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Kauai trip report - Jan 2014

We had a great week vacation on Kauai.. did food research on chowhound and surprisingly not a ton so thought I'd return the favor. Very casual throughout the island, def more so than Maui in general. Prices were probably higher likely because it's a smaller, more remote island.

We stayed on the south side in Poipu.

- Hamura Saimen (lihue): Really disappointed. Broth had no flavor, noodles over cooked and wontons flavorless. Most things about this shop are raving, so I didn't really get it. Would never go back. It has some charm because it's been around awhile and seems to be a local fav.
- Mark's Place (lihue): Super tasty hawaiian mixed plate!! We came here twice. My favs were the stew, the korean chicken and the loco moco! My fav loco moco i've ever tasted because the hamburger meat actually had flavor and the gravy wasn't too salty!
- Puka Dog (Poipu): honestly, i didn't have high expectations for a hot dog but these were AWESOME! first of all the dog's are all charred to order, love the charred outer casing. Next, all of the sauces elevated this otherwise regular hot dog. came here twice, WINNER.
- Uncle's shaved ice (poipu): just okay, a sole option on the south side. known also for shaved snow which was just okay. saving grace was delicious mac-nut ice cream.
- Savage shrimp (poipu): right next door to uncles. used to be a shrimp truck now turned shop. doesn't fit the nearby shops b/c it's appears family owned, making great shrimp at affordable prices. tried a thai style shrimp dish -- known for the garlic shrimp i believe.
- koloa fish market: we tried 3 fish markets on this trip and this lands right in the middle behind Hanalei dolphin on the north side. prices are high, but a good Poke selection and overall a good picnic on the beach food. the flavors and quality of fish wasn't up to par with hanalei but does a good enough job. really enjoyed the sesame crusted ahi.
- Yanagi sushi (koloa): this is a relatively new food truck, parked outside the botanical gardens in koloa. Two guys who used to work for "the man" decided to open their own truck with a better view. the fish was fresh but most of the rolls tasted pretty much the same. loved the sashimi plate the most. pricey rolls overall. just a so-so from me.
- Kauai Pupu factory: opted to try this instead of the Ishihara market.. maybe have regretted this decision! In comparison to the other two markets I visited, it's more of the low-key operation esp because the location is more remote. quality of fish is consistent with Koloa fish market. Their tako salad was by far the best of the three we tried. the rest of the poke preparations were good, not outstanding.
- Kauai Ono: A special kauai dining experience.. 5 courses under the stars, cooked off of a food truck for $50. Located on the north side.. overall the experience was fun and different than anything else on the island. The food is locally sourced and emphasized local ingredient. All the food was well cooked and seasoned but I think we all expected more. I would still recommend it as a fun Kauai food experience if you're in to things like that. They offer dinner twice weekly, check website for reservations.
- Hanalei Dolphin fish market (hanalei): best of the 3 fish markets we tried.. best in flavor and quality of the fish. The most expensive if I remember correctly. Fav was the nori/poke salad and the ono fish salad. Came here twice in 1 day!
- Masa's sushi restaurant (lihue): we wanted to have a sit down sushi dinner one evening and found this sleepy sushi spot. behind the bar is one guy -- the owner Masa. He prepares all of the sushi therefore there can be a wait if there's more than 1 customer in the restaurant. Overall quality was just medium and quality of the preparation leaves a lot to be desired. Not sure if we'd come back, but I was happy to support these small business owners on our way through.
- Island taco (waimea): such an awesome spot right before or after hiking Waimea. the fish tacos were just awesome. ahi better than mahi-mahi. tortilla's are made in house. A MUST TRY

Overall a great food experience in Kauai. Everything's much more casual than I remember Maui, but lots of fresh Poke to be had.

Feb 16, 2014
celstrial in Hawaii

Jan-Feb 2013 Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe trip review

Had a great time eating our way through Japan, wanted to share our dining experiences that were worth mentioning. There are so many choices, its hard to decide and obviously not everyone can do all Michelin for every meal, so here are choices in all ranges. Sorry this is long.

Tokyo:
Wa-ta-mi: Right outside of the Meguro station, good location if you happen to be staying at the Sheraton Miyako, its a japanese chain “izakaya” which was recommended by the hotel, they have locations all over tokyo. Food was good and was a good intro to the japanese way... Overall everything we ordered was solid. Wouldn’t go out of the way to eat here but if you stumble upon it, it is reliable dining.

Tsukiji fish market: We attempted to attend the tuna auction but missed it b/c we had no idea where it was! But we unofficially marched our way through the fish market in the thick of the morning and it was AMAZING. We did have donburi at a random sushi stall which was cheap and so fresh and some ramen at Inoue 井の上.

Ginza Okuda: Kaiseki lunch on Saturday, cost 11500 yen per person. Took this recommendation from CHer’s. Chef Koju Okuda cooks at both Ginza Okuda and Kojyu for dinner so I figured opt for the cheaper option of similar execution! We were served by his capable sous-chef, Shun Miyahara who’s english is better than he lets on. Service here was top notch and amazing. The bar serves probably around 8 or 9 and I believe there are private tables hidden elsewhere as well. The meal was obviously seafood heavy with fish rounding out the heavier courses. An excellent meal and what I can presume is a great value (albiet still expensive). Highly recommended. Reservations were easily made by calling our hotel concierge ahead of our visit. We made reservations about 6 weeks prior.

Uogashi Nihonichi, Standing Sushi Bar: I was stumbling around Shibuya people watching on a Saturday evening, when I stumbled upon this sushi bar. I recognized it as the sushi spot from “Jiro, Dreams of Sushi”, where the narrator of the movie was eating at the beginning of the movie. I really really wish there were cool concepts that people would frequent like this in the US. So the concept is you stand to eat, the pace is lightening quick and the prices are CHEAP. And of course the sushi is fresh. All orders come in 2 pieces and pieces range from 75-300 yen with many great selections available in the 75 yen price. Our favs were squid scorched with mayo, negi-toro handroll (if only nori was this good in the states), ikura and uni. Most people came in alone, stopped in for 6-8 pieces and were out in a jiffy. Fun experience. There are locations throughout tokyo, even one in tokyo station.

Sawada: Omakase dinner on Saturday, 35000 yen per person excluding alcohol. Reservations more difficult to obtain due to his strict policy. Reservations for non-japanese guests must be made by your hotel concierge which must include a faxed copy of a credit card number to hold the reservation. But YES ITS WORTH IT! I debated a lot amongst the choices of high end sushi omakase, with obvious choices like sushi mizutani and jiro, but ended up with Sawada because of the unique personalized service with 6 bar seats and Sawada-san + his wife. I can see why Michelin has yet to award the 3rd star.. because its a two person show and in Michelin eyes, they probably want an entourage to wait on each personal guest hand and foot, who knows. What I do know is my experience here is unparallelled and once in a lifetime. There are the dining moments I live for! Every cut, every motion, every intention that exudes from this genius was magical! He embodies that perfectionism that exists in the nature of all Japanese and he exemplifies it to the max. Google for pictures of the dining experience, it is amazing. Definitely can not be missed! My personal highlights were grilled chutoro that reminded me of eating Kobe in Kobe, chu-otoro, bonito (before it became flakes), aki stuffed with rice and nori, and uni from hokkaido.

Kyoto:
Karaage in Gion: If you’re headed to Gion and taking a bus from kyoto station, make sure to stop by the corner Karaage stall. We had a many karaage in Japan but this was by far THE BEST. He opens after 5pm and you order using a vending machine.

Tankuma Kitamise(たん熊北店/たんくま きたてん): Stopped by for lunch (3700 yen for boxed lunch). We were having dinner at our ryoken so the boxed lunch seemed to be an obvious option to try. We seemed to be the only diners on a random Monday. The boxed lunch was delicious and a great way to experience a mini-kaiseki and save some time. The dessert was a high light and as with all high end restaurants in Japan, the service was impeccable.

Omen: Another great lunch spot, right walking distance from Ginkaku-ji temple (which was one of my favorites). Bowl of noodles + tempura runs 1200 yen. To call this udon would be underplaying it. Its a special udon preparation where the udon is served to be eaten like tsukemen and it’s accompanied with a plate of several different fresh vegetables that you can add to your soup to your preference. Overall, it was a solid udon experience, nothing to make a trip out of or run to, but if you’re in the Ginkaku-ji area and want some lunch, this is a viable option. It was pretty popular during lunch, so may be a wait.

Kyoto Station Ramen Alley: Located on the 10th floor of the Isetan building, this place is a gold mine! I had a bowl at Hakata Ikkousha (博多一幸舎). This was my most favorite ramen bowl I had in Japan. Shared with a plate of karaage and fried rice, I was in heaven. If you’re on the move and have a short layover in Kyoto station, please swing by the ramen alley.

Kobe:
Wakkoqu: We really wanted to go to Kobe to have Kobe beef, so per CHer’s rec’s this is where we went. It’s a 30 year old english style decorated restaurant that serves steak by way of teppanyaki. We came for lunch which I feel is much of a bargain, because the kobe beef lunch (150g steak) was $5000 vs $8500 for 25g more for dinner! The set lunch comes with soup, salad, veggies, steak and dessert. For additional 800 yen you can order fried rice which the chef cooks in the kobe fat!!! Definitely a must. We had a great experience, the steak was amazing. Highly recommended, esp for lunch. The restaurant is walking distance from Kobe JR station.

Thanks for reading. Japan is a food-lover’s dream and I hope my specific experiences can help you sort out some choices amongst a myriad of food choices!!

Feb 09, 2013
celstrial in Japan

Help with low-mid end food choices, Tokyo

Researching for Tokyo is very challenging for me b/c of the language barrier and the massive amount of choices in all price ranges. Most CHer's talk a lot about the michelin *'d spots, but was hoping for suggestions in low to mid level priced spots, especially where we'll be staying late Jan.

I found a lot of stuff around Tsukiji fish market although sounds like it maybe be a bit "tourist trappy"

We'll be staying at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel in Minato, off the Mita and Nanboku lines.

Interested more in yakitori, soba, ramen, unagi and mid-level tempura. planned sawada for dinner and ginza okuda for a lunch already.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP!!

Dec 19, 2012
celstrial in Japan

Portland Trip Report 11/1-11/5

Portland has a very laid back food scene which is refreshing in its own way, price point is great! Thanks for all the help with research on chowhound.

Cliff's notes: Best things I ate in Portland
1) Boat noodles at Pok Pok for lunch
2) Sea salt ice cream with salted caramel ribbons at Salt & Straw
3) Beef cheeks at Beast

Ha & VL (Thurs/Sat lunch): Tried the snail vermicelli and shredded chicken vermicelli. Found this spot and was excited because it sounded so similar to a concept at the “lunch lady” in Saigon, Vietnam – special soups each day of the week and they sell until they sell out. Overall it was promising but being Vietnamese, I would run here quickly if you're looking for great Vietnamese. The snail/shrimp balls were tasty. We also came back on Saturday morning for the Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef vermicelli) which I felt was much better than the Thursday offerings. They are a bit skimpy on the side greens (which was mostly iceburg lettuce which doesn't even exist in Vietnam). Also tried the meatball banh mi which I do recommend trying. Overall just okay.

Salt & Straw: Amazing! Such creative ice cream flavors, very gourmet. I was addicted to the sea salt + caramel, ADDICTED. A must try.

The Box Social (happy hour): Great neighborhood spot for drinks, filled up quickly by 5pm. HH from 4-6, good cocktails overall although one person got a cocktail very full of Sage which was off-putting. Parmesan popcorn for $2? Yes please.

Toro Bravo (Thurs dinner): Got there at 6:30pm and waited about 30 mins for a table for 6. Went upstairs to “the secret society” for cocktails and they had this lovely 1920's band playing which was really fun. Dinner was good, but can't say I was blown away. Mainly because everything was just over the top rich and salty. One or two dishes like this works well but a whole meal of 10 small plates like that just makes me feels icky afterwards. Highlights included: sauteed chanterelles, squid ink fideo with seafood, and a seasonal squash dish. So-so dishes: oxtail croquettes, cauliflower (greasy), pork rillette (bread so greasy!)

What's the Scoop: Nice addition to the neighborhood, standard flavors, tried the brittle ice cream and I got the bottom so was rewarded with a huge chunk of brittle on top – cone not as tasty as S&S.

Nuvrie Bakery (breakfast): Lovely storefront, ordered a croissant + bagel/cream cheese and it took 20 minutes! I caught the early lunch crowd, but I think the counter is very disorganized (maybe its a Portland thing?). Overall the pastries were just okay, wouldn't come back if I lived there – ugh.

Pok Pok (Friday lunch): Got there at 1pm on Friday and sat outside with no wait for 4. Totally loved this meal. Must try. I've had thai all over, even in most asian-centric cities and this place is the real deal. Highlights include: Boat Noodles which are only served for lunch so get them! Amazingly flavored, spicy YUM. Beef salad, papaya salad and of course the wings which are salty but so galicky and delish. Must try for sure.

Smallwares (Friday dinner): Came at 8:30pm waited 20 mins for a table for 6. Newish spot I believe and overall I felt the food was good but nothing I would rush back to. Southeast Asian inspired food. Tried a good sampling of food. Space I felt was awkward b/c the bar and the restaurant side were complete opposites but you could be seated on either side. Should try: kimchi trio was surprisingly very good, fried kale was crispy and salty, chicken lollipops are expected but tasty. Pass on the eggplant, mapo, hanger steak.

Aviary (Friday 2nd dinner): Oddly located in almost like a shopping center, space is open, small bar out back. Food here was actually very conceptual and interesting layers and flavors. Would recommend trying this spot out if you like trying something outside the box, asian flavors. Highlights: sweet potato with trout roe dish was so so conceptual and had so many components that when eaten together was really great. Crispy pig ear with coconut rice was SO out there but again all the many components came together really well. A should try (esp if you live in Portland).

Interurban (Sat lunch): Great drinking spot! Very rustic and homey. Service was awesome. Great if you're in the neighborhood and want to grab a drink with tasty upscaled bar eats. Highlights: the wings! Ask for the buffalo and ranch on the side. The huge corndog with 5 mustards. Grilled brocollini! Good if in neighborhood

Beast (Sat night): Made reservations 2 months out, so not sure how hard it was to get a reservation, but I figure it fills up quickly b/c they have 2 seatings per night, 6pm and 8:45. This was my “fine dining” experience in Portland which was great b/c it was a great homey space. Communal dining. Fixed price dinner, meat-centric (no vegetarian accomodations). Soup course was standard, charcuterie course was good but I had higher expectations – faves were foie and chicken liver mousse. 3rd meat course, beef cheeks was worth the whole dinner – AMAZING. Smoked trout with trout roe was oddly coursed b/c it was mostly cold but well done, all smoked in house I believe. Cheese course was tasty. Chocolate dessert was a great end, cinnamon ice cream was delectable. I would say a must try for the ambiance and the beef cheeks :) Wine pairing was worth it and well done overall.

Ristretto Roasters (coffee): Solid caffeine fix, toast + jam for 25 cents!

Tasty n' Sons (Sunday brunch): Got there at 9:30am and waited 1 hour for 6 people. Kind of regretted this because I did have dinner at Toro Bravo, but overall I felt it was pretty good. Solid brunch in an open space, but the wait, PHEW! Highlights: biscuits + venison gravy (very small portion), large biscuit + egg/ham, potatos bravas + egg (best thing I ate here)

Brass Tacks: Locally sourced and organic everything sandwich shop. Wish I had tried the vegan offerings but tried the turkey sandwich. Could tell the ingredients were top notch and great choice for lunch in the neighborhood

Little big burger (snack): Probably along the lines of 5 guys burger, highlight I felt was the truffle fries and the KETCHUP. The ketchup was amazingly memorable. Good snack spot.

Thanks chowhounders for all of the recommendations :)

Nov 10, 2012
celstrial in Metro Portland

Willows Inn Restaurant - Lummi Island

What an amazing experience... and I have Chowhound to thank for it (this is where I read about it).

Definitely our best dining experience in our Pacific Northwest tour (San Juans, Seattle, Portland) and worthy of anyone who loves food, specifically fine dining food experiences.

People who stay a night at the Inn get priority for a reservation.

One of the reasons why the dining experience is so amazing is because of the surroundings is so remote, so serene and the food is a mirror image of being on this amazing ecosystem. Its like taking local-vore cuisine and being so truly dedicated to this concept. Majority of the protein and vegetables come from the island (Nettle's Farm) or the surrounding waters.

Won't really go into the menu because it does change and want to let the experience speak for itself but of note, Blaine Wetzel and his team LOVE to smoke anything. I would say at least half or not more of the meal had a smokey overtone which was great because as we drove up, we saw several of the chefs smoking in the little house to the side of the kitchen. Spot prawn season is in the summer and we were bummed we missed that. We met Blaine Wetzel after dinner although he does walk out and serve throughout the meal. He's the nicest guy, super down to earth, which made the meal that much cooler!

Breakfast at the Willows Inn was AMAZING! I think its funny when people want to compare the breakfast with the preceding dinner... they are such different meals and breakfast is definitely above average when it comes to bed and breakfast quality breakfasts.. ingredients fresh, had some lovely local apple cider and fresh pomegranate granola with yogurt.

Do it! Come to Lummi Island and get on this amazing dining experience. Dinner in 10/2012 was $150/pp excluding tax/tip.

Nov 06, 2012
celstrial in Pacific Northwest

Critique My List (Researched)

Just came back recently and would recommend trying to hit up Pok Pok for lunch (boat noodles, do it!) and consideration for Beast for dinner.

Nov 05, 2012
celstrial in Metro Portland

Seattle Trip Report: 10/26-10/28

Visited Seattle last weekend in Nov. Had a nice time, wanted to report back considering how much research I did on here!

Cliff's notes – best things I ate:
Revel's korean short rib over rice, chimichurri (brunch)
Walrus & Carpenter's fried oysters
Besalu's ham/cheese croissant and plain croissant

Friday:
Salumi (lunch): Flew in at 11am and was able to catch a late lunch at Salumi. Waited in line for about 15 minutes and they “insisted” that we take our food to go even though I spotted a table for two that was open. Tried the porchetta sandwich which was huge and filling, meat was very flavorful, bread was tasty. Also shared salumi + cheese + olive plate for 2 which was really REALLY tasty. Overall worth probably no more than a 15 min wait and quite expensive for what you get.

Walrus & Carpenter (pre-dinner snack): We got there at 4:45pm on a Friday and waited 10 mins for a table... I think we got there just in time because I noticed several parties waiting when we left. Conveniently, there is a cute bike shop nearly attached which serves wine, beer, coffee if you'd rather wait there. Because it was a pre-dinner snack, we ate lightly. Tried each raw oyster available, very fresh, a great accompanying minionette. Also tried the fried oysters which were AMAZING, hit of the meal! Batter was perfectly salty and a great alternative to the raw-aversed, although why would you come here? Lastly tried the fried anchovies which were accompanied by a very tasty pesto topping. Overall I would say a good spot for after dinner drinks and snack, menu was small. Space was very lovely.

Book Bindery (dinner): Space is very open, great for a quiet dinner out. Sat in the green house extension room which was nice to see the rain fall but not be in it! Overall, I felt dinner her was good, but coming from chicago, the level of execution and uniqueness was overall subpar to consider it a great dining experience. There were moments that had a lot of potential. Amuse bouche was a seasonal cider/squash soup, a bit too sweet but inviting. Tried the heirloom tomato salad which I felt was my favorite thing (aside from dessert), mainly because I felt there was something daring to be different on the plate. The tomatoes were def from some garden just that day but the horseradish panna cotta on the plate was really amazing! I was afraid it would be too strong but it successfully brought the flavor of horseradish without the burn. For dinner I had a rack of lamb which was cooked well but accompaniments were forgettable. The rest of the table tried items I felt were good but again nothing really great of new or different to literally write home about. For dessert, we tried the pumpkin cheesecake which was simple but really tasty, I ate every bite. I would not return and not sure I would recommend to other visitors because I feel I've eaten at this restaurant in any other great food city.

Saturday
Pike Place Market (breakfast): Not sure if I came too early or maybe I didn't find anything appetizing enough.. but just slim pickings. I really wanted to try Pike Place Chowder but they don't open until noon, so I opted for 1) BBQ pork bun from Mee Sum which was just okay. 2) Everything bagel from Seattle Bagel which had really amazing whipped cream cheese. 3) mixed bag of donuts from daily dozen which I wouldn't return for.

Revel in Fremont (Brunch): Showed up at 12:45 and waited 5 mins for a table. Space is awesome, open kitchen and smells delish! Best thing I ate in Seattle was the korean marinated short rib over rice, with chimichurri and a fried egg. The meat was just amazing! Tender, perfectly cooked and garnished with some light salt on top. The chimichurri which I believe is house made was just icing on a cake – tasted amazing, I was trying to break down the ingredients to see if I could recreate this. And throw an egg on top and everything is what it should be :) We also tried the crab egg foo young which had nice chunks of likely blue crab, a bit on the salty side. Lastly tried the ramen which was a bit forgettable but not bad. Would def recommend this spot, takes korean food and takes it up a notch.

Theo's Chocolate factory tour: luckily, Theo's was around the corner from Revel and we had made reservations on line ahead of time. Definitely a fun experience!! Tons of tasters throughout, learned a lot about chocolate and seems like they are trying to really do well with the organic/free trade chocolate movement. Would definitely try to go if you're in the neighborhood.

Spinasse (dinner): So I totally expected a fine dining experience but probably should have noticed from the casual menu.. such a homey feeling restaurant, very rustic. Overall I think chowhounder's really talk this restaurant up.. I would say I get it, but perhaps this is the type of cuisine that really defines Seattle cuisine, very homey and very approachable. Amuse bouche was chicken liver mousse on toast which was delish. Our table ordered the tasting of appetizers which I think is a great way to try it all! The proscuitto was aged and saltily amazing. The anchovies were spot on. For dinner I couldn't get away from trying the well talked about Tajarin with ragu. Very delicate pasta coupled with very rich and complex ragu made it a great dish. Also tried a bit of the sage/butter preparation which I liked but glad I didn't get because a whole plate of it would have been too much. We ordered a side of the beets which I felt were just okay. Desserts were very light, order them!

Sunday:
Besalu (breakfast): amazing amazing, AMAZING! Hands down best croissant in the US for sure, almost like they baked them in Paris and shipped them over fresh :) Short line at 1030am. Fav was the ham and cheese croissant, but the plain with jam/butter was also delightful. Also tried the onion/gruyere quiche, apple galette and chocolate croissant – YOU CAN'T GO WRONG.

Although not a Seattle food experience, would like to give a shoutout to Seattle visitors to consider driving up 2 hrs north of seattle for dinner on Lummi Island at the Willows Inn – a truly exceptional dining experience and favorite of our trip (which I'll divulge upon in another forum.)

Thanks Chowhounders as always for the great recs!

Nov 05, 2012
celstrial in Greater Seattle

Vietnamese headcheese in Chicago

the one on Lawrence is better IMO, but i'm sure they use the same meats... also prices lower which i guess doesn't matter if its more convenient for you!

Oct 07, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Vietnamese headcheese in Chicago

I think most places probably use BaLe as their purveyor. My fav Banh Mi spot in Chicago is Nhu Lan Bakery (the original is on Lawrence). Try there and see whatcha think.

Oct 07, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Any "hole-in-the-wall" Indian restaurant near the Loop that costs at most 20 dollars per person?

In the west loop is Jaipur which is not hole-in-the-wall but prices aren't too out of this world either. They have a GREAT seated lunch buffet (where they serve you at the table, not overheated dry leftovers under a heat lamp) that is a great value and tons of great food for $15, although lunch only.

Sep 19, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Anniversary Dinner Downtown

I went to Due in Aug for lunch and I felt it wasn't as wonderful as my lunch experience at Sogno.. so just personal experience. Either way, the experience (ambiance, space, menu) are the same, but I would prefer to go to the original if I had the choice.

Sep 16, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Chicago - September 20 to 26 - First Time

Fun vegan spot is "Handle Bar" which also has a decent beer selection and a bier garden out back. Its in Wicker Park.

For pizza and microbrew, there's Piece in Wicker Park, but its not deep dish. Has tons of TVs for sports watching in between live sports.

As for your "nice meals" options, perhaps narrow down cuisine type, and where you're staying, there are so many nice meal options!! There's Green Zebra in West Town that is majority vegetarian and very good. Recently took visiting vegetarian friend to Vera in West Loop which is spanish small plates + wine bar.

Sep 16, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Anniversary Dinner Downtown

If a short cab ride is not a problem, the West Loop is doing great food right now.. a longer walk would be River North

Anniversary worthy for your price point I would rec: Nellcotte (West loop), Balena (Lincoln Park), Perennial Virant (lincoln park), Vera (west loop) would be a bit more casual, Nightwood in Pilsen may run upper limit of budget.

Second the Piccolo, but the original would be more consistent on Grande (Piccolo Sogno).

Sep 16, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

Chicago visit next month - a couple of questions

Everyone has great recs...

Sixteen I went 3 years ago, chef's have changed, but overall my experience was nice space, fine-dining expensive but food didn't move me as I had wanted especially for the price point. But the views are spectacular and service very good (wouldn't expect otherwise with Trump)

Other considerations would be El Ideas and recently opened Elizabeth (ticketing system) which appear to be similar experiences in that the chef is interactive and the food is locally sourced and lots of passion in the cooking.

Report back!

Sep 16, 2012
celstrial in Chicago Area

October Seattle Visit - itinerary tips

I'm getting so much response about which restaurant to go to, I can't decide! The menu at Book Bindery looks really great and there have been many responses about how people have had a great experience there. The Corson Building appears to be a very great experience, almost reminiscent of Ad Hoc type of cuisine in Napa. Staple & Fancy menu looks italian inspired and we're going to Spinasse so gonna pass there. Have been interested in Chef Hine's food, so Tilth perhaps would be a good option but not much is mentioned in the forums about it being a place to try. Thanks again for your thoughts!!

Sep 13, 2012
celstrial in Greater Seattle

Short BBQ/food tour of Memphis, TN

that's the thing about food! everyone loves it for different reasons and different ways. I loved loved Gus's. Def wanna try leonards and interstate!

Sep 06, 2012
celstrial in Kentucky & Tennessee

October Seattle Visit - itinerary tips

the chocolate factory sounds awesome, going there! thanks a bunch :)

Sep 04, 2012
celstrial in Greater Seattle

October Seattle Visit - itinerary tips

thanks for your recommendations... seattle is only 2/11 day trip so we won't be staying in seattle for too long.. have been before many years ago and excited to revisit :)

Sep 03, 2012
celstrial in Greater Seattle

October Seattle Visit - itinerary tips

Myself and husband are visiting the northwest for 12 days, done tons of research, would like some tips on my itinerary.

We're staying at the W Seattle downtown near Pike Place Market.

Fri
Arrive 11:30am
Late lunch: Serious Pie vs Salumi? -- both close to our hotel. Sounds like Salumi may be winning out.

Pre-dinner: The Walrus & the Carpenter for oysters etc. QUESTION, would fitting in the Ballard Locks before or after our meal here make any sense? And if yes, before vs after? Was thinking after so we can place something in between our meals, but I definitely don't want to get to W&C too late and have to wait.

Full Tilt sometime while we're in Ballard

Dinner: Book bindery vs Canlis vs Sitka/Spruce vs other. Wanted to try Tilth b/c of Maria Hines but seems out of the way. Also Corson Building but again a bit out of the way. Thoughts?

After dinner drink options in area?? Perhaps head back to hotel for Spur

Sat
Breakfast: Pike place market - Beechers cheese (M&C), Mee Sum Pastries, Pike Place Chowder, Crumpet shop, Uli’s (sausage)

Late lunch: Revel. Anything interesting to check out in Fremont neighborhood before or after lunch?

Dinner: Spinasse
After dinner drink options in the area?? Thinking Needle & Thread or Quinn's

Sunday
Crumble & Flake before we get on the road
Maybe Sitka & Spruce brunch before we head to Lummi Island. Was thinking of stopping by Taylors shellfish farm, what is everyone's opinion on availability and even the fun of sitting outside shucking oysters at the end of Oct up north??

thanks for everyone's help ahead of time!! we can't wait.

Sep 02, 2012
celstrial in Greater Seattle

Food Tour in Little Rock, Arkansas

Yes, who would of thought one could do a food tour here, but I did it, lived it, to talk about it!

Came here to visit some friends as part of a road trip and here are my thoughts:

Acadia Restaurant: Located in the Hilcrest neighborhood, this lies at the end of a stretch of shops and restaurants. Our friend picked it and overall, for value, it was a good choice. On Mon/Tues, they offer a pre-fixe meal for $25!! Tried a caesar salad (a bit overdressed), tomato basil soup which was very hearty and duck breast with a tasty truffle risotto. Dessert was a berry bread pudding. Overall and solid choice, nothing life changing but a good value esp on Mon/Tues.

The Root Cafe:
Albiet a small town, this a big gem in Little Rock! We swung by for lunch on a Wednesday around 1230 and found the place hopping! Had heard that the owner/chef has adopted the "support local, eat local" phenomenon that appears to be sweeping the food world. The space itself is very homey and has a co-op feel to it... bus your own tables, water comes from a water cooler, napkins are towels not napkins. Even reading more about it, you realize the building is "green" in construction. The food is fresh fresh!! Apparently they try to get everything from Arkansas which is awesome. Tried some of the shitake burger and that was DELISH for mushroom lovers (and veggies). I had the chicken salad, salad, which wasn't a revelation, but overall just delicious because it was so fresh. The rest of the menu is adventurous enough for those that dare but also so approachable that it can appeal to anyone swinging by for lunch. Lots of office people around for lunch. Definitely commend them for doing something so important and awesome. I think this concept could work in any city, but more endearing to find it in Little Rock.

Ashley's at the Capital:
Apparently the best restaurant in town, in the best hotel in town. We arrived just right after an appearance by Mitt Romney, in town for a fundraiser. The head chef recently left to open his own culinary project. Overall the food was thoughtful and forward thinking; although in comparison to big-city fine dining, they probably need to work on execution a bit more. A few thoughts included a cold rabbit papardelle dish. The frog leg was awesome, perfectly fried. The cheese course was odd, paired with a carrot salad which just didn't fit at the end of the meal. The wine pairings were overly generous and very tasty, so would recommend getting these.

Little rock does have some food highlights. Didn't try catfish or any BBQ, but memphis is a mere 2 hour drive away.

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Acadia Restaurant 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd Little Rock, AR 72205

The Root Cafe 1500 S Main St Little Rock, AR 72206

Ashley's at the Capital Markham & Louisiana Little Rock, AR 72201

Aug 24, 2012
celstrial in Central South

Short BBQ/food tour of Memphis, TN

Did a ton of research to find the best spots for BBQ in Memphis. Spent about 24hrs in Memphis and tried 3 spots according to extensive chow/yelp research. Here are my thoughts and my ratings and why.

1) Central's BBQ:
- Tried half-slab, half wet/dry + pulled turkey nachos + mac & cheese and potato salad + banana pudding
- THE BEST RIBS. of all the 3 spots we tried, these were the best. best smoke, best flavor and perfectly cooked. When doing research, this was noted to have the best "meat" but I felt the sides were good as well.
- Understand why everyone recommends the nachos... because the chips are cooked fresh and can't go wrong with melted and shredded cheese atop.
- Banana pudding was MONEY! get it.
- Space was fun, bright, not as "hole-in-the-wall" as I had anticipated

2) Cozy's Corner:
- Tried cornish hen + half-slab wet mild ribs + corn + cole slaw
- The ribs had an amazing smokey flavor, the sauce was just okay
- Corn was meh, cole slaw was fine
- Cornish hen is tender and flavorful, definitely a must try
- why this spot is so great is the family-fun atmosphere, we sat right next to the owner who was having her lunch and she was a sweetheart!

3) B-B-Q shop:
- Tried half-slab, half wet/dry ribs + bbq spaghetti + pulled pork sandwich
- Had read A LOT of great things, but was highly disappointed
- Ribs were good, but not amazing. the secret is the amazing sauces!! The hot BBQ sauce was great
- BBQ spaghetti must be a local thing b/c I wasn't a fan and didn't really get it
- Pull pork sandwich needs to be ordered pulled or not it will be chopped. Very tasty and even better with the sauce
- Atmosphere in the shop was kind of flat, quiet during lunch

Wanted to try Neely's Interstate, Payne's pulled pork sandwich but no time

ONE THING TO MENTION, everyone must must must stop by Gus's Fried Chicken!! this was the most amazing thing I ate on my trip, I went for dinner one night and again the next day for early lunch and still and dreaming about it. Perfect and I mean PERFECTLY fried chicken that tastes like it's been marinating in spicy salt brine for days, so the chicken meat itself is so so tender and so flavorful. Not to forget the perfectly fried chicken skin and batter which has a perfect spice and crisp that only dreams are made of. There's a location downtown near Beale street.

For coffee, try Bluff City Coffee which was a great surprise. Their coffee strong and delicious, also offers free WIFI.

We also swung by Pearl's Oyster House, definitely wouldn't recommend unless you have a BIG itch for oysters... gulf oysters, poorly shucked with mud and dirt all over the place. Thumbs down.

Take home point: Gus's for fried chicken!

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Central BBQ 2249 Central Ave Memphis, TN 38104

Cozy Corner Restaurant 745 N Pkwy Memphis, TN 38105

B-B-Q Shop 1782 Madison Ave Memphis, TN 38104

Gus's Fried Chicken 310 S Front St Memphis, TN 38103

Bluff City Coffee 505 South Main Street, Memphis, TN

Aug 24, 2012
celstrial in Kentucky & Tennessee

Comments Welcome on My Hong Kong Restaurant Selections

I did take-out at Tim Ho Wan and loved it but hated myself for having to run to the airport... really try your best to eat in-house, IMO.

May 25, 2012
celstrial in China & Southeast Asia

Barcelona, Zaragoza, La Rioja, San Sebastian, Girona tour review!

This review is truly delayed (we went in Sept 2011), but I spent so much time researching on chow hound, I really wanted to return the favor. We went as a postponed honey moon and boy did we eat!! Please PM with any further questions.

Barcelona:
- El Quim de Boqueria: This is the "other" not as popular but I think tastier option to amazing dining on a stool in the Boqueria market. It was our first meal in Spain but one of the more memorable because it really captured the laid back nature of spanish cuisine, the freshness of ingredients and amazing seafood!!! Loved the wild mushrooms/seared foie/fried egg (AMAZING!), baby squid beautifully sautéed and gambas (prawns) sautéed shell off in a marsala wine sauce with garlic. eat them all!
- Alkimia: We did A LOT of tasting menus, so will try to do a good job of comparing within the city... in barcelona we felt this tasting menu was delicious in food, forward thinking in modern cuisine but lacking in service (especially of the 3 we did in barcelona). I think it's probably our 2nd favorite (behind Comerc and above Cinc sentits). The presentation level was high, beautiful dishes. It was my favorite mullet preparation, favorite squid as well. I only wish the service was at a higher level. Must do the tasting menu, I think it was the cheapest (eh, least expensive) of the 3.
- Cinc Sentits: We did this tasting menu for lunch, added the foie gras and steak -- the foie gras was my favorite in all of spain, just melts in your mouth amazing deliciousness. the service was phenomenal, attentive and best of the 3 tasting menus in barcelona. the rest of the menu was good but a little bit more on the traditional/straight forward, and as a couple we love love molecular cuisine. flavors were solid but we prefer thinking outside the box a bit more. not to say i couldn't come back!! just we had just amazing meals, this was worst of the best :)
- Comerc 24: we did the grand tasting here and completely were thrown off to the fact that they are actually japanese inspired spanish food! My husband loved comerc the most, probably because of the 3 we had, this was most "modern", most molecular and interesting - if thats what you're into. i felt they were the most inconsistent in terms of perfecting every dish - there were definitely hits and misses. the cod was over salted (inedible personally). but probably the most out there of cuisines. they also offer a wonderful bread/olive oil service which we loved.
- Can Mano: we spent 1 night in barceloneta at the W (which is a must!), and ran into this small hole-in-the-wall. I recognized the name from my countless hours of CH research and so glad we swung by. by far the cheapest meal and cheapest bottle of wine i had in spain. the seafood was fresh - almost caught that day probably. we had the fried sardines, the grilled sepia and sausages. loved the experience probably more than the food. a nice lunch spot.
- Tapas 24: really wish i had tried the other tapas spot in the quarter, but we were staying closer to tapas 24 and heard good things.. verdict is.. WINNER! we tried to order the menu. I could tell prices here probably were steeper than most tapas spots, but i think the finality lies in the quality of ingredient and flavors. everything we tasted was well seasoned and delicious. best papas we had in spain, the bikini can't be skipped. there was a wait (about 30 mins) but space is small.

Zaragoza: This was a pit-stop on the way to Logrono. it was sunday and there were thousands of locals in the streets that night for what we weren't sure... but we found this cute/homey spot close to the hotel that was worthy of mentioning. Ana Saz is owned by husband/wife couple, at 9pm was completely deserted and we asked if we could be seated and he said well... all tables were reserved.. at 9pm and empty! we were seated and 30 mins later, restaurant - packed. solid local cuisine, but nothing to write home about further than this.

La Rioja wine region:
Did a lot of research for the whole region and had an amazing time, just wish we didn't go on sunday/monday where most of the places we want to go to were closed.

-Calle de Laurel in Logrono: this is an absolute must go if you're even remotely nearby. the street comes alive after dusk and there are probably a hundred small pintoxo bars. you stroll along, looking for what fancies your taste buds. each bar has its "specialty" pinxto, some serve just 1 type. our favorites were the papa bravas pintxo bar and the champinion (mushroom) bar. such a great experience of the local culture and amazing food to boot.
-Fuenmayor, Meson Chuchi: So dinner was limited because we were there on Sun/Mon and everything was closed, but our hotel recommended this great, traditionally basque spot for dinner. They are well established in the area for cochinita - roasted suckling pig. oh boy was it perfect. I was served a suckling pig leg with the crispy skin atop, with a whole roasted garlic head and the pig jus. just so fulfilling!!! loved it.
-wineries: we loved Ysios for its amazing architecture alone, wine was good. Marques de riscal for both its architecture (of the hotel) and its amazing history. Marques was a fun winery tour, would def recommend.
-Marques de riscal restaurant: we had the more traditional restaurant for lunch one day. it was "alright" probably a let-down from all the amazing food we've had prior. again options were limited due to it being sunday. not sure i would eat here again.

-Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo. So no one really would venture out this way if not for this restaurant. The drive from La Rioja was absolutely breath taking and we would do that again, hands down. We arrived at 2pm in time for lunch. We enjoyed a 9 course tour of the grill expert of the world. The food was ALL ABOUT THE INGREDIENT. no bells, no whistles. just you and the best ingredient spain has to offer. we got to meet the sous chef after the meal who gave us a tour of the kitchen, which like the food was very simple.

San Sebastian:
-Mugaritz: This was our most expensive meal in spain, yet strangely enough, our most disappointing. I probably should have done more research into their cuisine and their philosophy. The chef recently did an interview here in the US and i got some more insight into how he thinks, but still won't bring my meal here to more light. Most of the savory dishes had a gelatinous texture that I couldn't overcome. Some dishes were over salted. Service was good, but I wish more detailed considering they're trying to make their food thought provoking - they should make more of an effort to explain it to us. oh well. try it and make your own opinion i guess.
- Akelarre: We went here for the lunch tasting, so we could catch the view of the beautiful ocean (recommended). What was most respected is that Akelarre's been doing this type of modern cuisine for >20 years! The food was delicious, the presentation was most amazing and perfect of all of our tasting menus. Service was amazing. Definitely deserving of 3 michelin stars, year after year. they know how to do it right. highly recommended.
- Pintxos: i was overally disappointed in the pintxo scene in san sebastian. i had high expectations. we even went to the spots that were highly recommended across the blogs.

Girona:
Our final spot of our trip, couldn't get into El Cellar Can Roca, so we we with a hotel recommendation
-Massana: Apparently the 2nd best restaurant in Girona behind El Cellar.. and we loved it! we opted for the tasting and everything was absolutely delicious. modern? probably not so much. but sometimes when it comes down to it, what we all strive for is just deliciously cooked food and respect to the ingredients, which Massana did both of. Highly recommended if you're in Girona and can't get into El Cellar :)

Thanks for reading. Please PM with any questions!

May 24, 2012
celstrial in Spain/Portugal

Wineries that serve lunch

Check out Mirabel's guide on La Rioja because she lists several bodega's that serve lunch. I went on Sunday/Monday and none of them were open.

http://maribelsguides.com/

Sep 25, 2011
celstrial in Spain/Portugal

Questions about Northern Spain

Thanks for your recommendations. We're so excited for our trip!

Jul 19, 2011
celstrial in Spain/Portugal

Questions about Northern Spain

Making a trip to Spain in early Sept. Had a few inquiries I haven't seen much about on the board.

1) Best seafood restaurants in Barcelona. Can be super casual, or even a good sit down place. I've seen La Paradeta which looks awesome. Or can I assume ALL places serve good fresh seafood?

2) Food recommendations in Zaragoza. We're driving from Barcelona to La Rioja and want to make a stop in Zaragoza for a night. Is there other towns on the way that would be more food driven?

Thanks!

Jul 16, 2011
celstrial in Spain/Portugal