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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

First, I would like to aknowledge that I have been a slacker and have not posted to this blog in many months. I’m going to try and do better with posts at least once a week or so.

Now, to Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse (www.restaurantwasabi.com) located at 150 Montrose West Ave, Akron, OH 44321. Joe and I wanted some hibachi last night for dinner, but were dissapointed when we discovered how difficult it would be to fulfill our last minute craving. Who knew that hibachi was so popular on Saturday nights and I’m sure the fact that it was Homecoming for half the high schools in Northeast Ohio did not help. Well, we called a few places for reservations and could not get in until after 8pm, but we had to be at our friends house by 9pm. So, we settled for the regular dining room at Wasabi.

Upon entering, you walk over a very zen coi pond with flowing water. The ambiance of the restaurant is very relaxing, calming and comfortable. We were seated immediately, per our 7:15pm reservation in the dining room right in front of the sushi bar. We noticed three private dining rooms off to the left of the room, where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor. Looked like a fun room for a small party or gathering.

The menu offered some nice sushi options, along with teriyaki, noodle, rice and bento entrees. I really wanted some sushi, but my limited options at 4 months pregnant made me think that it was not even worth it if I could not order the good stuff. As a result, I ordered the filet mignon teriyaki. It came with a very fresh salad with ginger dressing, miso soup that was full of yummy tofu and tasty dark green wakame. The filet came sliced in terikayi sauce on a hot plate with a side of white rice. The meat was tender and flavorful. I barely even had to chew it, kind of melted in my mouth…very nice.

Joe ordered three different sushi options, including super white tuna sushi, Philadelphia roll and a lobter roll (the highlight of our dinner). The lobster roll consisted of Lobster Tempura, Avocado, Cucumber & Masago wrapped with Soy Paper. It had a great crunch from the cucumber, combined with the warm lobster tempura and mushiness of the avacado. The flavors and textures were so great in my mouth. Very fresh and beautifully presented.

Joe and I will be back to try the hibachi, but not on a Saturday night. We highly recommend Wasabi for the fresh and delicious sushi. There are some really fun and interesting sushi options. Let me know your thoughts if you have been to Wasabi or if you give it a try in the near future.

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I’m happy to report that a new Vietnamese restaurant has moved in less than 10 minutes from my house!  Maybe you have read about my disappointing experience with the other Vietnamese restaurant down the street, Tay Do.  After that fiasco, I was sad that there were no Vietnamese options near me that I would actually eat at. 

#1 Pho has opened a new location at 7778 West 130th Street in Middleburg Heights (440-888-2150).  I have already been there twice, once for takeout and once for dinner in the restaurant.  Both experiences have been delicious with very friendly service.  Between me and my husband, we have already tried almost all of their Bun (Rice Vermicelli) options.  The vegetables were very fresh, the meat was perfectly seasoned and the crispy spring rolls were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  In fact, I think the quality is even better than that served at the other #1 Pho location on Superior Ave. and East 31st, near Chinatown.  The spring rolls were also very tasty.  We tried a dessert of fried bananas with honey, which were good, but not great.  Probably not the best place for dessert.

The new location in Middleburg Heights used to be a sushi restaurant.  #1 Pho did not do too much to update the decor.  The new location does not feature the trendy decor of its counterpart on Superior Ave., but it is clean with simple decorations you would expect to see at an Asian restaurant. 

I spoke with the manager, who is one of the siblings of the family that owns #1 Pho.  He was very friendly and hooked me up with a cup of tea and some candy while I waited for my takeout.  He told me that they are also opening a high end Vietnamese restaurant on East 4th downtown. 

So, if you are in the mood for some Vietnamese, give #1 Pho in Middleburg Heights a try.

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Hot Dog DinerI treated my brother and his friend to a celebration lunch at the Hot Dog Diner this past weekend.  The reason for celebration is a whole other story, but we were totally celebrating the awesome comfort food at the Hot Dog Diner located at 4407 Brookpark Road in Parma.  The decor is simple Cleveland memorabilia on bright mustard yellow walls.  It’s a happy place with friendly and fast service.

My brother got the Fry Daddy Burger and Tyler’s Cheezy Fries Dog.  This would be the two items on the menu that come with cheese-covered french fries on top of your sandwich.  He said that it was one of the best burgers he has ever had the pleasure to eat.  He loved how it tasted homemade and the texture of a hand packed patty.  In fact, he had half of the burger in his stomach before I could even get my camera out for a picture. 

My brother’s friend ordered two Wagon Train Dogs, topped with chili, sour cream and onions.  He enjoyed every bite.  I devoured a Windy City Wiener, Snappy style with mustard, onion, tomatoes, pickle spear, cucumber and celery salt.  We shared a large chili cheese fries.  There was not a drop of chili left on any of our paper hot dog holders!

The buns are soft, the hot dogs have a little crunch to the skin and the toppings are so tasty and fresh.  What a treat of yumminess with a side of fat and cholesterol.  It was worth every bite:-)

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Empress Court Chinese restaurant at 8307 E Washington St. in Chagrin Falls, OH (440-543-8231) is a great place to get your Chinese food fix.  My family and I have been eating at this friendly restaurant since I was in high school back in the mid 90’s.  It is located in a nondescript strip of stores and provides your typical Chinese restaurant decor.  If you want some tasty and fresh Chinese food from the Eastside suburbs, Empress Court is a great option.

My dad and I really like the Wor Sue Gai.  This is chicken breast that is breaded and fried, placed over a bed of lettuce with a brown gravy poured over top.  It is typically served with white rice.  The chicken is always so moist, not dry at all.  Typically, I am a fan of dark meat, which tends to have more flavor.  But, the Wor Sue Gai, made with breast meat, is perfect.

I have always really enjoyed their wonton soup.  The wontons have a great flavor and always taste fresh, like they were just made.  The wonton wrapper is a nice thick “noodle” with tasty meat inside, these were not just pulled out of the freezer and thrown into the pot.  They serve shrimp chips on the side, which seems to be something offered at only select Chinese restaurants.  I could eat those crunchy shrimp chips all day.  I like to dip them in my soup and listen to them make that “Rice Krispie” popping sound:-)

Early this week, we ate dinner at Empress Court and tried a new dish…the Sweet and Sour Shrimp.  Each piece of shrimp was quite large and the sauce had a perfect balance of sweet and sour.  Even the green peppers had a nice crunch of freshness.  Of course, the Sweet and Sour Chicken is also great.

You can’t go wrong with Empress Court.  The food is fresh, the service is always prompt and friendly and the prices are very reasonable.  I think they do a great take our business, too.  Everytime we are there we notice lots of people stopping to pick-up their dinner.  Next time you have a Chinese food craving, which is like once a week for me, try Empress Court!

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My last post about Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential got me thinking about those restaurants that may not be quite so good.  You know those with the high school kid cooking your pizza who just wants to finish his shift so he can go drinking with his friends or the server with an attitude or, my favorite, the crazy lady who owns the place.  Yep, unfortunately, I have a story about that lady.  Specifically, the lady who owns Tay Do Vietnamese restaurant on Snow Road in Parma.

This is actually a sad story, because I really liked Tay Do the first 4 times I ate there.  I remember the day I discovered the restaurant only a little over a mile from my home.  I was so excited to find a great Vietnamese restaurant so close.  They probably would have known me by name there in no time.

It all went down one evening when Joe and I decided to order dinner for pick-up from Tay Do.  I called to order a Pho soup for myself and a beef dish for Joe.  Excited for a yummy dinner, I jumped in my car and drove down the street to pick-up our order.  The lady who owns the place was friendly just as she had been the last few times I stopped in.  She made small talk while I waited for the order, it was ready just a few minutes later. 

What a disappointment when Joe opened his Styrofoam container to find SQUID, not beef.  I called Tay Do back immediately to describe the mix-up and let them know that I would be coming back to get our beef dish.  Unfortunately, the phone call did not go too smoothly.  Once I explained their mistake, the lady owner became quite defensive on the phone.  “No!  You order squid!” she said.  “Sorry, I’m sure that we did not order squid.  My husband does not like squid.” I explained.  This coversation went back and forth a few times.  Finally, I told her that I would come back to get our correct beef dish.  She agreed, but was not happy about it.

I was so hungry at that point that we decided it would be best if Joe drove back up there to make the exchange.  Now, here is where it gets crazy!  Joe took the squid dish with him to show that it really was the wrong order.  The lady took the squid from him and gave him his beef.  Joe thanked her and walked out the door.  A few moments later, as Joe was about to get into his car, the front door to the restaurant opens and it is the lady, with squid Styrofoam container in hand.  She is yelling at Joe, “You eat Squid!  You eat Squid!”  At this point, Joe is quite annoyed.  He looks are her, says, “You are crazy”,  gets into his car and drives away.

How many ways can this situation simply be wrong?  She is acusing her customer of eating half of an incorrect order and returning it.  Who would really go to all that trouble to eat half of their meal, call to say it is the wrong meal, get in the car and drive back just to get a new meal?  But, the scary part to both Joe and I is that we felt like she was angry that there was not enough squid left in the container to throw it on a plate and serve it to the next person who orders that entree.  How about the fact that if she thought we ate some that maybe she gave us a skimpy portion in the first place. 

Then, I think, here she is hanging out the door, yelling at a customer, while she has a dining room of customers.  What were those people thinking?  So, this whole experience was wrong on so many levels.  Who treats their customers like that, especially when it was your fault in the first place!

So, I am sad that I can’t go back to Tay Do, becuase their food really is very good.  But, how can I support a restaurant who treats their customers in such a crazy manner?

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I have to tell you all about my very favorite Italian restaurant….Conte’s Italian Cafe in Brook Park.  If you are looking for the real thing, that is an Italian family cooking homemade noodles and sauces, then Conte’s is it.  Joe and I crave this place! 

Conte’s is a cozy little storefront restaurant located at 15266 Sheldon Rd., Brook Park, Ohio 44142, (216) 898-0281.  The family that owns Conte’s is always smiling and ready to greet you as you walk in the door.  The restaurant is small, only about 5 booths and maybe 5 tables, so it can get a little crowded.  You do not go here for the ambiance.  You go for the amazing food. 

Lets get to the food.  Joe and I went to Italy on our honeymoon and we say that Conte’s serves up some Italian dishes that certianly rival those coming right out of Italy.  Our favorites are the pasta carbanara (pasta in a creamy sauce made with eggs, with onion and pancetta) and the fettucine alfredo.  These two dishes are to die for and you will certainly have left overs for the next day.  I swear they serve you like a pound of pasta as your entree.  The pasta carbanara and fettucine alfredo are so creamy and rich, with the most amazing taste of homemade. 

I also really like the chicken marsala.  The chicken is so tender that you do not even need a knife, it just melts in your mouth.  I heard that the Frutti de Mari is out of this world, if you like seafood.  I want to try it someday, but I always end up getting the pasta carbanara or fettucine alfredo, becuase I have such a craving for it.  There is also a wonderful veal dish I had once, but cannot remember the name of.  It is veal and eggplant with tomatoes and it is delicious.

So, for true Italian food that is homemade with love by the most adorable and friendly Italian family in Cleveland, give Conte’s a try.  I think you will be hooked just like me and Joe:-)

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Last Friday night Joe and I decided to try a new restaurant.  We had been talking about trying a Korean restaurant in Cleveland ever since we went to this great Korean Restaurant in Los Angeles Korea Town earlier this year.  I did a little research online and only came across two Korean restaurant options in Cleveland: Seoul Hot Pot and Korea House.  We chose Seoul Hot Pot at 3709 Payne Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114.

The restaurant looks a bit seedy from the outside, but it is actually quite cozy on the inside.  Parking is limited, we parked in the lot across the street.  This restaurant has an interesting story, it used to be a pizza place.  When the current Korean owners purchased the pizza place they were not sure if Americans would be interested in Korean food.  They originally learned how to cook Italian and kept the place as an Italian restaurant.  Then, many local Koreans and exchange students in the area began asking the owners to cook their favorite Korean dishes.  For a period of time, they offered both Italian and Korean food on the menu.  The owners soon realized that both Americans and Koreans had more  interest in the Korean food, so now the menu is Korean only.

Joe and I ordered the more popular Korean dishes.  Joe got the bulgogi, which was thinly sliced pieces of marinated beef and vegetables.  The bulgogi also comes with an assortment of side dishes, refered to as Banchon in Korean.  The Banchon inlcudes kimchees, kung namul (bean sprouts), mook (a jello made out of acorn powder), soybeans in a soy sauce marinade, and more. Unfortunately, we did not sit at table with a built in grill, where you would normally grill the bulgogi at your table right in front of you.  We will definitely be back and sit at a grill table next time.

I ordered the Bibimbap (“mixed rice”), which is rice topped with vegetables, beef and egg, and served with a dollop of chili pepper paste.  It was so delicious!  I visited South Korean back in 2000 and stayed with a host family who cooked me homemade Bibimbap and the Seoul Hot Pot’s version was just as good.

Not only is the food excellent, but the service was also great.  There was only one young girl waiting on all the tables in the restaurant.  She was friendly and attentive.

I highly recommend Seoul Hot Pot for a fun food experience.  Try this place for something different.  And, the food is very healthy!

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