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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

fried shoestring courgettes (£2.50)

Two Fridays ago, Gourmet Chick and I went on a double date to Tinello, a newish Italian that’s gotten lots of publicity thanks to its association with Locanda Locatelli, where Tinello’s owners used to work as sous chef and sommelier. As Gourmet Chick has already noted in her excellent blog post about that evening, our husbands struck a rich vein of conversation in voicing the indignities they suffer at the hands of their food-blogger wives. There was even talk of creating an anti-food-blogger blog. (Good luck with that, guys).

fried artichoke (carciofi) £3.50

Gourmet Chick has covered the evening pretty well, so I highly recommend that you read her post. My own thoughts on the place are:

  • The interior’s mix of exposed brick walls and stylish lighting fixtures is both cool and welcoming, especially for a spot so close to not-usually-either Sloane Square.
  • Appetizers of the bacaro-small-plates variety were boring/classic, but generally very tasty. The person manning the fryer knows what’s up.
  • Our server’s wine suggestion was spot-on in terms of both the budget and style of wine we described as desirable. So I’d definitely recommend Tinello as a great place for snacks and wine.

chicken liver crostini (£1.90)

calamari chickpea (£7)

  • Things got a little rocky when it came to mains and desserts at Tinello. In fairness to the restaurant, we didn’t try any of the meat or fish courses, and instead we stuck to the pastas, which turned out to be nothing special.

pumpkin ravioli (£11.50)

  • My pumpkin ravioli was by far the best pasta ordered at the table that evening, and although there were a few too-large-and-therefore-too-tough chunks of pumpkin lurking in the ravioli, overall, I enjoyed the pasta.

Gnudi (£11)

  • Gourmet Chick’s gnudi wasn’t the fluffy-fresh ricotta-gnocchi fest I was expecting. It tasted like loose filling swimming in olive oil, which wasn’t appealing.

paccheri with burrata and nduja sausage (£11)

Jon and MTV Boyfriend both ordered the paccheri with burrata and nduja, a spicy, spreadable sausage. We hit a bump in service when both men thought their pastas were still crunchy in parts (i.e., a bit too al dente).

Our servers seemed conflicted between wanting to continue offering friendly, helpful service (and taking the dishes back for reheating or remaking) and falling into an unpleasant “the customer is wrong” mode (explaining to us that the dish was meant to be this way/al dente). It was awkward all around, and even though ultimately our servers took the dishes away to be remade or heated until the pasta was softer, the damage was done. And we felt both indignant and embarrassed at the same time.

By the time the dishes arrived again at our table, Gourmet Chick and I had finished our mains, and nobody was in the mood to appreciate the contrast between the silky-cool cream of the burrata and the spicy heat of the tomato-nduja sauce. Service really can make-or-break a meal.

"apple cake" on the menu, apple strudel on the plate (£4.50)

We finished our dinner with a generous hunk of pecorino with bite (£5.50) and something that was described on the menu as “apple cake,” but was instead a passable apple strudel.

With teas, coffees and a tasty bottle of wine (a Carmignano) for £45, our total came to a modest £30 per person before service.  If not for the service hiccup, I’d say Tinello was a pleasant, reasonably-priced addition to the Sloane Square dining scene.

Tinello Restaurant, 87 Pimlico Road, SW1W 8PH; 0207 730 3663; closest tube station: Sloane Square
Tinello on Urbanspoon

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charcuterie at sunset in Puligny-Montrachet

 

Although Jon and I were in Burgundy for a week, our dining options were constrained by the fact that (1) someone else chose our hotels for us; and (2) we were traveling by bicycle.  Dinner options were therefore confined to restaurants within the town where our hotel was located, and lunch options couldn’t be too far off our daily route or else we wouldn’t reach our hotel by sunset.

As was the case in the Loire Valley last summer, the Via Michelin website was pretty handy for planning out restaurants based on a driving or cycling itinerary, and my favorite two meals of the trip were of the bib gourmand variety.  Although I agree with the many who argue that the Michelin guide is skewed in favor of French techniques and flavors, that particular flaw is no bad thing when you’re, you know, in France, looking for French food.

At all restaurants we tried in Burgundy, regardless of whether the food was good or bad, the wine lists were huge and markups not too bad.  So even if the kitchen was a bummer, the wines generally saved the meal.

 

outstanding steak tartare at Chez Guy in Gevrey-Chambertin

 

 

cheese course at Chez Guy

Lunch at Chez Guy in Gevrey-Chambertin was my favorite meal of the trip.  The day was sunny and warm, and the restaurant terrace is large and comfortable.  The menu offerings were classic, simple and well-prepared.  My steak tartare, a tender, chopped-up onglet steak, was a thing of beauty despite the humble cut of meat used.  The tangy-sweet seasoning was exactly what I craved and so I forgave the wimpy, limp fries.  Even the cheese course, too often an after-thought at casual places, was attractively presented.  And while epoisses is offered everywhere in Burgundy, at Chez Guy, everything was of good provenance (from fromagerie Gaugry, bien sur).

Chez Guy, 3, Place Mairie , 21220 Gevrey Chambertin, +33 (0)3 80 58 51 51;  open every day; 29.50 euros for starter and main or 26 euros for main and cheese or dessert.

terrine at La Ciboulette in Beaune

 

 

pot au feu at La Ciboulette in Beaune

Second favorite restaurant of our trip:  La Ciboulette in Beaune.  So good we ate here twice:  once at the start of our trip, and once more at the end.  Again, this was a bib gourmand restaurant doing a great job of transforming humble cuts of meat with careful cooking and seasoning.  The duck leg pot au feu was fall-off-the-bone tender, and the broth was both rich-tasting and clear-feeling.  Generally, mains and starters were very good, and desserts less so.  So when faced with the choice of cheese or dessert, go with the cheese.

The restaurant offers 19.50, 26.50 and 32-euro menus, which varied only in the type of main courses offered, and the 32 euro-menu includes both cheese *and* dessert.  Great wine list and efficient, welcoming service.

La Ciboulette, 69, rue de Lorraine, Beaune 21200 (close to Beaune’s triumphal arch); +33 (0)3 80 24 70 72; closed Monday and Tuesday (which means it’s open on Sunday – excellent).

 

Burgundian bar snacks at Le Montrachet in Puligny-Montrachet

 

 

pork loin at Le Montrachet in Puligny-Montrachet

 

Le Montrachet is ambitious.  A former one-Michelin-star place gunning to get that star back.  The food was fine, but for the price (55 euros prix fixe), I expected more deliciousness and originality.  The pleasant surprise of the evening:  an excellent pork loin course.  Otherwise, foie gras foam this; hot-and-cold that.  Fun bar snack renditions of regional classics like jambon persille and gougeres.    I’d recommend going there to try a wide variety of pricey wines by the glass.  17.50 euros for a glass of wine sounds like a lot, but short of hanging with some really generous friends, when else are you going to be able to try a 2004 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes without having to pay for the whole bottle?  (Sampler, are you reading this?)

 

oeufs en meurette at Restaurant Le Millesime in Chambolle-Musigny

 

 

Oeufs en meurette at Castel de Tres Girard in Morey-Saint-Denis

 

Second restaurant falling in the “pretty good/not bad” category is Restaurant Le Millesime in Chambolle-Musigny.  We’d hoped to eat at bib-rated Restaurant Le Chambolle, also in town, but Le Chambolle is closed on Wednesday and Thursday, which of course were the two nights we were in nearby Morey-Saint-Denis.

In any case, the service at Le Millesime was friendly, and the cooking relatively ambitious, with foie gras plated as if it were a contemporary painting.  Burgundy classic oeufs en meurette (think beef bourgignon, but using poached eggs instead of beef) were standout-silky-smooth and elegant, bathed in a rich wine sauce infused with the sweetness of onions.  (Contrast Le Millesime’s version with that of Castel de Tres Girard (pictured above), which was ham-handed to say the least.  The poaching wine used by Castel de Tres Girard was so far past its prime as to be vinegar).

Restaurant Le Millesime, 1 rue Traversiere, 21220 Chambolle Musigny; +33 (0)3 80 62 80 37;  27 euros for three courses.

 

escargots at Castel de Tres Girard

 

 

boeuf bourgignonne at Castel de Tres Girard

 

Caste de Tres Girard, I’m still traumatized by you.  We asked for water three times and ended up resorting to the @sshole tactic of refusing to order any food or wine until the water finally arrived.  Breads were still frozen in the middle.  A travesty in a nation of excellent boulangeries!  The least expensive menu was 37 euros for a romp through Burgundy classics.  Escargots were lukewarm and I’ll admit that I’m not capable of eating those suckers unless the garlic-parsley butter is hot.  Boeuf bourgignonne was buttery enough to pass as flavorsome, but the braised beef was stringy and tough.  I make a much better one at home.  Skip this place and get yourself over to nearby Chambolle-Musigny instead.

Caste de Tres Girard, 7 rue de Tres Girard, 21220 Morey-Saint-Denis, +33 (0)3 80 34 33 09. 

 

cabillaud at Bistrot des Halles in Dijon

 

The last meal of our trip, at Bistrot des Halles in Dijon, was also a disappointment.  I didn’t do any research at all because Dijon was a last-minute addition to our itinerary, and I figured anything near the covered food market would be alright.  Wrong.  Exhibit A:  what’s with the cones of stale chorizo rudely shoved into the fillet of over-the-hill-starchy-tasting cod fillet?  Don’t get me started on the straight-from-a-jar tomato sauce dumped on top.  At least we sat outdoors and the mains were generally under 15 euros.

Surprisingly, the snack of croque Monsieur with salad we’d had earlier in the day at Agora Cafe for 6.50 euros was much better value.  I say “surprisingly” because Agora Cafe’s outdoor seating is on Dijon’s Place de la Liberation (i.e., tourist central).  So if in search of something basic and good, check out Agora Cafe.

Bistrot des Halles, 10, rue Bannelier, Dijon 21000; +33 (0)3 80 49 94 15

Agora Cafe, 10 Place de la Liberation, Dijon 21000

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quality time somewhere in Palm Beach County

Happy (belated) New Year! Unbelievably, I’m on week 3 of 4 in the U.S. I feel I’ve taken every plane, train and automobile on the East Coast by now, and I’ll be spending this week in Boston before returning to London, where I hear there’s lots of snow.

Because there’s definitely no shortage of cold and snow in Boston, I’m looking back very fondly on my week of sunshine in south Florida, where Jon and I mooched off stayed with Jon’s parents for New Year’s.

Much as I appreciate warmth and sunshine in the dead of winter, Palm Beach County’s dining scene seems to leave much to be desired. For years, our restaurant experiences have tended to be expensive and mediocre, so we try to eat at home as much as we can. But sometimes you just gotta leave your gated golf community, so below are the best and worst of what we ate this December 2009, for the next time you find yourself in Palm Beach/West Palm Beach. At least you’ll know what to avoid (and if you have recs, please leave a comment below – this was our fourth year in the area and we still can’t find a consistently-yummy resto to love).

fish tacos at Grand Lux Cafe at Sawgrass Mills

It speaks volumes that the best of our south Florida restaurant meals was at a Vegas-like chain in Sawgrass Mills (the world’s most overwhelming outlet mall). Grand Lux Cafe is owned by the Cheesecake Factory people, which tells you what to expect: enormous portions and ridiculously-lengthy diner-style menu. Still, if you keep your order simple (salads, mostly) and stick to appetizer or “lunch menu” items, the plates won’t be too big, and the ingredients will taste fresh. I greatly enjoyed my Southwest salad, which was packed with black beans, avocados, Monterey Jack and smoky bits of chicken, and Jon and I loved our fish tacos, which were hot from the fryer and accompanied by a zippy salsa. There are some scary-looking items on the menu, of course, but use your best judgment. Most lunch items were $15 or less, and the place is close to the upscale outlets of the Colonnade.

Grand Lux Cafe on Urbanspoon

good enough crab cake sandwich at Charley's Crab in Palm Beach, FL

Two more (small) chains tie for the title of “OK-but-not-great” dining in the area: Charley’s Crab in Palm Beach and Matteo’s Ristorante in Jupiter.

Charley’s Crab‘s primary selling points are its location overlooking the water in Palm Beach and its free valet parking. But the food is uneven. The “lobster spring rolls” highly recommended by our server had the thick, tough skin that could only have come out of a box, but the coconut shrimp was miraculously not overcooked and deliciously crispy, and my crab cake sandwich really hit the spot. Our lunch would’ve been a 100% positive experience had the starters not cost $15 and the mains upwards of $20. I know it’s Palm Beach, but I expect much fresher food at these prices.

Charley's Crab on Urbanspoon

Matteo’s Ristorante sits in a strip mall a stone’s throw from Juno Beach, and it’s typical of “family style” Italian restaurants: enormous plates of chicken- and veal-based dishes designed for sharing. Everything on the menu seemed to cost $25, but because each dish feeds about ten thousand people, a meal there can be relatively inexpensive if you don’t over-order. The fried calamari, chicken parm and planet-sized meatballs were hits. The chicken paillard, chopped salad and the spaghetti that accompanied the meatballs were extremely eh. Still, a fun place to go with your family or a large group of friends.
Matteo's Ristorante on Urbanspoon

The worst meal this December was at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, which has served us well in years past, so I’m not sure what happened this time around. Again in a strip mall, but an upscale one. And again serving seafood, but with a nod to a mishmash of global cuisines (so American). Fried oysters were under-cooked, though Thai mussels were served in a moreish, light, coconut curry sauce. The prawns in my angel-hair pasta were severely overcooked, and everything was drowning in butter. At $20+ for pasta, you expect a lot better. And our server seemed incapable of remembering our drinks order.

Spoto's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

And that’s the sad story of my dining out in Palm Beach County this December. Next year, I’ll stick with Cuban food: Padrino’s Cuban gets my vote based on my meal there last December, and thanks to a friend’s rec, Havana Cuban is now also on my list.

I’ll be back in London next week, and with my luggage full of Ziploc, tortillas, Goya products and Skippy, I can’t wait to get home and back to business as usual.

Grand Lux Cafe, 1780 Sawgrass Mills Circle, Sunrise, FL 33323; +1 (954) 838-9711

Charley’s Crab, 456 South Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480; +1 (561) 659-1500

Matteo’s Ristorante, 4300 S US Highway 1, Jupiter, FL; +1 (561) 627-8515‎

Spoto’s Oyster Bar, 4560 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418; +1 (561) 776-9448

Padrino’s Cuban, Mission Bay Plaza, 20455 State Rd. 7, Suite AA-1, Boca Raton, FL 33498, +1 (561) 451-1070

Havana Cuban, 6801 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405; +1 (561) 547-9799

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