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Tocco 2009-10-24

by foodbitch 25. October 2009 19:45

As we arrived at Tocco at 8:28 PM for our 8:30 reservation, we were told that things would take 20 minutes since they were “waiting” for a few tables. Not a good start. But before we could even take a sip of our first round, we were seated and on our way to the tastiest Italian dinner we’ve had in a while.

 The chef/owner of Tocco is not new on the scene. His Folia restaurant in the market district was one of the most affordable and tasty Italian meals in the city, occupying that rare nook of the Italian spectrum between La Scarola and Spiaggia. And with Tocco, he does it again.

For some reason, Italian restaurants have, over the years, become caricatures of themselves. Giant portions, overdoses of garlic, oceans of tomato sauce, and pasta pasta pasta. Fine-dining Italian was a contradiction in terms for those unfamiliar with the potential of a Spiaggia but even mid-priced restaurants like Topo Gigio kept the caricature alive and pretended to be fancy just by increasing prices. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

How refreshing it then is to taste some very mainstream Italian dishes and be overwhelmed by their uniqueness. Pizza, ravioli and pasta may not sound like the makings of a memorable meal but Tocco did a truly amazing job with them. The Pomodorini pizza was as good as any Folia did and at budget-busting $16, the most expensive item of the night. It was pretty big though. Enough to stuff 2 normal people, just not us. And speaking of stuffed, the ravioli had a mix of ground seafood including crab, shrimp and probably whatever else was past its prime on refrigerator shelves. But you know what? It was great. When you order a seafood ravioli, you had better expect it to taste mildly fishy and here it only added to the flavor. Despite all this delicacy, the loudest applause must be bestowed upon the Pappard Bisamzio pasta. Steaming hot, it was prepared in a tomato/cream sauce that must have been the best ratio of tomato to cream I’ve ever tasted. Here was one dish that we could have eaten 5 times over but as before mentioned, Maggiano’s was never in the building.

In closing I would like to thank the Tocco management for not gouging their customers on drinks. A Martini these days can cost anywhere from 12 which is somewhat inappropriate, to 18 dollars which is the pinnacle of greed. Points then to a restaurant that still charges $10. It will not be forgotten. Unless, of course, I have a dozen of them.

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Bull and Bear 2009-10-24

by foodbitch 23. October 2009 23:11

The best thing about the Bull and Bear is not the creative bull-horn and bear-print logo, nor the under-dressed, over-fed waitresses nor even the beer-tap at the table. It is the consistency and value of its food. Although the table-tap is pretty ingenious and whoever takes the next step by offering table-side catheterization should win a Nobel Prize.

This afternoon, we were treated to an onion soup (the French kind, as the menu helpfully clarifies), a market salad, and the trio of Philly mini-sandwiches (not that mini) for less than the cost of a Gibson’s entrée. And the best part? The soup actually came before the entrees! This is not nit-picky. There have been an uncanny number of meals where the hot-liquid course has either come simultaneously with the main, after it, or not at all. We always say: “we’re going to start with …” to make it as unambiguous as possible without being rude. No matter. Over 50% of meals find the soup timed incorrectly. So points to the big mammal bar for getting it right.

Now, all that remains it to get it great.

Onions should be caramelized before being thrown into the soup and if the croc is not put into a hot oven before coming to the table, the cheese just ends up gooey instead of deliciously burnt. When the soup costs $9 (same as Bistro Zinc) these steps had better be taken.

More than balancing out the soup is the 12oz. bloody mary for $5. Perfectly spicy and with that seasoned salt on the rim that I love to watch people lick at while trying to look sexy. The mini-Phillies were great too and so was the market salad. Only, what the sam-hill is a “market” salad? There’s no market anywhere around here and if there were, I’m not sure its produce would be thawed in time to still be fresh. But overall, the terrific lunch was so filling that I didn’t even need my little tiny 4PM snack of Portillo’s hot dog, beef and fries. A rare bonus.


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Kamehachi 2009-10-21

by foodbitch 21. October 2009 19:38

How does a place remain open for years and years when fewer than 10% of its tables are ever filled and dining room ineptitude can hold its own with LA’s laziest? Several ways:

1.) Brand-showroom – OK with losing money

2.) Money-laundering front

3.) Successful daddy schooling loser sonny

1: brand-showroom works well for Nokia and Levi’s but not too many people go to a restaurant to browse. 2 and 3: it’s kinda hard to launder in the days of credit cards and given how long Kamehachi Old Town has been around, I’d say the offspring are either entrenched or homeless. Whatever. Kamehachi Streeterville is here to stay.

Upon entering the restaurant, one detects a faint trace of a disagreeable odor that seems like a mixture of spoiled fish and industrial cleaning solvent. Not good for a sushi restaurant. Getting seated can take several minutes and having a waiter notice can take multiples more. In all fairness, today, the waiter was prompt, polite and attentive and did an overall excellent job. However, considering that I used to work a block away and spent a fair number of lunches waiting on the waiter I can safely tell you that this experience is atypical.

When Kamehachi Streeterville first opened, getting a sashimi plate could (and did) take 45 minutes+. My party walked out before. Now, getting sashimi, 6 pieces of nigiri and 4 rolls took less than 15. Yes, nothing says PIG like when they slide over the table next to you so everything can fit. For two people. Shut up. The point is that it came, was timely and above all, GOOD! With a major exception. The tuna sashimi sucked great pacific garbage patch.

Dear Kamehachi, when one orders a sashimi plate, please do not think that you will make up in quantity what you lack in quality. Mind you that all I know about this I read in Sushi Economy but the closer a cut gets to the tail, the more of those icky white sinews and tendons one has to chew. Fish gristle is not a good thing. Tuna should melt in your mouth. I looked at the beautiful, deep red cuts of tuna nigiri at the table next to us and drooled. Why not use such cuts with ours? Would this refuse not be better camouflaged in a spicy mayo roll than a sashimi platter? You bring great shame to your family Streeterville-san.

So as not to end on a bad note, the summer rolls with spicy chili oil are the best rolls on the menu (the best of many menus) and shrimp tempura is battered and fried all over not leaving you with a raw tail to swallow like at some places. (Yes, of course I eat the tails and so should you.) And the rest of the sashimi was good too. If this experience is now the norm at Kamehachi Streeterville then I guess I can start coming again. Just get rid of that strange smell.

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Fulton Lounge 2009-10-17

by foodbitch 19. October 2009 16:26

Q: Who adds $13.61 to $121.00 and gets $134.65? A: Idiots and Fulton Lounge. I’m never surprised at human error given how our classrooms have been hemorrhaging arithmetic for decades but this is a mainstream restaurant-management software program. A glorified calculator designed to remove the necessity of thought from those who spend more time memorizing their lines than helping their customers. How many times have you seen a calculator make a mistake unless you fat-fingered something during data-entry? So what explains this? An error of .04 is far too large to be explained by rounding error no matter how much precision is used to store floating-point decimals. I don’t get it and don’t like it at all.

All the more reason to step up the fight against the practice of bringing a single-line charge slip in lieu of an itemized receipt. No I don’t trust your math. See exhibit A.



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Captain Nemos 2009-10-18

by foodbitch 18. October 2009 19:53

I figure that since I have been old enough to make my own lunch decisions, I have had lunch around 6,500 times. I would not be surprised if 5000 of those lunches would have included one species of sandwich or another. Why then would yet another sandwich move me? Why drive 5 miles for a taste when there’s a Subway on every corner? Well, quite simply, because Mrs. Nemo’s split pea soup and the Captain’s Northern Italian sub is probably the most memorable lunch combination ever. The best cuts of meat, so thin you can see through them, the best bread and the freshest ingredients. There’s never anyone in the place and I honestly do not know how they stay open. So go help out. Just don’t get in line in front of me.  


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Province 2009-10-17

by foodbitch 18. October 2009 18:30

If love is stronger in times of cholera then no doubt dinner is tastier in times of swine flu. And recession. Fewer people means fewer hassles. However, someone forgot to scare away Province’s remarkably attractive heap of customers on this fine Saturday evening. The bar hadn’t room to walk and the restaurant was as packed as a Russian moonshine tasting. We arrived 15 minutes before reservation time to grab a few drinks at the bar. Or so we thought. Despite there being 3 bartenders, and not a single un-served soul before us, it still took 8 minutes to place the order and another 4 to get it. I guess 2 glasses of house red is complicated. This worked out well because we were a mere sip or two into the first round when our table beckoned. In the world of reservations, timeliness is godliness.

As I walked across the harvested cork [Is there any other kind?] floor and settled into my recycled leather chair surrounded by LEED certification here and GREEN certification there I was secretly delighting in the fact that all this environmental gobbledygook was balanced by my having driven the 7 blocks to dinner in an 8 mile-per-gallon chariot. Hahahahahaha! Take your GREEN and stick it right up your BROWN.

Anyway, on to the gluttony.

Perhaps Province’s most delightful aspect is its breakdown of portion size. Small, Big and Bigger works for those unable or unwilling to drop 30 bucks on a cut of fish by enabling the order of a halfsie for $12. For caloric potentates like the author, such rationing is divine because now, instead of ordering 2 entrées and splitting a third, he and his date could (and did) order 8 entrées without being overly embarrassed. Nearly all were winners.

The best dish of the evening was the salmon. Burnt on the outside while nearly raw on the inside each bite made me regret not getting the bigger portion. Other winners were in descending order: Shrimp and grits, veggie rice, pork bocadillo, baby octopus, Hamachi sashimi and tortilla soup. The only loser was the oxtail stew of which there was little ox, less tail and a runny liquid that was closer to the stuff in a can of black beans than stew. I did find what I thought to be a microscopic cube of the promised pork belly but it turned out to be gristle. But don’t let me fool you. I still devoured every last drop of the stuff. When 7/8 dishes are perfect, it is unfair to proclaim dinner anything other than success. Table service was excellent too despite the fact that things took their sweet time leaving the kitchen. Though when one orders a cartload of half-portions some delays should be expected.

And the best part? 2 people eating to the point of immobility with 2 glasses of wine each for 100 bucks. In Chicago. In 2009. Believe it. Then go do it. Or I’m going to print out this review 50 times and not recycle it.

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Irazu 2009-10-17

by foodbitch 16. October 2009 21:09

This afternoon, a wormhole opened up at Irazu Restaurant and delivered this unsuspecting diner straight to Buca Di Beppo. Now it is unusual indeed for a wormhole to masquerade as a bowl of chicken soup but evidently, adding enough garlic to a bowl of liquid can create strange phenomena. And this wasn’t all. It would appear that the soup pot doubles as the restaurant’s grease trap since there was more of it floating on top than actual ingredients. I guess during these economic times, anything to save a penny is worthwhile.

However, it would be unfair to withhold the positives of which there are many. Not even at Subway can one still get a giant sandwich for $4.95, on great bread and bursting with beef. The burritos are bizarrely good and the empanadas the greatest deal on the menu.

This place has been around for years and you owe it yourself to go the next time a burrito craving strikes you. Just hold the soup and save everyone around you from holding their noses.


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Stanton Social 2009-10-04

by foodbitch 5. October 2009 13:34

Nearly a decade slithered by since Dinner Bitch last complained about New York. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. But now the time comes not to complain but compliment.

Before packing up for the jaunt home, we went to this little place in SoHo for a parting bite. The drinks were strong and the meal tasty which was pretty much what we expected since the bartender was an old friend from Japonais Chicago and the food was well-reviewed by others. The prices were right too. Ordinarily, this level of accomplishment is insufficient to provoke a strong opinion from anyone but the most devoted zealot. Save one item.

That first French Onion Soup Dumpling was the best thing to have ever oozed into my mouth. There, it exploded with a broth so flavorful my eyes rolled back into my pleasured skull and my nose lifted toward the ceiling in search of warmer air to suck over short-circuited taste-buds. It was amazing; as was the rest of it. But just like the second third and fourth orgasm of the evening, the later bites were mere refinements of the first.

If you inexplicably find yourself at 99 Stanton Street NY NY you should probably stop drinking so much but not before you order those French Onion Soup Dumplings and have a loud obnoxious tongue orgasm at the table.


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About the author

FB is the CTO of an entertainment company and, these days, writes much more in prose than he ever wrote in code. Which is a good thing. Because people expect quality from code. Meal me:

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