Tag Archives: Restaurants

{ Yauatcha in Soho, London }

R0062306

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

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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.

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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!

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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). 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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
 

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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{ Sketch Restaurant in London: The Gallery }

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

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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.

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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?!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Ilili *****

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

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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.
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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.
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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.
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I preferred it to Liz’s Poison Sumac Margarita with tequila, orange liquor, pomegranate juice, and lime. 
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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!)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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 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).
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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).
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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!

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Flex Mussels *****

 
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154 W 13th Street
New York, New York
212.229.0222

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?).

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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!

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Domani Star – BRUNCH! *****

Jessica Omelet #2

215.230.9100
57 West State Street 
Doylestown, Pa 18901

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As I mentioned in my review of Cafe Lift, I am highly critical of brunches served in restaurants. Not only is it my favorite meal of the day, but I also have become quite good at cooking it, so my standards are set pretty high. But Domani Star is one place that I can confidently go for a consistently amazing breakfast…and now that I come to think of it, I do go almost every Sunday!

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The menu features brunch classics like eggs benedict, pancakes, and 2 eggs any style, but it also features unique and memorable dishes like a Bolognese Omelet with asiago cheese, and a Carbonara Scramble with bacon, onions, and parmesan cheese. 

Italian COuntry Scramble.

My personal favorite is the Italian Country Scramble with crispy polenta, fontina cheese, and baby arugula. This dish is to.die.for.

The Jessica Omelet

I also like the Jessica Omelet with avocado, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and baby arugula. I get mine with egg whites and a large side of hot sauce and call it a day!

Open Face Sandwich

Another Domani specialty is the Open Face Sandwich with 2 over-easy eggs atop whole wheat toast with avocado, tomato, bacon, and Vermont cheddar cheese with shaved romaine hearts! My dad is a huge fan of this one.

Cappuccino

If you go for brunch, please do not forget to try a cappuccino because they serve one of the best that I have ever had. And if you are a mimosa with breakfast kind of person–which we all know I am!–then feel free to bring a bottle of bubbly (BYOB) and they will supply the OJ. Can’t beat that!

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Lilly’s on the Canal ****

Outsde of Lily's
609.397.62422
2 Canal Street
Lambertville, NJ 08530
 

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Unlike most females, I’m not usually one to make a big fuss over my birthday. Sure, I like a glass of champagne and something sweet to celebrate the start of a new chapter in life, but rarely do I attempt to make formal plans and I NEVER get caught trying to split the bill with my “20 closest girlfriends” at some hoity-toity birthday dinner. Those dinners always turn into a shit-show when the check arrives and the 3 real best friends—usually the roomates—end up having to pay the remainder of the unsettled bar tab while the 17 drunken acquaintances dance away.

This year, I wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday in the normal fashion—doing something quiet and relaxing. My friend, Liz, took me for a pedicure and treated me to lunch. It was a gorgeous day so we drove out Lambertville, NJ and went to Lily’s on the Canal for some Class-A chick food. The menu features incredible gourmet salads, unique sandwiches & wraps, and delicious homemade desserts. It is an ideal restaurant to bring a woman on a date, and it is the perfect spot for a ladies luncheon.

I decided to order a modified version of the Baby Spinach Salad, which came fully-loaded with grilled marinated chicken breast, balsamic glazed Portobello mushroom cap, goat cheese, seasonal tomatoes, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette ($14). 

Chicken and Spinach Salad 

There is not one bad thing I can say about the salad. It was all of my favorite ingredients on one plate in a perfect entrée-sized portion! The chicken was warm and juicy, and the mushrooms were seasoned perfectly. I also am a huge fan of their homemade salad dressings.

Liz ordered the same salad but got it standard issue with Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast, Balsamic Glazed Portobello Mushrooms, Buttermilk Bleu Cheese, Seasonal Tomato, Avocado, and Ranch Dressing.

We also decided to share an order of the Skinny French Fries ($5), which are cut shoestring style and fried to golden delicious crisp!

Lily's French Fries

Some of my other favorite meals at Lily’s include:

The Penne with Vodka Sauce—and I usually add chicken, but you can also choose to add grilled shrimp ($15). Like it says on the menu, “it’s an oldie, but a goodie!”

I am also obsessed with the Caesar Salad with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Creamy Goat Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Parmesan Croutons, and Caesar Dressing ($13). It is a twist on a classic Caesar, which normally has Parmesan, but the goat cheese and freshly cooked bacon bits put this salad over the top!

The burgers at Lilly’s are also quite good, and can be ordered in several different variations. I like the Three Mini Angus Beef Sliders, which are served open face with Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and skinny fries ($12)!

Sliders and Fries

A lighter way to enjoy their burgers, is by ordering the Burger Salad (made with Certified Angus Beef or Vegetable Patty) served over mixed greens with red onion slices, guacamole, spinach hummus, and black bean salad with a balsamic vinaigrette ($12). Not only is it delicious and filling, but you cannot beat the price for what you get!

The only dish I have tried that I wouldn’t recommend getting would be the New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese, Mushrooms, and Onions over Skinny Fries ($25). The steak was small and very fatty. It was also very oily and too way heavy with the fries.

Steak and Blue Cheese

If you can manage to save room for dessert, I would suggest ordering a slice of one of their incredible seven layer cakes: Coconut Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Truffle Cake, Chocolate Kahlua Cake—just to name a few!

Dessert Display

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