Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ho Ho Hibachi: Abis, Greenwich, CT

Tired of the same old Christmas Eve? How about a family-friendly dinner of hibachi at Abis in Greenwich, CT. Apparently we weren't the only ones - it was packed with multi-generational families, some with Grandmas clad in Christmas apparel. 

Speaking of attire, the affable hibachi chefs each had their own style. The neighboring chef who wore red put on the best show - his fire was the biggest. Our chef donned a Louis Vuitton chef's hat and ascot. "Have to fit in in Greenwich", he explained. 

As for the food, it was better than your average hibachi. A crispy onion soup and small salad with ginger dressing arrive before your chef. With the chef comes the fire show and sautéed vegetables complete with an onion tower.  Proteins are next - everyone gets a few shrimp which are excellent and then your choice of meat, seafood or chicken. Somewhere in there are egg noodles and, if you choose, fried rice.

Noodles, filet and shrimp stood out as winners. Noodles were greasy in a good way. Shrimp were cooked just to the right temperature and a ginger dipping sauce made it both sweet and savory. Filet was up there, although lots of salt. We also snuck in a fresh and tasty tuna sandwich from the sushi bar portion of the restaurant next door.

Dessert included ice cream of your choice: vanilla, chocolate, red bean or green tea. Prices range from $25 to $35 a person depending on your entree selection. Not a bad deal for 5+ courses with built in entertainment. 

Fun for the whole family and no dishes? 
We're in. 

Until our next Burger,

Abis Restaurant
381 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT

A Flash-Frying Favorite: Jimmy's on the Park, Clayton, MO

Jimmy's on the Park is the kind of restaurant you want in your neighborhood. Sure, I was in St. Louis but this could have been in Atlanta or Chicago or dare I say, a town in New Jersey. There is a decent bar scene with live music on one side and a more formal dining room with a fireplace on the other.

They have a star appetizer. Flash-fried spinach. This very well may have been the pre-cursor to the kale chip. A little more oily than a kale chip, extra crispy and topped with Parmesan, our table of 5 devoured two servings and begged for more. 

Unfortunately, they have a terrible gratis item of flash-fried fettuccine (notice a trend). Standing straight up at each table, one thinks it is grissini. Take a bite and it tastes more like a Dorito. Gross. 

Entrees are creative and they work. Sea scallops with pork belly risotto is a newer dish that is rich for the season. Bayou shrimp with crawfish étouffée offers a tasty nod to the South and Amish chicken is a perennial crowd pleaser.

For dessert, order more spinach. Seriously. 

Until our next Burger, 

Jimmy's on the Park
706 De Mun Avenue
Clayton, MO

A Skipper: Planet Sushi, New York, NY

In all our years in NYC, we never made it to Planet Sushi on the Upper West Side. Until we were  faced with a party of 8 (4 of whom were 6 and under) on a Saturday night in the height of Holiday season and then Planet Sushi it was.

Food? OK. Service? Slow. Decor? They have a silkscreen of Rosie from the Jetsons on the wall and a paper mâché globe hanging from the ceiling. What do you think? 

Tuna pizza was thicker than I'm accustomed to and overly crunchy. Gyoza was bland. Another tuna special was never even brought to our table. Rolls lacked imagination. 

But, at least the company was good.

Now I realize why we had always skipped it in the past. 

Until our next Burger. 

Planet Sushi
380 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY

Friday, December 26, 2014

28 hours in Philly: Cheesesteaks, Pho, Doughnuts and More, Philadelphia, PA

Who knew history tasted this good? Nothing says founding father like cheesesteaks, doughnuts and pho. Head to Philadelphia for a combination of olden times and the new culinary frontier.

Stop #1: Saigon Cuisine
Vietnamese please. Bare bones, authentic and delicious. Try the Pho or the Bun. Or both. Or really anything. Each table had something that looked better than the next.

Stop #2: The White Dog Cafe
This is the quintessential place where visitors take Penn students. But you don't have to know a college kid to dine on their chicken and dumplings or piles of tasty fries. Bonus - they have good gluten-free options, too. 

Stop #3: Federal Donuts
Oft-cited famous doughtnut spot that also sells fried chicken. Yes, Yes, Yes.
May even be better than The Holy Donut in Portland, ME.  Big's Z's selection is below.

Stop #4: Reading Terminal Market/MeltKraft
My love of food halls is well documented, either small and curated like Gotham West Market or complete chaos like Brooklyn Smorgasborg, Reading Terminal Market is somewhere in between. My suggestion: get in fast, grab an artisanal Grilled Cheese Sandwich at MeltKraft and get out. I recommend anything with Bacon. And for extra umphh, add some duck fat. P.S. There's also one in Brooklyn (who knew?)

Stop #5: Pat's the King of Steaks
Our trip would not have been complete with out this quintessential stop. Better than Geno's? We're Team Pat's. Follow their sage advice below.

I'm still full. 

Until our next Burger,

Details (all addresses are Philadelphia, PA):
Saigon Cuisine
4000 Chestnut Street
No website, but reviews on Yelp

White Dog Cafe
3420 Sansom Street

Federal Donuts
3428 Sansom Street

Reading Terminal Market/MeltKraft
N. 12th & Arch Street

Pat's King of Steaks
1237 East Passyunk Avenue

A Wow of a Meal: Osteria, Philadelphia, PA

Boar, octopus, pigskin, pizza - these are just a few of the delicacies (OK, pizza is not a delicacy) savored at Osteria in Philadelphia. Surrounded by tables that ranged from intimate couples to boisterous work Holiday parties, everyone at Osteria seemed to be enjoying themselves at this cavernous spot in North Philly.

Enjoy we did, each course richer than the next. A bread display offered grissini and foccacia as well as your typical Italian breads. A first course of appetizers included a octopus (a little on the fishy side) and snails in bone marrow (Wow, just Wow). 

A pizza course included the Cippola with caramelized onions, truffle and sottocenere cheese and was, as deemed by our waiter, french onion soup reincarnated. I concur and I want more. The Lombarda came adorned with fresh ground sausage on top made from spit-roasted pig and baked egg.  

Homemade pastas displayed ingenuity, candle with wild boar sausage had the best tasting noodle.   chicken liver rigatoni definitely tasted like chicken liver and therefore one bite was enough. And the a ravioli-like noodle stuffed with foie gras was both rich and sweet.

After all that entrees fell a bit flat. One order of chicken was forgotten and served not exactly cooked all the way through. My lamb was tender to the fork but could have used some pizazz. The best entree came from the aforementioned pig and included crispy pig skin. Like a chip, from a pig. And better, much better. 

Osteria redeemed itself with dessert. Bambalone, an Italian doughnut, was all a doughnut should be.  Chocolate flan, a pear tart and mocha gelato were solid crowd pleasers. But the most innovative was the polenta and hazelnut pudding, like a lighter version of Nutella with some crunch and salt thrown in.

If you are in the Philadelphia area, Osteria is a treat. Enjoy. 

Until our next Burger, 

640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Quicksie Greek: Ayhan's Shish Kebab, Westbury, NY

In the mood for Greek while finishing up your holiday shopping? Try Ayhan's Shish Kebab in Westbury, a toga's throw from Roosevelt Field Mall, the outlets at Gallery Plaza and every big box store you can imagine.

Fuel up with some hummus, it comes in every form you can imagine. I like the hummus salad, which in its truest form is a Greek salad lovingly adorned with hummus. 

Still hungry? Gyros abound, as does a tremendous seafood salad. They also have all of your traditional favorites: moussaka, falafel and, of course, shish kebabs. 
But whatever you do, get some hummus. 

Until our next Burger, 

Ayhan's Shish Kebab
477 Old Country Road
Westbury, NY

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Never-ending Sushi Quest: Nisen 347, St. James, NY

Family sushi dinner typically involves JB and me scarfing sushi while the boys complain about their rice-only meal.  We decided to change this.

Enter Nisen 347. A Groupon drew us to the St. James locale, close to the Smith Haven Mall. For our $24 spend with Groupon, Nisen 347 offered us $60 of Japanese fare. We were intrigued. 

This two story, club like restaurant is not your average sushi joint. Our booth unbeknownst to us was in the VIP section complete with a balcony view and personal chandelier. Techno dance music blasted from the speakers and I decided it was time for some Prosecco.

Service was slow (our VIP section was somewhat removed) luckily the food was excellent. 

On a whim we opted for Kobe beef sliders. Japanese burgers - why had our boys never had these before?  Little D was thrilled to have 3 mini burgers to himself. Big Z was skeptical and only ate the buttered buns. Neither boy would touch the sweet potato fries so I indulged in a few. Burgers and fries at a Japanese restaurant, I could get used to this. 

Finally the main event arrived - sushi. Platters were beautiful and large. I always try to order at least one "fun" roll. Eating is supposed to be an adventure, so we venture. The Jumping Monkey roll comes with a spicy warning and I was up to the challenge. Tuna, mango and avocado on the inside, yellowtail and spice on the top. If you pop it in your mouth top-first you are in for some firey stuff. Eat it sideways and you can actually taste the fish, too. Spicy? Yes. Scary spicy? Not really.  JB indulged in the Nisen sushi which was both plentiful and fresh.  Other rolls were tame compared to the Jumping Monkey although enjoyable and delicious.

The Groupon is no longer available but good news, they offer 20% off on Sundays for Customer Appreciation and a variety of happy hour specials during the week.  Maybe it is time to take the boys to Happy Hour.

Compared to other Long Island sushi forays, I'd rank this above Benten, though below Kotobuki.  The quest continues.

Until our next Burger,

Nisen 347
964 Middle Country Road
Saint James, NY

Friday, December 05, 2014

Berger Review/Quicksie Takeout: Bareburger, New York, NY

Bareburger tries to do the unthinkable - a healthy burger. Organic, hormone-free, all-natural. Too bad they taste like the biodegradable cardboard it comes in. Giving organic a bad rap.

Better are fries with a multitude of dipping sauces. And salads offer some even healthier options. 

This chainlet with over 20 stores is on the rise. With stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Ohio, chances are you can try it for yourself. 

Maybe it's better if you eat in and enjoy the cute, bricked decor and wine. Most things taste better with wine. 

Until our next Berger, 

1681 1st avenue
New York, NY 
212.390.1344 for all locations and menus