Sunday, January 30, 2011

Detroit, MI - Lafayette Coney Island; I had to try Lafayette and American Coney Island's coney's side by side and I came to the conclusion that American won out. I still enjoyed Lafayette's, but I thought it didn't have just as much flavor as American did. It lacked something compared to the other, some spice that I can't put my finger on.

Also, I thought the fries were not as crispy as American. Maybe it was bad timing and the batch wasn't fresh, certainly possible.

Next time, I'm going to literally get one from each, take one bite from one and then a bit from the other place and really do a side-by-side comparison.

We'll see how that experiment goes, at least I'll have a full and happy belly!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Detroit, MI - Pupusería y Restaurante Salvadoreño; Truly a gem, what can I say. The food was delicious, unique, handmade, surprising flavors, locally owned, and where else can you find food in Detroit from El Salvidor.

When you go on a day that's about 10 degrees outside, I'm can't wait to get inside in a nice warm place, well, that's not this place. I think the only thing heating this place the kitchen, it was so cold, but I'm willing to look past that no matter what. Why? I go for the food, I can warm up when I'm back in my car.

There was so much I wanted to try here, but my stomach could only hold so much, so I had to stick with a squash and cheese pupusa, pork and cheese pupusa, rice and beans, curtido (cabbage slaw), and their fried plantains. By the way, this was just for me, yeah, I pigged out.

This was my first experience with pupusa's and they now set the bar very high. The pupusas are corn handmade stuffed tortilla, but thick tortilla, not as thin as a whimpy burrito. What's so unique and wonderful of the pupusa is truly the handmade mesa (corn tortilla). You can immediately taste the corn starchiness to it, giving it it's unique flavor and texture. I thought the squash pupusa sounded unique and interesting to try and I was glad I choose it. I did like the pork better, but you have to adventure out of your comfort zone and dive head first into any dish that you've never had and sounds interesting. The squash is a bright green giving it a contrast to the cheese and mesa. The pork pupusa had a little more flavor, but I enjoyed both. It's served with a side of curtido, a cabbage slaw that from the looks of it, was standard cabbage, but it had some unexpected heat. You'll see the vinegar dressing at the bottom and unexpectedly, there's jalapenos mixed in, to give it a nice surprise kick. It almost raw cabbage wasn't for me, so I continued on to the other good stuff.

I did not expect the rice and beans to be so unique. I was expecting the standard "Mexican" rice, but turned out to be a unique blend of rice, lima beans, peas, and corn. It also taste as though it was cooked in a chicken broth or something other than straight water. It had a bit of hardiness to it, complimenting the beans very well.

Lastly, how can I not order the plantains when they're on the menu. It's a must, and after having it, it's definitely a must. A keeper, a staple to any dish! They are deliciously sweet and soft. It's served with beans and crema, a Salvadoran cream. When you mix all three together, you get a wonderful blend of sweet and savory. However, the plantains by themselves is also fantastic.

I forgot to try their licuado, so I'll save that for next time.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

San Francisco, CA - Banana House; Walking back from China town, we happen to stumble upon this inconspicuous Thai restaurant. You're not going to ever stop me from going into a Thai place. It was decent inside, standard decor, but I'm ready for the fare.

We started with their spring rolls, which were very different from any other place. The texture was similar to an a Filipino Lumpia, very crepe like. It was surprising, to get that instead of the traditional fried or fresh rice noodle wrap. I had a bite of the pad thai, which was good, rich in flavor and having it's own unique touch from this place.

However, I concentrated on the dish Traffic Jam. It's a dish that has all three curry styles; regular, red, and green. What's wonderful about this dish is that you can literally go from one curry flavor to another and each time refresh your pallet with an amazing new flavor. It's genius! One minute, I thought green was my favorite, then it was red. Amazingly confusing to have them side by side like that. For several bites, I was loving the green, it's a little sweeter and tart compared to the other two, but when I switched back to red, I'm sold, throw in the towel, I'm a red curry kind of guy. This was so much fun to eat. The regular curry flavor was my least favorite, that's not to say it wasn't good, just not my favorite compared to red. I would certainly get this if you want to have fun eating and playing around with flavors.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

San Francisco, CA: Stinking Rose - One of the most aromatic and delicious spices/herbs is the garlic, technically part of the onion family though. The more the better is my philosophy.

We heard about this restaurant who is known for using an enormous amount of garlic in their food. That's all I needed to hear for me to be convinced. I shouldn't have created such high expectations for garlic. The food was okay, but not really the caliber that I thought it was going to be. Apparently I like the taste of garlic more than others because it just wasn't enough.

We started with the Garlic Soaking in the Hot Tub, which is roasted cloves in olive oil. Looking at it, I wanted to dive in immediately and spread it all over the toast that accompanied it. Oh, looks are deceiving. it was rather disappointing. The garlic was stripped of all its flavor.

Moving onto the entree, I had the Neon Ravioli. It's ravioli filled with potato & cheese garlic basil in alfredo sauce. It was prepared well, soft and the pasta made well. The sauce had a fairly plateau flavor, meaning it was flat, not complex, or layered. it was just okay. Not surprised to say, it needed more garlic.

During the meal, I tried their garlic wine. Now we're talking. You can smell it and it has a nice garlic after taste. This is the type of garlic impact I was expecting. If you're there, you should definitely try it.

We finished with the garlic ice cream. At least the meal finishes with expectations met. First the wine, now the ice cream. It's garlic ice cream with a caramel mole sauce. It was very good. It had a wonderful garlic flavor and the caramel sauce complimented it well.

When you go, just go and get the wine and ice cream. Skip the rest, unless you ask for extra garlic.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Farmington Hills, MI - Hong Hua: Finally a second Chinese restaurant in the Detroit area where I can get real Chinese food. Not the American food, sweet and sour chicken, almond chicken, General Tso's Chicken, etc... Well, actually you can get all these things, but why? There's a Chinese menu waiting for you, if you ask, and "Demand" it. That is, if you look like you shouldn't be ordering off that menu.

I heard from some colleagues that I could order "real" Chinese food here. After checking out their site, particularly the "Special Lunch Menu", I was convinced I would be able to find some "off the beaten path" dishes. Next time, I'm trying some Congee, but this time, I set my sights on braised shredded BBQ duck, salted fish, vermicelli, and bean thread.

However, it took some convincing to get it. Here's how it played out. After sitting down, I asked the server for the traditional Chinese menu, the "Special Lunch Menu". She said, oh, it's all on page 1. Looking through the list, it did have a few things on there, but not the real stuff. It didn't have Congee or any of the other traditional dishes I wanted to try. I was already discouraged. Thank goodness for smartphones. I pulled up their menu on my phone and pointed to this dish and said, this is what I want. She looked at me and said, are you sure? Oh yes, was my reply. She looked at my phone again and said, "are you sure you like salted fish?" Oh yes, was my reply. The real answer is, I'm not sure, I've never had it, but you can't talk me out of this now. I'm hoping to get a real dish in front of me and I don't care how much you try to discourage me, now I'm getting it.

I'm so glad I was forceful. It was very good and I can't wait to try something else now. The noodles where cooked very well, but what I liked mostly about it was the BBQ duck. Normally, I don't prefer duck since it has a greasy flavor, but it was prepared very well and didn't even have a hint of that greasy oily-ness to it. So, you take one bite, mmmm, I have noodles, duck, but no fish. In fact, I don't even see any fish. Interesting. Next bite, boom-pow I had a bite of the salted fish. It's hidden in there and it packed a salty punch. mmmmm, I said again. Now we're talking, a hidden treasure.

The portion was enormous and I took lots of it home. If it wasn't for the hidden dishes, I would probably have given it 2 - 3 stars, because I don't like the American-Chinese fare, don't really care for the idea of a hidden menu, and it's a little too upscale for me. There is a sign that says, proper attire required. I like the mom and pops' dives that you can where you pajamas if you want and get really good traditional food. However, their rating is saved by the dish itself and I'm looking forward to trying some more traditional dishes.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

San Franciso, CA - Zero Zero: Reviewing the menu, there are several dishes that come across and peak your interest. So, why not try a few pizzas and some dessert. Well, one was a hit, and one not so much.

Starting with the pizzas, Townsend and the Margherita. Well, strike one on the Margherita. It was standard pizza, it taste like pizza. No surprises. It didn't have enough basil, so it lacked the herb flavor. The townsend on the other hand, hit. It was much better, had flavor and I was looking forward to another piece. The Townsend comprises of garlic, potato, prosciutto, mozzarella, and rosemary olive oil. This pizza had flavor and I enjoyed the garlic and potatoes.

I was intrigued by their desserts because you get to make up your own. You get to put what items you want on it and so we tried two different ones. Both of them, ah, it was ok. The first one we tried was the chocolate peppermint patty brownie. With lots of chocolate, you can't go wrong, unless it's store bought ice cream and peppermint patties. I'm not sure if the brownies were made fresh or bought, but you can easily put this one together at home and taste the same or better. Now for the dessert I really wanted to try. The vanilla, toffee, olive oil and sea salt. The ice cream was just that, probably store bought, toffee was tasty. I'm such a toffee lover that I wouldn't care if it were store bought or not, I'll get it if it's available. What I really wanted to try was the olive oil and salt. We saw this option on multiple menus throughout SF and is apparently very common. Well, anytime you have sweet and salty, it's a great match. The salt did give it a nice contrast to the sweetness and the tiny bit of texture with the coarse salt. Olive oil? Intriguing? Ah-huh...Satisfied with the flavor...nope. I'm not sure if they don't use a high quality enough olive oil or it really doesn't add any flavor to the dessert. If I took a larger spoonful of oil with a tiny bit of dessert, I could taste it and it gave a smoothness to it, but it's just oil. Naw, I'm set, I don't need that again. I'll do without.