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sanfrantransplant's Profile

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Anyone Using Bottarga?

The last time I was at Sola in Bryn Mawr they were doing a scallop dish that they shaved botarga over. That was about a month ago...not sure if it's still on their menu. It added a nice salty contrast to the sweetness of the scallop.

50% Verdad in Bryn Mar

I'm sorry... I've been to Verdad twice and it was god awfull both times... you couldn't give me a 95% off certificate to get me back in there. I'd rather pay full price at restaurant where I know I'll have a great meal.

BYOB Ranting

The owners of la Viola are from Albania. I would imagine that most of their staff is Albanian as well. I work with an Albanian who has eaten there which is how I know this. The accent can be a little challenging, but it's quite different from a Russian accent.

top 5 restaurants in san diego

Coming to San Diego for a few days and looking for the best places to eat. We are mainly looking for dinner and will have a car. Price is not a concern, but food quality is. We most enjoy chef-driven menus that show a bit of finesse. Thanks.

Jun 21, 2010
sanfrantransplant in San Diego

BYO

Alba has $10 corkage, but they now have a liquor license. Sola has $2, but provide high end stemware and the servers pour for you if you wish. Others in the burbs that come to mind are the new Gemili in Narberth and Kaya's in Havertown. Both have $3 corkage and pretty generic stemware.

Avril in Bala

Now a days, any chef worth his or her salt pickles their own onions, makes mostly their own components for their menu and purchases seasonal ingredients... that still doesn't mean it's good. I remember the radio ads for the old John Harvards Brew House... they would boast about making their own mayo from scratch... it doesn't mean I want to eat there. After my one awful meal there (which I wrote about on the other thread), they are off my list for good.

Main Line Chowhounds! Avril BYOB opening in Bala Cynwyd tonite!

We had dinner at Avril last night (Tuesday 9/8/09). After reading some of the other postings here on CH, we were not sure what to expect. We went into it hoping for a casual bistro experience and would’ve been very happy with that level of service and food. The room is really nice, very open and airy, very comfortable and decorated very well. We sat down a little after 8:00. There were two other duces in the restaurant, one finishing their meal and one just getting started.
We sat down and were given menus, and the server immediately began to pour tap water into our glasses. I had just glanced at the bottom of the menu and noticed that it said they had bottles of still & sparkling water available. My dining partner said, “we might want bottled water.” The server said, “Oh, we’re out of sparkling.” I asked what brand of still do you have … her reply was we’re out of still also and I don’t know what brand it is but I’ll check. She then filled my glass with tap water and went into the kitchen to check. We will usually get a bottle of still or sparkling depending on what brand it is… for instance we don’t like Panna or San Pellegrino but do like Saratoga. So, she came back with a bottle of still water and asked us if we wanted it (which was nice), but since we started drinking our tap water we decided to stick with it. Ok, no big deal. I’ve noticed though over time just from eating out at least one night a week over the last 4 years or so, that a bunch of little things tend to add up to something much larger later. You can begin to spot clues to a server’s training or a restaurant’s attention to detail based on how they handle these little things… Does a server ask a guest if they want still, sparkling or tap water upon greeting and seating them? Does the server know what brands of water they have to offer? Does the server actually know if they even have bottled water? The restaurant business is all about attention to details and training… especially for a restaurant that has only been opened a month.

So, on to the food… They were out of 2 appetizers, the fruit de mar & foie gras, as well as one “grand” plate (the red snapper). There was a shrimp substitution for the fruit de mar app and a salmon substitution for the snapper… nothing for the foie gras. We ordered the house salad with mustard-anchovy vinaigrette and the crab crespelle to start. The salad was completely over dressed to the point of being totally soggy and leaving a pool of oily vinaigrette on the plate and the crab was not presented as described on the menu. On the menu it was listed as a crab stuffed crepe with capers and asparagus gratin. Well, there were no capers and only 4 pieces of pencil thin asparagus draped across the crepe that was sitting in an ocean of cream. The cream totally covered the entire surface of the plate… Where were the capers? Where was the asparagus gratin? Again, little things and attention to detail.

Entrees were a chicken saltimbocca special for my dining partner and the rabbit “grand” plate for me. The server asked if we had any questions when we placed our order. I asked her to tell me about the rabbit dish. She explained it as being cooked medium rare and sliced on the plate with polenta and sautéed spinach. I asked if she was sure that it came that way because the menu said that it was braised in white wine with lavender and artichokes. I don’t know of any braised meat being served medium rare. But, she said they were changing a lot of things on the menu and that it might not be accurate. Ok, I went with the rabbit. The chicken special was ok… It was a little dried out and served with the worst polenta I’ve ever eaten (the same as was on my rabbit dish). It was baked and “crumbled” (the only word I can use to describe it) over the sautéed greens. Now, the star of the show was my rabbit dish. The plate had the same sautéed greens and polenta as the chicken, with the rabbit off to one side in a French onion soup crock (the kind of crock you would get at a dinner). It was not sliced, medium rare and did not even look like it was braised correctly. It was greasy and upon touching it with my fork completely mushed up into a crock of stringy dental floss. On top of that, there were no artichokes. I took a bite or two, but it was absolutely horrible. When the server came back to check I asked her if this was really the rabbit dish. She said it was… I asked what cut of meat was used to make it…leg, saddle, loin, etc… She said she didn’t know but would find out. She came back and told me that it was organic and what farm it came from. I asked again… not what farm, what cut of meat was it. Oh, she said, it’s the leg confit. I said, I’m sorry, but it’s really bad and I had ordered it because she told me it was cooked medium rare and sliced. She said she was sorry, but they were changing so many things on the menu and the chef/owner was not telling the service staff exactly what was changing. They had served it medium rare and sliced in the past… Even if it was a confit, I could have been happy with that, but a confit doesn’t turn to mush. It should be tender and rich flavored and fall off the bone, but it should retain some of its shape and texture. So, is it a braised dish, a leg confit, a loin roasted medium rare and sliced? The only thing I know is that it was not cooked correctly no matter what it was supposed to be.

The rabbit was taken off the bill and we did not stay for dessert. I don’t know, this all may sound harsh, but I’m so tired of spending my money for substandard food. Even if you are a casual bistro, get the basics right. Make a good salad vert, make a good confit or braise or whatever you want to call it. Have your menu accurately reflect what you are serving. Train your staff in the basic steps of service…all the little things that add up to one large whole. It doesn’t have to be super fancy… just good and enjoyable on whatever level you’re shooting for. I spent 6 months living and working in France. A lot of people think French food is ultra pretentious and fancy or is loaded with cream and butter. It’s really not, on the whole it is very simple and straight forward with clean, distinct flavors… a well dressed salad with a simple vinaigrette, a simply roasted chicken breast with crispy, golden skin. This restaurant is about as far away from anything French as it can be…

This is just my experience, and I certainly hope others have better luck.

What happened to Marigold Kitchen

We ate at the new Marigold Kitchen last night. The first thing that struck us as we walked in was an overwhelming aroma of really bad incense. It immediately gave me a headache almost like standing next to someone wearing a very large splash of patchouli or walking past the Yankee candle store. We asked our server if they were burning incense and she told us that two of the dishes are served with garnishes that are lit on fire. (one dessert with a burning cinnamon stick and a scallop entree with a burning sprig of rosemary.) We knew that we would be in for an interesting meal. In lieu of bread we were served parsnip frizzles. We then started off with appetizers of sardines with citrus salad and saffron nutmeg vinaigrette and also had pork belly with pickled carrots and fennel and grits. The flavor of the sardines were very nice and fresh, however we could not taste the saffron nutmeg vinaigrette. The pork belly was cooked very nicely, but a very small portion for $12. There were only two slices of pork belly less than an inch long and maybe a quarter of an inch thick. It wasn't quite worth it for $12. We then shared the sweet breads appetizer. I believe they were poached sous vide. They were probably the best thing we ate all night, although I generally prefer sweetbreads with a little more texture and a little crispier. For entrees I had the halibut with a consomme of tomato, basil pistou and baby artichokes. The halibut was very good, but there was only one large artichoke with it. My boyfriend had the red grouper which was good. It was served with a butternut squash short rib hash. We had two desserts: profiteroles, which were okay, certainly not the best I have had. They were served with a banana ice cream. The other dessert was a peach walnut strudel with what was called walnut ice cream, but was so overwhelmed by salt that you could not taste any other flavor at all. I understand the idea of adding salt to ice cream to enhance flavors, but this was so dominant that it ruined the dessert. Lastly, I should comment on the noise level of the room. One of the dangers of dining in University City is that you never knowb when the restaurant is going to be taken over by two large parties (one 10 and one 8) of giggly, gallon jug of wine toting Penn girls. I really don't understand how they have expensive designer purses like Chanel, Longchamps, Gucci, etc., but the wine they brought in is the cheapest wine you can fine in the liquor store: a gallon jug of Livingston, several 2 liter bottles of Yellowtail, etc. Once they got settled into the room, the noise level was ear piercing and sounded like a flock of wayward geese. Our server, however was very nice and gave good service. All and all it was an ok to good meal. I think they are trying to be a bit too avant garde for their own good. The food overall is a bit too composed for my tastes (like brussel's sprouts lined up in a checker board pattern on the grouper dish). I get the whole dinner as art thing and appreciate it when done well... but the meal on a whole fell a little flat and we probably won't be heading back.

Need a restaurant that won't turn our table (Philly 'burbs)

Where ever you decide to go, just be honest and ask some questions when making the reservation. For instance, if you're going to a small restaurant on a weekend, chances are if they are at all popular they are going to turn the table. It usually helps if you take a later reservation like 8:00 or 8:30. Most likely they will not have another reservation coming in on your table after that. Also, if you are going during the week, most restaurants are a little slower and maybe will only have one seating for the evening no matter what time you come in. Just ask what the policy is when you make the res. In my experience, most good restaurants will give at least 2.5 hours for a larger party.

Two New Restaurants in Bryn Mawr

you are correct, at the time of my post, the news had not broke in the inquier... good pick up on the open table... Honestly, from everything i've heard about blush (both from guests & employees) I'm shocked they hung in as long as they did.

Two New Restaurants in Bryn Mawr

Agree with everything you said, except Blush is not closed...

Two New Restaurants in Bryn Mawr

I beg to differ... mediterranean is not Greek... it is Persian... big difference

Keffir / Kefir Lime Leaves???

They currently have them at food source in bryn mawr... i just bought some 2 days ago...

PHL - Ansill closed, maybe permanently, AAARGH

I know ansill gets much love on this board, but I'm not surprised to hear that it has closed. The first 4 or 5 times we were there it was good to very good. Over the last year & a half the quality level has dipped way down. So far down in fact that about 8 months ago (the last time we were there),/ they were out of 4 different bottles of wine we ordered and 3 or 4 menu items. The waiter actually told us they did not have enough money to pick up the wine/beer order. Crazy, I know... but true. The food we did have was way off, and at that point my wife & i put ansill on our death watch list. I'm surprised it has taken this long to tell the truth.

Alba's announces $7.00 corkage fee

What you have to realize is that Alba is no longer a BYOB in the traditional sense. They now have a liquor license. They allow you to still bring your own bottle as a service and an added bonus to their guests who have joined them in the past. I think a $7 corkage fee is a gift. People don’t realize what an investment a liquor license is. You have the cost of the license itself, the inventory to stock the list, and all the insurance the state requires you to pay in case some idiot gets drunk at your restaurant, kills someone in a car crash on the way home and then sues you for letting them drink so much. (that’s a whole other story about personal responsibility) The point is, it’s a huge expense, which is why MOST restaurants don’t even allow you to bring your own bottle if they sell wine. Every bottle you bring is one you don’t buy from the restaurant, which basically causes them to lose revenue. They could sell your seat to someone who would buy wine from them. It’s not about being greedy, it’s about covering their costs and staying in business.

And as far as a corkage fee at a true BYOB… if they have great stemware ie. proper glasses for red, white, champagne, and dessert wine… not to mention decanters, I don’t mind paying a dollar or two. I’ve been to some byob's where they serve all their wine in glasses bought for $2 each at IKEA. I don’t want to drink my good wine out of a little dixe cup sized wine glass. Most people recognize this for the service it is and don’t complain about it. What’s a few extra dollars for a nice evening? People say restaurants are petty for charging a corkage… I say the people who gripe about it are cheap. It’s a hard business with not much return for your work (traditionally 5% profit on a well run business). Lucky for all of us that there are many choices out there for everyone… those of us discriminating and those of us not.

Main Line Chowhounds: Advice on Lourdas Greek Taverna?

I second the last post... it was really bad the time I was there also. I know it's a very small laid back place, but they just don't do it right. All the flavors are very dull and lifeless. One thing i remember, we had a laugh at the dessert selection... baklava, baklava cheesecake, & baklava icecream... that was all. I know it's Greek, but come one... there have to be a few other things people eat for dessert in Greece.

Spring Mill Cafe in Conshohocken - any recent experiences/opinions?

We ate at Spring Mill Cafe about a year ago... it was quite possibly one of the worst meals we've EVER had out. Just to put it into perspective...we eat out once a week, every week for the last 3 years. It's a reward for a hard weeks worth of work. We've had some really bad meals across the board (also some very good ones), and this one is very close to the top of the list. First of all, very small limited menu when we were there consisted of 6 apps, 3 of which were pate. One duck, one chicken liver and one sampler. the other apps were a pork riette sp? (almost the same thing), a green salad and escargot. The server told us the pate wasn't even made in house. i went with snails... like $12 for 5 snails in a garlic-parsley sauce... no joke. All raw garlic... no other flavor could ever survive in that sea of garlic. Mains were a steak and a Moroccan layered dish called a bistaillia with phyllo dough and the worst dried out chunks of something that in a past life usto be chicken... It was worse than eating cardboard. Again... no joke. Server did not even ask why we ate almost nothing. They were out of 3 things on a small dessert menu, so we skipped it all together. One other weird thing. The chefs came out of the kitchen (2 of them anyway) and cleared plates and bussed the table wearing dirty chef coats, no aprons and jeans... it was a strange, sloppy site to behold. All and all we felt like even though it was so bad, we managed to get a great story out of it. And over the last year we have enjoyed talking about it. However, I would never go there again even if someone I hated was paying for the meal... it was just SO bad.

Henry's Cafe in Pottstown

I'm almost positive cafe mosaic has been closed for well over a year, before the recession even hit.

maia in villanova closed?

I just called the restaurant to see what the real story is... they told me the upstairs is now only open on Fri & Sat with a prix fixe menu and the downstairs is open as normal... I don't really know what's going on there, but the guy I know said they let a lot of staff go on saturday and there is some problem with the lease. I will say, that is not a good sign in either case

maia in villanova closed?

a friend of mine who works/worked there tells me last night (sat 14th.) was their last evening for business... anyone else heard anything?

A La Maison - BYOB - Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore

I say don't be a lemming over the cliff... go and see for yourself, make up your own mind. Who knows if any of these people even know what they are talking about... i.e. the good or bad reviews. It's all frame of reference and expectation. I've eaten at places I thought were the absolute WORST only to have others rave over them. I suspect it's like that for most places. Who knows which door you're behind...

Mercato ?

talk about close quarters... at Chloe you could reach over and pluck something off of the plate of the person sitting at the table next to you without even moving your chair. I would not recommend them as a proposal restaurant. By the way, last time I was there I had a big piece of tin foil and a long hair in my food. Upon telling the server, i did not even get an "I'm sorry". I was'nt expecting anything like a free dessert, but an apology would've been nice.

Funky Lil Kitchen

I had one of the worst meals of my life there... I was served spoiled rotten fish. The server NEVER came back to the table to check on us. The person I was dining with had finished their whole meal by about 15 minutes when the table next to us mentioned to our server that she might want to check on us. This was after a good 25 minutes of trying to make eye contact and doing a crane neck back to the open kitchen area of the restaurant. When the server did come to the table, she told me I must be wrong... they never serve bad fish. I insisted it be returned to the kitchen... she then came back with her tail between her legs and said that the chef agreed with me. (of course he did... it was rancid!). I have honestly never had anything close to this happen to me in any other restaurant. Had the server checked back within the first five minutes, it would've been no big deal... as it was, I ended up not eating a meal with my partner. I don't doubt that others have had good meals there... but you'll never get me back in that place again

Kaya's Fusion Cuisine

We had a very, very uninspired meal there about 2 weeks ago. My biggest pet peeve is when restaurants are out of dishes listed on the menu. I'm not talking about when I take a 9:30 reservation on a saturday night... I expect that if a restaurant orders fresh daily they may be out of some things at the end of a busy night. I'm talking about a 7:00 reservation on a tuesday. They have 7 apps. When we sat down they were out of 5... literally, they were out of more than they had... and also, they were out of a few entrees. On a very limited menu, it makes for extremely limited choices. By the way, one thing they were out of was hummus. Is it to much trouble to go 4 blocks to the Head Nut and buy some chick peas and tahinni? I feel when a restaurant is out of so many things on a slow day it's a sign of a lazy and poorly organized kitchen or that they don't have enough money to order what they need. In either case, I don't really know if I want to eat there. As for the food: I settled on a crab bisque which was as thick as wall paper paste and loaded with shells. So many in fact that when the server came to take my plate away she commented on all the shells and went back to the kitchen and complained to the chef/cook. I only know this because we heard her from our table (we were the only ones in the restaurant). She came back and said, "Yeah, when I ate some of the soup eariler I had a lot of shells too... we have a new guy working in the kitchen and he must not know how to wash the crabmeat." For entrees, we had the crab cake entree and a duck breast entree. Both tasted good, and the duck was cooked med. rare the way I ordered it. The only thing I didn't like was apparently someone in the kitchen has discovered the joy of squeeze bottles. Both dishes were blanketed with multi-colored squiggles all over the plate, out to the rim. It looked like the circus was in town and a clown decorated the plates. Neither one of us could even eat our food without getting sauce on our hands and wrists... The meal simply lacked anything close to finesse. The last thing that annoyed us was that they charge a $3.00 corkage fee. I don't mind a corkage fee if the restaurant has nice stem wear. The Orchard charges $5.00 a bottle, Sola charges $2.00 a bottle, but both have high end glasses for red and white wine and swap them out for you. Kaya's only has one generic wine glass. I object to a corkage fee under those circumstances.

Le Bec Fin - one less star

just a typo, I meant to say my pork was ordered medium rare... and showed up well done.

Le Bec Fin - one less star

Honestly, I'm not at all surprised by your post... my last meal at le bec fin was made up of food served on chiped plates, pork tenderloin that was ordered medium well showing up at the table well done, dry as a bone, and waiters who should barely be working at a used car lot much less a (at the time) 5 star restaurant. I think he gave that star away before they took it away (again).

your thoughts on simon pearce?

passerelle has long since closed and been replaced with pond/bistro cassis. As far as simon pearce goes... last i knew the chef there was a guy named barry sexton (this was a few years back), and the food was in no way worth the drive out there. For example... sesame crusted tuna with the obligatory Asian sides... wasabi ponzu whatever... soy mango glaze cliche something or another. The restaurant itself is nice and if you can get a table by the window it is a beautiful view. You feel like you're suspended over the river. Honestly though, the view at waterworks from the outside patio is just a good if not better. One thing about taquet, the chef clark gilbert just left. I don't know if they've replaced him with someone better or worse, but it may be a different experience since last time you were there.

Little Fish, Philadelphia Pa

your review sounds very nice... we've been to little fish and were very impressed... one question though... what exactly is a "culinary" foam?

French Restaurant in Green Hills, PA???

The Green Hills Inn is what passes for "french" food in Reading. The menu hasn't changed in about 20 years and it is the typical cliche french food that everyone hates... huge amounts of butter and cream, all fish and meat totally soaked in sauce and absolutly no finesse in presentation or cooking technique. Many, many years ago it was a nice place, ranked up there with Joe's as Reading's two best restaurants. Now, after years of neglect and a static menu, it's definitly not worth it in my opinion. You're better off at any number of BYOB's or restaurants in the philly area.

Root

We ate at Root on sunday the 4th. evening they were open for business. After reading the blurb in Klien's blog we were worried we would'nt be able to get a table, so we made an 8:00 reservation. As it turned out, we were the only ones there. The inside of the restaurant is sparce but in a way inviting, clean looking in form and with an urban feel... nice wooden table tops. The server was very nice as was the chef who greeted us as we walked in. I'm not going to say anything negative about our experience other than that I was disapointed they were out of an octopus app. that I would've liked to have ordered. I guess it's a pet peeve of mine when restaurants "86" things. I can understand it more if the place is packed and I take a late reservaion. I'd rather have a restaurant run out of something by 9:00 on a friday night and start fresh for the next day's service. But, this was only their fourth day opened, and I wouldn't expect them to be out of anything so early on. Other than that, lets just say there are some bugs to be worked out and leave it at that. I can't in good faith slam a place that has only been open 4 days. This is someone's business, most likely their dreams and a lot of money are on the line here. They're trying to make a go of it... so I'll suspend judgement for now and try them again in about 6 months. On thing we ate that was really good was the tartar trio and the bread that was served with along with it. I'm interested to hear anyone else's experience.