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Review: J’anita’s

St. Chuck Duck

St. Chuck Duck

Located at The Rendon Inn, J’anita’s has some of (if not the) best bar food in New Orleans — and bar food is an art, in my opinion. It can’t be too greasy or too filling to measure up.

J’anita’s uses great ingredients to make sandwiches, soups and sides worthy of five-star status. They also have daily specials that are worthy of cult status.

Probably the best special is the Meatloaf Sammich. I can honestly say it’s the best meatloaf and best meatloaf sandwich I’ve ever had. A slab of housemade meatloaf, mozzarella cheese, green pepper and red onions is served on ciabatta bread from Stein’s Deli. Just so you know, it’s the Tuesday special so plan ahead accordingly.

The regular menu offers several standouts. On my first visit I had the Best Fish Sammich Ever!. They’re name for it, not my opinion, but it’s pretty accurate. It’s ciabatta bread with a redfish filet, bacon, grilled onion, feta, lettuce and tomato. Using redfish definitely sends this fish sandwich to another level.

Tater Salad

Tater Salad (Complete with Animal Cracker)

My favorite item overall is the St. Chuck Duck. Holy duck! The St. Chuck Duck is a grilled sourdough with currant tapenade, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, grilled onion, green apples and cabernet-sauteed duck. Did you get all that? It’s a lot, but everything works so well together. This has to be one of the best sandwiches in the city.

Another item worth mentioning is the Not Quite Cuban. It’s pulled pork, bacon, Swiss cheese, pickles and chimichurri sauce on a pressed ciabatta. The pork was smoky and delicious and worked well with all the other not-so-Cuban ingredients.

I would also recommend the Adult Grilled Cheese. It’s loaded with cheddar, pepper jack, feta cheese, bacon, grilled onion and tomato — though I never allow tomatoes on my sandwiches. It’s ooey gooey and bacony and delicious all pressed between two slices of sourdough.

Meatloaf Sammich

Meatloaf Sammich

I do have a complaint about J’Anita’s. Every single time I go, they are out of guacamole. I’m dying to finally try it. One day…

As for the sides, I’ve yet to have one that wasn’t phenomenal. The Tater Salad and Cheese Grits are tied for my favorites. The fries are steak-cut fries which I’ve never been a fan of so I usually don’t go for those. The Cole Slaw is also delicious and not overloaded with mayo. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sides.

The folks at J’Anita’s know what they’re doing when it comes to food. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they recently opened a second location inside Grit’s Bar. While I’ve yet to try that one, the Janita’s at the Rendon Inn has yet to disappoint me. In fact, it’s always exceeded my expectations. Do yourself a favor and venture off the beaten path to try J’Anita’s.

J’Anita’s is located in The Rendon Inn at 4501 Eve Street in the Broadmoor neighborhood. It’s a bar so the hours run pretty late.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Domenica

Affettati Misti

Affettati Misti

Full disclosure: I worked at Domenica for a few months in 2010, so if you think that is a conflict of interest, read no further.

First and foremost, Domenica has one of the best happy hours in town. Not many places can match 50% off of pizza, beer and wine (by the glass). You can get a lot of food and drinks for a great price.

Aside from that, the menu rotates very frequently to keep things seasonal. If it’s on the menu, the main must-have is the fried squash blossoms. They’re addictive.

Other top favorites of mine include:

  • Squid Ink Tagliolini — Topped with delicious blue crab and loaded with fresh herbs, it’s light and refreshing and doesn’t fall into the heavy pasta dish category.
  • Gnocchi (changes seasonally) —
    Banana Zuppa Inglese

    Banana Zuppa Inglese

    Domenica has the best gnocchi in town, you can’t go wrong ordering any variety. The best I’ve had to date was the Spinach Gnocchi with Bacon and Brown Butter.
  • Roasted Cauliflower — You order will consist of an entire head of cauliflower that is roasted. What really sends this dish over the top is the whipped goat feta. It has the consistency of hummus, but the pungent taste of goat cheese.
  • Tagliatelle — The rabbit and porcini mushrooms blend very well with this pasta to create a deliciously gamey dish.
  • Affettati Misti — Start with this. It’s basically the deluxe meat and cheese plate with accoutrements. The meats and cheese are awesome as is the bread that accompanies everything. And make sure you get Panna Forte.
  • Squid Ink Tagliolini

    Squid Ink Tagliolini

  • Spicy Lamb Meatball Pizza — All the pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven that makes them taste authentically Italian. You can’t really go wrong with any of the pizzas, but my recommendation has the best balance of cheesy, meaty, fresh, tomatoey.
  • White Truffle Risotto — The main reason to order it is for the pancetta croutons. The gnocchi is good, too.
  • Crema Fritta — I’m not sure what this creamy cheese is breaded with, but it gives it a texture unique to any fried cheese I’ve had. The bacon and onion marmellata is also stellar.

If it sounds like I’m suggesting you order a large percentage of the menu, I am. Domenica has consistently improved every time I’ve visited. Head chef Alon Shaya really has a great understanding of this type of Italian cuisine — and that comes through 100% in all of the dishes.

After you’ve indulged in the savory courses, don’t pass up a dessert. Domenica has a very talented pastry chef, Lisa, who puts together unique dishes. In a visit this summer, I had the warm peach cake with salted caramel, blueberries and blueberry-basil sorbetto.Now, while I like all of those ingredients separately, I was curious to see how they worked in the same dish. The result: a heavenly dessert that had just the right amount of salty and sweet.

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri

The Banana Zuppa Inglese is also worth raising your spoon form. The banana cake is extremely moist and the butterscotch mousse make a topping. It’s kind of like a bread pudding/banana pudding mash-up.

Domenica is not a place to miss and is my second favorite Besh restaurant behind the flagship restaurant of August. My only tip would be to skip the lunch menu and go for happy hour and/or dinner. The dinner menu is exponentially better than the lunch menu, but you really can’t go wrong.

Domenica is located in the Roosevelt Hotel at 123 Baronne Street.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Cowbell

I think I visited Cowbell for the first time early in 2011. From the first bite, I knew it would be a place I frequented often. So it came as no surprise to me when Cowbell was named The Gambit’s Best New Restaurant (as selected by readers).

Cowbell Burger

Cowbell Burger

The burger craze is in full swing in New Orleans, but out of all the burger joints (old and new), Cowbell is hands down my favorite. The beef is always juicy and cooked perfectly. Add American cheese, bacon, a yard egg and Cowbell’s homemade Mojo sauce and you’ll be transported to burger heaven. The burger with zinfandel, bacon and onion compote can take you there as well — it’s just a different journey.

The Cowbell burger is so good, it makes it hard for me to order anything else off of the menu. Fortunately, I break the habit and order other items from time to time. One of the best I had was a salmon special with black beans and avocado. The waitress (who knows me well by now) recommended and was spot on (as usual). Her name’s Tarani, you should ask for her if/when you go in though she seems to be behind the bar most of the time these days.

Additionally, you can’t go wrong with any of Cowbell’s grilled cheese sandwiches that seem to change daily. The Fried Oyster Salad is also delicious when oysters are in season. The Fish Tacos are good, not great, but will do the trick.

Hand-Cut Fries

Hand-Cut Fries

But admit it, what you really want is the burger. I know, I’m the same way. A lot of my love for the Cowbell burger comes from the meat itself, but the potato bun should be given some of the credit. And if you think I’m crazy for getting the egg, try it yourself, you won’t be disappointed. The yolk from the egg will burst and soak into the potato bun given the burger a whole new flavor profile.

You can even sop up the yolk overflow with the hand-cut fries that are always crisped and seasoned just right. Or you can always substitute (for an extra charge) Cowbell’s kickass Mac and Cheese in place of the fries. Their Mac and Cheese is made with white cheddar and roasted poblano peppers. It’s creamy, has a subtle kick and is filling.

Another thing you won’t want to leave without is the Fresh Made Apple Pie. It’s baked individually into a puff pastry, but it’s worth every bite and for $5 it’s a steal.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

Cowbell used to by BYOB, but now that they have a liquor license it’s $5 for the first bottle you bring and $10 for each after that. Most of the drinks they have are of a nice portion and they have one of the best margaritas in town, surprisingly enough.

Cowbell is 100% deserving of winning Gambit’s Best New Restaurant. You may experience a little bit of a wait now that it’s on people’s radar. Service is normally great (like I said, ask for Tarani), but there’s one lady who I would avoid. You’ll know her if you get her. Simply put, she’s just not friendly. Thankfully, the food more than makes up for it. And Brack May, the owner, couldn’t be a nicer guy. Invite him over to your table if he’s around.

Cowbell is located at the intersection of Oak St. and River Rd. at 8801 Oak St. Hour are Tues. through Sun. 11:30 a.m to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Kim Son

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

If you live in New Orleans, it’s possible you’ve never heard of Kim Son. It flies under the radar as far as Vietnamese places go and it’s located off the beaten culinary path. If you do know about Kim Son, you know it’s one of the best go-to places for Vietnamese and features one of New Orleans’ most expansive menus. Even Cheesecake Factory would be put to shame by the number of offerings.

I only stumbled across Kim Son because one night Pho Tau Bay and Nine Roses happened to be closed. Since then, it’s become my number one spot for Vietnamese. As a bonus, they also have a ton of Chinese dishes if you don’t want Vietnamese.

Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flank

Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flank

Kim Son has the best pho I’ve ever had, some of the best tofu I’ve ever had, and the salt baked items (shrimp, scallops, lobster, tofu and squid) are out of this world.

I can never go without having something salt baked. Usually, it’s the shrimp, but when I feel like splurging, I go for the lobster. The seafood itself is baked (though I think it’s fried) to an amazing crispy texture. Plus, the sauteed onions with ground black pepper and chili flake send things over the top.

Another favorite of mine is the Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flanks. The beef comes out medium rare, but cooks in the hot broth releasing even more juice into the broth and taking in the broth flavors at the same time. That’s my favorite version, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Salt Baked Shrimp

Salt Baked Shrimp

The make-your-own beef spring rolls make a great app to share at the table. You customize your spring rolls by adding in cucumber, cilantro, lettuce, carrots and other garnishes.

You also can’t go wrong with any of the tofu dishes. Try the tofu curry in the clay pot or the tofu with eggplant. Kim Son calls it “bean cake,” but rest assured, it’s tofu.

I haven’t had time to make it through the whole menu (that would probably take years), but everything I’ve ever had has been outstanding. It’s consistently fresh, never greasy and always tasty. Other Vietnamese places have great dishes, but none of them can match Kim Son’s overall effort.

Kim Son is located 349 Whitney Ave. in Gretna on the Westbank and is open Mon. through Sat. from 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: La Thai Uptown

Paht Thai

Paht Thai at La Thai

There was a time when I wasn’t a big fan of La Thai. I’ve had to reevaluate my opinion and I’m happy to say, I’ve changed my mind. You can now count me as a fan.

Like any place, some dishes are better than others, but what won me over was the Thai-Coon. A delicious dish with jumbo shrimp, Lousiana crawfish, vegetables and fried eggplant in a spicy garlic basil sauce over jasmine rice. It’s a filling dish, but the eggplant is fried to perfection and the seafood, veggies and sauce all work in nearly perfect harmony. It’s hands down my favorite dish at the place.

I’m also a big fan of the Crispy Calamari. La Thai has breading and frying down and their version of calamari is made with one of the best sweet chili sauces you’ll find. A friend even said it was “the best calamari she’s ever had.” At this point, I’m inclined to agree with her, at least when it comes to fried calamari.

Crispy Calamari

Crispy Calamari at La Thai

Two other appetizers I enjoy quite a bit are the Skewerless Chicken Sate and Mama’s Stuffed Chicken Wings. The wings are some of the best wings I’ve had in quite a while. I’ve never really seen New Orleans as a big wings city, but La Thai has a dish that proves to be the exception to that.

La Thai also has two salads that stand out. The first is the Naked Shrimp Salad with mango, tri-colored peppers and mango-peanut dressing. It’s fruity, crunchy and full of zest and flavor. The second is the Pecan-Crusted Oyster Salad with lump crabmeat, pecans, grapes and wasabi lime aioli. This is probably the best salad on the menu. The oysters are fried perfectly and actually work well with the sweetness of the grapes.

The noodle and rice dishes are La Thai’s bread and butter and they have some great dishes in this section of the menu. The Paht Thai is always a popular choice, but I’ve always found it just a tad bit underwhelming compared to the Paht Woon Sen and the Thai-Coon. Did I mention I’m in love with the Thai-Coon?

Cashew Chicken

Cashew Chicken at La Thai

You’ll also have a great choice of curries when visiting. All are delicious and very in spiciness.

On my last visit, I went during lunch and ordered the Cashew Chicken. They definitely didn’t skimp on the cashews (a big plus in my book) and it was a great blend of sweet, saucy, spicy and salty. I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.

Aside from the food, the decor is impeccable and the service is always excellent. Diana and Merlin Chauvin (chefs/owners) are two of the nicest people on the New Orleans restaurant scene. They don’t treat anyone at La Thai like a stranger. They’ve collaborated to make La Thai a great neighborhood joint for all of New Orleans.

Paht Thai and Calamari images courtesy of Amy Jett Photography.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Wink (Austin)

Seared Dayboat Scallops

Seared Dayboat Scallops

Wink is an Austin restaurant that prides itself on using the freshest ingredients possible. When it comes to food, we all know fresh is best, but in today’s world of Sysco suppliers, freshness often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Thankfully, Wink succeeds in its main focus. Every plate we had was fresh and it’s no wonder Wink lists the farms and local produce suppliers it maintains a relationship with.

We arrived a few minutes earlier for our reservation so it was no surprise our table wasn’t quite ready due to Wink’s intimate size. So we were forwarded over to Wink’s wine bar next door. There, we settled on a bottle of tempranillo we thoroughly enjoyed. While we waited, we perused the menu and decided to do the five-course tasting me.

Side note: surprisingly, I’m a big fan of tasting menu. It goes against my control freak nature, but for some reason, I 100% trust chefs when it comes to putting together a tasting menu.

First course was a Coriander-scented Himachi Sashimi in Chilled Citrus Soy Broth with Radishes and Pea Shoots. While it was pleasant, it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. The broth didn’t really add much to the himachi so it was a little more subtle than I expected. And while I like subtle, this was too subtle. The citrus didn’t pop and the radishes conflicted with the himachi in my opinion.

Second course was a Seared Dayboat Scallop with Spaghetti Squash, Oyster Mushrooms, Basil and Orange Emulsion. This turned out to be my favorite course of the night. The scallop was seared to perfection, the spaghetti squash tasted fresh and had a nice crunch to it, the oyster mushrooms were seasoned just right and the citrus element of the orange emulsion popped — unlike the himachi dish. Oddly enough, the orange emulsion reminded me of the icing that comes with Pilsbury’s Orange Danish Rolls. I mean that as a compliment, it was delicious when mixed with the saltiness of the other elements.

Duck Breast

Duck Breast

Next up was Duck Breast with Sweet Potato, Rainbow Chard, Maiitakes and Brown Fig. We ordered the duck medium rare (that’s how I usually roll) and it came out cooked perfectly. It had just enough juice to it and basically melted when chewed. The chard and the sweet potato added a nice sweet, earthy taste to the richness of the duck. The fig tasted good, but was a little lost among the other elements.

Grilled N.Y. Strip with Creminis, Okra, Cippolini and Charred Eggplant Puree was the next course. Once again, we ordered the meat medium rare and once again, it had just enough sear and just enough juice. The creminis and cippolini were amazing when eaten with the strip as was the charred eggplant puree — perfectly smoky and earthy. Now for the okra, I don’t like okra and haven’t eaten it since I was about seven years old. I toughened up and tried it again though and Wink may have convinced me to reevaluate my loathing of okra. It was salty, smoky and had a nice crunch to it.

For dessert, we split a cheese plate of some great Texas cheese and a dessert sampler. The dessert sample had three components: A Raspberry Meringue filled with Lemon Curd, Creme Brulee and El Rey Chocolate Cake.

Grilled NY Strip

Grilled NY Strip

The Raspberry Meringue was hands down my favorite. The meringue had the perfect crunch to it and the lemon curd was more sour than sweet which was my favorite aspect.

The creme brulee was bruleed wonderfully and it was a solid creme brulee. For some reason, creme brulee isn’t a dessert I get overly excited about, but there was nothing wrong with this one.

The El Rey Chocolate Cake was super decadent. El Rey chocolate is from Venezuela and it was easy to realize the cocoa content was quite high. I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, so Miguel was on his own for this one and based on his feedback, it was a great chocolate cake.

Overall, Wink has some creative dishes that really benefit from the freshness philosophy. Wink also takes wine very seriously which is something most fine diners can appreciate. The place is small so it is very intimate. Reservations are highly recommended, but don’t necessarily expect them to seat you promptly. We had a reservation for 8 p.m., but didn’t get seated until 8:30 p.m. Luckily, the wine bar is fantastic and makes you forget you’re waiting.

Wink is also a little hard to find as it’s nestled in a an area off the main drag. It’s definitely worth the trip. Wink practices what it preaches when it comes to the main philosophy: fresh, fresh, fresh.

Wink is located at 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. and is open Mon.-Sat. from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: The Company Burger

Company Burger with Bacon and Yard Egg

Company Burger with Bacon and Yard Egg

The burger craze is in full effect in New Orleans and the newest burger joint on the block is The Company Burger. Serving burgers, sides and beer is a pretty much fool-proof concept, but The Company Burger’s concept is not only fool-proof, but genius.

In my visits to The Company Burger I’ve tried just about everything. My favorite? The Turkey Burger. Yes, that may sound weird and health-conscious, but it’s the best turkey burger I’ve ever had. The patty is thin and juicy, but the tomato jam, green goddess dressing and arugula it comes standard with really push it over the top. I could eat one every day and die happy.

The Lamb Burger is also a solid choice, but falls just short of the Turkey Burger and the Company Burger if you ask me.

However, The Company Burger’s biggest seller is its antibiotic/hormone-free beef patty burgers. The only items complementing the beef patty? Red onions, American cheese and housemade bread and butter pickles. It’s simple, it’s grilled to perfection and it’s full of flavor. I can usually never resist adding bacon and a yard egg to mine. There’s nothing better than an egg yolk bursting in a burger and creating a rich, makeshift sauce.

Speaking of sauces, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the mayo bar at The Company Burger. All of the mayos are made fresh daily and there’s a mayo for every tastebud. The Basil Mayo is the best in my opinion. Especially when you dip the Sweet Potato Fries in it. I also like making my own Sriracha mayo which is something I wish they would add. The Company Burger also offers Baconnaise, but I have to admit, I wasn’t a big fan. It was too sweet. The best part is that you can mix, match and sample as much as you want so the mayo combos are endless.

Company Burger Burgers and Onion Rings

The Company Burger, Brisket Sandwich and Onion Rings

The sides at The Company Burger are just as well done as the burgers. The Company Fries are handcut fries that always come out crispy and salted just right. Plus, the skin is left on which is always something I enjoy in a fry. The Sweet Potato Fries and Tater Tots are also great choices. As for the Onion Rings, they rank in the top three for onion rings I’ve ever had. Made with red onions, the batter and the sweetness of the red onion combine amazingly to create a heavenly onion ring.

On one visit, I was fortunate enough to sample the Brisket Sandwich. It was so great, I’m thoroughly disappointed it was a special. It held its own against most briskets I’ve had in Texas, and Texas is serious about brisket. The homemade cole slaw and brisket were an example of crunch, sweetness, saltiness and meatiness. On second thought, I’m glad it was a special because it would be trouble for my belly if it was a regular item.

Tin Roof Beer at Company Burger

Tin Roof Beer at Company Burger

The Company Burger has a great beer and cocktail selection that seems to be continuously expanding. Local beers and other beers from all over the country are available. I really enjoyed the Tin Roof I had on a recent visit. The cocktails are also meticulously crafted and worth sipping on.

If you still have room for dessert, The Company Burger has some very decadent brownies which are probably best split. There’s also a Carrot Cake, but I’ve yet to try it. I usually don’t have room for dessert after scarfing down my burger and fries.

The Company Burger is the perfect example of a neighborhood burger joint sticking to burger roots, but experimenting enough to please consumers from all aspects of life. This is a great place to bring anyone because if they can’t find something worth eating on the menu, there’s something wrong with them, not the restaurant.

The Company Burger is located at 4600 Freret St. and is open daily (with the exception of Tuesdays) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Neptune Oyster (Boston)

Neptune Oyster Bar

Neptune Oyster Bar

First things first, being a Louisiana native, I’ve always considered myself a Gulf Coast oyster purist. For years, I was convinced they were the best on the planet. Sadly, while I love the Gulf Coast, Neptune Oyster in Boston has reversed my stance on where to get the best oysters.

Located in Boston’s North End, Neptune Oyster looks unassuming from the outside. When you get inside it’s full of hustle and bustle in a very confined space, but as fresh as this seafood is, the location could be a back alley and it wouldn’t matter.

After reviewing the oyster and seafood offerings from the raw bar, I decided to get a mix of oysters from all over the country. Oyster #1 was a Wellfleet oyster from Wellfeet, Mass. Described as medium, very high salt and with a sweet butter finish, it’s sounded like a good bet. And it was. I could taste all the elements in the description. Before I continue as I should definitely point out that the descriptions Neptune Oyster provides are very accurate. So trust what’s on the order sheet.

Oysters at Neptune Oyster

Half Dozen Oyster Variety

Oyster #2 was a Katama Bay oyster from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. My reason for ordering it was because of the description as having a “buttered popcorn finish.” Once again, spot on. This oyster had a very buttery taste that I really enjoyed.

Oyster #3 was a Glidden Point oyster from Darmariscotta, Maine. Listed as having a citrus finish, this was probably my least favorite of the half dozen. It had the lowest flavor profile of all the oysters I tried so I don’t have much to say about it.

I also don’t have much to say about Oyster #4 (a Peacock Cove oyster from Cumberland, N.B.). I was barely able to pick up on the “hints of champagne” listed in the description. Maybe I need some actual champagne as an accompaniment instead of my Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer.

Oyster #5 was by far my favorite — a Kumamoto oyster from Willapa Bay, Wash. The description suggested “hints of honeydew melon.” Sounds insane, right? It was insanely accurate. I definitely picked up on the honeydew melon flavor.

Oyster #6 was my second favorite — a Kusshi oyster from Deep Bay, B.C. Listed as having a “cucumber finish,” this oyster also lived up to its description. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was that the descriptions matched the oysters’ flavors.

Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster

Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster

For my main course, I had a cold lobster roll (Neptune Oyster also has a hot version using clarified butter instead of mayo). I couldn’t leave Boston without having at least one lobster roll, and I’m glad I ordered one here. The roll was buttery and grilled to perfection while the lobster itself was plump, fresh and rich. When combined with the light mayo and the roll, it was bliss. The fries were also very good. Probably the best I had during my trip so don’t over look those. Add some Tabasco to your ketchup and you’ve got a great meal.

I’m a little disappointed I discovered Neptune Oyster so late into my trip, but at least I found it. It’s one of the premier oyster bars in Boston and probably one of the best on the East Coast period. It will definitely be a stop I make next time I return to Boston. Neptune Oyster had the best and freshest seafood I had during my stay.

Neptune Oyster, located in Boston’s North End at 63 Salem Street, opens daily at 11:30 a.m.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Pomodoro (Boston)

Pomodoro's Bread

Pomodoro's Bread

I ventured into Boston’s North End (think Boston’s version of Little Italy) on Monday night to have dinner at Pomodoro with friends. The place came highly recommended from one of my friends (who happened to be in our party) and he was spot on.

The place is small and intimate with a definite allure — I wouldn’t hesitate to call it romantic. I’m pretty sure there was only one server for the entire restaurant. For me, that added to the charm and she was never stressed or rushed so it worked.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay any attention to the complimentary bread basket a restaurant, but let me tell you, the bread at Pomodoro is insanely good. The crust has a nice crack and the bread on the inside is light and fluffy. The olive oil is also great. They had olives in the actual olive oil which was something most places don’t do and it really pulled out the olive flavor from the oil. Don’t skip the bread if you go in.

Pomodoro's Antipasto

Pomodoro's Antipasto

We started by ordering the antipasto plate which was an Italian smorgasbord. It was loaded with Tuscan white bean salad, roasted sweet red peppers stuffed with a tuna salad, prosciutto, green beans, poached calamari, lightly fried potatoes, arugula, parmesan, fried artichokes, goat cheese toast and fresh olives. I don’t like olives much, so I skipped those, but the standouts of the board were the stuffed peppers (sweet heat), the calamari (amazing taste and texture) and the goat cheese toast (because it’s goat cheese). I wasn’t a big fan of the prosciutto, it was sliced too thick and didn’t have the saltiness I’m accustomed to. The potatoes had a nice crispiness to them, but completely lacked seasoning so there wasn’t anything to send them over the top. All the beans and arugula tasted fresh and complemented the other elements very well.

One of my friends ordered the Classic Linguini. Pomodoro tosses their linguini with a slow roasted plum tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. That’s it.

Classic Linguini

Classic Linguini

It may sound boring since there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles attached, but let me assure you that sometimes the most simple dish can have the most impact. This linguini was a perfect example. Light, acidic, herbacious, it had all the elements one expects out of a classic tomato sauce and pasta dish. Add some parmesan cheese and the flavor is taken to another level.

My other friend ordered the Veal Scaloppini. The veal was cooked with a sweet onion balsamic sauce and paired with a green olive risotto. While my friend thought it was overloaded with balsamic, it actually worked for me. I liked the acidic balsamic-onion combo especially when a piece of the veal was taken with a bite of the much subtler risotto.

Chicken Carbonara

Chicken Carbonara

I ordered what we all agreed was the best dish of the night: the Chicken Carbonara. Pieces of chicken with wild mushrooms, Italian ham and cracked pepper on a bed of rigatoni. The chicken was juicy and cooked perfectly. The white sauce on everything was beyond belief. All of these elements worked together in harmony to create one of the best traditional Italian dishes I’ve had in year.

After dinner, do yourself a favor and head over to Mike’s Pastry across the street. They have some of the best desserts you’ll find in Boston.

North End in Boston is full of Italian places and everyone who’s ever been to or lived in Boston seems to have their own unique opinion on the best place to go. After dining at Pomodoro, I’ll happily go on record saying it is one of the best Italian places in Boston. The ambiance, food and setting were all exactly what I wanted out of the experience.

Pomodoro is located in Boston’s North End at 319 Hanover Street. Hours are Mon. through Fri. 5 to 11 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: UBurger (Boston)

The Grand Slam Burger at UBurger Boston

The Grand Slam Burger at UBurger Boston

Burgers don’t seem to be a big thing in Boston, but I wanted to check the scene out anyway. After doing some research, I decided to go to local joint UBurger. Turns out I missed their fifth anniversary by a day.

Technically a chain (they have three locations – Park Street, Kenmore Square and BU West Campus), UBurger serves a variety of burgers (either pre-made or build-your-own). I ventured to the Kenmore Square location which was full of students.

Since I had already perused the menu online, I had an idea of what I was going to order. The menu is pretty extensive, but I had my mind set on a Grand Slam Burger (with bacon, cheddar cheese grilled onions, mushrooms and house sauce) and an order of onion rings. I probably should have ordered a frappe as well, but knew I was going to get dessert elsewhere so I resisted.

My order came out pretty quickly and dove in to the onion rings. Very crispy and thinner than most onion rings I’m used to, they packed quite a crunch. They were lacking a little seasoning, but overall, UBurger has some solid onion rings. The crispness held up even after they had been sitting for a while which is always a good test.

UBurger Onion Rings

UBurger Onion Rings

The burger itself was cook medium (I prefer my burgers mid-rare to medium) which was a nice change-up from most quick service burger joints that overcook the meat. The patty was seasoned really well and was really a star on a bun. The house sauce was very good, but with the way it blended with the grilled onions and mushrooms, I couldn’t quite pick up on the flavors in the sauce. The bun was a great aspect. It wasn’t too heavy or light and had a nice doughiness to it. All of the elements on this burger really worked well together so I was more than happy with my choice.

All in all, UBurger was a pleasant experience. The burger and onion rings were both solid items and I can see why the place is so popular with the local students: it’s quick and it’s cheap. My burger, onion rings and drink rang in at $10.33. Not bad for a such a solid meal.

UBurger has three location throughout Boston. Visit the UBurger website for locations and hours.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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