Help me decide on dinner
Every once in a while, I get into that "I'm in a mood for anything" state of mind. And I can't logically decide on where to have dinner.
So I thought of throwing out a few names and hoping that you guys could sway me one way or another. If it'll help, I usually chow out Wed and/or Thurs, and right now I'm driven more by the curiosity of trying a new place rather than just good food (they all seem to be at least good, according to my sources here on chowhound and elsewhere).
Here they are (a subset of my list of places to try):
Gordon's House of Fine EatsIsa
Love to hear any advice.
re: Melanie Wong
I think I've mentioned Anjou a couple of times -- I've eaten there twice and enjoyed it very much -- not just the food, which is good but not exceptional, but the whole dining experience. I'd be interested to see how you think it stacks up against some of the other French restaurants in its style and price range.
On the other hand, it would be nice to see your take on a couple of the newer places on your list that not many hounds have reported on yet, i.e. Alma. So the "As" have it!
Of your list, I've been to Alma, Da Flora, Gordon's, and Zuni. I'm going to Alborz this Wed. after hearing it was tasty from Celery so I can't report on that until later this week. If you're there on Wednesday around 6:30 and you see a group of women with a lot of food and books on the table, come say hi!
I'd vote for Alma out of that list. I'm very partial to pan-Latino cooking and to the cooking of Johnny ALamilla. I was a huge fan of his when he was at Che and still am. My husband was insistent about eating at Alma their opening night as we were at the closing of Che. Alma rocked from the beginning. We've been about 4-5 times since and this is what I'd recommend:
--Any of the ceviche. You can have a single order or they also do a 3 smaller dish sampler of their daily ceviches. My fave is a bay scallop ceviche in a cucumber water spiked with habanero oil. I've also had a tuna tartare type and a either snapper or bass ceviche there. THey are all delicious with a good balance of citrus to richness of the seafood. Usually there is some additional twist to it as well, ie the habanero oil.
--One side dish I always order as an app that was carried over from Che is the corn and goat cheese arepa. I'd kill for this. The Alma areap is a study of contrasts IMO. Many arepas I've eaten have been a cornmeal patty that acted more as a bland accompaniment/ filler to heartier more flavorful dishes. Not the arepas at Alma. This dish is such a great combo of sweetness and snap from the corn contrasted with melting creaminess and tanginess from goat cheese. It's also served atop mesclun so there's additional flavor contrast with some of the bitter greens and acidity from the salad dressing. I also enjoy the temperature contrast as the arepa is usually out of the frying pan hot against the cool salad. I just really dig this dish!
--Two entrees I've really enjoyed: the pork chop and the duck. I've had duck confit as well as seared Sonoma duck breast and was really happy with both. The confit was good but admittedly not the best I've had in the area. That was at cafe la haye with runner-up going to the girl and the fig. But the confit is good enough to be in the top 3 right now. Sonoma duck breast that I've had ranked up there with the same that I've had at Chez Panisse. Very tender, rare where it needed to be rare, packed with flavor.
Pork chop is something my husband always gets. Alamilla really knows how to treat meat in a great Argentine way. The chop is Fred Flintstone size and is a hearty meal to say the least. I think it comes with some kind of garlic mashed potato???
Back to the duck, kind of. One time dinosaur kale was served on the side of the duck breast. I hate kale but really enjoyed the kale at Alma. I don't really know what they did to it but I was extremely surprised that I was actually enjoying kale?!?
--One other side dish that is wonderful is the yucca gratin. This is not a dish you want to get if you've already had a lot of food as it's starchy and very filling. But it's creamy, cheesy, oh so hot when it comes out of the salamander or wherever and comforting.
--That's all I can recommend. We don't ever stay for dessert as we'd rather make our way down to Mitchell's for killer ice cream.
P#3 & Alma are next on my list. I was a big fan of Che and have been trying to get to Alma for months. (Goat Hill Pizza's Monday night all you can eat for $8 is also high on my list.)
I was not impressed with Gordon's the one time we went about a year ago.
We loved Alborz. I reccomend going with a group 'cause its a sharing king of menu.
Out of your dining discovery list, I would suggest Anjou and Antica Trattoria. One is simply French, the
latter, simply Italian. When I use simple, I elude
to straightforward and distinctive flavors and overall
I would skip Zuni and Gordon's. Their both overrated
and haughty environments to boot.
I have only been to Antica and Anjou. I highly recommend Antica, good food, reasonable prices, nice atmosphere.
I would recommend Anjou as well, but not over Antica. Below is a review of Anjou I did shortly after my visit.
Décor is simple, with white tablecloths and exposed brick walls. Tables are fairly close together, but not so close so as to be an annoyance.
Upon being seated we were offered crusty french bread, served in a broken fashion, which as an attractive change. Our drink orders were promptly taken and we were advised of the specials
The menu is divided into three parts, appetizers, large appetizers/small dinners and entrees. Appetizers include oysters on the half shell at $1.60 per oyster, rabbit and vegetable terrine and french onion soup . Large appetizers include dungeoness crabcake,, warm lobster salad ($15) and toasted brioche of duck foie gras with a leek salad and sautéed apples ($ 11.50).
Oysters were fresh and served in a mignonette. We tried a Muscadet to accompany the oysters which was light but paired well with the mineral flavor of the oysters. Foie gras was well done, with the sweetness of the apple contrasting well the richness of the liver. Our waiter attentively offered a Sauternes by the glass to accompany the luscious foie gras.
Entrees include roasted quail with dried cranberry stuffing, served with sausage and sautéed apple ($15.50).. The bird was small but succulent, offering an intense flavor similar to liver. Other entrees included Chilean Sea Bass ($18), a very typical grilled salmon served on a bed of spinach. Other dishes sampled included grilled New York steak ($19) and the seafood cassoulet.($19) The steak, ordered medium rare, came out medium well. When this was brought to our waiters attention, he whisked it away and replaced it with a perfectly cooked filet.
While the entrees were admirable, the sides were less successful. Sautéed potatoes accompanied many of the dishes. They were bland and uninspired. Green beans accompanied some of the entrees and their appearance can best be described as conjuring up old school cafeteria nightmares. Despite their appearance, they tasted fine, although slightly overcooked.
The desserts were very good to excellent. Crème Brule and apple tartlet were executed well but nothing special. A warm chestnut cake with pear coulis and caramel gelato was better, as was an ultra rich chocolate torte with caramel gelato. All deserts were$6
Anjou seems to do everything competently and at a fair price. While nothing was spectacular (although the quail dish and warm chestnut cake came close), everything was executed well and enjoyable. Overall I would place it a notch below Chapeau, Clementine and Fringale (three of my favorite bistros). However, considering the tourist haunts in the neighborhood I was pleasantly surprised.
Service was good but not polished, befitting the formality of the restaurant. Our waiter was eager to please and offered several suggestions regarding the wine. Mistakes were cured promptly and we were permitted to linger after finishing our meal.
The wine list is simple but well thought out. There were several wines by the glass and prices were modest. We brought a bottle of 1995 LEcole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley and our waiter took a genuine interest in the wine and served it in a professional manner. Corkage is $15.