Daily Archives: February 22, 2013

Saigon Hibachi: 935 N Beneva Rd. Suite 701. Sarasota, FL

Standard

saigon hibachi2 saigon hibachi3 saigon hibachi5 saigon hibachi4 saigon hibachi6

 

Saigon Hibachi was another ‘Pho Cali was closed so we looked elsewhere’ kind of discovery for Gabriel and I. We happen to live 2 minutes away, and when we found some good reviews online, we thought it was surely worth a try. What a totally pleasant surprise to find another very good Japanese/Vietnamese restaurant in Sarasota– and this one is easy to get into with normal hours and no wait times! Awesome.

We were both rather hungry and decided to order a bunch of things to try. We assumed we’d eat half of everything and take the rest home for lunch or dinner on the following day. What we didn’t expect was to find everything so tasty that we finished it all right then and there.

We started with a small salad that came with the Hibachi Special. The salad was the only part of our whole meal that wasn’t impressive. It was just boring iceberg lettuce with some shredded carrots and a couple of slices of cucumber. The dressing was very nice and light though- and we ended up holding on to it to use with other parts of our meal.

Next, the waitress brought out the fresh cilantro, sprouts, scallions, lime and jalapeno for us to add as we pleased to our Clear Soup with Shrimp. The soup was wonderful. It was flavorful and had beautiful, large shrimp floating in it along with mushrooms and lots of rice noodles.

Our Saigon Pancake came out next. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but it was also very tasty. A huge rice flour crepe was stuffed with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, onions and lettuce. It also came with a delicious dipping sauce, but we found that using each of the different sauces with each bite made it even more interesting.

Our Hibachi special came with lots of sides including fried rice, noodles, and mixed vegetables. The chicken, steak and shrimp were all really excellent. All were cooked perfectly and in very generous portions. There were two sauces for dipping. One was a white, creamy sauce called ‘yum yum’ and the other was a more typical ginger Hibachi sauce. Both were delicious and we enjoyed seeing which was better with each item. I personally liked mixing both together.

Overall, this was a great ‘stumble-upon’ meal for a very fair price. The amount of food we got (and finished!) was an excellent value and great quality. The service was friendly and fast and the location is super convenient. We will most definitely be back soon!

Drunken Poet Cafe: 1572 Main St. Sarasota, FL

Standard

soup seaweed salad drunken poet shrimp entree

 

I was supposed to meet my father at Pho Cali, one of my favorite downtown Sarasota Restaurants, but it was closed- as it often is when I attempt to go. Their hours and days are sort of weird and never seem to coincide with my cravings. Grrrr. We decided to give Drunken Poet a try since it’s a couple of doors away, had a menu that sounded good, and neither of us had been there before.

We sat at an outside menu and looked at the menu. They had Japanese and Thai lunch specials to choose from and we both ended up picking Thai. I ordered the Shrimp Pad Pak: Shrimp with assorted vegetables in oyster sauce. We also shared a seaweed salad. My entree came with a chicken/rice soup that came out first in a chipped bowl. I was going to take a picture of my father’s soup instead, but his bowl was also chipped. The soup itself was not good. It was very salty and the flavor was just off. I left it aside after having 2 spoonfuls. The seaweed salad was standard and we both enjoyed it. Nothing special, but I always love seaweed salad and this time was no different. My entree was enjoyable. There wasn’t a ton of shrimp in it, but the shrimp that was there was cooked well, flavored lightly and fresh. The veggies were also light and fresh. This tasted like a healthy meal to me, without a ton of oil, or unnecessary chemicals or seasonings.

Overall, this was a lovely lunch- not the best Thai I’ve had, but not bad. I’m not sure if I’d go back, but If you’re in the area and want a reasonable priced Asian lunch I would recommend it.

 

Carrabba’s Italian Grill: 5425 University Parkway, Lakewood Ranch, FL

Standard

carrabas sangriacarrabas breadcarrabas italian salad with blue cheese crumblescarrabas chicken parm carrabas homemade pasta (penna 'franco?'')

 

I do not have high hopes when visiting chain restaurants. I think of Bonefish, Applebees, Chili’s, Olive Garden etc in a category that I like to call ‘not really worth my time or money’. I will now add Carrabba’s to the list. My mom and step-dad enjoy eating here and invited us to join them for dinner a few weeks ago. Never being people to say no to a meal out, my fiance and I met them there and we were seated in about 10 minutes.

We ordered sangria to share for the table and it was brought out along with some warm bread and herbed olive oil for dipping. The sangria was basically grape juice with some fruit floating in it. It may or may not also have had some red wine mixed in. I’m really not sure.

I started with an Italian salad with a side of crumbled blue cheese and vinegarette. The salad was fresh and had a nice mix of veggies and the cheese, though it did cost extra, was a nice addition. I probably should have stopped there as I would have been perfectly happy with a nice salad and warm bread.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared two. We ordered the Penne Franco and asked them to use the homemade tagliarini instead of the pennee thinking, ‘why have boxed pasta if homemade is an option?’ We also asked them to add shrimp to that one. For our other dish, we ordered the chicken parmesan with steamed garlic spinach on the side. When the pasta dish was brought out, apparently no one got (or gave?) the message that we’d asked for the tagliarini. The waiter took it back with apologies and said he’d be right back with the correct dish. We started working on our chicken instead. The chicken was totally overcooked and dry and the cheese on top was somehow flavorless. The sweet tomato sauce didn’t disguise the chicken enough to not notice how much it was lacking in any moisture content whatsoever. The spinach had so much oil on it that any nutritional benefit we’d hoped to gain from eating it was definitely lost. I love garlic, but it was too much, even for me. Just then, our pasta dish came out and we looked forward to switching over to that one. Sadly, this too was way over oiled and over-salted. The shrimp and veggies were ok, but other than that, the dish was a big fail. The answer to my ‘why not have the homemade pasta’ question was answered when we realized that their homemade pasta sucks. It’s mushy and overcooked and simply not good.

Sigh.

This meal was the night of a half marathon that I’d run that morning. I SO deserved an outstanding, carb-laden, pasta and bread filled dinner and this was a pretty big bummer. Don’t get me wrong, I ALWAYS appreciate when my generous parents take me and my honey out for meals…but usually they take us to places we love and this one will definitely NOT get another visit from me. Booooooooo.

Chez Carey! Carrot/coconut/dill soup

Standard

I cannot believe I forgot to take a picture of this soup but it was SO good that I thought I’d add my recipe…well, it’s really just a ‘concept’.  As many of you know, I really don’t write recipes. I don’t like to measure. I don’t like to do things the same way twice. I like to do things by taste, feel, mood and sense.

 

The carrot/coconut/dill soup:
Saute some garlic, shallots and onions in a little olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot.
Add a pound or so of carrots (I used baby carrots, but you can use chopped, peeled regular ones instead)
Add about 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
simmer for an hour or so.
add a handful of fresh dill and some salt and fresh pepper.
Use an immersion blender to blend it all up.
Add a cup or so of coconut milk
add some more chopped dill if you’re like me and can’t get enough of it. (but don’t blend too much of it in with the immersion blender or it will turn the soup into an ugly color)
Serve each bowl with a spoonful of plain greek yogurt, chopped chives and a sprig of dill.

Enjoy!

Jose’s Real Cuban Food: 8799 Cortez Rd. West. Bradenton, FL

Standard

sangriaplantainspaella 2

My father invited a bunch of us to meet at Jose’s for dinner a couple of weeks ago. Bradenton is a trek and a half from where I work, but since a few family members were in town visiting, it was definitely an invitation I didn’t want to pass up.

When we pulled into the parking lot, it really looked like a dive. Knowing that my father doesn’t mess around about awesome food, I trusted that looks would be deceiving and it would be a great meal. Apparently, Jose’s was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives not too long ago. Ever since then, the local devotees are probably a little pissed off that the secret is out.

My dad had pre-ordered the paella, sangria and plantains for all of us so as soon as we sat down, everything was on it’s way out. The sangria was poured and I immediately noticed how different it looked from the sangria that’s served in most (way less authentic) places around here. It was a rich, dark purple-brown and had a wonderful cinnamon flavor to it. It tasted much more complex, with spices and different layers of flavor, than the fruit-juicy mixes I’m usually served.

The HUGE tray of paella was incredible looking. The menu says it will feed 8. There were 8 of us and we ended up taking almost half a tray home with us, and we are all pretty good eaters. Piled on top of a mountain of rice were mussels, lobster, shrimp, chicken, and sausage. The amount of food was really pretty insane. It seriously was enough for at least a dozen people- then again, we DID each have a side of plantains, so maybe without that we could have made a bigger dent. The plantains were delicious. Crisp edges, perfectly cooked, slightly caramelized. This side dish really could have been dessert.

There really wasn’t enough room left for dessert, but we were all dying to try the flan. We were only slightly disappointed when we were told that there wasn’t any left. We were really ready to go anyway, all feeling pretty sleepy from carb overload. I guess they felt bad that they were all out because the next thing we knew, they’d brought over a bread pudding for us to share. We all silently groaned looking at a dense, bread-y dessert that none of us really wanted or had space in our stomachs for. We each had a bite, and frankly, it kind of tasted like a heavy muffin wet with caramel sauce. Not really my thing, and not worth trying to stuff it in my already too-full belly.

Overall, the whole meal was really quite good. I’d love to go back to try some of the other dishes on the menu- especially the black bean soup, which the menu claims is ‘the best in the world’. I actually believe that might be true and will have to make a point to go find out!