Monday, March 30, 2009

Wagamama--Nascar Racing Dining

Desperately searching for a bite to eat and a review to write in Harvard square on a Friday evening, the starving and weary Palateers had almost given up hope.

“I don’t think I can make it,” one said to the other, clinging onto a pole for support, “Without a reservation, this is hopeless.”

“We must keep trying!” The other replied, so stomachs churning, minds reeling from hunger, the Palateers continued their search.

And then, rising out of the misty sky like a vision, they saw it: the neon horizontal sign, the bold, welcoming letters. Hope for dinner that night.

Wagamama, the Nascar track of restaurants in Boston.

They stumbled inside, clutching their stomachs, and begged for a seat. Without delay, they were rushed to the center of one of the over-extended picnic tables, squished between a large, outgoing family and a quiet soloist, stirring his noodles as he pondered a novel.

They ordered in record time. The order numbers scribbled rapidly on their place mats with the wait staff’s sincere promise that as meals are made, they would be delivered on the spot. One Palateer nearly fell over backwards without a back to the chair, but was propped up by a speedy waiter.

The food began to arrive from the open kitchen, one plate after another: steaming bowls of noodles and rice, crisp, fresh salads with sweet potatoes and zucchini, freshly stir-fried vegetables and chicken in a sweet, red sauce.

The Palateers delighted, and their bellies full, they were able to continue their journey.

57 JFK St
Cambridge, MA
(617) 499-0930

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flying Pan--Last meal in Asia

On the morning of the last day of the Palateer’s excursion through Asia, we were craving a hearty breakfast that would sustain us for the next 22-hour flight home. Upon recommendation of Chinabites, we stopped in at Flying Pan.

Good ole’ fashion diner style food awaited us, and it was hard to imagine that we weren’t sitting in a flashy New Jersey diner. Extensive menu, large/filling portions and a bit of quirkiness made this spot especially memorable.

Check out this Chinabites post for delicious pictures and other food related ramblings related to our meal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Red Ant--Chinabites shout out

If ever there is a go-to-guide for eating in the Orient,  then Chinabites would would take the bill.  As lost Americans, the Palateers cling to this website as if it were a surrogate child, for it is a golden key to unlocking a happy stomach in Asia (for now only in China).

Providing English and Chinese translations, numerous photos and precise directions, Chinabites is an excellent tool for navigating the ins and outs of the restaurant scene in Hong Kong and Beijing.  

One afternoon, the Palateers were craving noodles in Causeway, Hong Kong. We were extremely pleased with Chinabite's recommendation of Red Ant

Surf the site and keep it in mind the next time you find yourself seeking Italian restaurant suggestions in Sheung Huan

Monday, March 23, 2009

Gili Deli--Paradise in bite form

One day, for reasons beyond your current comprehension of the present reality, you might find yourself on the small Indonesian island of Gili Trawangan.  Resting your travel weary head on the volcano infused sandy beaches, you may fall into a deep slumber. Awakening several hours later, you will realize that your dream of finding the perfect deserted beach in the middle of the south pacific has come true, and that the bathtub clear blue ocean in front of your is in fact just as beautiful as any National Geographic documentary.    

However, all this reflection has left you ravenously hungry.  Do not fret, for although your Robinson Crusoe beach is far removed from the hustle and bustle of distant cities, it is not removed from fine cuisine.  You wander along the only road to find Gili Deli. Stop. This is where you will eat.  From salads to wraps to breakfast to juices. The Gili Deli provides healthy and satisfying fare that comforts the heart and soothes the soul.    

The Palateers have savored the juices and found them fresh and invigorating.  We sampled the salads and were amazed that they could attain such ripe vegetables in such a distant location.  We even ate the bagels (connoisseurs that we are) and found them particularly passable considering, we were several thousand miles away from the nearest kosher bakery.    

The best part is most likely the coffee.  Take your pick of nearly 10 different types of local brews, grown on the very hill a few miles up the road.  There is a reason why Java is a synonym for coffee.  Relax and enjoy paradise, while taking island sized bites.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hotel Jen

The Palateers enjoyed several meals at Hotel Jen Café in Hong Kong; however, it is not a place that we are going to rave about.  The café offers buffet style eating that includes a mixture of Asian and western fair.  For breakfast, the choices were numerous.  The omelet station was always a buzz of activity.  We especially enjoyed the fresh dragon fruit, watermelon and pineapple selection. Another interesting choice was the congee and miso soup. Although not the most amazing of food, Hotel Jen Café offers filling good meal that will leave you ready for a full day of city exploring.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Café Deco--A Jackie Chan wipeout

Hong Kong, that pulsating pungent pomelo city of the orient, has enough culinary secrets to keep you searching for years.  A melting pot of Asian delicacies drawing from the mainland, South East Asia and subcontinent, it is not uncommon to find shwarma shops next to dim sum paired with Vietnamese Pho. The only downside of the city is that prices often feel like enemas. 

Given the Palateer’s love of this soup dumpling city, we were disappointed by our experience at Café Deco at the Peak.  For those new to Hong Kong, the “Peak” is the mountain peak that overlooks the entire city of Hong Kong and Kowloon.  On clear days, it is a breathtaking view of enormous skyscrapers squished together on an impossibly small sliver of land. On rainy days (which are often), it is shrouded in clouds.    

As for Café Deco, it is reminiscent of our experience at the Prudential Center.  Meaning, great view, but mediocre overpriced food. This particular evening, all of Hong Kong, was submerged in a fish bowl of fog. That was the first right off.  There were some highlights of our meal.  The appetizers definitely stole our appetite.  The fusion inspired Peking Duck Nan was a table riot and resulted in a series of fist fights for the last piece.  The mushroom and cheese quesadillas became the only meal for one of our party.  Unfortunately, after these delights, the dinner took the chungching express to a taste gulag.  The thai prawn parcels were cold webby bunches of uncomfortable mastication and the sweet almond squash soup was weeping for more flavor.   

The main course was as sad as a teenage boy stood up on a first date. The salmon, despite repeated requests for otherwise, was overcooked.  One could tell that the fish was frozen, by its whitish hue and poor consistency.  The steak had mixed reviews ranging from overdone to not bad.       

Given the plethora and variety of Hong Kong cuisine, don’t waste your time or taste buds on this pick.    

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ode to Michael's Deli

Took the T to Coolidge Corner on a bright afternoon
Hungry and thirsty and ready to swoon

Craving a sandwich, we burst through the door
To find pastrami and corned beef and turkey galore

Heaps of cured meat piled inside
A case ten feet long and three feet wide

Soft knishes stuffed with potato, spinach and beef
With a taste that would awaken the sleeping Gurdjieff

A Thanksgiving sandwich for all times of year
With turkey, cranberry, stuffing, and a fizzy root beer

Try the Michael’s sandwich if you’re ready and willing
To savor roast beef, beef brisket, and a horseradish filling

Complete your sandwich with toasted Challah bread
And even one bite will go to your head

If you are searching for the perfect way to stuff your belly
Then look no further than Michael’s Deli!
256 Harvard St
Brookline, MA 02446
(617) 738-3354

Monday, March 9, 2009

El Asador Vasco--Peoples Watching

Whether it is night or day in Oaxaca, you will find the most action in the Zucolo. The Zucolo is a common feature in most Mexican cities and is simply a park in the middle of the city—which is lined on two sides by a church and government center and on the other by restaurants. Never has there been such a fine pairing between religion, politics and good food.   

On one of those dry desert evenings, just about around twilight, the Palateers decided to sit under the shadow of the great old church, at the El Asador Vasco, and soak up the scene.  Sitting street level, we observed the full spectrum of Oaxacan life unfold in almost a synchronized ballet.  First a quintet of cowboys came strolling by and played a set of fine Banda music. While they were mid-way through a half-decent rendition of De Rodillas Te Pido, old Zapotec women, their faces etched with deep sun wrinkles, peddled local handicrafts.    

The sun was getting low, and the park was soon filled with lovers strolling hand in hand. In one corner, a full orchestra band had started to play.  Old couples arose from park benches and began a slow waltz. For the past hour, we had barely finished our Micheladas, a mixture of beer, lime juice, salt, hot sauce and clam juice, but had managed to put pack two tequilas which had helped to cut the cold air.    

For dinner, we ordered the Oaxaca carne asada and a hamburger.  The carne asada was a salty piece of grilled meet with a nice medley of typical sides including mole, cheese in a spicy sauce, avocado and rice. The burger was decent.   The meal was good, but the scene was what was truly memorable.  Sit down and absorb the flavor of mexico, for simply the price of a beer.     

Friday, March 6, 2009

La Crepe--A Mexican/French shotgun wedding

If you have tired of tacos and other meat heavy dishes that make up the Mexican palate, then maybe a bit of fusion is what you need to recharge your taste buds.  After a few days, the Palateers were feeling such weariness and decided to try the Oaxaquan establishment, French Crepe.    

The interior had a clean, crisp, modern feel, which was a refreshing change from the plastic lawn chairs and luchador decorated divey establishments, we had previously visited.  The restaurant is on the second floor and overlooks a main boulevard—prime for people watching.   

The spinach and mushroom omelet was good but over salted (which seems to be a characteristic of most of our Mexican eating experiences). It was accompanied with beans and fresh bread, which was all quickly devoured.  For some fusion, we decided to try the Tinga de Pollo crepe—something along the lines of a chicken fajita.  It was also good, but could have used a small salad to balance out all the meat. Other interesting looking crepes were the squash flower and three cheese.    

Recommended for an adventure into creative fusion, French Crepe gives Mexican cuisine a spurt of French flair.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Muqueca -- Hot pot with a twist

The sign hanging outside Muqueca is handmade, the careful lettering revealing a burst of color and life, even in the depths of winter. Walk past Muqueca, literally, hot pot, in Brazilian, and you may comment on someday trying this lively Brazilian nook, but enter and you will discover that the personal touches in the food surpass the details of the dangling wooden sign.

If you are lucky, the waitress who seats you and takes your order is the woman who supplied most of the recipes, and who will openly explain every part of the menu, recommending the perfect dish for your taste. It is recommended that you come hungry, as the appetizers and main courses are enough to satiate even the most starving of stomachs. We began with the Brazilian crab cake, served in a small crab-shaped clay dish and stuffed with copious crab and delectable spices. For main dishes, the waitress recommended the Shrimp Bobo, brimming with fresh shrimp and creamy yucca, and Fish Moquyeca, a rich cilantro fish stew. A homemade mango smoothie created in the blender behind the counter held us over until the food came, and reminded us of the brilliance of summer.

If you are craving the authentic Brazilian cultural experience in a familial atmosphere, warm up from the cold with a sumptuous meal at Muqueca. Without question, the Palateers offer Muqueca a the Seal of Approval. Be prepared to roll home afterwards, for there isn’t even room for Christina’s!

1093 Cambridge Street
(617) 354-3296

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yaxche--The Mayan Vibe

Yaxche in Playa del Carmen, Mexico has mastered the fine art of detail. The creators of this Mayan themed restaurant, must have spent a great deal of time brainstorming the small tidbits that so stuck in the minds of the Palateers. From the ambience, menu and dishes, Yaxche embodies the proper meaning of the themed dining experience.

Upon arrival, the Palateers were led into a recreated Mayan court yard--adorned with Yucatan inspired pictures and paintings. The faint but audible Mayan music and candle light made the atmosphere ripe with couples and small groups. We were especially impressed by the small rolls with miniature butters wrapped in a corn husk.

The menu read like a short creative novel. Sections of the menu were broken into titles such as “Medicine of the People” (Soups), The Feat of the Jaguar (Meat) and Endless Sacrifices (Desserts). The menu also was helpful in indicating which dishes were truly Mayan inspires. We started off our meal with a warm and satisfying Massewal, or chicken soup with tortilla strips
and chicken. Quenching our thirst with a Tulum: otherwise known as a orange, strawberry and mango smoothie.

For the main course, we had the Cochinita Pibil, savory pulled pork in a delicious sour orange sauce served on a hot cast iron pan with frying onions. Accompanied with tortillas, it created the finest tacos that we have experienced in Mexico. The Xaman Ha was a work of pure engineering. Fresh fish stuffed with celery and carrots, which was then wrapped in green edible leaves, served floating in a green sauce was impressive and refreshingly vegetably.

At one point during the meal, our entire side of the restaurant sat enthralled, witnessing a circus-esque feat by one of the waiters. He rolled a small metal cart with two pots to a couple's table, and proceeded to create a fiery masterpiece of a drink by lighting alcohol with a blue flame, and pouring the flame from one pot to another, before extinguishing it into a latte glass.
While Playa del Carme is flush with restaurants that serve as little more than costly tourist traps, Yaxche is worth spending a bit extra for a full-sensory trip back to the age of the Mayas.