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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

nada

this was almost a post about terry’s turf club, but we had been advised to get there around 5:30 if we wanted a seat and we did not heed that advice. so when we showed up, friends in tow, at 7:30 the place was PACKED and the wait was long and we thought perhaps it would be best to go elsewhere. and that elsewhere was nada.

now, nada is not the kind of place we intended to head on this particular saturday evening. we were seeking a casual joint for a quickish, comfortable bite to eat; nada is a little pricier, a little more sit-down-y, a bit more scene-y than we were geared up for. but we shifted gears, headed downtown, and made a mexican night of it.

it took a while to get a table, but the people-watching and margaritas eased the pain. it really is a scene — even the best-dressed real man in america showed up. so did a quintent of blondes, loudly celebrating their bff’s last night as a single woman. and i’m thinkin’ a few things didn’t show up: the rest of the poor black skirt that otherwise ended at a nice young woman’s crotch; the back of a dress that dipped low enough to reveal a colorful thong. no wonder i was worried about overdressing.

fortified with tequila and a few good shots of snark, we sat down to a fun meal of really good food . apps included the sopes and queso fundido, which we inhaled and would certainly return for. entrees included tinga poblana cazuela (a tasty spiced shredded chicken stew served in an iron pot) and the mahi-mahi soft tacos. (i liked that the fish was oh-so-fresh. i did not like the absence of mango, which for better or worse, i really gotta have in my fish tacos.)

the scene at nada may not have been our scene (or more accurately, was a bit more scene than we were ready for), but at least now we know how to dress to fit in next time.  and the food is the real deal — good stuff, well-prepared, and most definitely not your average tex-mex take on south-of-the-border cuisine.

but we still gotta get to terry’s. i’ve a feeling we’ve already got the right attire.

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kona leaves oakley

good-bye to all that: kona leaves oakley

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…nor is it a post about the pike, although a week ago we had high hopes of posting about both, when we had an evening planned that began in the vineyard cafe at ended with drinks & dancing at the pike. but factor in the loss of an infant-prepared babysitter and our desire not to take our now-tagging-along infant to a loud dance bar (yeah, well, maybe next month), we ended up staying closer to home.

we started the evening at a small cocktail party in the vineyard cafe’s wine room. the wine was good — something red, i think perhaps a syrah — and the eats were finger-lickin’ good finger food (quesadillas, artichoke dip, cheese & crackers), everything made nicer by being sponsored by our hosts. the space is a decent size for a wine bar — small enough to be intimate without feeling claustrophobic — and is accented on the west wall with three large, bright paintings. you know the sort: the kind you look at and think “hell, i could paint that,” while the truth (which you’ll eventually admit to yourself) is that if you tried to spatter and smear oils on a canvas it would come out looking closer to a kid’s art project than an expensive piece of art. the back of the room is decorated with low-lying stuffed chairs, a primitive-looking wine rack, and a microphone and stool clearly set up for musicians. i didn’t even know a wine bar was within walking distance rookwood: chalk one up for hyde park’s hidden treasures.

another of which is arthur’s. locals are right to extol the virtues of an arthur’s burger, which comes dripping with lots of flavor and a manageable amount of grease. the fries are hot and fresh, and while the draft beer choices are minimal they are at least diverse: saturday night we could choose from, among others, bass ale, guieness, stone ipa, and some weird blueberry beer.   most important to us tonight was not being shunned or mocked for dragging an infant around. and ours was not the only baby in the joint — a testament to the early hour, no doubt, but also perhaps to the general friendliness arthur’s brings out in folks.

so while missing a nice sushi dinner might have tonight’s lowlight, the highlight was parking once and walking to a nice wine party and then a down-home beer & burger joint. not bad for a short night out.

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recently we secured a babysitter and made our way out for an evening of holiday merry-making. our plan? grab a dinner out and head to a holiday party. once we recovered from the vertigo of not having children in our arms (or on our hips or heads or knees), we headed on a lark and several word-of-mouth recommendations over to tinks in clifton.tinks-interior

we walked in without reservations, and were welcomed to sit at the bar…tinks-wine

…and suddenly we didn’t care if we ever even made it to the holiday party.

maybe my impression was affected by the pleasure of dressing up just a little, or the holiday season, or an awareness of the rarity of such evenings out recently, or a combination of all of these, but all those together don’t dim the fact that tinks has a great atmosphere, with great food, and (in our case at least) great service.

the menu is inflected with  southern flavors, but by no means limited to them. we had the shrimp & grits and focaccia & olives to start. i think the focaccia & olives were good (i know they were), but i was busy gushing over the best shrimp & grits in town. hands down. how good? we almost ordered the entree portion after slurping down the appetizer, but then we would’ve wanted shrimp & grits for dessert, and breakfast, and — it wouldn’t have been pretty, so we had to break the chain early and diversify.tinks-sg

over our delicious entrees (kobe burger and gumbo) we chatted with our server and he introduced us to the chef and we praised his shrimp & grits and the rest of the food on the menu and the atmosphere and promised to come back and we meant it.

after dinner we wandered next door to paolo, a small jewelry and design shop. we were pleased to find another locally-owned shop producing beautiful, unique goods, and we’re intrigued by the growing trend for adjacent businesses to open their shared doors to each other (walk back and forth between lavomatic and metronation next time you’re in the gateway quarter). fun, too, to eyeball the servers’ jewelry (they often model paolo’s newer designs) and then dash through the door to see if you can find something that looks that good on you. (odds are you can.) priced somewhere between tiffany’s and your local art fair, paolo’s jewelry is now our go-to jewelry shop when we need a little extra special something. especially since we can get our shrimp & grits fix at the same time.

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it is hard to pass up shrimp and grits, and so it was hard for me to continue passing by hugo without stopping in. we tried to drop in one evening but it was during the summer, we felt a little sweatily under-dressed, and we had a fussy toddler in tow. so we made a date, dolled up, and went back for some quality grown-up time.

and we had it, and i’m grateful. hugo has a warm space, decorated in the earthtones of the moment (pumpkins, mustards, greens…all colors with good foodie feelings). the tables are close enough to help you feel like you’re in a busy, desirable restaurant — and who doesn’t want to be? — but far enough away that privacy is possible. the waitstaff is helpful but not obtrusive. our server was sweet, if unseasoned — when describing the “new mushroom he’d never heard of” he referred to his notes, only to slowly sound out “chan-ter-elle.” the sommelier wears a nice suit. it’s a lovely and charming place, and i enjoyed my dinner there.

i really liked the corn fritters and the carolina peach salad, two of our early choices in this share-everything-on-the-table dinner date.  and the pork belly was prepared to near perfection: as an appetizer, its richness was manageable and its flavor delightful. it would have been overwhelming as an entree, which the chef seemed to know and appreciate. in preparation it vied with the fabulous pork belly at slim’s, no mean feat.

still, i would hazard a guess that there is a fair bit of cleverness but not a lot of refined tasting going on in the kitchen. i hate being one to criticize (okay, okay, who am i kidding?) especially about things i understand less-than-well (like professional cooking), but i know what i like and what tastes good and i can generally identify what makes a dish work or not. and while there is plenty that *does* work about hugo’s dishes — including individual ingredients — tasting is one place where someone in their chef whites has missed the mark. it’s not even that the flavors don’t work together, since they often do. it’s just that the balance seems off. whether there isn’t enough sauce in one dish to make a discernible difference or not enough differing textures in another dish, some of hugo’s dishes give off the defeated promise of the almost-ran.

sadly, this is most evident in the shrimp and grits.  they were perfectly fine, but this was not not the to-die-for dish i fantasized about. my friend from the south would not dream of serving grits without cheese. my friend from the east coast would not dream of serving cheese with seafood. so where does that leave this dish? in hugo’s hands, it leaves the cheese — very good white cheddar, i should add — cooling and congealing on the side of the grits, near the shrimp, but not really improving the taste or texture of either one. i think a less fancy cheese, more smartly placed, would have given the dish the home-cookin’ pizazz it so richly deserves.

so i’m not all that keen to go back, at least not to the dining room. although the DR serves a a tasting menu (paired or not, your choice, with wine), i have determined instead to return only to the lounge, where the prices and the plate size seem to be a better gamble. and where, not having dropped two c-notes on a dinner, i won’t need to worry that my server in this upscale restaurant does not even know what a chanterelle is.

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teak thai

clinging to the slope of st. gregory st. in mt. adams, teak thai is one of those places that numerous folks have told us to check out. it’s a cool space: its entrance was formerly the space between two buildings, now roofed over and flooded with natural light. the bar (1st floor) and restaurant (1st and 2nd) are dark and heavily wooded, and the outdoor seating area is terraced, off the street, and very inviting — if the temperature is below 90. so if, like us, you come for lunch on a hot sunny day and walk up the brightly-lit steps, you end up peering into the restaurant as if into a cave. it’s quite a contrast, and we welcomed the cool interior as an escape from the heat, while making a mental note to come back and sit outside another time.

and when we do, we’ll have plenty to choose from, since teak is not only a thai restaurant — it’s a sushi bar with a selection of cooked japanese dishes as well. our lunch included potstickers (aren’t those typically found in chinese restaurants?), egg-drop soup (ditto), and a nicely-spiced (4 was plenty for this guy) chicken and snow peas over rice. all were fresh, and flavorful, and worth ordering again. but the hit of our meal was a crab-and-avocado roll wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber and seasoned with a light dose of a vinegar dressing. yum.

we’ve barely begun to explore mt. adams — there’s the fish house, and longworth’s, and others still to visit. but already i’m looking forward to a repeat visit to teak … in the evening … on the patio … with some sushi.

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we’ve touched on the joy that is slim’s previously, and i don’t want to get into the habit of repetition. but on a return visit there this past sunday, i found myself thanking my lucky stars that cincinnati has a restaurant like this. plus, the experience was very different than our previous visit. earlier, we’d gone on a friday evening — the joint was hopping, a table of a dozen twentysomethings were celebrating one of their cohort’s maiden voyage into thirtysomething status (and imbibing accordingly), and the place had a slightly rambunctious feel. not so this past sunday, when we were one of three occupied tables at the tail end of a long holiday weekend, the place was suffused with summer evening light (which looks great against the blond-wood interior, by the way), and the atmosphere was one of pleasantly fatigued leisure.

highlights from this visit:

  • over the course of the evening we learned that our server wears several hats at slim’s: he is the staff pickler, and makes the house root beer. accordingly, we requested a sample of his pickled wares and were presented with cipollini onions, fennel, and kumquats (this last was a revelatory taste).
  • peaches bathed in rosewater for two weeks. perhaps the favorite flavor in an evening of great flavors, and one i’ll look for again.
  • lechon asada: a traditional puerto rican sunday dish — the roasted suckling pig. less assertive than the more-spiced pernil asada (roast pork shoulder with a cumin-oregano-pepper spice rub), but the preferred entree at our table.
  • fig tart, with lemon and thyme custard. needed salt, but still an excellent dessert choice.
  • corn pudding. simple, summery, and incredibly satisfying. the best part is that the chef readily offered the recipe, so we will be trying this at home.
  • we concluded with a sip of the root beer — it was not quite ready, but had a yeasty sweet flavor that may have ruined me for mass-produced versions from this point forward.

but wait — we weren’t done. we’d asked for directions to slim’s urban garden space, where they grow the greens and herbs and figs and other growables for their recipes. so off we toodled around the corner to check it out. it’s not much to look at, and it’s even a bit incongruous — a hoop house garden in a previously empty lot between two urban buildings. but it’s pretty cool that a portion of our dinner had made the trip from just around the corner to our plates — talk about eating local.

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