Unkle Al's Profile

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Shagun Fine Indian Cuisine, Really?

There is a very traditional restaurant serving terrific Punjabi / Peshawari food in West Philadelphia called Kabobeesh,

Kabobeesh is not a contemporary or Americanized take on Indian/Pakistani food. It has, however, what I think is the best Indian / Pakistani barbecued meats in the city. They use halal meats and cook authentic kabobs and chops over a charcoal grill. I strongly recommend the lamb chop platter.

But, beware, the ambiance is a zero on a scale of ten. And, this is not a restaurant for vegetarians!

I can only vouch for the 40th and Chestnut location.

As I recall Craig LaBan gave this restaurant three bells.


May 23, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Mangos around Philadelphia

I have been buying the "Haden" variety mango from Patel for the past few weeks. If you allow them to ripen your entire kitchen will be filled with the sweet mango aroma. They have been juicy and pretty delicious. The only drawback to the "Haden" is that they are a little bit stringy.

The variety called "Kent" mango will be coming to Patel's in the next couple of weeks. In my opinion the "Kent" is the best mango we can get in this area. No strings, very custard-like, sweet, juicy and delicious.

May 21, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Estia thoughts? (plus other ideas for NYC hounds)

I have eaten there many times. The food is very good and the ambiance is excellent. It is a large rustic room and very comfortable. When I have been there noise has not been a problem. There are three good locations, one is in a booth on the far side, the second is next to the windows and the third is a small room on your right as you enter. Eating there is a pleasure in every way. The service is quite good too.

I am very partial to the appetizers and I have always ordered and enjoyed the following dishes:

Grilled Octopus

Calimari Stuffed With Feta

Combination Of Three Spreads (I like the feta spread, the roasted eggplant spread and the Greek caviar spread)

Country Salad with cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, feta and olives.

The fresh fish is excellent, I like the Barbouni which is the smallest fish and you can get a couple of them for each person depending upon how many appetizers you order.

May 21, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Last minute "fancy" dinner (corny is okay!)

Try Tara in Upper Black Eddy. It is pretty good and very, very nice. The location is about 30 minutes north of Doylestown.


Apr 30, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

How to store cheese?

For the past couple of years I have been buying, at Whole Foods Market a product, made in France, called Cheese Bags. They work amazingly well:


Apr 25, 2015
Unkle Al in Cheese

Birthday dinner in Philadelphia

I would recommend Estia which has terrific fish and a great selection.


Mar 15, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Updates on Mainland Inn?

I returned for a second visit and, again, enjoyed the experience.

First of all, I’ve been twice and do not encourage you to order a cocktail! The alcohol choices are limited to organic liquors that have very distinctive flavors which, for the most part, we did not enjoy on either visit. This is a more important issue than many would think because, for those who like their cocktails, not to be able to enjoy a cocktail is a real downer. I am not really in that category but my friends are cocktail lovers. However, the wine list was good and we had a terrific bottle of a Napa wine.

We had three of the four relishes and they were all very good.

I had the winter vegetable salad and it was delicious. My friends had the chicken liver with onions and schmaltz which was a great, great dish and the oysters.

We then shared the pork dish which consisted of a huge chop, hunks of shoulder, belly, ham and tongue. The meats were accompanied by a bowl of grits, a dish of greens and a charred onion. I thought that this was a real good presentation. I would liken it to the lamb shoulder at Zahav. The pork chop was juicy, cooked pink and Henry the VIII huge. The shoulder was very good too as were the tongue and ham. I thought that the belly was mediocre but I am comparing it to the belly at Fond which is one of the best that I have tasted. The accompaniments were good but not the star of the show.

The desserts, as I mentioned in my last post, were nothing to write home about.

All in all, the food was very good.

The cost for three cocktails, a bottle wine ($60) dinner, tax and tip was $100 per person.

The service was terrific.

We liked it but found the menu very limiting and quite fussy. My friends just told me its “one and done’ for them. I think that my returning in the future will be dependent upon whether my companions value local and organic above all else.

Chicken stock isn't gelatintous?

I generally use raw chicken, I try to get the oldest, in age Not freshness, chickens I can find and go by my rule of thumb: 2 lbs per quart.

Mar 11, 2015
Unkle Al in Home Cooking

Dining for one at/near Mandalay Bay?

Burger Bar is very good, a cocktail, burger bar sliders, fries!!!

Mar 06, 2015
Unkle Al in Las Vegas

Updates on Mainland Inn?

I was just trying to mention desserts that were delicious and not often served. I do not know of any restaurants that serve trifle but I did find this on the web:


I do make a simple version at home using sponge cake, pastry cream, fresh fruit and whipped cream. It is pretty simple, looks great when in a deep glass bowl etc.

Mar 05, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Updates on Mainland Inn?

Let me preface this review by saying that this is not my type of restaurant. It is chef driven as opposed to cuisine driven and I much prefer the latter. However, it is my fervent hope that they succeed because Mainland is only about twenty minutes from my hometown and I always enjoyed its’ previous incarnation.

That said, I recently had dinner at Mainland and enjoyed it very much.

I will focus mainly on the food but let me say that the rooms are very nice and the people are very, very welcoming. The service was excellent.

We started with the pastrami egg, kraut and green tomatoes with ham. Both of these were very good. These are not appetizers; they are just little savories to get started.

Then a tiny cup of lobster bisque was brought to the table as a complimentary tasting. It was scrumptious.

I next ordered Sunchoke veloute with salt cod and bottarga. It sounded interesting but was simply too thick and not delicious. This was a pretty big disappointment because it is so easy to make a delicious soup.

My crab salad, with cauliflower custard was quite good. The crab was very sweet and the custard was delicious. My only complaint was that the presentation was in a very deep bowl making it difficult to discern each ingredient. But, the bottom line is that I enjoyed the dish.

I decided to forego an entrée in favor of the octopus stew with merguez sausage and chickpeas. It was pretty good but, in my opinion, lacked punch. It again suffered from presentation in the very deep bucket like bowl that prevented one from seeing all of the components of the dish.

My sister had the seabream which was possibly the best dish of the night. It was meaty and delicious served in a bed of cauliflower and blood orange segments.

For dessert we had the Sundae with three types of unusual ice creams. It was good. However, I found the dessert choices to be a little uninteresting. I would have liked to see crepes Suzette or ouefs a la niege or poached pears or trifle or Mont Blanc or baked Alaska or a soufflé on the menu. Just one of them would have added a luster to the choices.

Although I wish them the best, and I will return next week, I think that they have an extremely uphill battle. The menu is a little esoteric even for the city.

I believe that they should look to the menus of Bibou, Le Cheri. Bistrot la Minette or Fond for guidance.

It is worth noting that Mainland Inn was successful for many years before their unfortunate demise and Conti’s Crosskeys in Doylestown was very successful for decades before closing at the owner’s retirement. Both of these restaurants were relatively expensive and had a country French menu.

I recommend that people visit, eat and comment, I want this place to flourish.

Place to buy shells for shellfish stock

Do you find a significant difference between shellfish stock and fish stock? I have never tasted them side by side but thought that they were interchangeable.

Feb 15, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Tiny meatballs for Italian Wedding Soup

Mina at Taste Of Italy in Springhouse will make them for you. You just need to call her and tell her when and how many.


Feb 13, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Short trip review (including too much roast pork)

I had the lamb last night and it was very, very good. Just as a reminder, it was BYO last night and I assume it will be BYO when you visit.

Feb 13, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Julian Serrano Compared to Jaleo

Thank you for your comments. I will definitely be eating at one of them!

Feb 12, 2015
Unkle Al in Las Vegas

Julian Serrano Compared to Jaleo

Can someone compare Julian Serrano with Jaleo?

Although I have eaten at both it was so long ago that I cannot tell which was which. I do know that I enjoyed both of them.

My recollections are that the foods and prices were similar.

Can anyone elaborate?

Thank you for your help.

Feb 11, 2015
Unkle Al in Las Vegas

Bibou reboot

I too am sorry that Bibou is changing its’ format; I love their food and the mom and pop atmosphere of their special restaurant.

I think that seven courses are too much and the price will keep me away. That said I will go instead to Le Cheri for a little more than half the price even including wine. So, sadly, I probably have seen the last of Bibou.

I do not think that they will do a U-turn because there are only a few tables and plenty of people will not mind the one hundred dollars per person.

Feb 10, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Pecorino/Romano advice needed

Sorry, I was confused (it is late at night), I was mixing up my instructions.

Stick with the Locatelli brand but you can buy it anywhere. This cheese does not need to be hung and store aged. It will be easily found;, even Costco sells it although I do not think that WFM sells this brand. Naturally, you will most surely be able to buy a hunk at any Italian deli as well as DiBruno’s and Claudio’s.

Feb 06, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Pecorino/Romano advice needed

I recommend that you go to any good Italian delicatessen and buy Locatelli brand pecorino Romano; it will be very easily found.

They do sell this brand in the supermarkets but generally it is very young. Whole Foods also sells a similar cheese but they do not hang it either and it is nowhere as good as the Locatelli brand found in the Italian stores.

The good Italian stores will hang the cheese for quite a while before cutting into it and it will have much more flavor.

I would say that ½ pound would be the right amount for four people.

Feb 06, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Old Fashioned Sticky Buns

Although I am a huge fan of Alice's I have not had their sticky buns.

That said, I have been eating Flecks sticky buns for fifty years, as each box says: "None Better".


Feb 04, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Hamilton's Grill Room

The rules apparently have changed, they can apply a surcharge:


Jan 15, 2015
Unkle Al in New Jersey

Quiet, Lunch, Center City or Nearby Parkiing

I recommend Estia, I recently had lunch there with a friend and we had a very nice experience. It was quiet and the food and service were very, very good.


Mainland Inn

At first glance the menu seems to be a bit esoteric for the country location. But, after a careful reading it is understandable and looks very good. Actually, the more I look at the menu the better it looks to me.

I will agree that the menu does need some work descriptively, for example exactly what type of “little gems” is he braising to be served with the scallops? Will they be rubies, emeralds or amethyst or another????

As was mentioned previously, knowledgeable and professional service will be very, very important.

Assuming that execution and service are very good I really hope that people from all over Bucks, Montgomery and the city will travel for great food and a beautiful setting.

I wish them good luck.

Jan 03, 2015
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Substitution for Christmas dinner - On a budget - please help

Beef in Barolo Pot roast braised in red wine - Marcella Hazan

Dec 23, 2014
Unkle Al in Home Cooking

Amazing and fairly easy appetizer to bring to xmas eve?

I don’t stir this, I shred the salmon and sprinkle it on the guacamole in layers so that the orange of the salmon shows:


Very good!

Canned tuna packed in olive oil is more traditional and that is what I generally use:

Dec 23, 2014
Unkle Al in Home Cooking

Dinner for 30 in Doylestown

I would recommend checking out Villa Barolo on Easton Road in Warrington. The place itself is large, very beautiful and the food and service are good.


Dec 15, 2014
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Nice Quiet Lunch on Feb. 7

Kanella should be quiet for lunch and is a great restaurant. It is very noisy at dinner time.

Dec 14, 2014
Unkle Al in Philadelphia

Fat From Chicken Soup

Can I use rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) interchangeably with the fat on top of chicken soup / stock. It seems a waste to throw that soup fat away.

Dec 12, 2014
Unkle Al in Kosher

Un-hip Dad

Well, you could go to the opposite extreme and blow her away with La Grenouille. She probably has not been there and will enjoy the experience. It is very sophisticated and fun for someone that has not experienced the pleasures offered. Of course, it is very expensive.


Dec 11, 2014
Unkle Al in Manhattan

No Sundried Tomatoes at Costco??

Yes, the Costco brand is terrible. But, unfortunately, I have recently gotten two large jars of the Bella brand and both have a mustiness. I keep tasting them, again and again, in the hope that I am imagining the mustiness but I'm not. I won't buy them again.

Big loss, can anyone tell me a way to buy or make sweet dried tomatoes?

Dec 10, 2014
Unkle Al in Chains