Archive for Restaurants

Chicken Lettuce Wraps, P F Chang inspired and better!

Last time we went to P F Chang, wasn’t a very good experience. The waitress was preoccupied, food was mediocre etc. So as a revenge I made P. F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps at home and I assure you these turned out better than the original. Of course they were the improvised version. Made them little more colorful by using red bell peppers and spring onions. The added red and green. Why not? After all the food appreciation starts from it’s looks. Something that looks good and smells good, we assume it will taste good. Almost always it does, unless you have forgotten the salt! 

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Ingredients: 

  • 1 chicken breast, skinless and boneless
  • 2 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (I like dark meat, that’s why I mixed it. If you don’t. Then use one more breast)
  • 1 can water chest nuts
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce/ soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice/ vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6-7 lettuce leaves
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil

Method: 

  1. Chop chicken, mushrooms, water chest nuts, bell pepper and spring onions into tiny pieces
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add chicken. Saute’ chicken for a while on medium to high, till it’s dry, golden brown and starts to give away some oil.
  3. Take the chicken out and set it aside. Add mushrooms, water chest nuts, red bell pepper and spring onions to the pan and saute for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Once the mix looks dry add rest of the ingredients, except lettuce leaves. Mix it well and add chicken. Mix it for a minute more.
  5. Set lettuce leaves in a plate and add the mix in each leaf. Serve it.

 

 

Pho Hoa at Quincy, a Cultural Compatibility Lesson

I have had the best Pho Hoa of my life here, I have never been to Vietnam and neither do I have any Vietnamese friends.

One needs a bit of cultural sensitivity and adaptability to enjoy the food here. The place is always full of loads of Vietnamese people so I assume the food must be as close to authentic as possible.

Go to this restaurant only if you understand the meaning of hole in a wall. Go for great tasting food. Not for great ambiance. Not for great service. Not for great presentation, or anything else. Just go for food and you will go again and again and again.

Here are 5 tips for you to be able to enjoy the lovely food here: 

  1. Stick to basic order while ordering food. The staff here is not too good with English so don’t load them with too many specifications.
  2. Order Pho Hoa, that’s what you are here for. Other than that Beef Vermicelli, Summr roll Sampler and Quail are nice. I have tried curry it’s not that exceptional.
  3. They don’t have conventional niceties but they have a good service in their own way. They will serve you green tea when you arrive so don’t get upset if they forget to ask for any other drinks.
  4. They just assume that the food is good, and if it’s not you will let them know. So don;t hold it against them if they don’t come and ask how you are doing, and if everything is ok.
  5. Please check your bill before you sign. Some people have been overcharged. Not me.

Eating here is more like eating in some other part of the world, so be accommodative and enjoy the great food!

Thank you Zach Braiker for the steamy picture! 

 

Location Location Location, Is Just Not Enough…

Location Location Location! How some make good use of it and some waste it.

Yes, that’s true not all restaurant make use of an excellent location. Two restaurants at two equally great locations gave me two extreme experiences. Fox’s Lobster House at Nubble Light House in Maine and Salish Lodge and Spa at Snoqualmei Falls.

It was a early September beautiful New England evening by the light house. Dramatic location with breath taking beauty. We went to this restaurant with cutest tagline “nibble at nubble”. But the tagline was end of the nice things about the restaurant. We made a mistake of ordering the entire Lobster Dinner complete with lobster bisque, corn on cob, muscles etc etc. Must say I have never had worst lobster bisque than that one in my whole life. It was a great example of how terrible a lobster bisque can be.  Our beautiful Maine weekend was spoiled by this terrible dinner. When you are at Nubble or York, keep away from this restaurant. See the view sitting on the rocks and go somewhere else to eat. This one is cheap and cheap.

And it was late October cloudy morning in Seattle when we went to Salish for breakfast. Chill in the air and clouds around reminded me of Matheran near Mumbai in Monsoon. Just replacing the green trees with colorful fall trees. The restaurant at Salish Lodge is just perfect for this location. There can’t be anything better than ceremonious creamy hot chocolate which is made at the table and served in well designed tall cups. Everything ordered for breakfast was perfect. Whether it was elegant Eggs Benedict on Crab or simple Vegetable Omelet, it was perfect. When you are in Seattle, it’s worth driving for 30 minutes and have that best cup of hot chocolate with anything on the menu for breakfast.

This extreme difference in two restaurants at great location, once again emphasizes that great location is just one of the things and not the only thing great restaurants must have.

Too Many Cooks DO NOT Spoil the Broth: A Case…

In most cases having too many cooks do spoil the broth, but with Din Tai Fun Dumpling House at Seattle, it contributed to one of the most delicious meals this year. Picture 17 cooks working in a 500 Sqft space. Chaos right? Now imagine 17 well disciplined Asian cooks working in an assembly line. And there come the magic of expertise out of habit, an amazing rhythm to watch and finally the wonderful dumplings.

Personally I love the sound of the word dumpling. I find the concept of Dumpling House very cute. I picture it as lots of cute dumplings at work. In a way that imagination came to life here.

This is a must visit place when you are in Seattle. Especially for perfectly spicy, hot and sour soup in Seattle rains. A feeling too hard to forget.

Thanks Z Dad and Z Mom for taking me there.

Hibachi Restaurants: Is it Time to Revive?

When I first read the Benihana case, a classic operations case studied by MBA students around the world, all I wanted to do was to go to one and watch this operations marvel, the service efficiency etc. Most of you would agree, that’s never going to happen. All Hibachi restaurants always have terrible service. I wonder what happened. Did they take their success for granted and forgot to improve?

I did enjoy the performance the first time but found it rather irritating the next. Now I find it amusing to see how someone can crack so many bad jokes and perform persistently in spite of no encouragement from the audience. I just go to observe it and hope that it will improve and I will see the Hibachi restaurants, like the way I imagined it to be. I wont even go to quality of food and service, just yelp it and you will know.

It’s hard to believe that Benihana is the company which developed it’s business model based on controlled eating time, restricted menu, and performance attraction followed. In 1970s they built bridges to connect Japanese staff with American customers and revived. All the old excitement and excellence in service is long gone. Hibachi restaurants are everywhere and there is no novelty of the concept. One thing I strongly noticed, the only people who absolutely enjoy the performance are between ages of 3 to 10. It’s time for them to revive again and form something that attracts more of 3 to 10 year olds. Make it a family restaurant in a true sense.

It takes a long time to build a legendary brand, reviving it with changing needs becomes necessary. This is true for all companies and individuals. Really long term and ever lasting excellence lies in taking a look at your abilities time to time, improve them, learn from others and be successful forever.

Chez Henri at Cambridge

A contemporary french restaurant is the category. At Chez Henri the basic technic of cooking is very french but is touched by numerous other cultures, mainly cuban and latin American, I guess. That makes the food amazingly tasty, better with butter and very good looking.

I had red snapper wrapped in banana leaf served over coconut rice. I am not sure whether this is original french, cuban inspired french or french learnt to make this in their colonies at Pondechari India. I care about the origin only to analyze why did I like it so much. I have had leaf wrapped fish in many coastal area in India and always loved all the forms. I liked this one better than all of those. Just right amount of spice, perfectly combined with sour and sweet of something like mango salsa and served over buttered coconut rice! Can’t get better than this.

All other things like ambiance, service, value for money etc. etc. are to suit the french standard.

PS: Sorry for the bad picture, I was too much in a hurry to start eating.

PPS: Beware of Kale Salad, it’s a miniature salad. Less than 7 leaves for $7.

Maharaja at Harvard Square

This foodie Indian’s search for the best Indian restaurant in Boston ends at Maharaja. I have been grumpy for last three years about not being able to find a good Indian restaurant in Boston and surrounding area. The last time I ate good Indian food in restaurant was at Taj, London and in Junoon, NYC. So finding an Indian restaurant did feel like an achievement.

My favorite was Chicken Malai Tikka. I normally avoid eating white meat, because of it’s thready and dry texture. I was glad I dared to order these succulent kebabs. And they came with rice, black dal and papad. We had chai to go with it. This is another thing that I avoid as most restaurants don’t make fresh chai which makes it smelly. This one didn’t

For ambiance Zagat calls them “an elegant Indian”, India New England thinks it is a “Royal treat fit for kings”, The Boston Foodie think it is “feasting like a royalty”, I would say it is as royal as it could get in this city. Everything carved decor is  attractive but the staff just the same as any other indian restaurant.

Yet if you want to go to the best Indian restaurant around Boston, I would say this is the one.

Coupons and offers: 15% off on dinner if you check in on foursquare and 10% off if you “like” them on FB

 

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