On The Menu

Relaxing Sunday

Comments (0) | Sunday, March 28, 2010

Took a trip to Costco to get a whole beef tenderloin. Along the way, we picked up a few items that we just couldn't pass up.

Sure it'll probably take us months to finish the cheesballs and years to finish the panko, but those are good values. And the vanilla extract from Kirkland is the same price for a smaller glass vial at Stop and Shop.

But the main event is the beef tenderloin. Tonight we are making cheesesteaks out of the chain meat, but I got plenty of steaks for a while. (My previous post on breaking down a whole beef tenderloin can be found here.)

Before I could get to the cheesesteaks, Abby made some red velvet cupcakes. Absolutely amazing.

To make the cheesesteaks, just trim the chain meat of any fat and pound into flat pieces. I seasoned the meat like I would a steak, with salt, pepper, cumin, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and some oil. Then I browned both sides on a griddle. I also sauteed some peppers and onions while the steak was cooking.

I took the meat off the griddle and placed into some aluminum foil, which I left there while the bread was in the oven toasting. Normally we use Vietnamese baguettes, but tonight we tried Portuguese Sweet Rolls. When the bread was done, I chopped up all the meat and put it back on the griddle with the onions and peppers. I added some cheese and then placed it all into the sweet rolls.

And because we wanted something healthy as a side, we steamed some frozen broccoli.

Of course we topped off the night with a cupcake or two. Not a bad Sunday at all.

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Weekend Eats (Toraya, Burlington Mall Food Court Review)

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Located outside of Arlington Center, Toraya is a very, very small sushi restaurant that apparently caters to a huge Japanese clientele. Or so says all the reviews online I could find. My GPS unit took us through Arlington Central and there was no parking to be found. Thinking it'd be the same in front of Toraya, I took the first parking spot available .3 miles away. This was a mistake. Not only was there plenty of parking in front of Toraya, but apparently there's parking in the back too. This will be good to know for next time.

Like I said earlier, Toraya is very small. 3 4-seaters and 3 2-seaters along with 6 or so seats at the sushi bar. We were next in line behind a family of 4 and we stood in the doorway and tried to stay out of the way. After a 20 or so minutes, we were seated slightly before the family because a 2-seater opened up.

While we were waiting I noticed one of the specials was tempura soft shelled crab for only $8.50. That took care of my appetizer. I wasn't really feeling sushi that night, so I went with the Udon noodles, sans chicken because it is still lent. Abby went for the Maki deluxe special as well as some edamame and an extra order of Philly Maki.

My tempura soft shelled crab came out with Abby's edamame and miso soup. The crab was one of the best things I've eaten in a long time. The tempura batter was light (like all tempura batter) and covered the crab just enough to not over power the wonderful delicate meat. Abby devoured her edamame in no time but neither of us really touched the miso soup. (I'm not the biggest fan of miso in general, so it wasn't like the soup was nasty or anything like that.)

My udon noodles were came out and had a very strong mushroom flavor. Inside the soup was a whole egg. I broke the yolk up and mixed it all around. The flavor the yolk gave to the soup was very nice. The noodles were typical udon noodles, thick and lacking of any real flavor other than the broth they laid in. The tempura shrimp were just like like my soft shell crab earlier, perfectly fried in just the right amount of batter. A very good noodle soup.

Abby's sushi came out and they looked great. She thought they were fantastic and just the way she liked it. I tried one of each type and thought the sushi was good to better than good, but nothing ground breaking. My main problem was that the other ingredients took away from the fish. For example the avocado was such big pieces that all I couldn't get over the buttery creamy taste to get the flavor of the eel at all. This could just be me though, because Abby loved every single bite.

Overall, Toraya is a very nice little sushi restaurant. You could do a lot worse. The chef/owner, Mr Toraya, was behind the sushi counter carefully taking his time to slice every piece of fish correctly. He seemed like the type of sushi chef that would gladly trade shots of sake with customers at the bar. Maybe next time we come we can sit and the bar and find out. The prices were pretty good too. However I ordered a coke and when I got a refill I had a feeling that it wasn't free. Sure enough I got charged $1.75 twice for both drinks. I just wish I could have gotten the coke in a larger glass the first time so I wouldn't have needed the refill, but now I know. Toraya gets a 3 and 1/2 out of 5, good and better than average but not exactly great.

Toraya on Urbanspoon

Burlington Mall Food Court

A huge mall that was crazy packed on Saturday, we were in the area and wanted a snack so we decided to go to the mall. It took longer than it should to find parking and walking through the mall to the food court was an adventure all to itself. Once we got to the food court, there was a plethora of choices. I couldn't believe there was a Chick-fil-a! I'm so glad that it was Saturday instead of Sunday so I could get the greatest chicken sandwich ever to grace a mall. Being from Oklahoma, I took Chick-fil-a for granted since they were everywhere. This has to be the only one in New England. Abby, still skipping out on fried food because of lent, went for Appleseed, a healthy crepe joint that had quite a bit of customers waiting in front for their crepe.

While my chicken sandwich was not nearly as healthy as Abby's crepe, it was probably more amazing and fantastic. So crispy and so tender and juicy with just two pickles. God I love chick-fil-a for not changing their main sandwich to include lettuce or tomatoes. Sure you could add them, but why would you. And the waffle fries...if you don't get the polynesian sauce to dip the waffle fries in, then you aren't living life correctly. Sure my meal was probably 15000 calories, but who cares. I'm never in this mall (might have been the 2nd time I've been there in 5 years since moving to Boston) so I had to take advantage of the opportunity. Abby seemed to enjoy her crepe, saying it wasn't that healthy because of the salad dressing, but I know she was jealous of the fried chicken goodness that is Chick-fil-a.

As for the rest of the food court, I guess it's a good selection. No Taco Bell, but they had the typical Chinese and Japanese joints, as well as a Thai and Indian one. So pretty good selection. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Chick-Fil-a on Urbanspoon

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Quick Hit Reviews (Gaslight, Scollay Square, Lanna Thai Diner)

Comments (0) | Sunday, March 21, 2010


My original review of Gaslight can be found here. And really, nothing has changed still fantastic as ever. You can always rely on a good meal at not too bad prices. We went during restaurant week with no reservations and were able to sit down immediately in an area that is basically an extension of the bar. Those seats are first come first serve and I actually prefer them over the booths. (You get more of the French Brassiere feel in my opinion.) I got what I always get, the Steak Frites. Abby went with the Tuna Nicoise salad. Our orders took a while, and our waitress apologized for it, but really, it wasn't a big deal at all. We understood it's during restaurant week, so things will be a bit busier and more hectic than normal. No biggie. Our meals were as good as always. I'm glad we have a place like Gaslight a few steps from our front door.

Scollay Square

Friday night, about 6:30pm, and we had no idea what we wanted to do for dinner. It being Lent, we knew we had to go to a place that served seafood. I browsed opentable for a while and was not getting any inspiration from the places we saw online. Either no reservation for the night or places that seemed too expensive for a simple Friday night. Abby, on her iphone, saw some good reviews for Scollay Square on yelp and I noticed that there was plenty of reservations. So I quickly got us a spot and we left the condo for Beacon Hill.

We arrived to see that Scollay Square had a nice outdoor area and there were still some after work crowd having beers and loud conversations. The weather had been great so we decided to sit outside. The hostess and waitstaff were all very friendly. It being restaurant week we quickly looked over their priced fix menu special. Not a bad offering actually, with Kobe Sliders and grilled salmon as options. However, we weren't in for a big meal, so we ordered off the regular menu, which consisted of classic pub eats. Abby got the goat cheese appetizer and a pear salad. I went for the fish and chips.

Our food came out quickly and everything was delicious. The goat cheese, a cheese I am always 50/50 about, was very smooth and creamy and was laid in a nice complimentary tomato sauce. Spread this cheese and some of the sauce onto the toasted bread and you have yourself a very nice starter. Abby's pear salad came with candied pecans that she couldn't stop raving about. The salad also was not drenched in dressing, which was nice. The pears, which may be out of season, were just ok though. My fish and chips were cooked perfectly. The fries were lightly battered and were very crispy. The fish, cut into small pieces instead of coming out as one huge piece, was very flaky with a batter that did not overpower the fish at all. The tartar sauce was nothing special, but wasn't bad either. Same with the coleslaw.

Scollay Square either just hired new chefs or redid their menu or both apparently. I do not know what it was like before, but the night we went the food was definitely way above average and probably better than most standard pub fare. I'd like to go back and try other items on the menu, especially in the summer when the outdoor area will more than likely be really busy. (The next day I got a call from Scollay Square asking how our meal was. I told them everything was great, just like I said in this review, but I was a little nervous that this was some scam afraid someone just wanted to check my phone number to match my credit card I used or something. Then I realized I paid cash for our meal and that the phone number that called me matched the phone number on the website. Guess they just wanted to make sure we had a good dinner.) I give Scollay Square a very strong 3 1/2 out of 5.

Scollay Square on Urbanspoon

Lanna Thai Diner

I was browsing through Boston.com's list of Best Diners when I saw Lanna Thai Diner listed. There is no way, no how a tiny Thai place inside an actually diner exists in New England and I didn't know about it. So of course this place became a must eat for Abby and I. All the reviews rave about how great the food is and how great the owners are. Chalk us up just like the other reviewers because we came away wanting to become regulars. While Woburn isn't that far, it's probably a good thing Lanna's isn't just around the corner in South End or I'd be there 4 or 5 times a week.

We parked on Main Street and walked in on a quiet Saturday evening. There was only a family that was just seated on the left side, and we sat down on the right side at a table for 2. There isn't really much space if you have a party of more than 4 or 5 I think. There are about six or so seats at the counter as well. When we sat down a regular came in and chatted with the owner for a bit and then sat down at the counter with his partner. I envied those two, because they clearly came here often and were friends with the owner. Our table had a couple of rooster figurines on it and also some printed copies of reviews that Lanna had received.

The menu itself is quite large and had all the regular Thai dishes as well as some specialties. I inquired if they had "mee krab" a Thai dish that we made in a cooking class in Phuket but the owner said that he doesn't make it because it's too unhealthy. (It's rice noodles that are deep fried, so he probably has a point about that...though it's so damn good.) Abby went with the special of the night, a stir fried egg noodle dish, and I was lame and just went with the Pad Thai. (I know, I should have tried something else, but I haven't had pad thai in a very long time and was sort of craving it.)

The pad thai came out within minutes of us ordering. We both started devouring the plate not caring that Abby's dish hasn't come out yet. This was some damn good pad thai. The noodles were perfectly cooked and weren't dry or mushy. The chicken, as so usually is, was not dry or overcooked. And the bean sprouts and carrots added just the right amount of freshness and crispness to the plate. The flavors had just the right combination of savory and sweet and with just a little bit of heat. Next time I'll probably ask for it to be a little spicier, but otherwise this dish was perfect. Abby's stir fry came out just a few minutes later and was likewise perfect. Where the pad thai had some sweetness, this egg noodle stir fry was more savory. Again the fresh veggies added just the right amount of crunch so that the dish wouldn't just be soft noodles. And the portions were huge. You could probably have just shared one of these dishes for two people, but they were so good we couldn't stop eating until both plates were clean.

For desert we had to get the mango sticky rice. The owner, in an apologetic manner, stated that the mangos aren't going to be as good as they will be until next week or so. It didn't matter to us. The mangos, even though not quite in season, were perfect. And the sticky rice had just the right amount of sweetness from the coconut milk that my sweet tooth was definitely satisfied.

Everything about Lanna's is fantastic, from the fact that it's a diner to the amazing food, to the friendly owners. You feel like you are just eating out with friends that happen to be making Thai food in the back. We chatted to the owner about our trip to Thailand and how we wish there was mangosteen available in Boston. He told us about how much mango he ate just a couple of weeks ago when they went back to Thailand for vacation. Needless to say we had a great experience for dinner and will be back often. I give Lanna Thai Diner a 5 out of 5.

Lanna Thai Diner on Urbanspoon

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March Home Cooking

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Some pics of recent homemade meals.

Abby made this breaded chicken dish after my brother-in-law Co made it for us in San Francisco. He's a big America's Test Kitchen fan like we are and luckily this recipe was in the 10th anniversary cookbook that we got for x-mas. We had it with a salad mix that we got a Costco. That salad mix probably serves 25 people, so we had plenty of salad for the next few days.

I made the steak tips (from the New Bridge recipe) and we served it with some more of that salad. Recipe can be found here.

We recreated one of my mom's dishes for dinner one night. The original recipe (here) calls for macaroni pasta, but we decided to make our own egg noodles for it. Turned out fantastic.

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