On The Menu

Restaurante Cesaria

Comments (0) | Sunday, January 24, 2010

Every once in a while you find a place that you just don't want to tell others about. You want it to be your little secret so that the next time (and the countless times after that) you go to this restaurant there will always be a table waiting for you. Last night we had dinner at Restaurante Cesaria and it was one of the best meals out I've had in a very long time.

Abby had a hankering for something different and cheap (so we were looking for a place outside of Boston) and after a long time on her laptop browsing yelp and urbanspoon, she finally settled onto Restaurante Cesaria. We quickly glanced at the menu and both started drooling. Sure we didn't know much about the cuisine (North African with hints of Portuguese) but the descriptions had us salivating.

A short 10 minute drive from South End to Dorchester had us in front of the restaurant with plenty of street parking available. Walking by the large windows we could see there were only a couple of tables already taken and the rest of the restaurant empty. This didn't make us feel hesitant at all.

We were seated in the booth and the first thing you notice about the menu (both drinks and food) are the prices and how low they are. Since I was driving, we just got the $7 half bottle of Borba, a Portuguese red. We also got the linguica appetizer to start.

The wine was a nice sweet, wet red and had great flavor for such a cheap bottle. The linguisa was split in half and grilled with some tomatoes and laid on top of some greens and peppers. I love linguisa and this was dish was simple, yet perfect. The heat of the linquisa and the juiciness of the grilled tomatoes just worked. A great start.

For our mains, Abby went with a sear beef dish that had shrimp and mussels as well. It had a tomato influenced broth and was absolutely fantastic. (Abby called it the best dish of 2010 so far.) I went with the Cape Verdean style roast chicken with fries and it also was perfect. The chicken looked like it was going to be dry, but was juicy and tender and seasoned nicely. The fries were good fries, nothing more. The rice was moist and had good flavor too. You can just imagine yourself eating this chicken on a beach in Cape Verde with sand in your toes. (I'm assuming Cape Verde has beaches and sand, but I really don't know. The video they were showing on the projector screen showed nice green islands.) This dish is a great entry dish, meaning it was so good I want to try other items on the menu know.

We were too stuffed for dessert, though will try the flan next time we come back. I love the fact that we were the only diners who spoke English. Everyone else was speaking another language and enjoying their meals. You sometimes have to put your faith into a place to show off their culture and food and Restaurante Cesario does it as good as any other place. I give Restaurante Cesario a 4 1/2 out of 5.

Restaurante Cesaria on Urbanspoon

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A Couple Of Quick Reviews (Post 390 and Bombay Club)

Comments (2) | Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some quick reviews from a couple of places we recently visited:

Post 390

A very warm and inviting space, I can see why this has become a trendy spot to grab drinks in the Back Bay. We went there for lunch on a bitter cold day and was seated upstairs by the huge windows facing Clarendon. The service was at times spotty. The waiter didn't bring our drinks out at the same time, me having to wait for my Coke until after our meals have arrived. I got the deviled eggs and hamburger and Abby got the Turkey BLT. My burger was very salty, but the deviled eggs were awesome. Best thing about the lunch. Abby's BLT was a complete dud. Why? Because it didn't include the B or the dill cream cheese it was suppose to come with. The couple sitting next to us had ordered the same plate and they got bacon and the dill cream cheese. When we told the waiter about this, he said that he didn't think there was bacon in the sandwich but he will go check with the chef. (What would the B stand for then? Such a strange response.) Sure enough the chef messed up the sandwich and it was suppose to have both bacon and the dill cream cheese. Major props for the manager to come out and take the sandwich off our bill. Overall...eh. I'd come back for drinks because both the downstairs and upstairs bars seem nice, but I'd probably eat somewhere else first. I give Post 390 a 2 and 1/2 out of 5.

Post 390 on Urbanspoon

Bombay Club

Taking the space of Pho Republique (one of our favorite spots to get a drink in our neighborhood) is the Bombay Club. I've apparently eaten at their location in Quincy Market, and I remember it being pretty good, if not expensive. We were meeting our friends Vivek and Mahima for dinner and we arrived to a relatively empty restaurant. It was kinda early, 6:30, and by the time we finished our meal a few other parties had entered. Normally I'd judge an Indian restaurant by their chicken tikka masala (I know, it's the national dish of England and not really an Indian specialty...but I just love the stuff) but this night we both ordered new-to-us items. We started with the Somosa Medley and Abby got the baked stuffed zuchinni and I went with the Punjabi Dhaba Chicken aur Naan. Everything tasted wonderful and fantastic. There was not a wrong step at all. Even the heat of my dish fit perfectly with the rest of the flavors and didn't drown out the subtle spices in the chicken. I forget what our friends ordered, but they were pretty pleased with their dinner. Normally we go to Mela for Indian food in the South End, but now we'll most likely have to flip a coin. I give Bombay Club a very solid 3 and 1/2 out of 5.

Our friends Vivek and Mahima:

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Home Cooking

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Some dinners we've made in the past few weeks.

Abby made baked ziti (really penne). Turned out really fantastic.

We joined efforts to make home made spaghetti and meatballs. Meatballs needed a little more seasoning, but otherwise a pretty decent meal.

To help with not wasting herbs anymore, we started our own little herb garden (thanks to Abby's parents we got Chia Herb Garden for X-mas).

Finally, we recently tried Ad Hoc Fried Chicken (a wedding gift from our buddy Nabeel). It turned out with the best crispy skin I've ever made on fried chicken, but it could have used a little bit more spice. Next time I'll add chili powder to the batter mix.

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NYC 2009 (Le Bernardin, Cafe Habana and Crif Dogs)

Comments (0) | Monday, January 18, 2010

So, in what is slowly becoming a tradition, we took a trip down to NYC for a weekend in December. Taking the Megabus early on Friday morning, we arrived near Madison Square Garden on what was one of the coldest days of December. (Speaking of the Megabus, not bad service, but I really don't like how it goes through the Bronx, Harlem and through 100 or so city blocks to drop us off. That took an extra 45 minutes or more. Also, boo on Megabus for canceling our return trip due to weather on Saturday night and not giving us a ticket until 8pm on Sunday. We had to get our money back and take the Fung Wah early on Sunday. So Megabus, while the seats were comfortable and the wi-fi was slow but servicable, gets a 2 out of 5 for poor customer service. The kicker was that Bolt, Peter Pan and Fung Wah all continued their service on Saturday night even though the snow was coming down hard. I understand taking safety over traveling dangerously, but the roads weren't that bad.)

But, once we got off the bus, we quickly made our way to my buddy's place in Harlem to get changed because we had reservations at Le Bernardin and did not want to be late.

Le Bernardin

Reading about the dress code and other reviews of Le Bernardin, I quickly got scared that we were going to be ostracized because we didn't fit the mode of regular clientele. I was worried that the service was going to be snouty and cold and we'd have as bad as an experience like the ones I've read. It definitely didn't start out well when the maitre d, just like how it was described in other blogs and reviews, immediately without even saying hi, said "Check your coats over there." Awesome...just the way I want to be treated before a great lunch.

Luckily, that was the only hiccup for the entire meal. Well that's not true. They did get our orders mixed up, which normally could be a big deal, but Abby and I didn't mind just switching the plates. The only problem with that was the plate of toasted bread brought out with our appetizers was intended for my sea urchin, but since it was placed by Abby, I didn't use it with my first course but did use it with the amazing salmon starter.

For our first course, Abby got the tuna with foie gras and I got the sea urchin. Abby's plate looked like the "whispering eye" (for all you Role Models fans) but was very exquisite. My sea urchin was fresh and melted once it hit my tongue. Fantastic start to the lunch.

Next we got the Black Bass and Red Snapper. Quite possibly the best cooked fish I've ever had in my life. The black bass, my dish, had an amazing crispy skin and delicate meat that just flaked right off. Unbelievable. The dish came with some sort of palate cleanser, but I didn't really care for it. No need to cleanse my palate of that amazing taste.

I forget exactly what we got for dessert, but again, they both were fantastic. We also got a bag of little cookies that were just incredible.

Finally, we had to ask if we could take a picture with the chef. He was walking around the restaurant so we knew he was working. We get escorted back into the kitchen where Chef Ripert was portioning what was probably $10K worth of kobe beef. When I exclaimed to myself about the meat, he of course just said, "It's just kobe."

I'd deduct points for the maitre'd and the mix up, but really, the rest of the service and the food and meeting Chef Ripert makes up for any of the missteps. I give Le Bernardin a 5 out of 5.

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

53rd and 6th Chicken and Rice

Of course I had to drop by late at night to get the famous chicken and rice. Our original review can be found here.

Cafe Habana

When searching Chowhound for the best brunches in NYC, Abby found a little note about how Cafe Habana serves the best Huevos Rancheros in the city. A bold statement, and one that we had to decide for ourselves. I asked one of my sisters, who used to live in NYC, if she's ever been to Cafe Habana and she said, "GET THE CORN!" So apparently the corn is the way to go here. Other reviews online also remarked about the corn and how hard it was to get a seat. Well, we arrived at 1 or so and put our name in for a table for four and we waited outside for our friends to arrive. While waiting, we saw the little take out spot next door and stacks as high as me of corn being brought down to the prep kitchen. I guess the corn really is a popular item.

Cafe Habana is a very tiny spot, with a bar/counter area for about 5 people and tables lined against the windows along with a booth or two. Waiting inside for your table means litearlly hovering over other customers as they eat. Plus, with the weather being as cold as it was, having people waiting with the door open made the heavy drapes used to keep the breeze out basically useless. (After we were seated, people would just stand in the doorway with the doors open causing everyone in the restaurant to freeze. Our hostess immediately ran to the front, asked the people to please wait outside and closed the big drapes up.)

Abby and I both got the huevos rancheros and an order of the corn. Our friends...I forgot what they ordered other than one got the Mexican chocolate which turned out to not be as thick as we all imagined it would be.

The corn was just as advertised. You really do have to get the corn if you come to Cafe Habana. The only issue I had was that I immediately had to floss after I finished my corn, but that's a personal issue not one for the restaurant.

The huevos rancheros were a bit watery overall, but that did not affect the taste. The beans were quite delicious and the rancheros sauce had a nice tang and heat to it to make it stand out for other huevos rancheros I've had in the past.

Bottom line, Cafe Habana is a great spot for brunch from the service to the food, everything was a big hit. There might be long lines and it's a tight fit, but if I lived in NYC I'd come back often for the corn. I give Cafe Habana a 4 out of 5.

Cafe Habana on Urbanspoon

Crif Dogs

Very good dogs. Cool spot and location. They have Spy Hunter. Not as great as Hot Dougs, but plenty of different combinations. There's also a speak easy attached that has hot dogs done by various celebrity chefs like David Chang and Wylie Dufresne. Those weren't as good as the simple chili dog I got. You can do a lot worse than Crif Dogs. I give it a 3 1/2 out of 5.

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

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