Monday, March 2, 2015

Inamo – London, UK

While I was in London on business, I suggested a few restaurants for my friend Mandolin to meet me at for dinner. She hadn’t heard of any of them, and quite frankly was scared at some of my recommendation. I guess aerial acrobats and hot tubs aren’t her thing. Hahaha. She was intrigued by one of the places on the list, so she agreed to meet me at Inamo. I hadn’t been there, either, but it sounded really fun to me. Sort of a ultra-modern Asian fusion restaurant. On the way there, I found two other places I’d like to try next time.

One of the places I walked past seemed to be named after my friend Coach from back home:

And the other place seemed right up my alley. It’s called Enrique Tomas and it sells pig legs. Literally. You can go in and pick up an entire cured leg of pig with different flavors. MANY different flavors. You can get little snack packs to go. Shaved or cubed. They’ll slice off a mountain of slivers while you watch and you can get it in a paper cone to go. A veritable pork-nado. Damn my dinner plans!

Inamo made up for my missed pork cones, however. 100%. You get seated at a completely white table by a host. The host shows you a small track pad for your finger in the bottom right hand of the table. The table is lit by a projector above and shines down onto the table. You touch the pad and an arrow appears with menu options like on a computer screen. Except it’s on your table. You can select your table “desktop” (or the server will do it for you, which is how we got stuck with the Union Jack pattern. Then you can begin to select menu items and drinks.

When you click on a menu item, the projector shows you exactly what your food will look like as it is projected onto your plate. Absolutely amazing. So the server makes sure you know how to operate the table menu ordering system and then you’re on your own. You can order appetizers and they bring them out.

You can order drinks and they bring them out. You can order entrees and desserts and they bring them out. We ordered a nice bottle of wine, baby pork ribs, Korean glazed pig cheeks, edamame, black cod, duck with pancakes, and baby Malayan chicken.

I’d love to go through each menu item, but honestly, I can’t say anything bad about any of these dishes. They were all top-notch. Not just good, but fantastic. The pig cheeks were my favorite, but I love me some guanciale, so I’m biased. Both the duck and Malayan Chicken were wonderful and tasted completely different – not everything tastes like chicken!

We, of course, finished our bottle of wine and after dinner, we headed down to the basement lounge and had a few more cocktails to finish off the night. Very cozy and little “funky” with some couches, pillows, chairs, and other unusual decorations. You can wit down here while waiting for your table/reservation to pop-up in a pinch.

Technology aside, this restaurant can stand on its own for the flavors, breadth of menu, quality ingredients, and atmosphere. I’m going to recommend this place to anyone I know who’s headed over to London. Not only is it fun, it’s worth going back to for the food. Without question.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Soup ‘n Wraps – Eden Prairie, MN

I’ve heard (from people I trust) that there’s this new amazing Indian fusion restaurant. But it’s filled with wraps and bowls. Yes, my intrigue-level was ramped up very quickly. I finally got a chance to sneak there (despite missing out on multiple invites I’m now kicking myself for). When Fire Wally told me this place is in a strip mall, I knew it was going to be good.

When I walked in, the woman asked if she could help me, and I confessed I hadn’t been here. I recommend doing this, frankly, so you get the full treatment and don’t miss out on something amazing. She explained all of the options. I could get a bowl - which I’m pretty sure is a Styrofoam to-go container with two entrees and rice; you can get a “business lunch” – which is kind of a sampler platter; or you can get two wraps with any ingredients inside. The very patient and kind woman explained the vegetarian options and also the meat options. They’ve got palak paneer, various dals (lentils), aloo gobi, butter chicken, chicken reshmi, tikka masala, lamb curry, and chicken 65. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you, but chicken 65 is my favorite of all the numbered chickens. I needed some chicken 65.

They also had samosas, which I almost got. And a samosa wrap – I can’t even picture what that would be!. And chai. And Mango Lassi. They apparently have everything (except kheer). This place is wonderful.

I decided to go with two wraps. Each one with different fillings. These aren’t small wraps, either. They’re 8 inch crosses between naan and tortillas. I don’t know what they’re called, but they’re plenty big and hearty. I got one with chicken 65 and one with lamb curry. They asked if I wanted cabbage – yes, I did. They asked if I wanted sauce – yes, I did. One was a chili paste, one was a chimichurri, and one was an unnamed dark brown sauce. They warned me the chicken 65 was medium hot, but I had them add the chili paste anyway. They wrap it right in front of you, so you can see what you’re getting. Then they give you a small side dish of yogurt in case you need to dip your wrap into something cooling. The whole thing came to $7.50. That’s amazing.

The lamb curry wrap was really quite good. The wrap didn’t get soggy and held up, even with my erratic dipping into the yogurt sauce. No bones, a touch of cinnamon, and some heat from the chili paste. Wonderful!

The chicken 65 wrap was even better!!! Wonderfully flavorful chicken bites with no gristle at all. It had some pretty solid heat, so if you’re not a heat person, don’t get the chili paste. I loved every bit of this thing. I even considered getting another pair of chicken 65 wraps. It was a tough call, frankly. When I got up to clear my tray into the garbage, I warned the staff (the chef had come out to chat) that I would for sure be back. I can’t wait to tell everyone about this place. And, they extended their hours so they’re open for dinner most nights, as well. I’m not sure what the fusion part of this place is (maybe wraps), but this is one of the best lunches I’ve had in a really long time. Hit this place up as soon as you can.

6403 City West Parkway
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hola Arepa - Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I had random reasons to celebrate, so we decided to hit up a place we've been meaning to go to for months. Hola Arepa in Uptown. It was a Friday night, so we knew there was going to be a wait, but we were up for it - especially since they had a bar there. The host told us it would be about 30 minutes.

We put our name in and headed to the bar. As we were walking up, the people sitting there were leaving and told us to take their spot. We sat down and proceeded to look at the drink menu - soooooo many delicious sounding drinks. Apparently, these folks are known for their creative cocktails. All of them contain bitters, which I'm not a huge fan of, but I am able to order drinks without bitters like a grown ass man, so we're all good.

I ordered an El Camino Rojo and D.Rough ordered a Cortez The Killer. We watched the drink expert make these ridiculously expert-level drinks and were pretty impressed. These drinks were strong. REALLY strong. And delicious, thankfully. We both liked the Cortez The Killer better, but both were super tasty. This also gave us time to check out the food menu so we were ready when we sat down at our table.

We ran into some friends, like you do in Uptown, and chatted the time away. We also ordered two more drinks. I opted for the Jolly Poltergeist and D.Rough got the Southerly Pariah - again, both were incredibly strong. To the point of weavy-ness. This time, I ordered the winning drink (the Jolly Poltergeist)(again, without bitters).

It was just over 30 minutes when the host called our name and sat us at a table being served expertly by Bryce - a fellow long-haired bearded gentleman. We were already leaning towards a couple of appetizers and finally decided on the Vigoron appetizer - steamed yuca, roasted pork, citrus-cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and chicharron on a banana leaf. After a few questions, I ordered an arepa with roasted pork and sweet potatoes and D.Rough ordered the arepa with shredded beef and plantains. If you don't know what arepas are, you're missing out. They're sort of a taco-like hand food. Picture a circular cross between a pita and an english muffin, but made out of corn meal. Then stuff it with all kinds of different ingredients (mainly the kinds of things you would put in a fancy taco) like lettuce, shredded beef/pork, black beans, onions, and other things.

The Vigoron came out and we were extremely excited for this crazy thing. It was a mound of shredded pork with some other fun things to dip the pork rinds into. Seriously this thing was worth fighting over. I was very surprised both at how large it was and also how delicious it was. I'm glad we decided on this for an appetizer.

The arepas came out just after we finished our appetizer. And I'll be honest, it was really difficult to tell which one was better.

The shredded beef was had fantastic cumin flavor and the sweetness of the plantains really cut through. The cotija cheese flavor also came through brilliantly. I was really surprised how good this thing was.

The roasted pork arepa with sweet potato was also fantastic. The green onion aioli was extremely mild and complemented the roasted pork very well. Just the right amount of sweet potato so as not to be overpowering.

The yuca fries that came with our areas were wonderful. I got the chimichurri dip and D.Rough got the aioli verde dip. Again, we couldn't decide which one was better - we loved them both.

I'll be honest, I expected to just think this place was "o.k.". I was totally wrong about it. The place is wonderful. I know there are competing arepa restaurants in the Twin Cities that are cheaper, but the arepas at Hola are much larger, more full of ingredients, and are more filling. One arepa is more than enough here, especially if you get one of their enormous appetizers (which I would recommend).

Top 5 things about Hola Arepa
1. Vigoron
2. Shredded beef and plantain arepa
3. Roasted pork and sweet potato arepa
4. Delicious cocktails
5. Both the chimichurri dip and the aioli verde dips for the yuca fries

Bottom 5 things
1. You're going to wait in line, especially in the winter when the patio is closed. There's a really good reason they're as busy as they are
2. The bartender, who is an absolute wizard, is leaving Hola Arepa to start his own distillery!!!!
3. You're going to want everything on the menu
4. I've heard people call it "Holla" arepa. Those people are idiots
5. If you don't like bitters, order your fancy drinks without them - it's that easy

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Poncho 8 - London, UK

In case you get a hankering for a Chipotle burrito while you're in London (for the record, it's getting easier to find Chipotle locations in London), you can simply drop into a nice little shop called Poncho 8.

Same ordering process, same style of ingredients. It's pretty darn good. I had some for lunch and if I had closed my eyes, during the ordering process or the eating process, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. Excellent lunch for a pretty reasonable cost.

And here was my view during lunch. They even had grass IN the city!!!!

Worth a write up? Maybe not, but I thought I'd help people who rely on such staples as the addictive Chipotle burrito. Hahaha.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Golden Hind - London, UK

D.Rough sent me a list of a couple of places with notable food while I was in the UK for work. One of the places she recommended won a lot of fame for being a very traditional fish and chips shop in the city. It was within a half hour walk and I needed to get out and stretch my legs after a long day of work - done!

It's a pretty straight forward menu. A couple of fish things and some little appetizer-y type things. I simply ordered fish and chips. The server asked which kind of fish (they have cod and haddock). I told him whichever most people think is the best. Seemed pretty easy. Oh yeah, and an Orange Fanta.

The fish was enormous. (It was the cod.) Much larger than I even expected. And, it was delicious! Thick breading that tasted like breading and not grease. Very thick peace of very flaky fish. You could taste the fish, as well as the breading. I like that they didn't add any bells and whistles to this dish - THAT's the reason it's been making headlines.

The chips (fries) were pretty straight forward. Great fried crunch on them without being overcooked.

I'm glad D.Rough recommended this place. It wasn't expensive and was exactly what I needed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Edley's Bar-B-Que - Nashville, TN

We got a recommendation from our Hattie B's Uber driver that we needed to go check out Edley's Bar-B-Que if we wanted some amazing stuff. That was all the encouragement we needed. We convinced a handful of people to come with us.

The place wasn't full, which was what we were worried about, but it was after the dinner hour, so it had begun to clear out. When I get ribs, I always get a half slab - this time was no different. Half slab with collard green and some mac and cheese. Old school.

The place has a full bar, so you can get anything you want, so most of us ended up getting adventurous with the local brews.

The food came out pretty quickly, as much of it is already made and just has to be finished off. The ribs are dry rubbed and then finished with sauce before serving. The sauce was rich and hearty, but not vinegar-y. I loved it. Great smoke flavor, without being fake, and the amount was just right - not swimming in sauce. The meat was amazingly tender with almost no gristle at all.

The collard greens were really good. I'd just had some amazing collard greens recently, but these were good. No complaints. A little bit of spice and good flavor. I'd get these again.

The mac and cheese was good. Not the best in the world, not the worst. No gritty cheese or anything, so I liked it. It also didn't taste like cafeteria cheese, which means there was more than minimal effort put into them. I appreciate that above all else.

This place was fantastic. I think everyone was happy with their food and the beer people were even happier with the tap selection at the bar. This place has everything.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hattie B's Hot Chicken - Nashville, TN

When someone says you have to try the Hot Chicken in Nashville, you just do it. I assure you, you can't go wrong. We got fantastic recommendations about Hattie B's, so I rounded up D.Rough and A-Wow and we Uber-ed right to the front door. And, before you ask, yes, there will be a line out the front door.

Deciding on the hot chicken is the easy part of the menu. Deciding which side items you'd like is the really hard part. I went with collard greens, since we're in the south, and also the potato salad.

We found a spot on the enclosed patio and simply watched other people enjoying their food. Everyone had smiles and were talking excitedly about their food. When ours came out, we knew why.

The hot chicken is beyond comprehension why it is so good. I think the chicken is seasoned, and then the batter is seasoned, and then the seasoning is seasoned. Depending on your level, it's going to be hot. I ordered some sort of middle of the road and it was perfect. Amazingly tender chicken and the perfect amount of breading to not hide the chicken, but simply protect it. It's amazing. My lips were tingling but my eyes weren't tearing up. Like I said, some of the best chicken I ever had.

The collard greens were done right - like they know how to do in the south. A little kick of pepper and some bits of meat in there. Excellent.

The potato salad was good. No complaints. Nothing I haven't had before, but it was a great accompaniment to the spicy chicken. I'm glad I got it.

And then, when you're done, you can sop all the extra juice from the chicken up with with what bread it's served on. That's one of my favorite parts of southern cooking - the soppin'.

A-Wow would also recommend the extreme rootbeer float he ordered for dessert. It helped cool his face down after all the hot chicken.

I'd recommend Hattie B's to everyone I get a chance to talk to about it.

Top 5 things about Hattie B's Hot Chicken
1. Hot Chicken
2. Collard Greens
3. The menu is thorough
4. White bread for soppin'
5. They DO have beer

Bottom 5 things
1. You WILL wait in line here (but you won't complain once you have food in your mouth)
2. ...And then you might wait in line to get a seat after you order
3. I tried really hard to find other bad things, but there aren't any