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Erik and Kira (and Suzanne) Eat Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse

Kira and Erik feeding each other pecan pie at Bobby's Colorado Steakhouse

Yes, this is the same “Bobby” that owned the bars & grills Bobby’s and Bobby’s Too, which we’ve already reviewed. It even has some of the same serving staff as the old places, which are now both closed. But the menu at Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is sufficiently different from the old Bobby’ses that we deemed it worth reviewing again. Also, we like it a lot.

It’s also the same location as the old Colorado Steakhouse that we didn’t get around to reviewing before it closed. But don’t worry, it wasn’t much of a restaurant back then, so you’re not missing out much. What? You want to hear about it anyway? Fine, I guess I can tell you one story. Kira and I stopped by late one night with a number of friends and the specials menu near the door had the soup of the day listed as “chicken tort.” We asked the server what the “tort.” stood for, and he assured us that it was “chicken tortellini” soup. This sounded delicious, and several of us ordered the chicken tortellini soup. You can probably guess by now that “tort.” did not stand for “tortellini”. At a well-run restaurant, the server would’ve come back to the table, apologized, and asked us if we wanted to change our order. But at the old Colorado Steakhouse, they just brought the chicken tortilla soup without comment. So yeah, you’re not missing much.

Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse. Friday, August 8th, 2014. Happy hour.

A big neon sign reading "Colorado Steakhouse"

The first thing that you’ll notice when you approach Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse is the enormous neon* sign out front. In fact, according to Bobby, current Bloomington laws forbid building new signs that big. He says that the only reason why Bobby’s new restaurant has “Colorado Steakhouse” as part of its name is because that’s what’s on the sign, and getting a new sign would’ve meant getting a smaller sign.

*Fun fact: “neon” signs don’t always have neon in them. Different mixtures of noble gasses (including helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon) produce different colors of light, and yet more colors are produced by using an argon-mercury mixture inside the tube and a phosphorescent paint on the outside of the tube.

On the outside, the steakhouse looks almost exactly the same as it did before, including the patio seating out front and the entrance to the “Saloon” in the back. But on the inside… well on the inside it looks exactly the same as it used to as well. The place has a cozy, homey feel to it with hardwood floors, visible wooden beams on the relatively low ceiling, and an enormous fireplace in the center of one of the dining rooms. The place is pretty big, but it’s divided up into smaller areas in a way that gives a more intimate feeling. Decor was just about the only thing the old place had going for it, and Bobby knows a good thing when he sees it.

The rear entrance to the "Saloon" part of Bobby's Colorado Steakhouse

The rear entrance to the “Saloon”.

Unless we’re heading to the Sunday brunch buffet (which is fabulous and probably deserves a review by itself), we usually head in the back door to the Saloon area, and that’s where we went for this visit. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the front of the restaurant and the bar area in the back. There are a couple of TVs back there, but the full menu is available in both locations. It’s the place where the regulars go, and the servers are always friendly and quick with a joke.

Suzanne gives two thumbs up to her fish and chips.

Suzanne, enjoying her fish and chips.

We met our friend Suzanne in the saloon on a Friday during happy hour (4-6pm), when they always have a free “munchie bar”. Bobby is big on specials and most workdays have some sort of regular drink special (Martini Mondays, 2 for Tuesday: double mixed drinks*, Winey Wednesday, and Sure Happy It’s Thursday: draft pints), but since I don’t drink alcohol and Kira drinks very little, we prefer to visit for the Friday munchie bar. The “munchies” are usually pretty good and in the past have included buffalo wings, potato skins, and nachos. On this particular visit, they had a tray full of Italian beef and a stack of little buns to put it on. The beef was tasty and very moist and all three of us liked it a lot. I could easily have just eaten that for dinner and been very happy. Heck, we would’ve been happy if we’d paid money for it. But there were other things on the menu that needed reviewing, so we had to order more food. The things we do for our readers…

*Frankly, I have no idea what a “double mixed drink” is.

There’s a bar menu and a restaurant menu, but you can order from both no matter where you sit. Most of the entrées on the restaurant menu come with access to the impressive salad bar. You’ll find all the usual salad fixings at the salad bar, but there’s also usually some kind baked dessert item (this time it was donut holes with apple butter), a soup (on this trip it was a properly labeled tortilla soup), and blinis and caviar. I find the the caviar and blinis* more amusing than tasty. I don’t really get caviar; it tastes very slightly of ocean, and that’s about it. The tort. tortilla soup was good, but not fantastic. It wasn’t particularly spicy, and Kira enjoyed the big chunks of chicken in it.

Kira at the salad bar.*For those few of our readers who didn’t grow up eating caviar, blinis are tiny little tasteless pancake things that are really just there because if you just spooned caviar into your mouth, you’d run out of caviar pretty quickly.

We’ve been to the new Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse a number of times, and we’ve enjoyed almost everything we’ve ordered. I heartily recommend the American Kobe beef hamburger, which is hands-down the best burger in town.

I’m about to go off on a digression about Kobe beef burgers in general. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you like. You may have heard of Kobe beef before; it’s renowned for being flavorful, tender, and well-marbled with fat. You’ll also hear plenty of stories about how the cows in Kobe are treated, including being brushed every day and fed beer to drink. Some of those stories might even be partly true. The beer, massages, and classical music are almost certainly not true. But if you’re eating in the U.S., you’re almost certainly not eating beef from cows grown in Kobe, Japan. Like “Champagne” or “Vidalia onions”, usage of the phrase “Kobe beef” is heavily controlled in Japan. Until 2012, it wasn’t even legal to export true “Kobe beef” out of Japan. If you see “Kobe” and “beef” on a menu item in the U.S., it’s probably not made with genuine “Kobe beef”, but rather with an American hybrid of the same kind of cattle. This is usually a good thing as otherwise it would be absurdly expensive, to the point where making a hamburger out of it would just be ridiculous. However, I’ve been to a number of places (only one in Bloomington) that serve hamburgers made with American Kobe beef, and they’re usually quite good. They’ve got a lot of fat in them, but instead of tasting greasy, they have a juicy, almost buttery quality to them. If you’re going to order a Kobe burger, do not order it medium-well or well-done, no matter how you usually like your burgers cooked. If you can’t bring yourself to eat a medium-rare burger, then just save your money and get a regular beef burger.

Rib-eye steak, steamed broccoli, deep-fried mushroom.

Erik’s dish: rib-eye, fried mushroom, and broccoli.

The Kobe burger at Bobby’s is a fantastic example of this kind of burger. It’s buttery and meaty and oh-so delicious. But… it’s not always consistently cooked. For whatever reason, sometimes when I order it medium rare, it comes out medium-well or even well-done. This has happened to me maybe three times out of the maybe ten times I’ve ordered the Kobe burger here. If this were just an ordinary hamburger, I wouldn’t even complain, but when they get it right, it’s so, so good. So if you want to taste the best burger in Bloomington, send it back if it comes out overdone. They’ll be happy to get you a new one, and you’ll probably get a visit from Bobby to make sure the second one came out done properly

A properly cooked piece of steak: brown on the outside and dark reddish pink on the inside.

A true medium-rare.

The one thing on the menu that I’d recommend most people avoid is the “Ultimate Grilled Cheese”. It’s made with bleu cheese, cheddar, and Swiss and topped with radish and arugula. Sometimes when I see a disgusting-sounding description like this on a menu, it turns out that it actually tastes fantastic. This is not one of those cases. The blue cheese is extremely overpowering, and the veggies do nothing to cut into that flavor. I can imagine somebody who would like this sandwich, but that person is definitely not me. Fortunately, there are a few other vegetarian items on the menu (eggplant parmesan, the quiche of the day, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a veggie quesadilla, and a couple of pasta dishes). There are a couple of vegan options, but not many, although there’s always the wonderful salad bar.

On this particular visit, we wanted to try some of the dishes that we hadn’t tried before. In particular, I (Erik) had somehow managed to avoid ordering steak at this steakhouse, so that’s what I decided to order. Initially, I’d planned on ordering the filet mignon or the prime rib, but the server talked me into the rib-eye instead. It was maybe a bit too fatty for me, but I think that’s just me. The meat was tasty and cooked as requested: a true medium rare, with a nice brown crust and a dark reddish-pink center. It came with a single fried mushroom, which was delicious. I’m not usually crazy about the standard white mushroom, but battered and fried, it is delicious. Also hot. I’m not sure what it is about fried mushrooms, but they seem to maintain their heat longer than other battered and deep-fried vegetables. I ordered broccoli for my side dish, and I think it was a tad over-cooked, but I like a bit more crunch in my cooked veggies than some.

Jack Daniels salmon with a wedge of lemon and a baked potato with dishes of butter and sour cream.

The Jack Daniels salmon

Kira ordered the Jack Daniels salmon with a baked potato. I thought the fish was a bit too fishy, but then I always think that about salmon (unless we cook it at home ourselves for some reason). Kira liked the salmon: “a good thick portion with good flavor.” The baked potato was also good, although, as she put it, “you can’t really screw up a baked potato.”*

*If you’re anything like me, the pedant in you really wants to provide a counterargument, but I think we all know what she means.

Suzanne ordered the fish and chips, which were very tender, as all good fish and chips should be. Nothing fancy, but definitely tasty. The “chips” were your standard thick-cut steak fries, tasty with ketchup and malt vinegar.*

*Kira is probably screwing up her face at this, since we have a difference of opinion about malt vinegar. The difference being that I’m right and she’s wrong. (Hey, if she disagrees, then she can volunteer to write up the reviews herself.)

A slice of pecan pie with gooey filling.To finish things off, we ordered a slice of pecan pie (Kira’s favorite kind of pie). It’s kind of a fad these days to make pecan pie with bourbon, and maybe there’s something to it, but the bourbon flavor was a bit too strong for Kira and I. But it was still a good pecan pie, and it’s hard to go wrong with that.

The short version: Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse has all the best parts of the old Bobby’s and not much of the old Colorado Steakhouse. The servers are friendly, especially back in the Saloon. There are lots of good food options: the Sunday brunch is fantastic, the Kobe burger is the best burger in town (but send it back if it’s overcooked), the salad bar is great, and there are free munchies on Fridays. But unless you’re a blue cheese masochist, avoid the grilled cheese.

 

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Kira and Erik (and Stu) Eat Aver’s Pizza

Erik and Kira in the line at the Aver's Pizza lunch buffet.Kira says that I should put the summary up at the top instead of at the end, and she’s probably right, so let’s try that this time.

Aver’s Pizza is one of our favorite places to order pizza from. The lunch buffet is an excellent deal with (mostly) fresh pizzas and an excellent salad bar.

Not too long ago*, someone asked if we’d skipped Aver’s Pizza, and I responded that it didn’t count because they were only a delivery service. This is, of course, completely false. Their east side location not only has a dining room but a lunch buffet as well. This means that we had to go back and fill in that gap (just when we thought we were almost done with the B’s).

*A little over 8 years ago, to be precise.

Aver’s is a chain, but it’s a local Bloomington chain with only three locations (four, if you include the dining room). We’ve ordered from them on many occasions, and their pizza is always tasty. Aver’s is easily one of the best two delivery-style* pizza joints in town. (The other is PizzaX.) They’ve got all the standard pizza toppings, plus a few of the more unusual ones. Kira and I are particularly fond of spinach, broccoli, zucchini, and artichoke hearts (but not necessarily all at the same time). We have yet to try any of their seafood toppings or the gyro meat.

Aver's signature Cream & Crimson pizza

The Cream & Crimson. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

You can also get a number of specialty sauces as well, including garlic & herb, alfredo, barbecue (which is really just bottled KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce), tzatziki, buffalo, and three different kinds of pesto. Personally, I prefer to stick to the standard marinara, but some of the specialty pizzas go well with the special sauces.

For example, their signature specialty pizza is the Cream & Crimson, which comes with alfredo sauce, garlic, dill, bacon, cheddar, gorgonzola, and red potatoes. It doesn’t actually sound like it would taste very good, but Kira and I both enjoy it. I’m particularly fond of the Veggie Revival, which comes with the garlic & herb sauce, spinach, zucchini, and fresh tomato.

*Mother Bear’s also has great pizza, but even though they do technically deliver, they definitely market themselves more as a restaurant that serves pizza than as a pizza delivery place that happens to have a dining room.

Aver’s Pizza. Saturday, August 9th, 2014. Lunchtime.

Aver's Pizza dining room, with Kira and Stu.

The dining room, after the lunch crowd had left.

 

Even tough we order pizza from Aver’s quite frequently, Kira and I had never been to the lunch buffet. Well, actually that’s not entirely true. As soon as we walked into the place, I realized that not only had I been there twice before, but that on the second visit, I’d forgotten the first visit too. Hopefully I won’t forget about it again if we decide to go a fourth time.

This isn’t one of those pizza-delivery “dining rooms” that’s really just one table shoved into the corner in front of the pick-up counter. It’s a good sized room, with plenty of seating, and even some interesting art on the walls. (I’m not sure if the art’s really worth $550 for a print, but it was pretty good when compared with the usual local-artist fare you’ll find on the walls at restaurants. The music was an unusual mix of soft rock and acoustic covers of pop songs (including an interesting rendition of “Mrs. Robinson“.

Stu at Aver's Pizza

This is Stu. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him without his hat on.

On this particular visit, we brought along our good friend and geocaching buddy Stu, who was excited to help us on our journey, as long as we took care of eating all the “bizarre crap” and allowed him to eat all the “bland, starchy, mid-west fare”. Since he has a nice camera, we decided to let him tag along. Most of the pretty pictures you see here are his work. Stu’s distaste for weird food extends to some of the pizzas on offer at the buffet, and he steadfastly avoided everything except the pepperoni pizza, the breadsticks, and the cinnamon knots. When asked if he wanted to try the Cream & Crimson, he instead went off on a 30 minute digression about cooking real homemade pizza with his dad. He’s an entertaining person to have around.

The big danger of a buffet, especially a pizza buffet, is that the food will sit around and get stale or soggy. The day we visited, this was not a problem, for the most part. The place was busy without being crowded, so most of the pizza stayed pretty fresh. The big exception was the vegan pizza, which featured tomato sauce, spinach, potatoes, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. No cheese, of course. It probably tasted good when it first went out, but it had clearly been sitting around a while before I got to it, so it was far from fresh. We couldn’t even really identify all of the vegetables anymore. The pizza buffet at Aver'sWhile munching on what I now guess must’ve been a potato slice, Kira guessed that it might’ve been a banana chip. I hadn’t read the ingredient list yet, so it seemed like a reasonable guess to me at the time.

But otherwise, the pizzas on offer were all fresh and tasty, including a cheese pizza, a pepperoni pizza, the house special cream & crimson, and a barbecue chicken pizza called “chicken masterpiece” There was also a buffalo-sauce flavored pizza called the “Buffy!” and a “Veggie Deluxe” with peppers, onions, olives, and tomatoes, but nobody tried those. Neither Kira nor I disliked the barbecue chicken pizza, but it wasn’t anyone’s favorite. (Kira doesn’t like banana peppers so she removed them.) As usual, the Cream & Crimson was delicious, but my personal favorite was the pepperoni. It’s a simple pizza, but easy to screw up. The pepperoni slices came out nice and crisp and while I’m sure that they were plenty fattening, there weren’t any of those grease-puddles that you often get on pepperoni pizzas.

Erik's plate. Top: vegan. Bottom (left to right): pepperoni, cheese, cream & crimson, chicken masterpiece

Erik’s plate. Top: vegan. Bottom (left to right): pepperoni, cheese, cream & crimson, chicken masterpiece

The pizza slices were thin, which is as it should be at a pizza buffet. Some people might come to the buffet in order to be able to eat enormous quantities of food for a cheap price, but I don’t have enough of an appetite for that. For me, a buffet is about variety, and small servings allow me get a lot more variety into my belly than big ones.

Salad bar at Aver's PizzaThe breadsticks were tasty, although there were a few in the bin that looked like they needed a few more minutes in the oven. The cinnamon knots* were sticky and sweet and delicious. They were like cinnamon rolls without the, uh, rolling. The salad bar was surprisingly well stocked, with three different kinds of leafy greens, four different kinds of meat, loads of veggies, and almost a dozen different dressings. When Kira got back from the salad bar, she announced “I had to refrain from putting all the meats on my salad.” The bacon bits appear to actually be crumbled up bacon. I’ll give them points for authenticity there, but someone should tell their chef that if the bacon is going to end up on a salad, it should be cooked until it’s nice and crispy. Chewy bacon is good for breakfast and maybe even for sandwiches, but not so much as a salad topping.

*I don’t know what they’re actually called, but they look like stubby little breadsticks covered in a sticky cinnamon glaze.

There were enough servers to handle the small crowd, and we didn’t have to wait long for refills. Or rather Stu didn’t have to wait long for refills. Kira and I took one look at the enormous sodas they brought us and immediately asked them to cut us off after one drink.

And at $7.99 per person (plus a dollar for the drink), the Aver’s buffet is a pretty good deal.

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Bombay Cafe

(Update: Bombay Cafe closed in August of 1014 and was eventually replaced by Amrit India. We have no idea if there is any connection between the old restaurant and the new one. -Erik, February 22nd, 2015)

Bombay Cafe. Thursday, May 22nd, 2014. Dinnertime.Kira at Bombay Cafe

Kira and I have been to Bombay Cafe a number of times, both at it’s old location and at its new one. Sometimes when a restaurant moves, it’s just a matter of location and decor. The new spot on the northeast corner of the Square* is more certainly more convenient and visible, and it allows for some outside seating too. The cafeteria-style interior of the old location has been replaced with something a bit more restauranty, with orange walls and plenty of wooden furnishings. If you look closely, you can still see the Quiznos trash cans and sneeze guards. But the move has brought other changes too.

*For those who are new to Bloomington, “the Square” refers to the area around the Monroe County Courthouse, between Kirkwood Avenue and 6th Street and between College Avenue and Walnut Street. It’s the center of the downtown area.

Left: naan. Upper left tray: goat curry. Upper right tray: coconut chicken. Lower left tray: daal.

Left: naan. Upper left tray: goat curry. Upper right tray: coconut chicken. Lower tray: rice and dal.

Some of my friends bemoan the loss of the freshly-prepared dishes of the old Bombay Cafe, but I don’t think anyone misses the long wait times for the food. As it stands now, all the dishes are prepared ahead of time, and you can pick and choose whatever combination of dishes you like. But the quality of those dishes is still outstanding, and I don’t think anyone would complain if it hadn’t once been otherwise. The particular dishes on offer vary from day to day, so if you want something in particular, make sure you check on their Facebook page first. But there’s always at least a few vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Upper right: daal. Lower left: chicken tika masala. Lower right: some kind of cheese dish.

Uppe: rice and dal. Lower left: chicken tika masala. Lower right: some kind of cheese dish.

Kira and I are both fond of the butter chicken, but on this particular trip, we wanted to try some different things. I had goat* curry and coconut chicken, while Kira tried the chicken tika masala and some kind of cheese dish whose name I can’t remember. The goat curry was a little too spicy for me, but not for Kira, although she wished it had more meat in it. The coconut chicken, chicken tika masala, and cheese dish were excellent. The naan is always tasty, if sometimes a little burnt around the edges. I’m not usually crazy about dal, but I like Bombay Cafe’s dal. The owner told us that they’d dropped the old family recipe in favor of a more complex flavor that has a few bits of veggies thrown into the usual mix of lentils. If you’re sensitive to spicy food like I am, I’d stick to the dishes that they tell you are “not spicy”. Some places I can handle “not very spicy” or “only a little spicy”, but Bombay Cafe is not one of those places. When in doubt, the staff will be happy to provide a taste of any of the dishes they have.

*My notes say “gort” curry. I’m not sure if this is my typo or if I was faithfully recording a mistake on the label. This review sat half-written in the queue for a long time, so my memory isn’t very fresh.

Erik, at Bombay CafeI do regret that I never got a chance to try some of the odder-sounding items on the menu at the old location. They’ve still got a sign that advertises “innovative Indian food”, but most of the dishes they offer now aren’t exactly what I’d call “innovative.” Although it is one of the few places in town that regularly serves goat meat. (Although to be honest, when it comes to curry, I can’t really tell much of a difference between the various different kinds of red meat.)

If the owner is there (and he almost always is), he’ll also be happy to talk your ear off about the food (or about anything else too). He’ll tell you if a dish is traditional everyday Indian food, or if it’s really only eaten on special occasions. If you ask, he’ll talk about the trials and tribulations of running a restaurant, from why he decided not to dump his Quiznos franchise for his own restaurant to why he doesn’t have a cash register. Fortunately, he always maintains an air of friendliness and helpfulness, so I enjoy engaging him in conversation whenever I’m there.

The “combos” come with naan, rice, dal, and two dishes. The regular size is usually enough for me or Kira, and will cost you eight dollars. If you opt for the large combo, it will cost you somewhere between twelve and fourteen dollars, depending on whether you get vegetable, chicken, or other meat dishes Even though you’ll order your food at the counter, they’ll ask you to pay when your’e done eating. It’s really easy to forget, and I’ve almost walked out the door without paying on more than one occasion.

Making a crêpe at Bombay Cafe

Erik eating a crêpe at Bombay CafeProbably the best new addition is the shawarma and crêpe stand that appears outside the Cafe on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. We’ve never had the shawarma, but when we visited, I insisted on trying a banana-Nutella crêpe. It was fun to watch the crêpe-maker at work, and he graciously allowed me to take lots of pictures while he worked. And of course it was very tasty.

So here’s the short version: Consistent quality Indian food at a good price; not as freshly prepared as it was at the old location. Don’t forget to pay on your way out. Also: crêpes!

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Best Taste

Best Taste Authentic Chinese Cuisine. Saturday, May 27th, 2014. Dinnertime.

Erik, trying to find the best way to eat his dish.You might have a hard time finding Best Taste online as it’s brand spanking new. At the time I write this (May 31st, 2014), the only online evidence for the existence of this Chinese restaurant is a Yelp profile. It doesn’t seem to have a website, a Facebook page, nor does it appear on Google Maps (but I’ll fix that soon enough). And yet it exists. Specifically, it exists in downtown Bloomington, tucked in between the 4th Street parking garage and the Serendipity Martini Bar. The place is so new that their sign only went up a few days before we showed up.

I’m a bit of an amateur linguist, and so I can’t help but try to compare the English and Chinese names of the restaurants. If you don’t share my fascination, you can skip to the next paragraph. Best Taste’s Chinese name is 百味, which is probably pronounced bǎiwèi. (For the record, I don’t read or speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or any of the Sinitic languages. What little I do know comes from playing mahjong or is carried over from Japanese kanji. Most of this, I figured out through internet research.) By itself, the first character 百 means “hundred” or “many”. (I actually knew that one without looking it up!) The second character 味 means “taste”."百味 Best Taste" If you type “百味” into Google Translate, it will tell you that it means “Subway”, but that’s kind of misleading. Near as I can tell, the weird translation is mostly due to the fact that the sandwich chain Subway uses the name 赛百味 (sàibǎiwèi). For the record, Best Taste isn’t underground, and it doesn’t serve $5 footlongs.

Anyone still awake? I guess I can get back to the restaurant review now.

Kira's impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

Kira’s impression of a chopstick-toothed tiger.

On its old temporary sign, Best Taste advertised “Authentic Chinese Cuisine”, and as near as we can tell, they deliver upon that promise. Of course, neither of us has ever been to China, but we picked up on a couple promising signs. Firstly, the vast majority of the customers were not speaking English to each other or to the servers. Secondly, the menu had plenty of items that were clearly not directed at the standard stereotypical American customer. Some of the less common dishes included “Fried Pig kidney, Pig liver, and Chicken” and “Fried Lamb Testicle with Cumin”. I was impressed that they included an English translation of every item on the menu. Many Chinese restaurants seem to assume that such dishes are so unappealing to Americans that they don’t even bother translating them on the menu. I was also impressed by how few Chinglishisms there were on the menu. Apart from some capitalization oddities and a few slightly non-idiomatic translations (e.g. “Larger Intestines” instead of “large intestines”), the only confusing things were the “Stir Fried Shredded Pork with Capsicum” (are those supposed to be bell peppers or chile peppers?) and “Sautéed Beef with Agrocybe Cylindracea”. (I had to look that last one up. Apparently that’s the scientific name for “poplar mushrooms”.)

"Iron pot" with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

“Iron pot” with brisket, potatoes, and cilantro.

But there are plenty of less adventurous things on the menu that are still interesting, like hot pots (where they bring a pot of broth on a burner and you cook meat and veggies right at your table) and what they call an “iron pot” (basically a meal served in the wok it was cooked in). Upon the server’s recommendation, I ordered the “Brisket with Potatoes Iron Pot” which we both found delicious and greasy (in a good way). In addition to the beef brisket and the potatoes, the dish featured fresh chopped cilantro, which added a nice aroma, but was maybe a bit too strong a flavor to be eaten directly. It came with doughy bits of bread that were very handy for sopping up all the wonderful sauce and grease. I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of bread product. It reminded us of steamed dumplings.

"Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus", also featuring cucumbers.

Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus

Kira also took a recommendation from the server and ordered the “Sliced Pork with Egg and Black Fungus.” The “black fungus” in question appears to be black mushroom. The green vegetable in the dish which looks like zucchini is actually cucumber, which was both surprising and surprisingly good. Kira and I both liked the dish, but the brisket iron pot was definitely the winner. It’s been a whole week since we ate there, and my mouth is salivating at the memory of it.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

The correct way to put a straw into a can of soda.

Our server gets bonus points for coming up with good suggestions, knowing the correct way to put a straw into a can of soda, and for his Cosmo Kramer t-shirt, but service was a bit slow and it was very hard to flag someone down, despite the small dining room. (We also think that he should have worn his belt a smidge higher on his waist. Note: we did not take pictures of that.) Even though the place was pretty busy, a little more eye contact with the customers would’ve made things a lot easier.

Overall, we thought that despite the somewhat slow service, the food was excellent and interesting. The “authentic” description is well deserved, as near as we can tell. We’ll definitely be back soon.

 

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Erik and Kira Eat Bangkok Thai Cuisine

Erik, eating curry at Bangkok Thai CuisineNow that we’re back, Kira and I will be trying something a little different. Instead of us each writing a separate review, we’ll pool our thoughts together in a single review. I (Erik) will probably be the one that does most of the writing, so you can blame all the rambling tangents on me. But I’ll do my best to make sure that both of our opinions are properly represented here.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine. Sunday, May 11th, 2014. Dinner time.

Bloomington has a lot of Thai restaurants: Esan Thai, Siam House, two different My Thai Cafes, Delicious Thai Kitchen, and now Bangkok Thai Cuisine. (I’m not even counting the recently closed Thai restaurants Basil Leaf and A Roy D.) Kira, eating crab Rangoon at Bangkok Thai CuisineWe love Thai food, but most of the existing restaurants are pretty good, so we weren’t actively looking for more options on the Thai cuisine front. But we do what we must for our readers.

Bangkok Thai Cuisine is in a somewhat hidden location, tucked behind the east-side Kroger on Covenanter Road, a street that doesn’t get a lot of traffic. And so it’s no surprise that restaurants in this location don’t tend to last very long. The first time Kira and I ate at here, it was called Limestone Grill, and it was a pretty fancy place. The second time we ate here, it was Nadia’s Bistro, and it specialized in locally-produced ingredients. But the decor hadn’t changed very much and it still felt like a pretty fancy place. Now that it’s a Thai restaurant, the decor is still very similar (including the one wall that is covered in some sort of abstract faux-stone relief mural),

Some sort of abstract faux-stone relief mural. so it feels a bit more upscale than it might otherwise. They’ve made a few changes, like the bamboo-style chairs, presumably to ensure that the customers don’t forget that they’re in an Asian restaurant. Kira has put forth the hypothesis that it’s all really the same restaurant and that the cook just gets bored every few years.

Chicken satay (upper left), fried tofu (bottom right), crab Rangoon (left and right), spring rolls (upper right and bottom), and three sauces (from left to right: sweet and sour, cucumber, and peanut)

Chicken satay (upper left), fried tofu (bottom right), crab Rangoon (left and right), spring rolls (upper right and bottom), and three sauces (from left to right: sweet and sour, cucumber, and peanut).

We ordered a sampler for our appetizer, which came with chicken satay, spring rolls, fried tofu, crab Rangoon, and three sauces (peanut, cucumber, and sweet and sour). The chicken satay was good, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a chicken satay appetizer that wasn’t. Even though I’m not usually one for spring rolls or egg rolls, I really liked the spring rolls here. Kira recommends using the cucumber sauce on the spring rolls, even though sweet and sour would be more traditional. As usual, the tofu is really just another vehicle for the sauces, which were good, but not unusually so. Kira thinks that the wonton wrapper was a bit on the chewy side, and I suspect that crunchier would’ve been better, but I still liked it. My usual complaint about crab Rangoon is that it’s mostly stuffed with cream cheese with barely any crab*, but no such problem here.

*Yes, I know that it’s usually processed whitefish and not meat from an actual crab, but my point still stands.

Yellow curry with chicken, carrots, potatoes, and onion.I ordered the yellow curry (with chicken, carrots, and potatoes), and I was pleased to find that there was no shortage of chicken. In fact, they might’ve gone too far in the other direction and shorted me on the vegetables. Kira ordered the pad Thai because you can’t go to a Thai restaurant in the U.S. and not try the pad Thai. It might be cliche, but it’s still our favorite Thai dish.  Kira thought that the noodles were a bit on the chewy side and that the sauce tasted a little too much of peanuts. I didn’t mind the flavor (peanuts go well with pad Thai, in my opinion), but if I ever get the craving for pad Thai in particular, this won’t be where I go.

Yellow curry in its native habitatWe both ordered our dishes with a spiciness** level of two out of five stars. (I have no idea why this is something that only happens at Thai restaurants. Ten minutes with Google has failed to answer this question. If I ever figure it out, dear readers, I’ll be sure to let you know.) Deciding on how many spiciness stars at a new restaurant is always a difficult decision for someone like me. I do like the flavor that often comes with a little bit of heat***, but if it gets too spicy, I simply can’t finish the meal. I’ve tried to just grin-and-bear-it before, but then I just end up feeling ill. Kira is somewhat more tolerant of spiciness, but not by much. A two-star curry or pad Thai is sometimes perfect and sometimes a smidgen too hot for me. Pad ThaiAt Bangkok, the pad Thai was probably a little too spicy for me and just fine for Kira. Neither of us could detect any heat at all in the curry. Your mileage may vary, but you can use our experience as a reference point.

**I’m well aware that there are two meanings of the word “spicy”. I think it’s perfectly obvious which meaning I’ve intended here. Sadly, ordinary colloquial English does not have a simple, unambiguous way to refer to the sensation brought on by chemicals like capsaicin. Scientists use the word “pungent”, but to me, that usually means strong smelling, so it’s still unambiguous.
***The same goes for the word “hot”. Anyone who decides to deliberately misinterpret me here is the bad kind of pedant. And coming from a self-admitted pedant, that’s a nasty insult.

The service was friendly and prompt, but mostly unremarkable. We asked for some extra rice to take home with our leftovers, which was happily provided. We expected there would be a small charge for that, but we also expected the server to mention how much that charge would be before heading off to get the rice. There was, but he didn’t. It turns out it was $2, which feels a bit on the steep side to me. Dinner entrées are in the $11 – $17 range and lunch entrées are $10 – $12. These prices are comparable to the other Thai restaurants in town (although Delicious Thai Kitchen is slightly cheaper).

Ultimately, I’d say that we were satisfied by Bangkok Thai Cuisine, but given the many excellent options we have for Thai food in Bloomington, we probably won’t be back there very often.

(Note: We’ve decided to drop the numerical scores that we used to give to restaurants. Looking back on the old reviews, they seem to be wildly inconsistent, and you’re better off reading our actual words to get an idea as to whether we liked a place. If you don’t feel like reading the entire review, you can jump to the last paragraph to see our summary.)

 

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Kira Eats Buffalo Wild Wings

(Way back in 2007, we ate at a bunch of places in a row (Bucceto’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, BuffaLouie’s), so there was a bit of a back-log in writing reviews. For some reason, we wrote the reviews for Buffalo Wild Wings, and we were waiting to publish them until after we’d written the reviews for Bucceto’s. We never got around to writing the reviews for Bucceto’s, so these reviews just sat in the draft queue for 7 years. This is really a long, roundabout way of saying that these are old reviews, but you’ve probably never seen them before. -Erik, May 2014)

Kira, in front of her bacon cheeseburger at Buffalo Wild WingsToo many wings in a row! I’m not a big wing fan, but if they are cheap and good, I’m happy to eat a bucket full. I had never been to a Buffalo Wild Wings before, but Erik kept saying that he had been to one someplace else and didn’t really like it, so I wasn’t looking forward to going.

The interior was huge, with ten million more TV’s then I thought there would be. It is very much a sports bar, and the seating area is just one huge rectangle (part of it with bar seating) with TV’s hanging from the ceiling on every possible side. When we were there they were tuned to at least 5 different channels, showing baseball, lacrosse, and trivia. At least there was variety.

More than ten million TV's.There was also variety in wings. They specialize in wings with about 15 different types of sauce, and display them in a supposed spectrum of spiciness.  We decided to get 18 wings in three different sauces: mild, honey BBQ, and parmesan garlic. The parmesan garlic was really good. The other 2 were tasty, but nothing spectacular. The spectrum isn’t quite true, since the mild was quite a bit spicier then the honey BBQ.

On top of the wings, I decided to order the honey BBQ bacon burger to see what a non-wing menu item would taste like. They didn’t ask how I wanted it done, but it came out very, very well done and burnt around the edges so I sent it back. They offered to make me a new one, but the wings we ordered were actually fairly meaty, so I decided not to bother, and they took it off the check.

Kira eating a burger at Buffalo Wild WingsEven though there was hardly anybody there the service was still quite slow. The server was nice, though.

For the price, I probably won’t go back. There are better and cheaper wings elsewhere. But I think they have specials on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so maybe I’ll go back then when it’s cheaper, and I’ll just know not to expect too much.

 

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Erik Eats Wild

Erik with his wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I don’t know why my mouth is open like that.

(Way back in 2007, we ate at a bunch of places in a row (Bucceto’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, BuffaLouie’s), so there was a bit of a back-log in writing reviews. For some reason, we wrote the reviews for Buffalo Wild Wings, and we were waiting to publish them until after we’d written the reviews for Bucceto’s. We never got around to writing the reviews for Bucceto’s, so these reviews just sat in the draft queue for 7 years. This is really a long, roundabout way of saying that these are old reviews, but you’ve probably never seen them before. -Erik, May 2014)

I’d been to a Buffalo Wild Wings before, and I wasn’t impressed. The food had tasted fine, but I thought it wasn’t worth the money, and the ambiance left much to be desired. I also recall that something about the service ticked me off, but I can’t remember exactly what it was. It was something like no free refills or an extra charge for ranch dressing. They’ve apparently fixed whatever that thing was that annoyed me because on our most recent visit, they charged neither for soda refills nor for dipping sauce (though the menu seemed to indicate that the side of ranch would cost extra if you were taking advantage of their Tuesday or Thursday wing specials).

Buffalo Wild Wings wings

From left to right: buffalo, barbecue, garlic Parmesan

Otherwise, the place is almost exactly as I remember it. The prices aren’t exactly exorbitant (50-67 cents per wing, depending on how many you order) but they just don’t seem to be worth it when you consider how many other good deals on good wings you can find (check out Bobby’s on Friday). (Well, not anymore. -Erik, May 2014) The Parmesan garlic wings are almost worth the price, but once you factor in the atmosphere, there’s just no reason to come back. There was a giant touch-screen video game machine taking up a significant chunk of our table, advertising crappy knock-offs of internet Flash games for arcade prices. We couldn’t figure out if it could be turned off. The dining room is filled with televisions, most of which aren’t pointed anywhere useful. At any given point in time, a quarter of the televisions are advertising something. Even the copy on the menus reads like ad copy. After informing the reader that there are free refills on sodas, the menu boasts “Yes, you read that right,” as though they’d just given some sort of big revelation.

Is Buffalo Wild Wings terrible? No, it’s not even that bad. But it’s not hard to find buffalo wings of comparable quality, for a lower price, and served with far fewer commercial interruptions.

 

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