Monday, August 27, 2012

Thank you to readers and responders

As you can tell by the age of the posts, other life events have taken my wife and I away from writing posts for quite a while.  However I am continuously impressed by the number of people who continue to access the site, and often take the time to comment. 

I've recently de-activated my web site that also had detailed book and restaurant listings (many out of date), and will try to resume activity by focusing on the blog.  It's much easier to post than update a web site!  And I see from the content so much has happened in the mean time.

Thank you to all who continue to access the content and add thoughts of your own.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Prime Steakhouse Restaurant Review

42 E. Main Street
Webster NY, 14580
(585) 265-4777

Webster really needs a restaurant like Prime Steakhouse. Development in the last decade has brought a slew of chain restaurants – Moe’s Southwest Grill, Red Robin, Five Guys, Uno Grill, Monte Alban’s. With the opening of Prime, Webster finally has a fine dining option, open year-round. (Hedges, which is only open seasonally, doesn’t count!)

The reservation system, if it can be called that, needs to get some bugs worked out. We called during normal business hours on a Wednesday and ended up having to leave a message about a reservation for Friday. No one called back until the next night. That didn’t seem terribly professional, but at least we had a reservation.

The décor is upscale urban steakhouse - dark wood tables, pendant lighting, red bench seating along the walls. Enough light to read the menu – always a plus. However, it is noisy, especially the bar area. Why do restaurateurs designing a new space not take the noise factor into consideration? If it’s too loud to have a conversation, I don’t want to go there! Fortunately, the eating area wasn’t quite as bad as the bar. Conversation was possible without shouting, and the further away from the bar, the better.

We were served a basket of two rolls (one wheat, and one sesame) with triangles of butter, which seemed a bit stingy, but the waitress quickly refilled the basket with an even better combination of a warm popover and a warm poppyseed roll when we inhaled the first two.

I ordered the crab cake appetizer, which was quite large and not overly bready, although the crab was of the shredded variety rather than the chunks of lump meat that mark an awesome crab cake. But the accompanying oranges were sweet, and the remoulade nicely flavored. All in all, it was a better-than-average crab cake. My dining companion ordered the iceberg wedge with bacon and an over-abundance of blue cheese dressing. Both appetizers were decent, but not exceptional.

For my entrée, I ordered salmon – yes, in spite of going to a steak house, I can’t pass up Nova Scotia salmon over warm lentils. It was a huge piece of fish, crispy on the outside, and served with some sautéed Swiss chard, along with a massive pile of lentils. It was delicious.

My dining companion’s filet, which he ordered with Béarnaise sauce, won effusive praise, of the mm…mmmm..mmmmm! variety. Although the items listed in the “entrée” section of the menu come with some accompaniment of vegetables or potatoes, the steak and chop dishes do not. So he also ordered a side of fries ($5), a huge plate big enough for two or three to share. They were a bit salty, but still tasted good even when they cooled off.

All the desserts are home-made, according to our waitress, so in the interest of the blog, we wrapped half our meals so we’d have room for dessert. The ice cream selection of coffee, chocolate gelato and vanilla bean sounded delicious, and it was. High fat content, I suspect. The vanilla crème brulée, served with a chocolate-dipped biscotti along with a raspberry and a mint leaf, was both lovely to look at, and lovely to eat! No leftovers there.

Service was attentive enough, but a bit unpolished. There was some confusion when we ordered wine and a lack of knowledge about desserts, but in general service was efficient and friendly.

We will definitely give Prime another try – next time I vow to try steak for a change.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bistro 135 Restaurant Review

135 West Commercial St.
East Rochester, NY
(585) 662-5555

Bistro 135 is back! We used to like this restaurant a lot, but with various changes in ownership and the kitchen, it seemed a bit off the last few times we dined there. But after reading that a new chef had recently joined the staff, we gave it another try.

The verdict? The food was great, the service was a little lax. But it is definitely a place we will visit again.

We ate in a side dining room away from the jazz band, which has in the past been too loud for the venue. There is a nice courtyard for outdoor dining, and a number of people were enjoying the rare sunny summer weather outside.

Even though we sampled the tasty fresh bread, served with a dish of spiced olive oil, we couldn't pass up trying an appetizer. Three of us split an order of the Parmesan and herbes pommes frites- French fries to us English-speakers. But these were not your typical fast-food French fries. Thin strips of potato were coated with a delicious, crunchy Parmesan coating. The accompanying spiked ketchup was too spicy for me, but the garlic aioli was the perfect - if high-calorie- accompaniment. It was a huge plate - plenty even for three to share.

Meals also come with salad, which was the only not-so-good course. The sizable plates included a mass of field greens, tomato wedges, cucumbers and croutons. Next time I will order dressing on the side, as even the balsamic dressing was on the thick side, and definitely over-abundant.

Our favorite college student ordered the pecan chicken, a choice that has been on the menu through various staff and ownership changes. It is served with a bourbon cream sauce over a bed of spinach, and a castle of crispy French-fried onion strings. The substitution of garlic smashed potatoes for the usual sweet potato mash was easily accommodated.

Tim ordered the strip steak, which the menu describes as being served with "crispy onion rings and garlic smashed potatoes and vegetables." He was expecting the same onion rings that accompanied Laura's dish, but alas, two rather ordinary battered and fried onion rings topped his plate. The steak was seared, flavorful and cooked as ordered, but perhaps could have used a little more trimming.

I had the drunken pork kebabs - tender morsels of pork tenderloin alternating with onions over a delicous corn and bacon creamy mixture. (Good thing they don't post calorie counts on the menu!) I also substituted the garlic smashed for the sweet potato mash. A few tastes of our meals and we were ready to wrap everything for lunch the next day.

But not without sampling a dessert - in the interest of all our faithful blog readers, of course. We sampled what I think was called an "apple roll-up" -- pastry wrapped over a chunky apple filling, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and served with ice cream and whipped cream. How can you go wrong with a combination like that?

More visits are in our future, if only to try out the Parmesancrusted oven roasted Chilean sea bass and the Kobe burger smothered in Montery Jack and caramelized onions. Mmmm!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bamba Bistro Restaurant Review

282 Alexander St.
Rochester, NY
(585) 244-8680

We recently dined at Bamba Bistro to celebrate our anniversary, and had a great experience. The valet parking initially turned me off, as it seemed a leftover from its previous incarnation as the very high-end, formal Rio Bamba. But inside, the atmosphere is casually elegant, with efficient and professional service. It can be a bit noisy - too many hard surfaces and high ceilings. But great food!

Make no mistake, in spite of its name, the Bamba Bistro is still a fine dining establishment, where you can order, if you so desire, a $170 bottle of wine, and entrees well into the $30 range. But there are also less expensive entree choices like the Bistro burger for $12, and veggie fettuccini for $16. The decor is classy with dark wood trim, arched ceiling and large, dramatic floral arrangements. And best of all, it's bright enough to read a menu, a plus for us middle-aged, visually challenged diners!

This being a special occasion, we went all out. Tim ordered the Artichokes Bamba appetizer, similar to the ubiquitous Artichokes French in many Rochester restaurants, but prepared with a subtle blend of lemon and garlic, and a light touch to the breading. Perfectly cooked, lovely presentation. I ordered the pineapple almond salad, which was served as a block of watercress and frisee greens. It was a nice mix of sweet, salty, and tangy, with a light touch to the dressing as well.

For entrees, I chose the Australian rack of lamb over spring vegetables, which this night included Brussels sprouts, carrots, beans and spinach. The four small chops were perfectly cooked and aromatic. Tim had his usual filet, which was also cooked to perfection (medium-rare, as ordered), served with a very tasty Bearnaise sauce - not too much or too heavy - along with potato puree.

We had to sample dessert - it was a special occasion after all. Tim, the lemon fan, tried the lemon curd tartlet, which was served with lavender chantilly cream (whatever that is!). It was pronounced delicious. I tried a sampling of the ice creams and sorbets, with two little scoops of peppermint ice cream and two of chocolate sorbet. They were truly yummy.

The meal was nicely paced for a special night out, although the multitude of waiters for different courses was disconcerting. We will definitely return for other special occasions - like perhaps, Friday night!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Label 7 Restaurant Review

50 State St.
Pittsford, NY
(585) 267-7500

Label 7 has become one of our favorite restaurants. Not too noisy, not too dim, good food, nicely presented. And with its pretty location on the canal in Pittsford, it is a great spot for outdoor summer dining, if summer ever comes! What more could you want?

The decor is casually elegant, with rattan chairs, white butcher paper over white tablecloths, and artsy flower arrangements and lighting fixtures. Vines, greenery, trellises, wicker, and wood floors give the dining area an open, airy feel. There are a few spots that are dimmer than others; if you're visually challenged by the combination of restaurant menus and dim light, avoid the area that is noticeably darker.

Service is leisurely but efficient. The waiter was able to easily answer all our questions about the menu, and did not write anything down when he took our order, which to me is an unnecessary and risky policy, but there were no fumbled orders.

We have tried a number of appetizers. Most of them are somewhat pricey. Note that there is no bread served with meals, although there is a choice of an artisan bread "small plate" for $4, served with tapenade and herb butter. On one occasion, my dining companion and I split the whole roasted garlic, which was indeed a whole bulb of surprisingly mild roasted garlic, served with caramelized brie and a massive plate of bread. It was enough for four people to split, really, but the two of us managed.

Another favorite "small plate" has been the beggar's purse pasta, which are small pouches of pasta filled with a cheese and pear mixture, and served with Gorgonzola cream, caramelized onions and pancetta. For $12, and the probably extraordinary calorie count, you're better off splitting that one too!

The menu also lists a number of "green plates," i.e. salads. We've sampled the Caesar ($6) , a mix of nice, crisp greens, a reasonable, that is, not too heavy, dose of garlicky dressing, served with a Parmesan crisp - I love that. On one recent visit, the grilled salad ($8) included fennel and Granny Smith apples, dressed lightly with a honey balsamic dressing. It was tasty and different. The wheat berry salad ($10) was a mound of wheat berries, vegetables and pancetta served along side a heaping pile of lightly dressed greens.

One of our favorites entrees is the lobster mac and cheese ($24), chunks of lobster meat baked with creamy tortiglioni - decadent. The last time I ordered it, someone at a nearby table saw it, and said, I want that! Another winner is the filet sampler ($29), tenderloin medallions served three ways: au piovre, Oscar (with asparagus and crab) , and Wellington (with pastry). We have also tried various specials that have been well-prepared, imaginative, and tasty.

Desserts are all made in-house, and they seem to change regularly. I thought the baked chocolate moussse served warm with a crusty edge and covered with whipped cream was great; my companion thought it missed the mark. We've also had an awesome (and generously-sized) pumpkin cheesecake served with cinnamon-sprinkled whipped cream and an almond creme brulee served with biscotti and whipped cream.

The economic times don't seem to have lessened the crowds at Label7. It continues to be a busy place, at least on weekend nights.