Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Asian Garden offers dinner buffet

Asian Garden, at 1747 S. 8th St., has started offering what I believe is the town's first Indian dinner buffet. It's $13.99. I was impressed. It had Lamb Vindaloo, Sweet Potato Masala and the usual chicken tikka masala, saag paneer and other typical lunch-time fare.

It's smart because most Americans are most comfortable exploring other culture's cuisines on a buffet. You can see what you're going to eat.

Some things fare better on a buffet than others. I'd like, for instance, to see some seafood on the buffet, but that's harder to maintain than the other meats they're using.

Nate, our restaurant critic, had a bad dish here (shrimp tandoori), but I've been there several times and never had a bad meal. I feel that it's in the running for Best Indian in our Best of the Springs (although I know it's food is mostly Tibetan and Nepali.) But it has some fierce competition.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chef's Gala steps it up

The Chef's Gala, the top culinary event of the year, brought up the quality in just about every category Sunday, emphasizing comfort food like braised meats.

The chefs at The Cliff House walked away with the Best of Show. Their buffalo chop with lobster ravioli was outstanding.

The competitors represented some of the top chefs in town, with some notable exceptions. I didn't see Plate World Cuisine, The Broadmoor's Penrose Room or Summit, The Famous. Also, the retirement places, which usually do fairly well, were conspicuously absent this year.

Some surprises for me: Jake & Telly's spicy tuna surimi (they do a lot more than Greek!), English Dockside's amazing clam chowder, the Antler's light and tangy Tropical Snowflake cake.

Teresa will have lots of details and recipes in her column on Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Palapas vs. Nosh

We've started working on our annual Best of the Springs section, and while there are always tough decisions to make, choosing Best New Restaurant is going to be especially tough this year.

Do you go with Nosh, the hip tapas joint from Joseph Coleman & Co, or do you go with Palapas, the new seafood venture by Victor Matthews that is hoped to be the first in a chain.

We may have to wait for Nosh to find a new chef. They dropped Seth Elwonger, and although Blue Star chef James Davis is doing well in the interim (had the lamb chops last week -- heaven!), we should see how the next chef does.

I finally tried Palapas on Saturday, and I was impressed, but I think I ordered poorly. I shouldn't have gone with the bouillabaisse, no matter how well Victor promoted it on the menu. It was very good, but I have the feeling a talented chef like Victor can make a decent bouillabaisse with frozen fish.

I should have just gone with a fresh fish, say the monk fish, which would have been a better test of both the chefs' talents and the fresh-fish-delivery system.

My wife had the "Scallops of Love," and they were lovely and huge and perfectly cooked.

I tried the raw oysters for an appetizer, and they were easily among the best I've had in town. My coastal snobbery comes in a bit here. The best oysters I've had were in Florida, schucked right from the ocean, retaining a sweet flavor of the sea. Here, the most you can hope for are oysters without unpleasant aftertastes.

Victor smartly gussies his up with bits of sundried tomatoes and caviar. Very nice.

I absolutely loved the deconstructed cocktails: mixed drinks served unmixed. Sip the tequila, sip the strawberry mix, bite a strawberry. A fad, sure, but a fun one and one that lets you really appreciate finer spirits without diluting them with mixes.

The atmosphere is fine. It would be easy for a tropically themed place to go over-the-top cheesy with the decor. Here, we get a few real-looking faux palm trees, some sand, some fake grass. It's nice.

Tough to pick which is better at this point. What do you folks think?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Find in falcon

Here's a letter from a reader about a new Italian place out east:

A new place for you to check out and possibly add to your dining guide

There's a new little restaurant in Falcon that I believe is note-worthy. It's called the CIAO BELLA. It's on McLaughlin drive across the street from the Safeway.

The restaurant has 2 sections, one is the pizzaria, and although nothing fancy, their pizzas are the best around. The other section has a dozen tables or so, very quaint (nice little romantic atmosphere), and food is fantastic. The food is authentic Italian, all made from scratch, and the best I've ever had.

The management and wait staff are very personable, and we've made some new friends there.

The restaurant has become an instant hit in the area. If you go on Friday evenings and weekends, you can expect to wait awhile for a table. We typically go on Thursday evenings around 5, it's very quiet and very romantic.

Check it out, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Ken Kattau

Friday, February 01, 2008

Big City Burrito closes

We got this tip from one of our blog readers:
Neil said...

Big City Burrito has also closed. I feel like I'm in L.A. and that the La Brea Tar Pits are swallowing up all the mom & pop stores. This might only be the begining. Wholesale food prices are going up every week, by alot.

Neil, we feel your pain.

Let's tally the recently dead or soon-to-be-dead: Big City Burrito, Blue Vervain, Old World European, Brooklyn Italian Kitchen.

The Blue Vervain is the most significant loss from a foodie standpoint. But from a downtown business perspective, the loss of Big City is fairly significant, too. We've lost too many good downtown eateries, and here's one more empty store-front in what had been the most vibrant square in town. (I really miss the Taste of India Express!)

I know we've also seen some newcomers, downtown and elsewhere ... but it seems like the losses outweigh the gains.