Daily Archives: April 5, 2012

Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB): 5238 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota, FL

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I was invited to sing at an open mic here hosted by Ben Hammond so my boyfriend and I made it into an impromptu date night and went for dinner and drinks before I performed.

There was a 30 minute wait for a table at this hopping place- full of fun-loving tourists in casual beachy clothes. We went to sit at the bar while we waited and ordered cocktails from the bartender. Watching her make the drinks we realized that they don’t skimp on the booze here the way they do in NYC, and for half the price, we got double the size.

Once we were seated, we ordered a dozen oysters, sweet potato fries and fish tacos- all which were recommended on yelp.com or by the waitstaff. The oysters, though cheap and fresh, were fairly flavorless and really needed the horseradish and cocktail sauce that they were served with. The fish tacos were okay but pretty skimpy on the fish- and could have been much better if they’d added a bit of avocado or guacamole to them. They were served with a creamy cilantro sauce and salsa, but I really couldn’t taste the cilantro at all. The blacked grouper was fresh and flavorful, just too small to fill the tacos. The sweet potato fries were awesome. Super thick and crunchy and fried to perfection.

Overall, I felt that the prices were reasonable but the food was only so-so. The service was friendly and efficient, and very nice to let us sit for a long time after we finished eating to listen to the band. This is a place you come to for great drinks, a fun scene and awesome music…but not for fantastic food. I’ll be back for the music again for sure…but I think I’ll eat elsewhere next time.

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Pho Cali: 1578 Main St. Sarasota, FL

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WOW! What a totally pleasant surprise! As a newly transplanted New Yorker, one of the things I was worried about when deciding to move to Florida was that I’d really miss the amazing ethnic food that’s so easy to find in NY. After trying Pho Cali, I realize that is not so at all. This was absolutely outstanding and I can already tell I’ll be back frequently.

Gabriel and I went in for lunch and ordered 2 dishes and a bubble tea to share. The bubble tea was lychee slush, made with real fruit. It was icy and sweet and totally refreshing and we slurped it down very happily after being outside in 85 degree weather.

Our dishes were the grilled shrimp vermicelli with peanuts and the shrimp and pork lotus stem salad. Both were light and healthy, with a sweet vinegary sauce on the side. I loved the lotus stems which were new to me- I’d only had lotus flower roots before, and the crunchy fried shallots on top added to the interesting combination of textures. The shrimp were incredibly fresh, cooked perfectly and lightly grilled. The thin strips of pork were full of flavor, but very lean and not at all overpowering to the delicate dish.

We left feeling satisfied but not stuffed, exactly what we were hoping for. All of this for a check of around $25 including tip. Oh yes, we will certainly be back soon. Hooray Pho Cali!

Toojay’s Original Gourmet Deli. 3501 S. Tamiami Trail. Sarasota, FL

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My mother and I had to go look for a dress at the mall and we decided that we were really too hungry to do any productive shopping. I’d had the matzo ball soup from here once before and was really impressed that a non-NYC restaurant could pull it off so well. We were seated right away and the huge menus were brought out for us. There was a ton to choose from including salads that sounded great, deli sandwiches, healthy options and full meals at a great value.

I decided on the chicken marsala that came with a side salad (with great blue cheese dressing), fresh baked rye bread (YUM) the vegetable of the day, and roasted potatoes. I decided to swap my potatoes out for sliced tomatoes so that I wouldn’t feel the guilt that would come from eating the bread AND potatoes…one starchy source was plenty for me after a few days of driving from NYC and eating totally unhealthy fast food for most of the meals. I was pretty impressed with the food overall. It’s not a ‘fine’ restaurant, but reminded me of a good NY diner. The chicken was cooked well, with nice, big pieces of mushrooms, the broccoli on the side was cooked just right and the bread was delicious with an excellent crispy crust and soft interior. If I wasn’t so full from my generous portion, I probably would have treated myself to one of the many tempting dessert options. Maybe next time!

Neo Sushi Studio: 1410 1st Ave, NY

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For our final dinner in NYC before the big move to Florida, Gabriel and I were VERY lucky to have our dear friend Betsy take us to Neo Sushi to celebrate. I’d never been, but recently read some reviews claiming that it’s a new UES treasure, even better than Gari or Sasabune (Sasabune, though it’s ridiculously expensive and I have only been once is what I think of as the best sushi I’ve ever had) and at much more reasonable prices.

We were seated right away and the very friendly waiter came to chat with us about what we were in the mood for. We decided to let him choose for us, and I’m very glad we did. He sent over the hamachi sashimi to start. Thinly sliced pieces of exquisite fish topped with cilantro and yuzu black pepper. WOW. This was so incredible and I already felt that this was indeed a special restaurant with a very talented chef. Next we had the Spicy Tuna Rice Crisp. These were little fried rice balls, somewhat reminiscent of tater tots if they were made of rice instead of potato. We were told to top them with the spicy tuna and then dip them in the sauce. Delicious. The mix of hot and cold, spicy and salty, crunchy and squishy was so enjoyable and whimsical. Then the main sushi spread arrived. We had a beautiful assortment of sushi including; salmon with tomato, tuna with soy cream, and hamachi with garlic. We also had a spicy tuna roll and another roll that was filled with asparagus and scallop (If I’m remembering right) and topped with a hot pepper sauce and a special black salt. The salt was a little too much for me, but I enjoyed the crunchy texture of it.

This whole meal was such a wonderful treat and I’m sorry that I didn’t find out about it sooner. Being that it was just a few blocks away from my apartment, I would have gone much more frequently had I known that It was so wonderful. This was such a perfect last meal in NY and exactly the way that I want to remember the NYC dining scene: amazing food, great people, friendly service and reasonable prices. I hope you’ll go check it out.

Delhi Heights: 37-66 74th st, Jackson Heights, NY

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Known as the place in NY to get great Indian cuisine, this street in Queens is filled with one lunch buffet after another at super low prices. We checked Yelp when we arrived in the area and saw that just about all of them have 4 stars, so we figured we just try the first one we saw. Delhi Heights advertised a $10 AYCE buffet and had hardly anyone in there, so we decided to head in.

About 10 silver bowls with lids and ladles lined one side of the restaurant and we checked them out before taking a seat. The waiter brought out fresh, hot nan and water in little silver cups and told us we could dig in.

I filled my plate with little tastes of just about everything that was offered. Amazing spinach paneer with huge chunks of cheese, mushroom masala, chicken tiki, lentils, peas, and basmati rice. I used the nan to scoop everything up and before long was totally stuffed. The food is absolutely incredible and at $10, a true bargain. I suggest you take the trek out to Queens to try it for yourself.

3E Taste of Thai. 34-16 Broadway, Queens, NY

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I have always heard that the best Thai food in NY is in Queens. It took me a very long time to go check it out- and actually this was only a week before moving out of the city to Florida. Well, better late than never. 3E Thai was indeed some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had and at prices that are FAR below my previous favorite (Land, on the Upper East Side)

Gabriel and I were in the area to pack up his apartment for our big move and when we finished our long day filled with boxes and packing paper, we were excited to replenish our lost calories with some great food. We arrived at 3E Thai and were seated right away in the fairly full restaurant. We looked over the menu and, after realizing that the prices were so awesome, decided to share a bunch of things.

We started with a spicy Tom Yum soup, one of my favorites, that came with a few large shrimp. The broth was full of lemongrass flavor with a little kick and we finished it quickly. Next, out came an awesome papaya salad, wonderful shrimp dumplings and an order of chicken satay. We shared the Pad Thai entree as well and it proved to be a bit less peanuty and heavy than it sometimes is. The whole meal was so fresh, light, and healthy and I’m a bit bummed that I won’t get a chance to repeat this whole meal. Oh well- at least I got to try it once! Go check it out…for half of the cost of a meal on the UES, you can eat twice as well.

La Mela: 167 Mulberry st. New York, NY

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Last Thursday, Gabriel and I threw a going-away party for ourselves. We had an absolute blast doing karaoke and enjoying cocktails with about 35 friends at 2nd on 2nd in the East Village. When the party ended, we found ourselves starving and rather buzzed (well, okay I was plumb drunk) and everything around was already closed. We decided to wander over to Little Italy to see if we could luck out with finding somewhere open to get big, satisfying plates of pasta. Lo and behold, we found La Mela. Open, mostly empty, pretty inexpensive and with great reviews online.

We were seated right away and quickly scanned the menu. Water and bread were brought out and our orders were taken. I chose the traditional spaghetti and meatballs which came out just a few moments later. Perfect. It totally hit the spot (from what I can remember) and left me with 2 extra meals worth for the following day. The meatballs were huge and delicious and the pasta sauce was bright, flavorful and hot. The pasta was definitely not homemade, but it was fine anyway, and the price was very fair.

If you’re in the area, especially late at night, I’d suggest giving it a try.