Category Archives: New American

Las Vegas: Postrio

A recent weekend jetset to Vegas to celebrate the birthdays of two of my best friends (Mr. Aaron Hsu and www.zooshoo.com CEO, Jason Hsu) presented an opportunity to indulge in the fine cuisine Vegas had to offer. However, due to the sheer size of the party as well as other personal factors, finding a reservation for that perfect restaurant somehow always eluded us. However, we did manage to score a simple reservation at Wolfgang Puck’s casual bistro, Postrio. I’m not going to lie, the 20% off coupon for being a guest made the choice tremendously easier. The starter bread is paired with a nice olive tapenade. Simple, but refreshingly different. The Puree of Sweet Corn Soup with Roasted Corn and a Black Pepper Creme Fraiche, was thick and creamy. They could’ve just called it a creamed corn soup, because that’s all it was.As an appetizer I started with the Salt and Pepper Rock Calamari and Rock Shrimp which is married with Fresno Chilis and a Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. I would have to say that I do prefer the sweet and sour flavor profiles added by the Chili Sauce compared to your traditional marinara. However, maybe it was just me and the time I spent passing it around and trying to feed everyone got the dish cold, but it was actually pretty mundane. The other appetizer that was ordered was a Trio of Sausages with three different mustards served with Roasted Peppers and a Baby Mache. Maybe it’s because I haven’t developed a taste for fancy sausages yet, but I would take the sausages served with garlic gloves on the streets of Taiwan, over this, any day of the week. I did try a bite of everybody’s dish and I’m sorry if it got a bit excessive and intrusive. But I wanted to be a good little blogger and make sure I sampled everything before I critiqued it. The Fresh Linguini is served with a bed of Manila Clams and tossed with Garlic, Chili and Parsley. A very simple and clean dish. The linguini was cooked al dente, but I do prefer something that packs a bigger punch flavor-wise. The so called Housemade Scialatielli Pasta with Beef and Sausage Bolognese with Basil and shaved Pecorino Cheese, or as my friend called it, “Chef Boyarde,” was a simple meat sauce pasta with a jazzed up name. Although I am a sound epicure of a good bolognese, I did enjoy the linguini more this time. I do believe this is a half plate of the Seafood Bouillabaisse, which is basically a seafood stew. The dish is served with Tortelloni, Clams, Mussels, Calamari, Shrimp, Bay Scallops, and a pinch of Saffron. A bit salty, but hey, it is a taste of the ocean. A serving of the House Made Spinach Lasagna is doused in the same Beef and Sausage Bolognese as the pasta and paired with a nutty Parmigiano Reggiano. Although very similar to the bolognese, I would order this a million times over the regular pasta. Maybe it’s the fresh taste of the spinach , but it was actually a very simple yet delicious lasagna. The Atlantic Salmon is presented over a bed of Roasted Patty Pan Squash, some Fennel, and a warm Tomato Vinaigrette. Bland, bland, bland. But hey, that’s why you order salmon right? The salmon they serve at Whole Foods is a fraction of the price, take away the flair of the unique ingredients, and you’ll have yourself the same dish. I’m here to save you money people. Pesto Marinated Shrimp with Goat Cheese, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Rapini, and some fresh Basil. Sounds good right? Meh. The Steamed Black Mussels are cooked with a White Wine and Garlic, and served with a Giant Sourdough Brick with a layer of Bearnaise Sauce. The mussels were fresh and done cleanly, but the Sourdough Toast was just a joke with the heavy buttery bearnaise, unless your name is Paula Deen. Every bite resulted in taking a year off your lifespan. Next up, was a Pancetta Wrapped Meatloaf over a soft bed of Potato Puree and Mushroom Gravy while stacked high with Buttermilk Onion Rings. I’ve tasted cardboard that had more flavor than those onion rings. The meatloaf was far from spectacular as well.Finally comes my dish. The Alaskan Halibut with White Corn Succotash with Wild Mushrooms, Cherry Tomato Relish, and a Sweet Corn Nage. The actual Halibut was dry, but I guess that helped soak up the flavor from the Succotash, which I absolutely enjoyed. The dish was definitely a clean summer dish that was easy on the palette.

Postrio Scores:
Food: 7/10 –  The food here could honestly be characterized by one word, average.

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – Being in the Grand Canal shops of the Venetian and that sense of a lighted open environment helped cast an illusion that we were dining outdoors at 3pm, when it was actually closer to 9.

Service: 7/10 – Maybe I enjoy being pampered in Vegas, but I didn’t even seem to notice the waiters, a bad thing? perhaps.

Value: 7/10 – At around $20 a dish, it’s a fair price to pay.

Overall: 7/10

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Craft

In the culinary world, instead of the popular phrase WWJD, the phrase would be converted to WWTCD. What would Tom Colicchio do? The celebrity chef is best known for his role as head judge on Top Chef. His impeccable resume consists of multiple James Beard awards, highly touted restaurants from across the nation, yada yada yada. This is all splendid. However I’m interested in just one thing, if Tom Colicchio can impress me.

To answer this question, I went to his flagship restaurant Craft in New York City.Shame there was construction going on, I couldn’t take too many pictures of the facade.The fresh flowers that welcome you at the front door are a nice touch. The open space is a breath of fresh air. I’m tired of all these New York restaurants using every single square foot to their advantage. If you look to the top left of the picture, that entire glass room is their wine cellar. The beginning of many drinks to come. The Edison was a vodka based cocktail with lemon, passion fruit, and champagne. So what, if I enjoy a tasty fruity drink. The bread is nothing fancy, which kind of disappointed me. All the other restaurants on the same tier do tasty biscuits and fresh baked bread. Nope, not at Craft. P.S. they don’t even give enough butter for the bread. Amuse Bouche of Asparagus Soup with Creme Fraiche Shooters. Extra Salty.Ruby Red Shrimp. With a name like that you can’t fail. Right? These bad boys tasted like they came straight from Chinatown. $18 for a few measly shrimp? At least they were peeled.Suckling Pig Ballotine. What in the world is that? I have no idea either. The dish reminded me of cow tongue, but it really was more like a whole plate of bacon. I love foie gras!! I forgot what the server said, something along the lines of a Papaya reduction. Sorry, I was just way to hungry to listen. They serve the foie gras with some warm toasted brioche (which they should serve at the beginning of the meal). Sadly, this was probably the best dish of the night. The 28-day Dry-Aged Sirloin is served with a tiny bit of bone marrow. The steak was juicy and tender, to go along with all the other fine qualities you look for in a cow. However, it didn’t really carry that wow factor with it. My entree was served in a copper pot. Don’t be tricked because the dish is served in a pot, a smurf would even complain about the size. (Use the size of the spoon as reference)So what was in that magical pot? Some Beef Short Rib from the what was probably the smallest cow known to man. Served with a couple of roasting vegetables, the ribs had a very sticky glaze, which made it a bit uncomfortable to eat. Before I could even start enjoying the dish, it vanished in a couple of bites. So in light of the tiny sized entrees (one which was a duck dish that was not posted), we ordered a bunch sides to fill our stomachs. The Garlic Risotto was done to perfection. Flawlessly cooked and flavored, a plus in my book. The addition of bread crumbs to the Spinach Gratin provided a crunch texture that I haven’t had in other creamed spinaches. Onto (sarcastically) the best side dish ever! Hen of the Wood Mushrooms! We had 3 of these bad boys for $15, making them $5 a pop. What a joke! The waiter must have been laughing at us when we ordered them. Yum Yum. I always love potatoes gratin. And to finish the meal, a nice glass of peppered whiskey.Chocolate Bread Pudding with Espresso Ice Cream and some Dried Apricots. Just call it a moist cake.Maple Pound Cake with Maple Ice Cream and what was almost a Maple Chocolate.Ok, besides the Foie Gras, this is the best thing on the menu. Their Sugar and Spice Doughnuts with dipping sauces. Freshly baked and amazing. I can honestly eat these puppies everyday.What’s funny is, before they give you these tiny sugar cookies, they tell you that it was specially prepared by their pastry chef. Who cares? they’re sugar cookies, and tasted like they were from the supermarket.

A sad sad showing Tom Colicchio, I had such high hopes. Also, update your website once in a while to include your current dishes, it would definitely be helpful.

Craft Scores:
Food:  7/10 – Taking the portion size out of consideration, the food was very good, with some winner and loser dishes. It definitely wasn’t what I expected from Tom, nor do I believe it will ever earn a Michelin Star.

Restaurant Environment: 9/10 – The vaulted ceilings, open space and relaxed environment set up a perfect dinner location.

Service: 8/10 – The sommelier apologized for not having the wine that we requested, but gladly gave us an alternative. Our glasses were always kept full which is definitely a plus.

Value: 3/10 – I really wanted to visit the McDonalds next door, does that say much about the portion size?

Overall: 7/10

44 1/2

I know this is about a whole month late, but yay for multiple birthday dinners! This time it was at 44 1/2 in Hell’s Kitchen. The restaurant is located right next another restaurant called 44 and X, why do they have 2 similar named restaurants right next to each other? Don’t ask me. The modern themed restaurant is actually pretty nicely decorated. I really wanted to sit outside at the patio, but fear of rain and cold from fellow diners prevented that from happening. It was also a tad bit strange to be served by a staff that was predominately male in tight pink shirts. A dainty little bread roll and a smooth serving of butter made for an interesting sliced bread substitute. Let’s continue with the pink theme.Fresh roses create a more romantic ambiance.We started with a Roasted Garnett Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Herbs, Beet Puree and Chili Oil. A fresh start to the meal.I ordered the Long Island Duck Breast with Caramelized Fall Pears, Haricot Verts, and Aged Balsamic Reduction. A bit dryer than what I would usually like, and the flavor profile was fairly common. If you’re looking for good duck at a reasonable price, Crispo is the place to go. Lobster Pizza! It actually wasn’t as grand as it sounded. Just a couple of scattered chunks of lobster over a thin crust pizza. If you threw pieces of cheaper crab or shrimp, it would’ve probably tasted the same.They should actually rename their New York Strip Steak pizza to a Santa Fe pizza because of it’s southwestern flavor. The Red and Yellow Peppers, with the caramelized onions add a sweet crunch to the pizza, but the entire concept seems so disorganized. It feels like the chef just felt you can throw on a couple slices of steak and call it a day. You want some good novelty pizza? Head over to Bar in New Haven, CT. I took a quick bite of the Mushroom Risotto, and it just tasted like..Mushroom risotto. If you told me this was a side, it would totally rock, but as an entree? I’ll pass, thanks.

44 1/2 Scores:
Food: 5.5/10 – Although the plates were beautifully presented, there was no creativity in the menu, every bite just led me to wonder where I could fine a tastier substitute.

Restaurant Environment: 7.5/10 – Call me a sucker for modern themes. You can also have a decent conversation here since it’s not overly loud. Maybe, we were the ones shouting around? hmm..

Service: 7/10 – No Complaints, but no praises either. We did have someone show up a bit later, and they were able to squeeze her meal in and have it served at the same time.

Value: 5/10 – Entrees are roughly $20-25 each, but I’ll show you better places to spend your money

Overall: 6/10

Blue Bayou

Special Disneyland Post!!

How else would you want to celebrate your 24th birthday besides enjoying a beautiful day at the happiest place on earth? Especially when you start off your day by going to City Hall and picking up your birthday pin and then getting flooded with Happy Birthday wishes. Anyway, this is not a Disneyland review, but one for Blue Bayou which is located inside the theme park. Now for those of you who are not Disneyland fanatics, the Blue Bayou shares its location with the first scene on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. If you glance to the right of the swamp you notice a dining area, and as you exit the ride you will notice the entrance of Blue Bayou. Usually, reservations are needed to grab a seat at this “highly desired” restaurant, but lucky for my friend Joyce and I, we were able to get walk in seating (I swear it was because of the birthday pin). Now onto some ambience pics.

Now due to the nature of restaurant and the creative movement of Disney’s Imagineers, the restaurant was extremely dim lit which made taking pictures impossible without flash. The funny thing is, no matter how intimate the setting could be, the presence of a 10-year old Jack Sparrow and his 8-year old Cinderella sister always reminded you exactly where you were.How adorable, the butter that comes with the bread is supposed to be shaped into a Mickey silhouette, a hidden Mickey perhaps?

Each entree is accompanied with either their signature New Orleans Gumbo or their “Cajun Inspired” salad. The gumbo is actually really good, despite how plain it appears. Off to a good start Disney, I’m in for a treat.When we looked at this salad, we pondered to ourselves how it was supposedly “Cajun Inspired.” The addition of Pecans? Genius! (sense the sarcasm please). I mean at least construct a creative dressing that at least has some New Orleans Cajun inspiration instead of asking us if we wanted Ranch on our salad.The entrees that they served didn’t bode to well either. Now as soon as we saw how limited the menus were and how quickly the entrees came out, we knew that Blue Bayou was set up Cafeteria style with food already prepared and the waiters just had to grab and go. The Cajun-Spiced Salmon has a very enticing description: “Blackened, with citrus crawfish beurre blanc, with Blue Bayou Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables.” How exquisite, how delicious, how Disney. Leave it up to them to embellish the dish with a whimsical sophisticated description to hoax their casual middle class diners (who probably could have got the same dish at Applebees for a third of the price). Anyways, I will admit that I was also tricked, but to my defense it was the best there was on the menu. If you break down the description into simpleton terms, it makes it a lot easier to understand. Blackened –  I know there’s supposed to be some sort of pepper, salt and herb crust, but my goodness do the chefs not know how to season. The entire fish was over-salted and near inedible. The citrus crawfish beurre blanc, is just a fancy way of saying a butter sauce, but this provided no relief to the salt fest going on in my mouth. Next up were the Blue Bayou Potatoes, which were actually the best part of the dish (you know the dish is pathetic when you crave more of the sides). They were a very basic potato au gratin, but done fairly well. Finally, the seasonal vegetables were just cuts of asparagus that I let Joyce enjoy after I saw the look of disgust on her face.Here comes Blue Bayou’s highly touted Jambalaya! Restaurant savior? Not quite. The Jambalaya taste exactly the same as the Gumbo I had earlier. Good right? Yes, but as a diner you’re always craving something different. I will admit that the Jambalaya is hearty. Filled with large portions of shrimp, mahi mahi, ham, sausage and chicken. There’s actually more proteins than rice, which is a plus. Yet, you sit there unsatisfied because you remember that this Jambalaya cost you $29. Sigh.What is this?? A special birthday dessert?! SCORE! I love chocolate ice cream with little Mickey heads as sprinkles and a healthy dollop of whipped cream. Wait a minute. This isn’t ice cream, it’s just chocolate mousse. Wow, I just understood why they serve chocolate mousse, because the word looks like mouse, get it? Mickey Mouse. Anyway, a chocolate mousse to me is just a fancy way of saying chocolate whipped cream. So not only do I get a Matterhorn Mountain amount of whipped cream, I get more on the bottom. No thanks. I’ll just nibble at the sprinkles.

As much as I love Disneyland and all it’s spectacular glory, Blue Bayou is not something I can recommend. The 10% annual pass saving is not enough to get me to come back, I’ll stick with the bread bowls, turkey legs, and churros outside at a fraction of the price instead.

Blue Bayou Scores:
Food:  3/10 – The first thing they teach you in culinary school is how to well season a dish, but it just so happened that this chef had a heavy hand for salt.

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – Even though restaurant is filled with children screaming about going on more rides, and morbidly obese Americans (sorry if that’s offensive, but it’s true) the calmness of the bayou wins you over.

Service: 8/10 – As with everything at Disneyland, customer service is key, and the service at Blue Bayou was no different. But really, sometimes you just want your server to slow down a little and allow you to enjoy your meal.

Value: 1/10 – I try to tell myself to remember that I’m at Disneyland, but I just couldn’t. $30 per disgusting entree is not value. Note: The best value in my opinion at Disneyland are the pastas at the Pizza Port, even though they got rid of my favorite Chicken Alfredo.

Overall: 5/10