Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saigon Cafe - Hyde Park

Vietnamese Kitchen is a restaurant in Louisville, KY that Kelly has always raved about. Apparently, Saigon Cafe has been opened by this same family, or at least one relative of the family.  Needless to say, Kelly was pumped up when Saigon Cafe opened down the street from my apartment. 

We went on a Saturday night at about 6:30 pm.  We became hesitant as we walked in though, as the place was empty.  We were seated near the computer/server hangout area and since we were two of the five people in the entire restaurant, the servers stood around talking right behind our table.  It was a little uncomfortable as the guys joked about girls, etc.  This went on for the entire meal.  I even watched our server stand with our food talking to another server about real estate.  I helplessly watched it get colder and colder.... 

Banh Xeo
As an appetizer, the server recommended the Banh Xeo (a Vietnamese crepe with shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, green beans, and bean sprouts).  We found the crepe itself to have an interesting texture but the flavor fell short.  We both liked it enough to clean the plate, but agreed that it didn't excite us much.   

Curry Fried Rice
Com Suong

For our entrees, we ordered curried fried rice with chicken and Com Soung.  The presentations were thoughtful and the portions were generous. The fried rice was my dish, but I found the curry flavor to be so overpowering that I didn't enjoy it (Kelly loved it though).  Com Suong is a steamed rice dish with an over easy fried egg and marinated pork.   As you probably know by now, I don't really eat pork.  This pork tasted a lot like Mongolian beef though, which I love.  It was sweet, not spicy.  It tasted great with steamed rice and the egg yolk provided a sauce that pulled it all together.  Who knew I could find a pork dish up my alley?

Overall the food was good enough to go back.  The server was attentive for the most part, but we were pretty uncomfortable as the employees stood around talking about their post-work plans within ear-shot of us.  I hope it sticks around but I'm more likely to get take-out.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Turophilia - Food Truck at 7th and Vine

This post has been a long time coming.  I stopped at Turophilia for lunch about a month ago but haven't found the time to update.

Although quesadillas are hard to screw up, a great one is surprisingly hard to find.   Growing up in a vegetarian household, my favorite after school snack was microwaving a tortilla with yellow cheese.    Not all that exciting, but I worked with what I had available.  Today, the quesadillas I choose are a little more sophisticated.  While I still love a cheese quesadilla, it better be crispy and made of something other than kraft american cheese.  

Turophilia takes it up a few notches from my after school snack, with ingredients like pine nuts and roasted red peppers.  The menu is small and changes regularly.  The day I was there, none of the options were traditional Mexican fare.  All were gourmet but  I'm not sure if this is always the case.  
My quesadilla was called The Black Keys.  It began  with a whole wheat tortilla and had pesto, artichokes, black olives, onion, garlic, mozzarella and goat cheese.  I ordered mine without onion as I'm weird about raw onion overpowering meals - plus I wanted to avoid smelling like it the rest of the work day.  The quesadilla was perfectly crispy and the mozzarella oozed out as I pulled apart the pieces.  The pesto paired perfectly with the artichokes.  It was so delicious that I wish I had ordered a 10 instead of 8 inch.  
My quesadilla took about 10 minutes to make and cost $6.00 flat.  I tipped as well because you could see how much she cared about giving each quesadilla the attention it deserved.  Also, it was about 100 degrees that day and she looked really hot in that trailer.  I hope she sticks around.  I will definitely be back!

Turophilia on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 15, 2011

Suzie Wong's on Madison

Suzie Wong's has been in its location long enough that we determined it had to be decent.  We rarely venture that far down Madison these days but after a recommendation from a co-worker, we decided to give it a shot.

We arrived at about 6:30 on a Saturday night and the place was virtually empty - only 4 tables full or so.  This wasn't encouraging but, since we were hungry, we were thrilled not to have a wait.  Upon recommendation from my co-worker, we started with the calamari.  It was served with a pomegranete dipping sauce that I may have eaten with a spoon after the calamari was finished - it was that good.  The calamari was more battered than it was breaded - totally different from Italian restaurant calamari.  It was very crispy and even had a smoky flavor which the server stated was from the peppers it was cooked with.  We couldn't get enough of the calamari really.  I will order that every time I return. 

For our entrees we ordered the vietnemese pho soup (Thinly sliced beef filet and rice noodles, with clear beef broth accompanied with basil, bean sprouts, lime, jalapenos, and red peppers) and the Bangkok Coconut Curry (Chicken, shrimp or seafood supreme (add $4) served in a real coconut with your choice of green or red curry.)

You can choose your level of spice on the pho soup, which was good for me because I can't handle much spice.  The noodles and beef broth were lovely but the beef pieces were so big that they were hard to eat.  I liked that the soup was served with bean sprouts and cilantro to add myself, as well as two different sauces.  The serving was enormous and definitely not overpriced at $9.

Kelly's green curry was all seafood - shrimp, mussels, calamari and lump crab meat.  It was served beautifully in a coconut but it was a little difficult to retrieve the meat from inside.  I'm not a fan of coconut curry but Kelly said it was delicious.  He went a little overboard adding the crab meat on top - his dish ran about $20 (excessive).  

Seafood Curry
The server was very knowledgeable and gave us many recommedations as well as information about the organic ingredients and cooking processes.  Kelly was impressed because the spicy red sauce was homeade - not out of a jar like most places.

Overall we really liked Suzie Wong's.  We felt the server's pride in the food as he explained the chef's reliance on fresh ingredients and it made us appreciate the restaurant even more.  Additionally, we each had multiple things we wanted to try on the menu, especially the rice dishes.  They are very reasonabley priced as you could get out of there for $20 for two without drinks.

I also noticed they do a lot of take-out business.

Suzie Wong's on Madison on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill - Red Bank

We were excited to hear about a take-out Mediterranean restaurant opening nearby and decided to give it a shot for dinner last night. 

First, our impressions on the space:  It's definitely more of a take-out restaurant than eat-in as there are only a few tables.  It also is pretty dirty - everything is sticky.  The pop machine area has napkins and straws nearby but they are in the ripped open plastic bags they were shipped in.  Also - there is no indication of where a line starts and stops.  It's sort of confusing with people just standing around. 

Second, our impressions on the service:  There were two couples that ordered before us and after we ordered another 5 couples came in.  There were only three people behind the counter.  One was solely making food and the other two were half cooks/half cashiers.  It wasn't exactly clear who to order from and it was a little chaotic.

The woman before us had her food re-made twice.  Her food wasn't bad but both times it wasn't what she ordered.  I think this happened because at the time of placing orders, the cashier does not write down what you order but instead yells it to a cook.  This didn't fare well for them because they had to keep asking people to remind them what they ordered.  All of the customers were looking at each other wondering why it was so confusing for the employees.  We had a pretty easy order -  two gyros and an order of mozzarella cheesesticks to go.  Because it was a little disorganized around the counter, we wanted to get out of the way and so we went to a table to wait.  After the gyros were done - about 10 minutes - they realized that they forgot about the cheesesticks.  If we hadn't already paid for them we would have said to forget it because we wanted to get out of there.  Instead, they told us we could just start eating our gyros here while the cheesesticks cooked.  We really didn't want to do that because it was really hot in the restaurant but we were hungry.  Our cheesesticks were ready half way through our gyros.  They gave us about 10 cheesesticks on a plate.  We put them in the bag that our gyros came in so we could leave. 

By the way, there is no moving air in this restaurant.  It was like a sauna - partially why we wanted to get out of there so badly.

The employees were definitely unprepared for the amount of customers.  They seriously need to work on organization.  Hopefully they will get it sorted out before it's too late. 

Third, the food: If it hadn't been for the food, I would be confident this place wouldn't survive 6 months.  Thankfully though, the food made up for the atmosphere.  All of the food looked really fresh and made from scratch.  The gyro meat is both lamb and beef and is cooked as it should be on a vertical skewer with radiated heat.  The pitas are soft, warm and fresh.  You can add a variety of toppings onto the gyro including tahini sauce, feta, tomato-cucumber salad, lettuce, etc.  We put all of those listed on our gyros and they were delicious.  The tahini sauce is more like yogurt and had a good fresh taste.  We were really pleased.  They ran about $6 which is fair - and no extra charge for the feta.  The mozzarella sticks were nothing special but were fried for the perfect amount of time and like I said before, they gave us an enormous amount. 

Overall, the food was good enough for us to go back and I'm happy to have some authentic Mediterranean food close by.  I would never eat in the restaurant though as it's hot and dirty.  Also, the organization is a mess.  Not sure if the owner was around but he/she should be more involved at Friday's dinner rush.

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon