Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Garlic at New Smyrna beach

This place is great.... perhaps a little pricey for the average dinner but good for an above average evening. Although, it lacks the ambience of a fine dining establishment. It has all the hallmarks of a restaurant that started out smaller and began to add more to its facility which is evident in its labyrinthine layout. The dining tables for a party of two are uncomfortably small and it gave me the distinct feeling that a maximum number of tables were being crammed into a room just to seat the maximum number of guests to get the maximum revenue for the night. This is something I'm not particularly fond of- an adjacent table merely 1 foot away from your own party of 2.
 
However, the food was good and more than vindicating for the restaurant. The pork osso bucco  was particularly delicious and is highly recommend. It even stored well in the fridge as take out for 5 days after to slowly graze on.
 
We didnt order appetizers as the crusty loaves of bread and whole cloves of soft, roasted garlic really started the dinner off to a great note.
 
They have a fully stocked bar and have an excellent wine selection. Again, something that you would love with great food.
 
Service was brisk and pleasant on our small table (still cant get over the feeling of being packed-in like sardines). And overall, the experience was good.
 
Im not sure how to peg this restaurant... its pricey for a casual night but still too informal for a high-end one. And I've been on both sides of the river to know the difference, per say. Menu and prices below with some food pics. Dessert was good but not the best. I'd stick to the main courses if I were you as their menu selections have something deliciously prepared for anyone and everyone (including vegetarians). I'll be back for more another time.
 
 
 
The Garlic on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tin Roof- on I-drive by the Orlando eye

This place sounds like it will have a great following once the Orlando Eye opens up. The live entertainment is a great draw for the casual food experience seekers.
I had the brisket nachos and a citrus avocado salad. Both of which were pretty good. Their drinks are decent with some combinations that aren't truly successful, but are drinkable nevertheless.
The brisket nachos were definitely a hit with the white cheesy sauce intermixed very well with nachos. Where other establishments would skimp on this preparation, Tin Roof did it right. I actually enjoyed all the nachos rather than just top portion of the app. Which, in the end, makes the money worth it.
Food pics are attached below. Their website is not extremely user friendly- especially- when all you are digging for is their menu. So, I've attached pictures of those as well.

Tin Roof · A Live Music Joint on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hoover's Market- Altamonte's 40yr-old secret?

So, why haven’t I heard about this alternative to Whole Food’s? Maybe because it’s smaller, more local, and non-franchised?

Plus, it’s not really evident from SR436- even though it’s just a block north on Academy Drive. In fact, it’s very plausible that most people will drive right past this spot without noticing that they are missing out on a part of history.

Hoover’s has been around for 40 years and they still have that mom-n-pop feel to their store. Yes, they have a similar Whole Foods layout to an extent but it’s way smaller. The key difference being the food bar aka the ‘Sunflower Market’ (tucked at the end of the fresh produce section) which just specializes in sandwiches, wraps, juices, soups and a few select homemade items.

The sandwiches are simple and come in an assortment of different bread choices (7-grain, sour dough, and wheat among others) but it’s just a standard slice of bread (nothing gourmet) with any organic toppings that you want (a standard selection of spinach, sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, etc). They even have vegan cheese. The juices are freshly prepared in front of your eyes. Chicken and pasta salads are also available from time to time while supplies last. I recommend the wraps over the sandwiches because for a dollar more (about $5 and change), you get a lot more bang for your buck (compared to about $4 for a sandwich). The sizes of the wraps are also run bigger and the attendant behind the counter will add ingredients as you wish and bill you accordingly. Well, at least he should. Read on…

Apparently the guy in front of me ordering his food at the counter had gone too far- adding too many vegetables in heaping quantities and extra hummus when he perfectly knew that his wrap would be charged just the same if it had half the ingredients in it. So the attendant bounced back and told him enough is enough. I somehow got caught in the fiasco when the client started throwing a fit aloud that the attendant was out of line. Personally, it’s rare to be caught in a verbal mêlée, so in an attempt to diffuse the situation I politely reminded the client that it is, after all, only a wrap. Arguments and wars have been had over more serious things than extra hummus on a flour tortilla. 

The client didn’t heed to any of my advice and started complaining to everyone and anyone who wanted to hear him. He even stopped Jordan, the assistant manager (who coincidently is the owner’s son) and started complaining over his $5 grievance and using me as a key 'witness' to prove his case. I managed to pry myself out of the dramatic cross-fire and find a spot outside to sit and eat.

And here’s where it got real sweet- the client followed me out and apologized for dragging me into the situation. Moreover, the manager even came over a little bit later and offered me coupons towards my next purchase! He said that he didn’t want that that situation ruin ‘my experience at Hoover’s’- something that I thought was a shining example of what lengths the proprietors here go to ensure customer satisfaction.

IN A NUTSHELL: Crawl behind any whiny, dramatic, and vociferous client that may cause a scene so you may score a discount. Just kidding. Check this place out though for a healthy snack- the Sunflower Market has very modest selections so don’t keep your hopes up for an extravagant Michelin-star meal. Be prepared to wait a little while (especially if the person in front of you has an elaborate saga of an order that comes straight out of telenovela) since things are mostly made-to-order. Smile and thank Dr. Hoover that he raised a good son like Jordan who is ensuring that good business practices are in place for a least another generation.
Hoover's Market - Sunflower Café on Urbanspoon

Ethos: Delicious but a limited variation when it comes to being vegan

I’m gung-ho about veganism more and more each day. Though I don’t think I can possibly ever wean myself off any dairy products completely (I love them), the concept of having more vegetables in my diet in general is something that I have grown to embrace and love. With this growing affection for meatless meals, I decided to try out Ethos for the very first time.




Although they have ‘chickun’ (a vegan substitute for the real thing) on their menu, I steered clear of that hocus-pocus. Rather, I chose meals that were overtly vegan or very close to it. Here’s what I ordered: Pecan- encrusted Eggplant served with asparagus, mashed potatoes and vegan gravy ($12.95), a Hippie Wrap with a side of fresh fruit ($6.95), and a Peak Pomegranate Wheat Draft Beer ($3.50).
 

The pecan-encrusted eggplant happens to be their signature dish- and it did not disappoint when it came to uniqueness. Not mushy as you would expect eggplants to be, the pecans imparted a crispy, dense coating a very thin slice of eggplant. However, for eggplant lovers, I would not necessarily recommend this dish as it was nowhere reminiscent texturally of eggplant. The red wine sauce was delicious and similar to a berry reduction in consistency. A little more of the sweet sauce would have rescued me easily from the relatively dry crust. I liked the vegan gravy which was slightly salty but flavorful and muddled with complex notes of earthy goodness. The asparagus, which was the vegetable-of-the-day for the dish, was sautéed in very rich-flavored oil.

 

The Hippie Wrap was a huge success. What was notable here is that the hummus was ground to such a fine, creamy consistency that it almost doubled as a dressing or an aioli! The dish was delightful from start to finish and was very finger-friendly. Lip-smacking good with wonderfully varied vegetable textures bomb-blasting my mouth all at once, I was beside myself. Sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, and that supreme hummus spread made this spinach-tortilla wrap one for the books. Simple in its structure and compactness, it is a revelation for anyone that may feign at the idea that vegetables can be boring.

 

I don’t review beers a lot, but Peak’s Pomegranate Wheat that they had available on draft was excellent. As you can tell from the blog picture, I couldn't control myself long enough to take a picture of a full glass of it. Not too pomegranate-like in flavor, it was floral and smooth. On a hot summer afternoon, this was a fine, cooling refreshment. For people that love Blue Moon or Shock Top, give this organic ale a try.

 

Even though Ethos is on the main thoroughfare of Fairbanks, it offers a surprisingly small selection of vegan ingredients that have been spun into different dishes. It seems that Ethos has pigeon-holed itself into a ‘comfort food’ cuisine niche rather than offering far more healthier options that veganism can encompass- think amaranth, lentils, or quinoa, for example. These ‘super-grains’ that are renowned to offer what dieticians consider ‘whole-protein’ options that are plant-based rather than what is typically found in meat. Curiously, Ethos does not offer them as part of their daily menu. This is boggling because the cornerstone of any vegan lifestyle is to supplement nutrient-packed meats with equally comparable plant-derived choices.

 
IN A NUTSHELL: The experience as a whole was delightfully satiating. The meal also didn't sit around in the stomach like a lump of meat usually does (maybe all that fiber IS good for you after all).  I suspected plant-based shortening was used in some of the dish preparations (especially the asparagus) which imparted a lot of flavor, but also some unhealthy saturated fats. ETHOS CAN BE BETTER BY OFFERING EVEN MORE NUTRITIOUS OPTIONS. However, it seems for now that they have resigned to a fate of diner-like staples that have a vegan twist (mac-n-vegan-cheese, vegan-cheese-calzones, etc.) which may be more appropriate for clients that are just trying a vegan lifestyle for the first time. I recommend this venue for first-timers or vegans that are taking their non-vegetarian friends out to dinner.



Ethos Vegan Kitchen on Urbanspoon

House of Pizza: Good food, hope they make it


I was a little dubious about this place. Reviews from previous customers led me to believe that there may be slow service and slow food turnout. It was relieving to note that even thought these claims may be true, they were justified when I visited House of Pizza.

I ordered 10 buffalo wings ($7.99) in the ‘extreme hot’ flavor, a large calzone ($12.99) with broccoli and mozzarella, and a large-size vegetarian specialty pizza ($16.95)


Freshly sliced peppers, sweet red onions, sliced black olives, fresh mushrooms and cubed plum tomatoes festooned the pizza in generous quantities. None of the ingredients overshadowed the other and although I would’ve preferred a fancier olive rather than the standard from-a-can variety, it was pretty tasty. The crust was neither too doughy nor too thin- something that I particularly liked. I thought that this would probably appeal to the masses by striking that delicate doughy line that almost everyone would find little objection towards. The pizza as a whole was not salty or overly seasoned- another bonus. It let the vegetables do all the talking. All in all, a pretty decent pie.

I was equally enamored with the calzone- especially when it arrived lightly glistening with olive oil, oregano, parmesan, and minced garlic that made for a very tantalizing picture (see blog post). The filling (any two toppings of your choice) again was simple and to-the-point where the ingredients talked the talk, and walked the walk.  A side portion of marinara sauce was good for the crusty crescent corners but otherwise unnecessary.

The only thing that I was not happy with was the hot sauce the wings were covered in. Rather than being supremely spicy (as advertized), it was somewhat spicy. The crushed black pepper used in the dish was SO much that it gave the entire dish a granular texture. I’m not sure if they were aiming for spiciness or pepperyness- but those two words are exactly the same. The side cup of ‘bleu cheese dressing’ was in fact more ranch than anything. The wings were cooked well and otherwise fair. On another note, I’m beginning to believe that many establishments in Orlando should discontinue the usage of ‘extreme’ or ‘hell’ or ‘death-wish’ when their spice levels are nowhere near that.

IN A NUTSHELL: It is important to note that you order at the counter, pay, and then sit down and wait for your food to be delivered. Not exactly smart for the waitress to earn her tips when no service has been given prior when paying for the bill with a credit card. They have a soda fountain accessible to guests so you can help yourself to whatever you want (note,  water and lemonade run from the same beverage line so let it run for a little bit before you grab water). The artwork on the walls indicate that the proprietors have some connection to New York City- yet I won’t go as far as claiming that this is a truly New York-style eatery by any means. The dough is made in-house and each ticket is made to order- therefore, it’s no wonder that it takes a little time to make each item! I like this establishment because it’s non-pretentious and what you see is what you taste. Located across from Gatorland, it’s my hope that this joint grows over time to improve on some shortcomings while retaining its overall food philosophy.
House of Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Raga Restaurant, Bar, Lounge- Part Deux

Rarely do I review a restaurant twice. I am writing about Raga for a second time (the first one has been made on my blog a few weeks previous to this). You might say that I have a soft spot for this establishment or that I really want this place succeed. Either way, you'd be right.

I'm sick and tired of Orlando Indian restaurants being pigeonholed into two different categories: one being a horrible, hole-in-the-wall, with seedy, questionable hygiene practices and the other being too-exotic, unfriendly, and unapproachable to the masses. It's high time Americans got on the bandwagon and made Indian food their new Italian. The U.K. made it their #1 cuisine- so, why can't we at least give it a good try?

Raga seems to be a different breed- good locale, decent service, fine-dining, and a rather (for now) pristine atmosphere. All things that typically work in favor of any burgeoning business. So, I had to go back and give them another shot.

This time around, I intentionally tried a completely different set of food options to see if there would be a difference at all- Peppery Mushrooms (a 'Chef's Signature' item-$16), Nilgiri Tahr Curry ($14), Paneer Elaichi Pasanda ($14), and to round-off the experience a Gulmohar Naan ($4) and Mango Lassi ($3).

The Peppery Mushrooms were with onions and chillies in a peppery soy sauce (just as described on the menu- WOO-HOO!) and they were sublimely addictive. High notes of salt and crisp, lightly sauteed vegetables matched perfectly with the undercurrents of heat from the black pepper. Scallions and cilantro complimented the nutty, earthy bite of crunchy, batter-fried mushrooms. Wonderful in it's umami flavor, it was appropriately highlighted as a signature item. Well done.

The Paneer Elaichi Pasanda was made with 'home-made' paneer (a fact that I can neither confirm nor deny) simmered in a creamy, honey-laced, tomato gravy. The description was close to what was served in front of me- volatile cardamom wafts cutting through the air between the fork and the nose was very tantalizing. Except, the sweetness of the honey didn't come through. Maybe it was eclipsed by the inherent sweetness of the vegetables and the cheese? Not sure. Regardless, this dish didn't sing Old Delhi- it read more like a fusion dish that some people might especially like when they are first introduced to Indian cooking.

The Nilgiri Tahr curry was described as being 'garden fresh vegetables' prepared in a south Indian style with mint and coconut and it was very close to that. Carrots, peas, potatoes, cilantro and even a few cubes of paneer bobbed above the dark greenish-brown curry. The only thing that was apparent and unlike the Paneer Elaichi Pasanda was that this sauce was probably put together (a little coconut chutney here, a little curry sauce there) minutes after the order was put in- rather than something that develops deeper flavor profiles when cooked longer on the stove. Nevertheless, if that was the objective of the dish, then the chefs executed it well.

The Gulmohar Naan was described to be 'stuffed with nuts and raisin paste'. Minced Almonds were present but I barely could taste the raisin paste. Rather, the Naan sang of maraschino cherries that dotted the interior frequently and blotted the bread deep pink wherever they were. Again, not something that was described and not what I was expecting. Did it ruin the bread? Not really, but maraschino cherries should be reserved for culinary 101- remember, these heavily pickled (not to mention chemically dyed) fruit are food-safe, but not exactly the healthiest things on the planet.

In a bizarre flip-flop, the Mango Lassi was rich, thick, and creamy. It even tasted like adequate mango puree was in it- a far cry from the thin, watery Plain Lassi I had a few weeks prior. This leads me to believe that this restaurant may be suffering from finding it's stride in standardizing it's food product-  from table to table as well as day by day. Also, there is a lackadaisical departure from what is promised in the description of the menu (what the customer anticipates his money is going towards) and what really appears on the waiters tray. Again, another chronic problem that a lot of Indian and other restaurants here in Orlando tend to be plagued by.

IN A NUTSHELL: This experience was much better than the previous one. The service was attentive on both occasions- and maybe more so this time around when the server noticed that I was taking notes as I ate every single dish. There was no debacle near the bar as I had seen before and Rajiv pleasantly kept himself productive and unmemorably engrossed in FOH duties. If Raga leaps beyond the chronic problems of menu inconsistency and staying loyal to what they promise to offer, they will strike a vein in the heart of Orlando that most would akin to gold.


Raga Restaurant · Bar · Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Recipe 4 50: A Great South-Asian recipe blog by Chef Gopakumar

Hello All,

Please check out Chef Gopakumar's Recipe 4 50 blog on delicious South Asian (specifically the Indian Subcontinent) recipes. As the name suggests, the recipes range from serving 4 to 50 guests. Pictures aid in sequential step-by-step instructions that guide the reader to a delicious outcome.

Chef Gopakumar has been a someone that I've known personally for well over 6 years now and one of the few people that I can personally vouch for his culinary caliber. When it comes to putting out great product, Chef Gopakumar has always (and I mean ALWAYS) met the challenge head-on with crowd-pleasing results. It's a rarity that I can say something like this.

Besides offering a rare window into Indian recipes that are typically well-guarded secrets, Gopakumar is a kind, sentient man that has always radiated with supportive criticisms that only elevate his peers towards perfecting a dish further and further.

Please check out his site here:
http://www.recipe4fifty.com/

Chef Gopakumar presently works for the Hilton chain of restaurants in the U.K. It is with utmost sincerity that I wish him all the luck in his future endeavors in the culinary field.

Kind Regards,

EPH

B & B Junction: Okay, but not heavenly

B&B Junction, as most of you all know, has taken up the old 4-Rivers BBQ spot on Fairbanks. The layout and structure of the establishment is exactly the same- except for it's new proprietors.
Something that they tout is their 'farm-to-table' philosophy- more of this later.

I ordered the #6 ($8.5) with a veggie patty, a large portion of hand-cut fries ($6) and a seasonal Delirium Noël dark ale($6).



The #6 is a "ghost chili cheese, roasted poblano-bacon jam, sriracha aioli, arugula"- only some of which actually came through on the palate. The patty itself was delicious- packed with black-eyed peas, wild rice and even celery. It was moist and very good.  The rest of the burger was nowhere as spicy as it had advertised. As a crash-course for chili-heads, the ghost chili is one of the hottest peppers on the planet until last year when it was dethroned by an Trinidadian hybrid. At over a million Scoville heat units, the ghost pepper is exceptionally hot (law enforcement pepper spray only being much more hotter). Needless to say, this burger was nowhere near it. The poblano-bacon jam was a smidgen of a dollop and the sriracha aioli just as much. Arugula was the only thing that was present in a decent amount beyond the patty and the bun. It was a sheer disappointment especially when the menu had a pepper symbol as a warning for all those who dared to venture- I ordered it hoping that it was a mouth-searing, eyeball-tearing, face-sweating extravaganza. It turned out... more sweet than spicy.

The fries were delicious and well-seasoned. What I really enjoyed were their in-house condiments with ketchup laced with sweet mango and a creamy mustard zinging with horseradish. Plus when the server told us about their Portabello fries, I could only imagine them being yummy with other fry combinations.

The beers, I'm assuming, vary from season to season so I won't go much into them. I know that the beer was supposed to be presented in a snifter, but I wished they had digressed from that and presented a pint of it- especially for $6 when on draft. It felt small on the portion size.

IN A NUTSHELL: This is not exactly a farm-to-table establishment some meats come all the way from California or New Hampshire (therefore, a middle man was required at some point). Yet they know where their main ingredients are sourced and, on the flip-side, some of the greens come from straight from their backyard in Eustis. So it's close, but not exactly as advertised. Portion sizes are good for a power lunch but not for a gorging session (even with a 10oz burger for an additional $3 I can imagine stomachs having room for seconds). Beers need to be upgraded to thirst-quenching sizes- especially if you are sitting outside on their patio area under the hot Florida sun. Burgers are creative, varied in different interesting combinations, and good, but not addictive enough that they would make me drive here everyday.

B&B Junction on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mung Bean Flat Bread

Mung beans are an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber, and also contain vitamins A, C and E, folate, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and calcium.

This is a  3 ingredient, nutrient packed snack or side item
Whole Wheat Flour- enough to bind all the beans with a sprinkle of salt to taste
5-day soaked, refrigerated Mung beans. Boiled in the same soaking water- and enough of this water retained to form a tight dough ball
Olive oil for a skillet to cook the flattened dough

So easy... the pictures are visual enough to entail the entire recipe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Raga Restaurant, Bar, and Lounge


I wanted to write something about Raga- the relatively new Indian fine-dining experience on Restaurant Row in Dr. Phillips. I had first visited this place a few weeks after it first opened- when it was only functioning in the evening for dinner, but I waited off on a report so Raga’s timeline was a little longer than a hot second.

You should know right off the bat that Raga is indeed one of the prettier establishments – in fact, THE prettiest establishment when it comes to décor, ambiance, place-settings, lighting, and food presentation. This has not changed since the beginning of its opening. However, there are some things that have changed.

I tried the following dishes this time- Raj Kachori ($6), Aloo Pardesi ($10), Lasooni Saag Paneer ($14), Chandni Korma ($14), Chatpata Naan ($3) and for a libation, a Sweet Lassi ($3).
 

The Raj Kachori was described on the menu as being “stuffed with sprouts” but there was none in the appetizer. It was medium-spiced with a slight kick towards the end. A very time-sensitive dish once prepared, black garbanzo beans, yogurt, mint/green chutneys softened the crisp fried wafer to what was a soggy, muddled, appetizer rather than a crunchy, layered one. Nevertheless, it was tangy, tasty, and not overly seasoned. The Aloo Pardesi was wonderful and promised all the ingredients that were listed on the menu (potato barrels stuffed with cashews, mixed vegetables, served on the bed of sautéed vegetables with touches of mint-basil dipping sauce). The raw slivers of red radish skewed the profile to bitter and I just wish there was more chutney or something moist since the dish as a whole was very dry two bites into it. In short, I was looking for some moistness in the Pardesi and a little more dryness in Kachori.

Saag paneer was a superb concoction- a wonderfully medium-spiced sauce intertwined with soft paneer cubes and then further garnished with shredded paneer. The sauce itself was a supremely smooth herb purée with great notes of herbaceous spinach, ginger, garlic, and cumin in a well-balanced recipe. Chandni Korma with its vegetables (some type of squash and cauliflower) in a creamy yogurt sauce with dried apricots and almonds was divine. The oil in the dish started to separate from the sauce mid-meal. However, the smooth flavor from all those wonderful Indian spices was very soothing. The Chatpata Naan was lack-luster. Basil, which the menu described, was absent in it and no matter how finely one minces and spreads cilantro, the two do not taste the same. Bottom line- it was a garlic naan with sparse and minute green flecks that was meant to substitute for the real thing. The sweet Lassi was pure yogurt, sugar, and water and not as thick and rich as other establishments serve.




 

IN A NUTSHELL: Food fare is standard here that will appeal to most. The prices are competitive with a good range of variation that goes beyond the standard selections that you would find in another Indian restaurant.  The food presentation and the ambiance is probably the best for Indian restaurants in town. The service was attentive. Most (if not all) of the servers here are non-Indian so please overlook that they cannot pronounce food items correctly. Indians were reserved for the kitchen and the FOH maître d'- and this is not exactly a good thing because a large party of smarmy men were seen trying to sneak in their own alcohol without waiting to be sat and then pulling their server aside to bribe him away from a corkage fee (Rajiv should have handled this better and showed them the door as other patrons were looking on to see what is and isn’t permissible at Raga). Only time will tell if Raga will flourish or perish- but it is my hope that fine dining standards are adhered to- on the menu as well as on the floor.

Raga Restaurant · Bar · Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A leave of absence

Dear Readers,
Some of you may have wondered if I had dropped off the planet.

The answer is yes and no- family health issues have delayed and postponed my food reporting for quite some time. I was forced to take a complete break from blogging and social media. In fact, I am still in the midst of stressful chaos that keeps me inundated with family obligations even on my days off.

So please excuse the lapse in posts- I'll catch up .

Sincerely, EPH

Monday, October 10, 2011

Feed The Need 2011



For over 10 years, Dubsdread and the Christian Service Center have been partnering up to support our local community. Feed the Need helps raise funds and awareness towards impoverished individuals and families in Central Florida. See you next year when you can eat, drink, dance, and make a difference!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tako Cheena- a preliminary impression

Pom Moongauklang’s new concept will be opening in August. It’s not far from her well-known Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria- about 2 miles away. What I found curious was that this concept seems to reflect on her old New York stomping grounds at Nobu- where Matsuhisha’s Latin-Asian prowess resonate as reminders of her own past. But that’s where the similarity stops- Pom’s vision is for the masses. A mere $2-$6 for a filling bite compared to the Benjamins you’d shuck out over a Michelin Star Chef.

I was lucky enough to try some of her ideas while doing a short video of Tako Cheena on YouTube. Don’t hate- seriously, wish I could send all of you a ‘wish you were there’ postcard. Her restaurant concept may not arguably be the first in Orlando, but it is definitely the frontrunner in creativity.

The Tuna ‘Tataki’ was exceptionally good. Lemongrass-infused avocado, cabbage, and freshly caught Tuna (her friend caught and gifted it to her) marinated in a Thai spice blend formed the foundation of taco. Ginger and scallions splayed the dish with additional flavor dimensions. One note: the guava-salsa that accompanies this dish may enjoyed better on the side. I think the flavors were delightfully deep and savory- the salsa was appending a sweet profile that could be skipped. Adventurous seafood lovers will really dig the seriously (and almost-deafening) mouth-feel on this taco.

The Crispy Fried Tofu will find fans in some vegetarians. Crispy breading generously slapped on with Asian spices was an interestingly ‘intense’ experience that some people would not imagine Tofu to possess. Imbued with smoky curry powder, it wasn’t my personal favorite, but I can see others going gaga over its taste and vegan-friendliness.

IN A NUTSHELL: Tako Cheena will be on 932 Mills Avenue and will open in August. Tako Cheena’s message is simple- explore the flavors of the world on a few dollars. This is a GREAT way to introduce some of your friends to exotic flavors and Pom would probably smile if she saw you doing that. The space is small but will boast local artwork and well as monthly artist gatherings. Realize that this is a completely different concept from the Teahouse (Brooklyners will be surprised to know that there may a Pom Teahouse opening soon in their New York neighborhood). Catering will be available.



Sneak Peek at Pom Pom's new venture! Enjoy :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gringos Locos: A Downtown Drunk’s Best Friend

True, I visited Gringos during daylight hours but the feel of the place immediately alerted me that it’s really hoppin’ after the bars start shutting down. Open until 3am, it’s actually a quiet spot to grab a bite for lunch.

Gringos has a beautiful, straightforward menu which is efficiently broken down into 4 main categories- Lite Affair, Tacos, Burritos, and Full Affair (it probably keeps things simple when you’re not working at full capacity after a few shots). This afternoon, I opted for the Double D’s from the Tacos section- a hard-n-soft shell taco with cheese, your choice of meat, lettuce, pico de gallo, and sour cream (2 for $5.95) and OG Nachos ($5.75) from the Full Affair section- cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and ground beef ($1.75 extra).

First off, the service here is REALLY helpful and very friendly. Since yours truly is trying to be more healthful (especially when sober), the guy at the back of the counter piled on veggies in my taco- olives, diced tomatoes, jalapenos, and (delightfully) cilantro. It was a great revelation to find out that a taco, especially here, can give you an ample serving of nutritious vegetables… minus the innocuous ‘daily salad’ concept that I’ve being accustomed to lately. And to match that health-consciousness, he even suggested that I skip the sour cream to savor those fresh, herbaceous flavors. Who am I to counter such brilliance?

Salty, succulent pieces of dark chicken meat greeted my mouth like a long-lost lover. She enshrouded her allure with crisp lettuce and sultry kisses of freshly sliced jalapenos. The ultra-fine shredded white and yellow cheeses only cemented my appetite for her. The cilantro was particularly instrumental in giving the taco a beautiful, ethnic mouth-feel. And parlaying into that experience, the textural combination of soft and hard shell tacos in one bite made this dish an INSTANT ADDICTION.

The OG Nachos, in my opinion, are best eaten when you have the drunk munchies. To me, it didn’t really make a lot of sense eating weirdly sweet ground beef (a mixture of chipotle, spice, and brown sugar) heaped with a curious cheese sauce mixture only to be wetted down with tomatoes and sour cream. This lead to a very soggy nacho combination that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Freshly made right behind the counter, the dish became a sloppy mess within minutes. Delicious when drunk, not so much when sober.

IN A NUTSHELL: Gringos Locos is your stop after the bars (it’s catty-corner from I-Bar). It remains one of the few cool places that still give you GREAT DEALS IF YOU BUY MORE OF THE SAME ITEM (my tacos were 2 for $5.95, 3 for $8.00, or 4 for $9.75). They at least have 3 different types of hot sauces. Try to sit OUTSIDE- a mere hour inside the joint and my shirt smelled strongly like deep fried salsa (not really a good thing when you still have the errands to run). And if you want to impress your friends by getting your picture on their counter, you can try the Drunk Gringo Challenger Showdown where you try to inhale a burrito as fast as you can (the current time to beat is 1min 21secs). But please, have some dignity and barf outside the restaurant if the alcohol revolts inside you. That’s probably the reason why Gringos has 100% recycled paper napkins but no recycling trashcans for their canned and bottled beverages.
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