Saturday, May 30, 2009
Shouya is part of the big, bad New Tokyo group, which includes about 15 brands (lots of beer-specialist brands, then split between izakaya and Italian. Weird, as usual for one of these big groups.). I'm not sure where it fits into the hierarchy of their brands since I'm not familiar with Dining Out 53, Italico, La Stella, New Hoppen, Takao, Burian, Duffy's or any of the others. Maybe I'll see them on the street now? This branch (out of the 4 in the Otemachi area) has a distinct retro thing going on; Koala's comment was that it looked like a Japanese restaurant in America. I could see what she means, with the sorta shabby dark wood thing, but there were far too many Japanese people for any real confusion.
Lest we try to stretch this out too much, I'll just get to the point and say that all of us on today's team had the soba-eel set (zaru soba + una don). The soba was actually pretty good; maybe it's just been a while since I had soba, because now that I think back it was pretty soft. I guess the taste was decent. The eel was downright poor; still some largish uncut pieces of bone remained, and the taste was pure mud (I've come around to the view that things like eel and carp taste 'muddy', but it's not always a bad thing). Also came with some sliced omeletsu, pickles, soup, etc. If you could replace the eel with something else, this would be pretty good value for Y880.
Since 1937. We got trust and carry it out.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Somehow the atmosphere isn't as appealing as a lot of other Italian dessert places. It's a bit more 'custard stand', by which I mean formica floors, flourescent lights, and all around cheapitude. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if it keeps the prices down, of course, but as with so much Italian Ice, when they're trying to do it right, the prices can't help but climb.
The quality at Nucci's pretty much justifies the prices though. We asked about the expense (before tasting) and they said the ingredients all come from Italy. I dunno if Italian stuff tastes better, but this sure tasted good. Coconut gelato was full of shredded coconut bits and then lots of coconut cream; you'd want to make this at home. Cannoli gelato was a new one on me; the gelato was flavored like cannoli filling (no chips) and then mixed with crumbled cannoli shell. A decent idea, but didn't match the creaminess or crunchiness of a real cannoli - stick with the real thing (amusingly, they also have cannoli shells there, and you can get them to fill one with gelato for you). We had another two flavors, something chocolatey and something red, that I may remember if I can find the pictures.
Worth stopping by if you're in the area, and remember - compared to ice cream, real gelato is lower in fat and sugar, but higher in taste!! Amazing!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The concept here is Italian...and sushi. It's not like they make chirashi pasta or anything, but they do have a big raw bar and a wide-ish selection of sushi, mainly American style rolls. The majority of the food, however, is big-plate Italian stuff.
The two big plates that we had were the:
- Sonoma Skewers, two sticks with shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. It took Dad the better part of an hour to get through only one of them, and the other went home. While I didn't try them, they were certainly impressive on a size-and-roastedness basis, and I think we all know that bigger and grilled-er is better, don't we?
- Meyer Lemon Veal seemed to have nothing to do with Meyer Lemons, much to my dismay (and wiki informs me, again to my dismay, that Meyer Lemons originated in China. I always thought they were invented by Meyer Goldberg in Crown Heights around the turn of the century, oy.). But it was a big (huge?) plate of whole-wheat pasta topped with 2 or 3 large slices of veal (sorta breaded-and-pan-fried style, as if for marsala or something) and massive amounts of sauteed mushrooms and (pickled) artichokes. The artichokes and mushrooms were the standout items here; everything else was a little soft and bland, which is almost OK for veal but a bit beyond acceptable for pasta. Unfortunately I ate everything; America is bad like that.
Too full even to consider dessert after all this foolishness, we rolled out and across the street for some water ice and gelato. Separate stomachs, y'know?
Ahhh, the Final Countdown. Not only some cheezy 80's hair metal, but the enumeration of South Jersey meibutsu that we ticked off over the course of recent days. This is the biggest of them, and we've saved the best until somewhere around last...
Cheesesteaks. If you've ever had a Philly Steak...then forget whatever you ate, because including 'Philly' in the name is a dead giveaway that they're not making it right. A real cheesesteak doesn't need to remind you how authentic it is. So you can recognize one in the wild and possibly not be frghtened by its magnificence, here are some pictures of what cheesesteaks look like. The one on the left is the mildly-daring pepperoni steak, whereas the one on the right is a chicken cheesesteak.
It's really a mystery what makes these so great, but it's scientifically proven that they're nature's perfect food. The meat needs to be quite fatty, it needs to be griddled long enough that it starts getting burnt a little, the cheese needs to be cheap and fully melted (I'm not a Cheese-Whiz adherent, although most people think that's the classical definition), and the roll should be soft enough that it doesn't get in the way by being chewy or hard. I'd like to take everyone by the shoulders and shake them to convince them of the incredible deliciousness of cheesesteaks, because these pictures aren't going to do it, but the taking-and-shaking thing is pretty impractical also eh?
Ciconte's occupies the space that used to be Super Sub, in the little strip mall on 322 down the street from Glassboro High School where WaWa used to be. And their cheesesteaks are good; Sherri says that a lot of places skimp on the steak, but Ciconte's is a standout. That's why we went there, and she's right, they're great.
I like to call these 'up close and personal' and 'comin atcha', respectively:
Monday, May 25, 2009
No doubt you'll remember the Water Ice Station from the 15 or so years they spent in their Pitman Ave location, just across the little alley from the Itaska Building and across the street from Rosebud Florists. There was a lot of sadness in some minds, at least mine, when they closed that store - last year, I think. There were some vague statements about how they wouldn't open that location again, but I didn't hear anything specific. So I was pretty happy to roll through town last week and see some signage on the Pizza Garden (formerly Stan and Mary's) to the effect that The Water Ice Station was moving in and sharing the space. Sign of the times, methinks...less rent for everybody except the owner of the old WIS location, which now looks extremely decrepit and unusable.
Until the new space is built out (currently there are some studs up and the new front window is in, so there's a lot of drywall and equipment-type work to be done) they're selling from this portable truck out in front of the store. Dad and I cruised down there to hang out and chillax yesterday, and here's what we ate.
I can't really imagine that you don't know what water ice, or Italian Ice sometimes, is, but here's a quick description: like sorbet, but cheaper (natural ingredients need not apply). Or maybe : like a Slurpee, but more solid. The Water Ice Station really made an impact on me when they opened because the flavors were so fresh and clear (and, dare I say it, natural?). The best things in my memory were the vanilla, lemon and chocolate, all of which had their own little surprises, but most everything is good. In this picture Dad is holding lemon and peach; sales from the truck are limited to about 6 flavors on a hand-written board.
Strangely, despite the board being hand-written, there was one flavor not on it, and I ordered that very Birch Beer flavor in a combo with Chocolate. If you squint you should be able to see the two-tone effect on top of this cup (nice closeup!), which is how they always treat multiple flavors. One goes in the bottom, the other goes in the top, and they make a little space on top for some of the bottom flavor. Smart orderers know that the sequence in which you name the flavors makes a difference, because the first flavor will go on the bottom, and you invariably get a bit more of that one. Plus on hot days that bottom flavor is going to melt and you're going to be stuck drinking sugar syrup, so you'd best make sure it's a flavor you don't mind drinking.
As you can probably tell from the name, Mary's is a biker bar. There are always a fair few bikes out front and bikers inside. Mary herself is thoroughly biker, and runs the place with a semi-benevolent iron fist in a velvet glove. You can see in the picture what kinda place it is. They have beer. They have whiskey. They have a branded Jaegermeister shot dispenser. And they have an extensive menu of greasy, salty, f-in delicious bar food.
The lighting isn't great, OK? It's a bar. Fortunately the camera is quality, and Picassa's I Feel Lucky function is skilled at fixing a crappy picture. Based on 30 seconds of use, it's my new favorite. On to the food.
I gravitated toward a Fat Boys. No human beat boxing here, just a pile of thinly-sliced roast pork topped with provolone and dipped in pork jus. So salty. So meaty. So delicious. The bun was pretty well soaked through, but that spongy texture only blends better with the pork. Ooooohhhhh...
Sunday, May 24, 2009
So, a funny thing about La China Poblano - it used to be a Chinese restaurant. Mom and Dad were friends with the owner, so we went fairly often, I think. I don't know how long it's been gone, but the front counter, the fish tanks, and various other decor elements remain the same. They've draped festive Mexican elements all over the tables and walls (are these serapes?), including some hilarious 'inca warrior' type pictures with cut, muscular men and swooning, buxom women. It's also dark enough enough to conjure instantly the feeling of a cantina in a spaghetti western (dunno, For a Few Dollars More or something?), but we solidered on with the picture-taking anyway.
The chips seemed to be made in-house (I suspect so because they were more thin and greasy than what you'd get from a bag) and the salsa was pretty good. Certainly I've had fresh salsas that were incredible (and you can even make a tolerable one yourself, given enough shallot, lime and cilantro. Aside: why do people dislike cilantro? I love it!) and these were...pretty good. It's nice that the chips come topped with a few beans and grated cheese; certainly more lively.
The house special sandwich consists, good lord, of a deep-fried steak topped with heaps of shredded Oaxaca cheese (largely mozarella) and vegetables. Sure looked good, but there was no lack of food on my own plate, so I didn't agitate for a taste.
I think a good way to tell that the place is pretty authentic (other than the fact that the waitress is shy and speaks precious little English) is that burritos are consigned to a dark corner of the menu. I've heard that these are an American invention (like proper pizza!), so if you see people proudly featuring them at the top of the menu, or as the primary driver of the cuisine, you should be aware. I'm not saying authenticity is a guarantee of good taste or nothin', I'm just, like, sayin'. This burrito was big and stuffed, though posibly a little lacking in love.
Enchiladas. Ohhh, do we love enchiladas. Soft tortillas, filled with soft, shredded chicken (I'd like to say it's sorta ropa viejo style but I think that's confined to beef. I'd also like to say that ropa viejo always reminds me of Tom Petty's Hard Promises album, the one that starts with The Waiting and has him standing in a record store on the cover. I thought that the bin next to him said Ropa Viejo, but I now see that it says Mucha Ropa instead. Ah well, at least we could have a pleasurable digression. And now back to our feature sentence.) and topped with copious quantities of green salsa, sliced onion, some white sauce, and a piece of fresh cheese (a little softer than mine; I've gotta work out a better method). The chicken was really exemplary; soft and delicious, lots of flavor. Even the side 'boat' of beans was quite good - not too fatty, not too heavy. The rice was forgettable, but that's no great sin when you're confronted by all this other goodness.
Mexican food. Yum.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Quite an intensive introduction for what's basically a sports bar, but if you don't know the American sports bar concept, mes amis, you probably should. It's a big bar. With lots of TVs. And you can watch sports. And eat greasy bar food. Got it? Not complex. This one expands the thematic pallette by adding 'Americana' to it - old signs (a style that you might be familiar with from something like TGI Friday's in Japan) and promotional items on the walls. Picture above is obviously a Music Man Van Halen guitar and a Strat with beer logos, but they have a bunch of other guitars along this wall and then also promo snowboards on another wall.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Nothing to report one way or the other, except for the hilariously uninvolved attitudes of the girls working there. At 8:55 they closed the windows and started turning away the steady stream of people who were rolling into the parking lot hoping for some sugar. 9 PM is awful early for a water ice place to close on an 80-degree day, don't you think?
Not quite delivering on the motto. But man is this a big chain. 856-863-5600