Saturday, November 18, 2017

 Thai Bistro & Sushi 
5999 De Zavala Road
just west of I-10

I've found delicious Thai food in just about every part of town, and that now includes the northwestern sprawl of the I-10 corridor.

This place takes up a double in a strip center 4 blocks west of the freeway, and it's obviously no secret. Not many restaurants, in a district so rife with restaurants, can entice people with little time for lunch to wait for tables, but this one manages it.

The décor is nothing special, but it's kept clean and comfortable. The staff is pleasant, service is prompt, and the kitchen manages to keep the crowd turning over (so those waiting by the front door don't have to wait too long). Prices are good.

Orders from the lunch menu are accompanied by hot and sour soup; I ordered the green curry, with chicken, and also ordered summer rolls; my tablemate got sweet and sour pork, which I sampled.
what's that mean?

The soup was tasty, but hardly special; it lacked subtlety and heat, both physical and chemical. It was easily the low point of the meal -- a fairly high low point. Next came two of the biggest summer rolls I've ever seen, stuffed full of good things and plainly meant to be shared. (They were not shared, but only because my friend didn't want any. She's not really the veggie-loving sort of diner.) The sauce served with the rolls was loaded with crushed peanuts, which is generally considered a good thing (though not by me: I find peanuts have a strong flavour that easily masks the more interesting subtleties of a good sauce.)

Then came the green curry, creamy and hot in a large bowl loaded with assorted vegetables, some crisp, some soft; and lots of thin pieces of chicken breast, way more than I would have expected; accompanied by a large scoop of rice. I had ordered it medium-spicy and it still made my eyes water, even though I am (or was, in my youth, at least) fairly tolerant of spicy-hot foods. And I don't think I would have it any other way. The heat, the textures, the flavours: the combination is wonderful complex, all in all one of the best curries I've ever tried.

I sampled my friend's sweet and sour pork and found that it, too, had an admirable texture and nice flavours in combination. If your tastes run to fried foods (and whose doesn't?) it's a dish worth trying.
Thai Bistro & Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

For Real?

Chart House
Tower of the Americas

Well, ain't this a nice surprise! The food at the restaurant atop the Tower is finally as good as the view.

Friends from out of town were, of course, the impetus that got me back up there; next time I'll go of my own free will. And when have I ever been able to say that about the Tower? Never, until now.

First, of course, the ambience of the place could hardly be improved upon. Stunning views, the entire city laid out on a clear day ... other than that garish carpeting, it's just about perfect. Second, the service we had was the kind of service such a venue deserves, the kind one would expect in a fine restaurant. Third, the prices, while not cheap, were about what you'd expect for haute cuisine.

But the big attraction, now (and as we have always, always hoped it would be) is the food. I started with a bowl of Thai shrimp and coconut milk soup, served with a razored pair of slices of fried lotus root, and Oh, my Lord, did that set the standard. It may honestly be said that, after that, nothing much mattered. It was sweetish, milky-smooth and loaded with shrimp cooked to perfection. A selection of interesting breads; the first basket, served hot, was magnificent, but the second, having cooled, was less heavenly. Always a problem with fresh bread.

Next came the main plate. I'd ordered fish tacos, one of my friends ordered shrimp tacos, so naturally we swapped one of each. I got mine with sweet potato fries in place of the regular fries usually offered (a $1 upcharge that is not justified even though it's commonplace, but since I wasn't paying I only cared enough to gripe about it here). The fries were deftly seasoned and well prepared, so that made the upcharge even easier for me to bear.

The fish tacos were good, though not the best I've had here in town. I forgot to ask what kind of fish they used but it was of adequate quality. The tacos were double-wrapped in small corn tortillas that managed to hold together long enough for their purpose. The fish and other ingredients were well prepared and sufficient in quantity, though no more than that.

what's that mean?

The same could be said of the shrimp taco, but in its case the preparation was a cut above. The seasoning used on that dish was of a higher order than the fish tacos. It checked all the boxes for sauce: it added moisture, complemented the flavours of the main ingredient, and added layers of complexity and interest to the dish.

I generally don't rate for value when someone else picks up the check, but I will say that the prices, while high, were not out of line for a restaurant of this quality.
Chart House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Baby Step Backward

I learned yesterday that's "spoonback" will no longer work when more than one such link is included in a single blog post. That used to not be true, and several times over the last 8 years I've put up posts that included reviews of several restaurants within it -- either travelogues, or comparisons of two similar places; and the spoonback links have worked fine.

Last month I posted a review of two food trucks down the avenue from my house, but the Zomato web site wouldn't pick them up. So now I have removed the spoonbacks for the Ay Papi food truck, and am reposting it here. If you wanna see the blog post reviewing that food truck, click here.
Ay Papi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

She's Right Again

Beto's Comida Latina
8142 Broadway
(just north of Sunset Avenue)

Friends are always telling me that I'm the smartest person they know. Luckily for me, they don't know my wife, who is the smartest person I know. Last night's dinner at Beto's provided further evidence to support that judgment.

I had been to Beto's once before. It was so long ago, it might have been in the last century. (At that time, they had abandoned its Southtown roots for a location near the current one, but on the other side of the street.) I didn't like it. I don't recall now what, exactly, had displeased me about the place back then, but whatever it was, it was sufficient to keep me away for years. But my wife loves the place, and has continually championed it (gently and subtly) until, with an eye toward some kind of future trade-off, I at last agreed to go.

And wouldn't you know it? I have to admit it's a great place.

There's a small dining room on the front end, and a larger patio area out back. Both had live music being performed last night (a Friday): a guitar duo on the patio, a guy with a keyboard in the dining room. Had musical styles been the only consideration, the patio would have been the preferred venue, but the dining room is air conditioned. Shucks.

Anyway. So we take a table in the dining room, and even though we were close to the kitchen and the bar, we were undisturbed by the proximity. Noise wasn't excessive; a great relief in this era of concrete walls and floors. There was, in fact, nothing about to ambience of the place to disparage. I'm choking back tears, can you tell? It was clean, comfortable and pleasant. 

I had read a number of reviews on dissing Beto's service as the only failing of an otherwise-outstanding restaurant. Sadly, though, I can't join that chorus of grousing: our server, Luis, was exceptional: perfectly attentive, informative, straightforward, and pleasantly engaging without being intrusive. I may have had better table service in my life, but no such occasion comes immediately to mind.

I ordered a three-item combination, with a chicken-poblano empanada, a fish taco, and a sweet empanada of banana, leche quemada and pecans for afters. I also asked for a sample of something called chalupa cabra. My wife chose a two-item combo of fish taco and spinach-mushroom quesadilla. Both combinations come with soft drinks, but I had a margarita and she had a vodka concoction called Beto's breeze. (We had our soft drinks put in go-cups, because I'm not one to pass up horchata.)

The margarita was gold instead of the usual green; I don't know why and don't care. It was a little sweeter, a little less tart than is common, but it was very good. And it was only $4. (Note to self: happy hour goes until 7 on Fridays at Beto's.) I tried the Breeze, too, but after a sip of the margarita there was nothing there. 

The chalupa cabra sample came first. It's small chunks of goat meat in a curry sauce, topped with shredded vegetables, a little coconut, and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. In its full version it's served on a flatbread made from the same dough as the empanadas, which I suspect will make it completely irresistible. I made a mental note to include this dish in my order next time I come.

The combination plates are served with rice and beans. Not the kind of rice and beans in Tex-Mex cooking, but fluffy white rice in the Caribbean style, with savoury borracho beans. You can substitute roasted vegetables for the rice and beans, but that strikes me as a mistake, depending somewhat on which veggies are being served; last night's included yellow squash, and that made up my mind for me. 

fish taco, empanada, beans & rice
This was actually my very first fish taco; and while it was good, it had a strong fishy taste that I have avoided for many years. Don't get me wrong: I love fish. But some fish has that peculiar flavour, and I don't much like it. I don't know if it comes from having been frozen, or if it's just the type of fish used. Both possibilities seem unlikely, and it's not a question that raises in me the desire to investigate. It's most noticeable with catfish that's been frozen, but I haven't encountered it in other previously-frozen types. In any case, Beto's uses grilled Alaska pollock, a type of cod (and I often cook previously-frozen cod at home and don't get that fishy taste). It had a good texture, was on an excellent tortilla with slaw and cilantro (but not too much) and topped with a creamy poblano sauce. It's served with a small ramekin of chimichurri, in case you think the lily needs gilding. I see from this meal why people get so excited about fish tacos. Yes, even with that fishy taste.

And then there's that empanada: diced chicken with onion and poblano peppers, laced with a little cheese (I'm guessing cotija, but I could be wrong) and a light tomatillo sauce all wrapped up in an exquisitely made pastry. Writing that sentence made me want to go back for another. 

What's that mean?
Last city inspection: July 2017
score: 96
But no need! The three-item combo, plus the sample of chalupa cabra and a taste of my wife's quesadilla (which was good but not on the same elevated level as other things) proved to be too much food for one sitting, so that banana empanada with the leche quemada is sitting in my refrigerator right now. Having thought of that, I have nothing more to say before going downstairs to eat it, except that the prices at Beto's were pretty damned good, too. We got out of there for less than fifty bucks, including drinks, tax and tip, and that's better than what we normally spend on a date-night dinner.

Beto's Alt-Mex Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato