Saturday, January 29, 2011

El Vez- Phila

Not long after I had that awesome meal at Cafe Habana in NY, I was craving some Mexican food again. So I decided to try out El Vez, located right in the center of Philadelphia on Sansom St and 13th. If a low-rider rotating in the middle of the bar and a whimsical and fully functioning photo booth can give you any idea of what this place is like, you would say that El Vez exudes fun and energy. From the comfy sofa-styled seating to the multi-colored paneled walls, I adore everything about the interiors of this place. But enough praise already because although I enjoyed the look and feel of this establishment, I am disappointed to say that the food is extremely average and that the price you pay just doesn't add up to the food they serve.
Grilled Corn with Lime Chipotle and Queso Fresco
once you've had the corn at cafe habana, this corn here just doesn't even begin to compare. first, the cob felt soggy, like the corn had been boiled as opposed to grilled. second, the spices just weren't tasted pretty bland. also, the cheese was sort of just thrown on top, i would've liked it better had it been melted over the corn. overall, this was a disappointing starter and if anything, made me crave the corn from cafe habana even more.
Crispy Mahi-Mahi Tacos
El Vez went to Chili's, ordered these tacos to-go, and then served it to me for double the price. the tacos weren't exactly bad, but they weren't special or extremely delicious. i mean, the fish was crispy and the tortilla was soft, however, the tacos lacked a sauce, which would've tied it together.

we also ordered a pitcher of pineapple margarita to share. although the drink tasted nothing like what we had envisioned it to taste (from what was described to us by the menu), i will say that the amount is generous and each pitcher will provide 2-3 glasses/person (assuming you share between 3 people).

to conclude, this place is definitely a fun locale to grab a drink after work or to hangout and socialize but in terms of actual dining, i know philly has a lot better to offer than El Vez.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tria- Phila

Wine. Cheese. Beer. You surely must be crazy if you're not a fan of one of these items. and don't forget all of the delicious tapas-styled snacks that Tria has to offer. I can understand why this place doesn't accept reservations because it's always bustling and filled with people. Reviewing the menu, I appreciate the writer's comedic and creative way of breaking down the different types of wine and cheese offerings. For example, the selection of cheese ranges from "luscious" and "approachable" to "stinky" and "stoic." ( Best of all, these little snacks are moderately priced so you can afford to order a few, different items instead of committing to one, huge entrée. 

Warm Poached Black Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto di Parma
salty ham and sweet figs make a dynamic combination. poach the fruit in some sort of wine or alcohol and top it off with cheesy goodness and you are in heaven!

Pistachio Herbed Ricotta with Lavender Honey 
you get the touch of added sweetness from the honey along with the freshness of the ricotta cheese served on a slice of crispy toast.  i've mentioned this before, but i'm not a huge fan of sharp or aged cheeses. i much prefer the light, creamy, sweet types so ricotta is perfect for me. the pistachio is a nice addition, giving a little more texture as well as bringing that nuttiness to the flavor.

Valencay Goat Cheese and La Tur Cheese
i'm no cheese expert (i just like trying different kinds) so i'm not entirely sure which cheese was which. but i have reason to believe that the cheese to the left is Valencay and the cheese to the right is La Tur...why? because La Tur has a rind on the outside and it was sort of oozy. it was also much creamier than the cheese to the left.

additionally, i was perplexed by the red sauce. it wasn't a sweet jam or fact, it tasted a little spicy but it wasn't pepper paste (or so i hope not). the little dish to the right is a small cut of honeycomb. definitely try any of the cheeses here, they have a great selection. all i need to do now is go back and figure out that red sauce.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Naked Chocolate Cafe- Phila

picture of the inside

Spicy Drinking Chocolate
take me back to spain so i can get some chocolate con churros from san gines already!! this hot chocolate served european style is super thick and extremely rich (nothing like the american cup of hot chocolate). it's almost like drinking hot fudge or warm chocolate syrup. although i love chocolate, this little cup was too cloyingly sweet and i wished they would've given me a few more of those pirouettes for dipping. and with the frigid weather outside, i really wished this hot chocolate packed a little more punch in terms of heat because i couldn't taste any spiciness. even for you big indulgers out there, i wouldn't recommend getting anything larger than petit because a little sip of this chocolate goes a looong way.

Cookies and Cream Mousse Cake
you can never go wrong with a whipped mousse cake like this one. as expected, the texture was very light and airy and since it was chilled, it almost felt like i was eating a slice of super soft ice cream cake. my complaint about this dessert is that because it was pre-made and refrigerated, the chocolate drizzle had already set and so it was hard to eat or scrape the hardened pieces from the plate.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cafe Habana- NY

Cafe Habana, which I think should more appropriately be named Diner Habana, is easily one of those places that I can't wait to re-visit the next time I'm back in New York. There is nothing fancy about this place but the food here is spectacular! Between the already tight spaces of this crowded establishment and the always present groups of people waiting their turn, this place is frenzy central. In fact, the staff have such a hard time moving around that when I went up to ask for a straw, I was rudely commanded to sit back down as my server would come to me. So although the staff here could definitely take a lesson or two in hospitality, the food (minus the awful soda, pictured below) is indeed awesome.
Ginger Jalapeño Soda (left)
this is what i get for trying to be adventurous... i ordered the soda because it sounded interesting so when i got this drink, i was more than disappointed with what looked and pretty much tasted like sewage water (not that i know what sewage water really tastes like). i'm obviously exaggerating as it wasn't thaaat bad but it certainly wasn't good. the soda wasn't sweet and i couldn't taste any ginger. honestly, all i could taste was plain seltzer water. so please do NOT order this wretched beverage at cafe habana. now that i'm done bashing my drink, lets move on to the delectable corn!!
Grilled Corn Mexican Style
where do i begin with this corn? it was so good that i got a separate order to-go (and although it was cold when i ate it the next day, it was still pretty bomb!!). the corn is grilled, then covered in cotija cheese (similar to feta but it's drier and not as soft as feta), lime juice and dusted with chili powder. there was definitely an ample amount of cheese, although i personally felt they could've used a little more chili powder (i love everything spicy!!). i will definitely be back for these babies.
Tlacoyo de Tres Marias
tlacoyo is a traditional mexican dish of corn dough "boats" if you will. the "boats" were stuffed with cheese, beans and tomatoes. the dough on the outside was super crispy, fresh, and wonderfully hot. the filling on the inside was cool due to the cheese, almost like it was sour cream. i also really liked the flavorful side of rice and black beans. i definitely had zero room for dessert after this heavy entrée.
Chuleta de Puerco a la Pimienta
ordered by my sister, this grilled pork chops dish was another winner. cooked in a creamy pepper sauce, the pork chops, which are hiding under all of that mushroom goodness, were slightly charred (good for me since i do not like my meats undercooked by any means, but bad for my sister who complained that it was too burnt). the toast with some sort of chives and cheese spread was delightful and this dish came with the same sides of rice and beans as mine.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Melograno- Phila

if you're looking below already, NO i did not single handedly take down all three desserts. i definitely had help haha. anyways, Melograno, is a great restaurant for romantic dates or small intimate dinners with your friends. so with that known, who did i bring to this restaurant? entire family (a party of 8)!! i would not recommend others doing so as this place usually does not have enough room to accommodate large parties. but the service here was wonderful and i loved our server. she was knowledgeable about the menus and the daily specials, as well as attentive.
Quaglie Arrosto
these birds were so dainty and perfect that i almost felt bad eating them...well no, not really. rubbed with all sorts of herbs and stuffed with all types of goodies (dried fruits and nuts), these quails were pretty darn tasty and rather filling despite their small size. the mound of polenta was average but i did like the tart pomegranate sauce underlying the polenta. my only complaint is that the quails were a little difficult to eat as they are served whole so you do have to watch out for the little bones.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
hmm..if i can recall correctly, i did like this dessert although it wasn't unlike the panna cottas that i've ordered at a couple other places. bascially, it was good but not divine.
this was my first time ordering budino (which is italian for pudding if google serves me right). i was expecting something in a cup with a little more moisture or something more liquid but i got this cake-like dessert instead. although it was extremely moist and airy, it certainly was not pudding. the creme anglaise was rich and creamy but balanced by the tart raspberries. although the proof is not in this budino (corny, i know), i did find it likable.
Ginger Creme Brulee
out of the three desserts, i must say this creme brulee takes the cake (what is it with me and these ridiculous puns??!). but seriously, this creme brulee was reaaallyyy good!! ginger, having such a strong smell and flavor, can so easily overpower a dessert. thankfully, in this case, just the right amount was used. my favorite part of all creme brulees is the shell on top so i loved eating the little pieces of ginger-flavored "candy".

Friday, January 14, 2011

Barbuzzo- Phila

This place is always packed! The space is tiny so we were seated literally less than half a foot away from the next table. It's supposed to be a Mediterranean kitchen but at least half the menu was Italian.
Goat Cheese Board
i'd seriously be lying if i said i enjoyed all of the cheeses from this sampler. the verde cabra and blue were both way too sharp/ strong for my liking. the most enjoyed would easily be the young goat cheese (top right). it was airy, spreadable, and the drizzle of honey further sweetened the already creamy, light cheese. the marcona almonds (which i had mistaken for macadamia nuts) and the jams were all delicious complements to the cheeses.
Mia Pera Pizza
baked into this pizza is sweet bartlett pear, gorgonzola, walnuts, and prosciutto. the pie was topped off with a heaping of arugula and a light drizzle of saba (a grape reduction similar to balsamic vinegar). the saba can get messy because it runny and drips all over the place. they were pretty stingy with the walnuts. but overall, it was an enjoyable pizza as the gorgonzola was creamy and the crust was crisp and thin.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Located right on Newbury St., Paparazzi Trattoria and Bar offers your typical Italian fare consisting of pastas, soups, salads, and gourmet pizzas. It's reminiscent of Stephanie's on Newbury but Paparazzi is a little less expensive. The welcoming atmosphere lends itself to a large range of customers. You can spot people from all ages, from little kids dining with their parents, to young professionals enjoying a drink, all the way up to elderly couples enjoying a nice meal together. I loved all of the festive wreaths and poinsettia flowers the restaurants put up for the holiday times.
Agnolotti All' Aragosta
these lobster and ricotta filled raviolis were definitely filling. the part i enjoyed most about the dish would probably be the cream sauce infused with hints of basil, which was light and not too heavy.  like the pasta shell, which was a little hard, the lobster filling felt dry and the meat did not taste fresh. my guess is they used frozen lobster.

Petit Robert- Boston

Petit Robert is this cute little french restaurant located right in Kenmore Square, Boston. They were featured on several weeks back and I purchased a "$25 for $50 worth of food" coupon. The food is not super expensive and the portions are definitely generous. The ambiance is pretty casual and you don't need to break your bank eating french food.
Moules Marinieres
the sauce was great for dipping the piping hot but amazingly fresh baguette. (the bread was so hot that i burned my fingers while tearing a piece haha)
Roasted Rack of Lamb with Ratatouille
the plating is pretty messy here, which is obviously a big no no. but the food itself was really good. the ratatouille was super flavorful and the lamb was tender. the potatoes, however, felt a little underdone.
Gateau Robert au Chocolat
i'm not a fan of this cake. it wasn't moist enough and definitely felt dry. perhaps it was left over from the past day. it's suppose to be their specialty but there is honestly nothing special about this mediocre dessert.

BonChon Replaces Shabu Toki in Allston

so bonchon chicken has reopened in allston and is now located where shabu toki used to be. honestly, i say good riddance to toki. they became especially irrelevant after shabu toki got rid of hotpot and became just "toki." but cheers to yummy chicken wings :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elephant Walk-Boston

so i will dedicate my first food post to The Elephant Walk located on Beacon St in Boston. their specialty is french and cambodian fusion although i could hardly detect any french influence in several of the plates beyond their french names.
what a bad picture! all the little spring rolls are hiding. they were pretty standard and all that green is just unnecessary.
i loved these crispy jasmine rice dippers and the nataing (ground pork simmered in coconut milk) was really good. the sauce was definitely on the sweeter side.

 Somlah Machou
 Similar if not identical to tom yum soup.
Napoleon de Tofu et Legumes au Curry
this tofu curry dish was delicious! the pan seared tofu blocks had just a little bit of a yummy!
Loc Lac
this isn't a very pleasant picture of the beef tenderloin but it was really yummy. The sauce consisted of black pepper, garlic, mushroom in a soy sauce base. And the lime dipping sauce on the side added a perfect acidic contrast to the caramelized beef.
Le Peche au Chocolat
i wasn't in love with this cake, it was pretty average and the raspberry coulis didn't add much to the dessert besides maybe giving it a splash of color for plating.
Mousse aux Fruits de Passion
i really loved this tart passion fruit mousse served in an almond lace cup. however, the mousse was definitely a lot more spectacular than the stale cup.

first post!!

this is so exciting!! so i was supposed to start this food blog eons ago except i was always too lazy or didn't have enough time. but now i finally have this blog set up and hopefully i'll be adding posts on a routine basis starting today :)