted Shallots and his favorite Rhubarb.
For the main I kept it simple with the Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut with watercress flavoring and Sugar Snap Peas.  The Peas were made into a mash as the stage for the Halibut which was light and perfectly cooked and on top of the halibut were purple and pink edible flowers. The Scallops were more of a savory dish served with grilled Zucchini Squash and roasted Marbled New Potatoes set on a Verde Chimichurri.  Both dishes were perfectly presented and were cooked to perfection. 
What is interesting about this restaurant they are cooking the bulk of this meal on wood burning fires and stoves that are no more than 15 feet from you.  The Executive Chef Matt Dillon is the creator of Bar Sajor and is an alumni of Herb Farm in Woodinville.  In 2013 Bar Sajor and Matt won the James Beard Northwest Chef of the year.  I would recommend that loves cuisine to visit Bar Sajor.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

RockCreek in Ballard

This year Seattle had more James Beard nominees than any other city it's size, RockCreek is one of them.  Located in Ballard near The Whale Wins and others this restaurant has a contemporary look and feel with a lot of glass and wood with both outdoor and indoor seating 
One of the reason I started going to great restaurants like RockCreek was for customer entertainment, a great restaurant trumps an old school expensive chain steak restaurant not only in price but for quality and experience.  Great restaurants have one thing in common great chefs Eric Donnelly has gained a lot of notoriety over the last several years with his James Beard nomination, and several write-ups in regional papers as one of the best chefs in Seattle.  He is a seafood expert and has been a guest on the Deadliest Catch.  Rock Creek was also very accommodating because we added a few new members to our party and they easily worked with us.   Keep this in mind that this menu changes daily due to the types of fish and ingredients they find the freshest.

BLT Salad
Lets get to the food one of our colleagues ordered several starters including an assortment of Oysters including 38 North from Maryland and several from Washington including Wild Cat Cove, Barron Point and Calm Cove.  It is amazing how each area the oyster comes from provides not only a different look but a different taste.  Above all they melt in your mouth buttery and briny.  Next up was Char Broiled Alaskan Octopus with Cannellini Beans, Capers, Olives with a Chili Vinaigrette.  First of all the Octopus was very tender but the color and the flavors were perfect.  The Chili gave a bit of a punch combined with the bitter taste of the caper and the olive.  We all decided to share a couple of salads so we chose the Fried Green Tomato BLT Salad.  there was a large slab of Bacon from Neuske's Farm, Arugula and Tomato Shallot Relish topped off with a little Green Goddess. 

Beet Salad
Black Cod
This was a meal in itself the combo of the fried Green Tomato and the Bacon provided a great fat profile along that was accented by the peppery taste of the Arugula.  The other Salad was Chioggia and Golden Beet with Pickled Onion, Oregon Hazelnuts, Ricotta Salata and Arugula.  Nothing like the Earthiness of Beets combined with the bite of Arugula topped off with Ricotta crumble and bits of caramelized onion to give you that additional spicy bite.

Fish Stew

Sea Bass with Poached Egg
This is a Seafood restaurant so you go with what they are known for and tonight was our lucky night because they were serving Black Cod from Neah Bay.  Several of us ordered it and it was perfect Black Cod aka Sablefish is a white fish with a good amount of oil in it so when cooked perfectly it falls apart in your mouth.  It was cooked in Sherry and was topped with deep fried shallots and fennel.  Other dishes served were the California White Sea bass with grilled Goose Tongue topped with a Poached Egg on a bed of Beluga Lentils, Normand Fish Stew with Rock Fish, Manila Clams, in a base of Pernod and Sofrito Tomato's.  As you will see from the pictures the food is colorful and I was told all the dishes were spectacular.

Chocolate and Caramel Yummy
There were a few desserts ordered and the best by far was this chocolate, caramel, vanilla concoction that was as good as it looks.  This is a popular restaurant because of the quality of food and service so make sure you have a reservation.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Chino San Francisco

Carrots a la Plancha
Soup Dumplings
Lamb Skewer
In June we went to San Francisco for the day and ended up in the Mission District scoping out some of the unique retail experiences.  The Mission District has some of the best new restaurants in the city and today was Zagat's turn to give us a recommendation.  We went to Chino a recently opened new age Chinese restaurant with a Mexican influence.  When you think about it that is a great flavor combo..  Chino has a simple menu from Snacks, to Dumplings, Noodles and Rice and great tasting Veggies.  Also a pretty creative drink selection.  We started off with the Grilled Lamb Skewers, they were spicy and the cucumber added a little heat relief.  Next up was the Bao De Chicharon.  Bao is a Chinese Bun  Chicharon is a deep fried pork skin in this case a chunk of pork belly.  This was good we both liked the addition of the cilantro.   Next came the XLB which is a dumpling with soup in it and a bit of meat ball.  The caution here is to let the soup inside cool down before you bite down.  I have only had this type of Chinese dumpling once before. 
Bao De Chicharon
Typically this would have been my favorite dish because it was unique but in this case it turned out to be the Carrots A La Plancha, they were familiar to the carrots that we had a Empellon Cocina in NYC but instead of Mole they had Black Vinegar and Five Spice so you can imagine it was like a Sweet Tart.  Overall Chino was good they have a great Bar menu and the food is delicious. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Little Uncle Pioneer Square Seattle

Rock Fish Fritter
Little Uncle's Kitchen
Looking for a great place to eat in Seattle try Little Uncle in Pioneer Square.  this place is so good I went there twice for lunch.  Not easy to find but it is one block toward the Sound from Pioneer Square, you go down stairs into the basement and it looks like you have arrived at someone's casual cooking and dining area.  It has a great smoky smell of cooking Thai food and there are great cartoon artwork in different languages of different super heroes on the brick walls.  something to read while you are in line.  It is best to have one person secure a spot in one of the eating areas, make shift bar, couch area or small dining set ups. 
Poached Chicken
Nam Tok Spicy
The menu is very simple it is a no frills great Thai food emporium.  We started with Curried Rock Fish Fritters with Fried Basil and Vinegar Cucumber.  Tasty little snack to start, the combo of the crunch of the fried basil and the bite of the vinegar cucumber made this a unique dish.  My guest had the Khau Mun Gai which is a no heat but savory dish.  The Fee Range Chicken was moist and tender and it was accompanied with Garlic and Chicken Fat Rice, Spicy Ginger Sauce and a Winter Melon Soup.  I had the Nam Tok which was ironic because I had been talking to our Hotel Front Desk manager Phillip and he had recommended that if Nam Tok was on the menu get it.  Nam Tok is a Rare Beef Salad with Tamarind Dressing, Mint, Cherry Tomatoes and Jasmine Rice.  This is a spicy dish so be prepared to deal with it.  It has great taste combos with the sour of the Tamarind the sweetness of the mint and the lettuce is a natural cooling agent for the spicy beef.
Overall this was a great find for lunch

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Connie and Teds, West Hollywood

Connie and Teds
What is going on in Los Angeles it has become the hot restaurant scene nationally.  It seems I am up here every week and each time I get to try something new, James Beard and Zagat are wearing me out.   This week we went to Connie and Ted's in West Hollywood which is  high quality Fish diner.  We were there on their first anniversary and were greeted at our table with a celebratory cocktail, very nice. 
Connie and Ted's is the creation of Michael Cimarusti, Craig Nickoloff and Donato Poto.  the team was hand picked from Chef Cimarusti's Providence restaurant which included Executive Chef  Sam Baxter.  Connie and Ted's is not only a 2014 James Beard semifinalist but is one of Zagat's LA hot restaurants.
Open Kitchen
This restaurant is a modern Jetson like diner, the facade gives the building a great amount of presence.  The kitchen is open to the restaurant adjoining a large bar to watch the game and lots of indoor and outdoor seating.  We chose to sit outside because it was a nice evening. 
Calamari hiding under Arugula
The menu is simple fresh seafood and a few meat dishes.  If you love shellfish you will love this restaurant there are clams, mussels, oysters, large shrimp and lobster.  We started out with the grilled Calamari with a San Marzano Tomato sauce and Arugula.  Imagine very tender pieces of grilled Calamari bathing is a terrific Tomato Marinara sauce topped with fresh peppery Arugula.  When you put that all together you get a dish that is healthy and tastes perfect.

Stew note the Cilantro Flowers

Shellfish Marinara
Herb Saturated Crostini
I had the Portuguese Fish Stew and my friend had the Shellfish Marinara.  The stew was a combination of Hake, Manila Clams, Linguica and Mussels in a Tomato Sauce topped with Micro Cilantro and Cilantro flowers.  (Look a the Picture closely)  This stew was fresh, spicy and the fish was cooked perfectly and the taste with the Cilantro was memorable.  My friend's Shellfish Marinara was a unique dish, the marinara was not red as you would expect it but almost like a broth with tomato's, fresh herbs, garlic and a little heat.  Each dish came with these Lincoln Log crostini's that were smothered with herbs and provided a little heat of their own.  When dipped in the sauce, flavor exploded in your mouth. 
This meal was well done it was in a cool place and above all was priced for the average person.  If you like Seafood you need to go here when you are in LA!!

Pizzaiolo in Oakland

Very popular because of the food 
Oakland has been under a transformation for the last several years influenced by great character, UC Berkeley, affordability and a Bohemian arts and crafts community.  With all that has come some very good restaurants many have been inspired by Alice Waters.  My friend told me of one of his favorites Pizzaiolo located right next to Temescal Alley.  Pizzaiolo Owner Charlie Hallowell and his crew all have experience working in Chez Panisse and it shows.  His premise is "believe that the simple act of feeding people is at the core of what it is to be human. We focus on the ritual of taking life from the world around us and presenting it to you to sustain your own life".

Great color and taste
We got there at 5:30 and were one of the first to be seated but within 20 minutes the place was full.  The restaurant is rustic and very comfortable our server Laura was attentive, energetic and walked us through the menu.  I wanted the Pizza with a little heat and their home made sausage, my friend wanted the Margherita Pizza

Perfectly made crust

Sausage, peppers and basil
The meal started with a variety of delicious olives that helped to prepare the palette for the evening.  I started with the Beet and Avocado Salad, the Beets were fresh sweet and delicious with the Avocado providing a creaminess.  I remember when beets were from a can and looked as if the had been dyed, my mom would try to get me to eat them but not for me Today we get fresh beets of all different colors that are fresh and sweet, almost like an exotic fruit.
My Pizza came with onions which I did not catch when ordering.  I told them it was an issue they said no problem and 8 minutes later out came a fresh Pizza.  That is what I call customer service!  The Pizza was simple but tasted great, their sausage was fresh with fennel seeds and the Calabrian Peppers gave it just the right amount of heat.  My friends Margherita pizza was perfect also.  These Pizzas were great because the crust was well done and a platform to deliver a great bite of well prepared ingredients.
Overall Pizzaiolo is a fun neighborhood restaurant with terrific service along with great tasting and high quality food.