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May 26, 2007 05:32 AM

First impressions of Chorizo and Ultimate Ice Cream, Asheville:

1. Chorizo is one of two new side-by-side ventures in the Grove Arcade by Salsa owner Hector Diaz. Haven't tried the other, Modesto, which is a southern stab at a northern Italian trattoria, though it was packed last night and the dishes of sidewalk diners there looked interesting.

Chorizo serves Latin American fare and specialty drinks, with a short, handwritten menu of appetizers, salads, and entrees. Only one dessert was offered last night, flan, and we passed (see below).

The restaurant is postage stamp tiny but has enormous, sliding glass panels that, when open, give it a bright and airy feeling. The decor and lighting fixtures are lovely, though the mountain-craftsy paintings currently on display are wrong for both the space and the cuisine.

We started off with two overpriced but potent top shelf margaritas. Our server was friendly, helpful, and prompt though the food was not. Several specials and menu dishes featured squid, so I can only assume it was fresh although I'm not a fan. The wife and I eventually settled on the same Duck entree served in a dark sauce made with shaved chocolate and spices over strange white (but delicious) lentils with fava beans, sauteed greens, and fried plantains. Even at $14 I thought the portions were rather skimpy, and the duck leg quarter was too much work for too little meat. Even though you might sacrifice a little tenderness without the bones, I would use breast meat. The sauce, however, was HEAVEN--no other chef in our neck of the woods does sweet and hot like Hector Diaz. (See: "spliff roll" appetizer at Salsa for the perfect example.)

Total for two drinks, two entrees, and tip: fifty bucks.
FIRST IMPRESSION: Very good, but not great (yet). We WILL return and report again.

2. For dessert, we thought we'd seek out the much-touted Ultimate Ice Cream shop on Tunnel Road are tres glad we did! (It's hidden in a nondescript strip mall behind Pomodoro's Greek restaurant at 1070 Tunnel Road. Drive slowly and don't blink--the sign is teeny.) I had what is probably the best chocolate ice cream I've had in my life: Kahlua Mocha Almond, rich and dense as fudge with nice chunks of toasted almond. Spouse had Toasted Almond ice cream with lots of stringy, fresh coconut. I'm not a big coconut fan, but she loved it.

Total for two single scoops and a decaf. coffee: approx. $8
FIRST IMPRESSION: I'm glad I live twenty miles away from the Ultimate Ice Cream shop. Otherwise I'd be tempted to visit several times a week (and my rumpus would be as wide as Tunnel Road)!

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  1. ultimate is the best. I am addicted to there fresh sorbet. they recently had a Blueberry that knocked my socks off!

    1. We had dinner at Chorizo as well. Pretty tasty food, though the salad we shared had an extremely oily dressing. However, we noted that there was NOT even one token vegetarian entree on the dinner menu. There are one or two vegetarian apps, such as guacamole and salad so a vegetarian could survive a dinner there, but what's the deal? Isn't this 2007?

      2 Replies
      1. re: angelaf

        Hmmm...I hadn't noticed that. I do know that the menu changes frequently, so maybe you just caught them on a non-vegetarian option night.

        1. re: angelaf

          Hang at Laughing Seed ... just kidding... Hector does veggie at his other to places, hard to believe he didn't have something at Chorizo.

        2. Forgot to ask: Has anybody tried the Black Mocha Stout ice cream at U.I.C.? Sounds kind of gross, but might actually be great. (Or gross.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jeff C.

            ohmygosh!! the the Highland Brewing Black Mocha Stout Ice Cream at Ultimate is AWESOME!!!! I was SO bummed out when they didn't have it the last time I was there. I wish we had Ultimate in Weaverville but I would be there every night so it's probably a good thing they are 12 miles away!

            1. re: leahinsc

              Will have to give it a try, then!

          2. Good point about Ultimate. I try to pretend it's not there...between Ulitmate and Flat Rock bakery it's hard to keep the pants fitting properly. But I agree wholeheartedly, some of the best ice cream ever.

            We tried Chorizo on Saturday, but unfortunately were there between lunch and dinner so only could drool over the Duck entree on the dinner menu. We had a chicken dish similar to nachos, fried plantains, green salad, and fruit and serano plate. Everything good, but not what I really wanted. I wanted the roast pork on the sandwich board or the duck or the lamb ribs on the dinner menu (which we had tasted at Modesto). My caipirinha was delicious, the tapas menu between 3-5 has "small drinks" to go with small plates, it was $3. I can't wait to go back for a proper lunch or dinner.

            BTW, we had one of the worst servers EVER. If you sit down and a chick with two-toned hair and a really big tattoo on her chest who looks really depressed comes to your table...ask to be reseated.

            5 Replies
            1. re: danna

              Our server was GREAT. (Don't think she had a tattoo, but she did have unusual hair.) Was she a..uh..."full-figured" gal?

              1. re: Jeff C.

                No, not at all. Probably too depressed to eat.

                She never asked if I wanted another drink, never apologized for or even acknowledged that we waited 45 minutes for food, most of it which should have been 90% pre-prepared. Then brought all 4 dishes at the same time...they literally would not all fit on the table, we had to keep switching one to the empty table next to us. There were a couple of other servers that we could see...their tables didn't seem to have any of the issues we did. I tipped way more than she deserved, out of pity.

                1. re: danna

                  Not the one we had, then. I always feel that the tip should reflect the service... until I remember what most servers make per hour. (Also, I'm paranoid about getting someone I've low tipped again and having them do something highly unpleasant to my food!)

                  So, in the end, I (sometimes reluctantly) shell out the requisite 15-20%...

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    we had a waitress yesterday at Moose Cafe who personified surliness. She practically growled at us. When we mentioned the fact that we were with the party (at another table) that had already ordered and were well into eating their meals but we had not even given our order yet she snapped "I'll get to it." When we couldn't understand something she said she actually rolled her eyes at us. When we finally got our food, our friends had already finished and left, she slammed the plates down on the table. It got to the point where we were afraid of asking for anything additional. Needless to say she got less than 10%.

                    1. re: leahinsc

                      I'm sorry to hear you had to eat at Moose Cafe. Sometimes having friends can be a liability ;-)

                      That level of surliness gets "poor service" written on the tip line, where I assume someone in management will see it, and nothing else. It's the pitiful, clueless, wretched waitstaff that I never know how to tip...I hesitate to encourage bad service, but I also hate to make their lives any MORE unhappy.