gracecheung604 | write on time: July 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rumbling for burgers at Romers

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Romer's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon
Needing some girlfriend time and some comfort food...me and the BFF headed to Romer's Burger Bar's newest location in the SW Marine & Kerr area. It was her decision and I had to do some preliminary research...so I spent most of my morning drooling at their website
Although we both ordered burgers, the first thing to arrive were the garlic fries. Holy crap, they weren't kidding when they said garlic, eh? Chunks of raw garlic with sea-salted fries. Yes, kiddies, I said it, raw garlic, none of that sweet mellow roasted garlic you are thinking of, this is in-your-face RAW garlic. It makes for the best aroma when it lands on the table, but if you're like me, start offering to EVERYONE at the table. If you are the only one having raw garlic, you're just being mean. But once they start, dare them to stop! The fries itself were good too, with a crisp outside and a tender inside. Eat them when they come, don't bother waiting for the burger, these fries are best when they burn your tongue a little! 
Since there were two of us and we had ordered two burgers, it only stood to reason that we would order two sides, right? So we decided to go for one of my favourites, the onion rings. Very crispy and delicate, they were dusted with a lightly grated sprinkle of reggiano. Once you bite into them, the onion comes apart from the batter and you're left with a crunchy exterior. Some people might love that but I like a bite of onion throughout my onion ring, and that was missing here. I had to note too, that the batter itself was bland, I think they need to add some salt and smoked paprika to the batter to punch it up a bit. Texture was excellent, but taste was a little mild. Mind you, I had a clove of raw garlic before this, so my taste buds might be wonky here. 
The BFF ordered the Rodeo Burger, described on their website as a burger flavoured with Aancho starbuck spice, topped with applewood bacon, red onions, tomatoes, horseradish jack and cilantro, yes, cilantro. Oh, and it would have come with a blob of  smoky bbq sauce but she got it on the side...as you can see.  All their burgers come with an olive and a pepperoncini, a pickled pepper, sorry, it got cut off from the photo.
Oh, and here's what you get when you "make it green". Instead of the yummy and light brioche bun (yes, I stole a bite off the BFF's ), your patty is sandwiched with two wedges of iceberg lettuce. They charge you $0.75 more for the honour which I think is kind of silly, since you're saving them the brioche bun, but @RomersBurger, if you're listening...care to explain? 
Never one to eat a burger without analyzing it, I peeled the iceberg top off and was glad I did. I asked for a spoon and scraped the mayo off the top first. But then I noticed...the perfectly cooked short rib sitting atop a burger patty, drenched in a gorgonzola cheese sauce and with some apple smoked bacon in between. Upon lifting the burger patty itself, I discovered some red onions which I removed, since I don't like raw onions. Oh, and you can see the pepperoncini in all its glory. 

And after all that food, we had to take a break and walked outside to enjoy the rather warm day. And right outside Romers is a doggy parking lot. Too cute! Alas, I digress...after the break, we were ready for dessert, and oh, what a dessert we had in store for us! 
We were too full for the Kraus Bakery Pie, but there is always room for donuts. So we placed an ordered and awaited the sweet heaven to come. For $5, you get about 10 mini donuts...fresh from the fryer. The donuts are great, but the highlights are the sauces on the side. From the top, we've got a limoncello dip, then a maple whisky dip, ending with a kahlua nutella dip. Oh, I know people wax poetic about the maple whisky, but I have to say, the kahlua nutella has a depth of flavour and syrupy texture that really can't be beat. Most people know I love tart desserts, but donuts and limoncello just don't jive. Try them all for yourself and let me know if you agree! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hungry for Hawksworth

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Hawksworth on Urbanspoon
Finally managed to try the latest buzzed about restaurant, Hawksworth, over the past two weeks but only for lunch, haven't had any luck with dinner yet. But after these two lunches, though I am still curious to try it for dinner, I'm not overly eager to do so. It's not the food, wait to the end of the review for the real reason I won't be back for a while.
During my first visit, I ordered the special of the day, which was a steak salad. I didn't catch the price, but for a steak salad, there was more steak than salad. The greens were lightly dressed, and I liked how the meat was placed alongside it, instead of plopped on top, making for a more elegant presentation. I really enjoyed this and it's what made me plan a return visit the following week. Oh, I don't recall what the smear of orange was, but I'm not really a big fan of smears.
The following week, I went back for lunch again, this time, I wasn't on the clock. I started off with a drink...as all good lunches should...their Hotel Georgia, a modern take on the gin sour. It starts off with an egg white, and then you add some some gin, lemon juice, orgeat liqueur and orange blossom water... give the thing a good whirl in the martini shaker with some ice, and then serve it after double-straining it. Dust with some nutmeg, and you've got a floral and frothy beverage. So good! 
The first dish to arrive was the Morel Orchietti. It is supposedly served with brocollini, chili, parmesean and fennel crumbs. There was plenty of morels in the dish, as you can see, and the broccolini was there as promised, with the addition of fresh peas (which I love), but the chili and parm flavours were barely there. The orchietti was cooked to an al dente, and the small shape was a perfect accompaniment to the peas and morel bits. All in all a good solid dish, but not overwhelming.  
We had also heard great things about the 48hr Short Rib, so we decided to give that a go as well. The accompaniments are black pepper jam, honeydew cubes, shaved green papaya and thai basil, as well as a few petals of edible lilybulbs and some sliced chilies as well. The short rib was cooked just right and the chilies and basil were a good blend of flavours for it. The green papaya and honeydew seemed a little odd, but I'm just not a fruit/entree person. This was the entire dish, and $16, it's a little on the steep side. Oh, and I am not a fan of smears...especially black/brown ones, if you get my drift.
The third dish we ended up ordering was their Oyama Prosciutto and Pear Panzanella Salad. It was the 3 Ps alright, served with smoked buttermilk chunks, pickled leeks (NY's Momofuku does this too), and mizuna greens. This was a dollar less than the short rib, but much more substantial. And although the prosciutto and pear were good, the panzanella was really oily. Reminiscent of the bread they put on the bottom of the bacon some buffets use to soak up the bacon grease. Yeah, and although you could tell the oil used here was olive oil, dousing it they way they did made it really hard to swallow. Oil would actually ooze out when you cut into it.
Another reason why I won't considering coming back for dinner, (in the short term anyways) is their Front of House staff. For my first visit, I booked a table for 6 and one guest was sick and didn't join us. When I told them that we would only be 5 today, they seemed completely flustered by the change. 
On my next visit, I arrived early and was asked to wait in the hotel lobby since the lounge was full. I was 20 minutes early, so we sat for about 5 minutes and then decided to walk over to the VAG to see what their exhibit was. When we told the hostess our plans, she then informed me that she didn't actually "have" a reservation under my name. Had I not went back to her, would she have just left me waiting for 20 minutes only to tell me she didn't have a reservation for me? 
At it turns out, I made the reservation under my company name, so it was all right, but shouldn't she have come over to the hotel lobby, where she told me to wait, and informed me of the "lost" reservation? And even when we returned on time, the two hostesses looked lost as to where to place us...pointing back and forth at each other. The more senior one just seemed bossy, while the junior one seems eager to please, yet helpless to do so.
For me, a dining experience isn't just about the food, it starts right at the moment I enter your restaurant and doesn't end until I leave.
I might go back for dinner, but will give them a few weeks to work out the kinks in service. Anyone else had similar experiences with the hostess?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Catching up at Culinaria

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Long overdue for a work get together, I took it upon myself to find somewhere close but new (at least to me). We settled on Culinaria and to my surprise, of the four of us, none had tried it although we've all walked/driven by lots of times.
We started off with a Beet and Prosciutto salad for the table. This was really good, with both yellow and red beets and lots of greens and two fairly generous slices of lean prosciutto. This was enough for four people to share as one of two appetizers. 
For our other appy, we got the mussels...simply poached with some chopped tomatoes, this was clearly a miss. Several of our mussels were undercooked, although the shells were technically open. We pried one fully open and used a fork to nudge the meat out...well, it was VERY reminiscent of the sea...too much so my colleague spat it out. I guess it was our fault for not mentioning it to the waitress, but my co-workers are just too shy at times.  
Our waitress told us that they were completely out of bread due to an early lunch rush. Understandable, but regrettable, I was curious if their bread would be served warm. Since there wasn't any bread, we ordered one extra side...fries...Don't ask me how this substitutes for bread, but it does. And their real mayo aoili on the side was amazing.
One of my co-workers got the Spring Vegetable Tart...it looked pretty good, with a some tomatoes, zucchini and other assorted veggies and greens. I didn't try this dish, but the oil/jus at the bottom of the dish did scare me a bit...to tell you the truth...
One co-worker got the lamb, and decided to split it with us. We each got a slice but I have to say, it was a little fatty, and unlike the mussels, a bit over cooked. I do like asparagus though! I guess it's harder to cook a lamb shank perfectly as opposed to little racks of them. A good sauce did help to take away from the "done-ness" of the lamb, but perhaps undercooking it would have been better. The sauce was probably hot when it was poured onto the lamb, and further cooked the lamb. 
Two of us got the Prawn Tagliatelle...sorry for the slightly blurry picture, but I really wanted to eat. There were 5 perfectly cooked prawns sitting on a bed of al dente pasta. The light tomato sauce was well-suited for the pasta, and served to complement the prawns. 
Although there were some misses during this lunch, I would say that the hits really made up for it. I would probably avoid the mussels in the future. And likely ask for my lamb to be very rare to avoid the over-done-ness in the future...but considering this is a school, the food (and service) was surprisingly good.
Culinaria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lunching at Pink Elephant Thai

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I've been to Pink quite a few times in the past few months but just haven't gotten around to writing a post. As a result of this laziness on my part, this post will be an amalgamation of several visits. 
It's quite close to my office, so I've been frequenting it more for lunch rather than dinner. I did attend a media dinner there, and that's where I had this...their Siam Caesar - watch out kids, this one is spicy but yummy. 
The appetizers are a-plenty so I will show you two of my favourites. The first one is their Spicy Butterfly Butter Jumbo Tiger Prawn. I'm guessing it's made with butter, but not oily, so that was okay. The prawn is gigantic with a light coating before being deep fried. Served with fresh peppercorns and swirled egg, this was a very pretty dish. The egg comes out almost noodle-like. Very interesting texture. 
Another one of my favourite appy is their Ostrich Kabob. Two skewers per order, it's perfect for sharing! The skewers are loaded with cubes of ostrich and pineapple, and then grilled to a nice char.  Topped with some spicy hot sauce, this dish is innovative and really fun way to try ostrich for the first time. And no, it doesn't taste like chicken...it tastes like beef. So for all you red meat avoiders out there, here is an option. I've read somewhere that it's even lower in fat than turkey or chicken. 
No Thai restaurant review would be complete without a curry dish, so we tried the Keang Keaw Waanm Pink's green curry which is available with chicken or for my vegetarian readers, you can get it with their fish tofu. The curry is very mild and loaded with snap peas, peppers and basil. Order it with a side of rice and use that to soak up the abundant sauce. 
There are lots of noodles on the menu and the one featured above is their Pad Kee Mao, one of their spicier noodle dishes. It's a blend of ground beef, Thai chili with basil all stir-fried with fresh rice noodles. The secret to this dish? Make sure you toss it all around first or else the noodle will become harder to manage. I asked for a wedge of lime to accompany this dish and squirted some juice all over to add a little more citrus flavour to the dish. I didn't find it overly spicy but I have a high tolerance, so ask for extra hot sauce if you like it hot, hot, hot! 
They also have a section of noodle soups that you can customize, picking the noodles, the soup base as well as the meat/seafood accompaniment. I chose the Tom Yum Soup and fresh rice noodles with shrimp wontons. Other noodle choices are available, and a clear soup is also available for those who don't like spice. Mea/Seafood choices include pork hock/belly, housemade beef/fish/shrimp balls, as well as sukiyaki beef and chicken with cashews. All the noodle soups come with oyster mushroom and their homemade fish tofu. It's also topped with green onion and cilantro so if you're not a fan of either, let them know. 
They have quite a few rice dishes too, and the one I tried was the Khoa Ooop Rummitr. It's a hot pot baked rice with tiger prawns (chopped up) and some coconut strips, and in the centre of it all, a giant scallop. It's a good option of you're looking for a seafood dish and not a fan traditional fried rice. There's no heat in this dish so it's a safe choice for those who want to avoid spice. 
If you do like spice, then try the Kra Poa Kook - a fried rice made with ground beef and fresh chilies and basil. I still didn't find it overly spicy, but there is definitely heat involved. I really liked the deep fried basil, it's crispy! 
Of course they have Pad Thai on the menu, but it's also with a twist. Instead of with the usual chicken and prawns, they give you the option of tiger prawns or deep fried soft-shelled crab. We got the crab version and as you can see, the topping is quite generous, as is the mound of noodles that the crab is hiding. If you like Pad Thai and you like soft-shelled crab, this is the perfect meal for you! 
After trying my hand at making my own noodle soup, I decided to try one of their two custom soups. They have the Keaw Taew Moo with ground pork, prawns and bacon, but I went with their Yen Ta Foo, which is a fresh rice noodle soup with loads of seafood, prawns, fish tofu, fish and shrimp balls, fish fillet and even two tiger prawns. The deep fried wonton paper is a fun touch. Just take it out of the soup when it arrives so it holds the crunch! And yes, my soup is pretty red because I asked them to make it "extra hot". It's normally not that spicy, but I like how the staff will accommodate and even added chilies to heat things up.
I've been coming to this restaurant since they first opened and I honestly have to say, the service and food have definitely improved in the past two months. The front of house team is definitely coming together and the kitchen is getting their groove on with each other, especially during the busy lunch hour rush.




Pink Elephant Thai on Urbanspoon

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