My Summer Food Roundup
Now that Fall is trying to make its way into town I felt like doing a review of some of the places I've been to during this sweltering Summer. Fell free to comment!
Momos (on Forest Lane) - Decor is dated but the service was attentive and friendly. Food was well made and more Italian than American Italian (they specifically say so on their webpage). Angel hair pasta with asparagus and speck in cream sauce compared favorably to what I can make at home. The breaded pork cutlets with spinach gnocchi were a smallish portion but filling. The gnocchi didn't impress but the rest of the food was good.
Cafe Amore (Richardson) - Classic neighborhood Italian American restaurant. Nice bread rolls but the food I had was your typical red sauce pasta. Way too much of it (too salty/sweet as well) and overcooked pasta. Not my thing.
Besa's Pizza and Pasta (Richardson) - I've eaten here a few times for lunch (<$10) and dinner. It's another local joint with a small dining area and a very friendly manager/host. My group seems to enjoy the strombolis at lunch. They come out freshly baked and puffed up like a small football. I've also had a few different pastas, pizza slices, and whole Sicilian pizzas (extremely large/filling). Nothing exotic or off the charts impressive but a nice value for when the Italian urge strikes.
Fish Shack - I get the occasional craving for fish tacos which to me are some sort of white fish, slaw, and sauce. Fish shack's version was a piece of blackened or grilled (griddled?) fish (tilapia) wrapped in a soft corn tortilla, served with spicy slaw, avocado slices, and white rice. The tacos are also a Friday special ($5, three per order). Took a work crew here and we all enjoyed the tacos. Additionally the calamari was solid and a co-worker enjoyed his crab cakes. Lime cheesecake was about as expected, nothing special but not bad. Food came out a bit staggered but no serious complaints. The place is absolutely packed at peak times and you can order in bulk (100 pieces of catfish, gallons of soup). Has a great feel relaxed and we'll be back.
Sushi Sake - Excellent sushi as always. Arrived at opening on a Friday and it was packed 30 minutes after. Had a variety of sushi - introduced a friend to scallops, aji, and futomaki in addition to the usual sushi suspects. Not cheap but a good place to get a high quality sushi bar experience. It does get quite packed so I don't know how wise lingering over dinner would be.
Pho Bac - Continues to be my staple for Vietnamese. I rotate between pho and bun depending on my mood and haven't had anything negative to report over several years. If Pho Bang was a little closer I'd work that into rotation along with Nam Hua. Prices are dirt cheap like most Vietnamese places.
Nam Hua - Tried the Bahn Xeo and I found it to be interesting but lacking in flavor. Made up for it with the range of usual table condiments. It's a fun hands on experience. Also had lotus root salad which was my first exposure to lotus roots. Interesting mouth smell (not quite pleasant, not quite unpleasant). I love this place for their unique variety of dishes. Service and decor leave something to be desired but bear it and the food is usually rewarding.
Lee's Sandwiches (next to Saigon Mall) - Had a grilled pork sandwich ($3) which was good but not what I expected. It's more like a slow roasted pork that the charred fatty pork slices that I was expecting but it was plentiful, the bread was good, and the other fillings worked.
Texas Land and Cattle - Friend insisted I go try the smoked sirloin steak and, while it wasn't bad, I'd rather have bought $15 worth of meat and cooked it myself. There was definitely a smoky flavor but I suspect it comes from a bottle. I'm pretty much done with restaurant steaks at all price points. Making them at home has so many more advantages.
I'll preface the next two visits by saying I don't dig Indian cuisine that much.
Chettinad Palace - So-so buffet but *terrific* dosas (ask for them if you don't get one), good naan, and tasty chicken marsala. Desserts were good (rice pudding and halva). Think it was about $7-$8
Mumtaz - Monday lunch buffet special ($5). Now, I realize that specials - especially Monday specials - usually mean they are trying to dump foods that didn't sell over the weekend. That said, some of the items were quite good. The naan was tasty but had a hard time being replenished. The chicken dishes were not good but the beef meatballs, which seemed to throw off the Indian in our group, were great.
Chameli - Indian friend wanted to try it and it looks very inviting so ... chicken biryani was very bony and in need of seasoning. I don't mind working for the meat (I prefer dark meat) but when you get mostly bone it's off putting. This tends to be the tradeoff going to more ethnic places, more bone (supposedly more flavor), more work, less meat. I kept thinking about the chicken and rice carts in NYC and the similarities and shortcomings probably ruined it for me.
First Chinese BBQ, King's Noodles (Richardson) - Compared the beef stew noodles with King's Noodles. Eh, I don't really like this dish or Chinese noodle soups in general. I think the broths come out too thin and the ingredients don't seem to mesh the way I enjoy in my favorite noodle dishes (virtually everything Asian except Chinese). But it's cheap! CASH ONLY
Addis Abeba - We ordered a sampler platter and simply did not enjoy the food. Lamb, beef, chicken plus some vegetables and the injera flatbread. I understand the bread is supposed to be fermented/sour but no one enjoyed it in quantity. There was also a samosa with fried lentils that was very good and an uninspired salad. My first experience with Ethiopian food and possibly my last.
Mediterrean Cafe and Bakery - $10 lunch buffet so it's basically competing with Ali Baba and Afrah in the area. Solid offerings and I left happy and full. The desserts - cake, something like a milk gelatin, rice pudding, and some fruit - are much better than at the competitors. Did not try the baklava which was ~$10/lbs. Ali Baba still wins on overall atmosphere, food, and execution but I'll probably rotate through all three.
Veggie Garden - This is a Chinese style vegetarian restaurant with other Asian influences - very similar to Suma Veggie Cafe (which is also great). The lunch buffet was ~$7 and had several soup offerings, rice, noodles, egg rolls, salads, and the vegetarian takes on things like sweet and sour, kung pao, spicy tofu, etc.
Sichuanese - Ordered take out and all were great: Hot Chicken, Hot Beef Lo Mein, Pork and Sichaun Preserved Vegetable. Going to have to try more of the menu. I liked it better than either of my Little Sichuan or Royal Sichuan visits.
http://sichuaneserestaurant.com/default.aspx (apparenly a mini Dallas/Seattle chain?
Mr. Wok, Cwok, New China, Egg Roll Cafe, Wok & Grill - Pulled a lot of late nights so decided to sample the local Chinese takout. Bad idea. American Chinese offerings all made me wish I'd eaten at Umeko or Sichuanese. I know Mr Wok can be good but it did not deliver this time. I ordered some sort of chicken at each place which were all completely average. Stopped wanting to eat after hunger pains evaporated. They all had uniformly poor quality rice, which as an Asian, is a big disappointment that would preent me from returning to any of these places.
El Norte, Carolina's Mexican Cuisine (Plano) - Seemed like solid Tex-Mex. Had chicken mole and enchiladas at both places. Prefereed El Norte's atmosphere and service. Don't really go for Tex-Mex much with El Fuego and El Torito so close to work. Actually, I can't think of a reason other than queso dip to ever deviate from those choices.
Tacos inside Jamal's Convenience Store - Visited on a rec from this board. Small, awkward parking lot and expect a decent wait per order but the tacos are legit. I've tried them all: chicken, fajita, al pastor, and barbacoa. Would go back for the last two. Meat quantities are generous, they come with cilantro and onions, and sauteed onions and limes on the side. The corn tortillas are griddled to a nice chewy greasy state which was a big plus. Red and green sauces are fairly spicy. CASH ONLY and I think it was around $1.25 per taco.
Gran Machu Picchu - A few years ago I had some amazing homemade Peruvian cusine (savory, sweet, just the right spicy) so I've been curious to see if anything local would compare. First try at Gran Machu Picchu. Had a very large pork tamale which I enjoyed and Lomo Saltados (akin to a beef stir fry). Would have liked more spiciness but was well made. I know potatoes come from the New World but I wonder why French fries are so predominant in Peruvian cuisine? Would prefer yuca. The service was inattentive and the place was nearly deserted during lunch but the food had promise. Inca's Cafe is next.
Smashburger - My second favorite burger joint after Wingfield's and my favorite French fries (rosemary and olive oil). I've leaned not to order anything but the Smashburger and Smashfries. Fried pickles, veggies, onion rings, fried sweet potatoes all sound good but were nothing special. The burgers got worse the more they deviated from the standard Smashburger. Tell them to hold the ketchup for you Texas purists or build your own to order. In summary, loved the burger and fries, which is good enough for me.
Dels' Charcoal Burger - The burger won't blow you awayt but it's not bad either (flame grilled) and I can't help but enjoy the atmosphere of the place. I'm by no means old enough to have experienced a place like this in the burger/diner heyday but it feels good to be inside. The root beer is homemade and comes in a frosted mug. They have fried twinkies, which are terribly wonderful (or wonderfully terrible). I've eaten throguh the entire menu and usually settle on the mushroom swiss burger or jalapenos and fries that I coat in cajun spices and hot sauce. Worth a visit if you're in the area. ~$8 for a combo.
Filmore Pub - Kaluha French Toast. Good, not great, would like some more heft to the bread but this gives me ideas for home recipes. It's very different being in the building when it's nearly empty in the morning as opposed to packed at happy hour.
Meshack BBQ - Two visits strengthen my belief that BBQ is simply an up and down cuisine even for the very experienced. Good ribs on both visits; however, the brisket on one visit had smoke rings but was flavorless and really needed the sauce to be eaten. Basically sandwich fodder. Also I vastly prefer fatty brisket but got lean, so make sure you ask for your preference. Bring cash and hope the weather is good enough to stand around for 10-20 minutes.
First Chinese BBQ
Richardson, TX, Richardson, TX
Egg Roll Cafe
4002 N Jupiter Rd, Garland, TX 75044
Pho Bang Restaurant
3565 W Walnut St Ste A, Garland, TX 75042
2600 14th St, Plano, TX 75074
510 W Arapaho Rd, Richardson, TX 75080
Suma Veggie Cafe
800 E Arapaho Rd, Richardson, TX 75081
Wok & Grill
1899 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081
Pho Bac Restaurant
153 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081
600 N Coit Rd Ste 2050, Richardson, TX 75080
3132 Fall Creek Hwy, Granbury, TX 76049
1891 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081
201 S Greenville Ave, Richardson, TX 75081
201 S Greenville Ave, Richardson, TX 75081
New China Restaurant
5010 N Jupiter Rd, Garland, TX 75044
400 N Greenville Ave, Richardson, TX 75081
2103 N Central Expy, Richardson, TX 75080
Carolina's Mexican Cuisine
3310 N Central Expy, Plano, TX 75074
700 E 15th St, Plano, TX 75074
4980 Belt Line Rd, Dallas, TX 75254
Nam Hua - "Also had lotus root salad which was my first exposure to lotus roots. Interesting mouth smell (not quite pleasant, not quite unpleasant)."
I believe you had Vietnamese Corander (rau ram) and Fish Mint (Diep Ca) both are in the salad and I ask for them to exclude it. I can't stand either of these herbs but I did recently have the Bun Mang Vit (Duck with Bamboo Shoot Soup) at Pho Houng Nam in Carrollton and it came with Fish Mint and it wasn't too bad but I still would have liked to taste it sans the addition or on the side.
There is another Peruvian place that I need to get to before it closes in Irving. El Tesoro at Beltline and Conflans.
I unfortunately have not been so many places this past summer. If I have they have all been in Austin or Houston in which I will post on those boards.
You are dead on with the comment on the up/down nature of BBQ. Very few master the art of smoking and that is why legendary 'cue is highly praised. Out of many visits to Meshack's, the ribs have been the most consistent.
RE: Lee's. "It's more like a slow roasted pork that the charred fatty pork slices that I was expecting" - I've told this story countless times, but here's the cliff notes: my first experience when they opened in Houston started out with seeing them throw the pork into a microwave. I boycott that chain.
Lastly surprised you haven't been out to First Emperor yet, but it is nondescript and easy to miss.
I have spent a LOT of time traveling and eating elsewhere this past summer so my local items aren't gonna be as long, but I can come up with some:
Have gotten takeout fried dumplings several times from the Chef Hsu booth in Super H-Mart's food court. These completely blow away Jeng Chi's.
Hong Kong Royal has become my go-to for dim sum. All of your typical dim sum items like har gao, egg tarts, sesame balls, xiu mai are well-executed., Favorites there are curried squid, fried shrimp balls, and crabmeat xiumai. I also regularly pick up baked char siu bao's (BBQ pork bun) to go, but sometimes they go a little crazy on the glazing and it's really sweet. They won't have the hustle and bustle that you typically see in a dim sum restaurant, which I understand if some might see that as a downside. I like the change of pace and I think it would be a less intimidating environment for someone who has never had dim sum. The menu is full of pictures too.
Had a fair share of empanadas this summer. My overall favorite is La Carreta Argentina's spicy chicken and I also really like their spinach and cheese. Get these baked. I also like Lumi's empanadas, which are fried but still minimally greasy. The crust is also not a traditional one and the texture is more like panko. Favorite there is the creamy spinach with mozarella and portabello, topped with a light cream sauce. Still need to get around to Lumi's off-menu bowl of pho and the parrilada at La Carreta.
Can't forget about shaved ice desserts too. I have yet to go to a local place that has decent halo-halo (Filipino style shaved ice). King's Noodles is nice for a Taiwanese one. Teh Guk Dang in K-town does the best pat bing su (Korean style), and you can also get these at Mozart's bakery locations scattered all over town.
And for cool drinks: Fruitealicious and Boba Latte reign supreme for their boba/bubble tea drinks made with fresh fruits and honey-dipped tapioca pearls that are never too soft or firm. Teahouse in Saigon Mall is a great value option as well since they only have one size (large) and it still costs less than most places. There's a place next to Maxim's that I have been meaning to try too. La Me also does wonderful avocado and red bean smoothies that are excellent thirst quenchers, and they nail the sweet pearls perfectly too. The mung bean drink at King's is also worth a try if you've never had it.
Shared a big meal at Bolsa recently and had nearly every item on the menu. I was most impressed with the bruschetta platter with lots of delicious, savory meats and cheeses. Ordering this platter gives you a good impression on how fresh these ingredients are.
And last but not least, everyone has their own idea of bringing in the fall. Some think of the State Fair and I think of the fall festival, Akimatsuri, which is annually held at the Dallas Japanese Association's parking lot. The weather this past sunday was perfect for it, and they had some outstanding food too.
Masami's booth at Akimatsuri served up the star of the show: a bowl of kitsune udon. I luckily showed up before the lines got too huge and this year, it was the first to sell out. Literal translation is "fox udon" and I'm sure someone else (ahem kuidaore) can provide better insight on the cultural relevance of the dish. To me, this udon had two highlights: the aburaage (which is a sweet, deep fried tofu pocket) and the stock. The tofu's texture wasn't overly soggy despite being soaked in the very delicious soup stock, which had a deep rich and savory flavor, yet it was only lightly seasoned with salt/soy sauce and not very greasy or oily. I don't think the noodles were fresh (could be wrong), but I didn't mind since I was so infatuated with the stock. Other standouts from the fall festival this year were okonomiyaki (pancake with cabbage, octopus and all sorts of goodies) from Sushi Robata, takoyaki (battered octopus dumplings) from Sushi Sake, and of course, the one that usually sells out first: the unagi-don (eel bowl) from Tei Tei.
614 W Davis St, Dallas, TX
Tei Tei Restaurant
2906 N Henderson Ave, Dallas, TX 75206
Jeng Chi Restaurant
400 N Greenville Ave Ste 19, Richardson, TX 75081
Hong Kong Royal Restaurant
3030 N Josey Ln Ste 130, Carrollton, TX 75007
2060 W Spring Creek Pkwy, Plano, TX 75023
4727 Frankford Rd, Dallas, TX 75287