Saturday, August 30, 2014

Guest Post: Road Trip: SangKee Asian Bistro — Greater Philadelphia Area

Sacha here! You might remember me from Erin's review of Pho 54. I am also known as @zigged.

Our 2014 family road trip took us east to visit my dad in New Jersey + enjoy adventures in Ocean City, MD, and New York City. The itinerary I planned included stops at restaurants that are reported to be culinary gems. This time: SangKee Asian Bistro.

To be honest, I didn't find this one on any list (although its website says it was voted Best in Philadelphia Magazine 2006). It was suggested by a college professor of mine that we planned to meet for lunch. Of the few choices he offered, this one looked the best.

The Huz, The Kid, and I all got the bento box lunch special ($13), which is a choice of three items. We all chose shrimp with fresh garlic sauce as the main item, which was fantastic. Tail-on shrimp, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, and maybe a few other things all tossed with an umamilicious sauce.

He got jumbo lump crab cake and chicken hot & sour soup as his other two choices. The Huz is a big fan of hot & sour soup and he said this one was excellent.

She got pan-fried chicken dumplings and ginger & scallion noodles as her other choices. She liked them both but the dumplings more. I wish I had gotten a taste of them. I tasted the noodles and they were good but not like we expected—skinny and a little dry when we thought they would be more like lo mein noodles.

I got jumbo lump crab cake and veggie fried rice as my two other choices. The jumbo referred to the crab meat and not the crab cake, which was small but very delicious. Lots of lumps indeed. It was sitting in a little puddle of sweet chili sauce that was a good accompaniment. I was very happy with the fried rice, too.

The Honorary Kid got sweet and sour chicken with white rice on the side because she wanted to go with a known. The chicken was more tender + a bit crispier on the outside than standard take-out and came dressed with the sauce (as opposed to having it on the side), which was brighter and tangier than standard take-out. I didn't expect it to be delicious, just passable, but it was outstanding. She couldn't stop talking about how much she loved it. If you are an unadventurous eater of Chinese food, or have someone in your party who is, this is a solid choice.

Dr. B, who is apparently a regular, got what he called the house special soup. (I assumed the menu would be online for reference later and it's not, so I'm relying on what he said.) When I asked him what was in it he said, "Everything leftover from last night." <shrug> It looked delicious—veg, meatballs, dumplings, etc.—and he loved it, so there you go. It reminded us of phở in that it was a big bowl of broth with a treasure of things floating around in it. I'd give it a shot.

The restaurant is in a strip mall with an unassuming storefront but the décor and ambiance are very nice inside—clean, bright, modern. Dr. B said they recently expanded into the space next door so business must be doing well. Service was good. I liked that there was a specific, laminated menu for the bento box lunch specials that listed everything in words on one side and photos on the other. We all enjoyed the tricolor fortune cookies too.

If you find yourself in Philadelphia and you want authentic (read: mysterious) Chinese food then I suggest you take your chances in Chinatown. If you are in the suburbs, though, or near the University City location, then this is a good alternative, especially if you're not up for a risky culinary adventure. Days later we were still talking about how much we enjoyed this meal.

SangKee Asian Bistro
339 E.Lancaster Ave.
Wynnewood, PA 19096
610/658 0618

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bluebeard - Lunch -Revisit

I was celebrating my friend @wibia’s birthday with him and he chose Bluebeard for lunch (ok, I might have heartily suggested it as well). If you read my blog, you know I am a really big fan of Bluebeard—although lunches there have been a little more mixed for me than dinners.

We split a small roasted beet salad to start ($7). I have said it before, but I think Bluebeard has some of the best salads in town. They do just the right amount of various different ingredients with interesting dressings that are properly balanced and are tossed with the salad. This one had roasted beets, field greens, feta and really crispy fried shallots with a balsamic truffle vinaigrette. Just the right combo of things—and things I wouldn’t normally think of putting together that tasted really good.

I had the shrimp po boy sandwich ($10). I am often lured in by shrimp po boys and I figured Bluebeard would do a good one. They did. It was a nice soft roll that was filled with what they called tempura shrimp, but I’m not sure if I would have said they had the light batter of tempura. They were tasty though, perfectly cooked and tender. They had a nice crunch to them as well. The only thing I wished is that there were a couple more. I didn’t have any left by my last bite. It was topped in the classic po boy style with lettuce, tomato and onion and with a riff on remoulade—pickled red onion remoulade. I really liked the sauce and the sandwich. The potato salad wasn’t bad-it was chopped up fingerlings with a creamy mustard base.
Wibia had the salumi sandwich ($10)—a nice combination of flavors—several types of cured meats (cotto, capicola and mortadella) with a nice olive kick (also red onions and grilled romaine). There was an additional pop of flavor from grainy mustard and aioli. The bread was the denser bread you typically get from Bluebeard and the only thing that was a little weird to me was how charred it was. I have come to realize that the kitchen must do this char thing on purpose because it is very prevalent. It certainly adds a distinctive taste, but for me, is a little overpowering. This particular sandwich has pretty strong flavors so it can hold up ok though.

All in all, it was a very good lunch and Bluebeard remains one of my favorite places for its nuanced flavors. Dinner is a better way to experience those flavors I think, but get a salad and you can always have a great example of them.

653 Virginia Avenue
Indy, 46203

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Pint Room

The Pint Room is a new venture in Carmel following in the growing trend of restaurants having extensive beer lists. I can take or leave the whole giant beer thing, because I’m really just not a beer girl, but when I hear there is a potential for good food, you know I have to check it out. And I know a lot of you guys are really into the whole massive beer list thing—so if you are, you should check it out.

I met my friend Suzanne there and we ordered a couple of things to share. When a restaurant calls itself a “Burger Bar,” you have to order a burger right? And as soon as we read the description of the “Hangover” burger, ($12) we knew that’s what we wanted. Pint Room uses a blend of Kobe beef and US Prime chuck and I like that they cook it to order. The blend of beef they’re using makes for a very tender burger—it’s a fairly thick style, but because of the tenderness, it’s really good. The Hangover is topped with a slight runny fried egg (you can see how it lured me in), smoked cheddar, double smoked bacon, hash browns and tomato. The beef and the egg were great—the egg was just runny enough without being hugely messy. The bacon is pretty thick cut-tasty but a tad chewy. I’m not sure how I feel about the hash browns—just kind of filler I think. It’s a brioche bun and I liked it—soft but hearty enough to stand up to a lot of stuff. All in all, a very good burger. I also liked the seasoned fresh-cut fries—very flavorful and crisp.  We liked the regular ones better than the sweet potato fries that we ordered with our other sandwich.

The other sandwich we shared was the grilled chicken club ($11.50). This was also  good. The very buttery toasted bread was good and I liked the way the chicken was thin and not a giant hunk of breast meat the way many chicken sandwiches are. The chicken was tender and well-seasoned and there was melted white cheddar and Swiss as well as bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion stacked on top. Again, bacon is good tasting, but thick and a bit chewy. The tomato was a tad pasty, but I really enjoyed the sundried tomato mayo on it. I could have eaten even more of that. Again, not as big a fan of the sweet potato fries with the sweet dipping sauce (I’m not usually a fan of sweet stuff with my savory). It was good, but the burger was better.

This is a place with a huge beer list and solid food—I’d be curious to try some of the starters—if they are as good as the sandwiches, I bet they’re pretty tasty. The entrance is sort of weird, it almost doesn’t feel like an entrance and the booth we were seated in felt like it was built for a much larger person than me (table was very far away). Otherwise, the interior is
pretty much what you might imagine for a burger/beer place. It’s casual, with lots of wood. The service was friendly and efficient. On the whole, I think this is a good addition to downtown Carmel.

The Pint Room
110 West Main Street
Carmel, IN 46032
The Pint Room on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Guest Post: Road Trip: Red Egg — New York City, NY

Sacha here! You might remember me from Erin's review of Lucky Lou Seafood Restaurant. I am also known as @zigged.

Our 2014 family road trip took us east to visit my dad in New Jersey + enjoy adventures in Ocean City, MD, and New York City. The itinerary I planned included stops at restaurants that are reported to be culinary gems. This time: Red Egg.

Way back in April I came across a post (via Twitter) on the best dim sum places in the country. It was no surprise to see a restaurant in Manhattan but HALF-PRICE DIM SUM? That spoke to this cheapo's heart. When The Kid asked to see a Broadway show, and The Huz wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial, my request was for a discount dinner. Do we know how to do a day in Manhattan or what?

Sui mai

There were six of us at the table, as two friends (whom I knew from Twitter but met that day for the first time) joined us. It allowed us to order quite a sampling of the goods. I wish I could be more specific but I forgot to take the receipt with me, which had an itemized listing of our order. I did snap a shot of the order form, though, so I can give you an idea.

Roast pork buns

We got the following (I think): pork & shrimp sui mai; seafood sui mai; fish balls; chicken & scallop buns; roast pork buns (for which they are supposedly famous); pork, shrimp, and peanut "fun gaw"; vegetable "fun gaw";  crispy seafood dumpling; chicken skewer; beef skewer; crispy shrimp roll; and garlic spare ribs. They ranged in price from (I think) $4.50 to $6.50.

Fish balls

They gave us two things to dip stuff in: a red paste that I think was made from hot peppers and a translucent orange sauce that was sweet. Not sure that anyone but The Huz tried the hot pepper one but all of us liked the other one, which we assumed to be a duck sauce of sorts. We are a (mostly) wimpy bunch, I guess. The skewers came with their own dipping sauce, a thick, brown one that tasted like a soy reduction. Others liked it but I didn't.

Spare ribs

Everything was fresh, flavorful, and cooked well. My favorites were probably the smoky, tender skewers, the chunky fish balls, and the crunchy spare ribs. The crispy shrimp roll was good, too. I wish I had gotten a taste of the crispy seafood dumplings but there were only three in the order and I  must've forgotten to get more in the next round.

Various steamed buns

The funniest thing was that I had essentially no idea how to start. I'm not sure how I became the dim sum sherpa in the crowd. We ordered a few things at first but it was clear when the food came to the table that we would need to order more. I tried asking the guys that were around for advice—more than one brought food, refilled water, and came when we looked confused, so it was hard to tell who was our server—but they were vague with suggestions. Finally, after we had filled another order card, a man who seemed to be the owner came over and said, "Let the expert help!" He then looked at our choices and said, "Too much food! I know you have money but this is too much!" Then he placed the order. Ha! We laughed as the food kept coming out and we kept eating, especially at the idea that I was over-ordering because I had money to burn. My friends begged me to title the review MAKE IT RAIN DIM SUM. In the end there were only three individual dumplings left on the table.

When the bill came we saw that we had ordered 19 dishes for little over a hundred bucks. Reasonable, right? But then I asked The Expert if that was happy hour pricing and he said he would check...and then came back with a bill for half the amount. I KNOW. Ridiculously cheap. Even for Indy, but we were in Chinatown in Manhattan. Crazy. We tipped on the pre-discount price. You know, because we had plenty of money.

I got the impression from the snazzy website that the place would be big and fancy. Um, not so. The outside is a small, painted black storefront with a black door and a neon sign in a window shaded by black blinds. The inside is somewhat American Hustle with a touch strip club. Think black and red with copious mirrored walls, spherical pendant lights, and booths and niches. In other words, perfect for half-price dim sum.

Red Egg
202 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013