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Restaurant Review: Bouchon Bistro, Las Vegas

11 Dec

About a month ago, we took our first trip in about a year and a half. The trip wasn’t to any far away lands, but just about an hour and a half away, to Las Vegas, Nevada.

In the last few years, Las Vegas went from being a sin city where gambling and maybe a show were the main attractions. These days however, on top of the gambling and the shows…the restaurant business has flourished in Las Vegas. The choices are endless, and the food is incredible. And when you’re there for just a few days, you really want to make the best of it, and try as many restaurants as possible.

I am happy to report that we got a chance to try a few different restaurants. One of which I’ve been looking forward to trying for a very long time. This would be Bouchon Bistro. Overall I give it five stars. Our experience there, was amazing. Thanks to the resourcefulness of our friends, our wait was relatively short (Bouchon doesn’t take reservations for brunch).

Assorted pastries, compliments of the Chef, were a pretty great added bonus…

…yummy beignets and croissants by the way. The bread was fresh, and still warm when served to us.

The brunch menu isn’t very big, but has enough selections. Here are some of the dishes we enjoyed.

Salmon Baguette, Omelette du Jour, Bouchon French Toast

Just as an FYI, the bacon served was just the way I like it, perfectly crisp but not crumbly or burned.

And last but certainly not least (and not in the order served), is the Bouchon Bloody Mary.

It was the perfect Bloody Mary, not too spicy, not too strong. A well balanced alcoholic Brunch beverage.

So, next time you’re in Las Vegas, I encourage to take the time to enjoy Brunch (the best meal of the day) at the Bouchon Bistro

 

Restaurant Review: Girls Just Wanna Dine Out…at The House

04 Aug

 

Today, I have a very special treat for all of you. My restaurant review series, which has become a staple of sorts on the blog, is being taken up a notch. All thanks to my friend Lyuba. Lyuba not only took part in spoiling me, with an absolutely fabulous dinner for my birthday, but she also graciously agreed to write this incredible review of our experience. So without further ado, I present to you Lyuba’s review of The House. And if you love Lyuba’s commentary as much as I do, please do leave some blog lovin’ in the form of comments, to encourage Lyuba to come back again soon!

Get to know me:

Many of you may remember me from such hits as “hot chicks with skillets” from the “cooking with..” portion of Dimple Arts. For the 99.9% of you that don’t, allow me to introduce myself. One thing you absolutely must know about me is that as much as I love cooking, I love going out and having someone do it for me even more. But it’s not just about the food; restaurants, like people, have personalities.  Some are all about looks and some are all about substance. Some are pretentious and others humble and understated.  When looking for a restaurant, we look for one that works with not only our food preference, but personality and mood as well. As a frequent diner and traveler, I find that a good restaurant, like a man, is hard to find and reviews don’t always tell the right story since reviewers, as people, also have personalities and different backgrounds. In the era of Yelp, anyone with a computer is suddenly a critic. So I say this now, I am not a food critic…I do dine out a lot, like good food at a reasonable price, and am known for giving good restaurant advice.

The Place:

Last Friday, I had the immense pleasure of taking out our very own blogger-extraordinaire, Julia, out for her B-day at one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, The House.  Located in the heart of the bustling and parking-challenged North Beach district, or San Francisco’s claim to having an actual Italian community (please… the sleazy waiters at Steps of Rome DO NOT COUNT), this place truly pleases the senses without overwhelming them. In short, the food is great, the dress code is casual, and the décor is minimal. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to admit that I tend to get suckered in to over-paying by giant Buddha statues, hipster chandeliers, and other gimmicks of the sort that pretentious restaurants employ, but sometimes it’s just nice to get the fancy food and not have to spend hours putting on your face and bunion-busting heels.

The Ambiance: Good for: Dates, groups of 4 or less, weeknights, pre-night out dinner.

This is not a bar scene, nor is it for decking out or people watching, although, Clive Owen did come here while filming “Ernest Hemingway” a couple of months ago. Expect a small space, tables almost too close for comfort, and the crowd to be on average, 35-40 year old eHarmony daters.

The Price: $42/person on average

 The Food: I hate to bring up the cliché-ridden genre of Asian Fusion, but this place does generally fall into this category.

For all you oyster lovers, I am starting a cult and I am calling it “The House”, but seriously, living in SF, we are truly spoiled when it comes to seafood–especially raw seafood –and this place definitely ranks among my Top 5 for freshness, texture, and taste. Drizzle some of their delicious mignonette for the complete experience.

Ahi tuna tartare with roasted nori chips–The worst thing about ordering tuna tartar is the impossibility of actually getting it inside your mouth. Unlike other places, where the tuna and avocado flee at the sight of a cracker, leaving you poking at the plate for tiny morsels of fallen tuna, the house not only creates just the right consistency so that the good stuff stays in one piece, but they also serve it already doled out on top of the crackers, which are large enough for you to actually hold on to, resulting in less mess and more tuna. The flavor is balanced with just enough avocado and wasabi and just the right amount of zest in the fish itself.

Next, and not nearly as earth-shattering, we had the Asparagus with roasted sesame dressing.  As my jewish grandfather says:  “Eh…” nothing to write home about, so I won’t. Get it only if you like veggies with your meal.

Warm wasabi house noodles with angus flatiron steak-  now that’sa what I calla a good pasta! Delicious and satisfying– get the steak on the rare side if you can handle it, the juicier the better. Guaranteed to be a crowd favorite and one of the more filling items on the menu, which makes it a great value.

 

Grilled sea bass with garlic ginger soy- Oh how I dread ordering fish as life is like a box of bad fish, you never know what you’re gonna get. Fortunately, at The House, you get a Sea Bass that is incredibly soft and flavorful. Whew!

The Wine: Due to the lack of adventure on the part of my Riesling-loving companions, we had the 2003 German Riesling for the second time here, even though they do have quite a few great options on the list, many of which are rarely found elsewhere. Ok ok.. I have to admit, I didn’t mind too much as it does go well with the sweetness of all the sauces.

The Conclusion:

If the house teaches you anything, it is that food is a wonderful thing…if done right and for the right price.  One minus is the absolute impossibility of just walking in or getting a short-notice reservation. On my newly-created scale of “go there” to “skip it”, I give this place a “go-there ”, even after downgrading for the aforementioned parking situation and the proximity of the tables. Also, did they REALLY charge me for the extra serving of pickles that come free with the meal?? Yes…they shamelessly did.  The food gets a “go-there” as well, even though the desert menu lacks the Joie de Vie! of its savory counterparts. With a little less “GTL” and lots of great food, The House is a “DGT”, or a “definite go-there!”.

The contact info:

The House: www.thehse.com

1230 Grant Ave
(at Broadway St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill

(415) 986-8612

 
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Posted in Food Photography, Restaurant Reviews

 

Restaurant Review: Gitane, San Francisco

03 Jun

I am way overdue for a post.  I know I’ve been doing this a lot lately, but now I am a full-time wife, a full-time mom, and a full-time accountant. I am certainly trying to keep up with it all, and hubby and I squeezed in a celebration of our second wedding anniversary.

These days we try to use these occasions to try new (new to us) and interesting restaurants . This time we decided to try out Gitane in San Francisco. It came highly recommended by a friend. Since I also had the opportunity to try their beignets, I was definitely intrigued and wanted to check out the food.

Gitane Menu

Overall, we came away with a positive impression. The restaurant is tucked away in a little alley, and unless you’re looking for it, you probably won’t come across it easily. Once inside, you’ll be taken upstairs to the dining room. The dining room is pretty small, and from what I could gather could seat somewhere about 30 to 40 people. I have to warn you, there is only one restroom for the entire place (including the bar). Be prepared for a wait, if you need to use the facilities.

The food at Gitane is inspired by the Iberian Peninsula, with foods from Spain, Portugal, Southern France and Morocco. We opted for our usual way, share a bunch of little plates, to get a good overview of the food. Unfortunately, we got a little carried away and ordered so much that we never got to dessert. However, I still vouch for the beignets (they come with three different sauces). Here is what was on our dinner table last Saturday.

Gitane Appetizers
Bacon Bonbons – prunes stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in smoked bacon, spiced port glaze – $10
Espargos – grilled asparagus, cured pork loin, egg mimosa, lemon, olive oil – $10
Tartare – lamb tenderloin, walnut & red pepper, mint, fava puree, black olive – $18
Carbassa – squash blossom, farmers cheese, smoked tomato vinaigrette, zucchini – $12

I have to say my most favorite out of the above mentioned were the bacon bonbons. The combination of the salty bacon and sweet prunes was just right. The asparagus was very nicely grilled, not too soft. I really enjoyed the squash blossoms. The farmers cheese was warm inside its fried shell. The zucchini was very refreshing. I did feel that the lamb tenderloin was quite a bit salty.

Gitane Small Plates

Bastilla – sweet & savory pastry with chicken, spiced almonds, apricot fennel salad – $13
Sardinas – semolina crusted sardines, hearts of palm, grapes, verjus creme fraiche – $12
Coca Catalan Flatbread – with serrano ham, baby chard, manchego – $16
Patatas Bravas – yukon gold potatoes, lemon aioli – $6

I am generally a fan of sardines, but as hubby noted, they were very fishy. The sweet & savory pastry was very interesting. The pastry was savory with meat inside but was topped with powdered sugar. I found the combination very tasty. Unfortunately, we overestimated our abilities and barely had any strength for the flatbread and potatoes. I tried one of each (I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I didn’t).

On the down side, since we couldn’t really tackle the flatbread and potatoes, I asked for the waiter to pack them to go, as well as for the check. Unfortunately, at this point the service suddenly slowed down. For some reason it took a while for us to get the check, and apparently our doggy bag was forgotten. We got tired of waiting for the check, and decided not to even bother with asking about the doggy bag.

All in all, good food, nice atmosphere. I would suggest giving it a try.

 

Restaurant Review: Bistro Aix, San Francisco

08 May

Our friends’ engagement gave me the opportunity for another girls’ night out. It was a nice, spur of the moment plan (for me anyway). I was excited that my attendance worked out. It was a beautiful day, a rare warm evening in San Francisco.

The girls agreed on meeting for dinner at Bistro Aix.

Bistro Aix Menu

Bistro Aix offers Californian cuisine and is located in the Marina District of San Francisco. On these rare warm evenings in San Francisco, finding parking is an almost impossible task. As a result I was running late, and when I actually arrived at the restaurant the girls had already been seated and had ordered a few starters.

Bistro Aix Starters

We were seated at a table by the front window, which was perfect. Soon after I arrived the waitress brought out the ordered dishes. I was still a bit frazzled from running in late, so I didn’t get a chance to capture all the starters. We fared on a cheese plate, which had a few different cheeses, orange slices, walnuts and few crackers. I think everyone agreed that it would have been nice if the dish had more crackers. We also had the Baby Beet Salad with Baby Spinach, Goat Cheese & Orange Vinaigrette and Cracker Crust Pizza with Tomato, Mozzarella, Fontina and Parmesan. All the starters were delicious and perfect for sharing.

We decided to keep the dinner on the lighter side and shared two more dishes. After careful consideration and suggestions from the waitress, we settled on the Gnocchi with Chanterelle mushrooms, peas and sage brown butter and Spaghetti with San Marzano Tomatoes, Genovese Basil & Grana Padano.

Gnocchi

Spaghetti with San Marzano TomatoesThe waitress highly recommended both dishes. She said the regulars always opt for the spaghetti, even though she suggest that they venture out and try something different. I generally enjoy gnocchi and was not disappointed this time either. The spaghetti was very tasty and had a bit of a kick to it.

Overall the ambiance is great, the atmosphere is very relaxing, the staff is friendly, and the portions are just the right size. If you’re in the area, give Bistro Aix a try.

 

Restaurant Review: Betelnut, San Francisco

30 Apr

About a week ago, some of us ladies got together for dinner. We left our husbands, and most of us left our kids, to have a quiet relaxing night out. These days, a nice dinner out on the town is just what the doctor ordered (I know, party animals over here). Plans are no longer made spontaniously. It takes countless emails and a lot of advanced notice to get together. But we finally did it, we all came together for dinner at Betelnut!

Betelnut is an Asian Fusion restaurant in the Marina district of San Francisco. It’s a great place to try many different dishes and share them with your dining partners. I was the last one to arrive (parking is horrendous on Friday nights), and so I didn’t participate in the selection of dishes. I’ve been here before and knew this place was good, plus one of the girls in the group knows the place well, and was completely trusted with the dish selections.

The dish selections touched upon every section of the menu. We started with Betelnut’s “Seductive Starters”:

Seductive startersFrom left to right: Chili Crusted Calamari – $11.75, Cecilia’s Minced Chicken & Lup Cheong with Lettuce Cups – $11.88, Crispy Cauliflower with Tribal Salt & Pepper – $7.25

The lettuce cups were tasty, same as the first time I had them. I haven’t had the cauliflower before, and honestly I’ve never been a huge fan of cauliflower, but this dish was delicious. Than there was the calamari. I generally like calamari for an appetizer, it’s always a pretty safe choice. So I just popped one in my mouth, and instantly, and might I say very unexpectedly, felt the heat. Let’s just say the calamari is not for the weak hearted.

We continued to move down the menu, and the dishes kept coming. On to the salad and the dumplings.

Papaya SaladGreen Papaya, Shrimp, Grapefruit, Herbs & “Nuoc Cham” – $9.95

Pork Dumplings
“Shui Jiao” Pork Dumplings & Szechuan-Peppercorn Broth – $10.25, “Little Dragon” Dumplings of Pork & Shrimp with Ginger Vinegar – $11.50

The salad was fabulous, and very refreshing. I thoroughly enjoyed the dumplings.

We moved on to the sizzling steak and some noodles (sorry no photo of the noodles).

Sizzling SteakSizzling Iron Plate Ribeye Steak, Spring Onions with Roasted Garlic – $20.95, Penang Rice Noodles, Rock Crab, Shrimp, Sprouts, Chives, Chili-soy – $14.50. We asked for two orders of the steak, prepared two different ways, medium well and medium. I won’t lie, I tried both, and both were delicious. Not chewy at all.

Last and certainly not least is of course the dessert. We took one look at the dessert menu and unanimously decided that we are trying everything. I know what you’re thinking, “overdoing it much on the food?”. In reality the restaurant offers four desserts, and since there were 7 of us, trying all of them seemed completely appropriate.

Chocolate, mochi, tapioca pudidng, fried bananaIf I am not mistaken, all of the desserts were under $9. We had the chocolate cake with the fabulous warm gooey chocolaty filling, the mochi ice cream (I particularly enjoyed the little caramel side), the tapioca pudding, and the fried bananas with ice cream. I think I speak for all of us when I say that the tapioca pudding is an acquired taste and none of us were too thrilled with it. However, we were all very happy with the other three desserts, and let’s be honest, probably would have gone for seconds (am I the only one to admit this?), but decided to maintain our composure.

So here it is, Betelnut in San Francisco. I’ve had it twice and I am certainly coming back!

 

Restaurant Review: Cafe Claude San Francisco

18 Apr

I always enjoy checking out restaurants that are new to me. I got a chance to get gussied up and go out on the town go out to dinner with a couple of friends. Nothing like a little adult time, which has become a precious commodity.

This was the perfect little place in a little alley. It was almost like being on a little French street, which was very appropriate, as this is a French restaurant. This restaurant is Cafe Claude in San Francisco. The atmosphere at Cafe Claude was just right for an evening outing. The lights were dimmed low, and even though the restaurant seemed like it was full, it still felt that each table had its privacy.

When trying out a new restaurant, I want to try absolutely everything. I am always excited when the menu offers small plates to share. This way, you get to try a little bit of everything without overeating, and you get to share the food and opinions of it with your dining partner. Cafe Claude offers a few small plates  as well as various cheese and pate plates.

We decided to try all of the small plates other than the cannelloni, which is a pasta dish which you could have anywhere. However, you don’t get escargot, tuna tartar and steak tartar, just anywhere. We also ordered a pate and a roasted potato gratin. Unfortunately, the potato gratin was somehow forgotten, but we were so full from all the other delicious dishes, that we were happy it was.

Cafe Claude

Overall, the presentation was beautiful, the food was delicious, which made the evening great. This is a great place for a date or a night out with friends. They have outside seating in the alley (so European), and a bar at the front.

I will certainly come back here again, once I check out all the other great places this city has to offer!

 
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Restaurant Review: B Restaurant San Francisco

05 Apr

There is nothing better than to be able to have some quality couple time. Hubby and I decided to do just that this past weekend.  We decided that a bit of relaxation and just a little bit of one-on-one adult time is a must. We took a few hours for ourselves and relaxed with a massage, a walk, and brunch.

I decided to take advantage of being able to get out on the town (so to speak), and picked a new place for brunch. The quality of the restaurant could have made or broken our lovely afternoon. I’d like to report that our brunch, from the location to the food, was a pleasant experience.

I am sure at this point you’re dying to know what this fabulous restaurant is. Well, I won’t hold you in suspense any longer. B Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco offers brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. With inside and outside seating. There was an “in the shade” or “in the sun” option.

My favorite brunch dish is Salmon Benedict. In fact, I tend to pick brunch restaurants based on whether they serve Eggs Benedict as part of their brunch menu. Hence, you see why I originally picked B Restaurant & Bar, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint.

Menu and Salmon Benedict

Disappoint it did not. The salmon was fresh, the eggs were perfectly poached (not over or under cooked).  Both hubby any I ordered the same dish. I know, not very original, but we truly like Eggs Benedict and salmon, so when we have the rare opportunity to get out for brunch, that’s our dish of choice. I know what you will say,…just make it at home. To that I say…it probably wouldn’t be the same.

Since we were trying out a new place, we couldn’t leave without trying their dessert. There were only two options, one a bread pudding, the other a chocolate torte with chocolate ganache and caramel. We all know that hubby is a huge chocolate fan, so chocolate it was.

Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache and CaramelThe chocolate torte with a crispy crust and nice gooey caramel filling. The torte was sprinkled with a bit of sea salt. Which gave it a very balanced taste of sweet with a hint of salt, but the salt didn’t overpower the sweetness.

Overall, I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, which was capped off by a delicious brunch. I will now leave you with yet another view of Salmon Benedict (can you tell that I like it?) :)

salmon benedict

What  is your favorite brunch dish?

 

 

Restaurant Review: Take-Out from The Counter

14 Mar

As we are currently somewhat housebound, our friends agreed to check out a new burger place they’ve been wanting to try, take-out style. It turned out that the new burger place for them, was kind of an old favorite burger place of my. I say kind of an old favorite, purely because we haven’t been acquainted so long that it could truly be an “old favorite”.

This favorite burger joint is The Counter. This place has restaurants all over the country, as well as some international locations. I’ve been to two different locations and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this burger joint. First thing is that the menu allows you to make your own custom burgers by selecting various toppings from the list. You can have your burger in a bowl, for a healthier version, or on a bun. From vegetarians to carnivores, there are alternatives for everyone. As hubby and friend found out yesterday, a lamb burger option made it to the menu. They of course quickly changed their orders to lamb. I had the turkey burger and Vicky, from Shrimpaholic, had a beef burger (she’s an all American burger lover). We also shared an order of regular fries as well as Parmesan fries. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food. And why not? The portions are not too big, not too small, they are just right.

Photo: The Counter

This place is good for kids and for adults. They offer all types of beverages, from milkshakes to a full bar.

Next time I am opting out for lamb and crazier toppings.

What’s your favorite burger joint?