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Coyote Crossing: Guilty of mediocrity

Coyote Crossing: Guilty of mediocrity

Category: Mexican

Address: 800 Spring Mill Avenue, Conshohocken, PA 19428

Ratings: Food: 5, Service: 2, Ambience: 10, Plating: 7, Overall Impression: 5

Recommendation: Good.  I am probably going to gain some enemies on this posting.  Coyote Crossing is a fun place to sit and drink margaritas on a warm night, but the biggest problem is that you will be doing too much sitting and waiting.  While you may not notice or care when the weather is hot and your drinking with friends, it just is not acceptable for it to take over an hour for food to arrive.  With service being atrocious, and appetizers being bad drunk food at best, the entrées and ambience salvaged this restaurant from an “average” to a “good” (just barely) rating.

On one of the first warm days of spring, Bill, his two roommates, and I decided to go to Coyote Crossing.  Inside was packed with the happy hour crew, but outside was almost empty as you can see by the picture on the right.  When we were seated, it took a long time for someone to come over and bring us waters.  It took about another ten minutes for our waitress to come over to introduce herself.  We were informed that the margaritas are made with Sauza tequila, so Bill wanted to upgrade to the higher quality tequila.  The four of us split a pitcher of what was supposed to be mango margarita made with patron.  The margarita arrived and it was clear in color.  We took this as a pretty good indication that there was no mango in the drink, which you can easily see this in the upper quadrant of the picture on the left.

To remedy the situation, our waitress brought out the mango juice and poured it into our individual cups and into the pitcher.  This was a terrible solution.  The drink tasted like mango for about the first twenty minutes and then diluted back to tasting like a slightly strange tasting regular margarita. (rating: 2).  I do appreciate that we each had about 2 glasses from the pitcher.  The price of the pitcher for Sauza is $35, but with the patron it is $50, which is definitely still reasonable for eight glasses of margarita.  Margaritas at Coyote Crossing are reasonable; you can get the cheapest one for $8.

When our waitress originally came to get our drink order, we also placed two appetizer orders.  Bill order the guacamole for $7 and the table decided to share the Botanas for Two appetizer for $10.  The guacamole, pictured on the left, was weak.  I was very disappointed; while the guacamole was creamy, it had no flavor, but yet managed to be spicy (rating: 2).  I also found the chips to be too hard and lacking salt.  A mexican restaurant really should make their own chips.  The pica de gallo was fresh, but had an overwhelming cilantro taste.  I would have preferred if they let the tomato be the star instead of covering it with cilantro.  The Botanas for Two was a medley of disasters.  The Botanas appetizer, pictured on the right, included a vegetable burrito, duck and mango quesadillas, a jalapeno popper, chicken flautas, and two empanadas, one with beef and one vegetable.  The amount of food was generous for $10, but unfortunately, rather disappointing.  To start, the empanadas were signficantly overcooked and dried out.  The chicken flautas reminded me of food you find in the frozen isle of a supermarket.  It had little taste and no visible chicken.  The jalapeno popper made no sense on a platter meant for sharing; it was bland, had no spice, and boring.  The veggie burrito was fried, so it had a nice crunch to it, but the table was underwhelmed by the lack of vegetables inside the burrito and the chewiness of the dough inside the burrito.  The mango and duck quesadilla was the best part of the appetizer.  I liked the salty and sweet combination, but the flavors could have been enhanced with a little spicing and a more generous amount of duck in the quesadilla (rating: 3).  Honestly, I would recommend skipping all appetizers.  Everything on this dish was either fried or an overdose of carbohydrates.  It was an attempt at drunk food that failed miserably and left me wishing I did not waste the calories.  Do not fret if you skip the appetizers, the entrées were huge.

Once we finished our appetizers, we waited for over an hour for the entrées.  It started to get chilly and the fun of sitting outdoors and waiting forever for food started to deteriorate.  We went through over two bowls of tasteless chips waiting for our dinners.  It is unfortunate because I was nearly full after waiting that long for food.  Once dinner arrived, the general consensus was that the food was a large improvement over our appetizers.  The entrées were a far cry from the disregarded slop that was served as appetizers.  Even though the food was good, it was certainly not worth the excessive wait.

Bill ordered the Puntas Chipotle for $26, which is pictured on the left.  The entrée came with tenderloin tips marinated in Mexican spices, sautéed in a homemade chipotle sauce served with fresh corn tortillas, rice, and refried beans.  The corn tortillas were unnecessary and a waste.  The presentation shows effort, but the chipotle sauce, cheese, and beef inevitably did not look very enticing.  However, the food was better than it looked.  The beef was cooked well, but a little chewy.  I think the chipotle sauce mixed with the cheese made the dish.  The sauce had a slight zest and tastes almost like a creamy tomato sauce.  How could you not enjoy cheese, meat, and a creamy sauce?  For a mexican place, this was a solid dish.  As far as the rice and beans, I would skip them.  The rice was dried out and flavorless, while the beans had the consistency of dust (rating: 6).  This was a good dish, but was overpriced for a place like Coyote Crossing.

I love fajitas; I order them often, but they are relatively hard to ruin.  Therefore, I decided to go with the waitresses recommendation and try the Chicken and Chorizo Fried Burrito, which is pictured on the right.  This entrée was gigantic and only $20.  The leftovers fed both Bill and I the following night.  I was satisfied with the Burrito.  It was a fresh flour burrito filled with sautéed chicken and chorizo, black bean puree & Chihuahua cheese and quickly fried. This dish again used the homemade chipotle sauce and had drizzled sour cream, both of which complimented each other and the burrito very well.  Although the burrito had a nice taste and had a lot of chicken inside, I felt there could have been more chorizo.  There was also a lot of tortilla, which I know is the fatal flaw of the burrito in general.  My biggest problem with the dish though was again the worthless rice. Overall though a hearty and well-balanced dish (rating: 7).

The first nice night of spring I always want to go to Coyote Crossing.  Unfortunately, the warm day turned into a breezy night.  It took a less than warm night for me to comprehend the poor service at Coyote Crossing.  While at past visits the service had been just as lousy, it seems more bearable when the weather is cooperating. Additionally, I would hate to be eating at Coyote Crossing on a night where the outside was packed as well as the inside.  You might never receive your food!  I realize that many mexican restaurants are not frequented because of their food quality but because of their drinks and entertainment, therefore, if you are looking for a fun place to drink reasonable margaritas in the summer, Coyote Crossing is a fun place.  If you are in the mood for traditional, well-cooked mexican food that does not take hours to make, I would recommend going elsewhere.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Mexican

 

Harmless error: One bad dish at Mica won’t tip the scales

Harmless error: One bad dish at Mica won’t tip the scales

Category: Fine dining; American

Address: 8609 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118

Ratings: Food: 7, Service: 10, Ambience: 7, Plating: 9, Overall Impression: 8

Recommendation: Very good.  While service was friendly and organized, plating was thoughtful, intriguing, and a few times made the dish look better than it tasted.  Other then one disaster, the food at Mica tastes great, but portions are on the small side for the price.  Mica is not for the unadventurous eater.

As many of you know, Blackfish is one of Philadelphia’s most acclaimed restaurants and a reason for foodies to venture from the city to the suburbs.  No matter your feelings about Blackfish, Chef Chip Roman, the owner of that restaurant, is at it again.  Chef Roman is attempting to duplicate the success of Blackfish in his brand new restaurant Mica.  Mica, which you can find in Chestnut Hill, just opened on March 18, 2011.

To my delight, Bill surprised me with reservations at Mica on March 26; literally the restaurant had only been open for eight days.  When you arrive at Mica, give yourself an extra few minutes to find parking.  Due to its location, Mica has none of its own parking.  I recommend trying to find meter parking down one of the side streets, otherwise there are lots, which you can park in for under $10.

As you can see from the above picture, Chef Roman looks like he converted an old townhouse into a restaurant.  The truth is that Mica replaces Cuba, so the restaurant-to-restaurant conversion apparently consisted of painting walls and hanging different pictures.  Nevertheless, the old home feeling continues when you enter.  The entire eating area of the restaurant looks like what use to be a family room.  There is a fireplace, crown molding, and worn wood floors that are nowhere near level.  Our table wouldn’t stop rocking! The walls are painted a soothing blue; I really like the homey feel that Mica portrays.  It is an interesting feel for a fine dining restaurant, but with no dress code, it seems that Chef Roman was hoping to allow patrons to experience fine dining in their jeans.

There are exactly ten tables in Mica; which allows seating for only thirty people.  Most of the tables are for two, so it may be easier to secure a reservation if you dine with only one other person.  Since Mica was completely booked, the compactness of the restaurant makes those dining feel as if they have the golden ticket; people feel important when they have hard to come by reservations.  The thing is, it is not as hard to sell out a restaurant when there are such a minimal number of seats; it is much more indicative of a restaurant’s success when it is quite large and still full.  Another warning, the restaurant got very loud, perhaps because of the tight quarters.  If you have a large party, Mica offers a chef’s table in another room that seats eight that offers a seven course tasting menu.

I enjoyed the intimate dining that Mica employs.  Your server is very attentive, which he can be because he does not have to worry about caring for many tables.  Bill and I had ample chances to discuss our dishes with our waiter, William, and as you will see below, at one point the current chef.  Also, I appreciated that the general manager came over and shook our hands; everyone was very friendly and nothing was forced.  While the waiter sometimes could have been more knowledgeable about all the components in a dish, he quickly found out an answer from the chef.

Unlike Blackfish, Mica has a liquor license, or better said, will soon have a liquor license.  When we were seated, we were informed that Mica was a BYOB temporarily until the liquor license was official.  This was not a huge problem, there is a wine store less than a block away.  I did take issue that Mica charged a $5 corking fee.  I think that is really nickel and diming customers, especially when the BYOB is just a temporary solution. The only other issue here is that I cannot speak to the depth or progressiveness of Mica’s beverage and wine menu.

Mica’s menu divides the food options into four parts with one of the sections being devoted to dessert.  As William informed us, Mica celebrates local ingredients; the menu changes frequently to incorporate what is in season and what Chef Roman finds in the area.  You can either have three dishes for $40 or four dishes for $50.  Mica also gives the adventurous diner the option to experience a Chef’s tasting menu with five or seven dishes at $70 and $90 respectively.  Bill and I opted for the seven dish chef tasting.  Our meal was completely in the hands of Chef Jason Cichonski, the former executive chef of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, who will be helping temporarily while Mica gets started.

Once we ordered, William brought out water in what looked similar to an old milk bottle.  It was nice because I drink a lot of water and we did not have to wait for the waiter to come refill our drinks.  No matter what amount of dishes you choose, your meal with begin with bread and an amuse-bouche.  The bread itself was uneventful.  A little hard and nothing adventurous, but the butter was star here.  The butter had gratings of cheese in it that added extra salt and an interesting flair.

The amuse-bouche, compliments of the chef, is pictured on the right.  Starting on the right, there was a jelly with fennel seeds on top, then a porcini puff, and finally, a pear tartare. In the nature of amuse-bouches, everything on the plate was just a bite.  The jelly was on the tart side, and not really enjoyable, but it did cleanse the palate.  The porcini puff was creamy and the pear tartare was very crunchy and refreshing.  I am not sure how the three of these miniature tastings went together, but it wakes up your palate and starts dinner off on an interesting foot.  Plus, who doesn’t like free food.  (Rating: 6).

Our first course was a salmon dish, which is pictured on the left.  This dish was featured in the first section of the menu.  Fans of Blackfish will recognize this dish from that menu, but without the fried egg.  The dish contained salmon that was smoked twelve hours on applewood, mustard seed crisps, and sun-choked puree.  I thought this was a good dish to start off the tasting.  It was light, refreshing, and had a very intriguing presentation. As you can hopefully see from my picture, the dish was served in what looked kind of like a fishbowl turned on its side.  As far as flavor, I enjoyed the salmon and the mustard seed crisps.  I found the seeds to contribute a little spice to the dish.  The crunch of the seeds also was a necessary part to the dish, otherwise it would not have had enough texture.  The only thing I did not love about the dish was the sun-choked puree.  Although it was healthy, as it was actually made with parsnip, it just had a mayo taste and consistency.  I think it was too heavy and kind of overwhelmed the salmon.  I would still recommend this dish though as a first section option, as it was very good if you proportioned the mayo.  (Rating: 5).  I also recommend it from the first section because it is probably the most normal.  The other notable option from the first section was sea urchin, which honestly I have tried elsewhere and makes me shudder.

The second course was a Chawanmushi, which is pictured on the right.  This is my first time experiencing chawanmushi.  Apparently, a chawanmushi is a japanese dish made of egg custard that uses ginkgo seeds.  This particular version had whiskey and cucumber in it.  When this dish was put in front of me, I was reasonable excited.  It looked appetizing, a nice helping of lobster on what looked to be a creamy cold soup.  Well my visual impression was definitely wrong.  The lobster on top was fine; it was a generous portion.  The liquid underneath was a disaster when it came to taste and consistency.  It did not resemble a custard; honestly its color reminded me of phlegm and its consistency looked like curdled yogurt.  As far as the taste, it was off-putting; it was all over the place.  I really had to gag it down and only was able to eat about half.  I really should have sent it back for something else.  I hope Chef Roman will wise up and takes it off the menu.  I thought maybe I was just being sensitive to the whiskey, but Bill did not like it and the guy at the next table over was disgusted with the dish as well.  Do yourself a favor and pass on this dish.  I really never want to think about this dish again. (Rating: 1).

Thankfully, the third dish really bounced the meal back on track.  The third dish was scallops, hearts of palm, celery, white chocolate powder, and apricot sauce.  This dish was my favorite of the night and as you can see in the picture on the left, the presentation was lovely and colorful.  The scallops were melt in your mouth and looked very similar to the hearts of palm without the sear, so if you weren’t paying attention could have a soft bite or a crunchy bite.  The white chocolate powder and apricot sauce were very original and complemented the scallops perfectly.  At first I could not place the white chocolate powder.  It looked like confectioners sugar, but I knew it wasn’t that because it was not sweet enough.  This was a delicious dish and I recommend ordering this; like the last two dishes, it was on the regular menu.  Bill would have licked his plate if I let him.  (Rating: 10).

The fourth dish was the biggest treat of the night.  I say it is the biggest treat because Chef Jason, who actually cooked the meal, came out to personally deliver it to us.  Chef Jason explained that the dish, pictured on the right, was brook trout.  It was cooked with fennel and served with black olives, puffed wild rice, and regatta.  Apparently, Chef Roman’s son had caught the trout the day before and Chef Roman brought it in to use in this dish.  So while this dish was excellent, it will probably not be on the menu if you go to Mica. I enjoyed this dish because of the numerous textures and it was relatively simple but well-executed.  The trout was cooked perfectly and had a nice crust on the bottom from the pan.  The regatta was very sweet and smooth; it was a nice contrast to have with the crunch of the olives and the puffed wild rice.  Everything on this dish tasted good on its own and tasted great mixed together.  I think it showed the chef’s skill to execute a simple dish so beautifully.  (Rating: 10).

The fifth dish, which is pictured on the left, was Parisian gnocchi with chicken skin, english peas, and foie gras.  Parisian gnocchi is different from normal italian potato version; the dough is quickly boiled then baked with cheese, producing airy mouthfuls.  Foie gras is made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened.  Normally people avoid foie gras.  Many avoid it because they do not what it is; others know what it is and just assume it will be gross.  Take a chance and try it; here at Mica, it had a very mild taste.  It isn’t the most pleasing color, but then again neither is guacamole and look how wonderful that tastes.  The gnocchi was very good; the balls were doughy, but smaller than normal gnocchi, which I liked.  The sauce was subtle and the chicken skin was awesome.  It tasted like salty croutons. (Rating: 8 ).

The sixth dish, was probably the best presentation of the night.  The dish was lamb two ways, which you can see in the picture on the right.  The piece of lamb near the bottom of the picture was lamb belly.  The piece above it with the vegetables was lamb loin.  The lamb was served with a peanut mole sauce, baby carrots, red peppers, and an english peas and barley mixture.  I liked the color on this dish and how the mole was presented.  I enjoyed the lamb loin more than the lamb belly.  While both were tender and cooked perfectly, the lamb belly was more fatty.  Overall, another simple dish, but good flavors.  The peanut mole was not something I would serve with lamb, but it went well together.  This is a dish that you could try off the regular menu. (Rating: 7).

The seventh course is the dessert pictured on the left.  The dish was fun; it was frozen shredded mango with black seeds on top of a coconut puree.  The mango tasted like a sherbet.  The coconut puree was a little surprise under the mango; it was creamy and I could have eaten just that for dessert.  I would say that this dish was very good and a refreshing ending to the meal, but I wish they would have given Bill and me two different desserts so we could have had some variety. This was a solid dessert though and is on the menu.  If you are unsure which dessert to try from the three choices, this dessert had very clean flavors and cleansed the palate nicely. (Rating: 7).

Phew, that was a lot of food to discuss!  I enjoyed my experience at Mica.  The dishes looked beautiful and the service was impressive, especially considering only eight days had passed since opening night.  While dinner was not hurried or quick, each tasting was timed perfectly.  It was like there was a stopwatch in the kitchen. The food was original, if not unusual at some points.  Overall, we had a good meal.  I rated it very good, because I would hate to have one bad dish ruin the image portrayed by me about this restaurant.  The food is enjoyable, but not for the unadventurous.  With the likes of sea urchin, foie gras, and other creative elements, this is probably not a good choice for those of you that prefer more simple or normal dishes.

One last thought; Mica does not provide a lot of food for the price.  We had the largest tasting menu, and although I was not hungry afterwards, I would not say that I was stuffed.  The couple next to me ordered three dishes for the wife and four for the husband and left hungry.  The portions are very small, so I would know this going in so you are not disappointed.  I would suggest not going into a meal at Mica super hungry, or at least consider doing the smaller tasting of five dishes so you can have a little more food.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2011 in American, Fine dining

 

Full disclosure on Matador

Full disclosure on Matador

Category: Spanish, Mexican, Tapas

Address: 110 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, PA 19087

Ratings: Food: 6, Service: 9, Ambience: 8, Plating: 8, Overall Impression: 7

Recommendation: Very good.  The food is reasonable and creative, while the presentation is anything but dull.  The drinks are pricey across the board and generally not worth it.  Matador has a fun atmosphere with great late night hours.

On Friday night, a group of 6 of us went to Matador in Wayne.  The restaurant only opened in January and is doing a killing of a business.  We walked in the door at around 10:30 pm and the entire downstairs was still packed.  Matador goes all out for its decor; when you walk in you can’t help but notice the floor to ceiling paintings of bull fighting on the left and a wonderful bar on the right that looks ancient.  As you walk up the staircase you enter a room with curtains leading to a tequila bar and gigantic wine cabinets.  At Matador, if you ignore the mass amount of people, it has the feel of being invited to the home of a wealthy Latin American.

When we arrived at Matador, we were told that we could be seated immediately if we were seated upstairs.  The hostess disappeared to clean the table, and was gone for oddly long.  We had a few servers come up and ask if we were being helped, and what appeared to be the manager, but we could only say that the hostess went to check on our table.  This was the only flaw in the service at Matador.

When we finally were seated, our waiter came over instantly.  I liked him very much; he was upbeat, friendly, and kind of goofy.  I enjoyed being upstairs because it avoided the craziness that was downstairs.  My friends and I could all talk and be goofy without having the interference of other tables surround us.

Once we were seated, we ordered guacamole for the table.  The guacamole is made tableside, which is always a great touch.  From the picture on the right you can see our waiter having some fun while making the guacamole.  He definitely added to the experience of eating at Matador.  Once the guacamole was finished we devoured it.  The waiter had no problems bringing refills on the chips, but the baskets are too small.  Everytime he came to our table we needed a refill.  Everyone commented on the chips.  They were delicious, extra crunchy, and salty. (Rating: 10).  As far as the guacamole, since it is made tableside, it is very unpredictable.  We had two orders of guacamole; the one we started with was very creamy, but it was missing a punch of flavor. (Rating: 6).  The second order was made tableside by another waiter.  This one was just absolutely perfect.  It was still extremely smooth, but it has a little more lime and the salt was now detectable. (Rating: 10).  So that goes to show you that while the guacamole will always be good, sometimes it will be incredible.

The non-guac lovers at the table ordered a side of pico de gallo.  It was very mild; a good option for those that cannot handle any spice.  I like things on the mild side, but it needed some zest that could have made it more of an interesting dip.  It just tasted like tomatoes and onions.  (Rating: 5).

Once the chips and dips were served we ordered our drinks.  I got the top-shelf margarita.  It was made with Patron and was $15 instead of the normal $10 margarita.  It was good, but a little watered down.  I did not order another, and not because I wasn’t thirsty.  Bill got a margarita with papaya and habanero in it; I was surprised by the absence of spice.  Both of our margaritas are pictured on the left.  I found the margaritas were lacking in taste; I also think the margaritas were too pricey.  There usually is an option for a margarita under $10 at most mexican places, which I thought was a minus that Matador lacked that option.  There was also a margarita on the menu called the Bizilionare for $90.  What!!!  Really, show me the person that would spend $90 for a margarita in Wayne!  This is not AC or NYC.  I found this totally absurd.  For a better margarita that is more reasonable, go to Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken.  (Drinks Rating: 5).

As much as the drinks were unimpressive, the meal took a turn for the better once the tapas started to roll out.  Like other tapas restaurants, at Matador, there is no rhyme or reason to which tapas will come out first and sometimes you will be a bit overloaded with food.

The menu has a mix of spanish and mexican influence.  The tapas area of the menu is split into 4 sections: meat, fish, vegetables, and chicken.  Bill and I split three tapas, all of which came from the meat section of the menu.  Bill is certainly a meat lover.  The first thing that arrived was the Chorizo Fundido.  This dish was melted tequila scented chihuahua cheese with chorizo and soft tortillas.  In case you did not know, chorizo is pork.  This dish was basically a bowl of cheese with specs of chorizo in it.  This dish tasted fine but it was unexciting.  It was very bland and felt more like a snack we would make in college with bits of chicken instead of chorizo. (Rating: 3).

The next dish we had was the Flautas de Puerco.  This was pulled pork in a crisp flour tortilla with a smoked jalapeno cream on top.  As you can see on the right, this dish had a nice presentation and a lovely plate.  The cream though was very spicy!  I do not recommend this dish unless you like spicy.  The pulled pork was very flavorful and I enjoyed it despite the heat. (Rating: 7).

The final dish that we split was the Cordero Rellano, which is pictured on the left.  This dish was lamb chops stuffed with herbed goat cheese, and a romesco sauce.  Romesco is a red pepper pesto-like mixture that is made from almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, and nyora peppers, which are a smaller, sweet, dried variety of red bell pepper.  This was my favorite of the three dishes that I ordered. When you cut into the ball, the goat cheese explodes everywhere.  The herbed cheese was creamy and the herbs really brought out the cheese flavor.  It was an orginal dish and was fun to eat. My one comment is that even though the goat cheese was wonderful, and the lamb was cooked a perfect medium-rare, the goat cheese overwhelmed the lamb. If you love goat cheese, this dish is for you.  As far as the presentation, it was clever, clean, and the plate is absolutely beautiful.  (Rating: 9).

I also had the opportunity to try all of my friend Chris’ dishes since he was sitting next to me and did not seem to mind.  This was great because it gave me a chance to sample from a different part of the menu.  Chris ordered only from the fish menu.  He was the first one to receive any of his tapas.  He got the Coctel de Marisco, which is pictured on the right; this dish was a shrimp and scallop cocktail with acapulco sauce, avocado, and chayote slaw.  This had one of the best presentations of the night.  While a martini glass is not new, I think the color of the slaw really made the seafood pop.  You wanted to eat this dish and that is part of the success of a good dish.  When this martini glass was placed in front of Chris, it got everyone’s attention.  The acapulco sauce complemented the seafood well and added a tanginess.  The slaw was crisp and had an interesting texture with the soft seafood. (Rating: 9).

The other dish that I tried that Chris ordered was the Pulpo a Fiera.  This dish was a large bowl of octopus, potatoes, and paprika.  If you have never had octopus and are curious, this is a good place to try it.  The octopus was cut into round circles and looked very similar to the potatoes.  The octopus had a very mild taste; you might not even know it was octopus.  I found the dish to be good but a little redundant.  The potatoes and octopus were best when eaten on the crostinis that came with the dish. (Rating: 5).

For dessert, Chris ordered a flaming spanish coffee.  Our waiter prepared it tableside, and lit it on fire, which was very entertaining.  I completely recommend you get this just for the show.  The actual flavor was intense.  The hazelnut flavor was very prevalent and nothing really balanced its bitterness. (Rating: 8 ).  The rating is a bit inflated because the presentation here was just awesome.

Matador is a very energetic, fun place to spend an evening.  The ambience fits perfectly with the concept of tapas  The dishes were colorful and overall the food was original and savory.  Everyone at my table seemed to leave satisfied.  My tab came to $30 for the margaritas, and $40 for the three tapas and one guacamole dip.  So two people can have a full meal and drinks for about $70 before tip, which is very reasonable accounting for the pricey drinks.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Mexican, Spanish, Tapas

 

The verdict is in on Ooka

The verdict is in on Ooka

Category: Hibachi; Sushi

Address: 764 Bethlehem Pike, Montgomeryville, PA

Ratings: Food: 8, Service: 4, Ambience: 9, Plating: 10, Overall Impression: 8

Recommendation: Very good.  Unlike the usual hibachi restaurant, Ooka has a more trendy vibe that takes it to another level.  The only downsides were that the server and the soup were worthless.  Otherwise, Ooka was a reasonable treat with large and delicious portions and a stylish ambience.

On Thursday night, my parents and I went to Ooka.  Ooka has three locations in PA and one in CA.  When you walk in the door of Ooka, you know you are in for an experience.  As you can see from the picture on the left, the entrance is dark and intimate with tiny tables and seats; it is contrasted nicely with a colorful bar.  It is unexpected to walk into a trendy establishment that specializes in hibachi.

When we arrived, the hostess sat us immediately even though we did not have reservation.   You have a choice of sitting in the main dining room or the hibachi room.  The main dining room is to the left of the entrance and is where anybody not interested in hibachi would sit.  I would definitely enjoy a relaxing meal away from the intense energy found in the hibachi room.  The main dining area also has the sushi bar which is pictured on the right.  Even though the main dining area was pretty open, the hibachi area was packed.  So if you want hibachi, I suggest you make a reservation if a twenty-minute wait would bother you.

When we were seated, it took about ten minutes for us to see our waiter.  He introduced himself and then left.  About ten minutes later our waiter brought over waters and he left again; it took him another ten minutes to come take our drink order and when we tried to place our food order said he would be right back.  Repeat with the dinner order.  He was not able to multi-task and so dinner took about two hours, which is really long.  Hibachi is always a long dinner, but this was due completely to a waiter that was slightly inept.  Once the meal order was taken and the pace was essentially out of the hands of our waiter, the meal had a nice flow timing wise.

When we finally placed our drink order, I decided on the Lychee Cosmopolitan for $9, which was pretty to look at but short on taste.  The drink, which is pictured on the left, was a concoction of stoli vanil, soho lychee liqueur, cranberry, and lime.  Unfortunately, it just tasted bland and smelled like hairspray.  The best part of the drink was the lychee at the bottom.  This drink was similar to the one at Pod but definitely not in the same league. (Rating: 5).

I have been to Ooka once before and remember having way too much food.  Mom and I decided to split the Ooka Tempura Appetizer for $10, which is pictured on the right.  It came with two shrimp, one mushroom, one carrot, one onion, and one zucchini.  I really enjoyed this tempura.  First, the plating was very clean and pretty with the flower  It was crunchy but the vegetables were soft.  The dipping sauce was very sweet and definitely enhanced the dish. (Rating: 8 ).

For an appetizer, Dad got the Ooka Sushi/Sashimi for $25 pictured on the left below.  It came with 7 different types of sashimi with two pieces each.  It also came with one maki roll that was spicy tuna.  It also came with 4 pieces of red snapper sushi.  For those of you who do not know, sashimi is only a piece of raw fish while sushi is the piece of raw fish on top of rice.  This appetizer was fantastic.  I would recommend Ooka to all sashimi lovers.  This was an awesome deal due to the amount of food and the quality.  The highlight was the pieces of sashimi; they were huge!  Also, the plating was a nice touch.  I am a fan of the clean layout of the dish and how the sashimi is laying on the wood plank  (Rating: 10).

Hibachi is always a fun show, but it is not for everyone.  There is a point at every hibachi restaurant where the chef without fail will want to fling either shrimp or chicken into your mouth.  Our hibachi chef at Ooka was entertaining and sprayed sake into the mouth of any willing participant.

For each entrée, you also get a salad and soup.  The salad came first with a ginger dressing.  The ginger dressing was one of the best that I have had on a japanese house salad.  The only problem was that they skimped a little on the dressing.  (Rating: 9).  The soup was a clear broth soup with mushrooms and tiny fried onions in it.  Usually I prefer this kind of soup at hibachi restaurants to the miso soup.  However, this time the soup was watered down and extraordinarily bland. (Rating: 3)

For the main course, my mom and I split the Hibachi Filet Mignon for $29.  It is $24 with a $5 plate sharing charge.  The filet mignon was cooked perfectly, and honestly, I enjoyed it more than the one I had at the Capital Grille.  The portion was still huge considering we split it.  The entrée also came with a medley of vegetables, rice, and noodles.  The vegetables are really tender; I recommend splurging the extra few dollars and getting the fried rice instead of the white rice that comes with the meal.  The fried rice at Ooka is very flavorful.  The noodles were the only thing that I did not love; they weren’t as flavorful as the rice. Overall, I really liked my meal here, but I think that the rice and noodles is overkill.  I understand that Ooka is trying to set themselves apart from other hibachi restaurants by giving you an extra option, but the noodles and rice is carb overload and just way too much food even to split a dish.  (Rating: 9).

Dad got the Hibachi Seafood for $33, which included lobster, shrimp, and scallops.  I thought everything was cooked perfectly.  The scallops were especially a highlight; they were very tender and the sear on them really enhanced their flavor.  (Rating: 9).

I would also like to mention the dipping sauces.  At hibachi restaurants, you alway get a mustard sauce and a ginger sauce for dipping.  These homemade sauces were better than I have had at other restaurants.  The mustard sauce was amazing, it had extra spices in it than usual and really upped the flavor profile of the meat because of it. (Rating: 10).

I enjoyed my night at Ooka.  Compared to most other hibachi restaurants, it is just better.  I have no complaints about the food; everything was tender and cooked perfectly.  The sashimi was some of the best that I have ever had in my life and certainly the best I have ever had at a hibachi restaurant.  The only downside of dining at Ooka was our waiter and the lackluster soup.  These two issues did not ruin the overall success of the meal. With three locations in Montgomeryville, Doylestown, and Willow Grove, it is easy to find an accessible location and is well worth the trip.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in Hibachi, Sushi

 

The Capital Grille v. Your Wallet

The Capital Grille v. Your Wallet

Category: Steakhouse

Address: 236 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, PA 19406

Ratings: Food: 7, Service: 7, Ambience: 9, Plating: 3, Overall Impression: 6

Recommendation: Good.  In this case, your wallet is the clear loser.  While the food and ambiance were satisfying overall, the check was astronomical for the quality of some of the food and the location.  Go to Ruth’s Chris instead for an up-scale steakhouse feel in KOP for a (slightly) more reasonable check.

On Sunday night, my parents, Bill, and I headed to the Capital Grille in KOP.  This location is only five-months-old; I have been wanting to visit this location for about a year when I heard of the new building’s destiny from the gossip mill.

One of the Capital Grille’s best features is how you feel when you walk through the front door.  The aroma of steak and seasoning wafts from the kitchen towards your senses.  There are about fifty wine lockers on either side of the entrance, each set up with champagne as if an invitation to a party.  The lighting adds to the intimate feel of the restaurant.  Every table has the essence of being in a dark corner; it would not be a surprise if someone lit up a cigar and puffed away.  The Capital Grille is known for its award-winning wine list.  There is an extensive selection of over 5,000 bottles which is amazing but equally overwhelming.  Thankfully, the actually selection of wines by the glass is only 350; the list could bring out the inner sommelier in most of us.  The wine list here adds to the ambiance and compliments the leather seats and mahogany furniture.  At the Capital Grille you feel classy.

While Bill debated the wine list, I decided to peruse the martini list.  I decided on the Capital Grille’s signature drink, the Stoli Doli for $11.50.  This martini was made with Stoli Vodka that was infused with pineapple; it is a pretty strong drink for those that do not consume a lot of alcohol.  I have had this drink before at other restaurants, and although the drink was smooth, for some reason it did not have that lovely wave of citrus that I have had at other restaurants. (Rating: 6)

Our waitress, Ruth, was very professional; in fact, she was one of the better waitresses I have experienced.  She was poised and truly brought out the image of what Capital Grille wants to personify.  Our waitress talked us through the menu very candidly; apparently the lamb chops had received some complaints the week prior, so I avoided them. If service was rated just based on her, it would surely be a ten.  She came back often and never seemed to mind the endless questioning from my mother on dishes.  The reason service received such a low ranking with such a positive review of the waitress is the wait we experienced with our meal.  The restaurant was probably only about 1/3 full and yet we still waited over an hour for our main course after the appetizer was served.  I was pleased that the manager came over to acknowledge the delay; this is perhaps an issue that will be ironed out as more months pass.

For an appetizer, the table split the Cold Shellfish Platter for $48 that is pictured on the right.  The shellfish platter came with 1 pound of lobster, 6 shrimp, and 6 oysters.  I found the plating of this dish to be a bit messy and thrown together in an unloving way.  The lobster head, while some may find cool, I just found a bit creepy.  The shrimps were large and relatively not chewy considering their size.  The oysters were large, so I would not recommend them for those among us that enjoy only the tiny oysters.  Finally, I was pleased with the nice portion of lobster.  The appetizer came with cocktail sauce, which was very spicy, and mignonette sauce, which I prefered here with the larger oysters.  The dish was lacking a butter option for the lobster because it was too dry.  When lobster is hot I do not feel it needs a dipping sauce, but when it is cold it lacks the juiciness.  I dipped my lobster in cocktail sauce, but it smothered the natural flavors from the lobster. (Rating: 7).

My father was the only one who had a salad.  He got the Capital Grille Chopped Salad for $12, which was recommended by our waitress.  The portion was average sized and probably the only thing ordered that was not enough for two people to split.  The salad came with chick-peas, tomatoes, and olive vinaigrette.  I did not taste it due to the fact that my dad eats so quickly, therefore, I cannot comment any further, other than it got a shrug from my father.

For the main courses, my mother was the least pleased.  She got the Sliced Filet Mignon with Cipollini Onions and Wild Mushrooms for $43 per the waitresses recommendation.  My mother ordered her filet medium because she likes the center to be pink.  It came out kind of purple in the middle.  Bill, Dad, and I all ordered our steaks medium rare and they were on the undercooked side as well, but none of us mind eating something a bit undercooked.  Mom on the other hand sent her meal to be cooked more, which was reasonable.  When she got it back, it appeared that it had been heated more in the microwave, although I do not obviously know this for sure.  Her filet mignon for some odd reason had no taste.  It seemed like someone forgot to season it because it was so bland and flavorless.  Therefore, there was no point taking a picture because the presentation was just boring.  This dish fell flat; it needed some color and direction.  What a shame. (Rating: 3)

Bill got the Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry-Age Sirloin with Shallot Butter for $43.  The Capital Grille is known for its dry-age steaks and I can understand why they are critically acclaimed. This sirloin was very tender and doused in the shallot butter.  I find it surprising how tender the piece of meat was since it was a sirloin; it was a little too fatty though.  I found this sirloin to be very flavorful with the shallot butter being a creamy topping to the already savory sirloin.  I appreciate the originality of this dish and the Kona crust gave a distinguished taste that surprisingly did not register to me as coffee.  I like bone-in steaks because it really heightens the flavor of the piece of meat; likewise, it also usually heightens the cost of the steak. (Rating: 9)

Dad’s meal was the best of the night.  He ordered the Porcini rubbed Delmonico with 12-Year Aged Balsamic; the Delmonico was a rib-eye for $44 and was a hit at our table.  The porcini rub mixed with the balsamic was a nice contrast of sweet and salty; it packs an unexpected punch of flavor that I have not previously experienced.  Further, the steak was very tender.  The portions at Capital Grille are huge, but this steak was just downright gigantic.  Even with the bone included in its size, there is easily enough to share. (Rating: 10)

I got the Seared Tenderloin with Butter Poached Lobster for $45.  This filet minion is pictured on the left and had the best presentation of any of the dishes.  I ordered this because I was in the mood for lobster, but you really cannot go to the Capital Grille and not eat a piece of meat.  This meal was good, but not great like the above two dishes.  The butter poached lobster was cooked perfectly, but I found it did not add anything to the filet mignon. (Rating: 7).

We ordered two sides to accompany our meal.  They were served family style; which is a steakhouse staple.  The sides were Sam’s Mashed Potatoes and French Green Beans with Roasted Tomatoes and Fennel which is pictured on the right.  Now I love vegetables, so do yourself a flavor and order another kind of vegetable.  These green beans were bland and the tomatoes were cut too big making them mushy. (Rating: 2).  On the other hand, if you come to the Capital Grille, you should absolutely order the mashed potatoes.  My mother described them as the best mashed potatoes she has ever tasted.  They were made by smashing red potatoes and mixing in heavy cream and butter.  I am pretty sure Mom enjoyed them so much because you could detect the cream, but they nonetheless were delicious. (Rating: 9).

For dessert, I was kind of disappointed by the breadth, or lack thereof, of the dessert menu.  The list was limited, and nothing felt imaginative or new.  The options ranged from Crème brûlée to Cheesecake.  Dad and I both got the Fresh Berries with Vanilla Cream pictured on the left for $8 each.  It was served with a hand-made cream that nicely sweetened the berries, but the berries had not thawed out enough.  They obviously were frozen.  (Rating: 6).  Mom had a chocolate martini, with which she was very pleased.

The biggest problem with the Capital Grille is that if people want to spend a fortune, they usually want to go to Philadelphia.  Maybe not, but I feel that for the price, there are places that serve a better steak.  On occasion, I do not mind splurging for a meal, but when I do, I would like the food to live up to the price.  I know I am being hard on the Capital Grille, but the total bill for four people came to $327 before tip, which is over $80 a person.  I guess the many missteps that I took into consideration with the pricey check left me slightly jaded.

I really enjoyed the ambiance of the Capital Grille; if you are craving a bit of the elegance but strapped for cash, I recommend taking advantage of the Capital Grille’s bar menu.  It is slightly limited with only nine options, but with the likes of Parmesan Truffle Fries and Miniature Lobster and Crab burgers, the options still portray that classy feel.  If you have your heart set on eating from the main dining menu, but are still wary of the check, I would suggest taking a date or friend and splitting the Delmonico.  It was fabulous, and incredibly large and would significantly reduce the check.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Steakhouse

 

Seasons 52: healthy food this good should be illegal!

Seasons 52: healthy food this good should be illegal!

Category: American; Wine Bar

Address: 160 N. Gulph Rd, Suite 101, King of Prussia, PA

Ratings: Food: 10, Service: 9, Ambience: 8, Plating: 9, Overall Impression: 9

Recommendation: Excellent!  This relatively recent newcomer is quickly becoming a local favorite and never seems to disappoint.  The food is daring, imaginative, and fresh, yet every decadent bite is guiltless.

François de La Rochefoucauld said, “To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”    Seasons 52, where Bill and I ate dinner last night, has mastered this art.  When dining in a restaurant, many times a guessing game results for those who scan a menu for healthy choices.  Seasons 52 has completely taken away that guesswork in a revolutionary manner.

Every dish is under 475 calories at Seasons 52; this means that everyone can seemingly indulge without the backlash of guilt.  With a menu that changes four times a year to coincide with the changing of the seasons and a specials list that changes 52 times a year, the options are endless.  The restaurant even provides alternative menus for those with diet restrictions including gluten-free, low-sodium, garlic-free, lactose-free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Upon entering Seasons 52, patrons walk into a cozy area complete with a fireplace.  The stone walls and soft music add to the intimate scene.  Seasons 52 is divided into two dining sections, the first is the bar area with about fifteen booths.  It is upbeat but yet still retains that intimate feel.  On my lunch visits there was even live music here which added to the charm. This area is first-come-first-serve and is usually busy.  I have never had a problem getting a table in the bar area but I do not recommend this for the non-aggressive diner who may feel awkward about possibly hunting for a table.  It is a wonderful option for those of you who were not unnerved by my last statement because the main dining area is booked basically every night and you can enjoy the same menu.

I would make a reservation if the traditional seating experience is more to your liking.  I made a reservation two days before and the only available time was at 5:15.  When we arrived we were seated immediately although the hostess could have been a little more welcoming.  Once seated, the waitress came over promptly and asked if we wanted anything from the bar.  The wine list is appropriate for a wine bar.  There are about 50 red wines and 50 white wines that you can order by the glass.  Bill and I decided to sample from the martini list.  Per the waitress’ recommendation, I decided to try the Raspberry Sweat Teatini.  This martini was good but not great.  It was a simple martini with a predictable taste.  Bill ordered the Hawaiian Pineapple Cosmopolitan, which was on the tart side.  This is not shocking due to the pineapple, but I would have liked another ingredient in the martini to cut through the tartness of the pineapple.  I recommend sticking to the wine list. (Rating: 6).

For appetizers, Bill and I split the Housemade Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli and the Grilled Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp.   The plating of the ravioli is minimalistic yet lovely.  There is one large ravioli with a more-than-generous amount of goat cheese filing, complete with a kiss of roasted garlic and sweet basil in a light tomato broth. This tantalizing dish is subtle yet heavenly.  The ravioli is delicate and literally melts in your mouth. (Rating: 10).  If there was a dish that could actually outshine the ravioli, the Grilled Chipotle-Glazed Shrimp pictured on the right might be the one.  There are four shrimp served with a small scoop of guacamole to one side of the shrimp and tomatillo salsa verde to the other side of the shrimp.  This tangy dish is exceptional in that all three elements on the plate have a deliciously powerful flavor and acidity but eat the three together and expect a firework sensation in your mouth.  The flavor profile is amazing with this dish. (Rating: 10).

I was really impressed by the service last night; our waitress was very attentive and checked-up on us numerous times.  At one point, the wrong appetizer was delivered to us; we were brought the Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Flatbread.  Although I would usually deduct points from the service, it was partially our fault since we we asked her opinion on another flatbread before we ordered the grilled shrimp.  The waitress apologized, the correct appetizer was brought out only minutes later, and even the manager came over an expressed his deepest apologies.  It really was not that big of a deal, but that little extra effort makes the guest feel important and is a determining factor for a classy restaurant.

For the main course, I decided to be slightly adventurous and get the Manchester Farms Boneless Quail Breast.  In the winter months I usually get the BBQ Chicken Salad, served with organic greens, spinach, corn, roasted peppers, pumpkin seeds, and crumbled blue cheese because it is easily the greatest salad I have ever tasted.  Since I knew that I would be rating the dish I consumed, I thought it would be better to be a more audacious orderer.  The quail, pictured on the left, was served as four patties that were basted with a bourbon-chili glaze and cooked on the grill.  Again, another surprisingly great dish.  The quail was cooked perfectly; it was moist, with a slight crispiness on the outside.  I liked how the flavor of the grill lingered on the quail.  The bourbon-chili glaze gave a slight sweetness and a lovely aroma to the quail and was not at all spicy.  The vegetables were tender with an abundance of flavor due to a caramelizing technique that this restaurant employs.  The mashed sweet potatoes were creamy and rustic; the sides merged well with the old-world feel of the dish.  (Rating: 10).

Pictured on the right is the Blackened Swordfish that Bill ordered.  The dish was simple and came with a plethora of vegetables including golden beets which were intriguingly good.  If you are one of those people who curls their lip when they hear beets, you have to try beets at Seasons 52.   As far as the fish, expect a very hearty, moist portion.  It is really easy to dry out fish, but this swordfish was very juicy.  (Rating: 9).   I have to mention that I did not reach for the salt or pepper anytime during this meal.  Most places serve dishes that need a little assistance in the salt and pepper category.   These dishes were all perfectly seasoned.

For a finale to our meal, the waitress brought over the darling tray of desserts pictured below, which are called mini indulgences.  When you choose your dessert shot, the waitress just gives you the one in front of you on the dessert tray.  They replenish as needed and yes, the desserts also change seasonally.  I have tried most of the desserts, but tonight I decided to try the Meyer Lemon Pound Cake shot of dessert for the first time; it basically tasted like a more creamy version of a lemon bar.  Bill ordered the Key Lime Pie, which was thankfully not as overwhelming as the real thing.  It had graham cracker layers which provided a nice crunch. (Rating: 9).  They are perfect bite-sized desserts and absolutely impossible to resist.

The bill came to a total of $95.33 before tip for two people.  This included 2 martinis, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts.  I think the menu is beyond reasonable.  I have gone with friends and have walked out owing under $16 a person.  That is unbelievable for a place that is so progressive and refined.

I hold Seasons 52 in high esteem.  These dishes often blow dishes with three times the caloric count out of the water.  What is most impressive is that these amazingly flavorful dishes are healthy; most things I have tasted at Seasons 52 I would not know were healthy if the menu did not attest to the low-calories of the dishes.  It is easy to make a dish taste good when using an entire stick of butter.  If you have not ventured to Seasons 52 and live anywhere close, it is certainly worth the outing.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in American, Wine Bar

 

A hung jury for Legal Sea Foods

A hung jury for Legal Sea Foods

Category: Seafood

Address: 690 Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia, PA

Ratings: Food: 5, Service: 9, Ambience: 8, Plating: 6, Overall Impression: 6

Recommendation: Good. This restaurant is a nice option for the health conscious.  Really nice ambience and great service, but a couple of serious missteps by the kitchen dampened the opinion.  This chain has a long and bright history which was not as evident on my visit to this location.

A hung jury or a deadlocked jury is a jury that cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberation and is unable to change its votes due to severe differences of opinion. Here at my blog, my “hung jury” opinion fits the definition.  A hung jury opinion is a restaurant that cannot be defined by average food, but one that has great food and uninspired food.

After my venture into the wilderness known as South Jersey, my mom, dad, sister, and I decided to grab a meal closer to home.  Legal Sea Foods is located in the Court of King of Prussia Mall.  While parking is plentiful, I would avoid going at peak shopping seasons such as Christmas Eve. I worry more about the car traffic from all the last-minute shoppers than about the restaurant wait.

I met my family at the restaurant and had to wait about five minutes past my reservation time to be seated. Once we were buzzed, I was satisfied with the first impression of the restaurant. Considering that this is technically a chain restaurant and it is in a mall, you wouldn’t know this once you went inside. The restaurant had dark woods, open spaces, cool displays, and was enjoyably quiet.

We had great service from our waitress Jessica. She came over right away and took our drink order. Everyone ordered boring drinks at the table except me. I decided to try the Legal Sangria. The sangria was way too sweet. I like sweet sangria, but this just felt like an overdose in a nasty tasting candy. (Rating: 2).

Jessica made it a point to answer my mother’s extensive list of questions. I also appreciated that the she asked if anyone at the table had diet restrictions. My family does not have any issues with food, but I appreciate the restaurant being ahead of the game and for also having a gluten free menu. For an appetizer, my mom got the shrimp cocktail. $14.50 gets you four yawn-inducing shrimp. I know this may not particularly helpful, but the shrimp, although large, were unexciting, a little chewy, and just laying on the plate, thrown aside without the love even the simplest dish deserves. (Rating: 3).  On the other hand, Dad and I split the oysters. We ordered three of each variety they had that night for a total of twelve oysters. They were wonderful. I loved the plating of the oysters shown on the right. I always hate when I order oysters that I forget what variety I am eating as soon as the waitress leaves. Here, at Legal Sea Foods, the oysters were marked with little sticks that told you the name. Yes, I know that oysters are not cooked, but they were very fresh and you can still rate a restaurant on the variety of oysters and on the plating. I also appreciate when a place, like at Legal Sea Foods, gives you a cocktail sauce and a mignonette sauce. I recommend the sweet sauce for the larger oysters and the cocktail sauce for the smaller oysters. Smaller oysters tend to be sweeter, so I like them with cocktail sauce. The sweetness is balanced perfectly with the spiciness of the cocktail sauce. Mignonette sauce is a sweeter sauce, made from shallots, white wine, and sherry vinegar, and is good with the bigger, more salty oysters. (Rating: 9).  We all also ordered salads. Mom got the wedge salad for $10, which she enjoyed, while Missy and Dad were indifferent over the half-portion house salads at $6 each with tomato vinaigrette. I had the half-portion of the tortilla, apple, and goat cheese salad for $7. It came with chopped avocado, roasted red peppers and chipotle orange dressing. I liked the dressing and I liked the salad, but not together. The portion of goat cheese was adequate. (Rating: 6).

For our entrees, mom was the least successful. She ordered twenty littleneck clams with drawn butter for $14. I liked the presentation of the clams which are pictured on the left with my mother. The problem here was that, although the clams tasted fine to me, they were enormous. These were not littlenecks, but were the kind of clams you would use in a clams casino and my mother wasn’t having it. Luckily, she doesn’t eat much and picked through to eat the smallest ten or so.  (Rating: 3).  In the Simply Legal section of the menu, you could easily be dietetic and get any fish wood-grilled or blackened. Dad took advantage of this and got the Mahi Mahi blackened for $23 with broccoli. Dad is not into sauces for his fish, so a fish needs to be cooked perfectly for him to be pleased. Needless to say, Dad’s Mahi Mahi was great. The blackening was even, done really well, and really added to the flavors of the fish. (Rating: 8).

At the waitresses recommendation, I ordered the Red Onion Jam Swordfish for $28. This meal was a bit more pricey then the other dishes, but was the best of the night. The swordfish was cooked well and very flavorful. It was served with red onions on top and rice with red peppers below the fish. The onion was sweet and the rice savory. When the three flavors came together they harmonized very well but still tasted great individually. (Rating: 9).

Missy had the Everything Tuna for $26.50. The tuna had a jasmine rub on it and a roasted red pepper sauce.  My sister ordered it at the chef’s recommendation of medium rare. The fish looked beautiful as you can see on the right, but was way over-cooked. It was actually well done to the point that there was no pink on the inside. The waitress got Missy another order of the tuna. The second time around the fish was definitely medium rare, but did not help the dish. I liked the red pepper sauce, but the rub just did not add enough flavor to the fish. (Rating: 4).

For dessert, we all split the warm chocolate pudding cake and that night’s dessert special of carrot cake which were both $7. You can see them both on the left. The chocolate pudding cake was warm and creamy and was served with a soft serve vanilla ice cream over a coconut cookie. The coconut and vanilla helped to rein in what would be a too rich flavor from the chocolate cake. It was scrumptious.  (Rating: 7).  The carrot cake was worth the waitress’ recommendation. The carrot cake had a caramel sauce topping and a homemade whipped cream. It had developed flavors without being overwhelmingly carroty. (Rating: 8).  I definitely would suggest the desserts here at Legal Seafood. They are tasty, have a nice presentation, and not too large. I hate huge desserts.

I recommend Legal Sea Foods for a good, potentially healthy meal, but please heed my warnings on some of the menu choices. I really enjoyed the blackened fish options, the Red Onion Jam Swordfish, and the desserts. This is why my decision is a mixed bag. If a jury was deciding the fate of the dishes on this menu, I would say they would come back deadlocked. Depending on the choice of dish, people at one table could have a fantastic dinner or an unimpressive one. For now, it is a hung jury for this Legal Sea Foods location. I hope they tweak the missteps, so this location can help contribute to the inevitably bright future of the overall chain.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Seafood