Category Archives: Bars

{ Wishbone in Brixton } ***

7561243_orig

Unit 12, Coldharbour Lane
London SW9 8JX, UK
+44   20-7274-0939

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Fried chicken is quintessential American food. As a tourist in London, I was on the hunt to experience all things un-American so I was pretty disappointed when my friend–a London native–suggested we visit a fried chicken joint for my final lunch in the city. However, in my effort to be a low-maintenance visitor, I kept quiet and braced myself  for some dirty, deep fried, dude food.

9934898_orig

When we finally arrived at Wishbone, I was pleasantly surprised by the modernized, no-frills, hipster vibe. Could this be posh fast food? Fuck yea. I was now pumped for some fierce hot sauce and finger-lickin’ fun.

wishbone_paintshop_graffiti_interior2

All-natural, free-range chicken is the Wishbone hallmark, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that this stuff is healthy or good for you food. No, no, no….these are meaty chicken thighs, double coated in bread crumbs, deep fried to a rich golden crisp, served in the style of your choosing: Korean, Thai, traditional Buffalo, or the Moorish Salt N’ Pepa.

tumblr_mdn9zu7BGG1qbq2w8o7_500

I kept things simple, opting for the traditional Buffalo style with tangy hot sauce and served with side of creamy bleu cheese dressing. The buffalo sauce was blatantly rich, with pools of butter collecting at the bottom of my paper lined wing basket. And although I thought the chicken itself was moist and delicious, I found the sauce a bit too tangy–it begged for the blue cheese to tone down the vinegar.

wish6

To “cleanse” my oil-saturated palate, I nibbled on bites of Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese. They sound aggressive and trust me, they are. After eating just one square–and four come to a serving--I knew they were a bad idea.

9313259_orig

mac

It never ceases to amaze me how extreme hipsters are when it comes to their food habits. Either they’re preaching vegans or absurd junk food artists, creating unique delicacies by combining multiple bad-for-you items using only the best artery-clogging processes (i.e. deep fried oreos, french fry burger buns, chocolate covered bacon strips, and poutine pizza). These fried mac ‘n’ cheese squares are the epitome of a hipster snack–highly indulgent and bordering on sickly.

Although I enjoyed the meal while seated at Wishbone, I can’t say I enjoyed the 10 minute walk back to the car. I felt extremely lethargic and downright greasy from the inside out. It wasn’t until 3 cigarettes and an espresso later that my body returned to normalcy.

Overall, I think that Wishbone is a great, simplified, food concept but I opt for chick food over dude food any day. And how posh can a piece of fried chicken really be after all?!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Fast Casual Food, Gluten Free, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots, Markets, Take-Out

{ Yauatcha in Soho, London }

R0062306

15-17 Broadwick Street
London, W1F 0DL
+44 20-7494-8888

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

By my third night in England, I was craving sushi. I googled a handful of different Asian hot spots throughout the city but was unable to snag a last minute reservation before 11:30 pm. This may not have posed a problem for a posh English chick looking to grab a light bite before the club, but for my hungry American ass….no can do! I needed food and I needed it fast, so I settled for the first Asian restaurant that I could get into:  Yauatucha in Soho.

Yauatcha_4@gallerymain

Yauatucha is a Michelin star-rated Chinese restaurant, specializing in dim sum. I would also argue that they specialize in the art of perfect cocktails, with unique recipes and beautiful garnishes for the glass. The specialty cocktail list is longer than most restaurants’ a la carte menu! After much deliberation, I opted for a Black River Martini, made with Johnnie Walker Black label, apricot liqueur, Drambuie, blackberry and apple juice (£10.30). It was the perfect blend of strong liquor and sweet fruit–a little dangerous, might I add!

Yauatcha2

Choosing from the extensive dim sum menu is a rather difficult task. All of them are incredibly original, fusing flavors from the East and West in little dough balls that keep you longing for just one more bite. My personal favorite was the Roasted Duck Pumpkin Puff with Pine Nuts (£5.50). 

Yauatcha-pumpkin1

Let me break it down for you: Melt-in-your-mouth roasted duck and pine nuts stuffed inside sweet and sticky pumpkin rice, deep fried to a golden perfection, and topped with delicate greens to make the dough ball resemble a pumpkin! This is certainly not traditional dim sum, but it damn sure is memorable.

img_0295

Next in the plate rotation was a more traditional steamed dim sum with Spicy Pork Szechuan and Peanuts (£4.60). If this had come to the table first, I probably would have loved it, but it seemed so uninspiring following the decadent Pumpkin Puff. It was tasty, but boring and predictable.

1488145_10153545595310389_1587000729_n

The final appetizer to arrive at the table was the Prawn and Beancurd Cheung Fun. I’ve never had cheung fun before so I didn’t gravitate towards it on the menu, but the waiter convinced me to order it, claiming that it was one of his favorite meals. I was disappointed and thought the dish was barely mediocre, with too much prawn filling and too little rice noodle. I didn’t love the way that the textures came together, but I am glad to say that I tried it.

8679697042_f1a5468fb9_c

936761_10153545595490389_442857861_n

I’m all about symmetry, so to follow my 3 rounds of appetizers, I decided to keep things in balance by ordering 3 main plates. I am obsessive….I am aware.

I’ll start with my favorite of the three entrees, which was the Mongolian Style Venison with Butter and Black Pepper Sauce (£20.50). As a Pennsylvania resident, venison tends to conjure up images of the Poconos mountains and my Uncle poking fun at reindeer stew. It is not a protein that would consider a delicacy or decadent. Again, the waiter persuaded me into ordering this dish and boy did  he redeem himself for the Cheung Fun mishap! The meat was lean and well seasoned, and the veggies were crisp and bright. The black pepper sauce was rich but complimented the tender venison.

Yauatcha-mongolianvenison1

Up next was the Stir-fry Rib Eye Beef in Black Bean SauceI thought the meat was good, but the sauce was way too salty. I found  myself washing down each bite with a large gulp of water to rinse out the sodium. Skip the bean curd.

1479037_10153545595835389_554925131_n

Lastly, I tried an order of the Stir-Fry Vermicelli with Prawn and Squid (£10.30). I had high hopes for this traditional noodle dish, but they fell flat because the seafood was almost non-existent. There were two or three baby prawns and only a handful of squid. The noodles had great flavor and it made for a nice side to the rich meat entrees, but I wouldn’t suggest ordering this as one’s main dish.

Yauatcha-vermicelli1

 

Overall, I would definitely go back but just for the exotic cocktails and inventive dim sum! The over-priced entrees are hardly worth it and limit the number of flavors that you can experience during your meal.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Asian Cuisine, Bars, Cocktails, Dessert, Gluten Free, International Restaurants, London Restaurants

{ Bowman’s Tavern } ****

bar

1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-2972
 

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I am definitely NOT a creature of habit; I am the antithesis of anything routine, especially when it comes to my food! I like exotic meats, unusual vegetables, and all kinds of different ethnic cuisines. But provided that I live in a small town with limited dining options –only 114 according to Trip Advisor–I have inevitably become a regular at some of my more preferred restaurants. There’s Domani Star for Sunday brunch, El Tule for my Latin American cravings, and Ooka for my sushi fix.

Lately though, my parents have been frequenting a restaurant that I’ve never visited. They go at least once a week on their “date night” or bring friends for a casual dinner and drinks. I wanted to find out for myself what all the hype was about, so tonight I begged them to change their reservation for two into a both for three! They agreed and thus I had my first–of what will become many–meals at Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope.

The food earns 5 stars and the value for what you pay deserves 6 stars. Factor in the cozy atmosphere and the pleasant service, and you’re looking at a fabulous dining experience. To top it all off, there is a very active owner circulating the dining room to ensure that all of his guests are tended to and happy with their food.

To start I ordered this weekend’s special Salad with Pickled Maitake, Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic Vinaigrette, and White Truffle Oil ($10). The portion was a bit smaller than the other salads I saw leaving the kitchen, but it was very tasty. The goat cheese and the roasted beets were plentiful, and the pumpkin seeds added a beautiful bit of crunch to the dish. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of truffle flavor in the salad. I did not taste this ingredient at all, but the salad certainly did not taste bland without it.

IMG_3342

We also ordered a plate of the Semolina Crusted Calamari topped with Garlic Aioli, and Spicy Cherry Pepper Relish, with a side of House Marinara ($9). These were hands down THE BEST fried calamari that I have ever had because of the spicy cherry pepper relish. It really brought a new spin to the traditional fried appetizer, and the semolina breading was delicious. These are reason enough to return to the tavern!

IMG_3343

For my entree I ordered the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels in Garlic White Sauce ($10). The mussels themselves were meaty and plump, but I thought that the sauce was a little bland. It needed some more garlic, lemon, or shallots, or parsley. My parents have had the mussels in red sauce and said that they were much better, so I would recommend the tomato herb broth to those of you ordering the bivalves! I will restate though that quality of the mussels were beautiful though, and not a single one in the heaping bowl was closed!

IMG_3345

My mom ordered the winning dish of the night, which was the Seared Scallops over Creamed Corn, with Roasted Mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Salad ($23). The truffle oil was added in just the right quantity without overpowering the dish, and the scallops were just unreal. They had a lovely, golden, caramelized exterior with a tender and creamy inside and the sweet corn underneath made for a perfect compliment to the protein. The mushrooms were used sparingly but they were packed with flavor and so each forkful that contained one was treasured.

IMG_3347

My dad ordered one of the specials, which was a Grilled Mako Shark, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Beans, Broccoli Rabe, Pesto, and Romesco Sauce ($23). The shark was tender and well-seasoned, especially when combined with the pesto and Romesco sauces drizzled on the plate.

IMG_3346

The place is great during winter months because it is warm and cozy inside, and they have live music performers that effectively draw in the crowd, inviting guests to come up, sing, and dance. It is just an all around homey place with friendly service and top notch food at a great value!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Brunch, Buck's County, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, Dessert, Lunch Spots, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants, Take-Out

{ Sketch Restaurant in London: The Gallery }

IMG_3128

9 Conduit Street
London WIS 2XG
+44 (0) 20 7659 4500

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I rarely save obligatory tourist sights for my last day when traveling in a new city. And this is a rather difficult feat for me, provided that I am, by nature, a procrastinator in all other aspects of my life. I quit procrastinating in travel, however, after my recent trip to Barcelona—a city that I must revisit since I left without ever laying eyes on Parque Guell. I saved that monumental attraction for my final day in Spain, spending the rest of my time (and money) on binge drinking and partying down by the notoriously shitty beach. I planned to visit Picasso’s masterpiece on June 31st, before flying out to Prague. But the 31st never came because there are only 30 days in June, and thus I left the city with a month-long hangover, very little cultural enrichment, and hardly and cash.

Since then, I have made it a point to get my sightseeing done first. But due to the limited space and late reservations, I was forced to save the London Eye experience for the last night of my trip…which turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, because it was the perfect note to end my trip upon! I also indulged in one of the most incredible meals of my life after seeing the beautiful views of London from the top of the Eye.

IMG_3112

Where did I dine, you ask?

9 Conduit Street in Mayfair, London.

If you are into food, art, fashion design, or architecture, then you may be familiar with the address. The opulent townhome has served as the headquarters for the Royal Society of British Architects, the atelier of Christian Dior, and is currently home to the 2 star Michelin-rated French restaurant run by Executive Chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Even if French food isn’t your cup of tea, if your pockets are deep enough, I suggest that you at least pay a visit to check out the unique ambiance. The décor is parallel to none; with each room in the space taking you on a journey that is evocative of trippy dream. There are three different dining rooms—each one offering a different menu and price point—as well as two ultra posh cocktail lounges. The whole venue is a riot of color and an onslaught to the senses. But the loud and quirky design makes this Michelin restaurant feel, dare I say, comfortable?!

parlour_02

img_6945

After studying all of the menus, I chose to dine at the Gallery, which is the more informal restaurant space with more reasonably priced menu items. British artist, Martin Creed, has transformed the space into a serviceable museum of modern art with eclectic chairs and one-of-a-kind dinnerware.

martin-creed1

Sketch-04

To start, I ordered the Chestnut Velouté with white truffle oil, and pan-fried squid sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes (£15). It was velvety, rich, and every bit delicious. I cleared the bottom of my bowl with the trio of freshly baked breads that were brought to the table (£4).

IMG_3114

The second appetizer that I tried was the Dublin bay prawn tempura with haricot beans and aubergine, accompanied by an Osframpi sauce (£25). The prawns were delicious but sadly, there were only three of them—typical French portions! I didn’t expect the vegetables would also be deep fried, and I found them a bit bourgeois in contrast to the otherwise haute cuisine. The osframpi sauce was magical, however, due in part to the fact that I’ve never tasted one before. Essentially, it is a puree of wild berries balanced with some sort of lemon acidity to cut the sweetness. I did not use it for the prawns, but rather as a spread for the breadbasket.

IMG_3115

For my entrée, I ordered the Cannon of lamb roasted en crépine, Niçoise socca, swiss chard pomponette (£28). The lamb was cooked to perfection and the sauce dressing the plate was to die for, but I have had better cuts of meat before. I cleared the plate none-the-less, which easy to do at a French restaurant—oftentimes in just two bites!

IMG_3116

To accompany my main dish, I ordered a side of the homemade pumpkin and chestnut gnocchi (£6), which were fabulous. They were so delicate with all of the vegetables minced into perfect little cubes, and the pasta was browned on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside.

IMG_3117

There was little hesitation when it came to choosing a dessert; naturally, I opted for the chocolate one: Sketch Chocolat, which is a dark chocolate box filled with vanilla cream, nougatine, dried fruits, caramel syrup and coffee genoise. On the side, of the box was a little shooter filled with pistachio ice cream with pineapple and mango coulis (£10). I also got the suggested after-dinner drink, The Whisk Away, made with Laphroaig Whisky and Kalua (£7). The coffee notes in the dessert and cocktail complimented one another beautifully.

All in all, Sketch is about the experience: the art, the atmosphere, the service, the exotic bathrooms! Sure, the food is very, very good, but it is the ambiance that is over-the-top. I would certainly return, possibly in some high heels next time, with slightly lower expectations of the food.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cakes, Cocktails, Coffee Shop, Cookies, Cupcakes, Dessert, French Restaurants, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots

{ The Crabtree in London } ****

8572624134_55144a56b2_z

020-7385-3929
Rainville Road, London
W6 9HA

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I arrived in London around 11 am on a Sunday morning after a long 10-hour traveling experience without eating any food. Needless to say, I arrived in London hungry and ready to begin my food chronicles. My first meal was a proper Sunday Roast from The Crabtree in Fulham, which is a quaint and cozy little spot with a traditional English menu. The three roast options included: chicken, beef, and pork belly. I went for the beef with horseradish sauce, while my friend opted for the heavier pork belly with applesauce. Each was served with a Yorkshire pudding and gravy, roasted root vegetables, a stewed red cabbaged, and pureed butternut squash.

IMG_2981

Unfortunately, I was so hungry that I devoured mine without actually taking the time to process all of the flavors, so there isn’t much to say other than the fact that it was delicious. I cleared the plate within a few short minutes, excited to cross Yorkshire pudding off the “to-eat” list for London. One down, and twenty or so to go!

IMG_2982

I did love the atmosphere of the place though, especially as it was fitted out for Christmas with a beautiful tree and all sorts of lighted Holiday decorations. The bar seemed like a cozy place to grab a drink in the winter and during the summer months, they have a gorgeous outdoor patio equipped with grills for barbequing.

cn_image.size.the-crabtree-bar-restaurant-oxford-england

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Breakfast, Brunch, Cafe / Bistro, Cocktails, International Restaurants, London Restaurants, Lunch Spots, Take-Out

{ Mulled Red Wine with Amaretto }

WD-10-Mulled-Wine

Last week I had the opportunity to visit London, and I was awestruck by the number of street vendors selling mulled wine and hot cider–not mention awestruck by the number of Brits consuming these boozy concoctions irregardless of the time of day! I was determined to try as many different varieties of each during my 9 day stay, and given the dominant role that alcohol plays in English society, there were plenty of opportunities for me to warm up with a cup of spiced and spiked goodness!

At Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, I was able to double fist German sausages and mulled wine, in between playing over priced amusement games. I took a fond liking to the sour cherry wine and the amaretto wine, but set out to replicating the latter on this snowy afternoon in the States. I used Jamie Oliver’s mulled wine recipe as the foundation for my technique, but also added the apple cider element of Ina Garten’s recipe. The amaretto was a touch of my own, inspired by the street vendors in London and the result was a fabulous, soul-warming Holiday beverage. I will be making this on the many chilly nights that are yet to come!

IMG_3126

{ What You’ll Need }

  • 1.5 L bottle of red wine (I used Robert Mondavi Merlot, but many prefer a dry red)
  • 2 oranges, peeled and juiced
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 cups apple cider
  • Amaretto, for garnish (you can also use brandy!)

IMG_0687

{ What You Do }

In a stock pot over medium high heat, combine the sugar, cloves, lemon peels, bay leaves, vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel and juice. Add just enough red wine to cover the sugar and spice mixture and allow to boil for 4-6 minutes, until the sugar mixture is thick and syrup-like (see NOTE #1).

IMG_0691

Add the remaining red wine, apple cider, and star anise and reduce the heat to low. Allow the wine to heat through, but don’t let it get too hot or the alcohol will burn off. Once heated, ladle into mugs and garnish with orange wedge and splash of amaretto! (see NOTE #2)

3-1

*NOTE #1: This step is very important as it develops the flavor of the mulled wine. You want a flavorful rich syrup, so let it reduce down. You don’t want to over-heat the wine mixture once you add the remaining wine or it will burn off all the alcohol content–and who would want that?!?!

*NOTE #2: If you have leftover mulled wine, ladle it into Mason Jars and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Just reheat prior to serving.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, BYOB, Cocktails, Markets, Recipes

{ Kendall’s Bourbon Spiked Cider }

cider-burbon-drink-mslb7022_vert

Nothing says fall quite like apple cider, and this bourbon-spiked cocktail will have you appreciating cider in a whole new way. It is light but warms you from the inside out.

If you happen to live in Bucks County, PA and like Bourbon-based cocktails, I would suggest checking out M.O.M.s on Main Street in Doylestown. They have a fantastic selection of bourbon inspired cocktails, which is why they are my favorite spot right now. I would also recommend heading over to Solebury Orchards to pick get some of their seasonal honey crisp apples and homemade cider! It is the absolute best!

1375132_10153338834950389_488872779_n

{ Ingredients }

  • 3/4 cup apple cider (I get mine locally from Solebury Orchards)
  • 1/3 cup bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 thin slices of fresh peeled ginger
  • 2 thin slices of apple for garnish

{ To Make Cocktail }

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the cider, bourbon, lemon juice, and ginger. Shake well to combine. Strain cocktail into 2 coupes. Garnish with apple slices.

I also like mine on the rocks with crushed ice!

apple-cider-cocktails-scene1

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Buck's County, Cocktails, Gluten Free, Recipes

Ilili *****

ilili
212.683.2929
236 5th Ave (corner of West 27 & 5th)
New York, NY 10001

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I am the kind of foodie that seeks out hole in the wall restaurants,  loves eating sketchy street foods, and believes that you can get 5-star quality food from a truck. That being said, I also do occasionally enjoy going to hyped up,  “mega restaurants” in the city to determine whether or not they are really as overrated as the NY Times critics claim.  This past weekend I went to Ilili, where chef-owner Philippe Massoud is combining traditional Middle Eastern and modern Mediterranean flavors to create inspired and upscale Lebanese dishes. The atmosphere is nothing short of grandiose with seating for over 300 people, in a bi-level restaurant space that is broken up into multiple cozy lounges and dining nooks.
Adam 1
My friend Liz and I took our seats in one of these little cubbyholes and began to salivate while reading over the menu. I asked our waitress to recommend the best three dishes on the menu, and without an hesitation at all she replied, “the Chankleesh, the brussel sprouts, and the Ilili candybar dessert.”Her confidence was convincing so we got started with an order of the Chankleesh, which is a creamy feta cheese combined with ripe tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and za’atar spices ($10). It sounds simple and it is, but every single ingredient is top  notch quality and each flavor is perfectly balanced. It was also the first dish to arrive at the table and in my starving state, it was anxiously anticipated and quickly scarfed down. I used the warm and pillowy soft pita to pick up the bits and pieces and tomato that remained on the plate and soak up the remaining oil and za’atar spices.
Shankleeskedited
Warm Pita Breadedited
Finally our cocktails arrived. I ordered the From Beirut with Passion, which is a basil cilantro mint infused vodka with sparkling passion fruit juice. It is served on the rocks and it is the perfect blend of herbal and sweet, without being too fruity.
From Beirut with Passionedited
I preferred it to Liz’s Poison Sumac Margarita with tequila, orange liquor, pomegranate juice, and lime. 
Sumac Margaritaedited
Next to arrive at the table were the Brussel Sprouts with grapes, fig jam, walnuts, and minted yogurt ($14). Almost every table in our nook had an order of these, and I totally understood why after my first forkful–they are the absolute BEST!!  A unique combination of flavors that transform an basic every day veggie into a over the top Lebanese comfort food. So rich and delicious. In fact, chef Massoud posted the recipe on the website (click here for the link!)
Brussel Sproutsedited
Liz is into shrimp so we also split an order of the Black Iron Shrimp with jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro ($15). I thought the shrimp were a bit tough, and would probably opt for a different appetizer next time, as they were nothing special in comparison to rest of our meal.
Shrimps in Garlicedited
For the main entree we shared the Mixed Grill Meat plate for two ($64). We figured this would be the best way sample a variety of meats on the menu, exposing us to the greatest amount of Lebanese classics. The meat plate included chicken shish taouk, kofta lamb kebabs, and lamb chops along with a side of ratatouille and a garlic whip trio, which is a heavenly emulsion of oil and herbs.
Grilled Meat Platteredited
My favorite meat on the plate was by far the lamb kofta which is basically a Lebanese meatball that is rolled into the shape of a sausage link.  The word kofta is derived from the Persian word ‘Kufteh’ meaning mashed, which represents the ground meat (oftentimes lamb) that is then mixed with cumin, coriander, parsley, mint, onion, and garlic. I ate a lot of kofta while traveling in Croatia and these were just as authentic and delicious as I can remember.
Grilled Meat Platter3edited
The lamb chop was cooked to perfection and seasoned straight through. I was cleaning the bone shamelessly, holding the chop between my two fingers. The chicken was juicy and tender but not nearly as flavorful as either of the lamb dishes.
Grilled Meat Platter2edited
Herbed Oil Emulsionsedited
 Despite my feelings of overwhelming fullness (let’s face it, none of these dishes were light), I had embarked on gluttonous journey that would not be complete without dessert…..and two of them!
We ordered the Ilili Candybar3, which is a chocolate lovers dream plate consisting of rich chocolate ganache, a chocolate Lebanese ice cream with hints of caramel and fig, and a white chocolate sesame sauce with crumbles of pistachio ($12).
Ilili CnadyBar3edited
Ilili is known for this dessert and chocoholic Liz looked like she was having an out of body experience with each bite, but I seemed to prefer the Labne Cheesecakes which were rich, smooth, and creamy ($10).
1001693_10151561159388458_440742766_n
Overall the meal was one of the best dining experiences of my life from the food to the atmosphere to the service. The service is impeccable by the way. The wait staff knows the menu inside and out, which is incredibly important at ethnic restaurants, and they can help any indecisive dinner arrive at a good ordering decision. Your water glass will never go empty an the delicious pita basket will be refilled continuously throughout the meal. I had no expectations for Ilili because I really hadn’t read any reviews prior to my meal there (very unusual for me….as I normally like to get acquainted with menu pages and yelp reviews before I dine somewhere new), but I left feeling justified with every penny spent. A perfect meal at a reasonable price. I cannot wait to go back!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Brunch, Cocktails, Dessert, International Restaurants, Mediterranean Cuisine, New York Restaurants

Flex Mussels *****

 
oftl-main_picture2-NYC-flexmussels1
154 W 13th Street
New York, New York
212.229.0222

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

If there is one food that I crave above all others, it is mussels. They can be prepared in a variety of ways, encompassing a broad range of flavors; from coconut curry Thai to classic French white wine garlic. There are mornings that I literally wake up and have a hankering for a steaming pot of mussels. Not cheerios….mussels.

Needless to say, if mussels are on the menu at a restaurant, I’m usually ordering them. And I have suffered dearly for this habitude, because lets face it, there are certain restaurants (i.e. Irish pubs) where you should NOT be ordering the shell fish. I know the bacon cheese burger is the safer bet, but I have no self-control and inevitably end up eating the mussels…..for better, for worse.

flex-mussels-13th-street

This weekend though, I had the opportunity to go to Flex Mussels, which is renowned in NYC for their fantastic pots of ornate and unique mussels…23 different types in all! You can imagine how difficult it was to choose only a couple to share with my friends and fellow diners, Sam & Sara. In fact, a third party observer would have thought this was one of the most difficult decisions of my life the way that I carefully weighed out each option, debating whether to go with the tried and true classics or branch out and go for the exotic.

Finally, after a quick pep talk with our server, we arrived at a game plan. We would order three different pots of mussels to share among the table along with some truffle fries. First we got an order of the Dijon Mussels made with dijon mustard, white wine, creme fraiche, and parsley ($19.50). These were by far my favorite of the three, and I made that known by locating the pot directly in front of me and my big fat fork. The broth was so good, I would consider it drinkable. The mustard brought forth a tangy and acidic flavor that was carefully balanced by the creaminess of the creme fraiche. And the chopped parsley was fresh and earthy.

thai-mussels-flex

Next we enjoyed the Fra Diavolo mussels made with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic ($19.50). Sam insisted that we order this classic, and although I thought they were good, I probably would not order them when at Flex again. Instead, I would opt for a more complex broth when at the Mecca of mussels, and save the run-of-the-mill spicy red sauce for the amateurs. I will admit that the large chunks of crushed tomatoes were delightful on the fresh baked bread provided for dipping and dunking!

almond flex 016

Lastly, we recieved our order of the South Pacific Mussels, which were made with kaffir lime, cilantro, white wine, and lemongrass. I tried persuading Sam and Sara to order the Thai mussels instead, which were very similar to the South Pacific in flavor, but with the added richness of curried coconut milk. Unfortunately though, it was two against one and we ended up going with the lighter broth. I wasn’t crazy about these because the broth was too almost too light. There was nothing sticking to the the meat of the mussel. I hoarded the remaining dijon mussels while my eating companions picked at their mistake.

l

Last but not least, I must review the truffle french fries which were served with a creamy aioli dipping sauce. They were really delicious and made a perfect accompaniment to dip in the mussel broth (especially the dijon….did I mention it was drinkable?).

Flex_Mussels_fries

I am looking forward to my next dinner at Flex and I will definitely be trying the Thai Mussels along with the Mediterranean which has shrimp, kalamata olives, fennel, lemon, anise, and oregano ($22.50)

Ohh and I almost forgot to mention the wine/cocktail selection, which is pretty reasonable for NY fine dining. My friends and I shared a bottle of the Vincent Dampt Chablis for only $54. The selection of wines was also fairly extensive, which is somewhat expected at a mussel-centric restaurant. I mean, what goes better with mussels than wine?!

…..besides crusty bread, of course!

Flex_Mussels_bread

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Cocktails, New York Restaurants

XIX – Nineteen *****

bellevuephilly
 
200 S Broad Street #19
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215.790.1919

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

I was in desperate need of a getaway, so this Friday night my friend and I got a last minute hotel deal at the Hyatt Bellvue in Philadelphia and made plans for an 18 hour girls retreat. We packed up the car after work and headed out to enjoy our mini “staycation,” which was to include a beautiful dinner at XIX Restaurant on the 19th floor of our hotel.

XIX is known for its luxurious dining room and incredible views overlooking the Philadelphia city skyline. Sara and I were lucky enough to snag a table outside on the balcony—along with 3 other couples, who were clearly in the early stages of dating, as we listened to the men desperately attempt to impress their female companions. I have never rolled my eyes so many times while simultaneously being grateful for my single status. This being said, it is a beautiful place to take a lady on a special occasion!

Kentucky STraight Orangeedited

We got started with a round of cocktails called the Kentucky Straight Orange, made with bourbon, orange bitters, and elderflower liquor. It was much sweeter than I was expecting a bourbon-based cocktail would be, but I attribute this to the elderflower liquor, which did grow on me as I sipped it down. I tend to prefer straight manhattans, but this is a great way to work your way into bourbon, if you’re just starting to experiment with it!

Mussels with Fenneledited

Next we ordered the Steamed Blue Bay Mussels in white wine and garlic sauce with fennel ($12). I would definitely have to rank these in my top five mussel experiences. They were meaty, and the sauce was obnoxiously good with thinly sliced fennel garnishing the top of the dish. The grilled sour dough bread served alongside the pot of mussels was perfect to soak up the remaining sauce. The only complaint I can find with this dish is that ¼ of the mussels in the pot were closed shut—and everyone knows you shouldn’t eat those suckers!

Grilled Spanish Octopus

As I began coming down from my euphoric mussel experience, the waiter arrived with our second appetizer: Grilled Spanish Octopus served on top of a bed of baby arugula with sweet peppers and fingerling potatoes, dressed in a sherry vinaigrette ($14). I would consider myself an octopus/calamari connoisseur because I order it out whenever possible, and this was the second best I have ever tasted, ranking just behind Mario Batalli’s grilled octopus with limoncello vinaigrette. For those of you that don’t know, Chef Batalli is famous for his grilled octopus, so that is saying A LOT! The meat was not rubbery and the delicate balance of acid in the vinaigrette was perfect.

Scallops2edited

Finally it was time for our entrée, and I just didn’t know if it could even compare to the appetizers, but it certainly did! We split the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with spicy poblano chili polenta, carrot puree, and mango ginger chutney ($32). The scallops were so perfectly cooked and the flavors of the mango, ginger, and carrot were very interesting and brightened the whole dish with a fresh taste. The polenta cake was definitely spicy and just the perfect size portion to compliment the scallops.

Bottom line, I would definitely go back to XIX for dinner and I hope to one day go for their brunch, which I heard was out of this world (I can only imagine based on last night’s meal!). I thought the price point was completely reasonable for the atmosphere and quality of the food. My only gripe with the restaurant was the service, and that is primarily because our server got way too involved in our ordering decisions and side conversations. At times, we actually thought he was promoting other local restaurants because he seemed to be trying to recommend we go everywhere else in Philly for similar food. It was bizarre and quite annoying. But I will be back….hopefully sooner than later!

Leave a comment

Filed under Bars, Cocktails, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Restaurants