Caracas Arepa Bar has been a favorite Williamsburg dinner destination for me since shortly after I moved here nearly six years ago. (Wow six years? Oy vey.) I hadn't been to Caracas since July '12, when my good friend Salvador Sriracha was in town, but this time a visit from my buddy Beafvy (of Beafv's Beerderdash fame, natch) and my brother just after Christmas had us on the hunt for some quality victuals.
For the uninitiated, arepas are a traditional Venezuelan food that feature baked flatbread pockets filled with various stuffings, including meats, cheeses, veggies, etc. At this meal, between the three of us, we split five arepas and an order of their excellent chips and guac and it was plenty of food - arepas are deceptively filling.
The arepas we chose were La Surena (grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado, spicy chimichurri sauce), La de Pernil (roasted pork shoulder, tomatoes, spicy mango sauce), Leek Jardinera (grilled leeks, sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, guayanes cheese), Playa Deluxe (pan-seared tilapia with garlic-infused oil, sauteed mushrooms, avocado, pickled onions, herb mayo) and a weekly veggie special that I don't remember. No direct link to their menu, but find it here if you're interested in their other offerings.) I immensely enjoyed each except the La de Pernil, but I'm really not much of a fan of either mangoes or dressing pork with sweet sauces, so I guess I probably shouldn't've ordered the fuckin' thing in the first place, huh? <slaps forehead>
Caracas Arepa Bar also has a rum bar with over 30 types of rum from around the world, if that's your thing. They also make great specialty cocktails, seemingly authentic to the Central / South American theme. They also have a really nice little garden in the back, perfect place to enjoy a meal and some beverages during a lazy summer evening. And so forth.
My aggressive dieting over the past year-plus has meant that I've eaten A LOT of salads at a lot of places across the Western half of Long Island. Usually, I'm going to go for a Greek salad type deal topped with well-done chicken breast, one that's ideally big enough to last me through the rest of the day so that I don't need to eat a proper dinner. (Yes, I'm aware that this flies in the face of everything one reads about "keeping the metabolism furnace going throughout the day," but normal diet methodology has never worked for me, so fuck it.)
To that end, Gyrolicious definitely works for my diet, in that the "large" salad is absolutely massive and very filling, and they don't skimp on the chicken. Honestly, it's not rocket science; 9 times out of 10 that's all I'm asking. I also had a bite of one of their gyros (pictured above) which I can report are standard-good. The wings are small and frozen, but still tasty, and the dips I tried (hummus, babaghanoush, spiced feta / tirokafteri) were all fine, as well.
So, the food's solid, at least what I've tried of it. (Their menu boasts a lot of standard Greek restaurant choices that I doubt I'll ever try.) All in all, this is pretty much a textbook "B" place, but I'm going to downgrade it slightly because of the variance in quality of service, at times ranging from "attentive" to "lackadaisical" the few times I've been. But, yeah, decent place; nothing more, nothing less.
[After a nearly three month layoff, my pal and craft beer enthusiast Beafvy returns with another installment in his semi-regular Beafv's Beerderdash column. Huzzah! Oh, joyous day!!]
It’s after New Years, and face it, this ain't the '90s anymore. We’ve officially entered the post-football dog days of winter, solidly mired in the doldrums before the good times and warm weather of spring and summer show up. 'Tis the season in which, unless you're a huge hockey or hoops fan (of which I'm neither), you're going to need to find other means of staving off blowing your brains out until baseball gets underway. Fortunately, the DFW area was recently treated to some nice-weather Saturdays and me n' my lovely companion, Whole Wheatt Muffin, took the opportunity to visit the fuck out of some local breweries.
As mentioned in previous Beerderdashes, Dallas has seen a proliferation of craft beer makers over the last year-plus, and if these trends continue, AYYYYYYYYYYYYY. For a die-hard craft beer enthusiast like myself, that's a great thing, and it makes the otherwise excruciating daily torture of living in the second most backwards state in the union ever so slightly more bearable. (I keed, I keed! U!S!A! U!S!A! :-/)
Community Beer Company celebrated their one-year anniversary on the weekend of January 17th. In their first year, Community has done a lot of good things, producing a wide variety of beers and fostering a vibrant, friendly atmosphere at the brewery. It certainly makes things more pleasant when everyone involved seems happy just to be part of this operation.
- Their Barrel Aged Glenstemmons scotch ale was quite tasty. It was a wise choice as (seemingly) the featured anniversary pour; a nicely flavored barrel ale with a reasonable alcohol content.
- They poured lots of new beers. By my count, there were 5 new offerings – the aforementioned Barrel Aged Glenstemmons, a coffee porter called Ascension, a wheat wine, a Belgian brown ale; as well as the non barrel scotch and their holiday beer Regalement, both of which I had never tried previously. To be fair, they weren’t all hits, but there were enough goodies here to warm the cockles of any beer nerd’s heart. Or, wait, no, maybe that was just my herpes medication kicking in. Who knows.
- Crowd control. Overpopularity seems to be a good problem for a brewery to have, but a bad one for the patrons. We arrived relatively early and beat some of the rush, but after a half hour this place turned into a fucking zoo and it was a 10 minute line to get a pour. Additionally, it turned out that only pre-order attendees were able to get a souvenir glass, which left some disappointed.
- Food was served by BellaTrino food truck, famous for having its own brick oven built in. I found the eating experience overall to be rather underwhelming; they only offered a scant few toppings, flavor was very much lacking, and the service was verrrrrrry slow. The TVs on the outside of the truck were a nice way to placate we plebes, but as they say – you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.
- Perhaps Community pours so many different beers to obscure the honest-to-goodness fact that their flagships are dare I say a tad pedestrian. It says quite a bit that I don’t often order Community’s year-round offerings at local bars, considering that I drink heavily pretty much 943 days a week.
Martin House Brewing Company is IMNSMFHO currently the best craft brewery on the west side of the metroplex. Apologies to Rahr and Revolver, but during the 9 short months since Martin House has been around, they've produced more consistently excellent beers than anyone else in the Fort Worth area.
- The Pretzel Stout, formerly known as “There Will Be Stout”, is delicious. I am a sucker for sweet stouts, (and sweetmeats!), but this somewhat sessionable beer at only 6% ABV has the body of a much larger brew. It has a distinctive sweet and salty element that makes all the kids goo goo ga ga these days. Possibly DFW’s best stout currently on the market (and I don't take those words lightly).
- The Sugar & Spice holiday beer, debuted in the late Fall, is an excellent addition to Martin House’s lineup. It has an over 10% ABV content, but no back-of-the-throat burn that one would expect from such a substantial beer. Excellent sweet, plummy flavor and perfect accompaniment to a nice evening by the fire, crying your eyes out while watching Benny and Joon for the sixth consecutive time *SNIFFLE*
- Great view of Fort Worth’s skyline from the brewery – seriously, it’s sort of breathtaking, if you're into that sort of horseshit.
- Nice merch options. They offer soft cotton t-shirts in a variety of colors and sizes, and all kinds of other crazy crap. Great advertising for the brewery, since my chest is a fine piece of real estate, and, symbiotically, a great situation for t-shirt lovers of all shapes and sizes.
- The volunteer staff was welcoming and enthusiastic. Cody Martin, the owner and head brewer, seems to have a passion for good beer and the know-how necessary to get things done. This place has the charming feel of a family-run establishment. Good shit.
- The food options left A LOT to be desired. Local grocer Central Market's H.E.A.T. taco truck was onsite, and imagine my dismay when I was told that they couldn't fill my order because THEY HAD RUN OUT OF TORTILLAS (!!!). Seriously, wtf? Hopefully someone was publicly flayed and burned alive over this unacceptable oversight. Once the tortillas did finally arrive, harumph harumph, we were served a "chicken fajita taco" that amounted to a poor man’s chicken pot pie. I needed liberal doses of sriracha just to elevate this garbage to the level of "near-edibility"… *barf*
- Their brand new beer – Gateway XPA (which debuted after the tour) is not great. It seems like a lighter version of their Breakfast beer, which is fine, but I ain't got time for too many beers with this grain profile.
There you have it. Beerderdash will return in a couple weeks (or whenever Tuddd gets off his fat ass and edits it) with reports from the brewery tours at Rabbit Hole Brewing and Deep Ellum Brewing Co. Until then, happy beveraging, America!
Over the past year-plus, Meal Corner has featured WAY more lunches than dinners. This has not only been due to wanting to save a little money here and there, but because of dietary issues - generally speaking you're going to spend more money AND consume more calories if you're routinely eating out at dinner. On the other hand, sometimes you just gotta treat ya'self, and my recent meal at CoolFish was well worth the indulgence.
I'd driven past the CoolFish sign in Syosset countless times, wondering exactly where it was actually located; turns out it's unassumingly nestled in one of the industrial park-ish thingies south of Jericho Turnpike. When we entered, we noticed that the place was packed, which was a good sign - turns out that three or four different offices had chosen to have their Christmas parties here on this night. Although the staff seemed a bit overworked, we were pleased with the attention afforded us - really have to give them due credit here.
We ordered the ceviche, which was intriguingly listed on the menu as "chef's choice." I generally automatically order ceviche whenever I see it on a menu, so I was eager to see what the chef would whip up for us. Unfortunately (possibly due to the overwhelming amount of customers), what we were served (above, bottom picture) wasn't really "ceviche" at all, instead basically chopped shrimp in a cocktail-type sauce with a little bit of extra tartness. Disappointing, but still not really all that bad, and, most importantly, this would be the final culinary misstep of the evening.
When at a restaurant call CoolFish, one should probably order fish, amirite? Top picture above is my entree, seared Chilean sea bass, served in a rich lobster fricasee sauce over sauteed spinach and creamy mashed potatoes, topped with smoked tomato relish. Second picture down shows a halibut daily special, perfectly cooked, on a bed of broccoli rabe. Third picture shows the brussels sprouts with bacon side dish.
These were likely the best fish entrees I've eaten since my meal at Panza Restaurant in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, nearly exactly a year prior on Christmas Eve '12. So, with the exception of the "ceviche" (which truth be told really wasn't bad - it just wasn't really "ceviche" per se) great food, and solid service. Highly recommended, and I'm eager to return.
Just my luck that Roebling Pizza would be closed during only the second time I ordered a pizza in the calendar year 2013. As I've written before, it's far and away the best pizza in my hood, and there's nothing that even comes anywhere near close, including this place, Brickhouse Pizza.
I walk past Brickhouse Pizza pretty much whenever I leave my apartment - it opened a few blocks from my place, right next door to Briskettown. Long story short, Brickhouse place isn't really anything special. Not awful, but not great either. Crust was a bit too hard (not crisp, mind you, but actually hard) for my liking, and I definitely prefer my slices either super floppy or doughy and substantial, and this was neither. Just kinda meh. Also, it was like $26 for a pie with sausage and onion - that's a bit steep no? What's more, I wasn't really impressed with any of their "specials" - is 6 wings and fries for $10 really a good deal?
So, if you're a south sider like me looking for a 'za fix, give Roebling Pizza a ring, or don't bother otherwise.
After still yet another great meal at Surasang Korean Restaurant, it's time to finally give these guys the credit they deserve for being one of my favorite go-to Long Island restaurants. Having eaten here many, many times I've learned what they excel at (quite a lot), and what they they don't do that well (a few items), so let's have that, shall we. Also, the majority of the menus that are posted online for Surasang (they don't have a website) are nearly entirely inaccurate, so here are several dishes that they actually *do* serve.
The pictures above were taken over the course of three or four separate meals at Surasang during the past year-plus. The top two photographs detail what, to me, is Surasang's de facto specialty: spicy Korean stews. First picture is of the Yook Gae Jang, a tasty stew with brisket, scallions, cellophane noodles, and egg. This is one of my favorite Korean dishes (I've also had it countless times at Dokebi in Williamsburg), and Surasang's version is frickin' delicious. Second picture is of a spicy tofu stew, with similar ingredients as the Yook Gae Jang - also excellent. You'll notice that these stews are served in hotpots, appropriately bubbling hot. (Not pictured is the Kalbi Tang - again, prepared similarly, except the main ingredient is short ribs, served bone-in. Also highly recommended.)
Third and fourth pictures depict some of Surasang's stir frys. The third photograph is of a shrimp stir fry dish, which I felt was very tasty if a bit too heavily breaded. Fourth photo is of an excellent squid stir fry, which is more indicative of most of the stir fry dishes I've had at Surasang, served in delicious sauce and with crispy, fresh vegetables.
The final three photos show an assortment of their appetizers. The dumplings are incredible - lightly fried and crisp, and although I like the flavor of the sauce that comes on their chicken wings (sweet but with a little 'hey now'), the wings themselves don't ever seem to taste terribly fresh. The last picture shows a typical assortment of traditional Korean appetizers that are brought before your meal, free of charge. These dishes rotate, although they usually include several types of kim chees, pickled vegetables, lightly fried squash, marinated eggplant, sprouts, and the like.
I should mention that the service at Surasang is excellent. The owner and her son are always friendly and personable when we stop by for lunch, and they always seem to have Korean dramas blaring on the television. I should also mention that if you're in the mood for Bi Bim Bahp, Surasang's is some of the best I've ever had. (Haven't tried the bulgogi here, though.) So, stop by if you want some really great Korean food - you'd be hard pressed to find Korean this good in the North Shore / Nassau County area.
During my trip to San Francisco last summer with my buddy Salvador Sriracha, we made a point of trying as many different types of Asian cuisine as we could cram into the three days we were in town. First we ate at Burmese Kitchen, then banh-mi at Saigon Sandwich and awesome Chinese at House of Nanking the following day. Day three, we found ourselves near Japantown, and, looking to try some Korean, I found Ssisso on Yelp, so we stopped by for lunch.
It had been my goal to get some authentic bi bim bahp, but we both instead opted for lunch specials which offered more food for less money (we were both starving). Mine, the top picture above, included bulgogi, soup, dumplings, and a dish consisting of sauteed cellophane noodles and vegetables. Salvador's was similar, although he opted for the "Ssisso chicken," served in a soy / garlicy sauce. (The bottom picture depicts a few of the typical traditional Korean sides that were served before the meal.)
We found the food at Ssisso to be pretty good, although the soup and noodles dishes were served lukewarm, and the chicken, although flavorful, didn't seem terribly fresh. I came away with the impression that they probably prepare large quantities of this stuff in advance to save time and then reheat it (or in our case, don't) to order. Not bad, but not great in comparison to my favorite Brooklyn and Long Island Korean joints. Of course, it's probably unfair to judge an entire restaurant solely on the basis of two lunch special orders, but what can ya do.
I fucking love San Francisco; this time (my second time in town) I flew out in early August to catch the Phish shows at BGCA, check out some breathtaking nature, and eat some great food. Reviews of said Phish shows will come in the next few weeks (gotta get thru the Merriweather shows first though, folks). I've also been posting my pics of our outings at Land's End and Marin Headlands, and here's my first restaurant review from the trip.
In the months before the trip, the buddy with whom I would be making the trip suggested that we try Burmese food, knowing that I'm always eager to cross another type of world cuisine off of my bucket list. He mentioned something called "Rainbow Salad" which I'd never heard of, and I was intrigued. I found the entry for Burmese Kitchen on Yelp, happily noting its proximity to our hotel. Although my flight got in about 90 minutes late, we were able to squeeze in a lovely meal before heading to the venue.
First picture above is the aforementioned Rainbow Salad, which is made with "assorted noodles, cabbage, papaya, cucumber, potatoes and carrots, with tamarind sauce." Vibrant, diverse flavors, and great texture quite unlike anything I've ever eaten before.
Second picture is of the Tea Leaf Salad, with tea leaf, shredded cabbage, tomato, fried garlic, sesame seeds, and assorted peas and peanuts. Although the flavors weren't quite as interesting as the Rainbow Salad, this was still pretty damned tasty, with the peas and peanuts providing a welcome crunch.
Third pic is of the Burmese falafel appetizer, which was much crispier than the falafel that I'm used to (I still eat falafel pretty frequently, usually the $3 special at Oasis in Williamsburg). Pretty heavily fried, and served with a scrumptious chili sauce that was so good I (predictably) dumped the leavings over a couple platefuls of the Tea Leaf Salad, which really improved it. Also, I should note that this dish comes with 7 falafel balls / we were so hungry that we devoured them shitz before I remembered to snap a photo.
Only item I wouldn't recommend was the Ginger Chicken, shown in the fourth picture. Didn't care for the dull flavor or the murky sauce, although (as usual) I just dumped a fuckload of spicy stuff up top and gladly plowed through it.
We were fortunate enough to eat several great meals during this trip - no spoilers but the food we ate at Saigon Sandwich (banh mi), Ssisso (korean) and House of Nanking (Chinese) ranged from good-to-great, and the sandwich I got at The Sentinel for my flight home was also splendid. More reviews in the coming weeks.
What is it? - It's lunch at Mochika Peruvian Cuisine in Glen Cove on Long Island. From top to bottom we have:
1.) ceviche mixto;
2.) jaleas (fried seafood platter - personal portion)
3.) seafood soup, of which I've forgotten the name.
What led you to choose this particular restaurant and these items? - My weekly trip to see grandma at a nearby assisted living facility dictates that I eat lunch in Glen Cove quite often. Fortunately, there are several worthy nearby eating spots (among them my favorite sushi / Japanese place Fatty Fish, as well as Sopah Thai, Andros Greek Grill, and El Tazumal Salvadorian), so my mealin' options never get stale.
Also, I love Peruvian food. Chimu in Williamsburg is one of my top five favorite restaurants in my neighborhood, and although my low-carb diet unfortunately mandates that I can't eat much of what's on the menu - rice, beans, choclo and yucca are definite no-nos for me - we've still managed to find a few delicious items at Mochika that are perfectly on-limits.
How was the food? - Excellent as always. The ceviche was tart and fresh, the jalea was delicious, and the soup was frickin' amazing.
I've ordered the ceviche each of the ten or so times I've eaten at Mochika, and it's among the best I've ever eaten (and I tend to always order ceviche when it's an option). Choosing the "mixto" option gives you a good quantity of calamari, shrimp, octopi, whitefish, and a couple of mussels, accompanied with red onions, choclo, sweet potato, and canacha. We chose the "medium spicy" option, but it still packed a real kick.
I usually hate fried seafood, but Mochika does it right - lightly battered, fresh and plentiful. The types of seafood included in the jalea were similar to that of the ceviche mixto (whitefish, calamari, shrimp, octopi, a couple mussels,) but also with clams, served atop several crispy yucca chunks and with a red onion salad up top. Normally, with a dish like this, I'd want something on the side as a sauce accompaniment, but as the pre-app we had been given canacha with a side of totally addictive aji verde, which was PERFECT for dipping.
I wish I knew what the broth base of the soup was so I could try making something similar on my own, but it's a unique flavor that I couldn't place. Somewhat creamy, but not too heavy, and totally jampacked with seafood. SO GOOD.
[I've also tried other dishes during previous visits, notably the lomo saltado and the fried chicken, and they were both no less than top-notch. They also have some great lunch specials from time to time.]