I've been asked a couple of times why I don't give "more love" to my neighborhood? To be perfectly honest, I hadn't been too inspired by places in my neck of the woods. But over the last year and a half or so; things have changed for the better...who'd have thunk that we'd go out for a New Years dinner; a tasting menu even....right down the street. So when Candice mentioned that Bitter Brothers was having an Anniversary Dinner; I decided to go for it. And I'm glad I did as it was quite an enjoyable event. I'd been to Bitter Brothers a couple of times, but always regret not visiting more often. So this was a nice way for me to get reacquainted.
There were just 50 seats available at $70 a crack, and things started fairly promptly at 5pm. Though at first it was just folks mingling. I'm not really a super social kind of guy so I just kinda took things in; perhaps a bit too hard, because I missed my chance at the amuse; a version of Lumpia Shanghai. That's ok; I did enjoy the Czech Pilsner. Crisp and refreshing, it did remind me a bit of what we had during our time visiting the Czech Republic.
What might be my favorite dish of the night was the Porcini Dusted Cauliflower, I loved how all of the flavors went together so well; from the hazelnuts, to the celeriac, to the slightly acidic, yet very tasty homage to celery a la Grecque.
The Missus surely would have loved this dish by Tim Kolanko. This was served with one of my favorites here; the Brotherly Love Dunkelweiss.
Phillip Esteban's dish was an eye catching version of the rolled and tied chicken Ballotine. Instead of forcemeat, this was stuffed with a black garlic based mixture. I'm not a big fan of items on the plate without a purpose; and those dollops of what I'm assuming is sort of a Nasturtium pesto really had no flavor. And the buttermilk leche de tigre added no real acid to the dish. The chicken itself was a bit on the salty side; but the black garlic paste added a nice amount of sweet, complex tones, which really balanced things out. This was paired with the Black Sheep Coffee Porter on Nitro.
Ami Cisneros's dish was a beautiful version of....well, Carnitas.
Pressed and nicely seared; perhaps a bit too lean for my taste, it was nicely seasoned. The kabocha puree was quite rich, creamy, and slightly sweet. To be perfectly honest, I really loved the pear with chamoy and tajin. It went so well with the Prickly Pear Family Tart Berliner Weisse, which almost tasted like a version of agua de sandia (watermelon agua fresca) paired with this dish. I even enjoyed the slice of black radish which was so crisp and had some of the pepperiness toned down....I'm thinking it must have been soaked in ice water for a bit before being dried.
My next dish was a sentimental favorite; since it was created by the one and only Travis Clifford; remember Travis likes food? Anyway, it was nice to see him cooking again....it's been a while since I've tasted his cooking. Funny thing; I've made a career out of being quite non-descript. I'd been to BB a couple of times and had actually spoken to Travis, but I'm fairly certain he doesn't remember me. I kind of like it that way.
Nicely blackened prawns; loved the "Travis made" Andouille, great texture, good smoke. The flavor of the grits, while they had hardened by the time it hit the table had a nice rich and sweet flavor from the marscapone. All of these big flavors were tempered with the Big Brother Double IPA.
I'm not a big dessert/sweets guy and was worried about the Espresso Crème Brulee made by "Bitter Bill" Warnke. I shouldn't have, this was not too sweet, but very nicely balanced with mild coffee tones.
Paired with a nice bittersweet chocolate and espresso sable, which was just perfect. Very good, grown-up flavors. This was paired with the deceptively boozy (only 5.2 abv) Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout which made it a nice way to end the meal.
The Barrel Aged Little Sister Russian Imperial Stout is BB's first ever bottle release; so I bought a couple. The Missus will love it. And I'm sure to be there the next time BB has another "Family Dinner".
Bitter Brothers Brewing 4170 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
mmm-yoso!!! is Kirk's blog with his amazing posts from San Diego and around the world. Cathy posts here too, about San Diego County and beyond. But today, it’s Ed (from Yuma) writing about somewhere in Yuma.
I had a birthday coming up, and Tina offered me a dinner – my choice of restaurants. It was an easy decision; over the years, I have celebrated more birthdays and special times at River City Grill than any other place in town. About the same time I moved to Yuma, over a decade and a half ago, Nan and Tony Bain opened River City Grill (website) in a nondescript building at the corner of 3rd Street and 6th Avenue:
It soon became my favorite restaurant in town. Its eclectic menu might include curries, pestos, hummus, or spring rolls. There were always vegetarian and vegan dishes, a wide range of seafood entrées, and more. While the food was not consistently great, it was usually pretty good, generally adventuresome, and occasionally outstanding; the service always professional and friendly.
The seating in the inside dining room is pretty standard:
But the room has always featured at least one hip and edgy mural:
Even the restrooms have unusual decor:
So why have I never posted about this restaurant before? Well, laziness explains a lot, but also River City seemed like a comfortable old friend by the time I started blogging. But River City really deserved a post, and my birthday dinner offered a perfect opportunity.
We arrived in the early evening, and enjoying the mild weather, chose to eat outside on the adjacent patio:
We were each given a chunk of baguette accompanied with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping:
Tina usually likes to begin with a martini from the cocktail list – this evening a lemon drop martini ($7):
Made with citrus vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice shaken together and served in a sugar rimmed glass, it was tasty.
While we were figuring out entrées, I looked over the wine list, and since it was my birthday, I decided on a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay ($68):
It was (IMHO) an excellent wine, full-bodied with good balance, nice structure, and pleasant flavors and aromas of pear and melon and other fruits. River City has always maintained a well-chosen, if limited, wine list with reasonable markups (double retail or less). That's been one of the reasons I've kept coming back.
As an appetizer we ordered the Thai curried mussels ($10), something we'd enjoyed previously. The mussels arrived looking like this:
At first I thought the kitchen was using some type of green curry, but it didn't taste like curry. "Pesto," Tina said, "that's basil pesto flavoring." I tasted again, and yeah, that's what was going on.
We mentioned it to our server, who looked kind of puzzled, but when he checked with the kitchen that's what it was. I should say the mussels themselves were excellent, but the basil/coconut milk combo seemed weird.
The entrées at River City always come with a choice of soup or salad. Tina wanted the roasted tomato and red pepper bisque, which arrived looking beautiful:
I've never quite understood why they call this soup a bisque since it doesn't seem to have any cream in it, but it is an excellent soup, full of the flavor of roasted red peppers, their sweetness balanced by just a hint of vinegar tang.
I opted for the Mediterranean salad:
While smaller than it used to be, this has always been my favorite salad choice. The fresh greens, chopped marinated tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers, Mediterranean black olives, feta cheese and balsamic dressing work well together.
Tina's entrée, mustard crusted tofu with spinach ravioli in Alfredo sauce ($18) arrived at the table:
This was quite good. Tina was delighted with the tofu because it was not thick and dense, but almost fluffy with a perfect light crunchy crust. The ravioli and sauce were flavorful and rich. The olive tapenade provided a bridge between the Asian/Mediterranean flavors. The mixed vegetables were . . . mixed vegetables.
I ordered the tequila snapper with black beans and rice ($20):
The two small fillets were lightly breaded, spicy and moist, and laid across a generous portion of black beans and basmati rice. Overall, the entrée had a nice spicy kick accented by the pico de gallo and roasted pepper/corn topping. Really good. And there were mixed vegetables.
For dessert, we shared a cinnamon apple bread pudding ($6), drizzled with caramel and served with whipped cream and a small scoop of vanilla:
It was soft, almost creamy, and very satisfying. And you gotta love the birthday candle.
While River City in 2016 is no longer cutting-edge and its menu does not change much any more, Tina and I will gladly return. The dishes are generally good, the kitchen prepares seafood very well, the decor is enjoyable, the servers are well trained, and the prices are extremely reasonable. In fact, the bottle of birthday wine cost more than all the rest of the meal - heck yes, we'll be back!
River City Grill, 600 W 3rd St, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 782 - 7988.
While we did enjoy our meal we really weren't quite as impressed this time around and perhaps the best part of the meal was my cocktail, called "The Garden".
Loved the addition of the celery bitters and oregano, which gave this white grape juice and ancho reyes cocktail a wonderful complex array of flavors. Not too boozy and quite refreshing. The sweetness of honey and citrus really balanced things out.
We started with some Shigoku Oysters ($3/each), which is basically a new variation of Kusshi Oysters a strain of Pacific Oyster.
These were very mild in flavor and perhaps a bit too firm for my taste. Also, one of the oysters tasted a bit off; but I suffered no ill effects.
We also ordered the combination of pickled and fermented vegetables with pickled egg ($11).
This was a lot of pickles....a lot, enough for 4-5 people, except for the egg of course, which was very good. The Shishito Peppers had a very nice texture and the beets were delicious. Probably too much of a good thing though.
Next up; the Heirloom Tomatoes and Halloumi ($18).
The tomatoes were good...a bit too mild in flavor and acid. This dish had way too much basil on it. The big surprise was the seared Halloumi, which had a fairly crisp exterior and a creamy interior. It added a bit of saltiness to the dish which was welcomed as was the presence of Shiro Plums which added a pleasant sweetness.
The Crispy Yukon Golds with Tuna and Egg Yolk ($14) was quite good.
That egg yolk added rich creaminess and the tonnato (a tuna-mayo based sauce) added a nice creamy-savory flavor as well. The olive oil was lovely and the potatoes delicious. The tuna confit really had no flavor and brought nothing to the dish in our opinion.
The Broccoli with Charred Eggplant ($13) was quite good in spite of the rather greyish hue of the dish.
Think broccolini with baba gannoush. The restrained amount of Aleppo Pepper added some zip to the smoky eggplant puree. The anchovies were a bit too salty for this in my opinion.
The seemingly odd combination of Nectarines, Lardo, Seared Shishito Peppers, and Chickpea Puree ($14) sounds a bit disjointed, but it worked quite well.
An interesting combination of textures and flavors; sweet, that chlorophyll-sweet-mild spice of the peppers, the texture of the lardo, and topped off with a nutty hummus like puree, this worked nicely for us.
As with our previous meal; we were intrigued with the combination of textures and flavors, some of which worked better than others. Though during our previous visit, we had that one dish which we thought was just amazing, which we didn't find on this visit. Still, while you might think $120+ for mostly vegetables (and cocktails) is mighty steep, the meal was a fun little ride.
After a relatively relaxing day in Bordeaux, the Missus decided that we should take at least one day trip. I thought a nice 40 minute train ride into the village of St Emilion, which, in addition to claiming to being the oldest wine producing area in Bordeaux (dating back to Roman times), the village is a World Heritage Site.
Getting off the train, you immediately know what the cash crop here is......
You are engulfed by grape vines......
The walk to the village from the train station was about 15 minutes.
We had decided to arrive fairly early and the streets were sedate, it was quite charming. There were basically no one on the sometimes narrow street as we wound our way up the hill. I guess it wasn't quite "wine o'clock" yet.
There are two distinctive landmarks in the village. The first is the Chateau du Roi, which is located on the hill west of the center of St Emilion.
According to what I read, this used to be the King's Castle and dates back to the 13th century. You can buy tickets to climb to the top, but since it was early the place wasn't open yet.
From here, you can view the rooftops of most of the village and get a nice glimpse of the other major landmark of St Emilion; the Eglise Monolithe, Saint Emilion Monolithic Church.
We were even more impressed after taking a tour....more on that in a bit.
We headed back down into the lower part of the village, then back up the narrow streets until we arrived at Place des Creaneux. This is where the TI office is located. They had just opened. We asked for maps and some other recommendations. As with our other experience at the TI in Sarlat, the young lady here was amazing; such a joy to deal with. She asked us if we'd "like to see a very interesting part of St Emilion that is not open to the public?" And we said, "of course".....so she booked us for "Underground St Emilion"...the first tour, which started at 1030.
This meant that we had about forty minutes of so to kill, so we wondered around a bit. Around the corner from the TI is the Eglise Collégiale, the Collegiate Church. The Romanesque styling means this church has been around for quite a while.
The cloisters, built in the Gothic style is what this church is known for.
It was quite amazing to have a place like this all to ourselves.
It was getting close to the time of our scheduled tour. So we needed to get to that plaza below us. The way down was rather steep and we passed through a gateway; the Porte de la Cadene. There was a very rustic (and old) wooden structure next to the gate, I was told that the name of the gate is derived from "catena", which meant chain. Apparently, there was once a chain which controlled access to the main square of the town at this gate.
There a quite a few questions about the existence of this gate and structure; since it was within the village, why was there a "chain/gate" here? Who was being defended and/or protected? Who doesn't love a little mystery?
We were told to wait for our tour in front of the "three windows".
The tour itself was quite good. We got to learn a bit about the history of St Emilion, which is named after a monk, named, well Emilion, of the Breton Priory, who fled to this area to escape persecution from the Benedictine Order. He settled in a cave, dug out of the hillside that is now St Emilion. During the 45 minute tour, we visited what was (supposedly) his bed, carved out of bedrock, visited catacombs, and we saw paintings within the Trinity Chapel, done in the 13th century. The most impressive thing to us was seeing the amazing "church" carved out of the stone. There were huge devices which looked like they were used to stabilize the ceiling. It was quite amazing....as this all started as a cave carved out by a single monk. What was more surprising....is that we exited by a door near those three very windows where we first gathered. Who knew what lay behind them!
Even though our tour was in French, the young lady also spoke English so we really got a lot out of our time. Highly recommended!
It was still fairly early, so we decided to head back to Bordeaux. And while the train was rather late....there was an interesting conversation I had with a nice gentleman who told me that the "French are very detailed oriented, like the Japanese"....after which I told him, "however, if the trains ran as late in Japan....you know, heads would have rolled....", which got a nice laugh.
Getting back to Bordeaux, we caught the tram and got off near Cours de l’Intendance.
It was for me to "payer le prix promis".....to go ahead and "pay the promised price" to the Missus. I had told Her that She could get whatever scarf She wanted from Hermes whenever we visited France (this, BTW has changed and gotten a bit more pricy). and so, the Missus got the scarf of Her choice....after all, love is priceless, no?
We had decided to finish up the eggs and cheese we had purchased the day before for lunch. But, we had seen some interesting beer in St Emilion....I know, we went to one of the great wine producing areas of France and bought some beer......which isn't even from the area. But the Missus still had another bottle of Her Chateau de Grand Moulin, so why not try these?
The Biere de Ferme Truffle was kind of weird....it had an strange off taste, little foam, kind of weak......fragrance of truffle, but the flavor is very difficult to describe.
The Ambree, on the other hand was very good...nutty and on the sweet (very Belgian) in flavor, I found it to be quite pleasant to drink.
We had a nice short nap, then it was off to dinner. The destination was close by. I'd read about a shop called Saveurs D' Aquitaine, which specialized in small dishes of local ingredients....the highlight being truffle. Since it was just a few blocks from where we were staying, we stopped by before leaving for the Dordogne and made dinner reservations for our last night in Bordeaux. So this was to be our last meal in Bordeaux. On the way to the restaurant, we ran into a woman who was lost, and insisted on me trying to help her....really! It was like some scene from a reality show.....me....trying to help some poor French woman...who kept speaking to me in French. Finally, she got the clue, and started cracking up at the strangeness of the situation.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was strangely closed. Soon after, a young lady arrived and opened the doors. So here's what happened; the young lady who took our reservations, didn't know that the chef was booked for another event on the day we requested. The folks at the restaurant tried to get in touch with us....but hey, we didn't have pocket wifi this time around and where we were staying didn't give out customer info...appropriately so.
They could have easily closed us out.....but instead, we had a small private dinner for two....albeit, simplified and prepped ahead of time, by a very, very, nice young lady....I could not get a grasp of her name....so she said to call her "Vic"!
And so, while there were quite a bit of truffles present for dinner.....it didn't quite raise our sails....this was a very special meal....
The restaurant could have easily locked us out....it would have been totally acceptable. But instead, they went ahead and prepped us our own little special dinner. Which if not amazing, was still quite special. '"Vic" made the meal, as we got to talk about how life is in Bordeaux, and life in general......she was the highlight......and I'm hoping she is doing well in Bogota, which is where I understood she was headed after graduation.
In a way, this might have been our best meal in Bordeaux. Perhaps one day we'll return and actually have proper meal here.
Saveurs D' Aquitaine 16 Place des Quinconces Bordeaux, France
As we took our final walk around the city....this joyfully unpretentious locale....I wondered, as I stared at the mesmerizing "head" by Jaume Plensa.....
I have a few acquaintances who love the Michelin Star/Best Restaurants in the World kind of thing. And earlier today, one of them sent me this link, telling to look at #13....it was Maido, where we had just eaten last month. What I thought was a bit strange was that Maido was several notches above Azurmendi. Just goes to show you the fickle "sport" of ranking restaurants and also why, while I take all those things into consideration, in the end, I try to figure out the food, how the place suits us, both in cuisine and service (those restaurants where staff is constantly hovering is not for us), before making a decision. A few hours later, "SomTommy" who sometimes comments, sent me an email mentioning the same thing. I replied that I thought this was both interesting and surprising. He then asked me what my favorite restaurant in the world was. What really surprised me was how easy it was typing out my reply; it was Suzunari which we visited during our first trip to Tokyo. The place just suited us; Kaiseki, perfectly prepared, elegant, but not fussy, without pretense, in a casual atmosphere, the customers were all Japanese. Oh, and while it was basically a husband and wife team, with one assistant, this tiny shop had acquired one of those "star" thingies.
Funny thing was, we enjoyed our previous experience so much we returned the last time we were in Tokyo. So I thought I'd do a quick photo post, out of chronological order, but it seemed somewhat timely. We had our good friend Reiko make reservations for us before our last visit; we also insisted that she come along. Even though we knew the pacing of the meal, pretty much in line with traditional Kaiseki, it was still fabulous.
From the steady silent interactions of the chef, his wife, and the assistant. To the sincere service, we loved sitting at the bar, and watching the flawless execution.
The Hassun, just fantastic.
Reiko, a Tokyo native told us that this was the best meal she's ever had and we were so glad to have been able to share it with her.
I'll always remember overhearing some advice from a Japanese National who advised the young couple that if they really wanted a "true" experience, to bypass the multiple Michelin Star Kaiseki places and work a bit harder to find the places that Japanese would go to when they had a nice meal. This lead me to researching a bit and finding Suzunari. My favorite restaurant.
Suzunari 7-9 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Later during the morning I sent an email to Ed from Yuma and Cathy regarding the list. Ed's response was priceless: "Rereading the post you did, it is amazing that the place had so many little shortcomings. But you are picky." I really don't think I'm picky, but I do know what I like, and after all these years, I think I'm pretty good at mentioning those things I don't care for. Funny thing about places like Maido. These places take chances, are innovative, they have a vision, and move toward that vision. There might be items that aren't your cup of tea, but, at least for us, the highs are amazingly high.
Maido, or even Etxanobe perhaps. Suzunari? I'm pretty sure we'll be back.
But it's a big world and we've only been to 23 countries. The Missus has told me that the US can mostly wait until I'm old and decrepit. Which might be anytime now. And while all these places are great....even the occasional banquet or two.....
We always try to plan at least one "special" meal during our trips. Lima, being one of my favorite food cities has some difficult choices, but Maido, without a doubt was the one place I just wanted to experience. The chef Maido Mitsuharu puts forward a "Nikkei" menu....inspired by Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Mitsuharu has a pretty good resume, having attended Johnson & Wales and even trained for almost three years in a sushi restaurant in Osaka. You can read his bio here. Being a Sansei from Hawaii, where we have our own spin on Japanese cuisine, much of it based on the lack of many traditional Japanese ingredients, I've always been fascinated by Nikkei Cuisine. And was really excited about our dinner reservations at Maido.
Located on the corner of Calle Colon and Calle San Martin, Maido was quite easy to find. The building itself is quite distinctive. It was 10 minutes before opening and there were folks lining up. Considering all these folks had reservations, it seems that I wasn't the only one excited about eating here.
The interior of the restaurant is somewhat austere, with a sushi bar area and tables. The one really interesting feature are the ropes hanging from the ceiling.....kind of cool and yet kind of strange. I believe it also helps to absorb noise since most of the areas are quite hard.
We had ordered the "Nikkei Experience" when making reservations. This is a 15 course menu of dishes, none of which are revealed until you receive them. You don't even get a listing of the dishes until your meal is complete.
But first, some cocktails. The Missus, in a genius move, ordered the Pisco and Tonic, a wonderful balanced, grown up drink. It was my favorite cocktail of the trip. In fact, I ended up ordering another later on in the meal! At a loss for what to order, I went for the Sakura; a Pisco, Sake, Strawberry, and Camu Camu juice. It was light, clean, refreshing....but was more of a "chick drink".
Lucky for me, the Missus really liked this and we traded. She was especially taken with the flowers in the ice cubes.
Soon enough, dishes started arriving. Things were really paced well, our Server described the basic dish, and seemed pleased when I recognized tastes, flavors, and even knew some of the ingredients in the dish. Service was very professional with nice, friendly touches....."un-stuffy" and perfectly suited to our taste.
Things started off with an interesting "snack". The stuff in the cone was delicious pressed and fried chicken skin dusted with shichimi togarashi. It was so very nice and crisp, with that wonderful "unfowl" flavor of chicken skin.
The other part of the dish were sausages, which seemed like a cross between a bratwurst and chorizo, layered on plantain, senbei (no kidding - senbei) with a sachatomate (tamarillo) emulsion. Nice, but nothing to really get excited about.
What really got our attention was that sauce at the bottom of the photo above. We put some on the chicken skin and cracked up! Pachikay Sauce......it's scallion, ginger, soy.....this tasted like the dipping sauce for for Kwai Fei Chicken! Basically, the sauce for what we call "Cold Ginger Chicken" back home. This had a more complex flavor, the ginger seemed to have been blanched or cooked taking the edge off the flavor, some smokiness, it was also a bit on the salty side as well. Still, we really enjoyed the chicken skin.
The next dish was simply called "Churos"....no not churros, but churos, an Amazonian land snail. The snail had been simmered in a soy based broth, with perhaps some sake and mirin. It was enrobed with a very tasty foam made of dale dale root, which I believe is a type of arrowroot and garnished with "chalaca", a basic topping made of corn, tomato, and onion.
The snail was so tender and full of flavor and the foam really tempered any strong flavors and refreshed the palate.
Next up, one of my favorite items of the evening; simply called Lapas Cebiche. Lapas are "limpets". So, the folks from Hawaii will understand; this is opihi! Really good opihi, served on what was described to me as aji-cilantro-lime juice frozen by liquid nitrogen.
Good lord, this was leche de tigre sorbet! I love leche de tigre.....when our Server heard me exclaim that, he came over, smiled, and said, "yes, it is frozen leche de tigre". Amazing flavors and textures.
Next up was the Paiche Sandwich. Paiche is the legendary Arapaima from the Amazon. It has a nice texture, delicate, yet slightly firm.
The bun, like a mantou was hard, crumbly, and not up to the task. The lulo criolla, strangely didn't register much flavor.
My friends know how much I love cuy (guinea pig)...but cuy gyoza? Well, that's a new one. The wrapper was decent, crisp, not gummy. The filling was interesting, like the filling for a croquette, very soft and mushy....give me this and tell me it's pork and I'd believe you. The sauce was delish.....soy sauce, probably rice vinegar...combined with the onions and chilies, this really tasted Chinese.....as did the Pachikay Sauce. It seems the strong Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine was in play as well.
Next up, well Sushi de Mar......An ika and hotate nigiri. Now, of course I'd never expect anything say...the level of Sushi Iwa or Urasawa....
But for me, the rice did this dish in. The gohan was hard, dry, and very cold. It really detracted from any enjoyment of the very nicely prepared seafood.
While the color of the dish screamed "bland" the "Amazonic Cebiche" was much better.
I loved the "Nikkei leche de tigre", which had some soy sauce in it. It tasted like revved up ponzu. I'm also a big fan of the shaved hearts of palm, which looked like noodles in this dish. That topping, which I was told was made of yucca flour was delish. I believe there was some garlic in here somewhere. There was also some very mild heat from aji charapita.
The next dish was also very good; Cancho con Yuca. This looked like compressed cubes of pork belly and yucca, wrapped up in some kind of dough based wrapper and topped with fried pork skin.
It was served with a "ramen reduction" which was quite salty.
Next up was another dish which just blew me away; Sacha Soba.
The noodles were made from sachapapa an Amazonian tuber. Flavor and color was added via the use of various chilies, and no, this wasn't spicy. But the texture of the soba was perfect; nice pull, that slight smokiness and mild spice from the chilies, balanced by the sweetness of the crab. My goodness, this was so delici-yoso!!!
We just had to have some drinks to celebrate! I got another Pisco and Tonic and the Missus gave in and had a Pisco Sour, which I thought was the most balanced, in terms of booze to sweetness to sour of what I had during the entire trip.
Next up were the Sushi Tierra (Earth). These fared much better than the seafood; possibly because the fat tempered the textures for me.
The A lo Pobre, a wonderfully beefy piece of meat torched, then topped with a quail egg. As a bonus, the quail egg had been injected with ponzu sauce, which added the nice salty-acid component which meant all the difference to this piece of nigiri. The mollejas (beef sweetbread) was nice and fatty which aided the texture, but this was a bit too tame in flavor compared to other piece.
The Missus really enjoyed the "Regional Beans", which had some nice flavor components, the quinoa crisps were very nutty and the Missus, who loves beans, also enjoyed them when mixed with the avocado cream.
So, the Missus has always preferred my misoyaki to everything She's ever had....even to pointing out the failings of what was served at Nobu's and Matsuhisa (!). Until tonight. On this evening, She proclaimed the Gindara to be the best She's ever had. Now I take a back seat.
I have to say, the flavor of the miso sauce/glaze was perfectly balanced; not too strong. the nuts; which I believe were cashews and bahuaja (Brazil nuts if I recall) just placed another layer of texture and flavor. I thought the potato cream was much too salty to enjoy.
The flavor and texture of the Wagyu Shortrib, which they said was cooked for 50 hours.....I'm pretty sure via sousvide, was amazingly tender and the flavor was a nice balance of salty to sweet.....and the egg yolk just added more richness (as if it were needed) to the dish. We both found the Cecina (cured pork) fried rice wrapped up like a spring roll to be kind of odd as it was on the mild side in regards to flavor.
The Missus really enjoyed both desserts. The Cacao; 70% pure, with yuzu and all the nuts.....
And I even enjoyed the "Maduro", which had the odd combination of an ice cream made with plantain and shoyu!
All that really nice tapioca balls, water jelly, and rice milk.....along with some Amazonian fruits like camu camu really made for a nice way to end the meal.
We really enjoyed our meal at Maido. In fact, the Missus told me that this is easily one of the most enjoyable meals of Her life. Me? Well, I can easily say that my favorite dining experience is Suzunari, which we actually returned to on our last visit to Tokyo (I know...I'm really behind). But this was an amazing experience in terms of food and flavors. And while certainly not on the level of Azurmendi, there was one thing they had in common. While not every dish worked to our enjoyment, the "highs" were extremely high. We could relate to the flavors....the combinations of which weren't frivolous.....the cuisine and thus the customer was respected....you could detect the "soul" of the cuisine here, it wasn't some meaningless mash-up. And while I wasn't able to wrangle a reservation at Central; we were both very happy to have the chance to dine at Maido.
Maido 399 Calle San Martin Lima, Peru
This was a wonderful meal. We'd have to get up at 430 the next morning and get our ride to the airport. Next up....Santiago, Chile...even if it was just for a single night we were looking forward to it!
Looks like Ed (from Yuma) is less busy today than Kirk or Cathy. That’s why you’re reading this post today.
In my last post about this restaurant, back in February, the focus was on breakfasts, but The Patio does a lot of things, most of them well.
Take for example appetizers. Recently at an event here, Tina and I really loved the crunchy deep-fried calamari and oysters Rockefeller, but I did not have my camera with me. So the only appetizer I have pictured is the pretty Quesadilla:
The red pepper flour tortilla surrounded creamy mellow cheese, shredded chicken, and chorizo. A step above most quesadillas.
The first time I ate lunch at the Patio, I chose the Reuben sandwich, which came with the house made chips:
Those chips are warm, thick, and crunchy and went well with the sandwich. The Reuben itself was marvelous:
The Rye bread was grilled perfectly and there was a generous amount of corned beef and sauerkraut. For my palate, this was a great sandwich and a great lunch.
Not quite as successful was this BLT, which I ordered with the french fries ($1.25 extra):
There was nothing really wrong with the sandwich though I should have added avocado to it for some extra creaminess. Those huge fries have a lot of potato taste, but not as much crispness as I like in french fries.
The burgers are uniformly excellent. Look at this close-up their standard burger patty topped with avocado:
What's not to love? Hand formed patty, char marks, juiciness. All those things add up to a first-class burger.
That even applies to the very basic Basic Burger:
Sure, the burger toppings (lettuce, onion, dill slices, tomato) are standard, but the patty was so good they were all that the burger needed. I left the mustard, mayo, and ketchup untouched.
I had requested the house “kale slaw” instead of chips that day because it's a crunchy, tangy, pretty salad with an excellent balsamic dressing.
I had discovered that wonderful thing when I tried the fish and chips:
The two fish filets were outstanding. The beer batter was good and the sea bass tasted moist, succulent, and fresh. The chips were okay, but less interesting than everything else on the plate.
Usually I don't like to include photos of things that I haven't eaten, but Evonne loved her Asian Short Rib Tacos, so here is a picture:
She swore they were as tasty as they look. They are topped with pickled cucumber, spicy mayo, and sliced red onion. They come with the same slaw, but the deep-fried things in the back are not chips, but chicharrones. Gotta have this on my next visit.
Tina and I have also had a couple of nice dinners at the Patio. When the weather is temperate, you can sit outside:
There's even a little fire going:
While the wine list is small (though featuring Bogle wines) The Patio has a full bar and specialty drinks like the Moscow Mule:
This old time favorite features primarily ginger beer and vodka, and Tina approves.
All of the dinner entrées come with your choice of salads, both excellent. Here is the wedge:
Old-school decadence. Iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch and topped with blue cheese, real bacon pieces, and diced tomato. The drizzle of reduced balsamic adds complexity.
Here's the garden salad:
The half a heart of romaine is topped with dried cranberries, pepitos, chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, shredded carrot, and roasted corn. The sweet tang of the dressing plays well with the other ingredients. Excellent salad in both taste and plating.
The entrées also come with soft dinner rolls and balls of butter:
So far, Tina and I have tried four entrées. Here's Italian sausage meatloaf, a thick slice wrapped with bacon and stuffed with mozzarella cheese:
It lay on a pile of mashed potato and was covered with gravy and topped with crispy fried onion strips. Tina loved the Italian sausage flavor of this rich and decadent meatloaf.
That same evening, I had short ribs:
Braised in stout, the large chunks of tender beef sat atop cheddared mashed potatoes and both were enhanced by the stout gravy. All surmounted by mini onion rings and a tangle of deep-fried carrot shreds that resemble Donald Trump's hair. Outstanding flavors, nonetheless. I'd order this again.
The next dinner we ate indoors, and Tina was looking for something healthier, so she selected the grilled zucchini lasagna:
This tasted much better than it looks in the picture. Basically, it's slices of seriously grilled zucchini covered with cheese and tomato sauce. This close-up may give you a better idea about the entrée:
I wanted lamb chops, which turned out to be two double boned chops slathered with chimichurri sauce and set atop mashed potatoes (and again bewigged like the Donald):
This was tasty. The mildly flavored lamb was tender and not overcooked. The sauce was green and garlicky. That little bowl sitting on the back of the plate was brimming with Mexican-style yellow corn, just like you'd find out on 8th Street:
Roasted corn kernels, charred from the grill, swimming in a rich combination of butter, crema, and Parmesan. Total yummy.
This last year has been good for us Yumans who like eating out. A lot of interesting and tasty new restaurants. The Patio, in particular, offers a great range of various foods in a nice setting. Service is first rate, and many of the dishes are out of the ordinary. That chef Alex's cuisine often reflects Yuma (like that street corn)is an added bonus.
Kirk kindly lets Cathy and even Ed (from Yuma) blog here, so today Ed wants to share a meal with you electronically that he shared with Tina actually.
To get to The Wine Vault, we went to the last block at the northwest end of India Street (just off Washington), looked just to the right of Saffron, the Thai roast chicken place, and climbed a bunch of steps that switch back and forth up to a nearly hidden loft. Finding it was worth the trouble.
On this evening, we were seated in the restaurant’s upper level with simple decor, plain white walls and good lighting:
As soon as we were seated, a large bottle of chilled water was placed on the table:
As well as a basket of fresh sliced salt bread:
Served with creamy unsalted butter and a small salt cellar, the bread had crunchy bits of coarse salt in its crust.
The cutlery, wrapped in a cloth napkin on the table, was perfect for a five course meal:
On this evening, the first course was halibut crudo with castelvetrano olives, deep-fried garbanzos, preserved lemon, garlic confit, and paprika oil:
The halibut tasted very fresh and was firm and mild – allowing the accent flavors of the other items to shine. The firm almost crunchy olives were a different and interesting companion to the fish. A good starter.
It was accompanied by a glass of Gerard Bertrand sparkling wine from Limoux, which is close to Carcassonne in the South of France. The wine, called Thomas Jefferson because Limoux sparklers were a special favorite of his, was dry, bubbly, and pale salmon color:
The next dish was amazingly good. It was centered on marscarpone topped creamy polenta with fresh spring peas, pea shoots, and fried shallot rings:
But there was more – wild mushroom strips and green garlic tops and bulb slices:
Amazingly complex and subtle layers of flavor and texture. Not like anything I can remember having before.
The wine pour was a Chiarlo Barbaresco, a northern Italian wine made from the same nebbiolo grape as Barolo:
Not a powerful wine like Barolo, but very smooth, so it went well with the flavors of the polenta.
The next course centered on Lebanese style chicken meatballs drizzled with piri piri sauce, accompanied by a mixed vegetable bulgur pilaf and a smear of smoked eggplant:
Here's a close-up:
The chicken balls were firm and meaty but certainly not rubbery. The Mediterranean spicing seemed fine and the bulgur pilaf was a nice touch.
Sometimes chicken is difficult to pair with wine because a lot of reds are too tannic and powerful and overwhelm the chicken and some whites come across as sharp and sour. So the chicken course was matched perfectly by the Stolpman Combe Trousseau:
This extremely rare red wine varietal results in a dry wine that looks almost like a rosé or like the rhubarb wine your cousin makes, but it has a distinct cherry/fruity flavor with some depth, a silky finish and virtually no tannins. Who knew?
Arriving next were four thick slices of sous-vide hanger steak, poached in butter and flavored with chimichurri sauce. Two slices angled toward me, two slices angled away. They topped baby purple potatoes and halves of fire roasted yellow and red tomatoes:
I liked the presentation; I could see both meat and vegetables. And that hanger steak was cooked perfect – tender, buttery, and meaty:
The wine, a malbec/syrah blend by Tikal in Argentina, was full flavored and great with the steak:
Before our dessert course showed up, we were given a mojito cocktail with its sweet/tart flavors of white rum, lime juice and mint:
Followed by a deconstructed key lime tart:
I liked it a lot. The thick and crunchy graham cracker crust was the central focus, and who doesn't like graham cracker crust? The sweet/tart lime pudding matched the flavor range of the mojito and contrasted with the texture and tastes of the crust.
It had been a couple of years since we'd been at The Wine Vault, (and my 2010 post about our first visit is here), so we were delighted to find that the restaurant had not grown stale. Our palates were challenged and pleased. At $36 for the food and $20 for the beverages, our credit card was pleased, but not challenged.
It was our last evening in Madrid and we were feeling a bit, well, sad. The city was definitely much better the second time around. During our first pass through Madrid, we thought it, hot, loud, gritty, somewhat dirty....the second time around we took to the city, it seemed so vibrant, alive, for some reason it reminded me of China. Folks really seemed to have a good time and enjoy life. Perhaps it was the apartment right on Tirso de Molina, where we took such watching folks out socializing. At 630 in the evening, most folks weren't even thinking about eating.
Instead of having the obvious (tapas) for dinner, we decided to go with another recommendation from Emilio, a rather new (at the time), modern-fusion place named Metro Bistro. We even dropped by during lunch to make reservations for dinner.
They even started dinner service at the ungodly hour of 7pm! Our reservations were for 8pm and we were happy to not be the first customers of the evening.
The interior is quite modern, the staff, very nice, friendly, though some of the folks were somewhat eccentric and the service was a bit spotty as the pacing seemed a bit off.
Things started off quite nicely as we were brought a nice aperitif, a celery based cocktail that was like a celery mojito. Very nice, quite refreshing.
The menu itself was quite interesting, classic dishes with fusion-y touches. Braised butterfish with ponzu, Sweet and sour IberianPork, Salmorejo with Olive Oil "Ice Cream", stuff like that.
The bread was nice and made even better by the nice herb butters provided.
We started things off with Metro Bistro's take on the classic Catalan roasted vegetable dish, Escalibada (9,40 €). This version was topped with cold smoked eel, which added a nice savory-smokey flavor to the dish.
We were less impressed with the vegetables which were underseasoned and could have used a bit of color.....the vegetables were basically limp and flavorless.
The Steak Tartare (19 €) however, was excellent.
The wonderfully tender beef, which was rather lean was bolstered by having minced foie gras mixed in. The minced capers and more so the mustard seed gave the dish zest and a nice finish. The egg yolk added even more velvety texture, possibly overkill. The micro greens balanced out things with a touch of bitter and a nice crunchy texture. This was really, really, good.
What was delici-yoso was the wonderfully Roasted Mushroom topped with 65 Degree Egg (10,80 €).
Man, egg porn. The flavor of that egg was so pure, the yolk so rich and runny, you'd think it was the star of the dish. But for me, it was the intense, earthy flavors and meaty texture of the mushroom base and the crunchy and earthy fried trumpet mushrooms that really made this stand out for me. The Missus? Well, She's a big time egg lover.....'nuff said
The pseudo sousvidish Lamb Gigot (18€) was solid if not outstanding.
The truffle potatoes seemed a bit out of place in this dish and for some reason clashed with the gamey lamb. Still, eaten separately, each was tasty.
We had a nice Cava with dinner and the Missus destroyed the dessert.
In what ended up being the evening's entertainment, we watched one of the Server's struggle with opening a bottle of wine....first breaking the cork and then fiddling with whatever was left, pushing the cork into the bottle. He should have just quit and gotten a fresh bottle. It was somewhat painful watching him struggle.....I felt like standing up and grabbing the bottle away from him.....it was like passing that accident scene....you just can't help but looky-loo. Still, we enjoyed our dinner. When the flavors and textures "clicked" it was really good. We found the prices to be not too bad. It was nice finding a place like this around tourist Plaza Mayor. We'd gladly return.
Metro Bistro Calle Imperial 3 Madrid, Spain
We picked up a nice bottle of Crianza on the way back to the apartment. Popping it open, we opened the window and watched the action below.....this is Tirso de Molina at 1030pm. Notice the kids playing......
Some folks are just starting to eat dinner....this was a Thursday mind you.....
At midnight, folks were just starting to eat at the place further down the block!
Talk about really knowing how to enjoy life! Of course, at 8am the place looks like a ghost town.
The next morning we walked the mile or so down to Atocha Station and caught the airport express. Remember the Jamon we bought at Ferpal? It came in real handy. The international gates at Madrid-Barajas Airport is like a cattle pen. There's no place to buy snacks, coffee....just vending machines. That package of Jamon Bellotta Pata Negra was sweating away in my bag. Man, it was delicious. Just looking at the photo makes me want to head back to Spain.
We really only had one full day in Bruges. And in the end it worked out well for us. The place was beautiful in the morning and later evening, when day-trippers left, but it was still rather crowded, and like I mentioned in a earlier post, you pretty much needed reservations for the better dinner locales. Luckily, the wonderful owner of our B&B managed to get us reservations at one of the restaurants that she said were among her favorites in Bruges. A place named Rock Fort. The reservations were for two bar seats which was fine with us. We were just happy to find a place to have a nice dinner.
We headed out early, happy to meander along the side streets, watching the ducks waddling along the sidewalks.
We soon found ourselves back at the City Hall Building. And decided to take a rest as the slow drizzle had petered out.
I noticed something a bit odd and pointed out these four young ladies in various costumes standing in the square.
I wasn't quite sure what this was all about, but we just had to stay and watch. Out popped another young lady with a video recorder and they did several takes of the four of them doing sort of a choreographed strut toward the camera. After finally getting it right, they celebrated with a group hug! What the objective was, who knows.....perhaps only they do? I won't even try to explain this one. Sometimes you see the oddest things.
Rock Fort is located not quite in the center of things, but just across one of the canals; where Hoogstrat turns into Langenstraat.
The façade is subdued and unassuming.
But the interior looks quite hip and very bright white. We entered and the very nice host said that since we were the first customers of the evening, if we thought we'd be done in 2 hours, they'd like to give us a table. Very gracious, the servers hit that balance between not being too stiff, yet professional and amiable.
As the evening passed, we saw quite a few "beautiful people, on several tables there were college aged young men with older women......a middle aged gentleman, dressed to the nines arrived with an entourage, sans reservations, one of the chefs came out to greet them. Apparently they had no reservations. After a short discussion, or should I say negotiation, they ended up sitting at the bar.
As we often will do when confronted with Tasting Menus; we'd work with the staff to get both menu items and the tasting menu, which was no problem here. The Missus had some wine, while I went for a beer....as I went down the menu, looking for something suitable, the cheerful young lady would nod a slight "no"....apparently she did not approve! Finally, I asked "La Chouffe".....she smiled brightly and said; "good choice". I loved this place!
I did think the buttery popcorn that came along with the cheese and bread was fun and different.
Instead of going thru the entire dinner. I'll go over the highlights. It was actually two choices from the menu that were really outstanding.
The Entrecote of Flemish Beef - wet aged for a month, cured for a month, then dry aged for a month was outstanding.
Topped with pine nuts; this aged rib eye served raw was amazingly flavored, a deep, yet clean beef flavor. The pine nuts added a nutty and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
The Beef Tartar was also outstanding.
Loved the scallions in this, which added just the right pungency as did the roasted garlic, balancing the wonderful clean flavors. The watercress gave just the right amount of bitterness.
The Chef's menu was no slouch...I mean; there's foie gras, well prepared seafood, and pork belly.
And yes, touches of molecular gastronomy; foams, powders, and such, but nothing got in the way.
The presentation was nice....but nothing could top the two dishes ordered off the menu.
It was by far the best meal we had in Belgium.
Rock Fort Langestraat 15 Bruges, Belgium
As we took a stroll after dinner, we noticed groups of people making their way up one of the streets.
There was some kind of fair taking place.
After wandering about for a bit; we headed back to the warmth of our room at the B&B.
Our time in Bruges was coming to a close. While I'm not sure if we'll ever return; I can say that B&B B Guest was one of our favorite B&B's we've stayed at; just two rooms, close to everything, but with enough privacy, and a nice breakfast. We took away another thing from our trip. It seemed that just about every place we stayed at had a Nespresso machine. It was nice having a little pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. We ended up buying one when we got home. Yes, the Missus is a coffee snob, but sometimes She just needs a nice shot of espresso.
We headed off to sleep rather early. The next day, we'd be headed back to Brussels.