Monday, March 30, 2009

What is my favorite Mexican restaurant?

Hands down - Casa Tequila in West Chester. Now - I'm talking regular Mexican - you know - the kind where the menu is nearly the same at every one of them! (in other words - Nada doesn't count)

My friend Jen lives nearby and we started hitting up CT a couple years ago and it's hands-down my favorite spot!

When you arrive, you're greeted happily and quickly served warm chips and a side of salsa and a side of beans. Jen loves that part - she's a vegetarian - so anytime she gets more vegetarian options - she loves it!

The margaritas are great - although I usually get soda...

Plate O' Beans

Julia also joined us Sunday evening and wanted bean burritos - the server quickly mentioned she could get a plate of beans with a side of tortillas and have the same thing only cheaper! $6 total for soda, beans and tortillas! She was very pleased!

Spinach & something enchiladas

Mexican is great for the vegetarian - there are so many options! She gets something different almost every time we go! She always enjoys it - obviously - since we keep going back!

Fiesta Plate

Okay - I have to brag up my favorite dish on the menu. I must preface by saying I'm normally the person that ALWAYS orders something different! But not at Casa Tequila! I stumbled across this wonderful dish and can't get anything else. The Fiesta Plate has chicken, scallops, crab and mushrooms all in a light cream sauce. It's served with flour or corn tortillas and is just the best! I really love this dish and it's definitely enough for 2 servings!

So there you have it - if you're looking for a great Mexican place and you're up north - check out Casa Tequila. It's just off the Cincinnati-Dayton Rd. exit from I-75. It's across from the Walmart in a little strip mall with the Village Tavern.

Casa Tequila
(513) 777-9424
8111 Cincinnati Dayton Rd
West Chester, OH 45069

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Restaurant Week Night 5 - Red, Hyde Park

Sunday night, the final night of Restaurant Week, we headed out to Red in Hyde Park Square. I'd never been...kinda think it's silly to pay that much $$ for a steak - I mean - I can cook steak! But when it's a deal and it's Restaurant Week - what the hell?!

I'll have you know - over the past couple of years - I've become picky as hell when it comes to restaurants. The service, the food, the menu, the website, etc... heck - I nitpick the stickers on the light fixtures.

That said - we had EXCELLENT service at Red! EXCELLENT! Jason and Jason took great care of us. Jason #1 is the maitre'd that recently came to Red from Aqua - he was very friendly, recognized one Aqua regular at our table and was interested in my blog (kiss up!). Jason #2 was our server - he was FABULOUS and way hot. (psst...I'm single)

So first, we're going to start with my 1 of 2 not-so-excellent items of the night. Come on Red - give us soft butter! You gave us warm bread and rock hard butter! Sorry...it's a pet peeve.

Course 1
Well - funny thing here is - there were 2 options: caesar salad or the scallop. Everybody chose the scallop - EIGHT people! It was delightful! (Brian was even a scallop virgin!) The corn and pancetta was flavorful, the sauce added something to the dish and the scallop was very nicely prepared.

Course 2
Again - they offered 2 choices: fish or steak. Everybody got steak! They did even offer a 3rd choice...the main steak was a 10 oz. strip but they also were offering a 7 oz. filet. Jason #2 recommended the strip because it was the house specialty. It was really great. We all loved our steaks!

The 2nd of 2 knocks on Red - the mashed potatoes. They were mediocre at best. Throw some garlic or cheese or something in there! They were just kinda bland and not that great - almost tasting of instant. (gasp!) Doubt they were - just wasn't loving them. But the steak more than made up for it!

Now how was this steak prepared? It's a Pittsburgh Char. I didn't really know what that was - but fellow diner David informed me it's charred on the outside and rare on the inside. And it sure was!
Now why do I have a picture of a steak knife here? Well this is part of why Jason #2 wowed me so! Fellow diner Scott was annoying the bejeebeez out of me! (nothing new) and I jokingly said "Where'd my knife go?" That knife was in front of me in less than 10 seconds! Now THAT is service!

Course 3
Dessert was also offered - the choice was nearly impossible. Luckily David was willing to share...I got the creme brulee - which I love. The sugar coating was light - not as browned as I've usually had at other places. It was good...I really enjoyed it.
The other option was Chocolate Decadence. OMG - chocolate mousse and this dense chocolate cake. YOWZA! It was amazing!!!!!!

I have to say though - perfection would be the cake topped with the creme brulee. I'm not sayin...I'm just sayin. I totally did this on my own and it was AWESOME!

Red was fabulous and probably the most enjoyable night overall. The food was great and the company was fabulous plus the staff made it even better. Plates were cleared immediately, drinks were refilled, silverware replaced and even knives appeared! Thanks Jason-squared!

And seriously, I'm single. Either of you...hell you got friends? I'll take what I can get.

Red

(513) 871-3200
2724 Erie Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45208
www.red2724.com

Red on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 23, 2009

Restaurant Week Night 4 - Daveed's, Mt. Adams

I headed out to Daveed's in Mt. Adams Saturday evening for this year's Restaurant Week selection. We wanted to have the Tapas menu but that was changed to Friday only (bummer!). I have to say - they screwed up our reservation 3x! But in the end, all was well with our reservation for 8.

They started it out with an amuse bouche of haricots verts. You know what that is? It's frackin green beans! This was basically cold green bean casserole. Not my favorite.

Course 1
There wasn't an option for Course 1 or 2 - so the first was a chowder with scallops. The vegetarian version was sans scallops. The scallops were very well prepared but the chowder could have been warmer.

Course 2
The 2nd course was a bread panzanella or "bread salad". The salad was fabulous - flavorful and interesting. BUT the bread was too large and too hard! One chunk barely fit in my mouth (that's what she said) and I couldn't even cut it because it was soooo hard!

Course 3
I opted for the duck breast over penne with mushrooms and a cream sauce. It was delicious! I wish there was more - the portions were a bit small - but reallly - all in all - I was full.
The other option was an asian prepared halibut. The diners all felt this was okay but nothing that spectacular. I had a bite and was pleased with my choice of the duck.
One of our party is a vegetarian. We had a very funny moment before ordering. You see the menu pointed out that things were "vegetarian friendly" - well fish isn't really vegetarian friendly. When she asked for something other than the Pan Seared Fish for the 3rd course - the server said "Well you could have the duck." Hmmm...don't think that'll work! We know it was an accident but come on - it was funny.

They offered her more of the "extras" with either of the 3rd courses and it would just be "beefed up" (so-to-speak) to make an entree out of it. I though it looked wonderful! I was actually a little jealous - plus she got a much bigger portion.

Dessert
Camile and I opted to add in dessert and we were sorta happy with them. We split them - first up pear, oatmeal cake and panna cotta. We were thinking they would all be together - prepared separately - eh - they weren't that great. The pear was plain, the cake was dry and the panna cotta didn't have much flavor.

We chose Pineapple Upside Down Cake for our other dessert. It came with a sort of flan with it. The PUDC was really good - would have been better a little warm. The flan was fine.

Overall Daveed's was nice - most of the party said it wasn't as good as someplace else they'd been during the week. I felt it was better than years before - so I was pleased.

Daveed's at 934

(513) 721-2665
934 Hatch St
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Restaurant Week Night 3 - Brown Dog, Blue Ash

Friday night we headed out on our 3rd Restaurant Week adventure and Brown Dog in Blue Ash was our stop. For those of you that don't know, Brown Dog was just named into Top Ten restaurants in Cincinnati by Cincinnati Magazine.

Their menu for RW was fabulous! So many options!!!! Plus they had a special addition on the entrees - nice!
BREAD & BUTTER
We had a really nice bread & butter to start. The real star was the roasted garlic cloves in olive oil. They were so well cooked and warmed you could mush them when you put them on the bread. Very delish!
COURSE 1: SALAD
Spring Salad: Scott asked to have Erin Marie's anchovies added...he really enjoyed the dish.
Baby Blue: This was amazing!!!! I loved all of the flavors and would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone that goes to Brown Dog Cafe.
Caesar Salad: looks boring...but everybody said it was good.

COURSE 2: ENTREE

Duck: Jim liked this dish but said that he'd have rather had the boar after tasting it.
Char: This was the special add for the night and it was fabulous! Char is very similar to salmon. The cream sauce was delish and the barley risotto was nice as well. Fish was very flavorful!
Wild Boar: Wow - loved this. Scott and I actually split the char & boar and I loved this. I'm a huge fan of cumin and avocado though. It was spicy and just amazing!
Duck: Can't remember who got it but they did enjoy it.
Scallops: Denise really enjoyed these and the red pepper risotto was nicely cooked as well.

My friend got the Sea Bass as well but I didn't get a photo - she was very happy with it!

COURSE 3:DESSERT
Pear Tart: Camile loved this! It looked tasty!
Orange Creme Brulee: I tried a bite - it was okay - not the best I've had.
Cookies & Ice Cream: I can't fathom making this choice but Erin Marie was happy with it!
Chocolate Pot de Creme: Denise and I got this and both loved it! Small but very rich! Far better than the PDC that I've had at Jean Ro Bistro.

Everybody really loved it and those of us that had eaten at Chalk and Mesh earlier in the week agreed it was the best of the bunch! The portions were very nice and every course was tasty!

I can't wait to go back!!!!


Brown Dog Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Restaurant Week Night 2 - Chalk, Covington

I found that in the bathroom at Chalk on Wednesday night - even if it's in the can - it's a good reminder! So yes, we went to Chalk - which used to be one of the Jean Robert brood - and it was "eh, OK". But read the whole thing so you can see why...

First - the menu is different when you get there than it is online at the GCI website that is sponsoring Restaurant Week. When I asked the server, she said their webmaster disappeared and they haven't been able to update it. So it was a bit disappointing right off the bat - the 3 course menu they were offering - no dessert. But we charged on!

COURSE 1
Smoked Salmon over spring greens w/mint

We really chose a balance of all the dishes. The smoked salmon was tasty - portions across the board this evening were small.

Red leaf lettuce, pear, sauteed shallots

This was okay - the portion was small and it really had no dressing. It was fine...nothing outstanding.
COURSE 2
Red snapper, brussel sprout "encrusted"

This was fine...not that much flavor but it was nice. The 2 of us that got this enjoyed the fish but weren't thrilled with the dish. The worst and pretty much unforgivable part of this dish - the wild rice under the fish was uncooked. I mean - CRUNCHY. Wild rice isn't easy to cook - but they should have made an attempt!

Citrus scallops with red cabbage

You seeing a trend? These were fine. There wasn't much citrus flavor - one of the two said their scallops were overcooked.

Skatefish with parsnip puree & popcorn

This dish was my favorite of the 3 - the puree was very creamy. I wasn't a fan of the popcorn - it was stale. Co-diner liked the unique texture of the popcorn.

COURSE 3
Pork Shoulder

You guessed it - it was "OK". I tasted - there just wasn't much flavor. After tasting both of the 3rd courses - I wished I'd tried the vegetarian option of mushroom ravioli.

"Strip Steak" with fresh chips

This was billed as a "strip steak" - does that look like a steak? In reality - it was strips of steak like an egg roll cover. The strips were wrapped around vegetables and served with fresh chips. After the initial shock of the fact that this wasn't a steak - I actually kind of liked the dish. It did have a nice rich flavor and the edges of the "meat rolls" were crispy and flavorful - but it was a bit carrot-heavy.

So there you have it - 3 courses of "meh - it was ok". I mean the butter served with the warm bread was the highlight for one diner! Also - it was SLOW!!! It took 2 hours and 45 minutes for our party of 6. It was nearly an hour between courses 1 & 2!

Well - when the maitre'd came over and asked "How was everything tonight?" and looked right at me - I was honest. I said - "Meh - it was ok." My table looked shocked - did she just speak the truth???? Well yeah! I wasn't going to lie! He was also a bit flabbergasted.

They made some excuses saying "well it's restaurant week" - but to me - it should be easier! You're busier but you've got a more limited menu for most diners. Perfect those dishes and get them out the door!

So my bout of honesty - well it "paid off". The maitre-d came over and provided us with 3 - $20 gift cards to fight over. Now while the meal was just ok - this was very nice and the entire table appreciated it.

We did have a great time - and trust me - the bathrooms are worth the trip! One of my friends tried to have some fun with me...but I got her back!


Chalk is much like Allure - it's nice - but not amazing. And for that price - I'd rather have Nada or Aqua.

Looking forward to Brown Dog tomorrow night!

Chalk Food + Wine on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 16, 2009

Restaurant Week Night 1 - Mesh, West Chester

House Salad w/Sturkeys Dressing

We headed to Mesh in West Chester (Union Center exit off I-75) for the first night of Restaurant Week. For those of you that haven't heard me preach about it - here's the info about RW! And let me tell you - $26.09 was a bargain for all we got!

We started with a little amuse bouche of roasted red pepper mousse on a crostini. It was tasty but not outstanding.

Next we moved onto a choice of the House or a Caesar...the overwhelming choice was the house salad. It was really great! Lots of toppings, ample dressing...very good.

Tilapia over pasta

This was also the overwhelming choice of the evening - 5 of our group of 8 diners chose this as their entree. Everyone loved it! It was very light and tasty. There were sun dried tomatoes and spinach in a very light white wine sauce. Could have used a touch of salt but very good.

Beef Medallion over mashed potatoes

A couple diners chose this option - both were very happy and said the meat was cooked perfectly!

Chicken Saltimbocca

One diner chose this option and really enjoyed it. Normally I get "It's good!" out of Ron - but tonight - I got "THIS IS DELICIOUS!" - so that is big! He said the potato gnocchi was great as well.

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream (Pam's Ice Cream)

This Pam Sturkey concoction was enjoyed by the folks at the table. Kevin said that this was as good as Graeter's. I asked if the vanilla was good and he said all he could taste was the chocolate brownie! That's a good thing.

Carrot Cake

This was a really nice carrot cake - not the best I've ever had (that honor goes to Ruby Foo's in NYC) - but it was good. Lots of apple slices and good flavor. Fairly light for a carrot cake.

So that's all about the food - what about the rest? The ambiance - lovely. The service - EXCELLENT!

Here's the thing about a restaurant like this? The service is a step up from what you're used to. It's what sets this apart from the other places in the price range. Very very fun evening


Mesh on Urbanspoon