Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Handke's Cuisine is The Best In Town!

Of all the restaurants that I've tried in Columbus, Handke's Cuisine was the best one hands down. So when my parents were visiting me this weekend, it was only fitting to take them over there and experience the best taste explosion in town.

The chef, Hartmut Handke, had won numerous awards, including a Bocuse d'Or title! The restaurant is located in an underground wine cellar on S. Front Street, and the waiting staff are extremely professional and great at their jobs. We went in there and saw all the awards and food pictures displayed inside the restaurant, and I seriously couldn't wait till I could sit down and order and eat.

After reading the menu, we decided to start with the sauteed foie gras and the country pate. The sauteed foie gras was seasoned perfectly and was not fishy at all. The beets and granny smith apple provided a little sweetness that balanced out the fattiness of the foie gras very well. The country pate came with dried fruits and nuts and some citrus-berry jam. The pate was absolutely delicious, and combined with the sweetness of the fruits, warm flavor of nuts, and the citrus aroma from the jam on top of buttery brioche, it was just heavenly. Then the porcini mushroom soup came after the appetizer. The mushroom soup was creamy and earthy, and the mushroom flavor was well preserved in the soup; it was just excellent!

We each ordered different main courses. I had the veal scallopine, which came with a chanterelle mushroom sauce. The veal was tender and delicious, and the chanterelle mushroom sauce was just creamy enough that it did not intercept the flavor of the veal. My dad had the veal chop, and the meat was prepared so well that I only had one bite and it was completely gone. My mom had the lobster neuberg. It's rare to find a chef that really knows how to cook lobster because it easily becomes tough and chewy. But the lobster was tender and sweet, and the sauce had the fragrance of white wine and fresh herbs. My sister had the buffalo tenderloin, and the tenderloin steak was prepared perfectly medium and, it too was gone in a flash. My boyfriend had the "duck three way", which was one of the dish that got the Bocuse d'Or award. It consisted of sauteed duck breast, duck confit of leg, and duck sausage. I was never a fan of duck meat, but the duck confit was so well prepared that the meat was practically falling off the bone without a hint gaminess.

After our main course, we had the grand marnier souffle and the creme brulee. The grand marnier souffle was baked perfectly. The citrus flavor from the grand marnier really popped against the vanilla sauce. The creme brulee was soft and creamy, and I think it definitely deserved the title of "best creme brulee in Columbus". The only creme brulee that can compete with Handke's was at The Palms restaurant in Las Vegas, and trust me I've had my share of creme brulee. At the end, the waiter gave us a 'special' piece of dark chocolate terrine. The dark chocolate terrine was so smooth and creamy, it practically melted right after putting it in the mouth. The entire meal was absolutely superb, and the extra chocolate terrine was a great touch as well.

Handke's Cuisine was definitely my favorite restaurant in Columbus, and the food ranked 4.99 out of 5. The reason why I can't give 5 was because by definition, a 5 means the food's so good that my inside would explode after eating because the food was so good that I could just die. Handke's Cuisine came very very close to that. If you would like to experience taste explosion in Columbus, please go to 520 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, or online at http://www.chefhandke.com . Trust me, you would not be disappointed!

Zen Sushi Won't Provide Zen

I've been eyeing the new sushi place that just opened on High Street for awhile, which was called "Zen Sushi + More". Then I saw that there's a rotating belt inside the store and I've never ever eaten in a sushi place that had rotating belt, so I was happy when it finally opened so I could give it a try. First of all, a little lesson for those of you who were less familiar with Japanese food. When a Japanese restaurant has a rotating belt, this means the restaurant serves "fast food" grade Japanese food. So my expectations weren't that high when I first went in, I was just excited to see the rotating belt because I have the attention span of a 5-year-old, and the rotating belt was just constant excitement. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere and nice selection of seats, which is unusual for a fast food Japanese restaurant. Anyways, on with the food.

I ordered Chasoba (tea infused cold noodle) and an order of hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi. My boyfriend got some grilled steak and chicken skewers and some sushi. When my hamachi sashimi arrived, the color was dark red with slight hint of pink. For people who don't know yellowtail, it is supposed to be a pale pink color. So that was a bad indication of the fish quality. Not only did the sashimi look bad, it tasted fishy too! I knew that it's supposed to be "fast food" grade Japanese food there, but the fish there was just terrible! My cold noodle was tough and gummy, when it was supposed to be soft and slippery with a little hint of Japanese green tea flavor. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy about it. The grilled steak and chicken skewers were ok, but then again, it's pretty difficult to mess up grilled skewer food. The marinade flavor for the steak was peppery and the chicken was teriyaki-ish. But the steak was grilled to well done and was a bit tough. Their sushi flavor was weird and wasn't what I was expected at all. The food there was pretty crappy, and at the end when the restaurant owner came over and asked how our dinner went, I told him honestly that the sashimi fish that they got was in lower grade. And his answer was "but I got those from the Japanese fish market", like that's gonna help! So I just dropped it and decided to spread the word about Zen Sushi + More.

The restaurant atmosphere was nice, but the food was crappy. I would rank it a 2 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you were looking for sushi that's represented by false advertising, please try Zen Sushi + More right next to the Hampton Inn on 501 North High Street, Columbus OH 43215.

Friday, May 26, 2006

El Arepazo is All Latin All the Time!

The first time I've had experience the Venezuelan pocket was in last year's Latino Festivals. And I've always wanted to find the restaurant that carried the food because I couldn't find it anywhere else. One afternoon after my condo walk-through, I stumbled on to this small Latino cafe on Pearl Street and finally found my long waited Venezuelan pocket, and it's that moment that I knew my life was complete.

Tucked in the small alley on Pearl Street, El Arepazo had simple dishes with Latin flavors. I tried their arepah (pronounced 'a-RAY-pah'), which was the Venezuelan pocket I found in Latino Festival, and my boyfriend tried the sopas. The arepah was basically a cooked corn cake stuffed with chicken, pork, or beef, lettuce, tomato, banana pepper, and their mild garlic-yogurt-cilantro sauce. I had it stuff with chicken and the chicken was so flavorful and juicy, it was like having Cinco de Mayo right in your mouth! The corn cake was pan seared so the outside was crunch while the inside was still soft. The cilantro sauce was amazing! I could drizzle that on anything and I would be happy, as it was like the answer to life in a sauce form. The sopa was made from fried flour dough layered with beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, and some sliced avocado on top. My boyfriend had pork on the sopas and, it was so good, that it beats every other pork I've tasted in a Mexican restaurant. The sopa was equally as good as the arepah. Washed down with the orange apple flavored soda, it just made my day that much brighter!

The El Arepazo had simple menus and very friendly services. The prices for their menu items were great too, and their food ranked 4.25 out of 5 on my yummy scale. I absolutely loved the place. If you would like to enjoy Latin flavor and would like to try "the answer to life" sauce and be happy, please go to 47 N. Pearl St. Columbus, OH 43215.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thai Orchid Has Lots of Neon Lights

So I've heard rave things about Thai Orchid, and so I've decided to try out the place and see if it would live up to the hype. When I first got there, the first impression was "wow, there's lots of neon lights and it's very dark on the inside." Although my boyfriend informed me that it's called "mood lighting", I still felt that the lighting should be bright enough so I could see the food that I put in to my mouth. Anyways, there were many items on the menu, and it even had an "authentic" section. The reason why I knew that the section was "authentic" was because there's a ginormous "authentic" on top of it. So of course I was going to try from the authentic section, how else to enjoy Thai food than getting the real deal?!

We ordered the married shrimp for an appetizer, which was shrimp stuffed with crabmeat, minced pork, and water chestnuts wrapped in crispy spring roll shell and fried. The appetizer also came with cucumber salad and spicy dipping sauce. The shrimp was deep fried, and was a little greasier than expected. Since the minced pork required longer cooking time, that made the shrimp a little on the overcooked side. The dipping sauce had kicks, and it had good flavor combined with the shrimp. The sauce was a little bit sweeter so you could actually taste the seasoning of the stuffing and the shrimp. The cucumber salad was also sweet and was not spicy, which was great to calm the spiciness.

I ordered a dish called Laap Nuea, which was minced beef cooked with lime juice, Thai spices, onions and scallions served on a bed of green. It was a very refreshing salad, especially for the summer time, because the lime juice cut down the greasiness of the sauteed beef, and the juice became the dressing for the green. But I think the salad would actually taste better if the beef was served cold. So that was a little boo-boo on an otherwise good dish. My boyfriend had the Tiger Tear, which was similar to the Laap Nuea, except the beef was grilled and the spices used was different. Since the beef was grilled, the dish had an extra smoky flavor, and the spices used was a type of fermented soy sauce. The reason I knew that was because I used to eat it with porridge as a kid. It's a type of flavor sort of like anchovies, you either loved it, or you didn't. Since I would like to give a fair critique, so I would like to enter my boyfriend's feeling on his dish, which was very good but had a little bit of poopie like smell. So, there it was.

The overall experience in Thai Orchid was pretty good, and I would rank the food a 3 out of 5 on my yummy scale. Even though the Thai Orchid was nice, it still wasn't as authentic as Bangkok somewhere on the east side of town. But I think Thai Orchid could satisfy the cravings for Thai food if you ever had one. If you like neon mood lighting with spicy Thai food, please go to 7654 Sawmill Rd. Dublin, OH 43016.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mad Mex Made Me Mad

Since the south campus had been growing with movie theaters and food places, I figured I should go experience the college crowd and experience youth. The Mad Mex had always been interesting to me, so while it's sunny today, I've decided to go give it a whirl.

The decor in Mad Mex was cool. It had murals and funny masks everywhere. The staff was nice too, very friendly and helpful. But that's about the only good part, because the food was crap. Why, you ask? Because the menu item are full with misleading titles and descriptions and the actual food on the plate mushy and all taste the same. I had their lunch special, which was the Mad Mex Burrito combo with a cup of their chili. The chili tasted spicy, and that's the only flavor there was. And the consistency was clumpy, sort of reminded me of that Hoggy's cold mac & cheese. The burrito was filled with mainly rice and beans and a little bit of protein of your choice. The amazing thing about their burrito was that no matter what kind of burrito you ordered, they all taste freaking the same because of the overloading rice and bean! My boyfriend ordered the fajita burrito, which had no fajita flavor what so ever and the only way to tell that you are eating a "fajita" burrito rather than regular burrito was the shape and some crunch of the pepper and onion, but not by the flavor. The only nice thing on my plate was their guacamole. But that was all that's good about their food.

I regretted going there for lunch today and wasted a great sunny day. And I would rank the food a 2 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you were super hyper and needed something to calm down your happiness, please try Mad Mex on 1542 North High Street. Columbus, OH 43201. At least they were honest and picked a right name for the restaurant, because the food made me mad. At least there's no false advertisement!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Guangdong's Dim Sum is Mm-Mm-Good

I've been hesitant about rating Chinese food on my blog because it was tough for me since I was subjected to very authentic version of Chinese food when I was living in LA. But I've found a good Dim Sum place in Columbus that I would be willing to go back to, and I thought I should share so more people would want Chinese food, thus more improved & authentic Chinese restaurants would be relocated to the Midwest. (A foody girl could dream, couldn't she?!) Anyways, on with the food.

First of all, you had to understand that an authentic Chinese restaurant usually had no indoor decor or ambiance to speak of because the focus was on food. So some oriental looking pictures on the wall with red carpet and some table with chopsticks and plates were all you going to get. Dim Sum, for those of you who didn't know, was Cantonese brunch/afternoon tea/tapa. You ordered small dishes and a pot of hot tea, and you invited all your friends and family together and talked about your life while enjoying good food. And the more people that were there for Dim Sum, the more selection of food you could order. This time we had 10 people, which was perfect to sample everything on the menu.

Since there were so many items on the menu, I would just write about a couple of them as informative examples so you could start somewhere whenever you decided to try. There were some staple items such as shrimp dumplings and pork dumplings. They were small, hor d'oeuvre size steamed dumplings with different fillings. And if you felt adventurous, you could try their shark fin dumplings. Shark fin didn't have taste, so it absorbed the seasoning around it. And Guangdong's shark fin dumpling had perfect seasoning and it's a must-try delicacy. Then there's the steam BBQ pork buns that's favored by mostly everyone. The bun was made from rice flour and didn't have gluten formed as oppose to bread, so the buns were soft and sweet and melt in your mouth. The BBQ pork was Cantonese BBQ and the meat seasoning was slightly sweet, combined with the soft bun, it was like a taste of Cantonese BBQ heaven in a cloud. The veggy spring roll was great too. The spring roll was rolled in bean curd and slightly fried. The bean curd gave a different texture than the regular spring roll and the dish was vegetarian friendly. There was another type of spring roll but had meat in there, and the spring rolled was lathered in their special sauce. It's just a different way to present the dish, but they were equally delicious. The pan fried turnip cake was also very popular. The turnip cake was made with mashed Chinese turnip (or Daikon if you are more familiar with Asian ingredient) combined with seasoning, some rice flour (as glue), and Chinese sausage. The turnip cake mixture was then steamed so it would become solid form, then sliced into thin slices and pan fried. The outside of the turnip cake was crispy and the inside creamy and tender. It's usually a kids approved dish too! Another must-try dish was the sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. The sticky rice had fillings of miced chicken, pork, dried shrimp, dried scallop. It's wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed so the sticky rice had a sort of floral fragrant to it.

The Dim Sum served in Guangdong was the best I've had in Columbus, and the food ranked 3.25 out of 5 on my yummy scale (this would be my Chinese food yummy scale. To give you a Caucasian scale, my boyfriend ranked it 3.75 out of 5.) If you don't have Chinese friends with you, this might be a big adventure for you. But once you've tried it, you might get addicted to it. Guangdong (the sign says "New House of Mandarin") restaurant's address is 6101 Busch Blvd. Columbus, OH.

Great Ribs & Brisket at Hoggy's, Bad Mac & Cheese

Friday night I went to Hoggy's for celebrating MD Girl's* birthday and had BBQ there. Since I've had tasted more BBQ, I felt I could give a fair review on BBQ tasting because I've got basis of comparisons now.

I've had Hoggy's BBQ before, and it was pretty good. So this time I want to compare samples of their BBQ, so I ordered the Hoggy Grazer, which had pulled chicken, pulled pork, and brisket sandwich, BBQ ribs, cole slaw, mac & cheese, Texas chili, and some cornbread.

First I tried the pulled chicken. The chicken was juicy and soaked in the BBQ sauce, which I think robbed the true flavor from the chicken. Same thing was with the pork. Don't get me wrong, I love BBQ sauce. But the overly saucy BBQ really masked the real flavor of the meat, be it chicken, pork, or beef. The brisket (thank god) was presented without sauces, and it was tender and juicy and it almost felt like a long stewed meat. The little bit of dry rub on the outside layer was very tasty and the brisket was not overly smoky. The rib was presented also sans BBQ sauce, and the main attraction was the dry rub. The dry rub was great, it had lots of different flavors but wasn't overly spicy. The rib was very tender and almost falling off the bone. OK, now on with the side dish.

The Texas chili was all meat chili. All the spices was there, peppers, garlic, tomato, etc., but it wasn't season correctly because the chili wasn't salty but very peppery. So maybe it was an off day for the chili. The mac & cheese was horrible because it came in chunks of mushy macaroni and some cheese sauce, and served LUKE WARM! (Com'on, I ordered mac & cheese, not water!) The cole slaw was so-so because it was the overly mayo type. The cornbread was only so-so because it was somewhat dry. Well, let me put it this way, it was no Brownstone's cornbread.

The overall experience in Hoggy was OK. I would rank the food a 3 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you get there, definitely try the ribs and the brisket. Be careful about the side dishes because it's usually hit-or-miss. There are several locations for Hoggy, I'm putting two because those are the two that I've been to. One is on 1416 W 5TH Ave. Columbus OH, and another one on 3675 W Dublin Granville Rd. Columbus OH.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Great Tupperware, So-so Food

Yesterday I got invited to MD Girl's* Tupperware party. I originally thought it was some type of theme party. (Because she just moved and there's no real silverware, so it's all Tupperware that sort of thing...) But as it turned out, it was a real Tupperware party, with a live human demonstrating how to utilize the Tupperware to their fullest extent. I felt like I was in an infomercial and felt the need to overact on my reaction. But, anyhoo, the Tupperware party also featured food that was cooked from different Tupperware, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to include some critique for these free food if any of my reader would like to host a Tupperware party.

First, the Tupperware lady demonstrated how to cook a chocolate cake in a microwave. Since I was late to the party and missed out on the procedure, I couldn't really say if the cake making process was as easy as one, two, three! Then, she demonstrated how to use Tupperware chopper with Tupperware's own secret blend of Southwest seasoning to make salsa. The Tupperware chopper was basically a hand powered food processor, so you could just put your ingredients in and stir around the chopper and voila, you have your salsa. The special seasoning wasn't too special because I didn't really taste anything so refreshing that just popped in my mouth. And it had a little smoky flavor, which I wasn't sure if it's from the smoked chipotle that they claim was the secret ingredient or the cumin. After the salsa, she introduced us to the Tupperware Italian seasoning, which smelled like it had oregano, thyme, garlic powder and some other spices. She then whipped out the pre-preped Italian meat ball and put them in the microwave too. For a short 8 minutes, you could have about a pound of meat balls ready for your family feast in no time! The seasoning of the meat ball was not bad because of the flavor of their Italian seasoning. However, the meat ball was very dry because she puts them on a special tray that separated meat juice and fat away from the meat ball. Even though she claim that it was healthier by showing us what was separated from the bottom (which consisted a little fat and majority of meat juice), but I wasn't too keen on the idea of making meat balls that way, simply because IT WAS FREAKING DRY! Anyways, after the meat ball we could finally had our dessert. She prepared a German chocolate cake topped with condensed milk, caramel sauce, and candied walnuts. The chocolate cake was not bad, but you could tell it's a steamed cake, not a baked cake because there was no crust**. And the cake had a little watery taste to it too. It wasn't a bad tasting cake, but it's just not the same as baked cake.

The Tupperware party was fun, but the food was only so-so. I would only ranked it a 2.25 out of 5 on my yummy scale. But since the food was free, I wasn't complaining. If you would like to host a Tupperware party with all the fixings, you can contact
Denice Rock, Independent Tupperware Director

* The name appeared in this blog had been changed due to privacy reasons.
** Crust or browning occurs when the outside air surrounding the cooking object is hot and dry. Since the air surrounding the cooking object in a microwave is at room temperature, there will not be any browning occurs. That is why microwavable pastries sometimes come with a little sleeve made out of foil and cardboard. You put the food in the sleeve and then microwave it. The sleeve reacts to microwave energy by becoming very hot. This exterior heat lets the crust become crispy as it would in a conventional oven.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Silla Has Singing Koreans.

So, thanks to tim j.'s suggestion, I went to Silla yesterday to try their Korean food. However, I would like to point out that Silla was not a Korean BBQ place. So to experience Korean BBQ, you still need to go to Kaya. Anyways, on with the food.

The menu was easy to understand because every menu item had a picture associated with it, so it's definitely a plus for the non-Asian food eaters. The menu had both Korean and Japanese food, but since I was there to rate the Korean food, I've decided to leave the Japanese food for another day. I ordered a pot sticker for appetizer, Bogulgi (so I could compare with Kaya), and my boyfriend ordered raw beef rice pot (think beef carpacio or steak tar tar). The appetizer was so-so because they used the frozen Japanese style dumpling, which could be found in the grocery stores, so that was a bummer. The assortment of veggies and kimchi was pretty good. Their kimchi was definitely much better and more flavorful than Kaya's. The Bogulgi was only sauteed and tasted exactly like the ones made in Japanese Oriental Restaurant. Since it was only sauteed, the beef did not have a smoky flavor as in Kaya. So the overall dish was only OK. The raw beef pot, however, was very good because the raw beef was marinated in sesame oil and other seasonings, and along with assortment of veggies and rice combine with their hot sauce, it was just delicious!

After dinner, we also tried the Silla Ice, which had sweet red bean, various fruits, whipped cream and a type of ground multi grain (which usually was diluted with warm water and ate as a breakfast item, kind of like oatmeal) on a bed of shaved ice. The ice was ok because the sourness of the fruit didn't go well with the sweet read bean. Although I love the multi grain, it was just weird to have that on a cold dessert. I much prefer it as a breakfast item.

The overall experience was good, and the food ranked 3 out of 5 on my yummy scale. I've already scout what I would like to try next time, which was their grilled squid. Mmm... squid, good...

If you would like to enjoy Korean/Japanese food and joined the Karaoke madness after 9pm and sang your lungs out, please go to 1802 Henderson Rd. Columbus, OH 43220

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Flavor of India Found in North Market

Alright, I know I've been lacking on new postings, but I was on travel a lot lately, so cut me some slacks! Anyways, after my "stuck in Houston" incident yesterday, I've decided to go some place nice for lunch today. Last time when I want to Abbracci (for the rating of Abbracci, please refer to my previous posting), the waitress told me that the chocolatery in North Market was very good. So I thought why not kill two birds with one stone and go to North Market for lunch and dessert. And plus I've got coupons for the Indian food there, and I can't say no to coupons!

There were several food shops in North Market, and the Flavor of India always had long lines in front of it. For the times that I've tried their food, it was all good, but a little more spicy than other Indian restaurants. I ordered their chicken tikki mahki, which consisted of their tandori chicken cooked in tomato sauce with Indian spices, carrots and peas cooked in Indian sauce, and sauteed cabbage and peas. The chicken was very good, and I love the tomato sauce that they cooked the chicken with. It wasn't so tomato-y like the Italian tomato sauce. The overall taste was mild with a little bit of tomato hint, and the Indian spices was warming. The carrots and peas are cooked with different Indian spices, but it was overly carroted. The cabbage and peas were slightly sauteed and still had some crunch to it. Which bring more texture to the otherwise mushy plate. Their Nan, however, was tough and not very good, so it kind of brought down the food experience a little bit.

The overall experience in the Flavor of India was OK. I would rank it 2.5 out of 5 on my yummy scale. Of all the Indian places I've been to, the best one was still Indian Oven, which had both great atmosphere and great food. But for a quick lunch, the Flavor of India would suffice. If you ever want a quick and exotic experience and bring a kick to your boring lunch, please go to North Market at 59 Spruce St. Columbus, OH 43215.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Kudos for Kaya Korean BBQ!

It's hard to find some authentic Asian restaurant in Columbus because I was food spoiled when I lived in LA, so to find any good Asian restaurant was a very exciting thing for me. And when I went to Kaya yesterday, it was a pleasant surprise.

The restaurant was clean and very business appropriate, and the waiting staff was friendly and helpful. The restaurant also served sushi, but I've decided to stick with Korean so I can rate just the Korean food part. My boyfriend and I chose the Korean BBQ and I was glad I did because I've been missing Korean BBQ for a while.

In Korean BBQ restaurant, the gas grill was set in the middle of the table and you could grill and serve right there on the spot. And regardless of what you ordered, the restaurant would bring assorted veggies and kimchi as appetizer, so you would be guaranteed a full meal. I liked the assortment of the veggies, however, the kimchi served there was a little blah, as in not a lot of flavor. So that was a little set back for the restaurant because it's freaking Korean food, and what's more Korean food than kimchi?! Anyways, I ordered the bulgogi (marinated beef) and my boyfriend a thinly sliced beef. The bulgogi was marinated in a sweet soy marinade and when it hit the grill, the beef would caramelize very quickly, which I equated the caramelized flavor with BBQ. The thinly sliced beef was without marinade and all the flavor came from the beef itself, so the marbling of the beef was extremely important because the fat was where the hidden flavor was. After grilling, you could wrap it in lettuce along with their soy based dipping sauce, or you could just eat it as is with white rice. Both BBQ were very good. It's just too bad that we only had two people there, or else we could sample more BBQ items. One thing for certain though, when you go to a Korean BBQ place, definitely wear your old and dirty clothe because your clothes and your hair would be very smoky. The side effect might be people smelling you up and down as you were a piece of meat. And actually, you would be smelling like a piece of cooked meat. (Must...resist...licking myself...)

The overall experience was very good, and the food ranked 3.5 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you haven't tried Korean BBQ yet, definitely make a trip for that because the flavor and the experience is just great. And definitely bring all your friends to come along too so it would be a guaranteed great food adventure and some fun time!

Kaya restaurant is located at 4710 Reed Rd. Columbus, OH 43220-3016.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Say Opa to The Happy Greek!

This Saturday was the first warm Gallery Hop night in months, so I took this opportunity to see some cool stuff that Columbus had to offer with the Obviously Gay Duo*. The original plan was to meet at the Pistachio so we could start our night right - with desserts! However, the Pistachio did not reopen until 7pm, so we decided to get some actual dinner, that's how we wandered into The Happy Greek Restaurant. There were tons of people walking around Saturday night and the restaurant crowd was enormous, so hostess kindly took our cell phone number and told us we could walk around and when the seat was ready, she would give us a call. So during this down time, we walked around the short north and went into different galleries and I actually saw things that I would get for my condo later! When it's time to go back to the restaurant, we were starving and ready for a feast.

I ordered the sauteed calamari for appetizer followed by pastitsio, and my boyfriend ordered a gyro platter. The calamari was sauteed in tomato, white wine, garlic, parsley, and feta cheese, and the flavor was dynamite! The calamari, unfortunately was the frozen kind, so it tasted a little gummy, nonetheless, the sauce was great for dipping pita bread. The pastitsio was layered with seasoned ground beef and Greek macaroni noodles, which was topped with bechemel sauce and cheese, and baked to perfection. A little bit of tomato sauce on the bottom of the plate accentuated the creamy bechemel sauce. The plate was absolutely delicious! The gyro platter had a small Greek salad and some fries. The grilled gyro was seasoned perfectly, and the meat was so tender and juicy, and even though the platter was huge, my boyfriend still stuffed it all down. The fries was crispy and had their seasoned salt, so I pretty much stole it all from his plate. The Greek salad had the house vinaigrette and was fresh and crispy. The entire dinner was great, on top of that, I finished my drink before my boyfriend finished his beer!

The overall experience of The Happy Greek was very good, and the food ranked 3.75 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you want to experience great Greek food with friendly staff and ambiance, please go to 660 North High Street, Columbus OH 43215. www.thehappygreek.com

*NOTE: The name has been changed due to privacy reasons. And also because they don't want stalkers.

Dragonfly is A Veggie Sculptor

It's difficult to find a good vegetarian restaurant. So when I heard Dragonfly Neo-V Cuisine opened up, I was excited to try it out with the company of OOK* and Granola Girl*. The restaurant atmosphere was modern, hip, but serene. The dishes used for plating were also funky, which brought another element of fun to the dining experience. The ingredients of the menu items and the flavor combinations were often exotic. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to start the meal.

The brunch course started with first course of variety of buffet items, including mashed Yukon Gold potato with saffron and horseradish, bean salad, roasted beats, Asian kelp salad, watercress with house vinaigrette, and baby fern salad. Each items had their own unique flavor. The mashed potato was filled with saffron fragrant and the horseradish gave the dish a kick at the end (note to self, definitely take small bites next time). The beans in the bean salad were cooked perfectly, just soft enough without being mushy. The roasted beat salad was sweet and sour at the same time, very refreshing for a summer dish. The Asian kelp salad was marinated in soy mayo, which was not my favorite flavor combination because soy mayo interfered a little with the velvety taste of the kelp. The house vinaigrette was thick and filled with flavor, which combined with the sharp taste of the watercress, it's just a heavenly combination. The baby fern salad was seasoned very simple and tasted great.

The brunch was then followed by your choice of entree. I ordered amerythe risotto (again, I'm a risotto whore) while my boyfriend got the fried King Oyster mushroom 'calamari'. The risotto was made with amerythe, which had a new texture and flavor I've ever tasted before. The risotto was also cooked with roasted red pepper, olives, and some leaks. The risotto tasted OK, but the flavor of the amerythe was not my favorite. The fried oyster mushroom was combined with tomato and artichoke sauce. The flavor of the oyster mushroom was great, and it stood against the tomato and artichoke sauce very well, so the sauce did not steal the show. I loved the oyster mushroom dish so much that I traded dishes with my boyfriend. And by trading I mean I took his dish and exchanged it with mine against his will.

I also had their desserts. The chocolate mousse had lemon custard on top with kiwi fruit. The lemon custard flavor was so strong, it was like being bitch slapped by Mr. Clean. The chocolate mousse was made with tofu, and the texture was interesting, very different from the regular mouse texture. The sorbet trio had a chocolate sorbet, raspberry sorbet, and a citrus foam with dark chocolate pieces. The chocolate sorbet was extremely chocolatey, and it tasted like any other chocolate sorbet dessert. The raspberry sorbet, however, had anise seed flavor and gave a kick to the sweet and slightly sour flavor to the raspberry. The citrus foam was very fragrant, but was not sweet. And even with the chocolate pieces, the combination was not very good.

The overall experience was a good one. I couldn't say I always liked the flavor combination, but I did love the way that the chef was trying different ingredient and different flavor combination to make the vegen vegetarian food more interesting than any regular restaurant out there. They change their menu often as well, to go with what is in season at the time. The food ranked a 3.5 out of 5 on my yummy scale, and I think it's definitely a restaurant to try if you want a true food adventure.

If you are interested to see how the Dragonfly chef work magic to the veggies, please go to 247 King Ave. Columbus, OH 43201. www.dragonflyneov.com

*NOTE: OOK, formally known as Earth Godess, and Granola Girl had changed their names due to privacy reasons.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blue Smoke in Your BBQ

I had to admit, my trip in WV this time was very shocking to my taste buds. The first couple of times when I was here, I was miserable because I couldn't find anything good to eat here. But today, I might have found a BBQ place that's so good that the taste was even above Hoggy's. That's right, I've said it, Blue's BBQ in South Charleston, WV tasted better than Hoggy's!

Located in a small strip mall that looked fairly run down, Blue BBQ was not a flashy joint that will catch your eyes immediately (which explained why I didn't notice its existence until today). The store owner was very southern friendly and the wall was decorated with eclectic pieces, ranging from posters of Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, and Marilyn Monroe to cartoon depicted gothic husband and wife (made in China). Their menu was simple, BBQ sandwiches or plates and some regular hamburger and hot dog items. I tried the BBQ hand-pulled pork sandwich with slaw just so I could have a comparison with the Smokybones. And it was heavenly.

The BBQ pork was extremely tender and juicy, and the BBQ sauce was not overloaded onto the meat, so I got the BBQ sauce flavor without overpowering the flavor of the pork. The slaw was crunchy and sweet. The baked bean on the side was also extremely good. It was not overly sweet like so many BBQ restaurant's and the caramelized fragrant of molasses was so good and add an extra dimension to the baked bean. And the price for a regular BBQ sandwich with two sides was only about $6!

Blue BBQ gets a 4 out of 5 on my yummy scale. If you are ever in South Charleston area, definitely make a trip to Blue BBQ on 1109 Jefferson Rd. South Charleston, WV 25309. Trust me, you won't regret it!

SOHO's So Smoking Hot!

I found a great Italian restaurant just two blocks from my hotel in WV called SOHO's. It's located in the Capitol Market and building was renovated from an industrial building, so there were tons of head spaces and sunlight inside the building along with an open kitchen to see how the chef was preparing your food. SOHO's was a smoking hot spot for dinner, and I didn't mean it in the literal sense because everyone in WV smokes. The restaurant had a great atmosphere and even live jazz on Friday! And the restaurant could be easily passed as one of the swanky restaurant opening in Short North. Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The menu items had some ranges too, and you can clearly see the work the chef was putting in. One item on the menu caught my eye, which was a seafood stuffed cannelloni. The cannelloni was stuffed with crab, shrimp, lobster, ricotta and mozzarella cheese, finished with roasted pepper saffron sauce. The cannelloni was baked perfectly and was not dried out, and the taste of the sweet crab and lobster and the tender cheese truly separated this dish from any regular stuffed cannelloni. The roasted red pepper saffron sauce was creamy and delightful. The roasted pepper did not steal the show and the subtle sweetness accentuated the filling even more. However, the saffron was not very clearly shown in the sauce, which was a little bummer, but overall the dish was very good. I also tried their house gelatto, unfortunately, it tasted just like regular vanilla ice cream, so I thought I was being cheated from the dessert a little bit.

The overall experience in SOHO's was good, and the food ranked 3.75 out of 5 on my yummy scale. The food portion was ginormous, so you really get the bang out of your buck. But most importantly, I did not get sick at all eating seafood in WV! Wasn't that amazing?! There are some hope for WV food after all!

If you are ever in Charleston, WV and want to get away from Charleston, WV without driving, please go to SOHO's Italian Restaurant on 800 Smith St. @ Capitol Market, Charleston, WV 25301. http://www.capitolmarket.net/soho.htm

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Smokybones Pack A Punch!

Whenever traveling in the southern states, I'm always in a BBQ mood since Food Network has constantly reminded their viewers how good southern BBQ is. So today I've decided to go try some BBQ. I've had a little tummy ache when I was in WV last time while I was trying one of the smaller restaurant, so this time I've decided to stick with a chain restaurant so at least my stomach will be safe.

When I went to Smokybones, the staff there are very friendly and all have southern accent, heavy southern accent. This made me miss Bubble* very much because she used to translate for me when we travel to Arkansas. Anyways, my waitress told me their hand-pulled pork is their best seller and I should definitely give it a try. So I did, along with some cole slaw and sweet tea, I was all set.

There were two types of BBQ sauce on the table for their customer to choose. One was a tomato based BBQ sauce and it's more sweet; the other one is mustard and vinegar based sauce that had a kick and tanginess to it, and both were very tasty. When my food arrive, I've found out that my waitress was right, their hand-pulled pork was tender and juicy and full of flavors. The pork was not overly fatty and not overly smoky either. The cole slaw was done to my liking, which means it was not swimming in mayo. The cole slaw and pull pork sandwich combination was great. The slaw provides a little more sweetness and crunch to the pull pork, with a little bit of their BBQ sauce, I could understand why it became their best seller.

I've also ordered a hot bag of doughnut to go, and on the way driving back to the office was pure torture. Because the heavenly smell of cinnamon sugar swirled inside the car, and I didn't want to eat and drive at the same time, and it had become my dilemma of the day. The doughnut was fabulous! It also came with some strawberry glaze for dipping, which brought a little different flavor than just the regular sweet doughnut.

The Smokybones got a 3.25 out of 5 on my yummy scale, and I think I would need to come back for another bite before I had to go back to Columbus!

I'm not sure if Smokybones has store located in Columbus, but here's their website and you can check it out. http://www.smokybones.com/

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gratzi, I Might Actually Come Back!

Alright, this week I've been summoned to stay in West Virginia for work, and I was dragging my feet about coming here. Why, you may ask? That's because for the last couple of times I was here, the food just plain and simple sucked. I went to a seafood restaurant that I was told was "excellent" by some other people, and the food was so crappy and I was tramatized. My poor taste buds! I could hear them weeping when I slept. But today OGD#1 emailed me a website that's sort of like The Other Paper and had dining guide, so I decided to be adventurous. And I've decided to start from a safe place like an Italian restaurant, and that's when I went to Gratzi.

Gratzi was located outside of the Charleston Town Center, and the ambiance was hip with a touch of old Itaian village vibe. It also had Andrea Bocelli's music playing overhead, so I was in a pretty good mood already. When I got there I found out that Gratzi also had an "early dinner deal", which consisted of 30 - 40% off of 5 or 6 of their best seller dishes. And a bargain meal always made me happy. The hostess sat me close to a table with two women and a baby. The baby girl was cute and quiet throuout the dinner, but the adults were extremely annoying. They played "peek-a-boo" through the ENTIRE DINNER, while I sat there wondering if annoyance and dumbness was inheritable. Anyways, I ordered their Baked Ziti and a house salad and tried to tuned out the "peek-a-boo" sounds.

The house salad was good and the vineagrette was made with extra virgin olive oil, so the olive taste and fragrant was strong. The pine nuts sprinkled on top, however, didn't really go well with the salad because the salad mix had a bite to it, and it just didn't go well with the flavor of pine nut. The Baked Ziti was baked with lots of mozzerella and Gratzi's own bolognese sauce. The sauce was cooked in tomato and white wine cream sauce, and the sauce had veal and some cured ham. The Baked Ziti was actually pretty good!

It was a pleasant surprise to find some edible food in WV, and Gratzi got a 3 out of 5 on my yummy scale. As I'm writing the blog now, I'm still recovering from the shock. But at least I don't have to deal with my weeping taste bud at night.

If you were ever in Charleston WV area, you should come to Gratzi at 1061 Charleston Town Center, Charleston, WV 25389 and try it out. www.gratzirestaurant.com