Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jeffrey's LKN - Queens Feast

So on a night where we didn't want to cook, we land at Jeffrey's for the first night of Charlotte Restaurant Week/Queens Feast.  Any normal Friday night will certainly be fairly busy there.  Add a 3 course $30 deal, mob scene comes to mind.  We were greeted fairly quick considering we were the 3rd party that walked in the door at the same time.  They had our table ready and we were sat within about 2 minutes of walking in.  GREAT START!

Our waitress (Courtney) was enthusiastic from the start.  This was great to see.  We have been to Jeffrey's a bunch and will typically sit in the bar area for the stellar service.  She knew a thing or two (or more) about wine and went above and beyond.  One selection I made was not nearly what I hoped for.  She didn't hesitate to change it for me.  I can see where that might be frowned on.  Not here.  Guest satisfaction was definitely the focus.

The first course selections were the Crispy Goat Cheese salad for her and Scallops with pork belly for me.  The salad came with a thick slice of goat cheese that is breaded and deep fried, placed on a nice spring mix salad.  The scallops were a few thin slices sauteed with vidalia onion (caramelized) and a couple chunks of pork belly.  Both were very well prepared.  The salad with goat cheese was a fair portion, where the scallop dish was a little too delicate and petite for a hungry man.  Taste was great though.

We both ordered the same for the second course of Filet Mignon with Lobster Tail.  Now who on earth serves those two together for anything less than $30 as an entree, let along include it in a $30 three course offering?  That's nuts.  The filet was ordered medium-rare, and on a 6oz cut, that can be easily overcooked (hello Bonefish!).  This was right on the money.  Not closer to medium, I mean perfect, exact, awesome, well executed.  How's that?  The 6oz lobster tail was de-shelled and battered/fried.  There was a light sweetness to the batter, but came across buttery.  Really great and a surprise.  I used to broiled or boiled.  I liked this.  The only flaw was using a thick skewer to keep it straight and not telling the servers.  The first cut through made me worry there was a shell on it.  Once I saw the skewer, we were all good.  *Mashed potatoes were the veg on the plate.

My wife had the Peach Kutchen for dessert and I ordered the chocolate cake.  The peach kutchen was tart-like with lots of fresh peach slices, served with ice cream.  A great summer dessert without being overly sweet.  The chocolate cake I ordered was what you would expect for a nice multi-layered cake.  Enough frosting for the sweet tooth in all of us.

So if this is how good a meal can be on a slammed night, you are in for a treat on a regular night.  Queens Feast has several days left - get there!  Worth the $30 and then some. 

Jeffrey's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bonefish Grill Birkdale

So you must have known it was going to happen.  Bonefish opens in the Lake Norman area - and I would have to wander my way in sooner or later.  It was in fact last night.

Sat nights anywhere can be busy, but coming off a holiday week with a lot of travelers, I gambled on "how" busy.  Considering the wait for an inside table was 80-90 minutes, it was a bad bet.  It was about 95 degrees outside and that wait was only 20-30 minutes.  Since I don't melt like ice, outside it would be.

The outside area had been just 7 tables at one time.  The fastest way to handle a busy restaurant is add more tables (outside in this case).  It was a little crowded but not terrible.  I really wanted the food and service anyway.  If I agreed to sit in the warm outdoors, I was not after the posh and convenience of inside.

Our server (Jeremiah) was extremely exuberant.  He asked if we had been there before.  With the answer being NO, he was exceptionally informative about the menu - from beverages through entrees, fish and sauces.  I am a pro at that menu now myself I think.  There was no lack of training given to this staff.  They really seemed to know their stuff.  The exception initially came in the beverage department.  My wife ordered an Angry Orchard cider.  It's really gaining popularity and has a nice apple taste with enough sweetness.  Another server came out with a Crispin.  Higher end product by drier taste.  The bartender didn't ask, just sent already opened as if he knew it would be okay.  We noticed, as did out server, and it would be okay enough - just surprising. 

We ordered a couple salads.  We typically opt for a vinaigrette if I don't see something that's extremely unique.  Sure enough, their vinaigrette is unique.  It's a citrus-based (rather than vinegar) and it's really great.  A typical bread with olive oil comes out to go along.  They replace the overdone tradition of some spices with their own version of a pesto in the center.  Again, like the dressing, a slight twist on something good to make it something better.

I have never had the fish Dory before, but Gordon Ramsey has made it famous on Hell's Kitchen.  You saw "famous" and thought Nemo's friend Dory huh?  Sorry, that's a Regal Tang fish with the name Dory.  Back to the food okay?  Good.  I ordered it with the herbed jasmine rice as the side, and each entree comes with a succotash as well.  My wife is the eternal beef lover and ordered the Filet as she should.  Medium rare of course.

The food arrives, looks great, portions on the smaller side for the money, but I am okay.  My fish looks well grilled, topped nicely, rice was fluffy, succotash was bright and colorful.  My wife's plate also looked good.  Garlic mashed instead of rice (beef and potatoes of course).  She cut in and mid-rare was medium at best.  Half was closer to mid-well.  Jeremiah was all over it.  He offered to bring it back and get replaced.  She said no.  He said if she wanted to start on the sides, he would have another brought out.  We again said no.  Unless you really blow it, we prefer to enjoy our meal at the same time.  Off-temp isn't as bad as having one eat and one not.  Since I wouldn't eat without her, I would have just let me food get cold waiting.  It's always awkward.

His manager came out to check on us.  Very nice guy and he saw the cook on the meat.  He said he would take it off the bill.  I had no issue paying but I am okay with the gesture.  A crazy busy, hot night, things happen.  With the attention to detail and enthusiasm of the server team, he was a little dry.  Not a big deal - but noticeable with a team like that around him.
The dessert menu was a cast of regulars so we declined.  All in all it was an okay visit.  I don't think they set out to be just okay though.

** Since posting this, I have been inundated with the same question - Would I go back?  The answer is possibly.  I don't think I would order entrees though.  A lounge visit with appetizers seems more likely.

Bonefish Grill  on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tokyo Japanese Seafood & Steakhouse Mooresville

Don't let the name fool you... this is not an overpriced Lake Norman steakhouse.  I almost wish the name said more mom & pop, less Seafood & Steakhouse.  Tokyo in Mooresville is located in a little shopping strip at the corner of Hwys 150 and 115.  The last thing you would think is there is great food in this strip.  You would be quite wrong.

Other reviews will focus on the buffet and I will touch on that.  I wanted to get into the dinner first.  We went off of a certificate deal (the $25 off $35 purchase).  There were 3 of us, so hitting the $35 mark should be a walk in the park.  Whoops.  Not so fast.  With sodas at $1.20, sushi rolls from $3.00, appetizers $3 and $4, and entrees from around $6... it's really hard to eat $35 worth of food. 

I ordered the hibachi steak and shrimp.  The name says seafood and steakhouse so I better see how they do, right?  The shrimp were large.  Not Food Lion "large", but really large.  So the bigger the shrimp - the less you get.  Nope.  There were like 9 or 10 of these on there.  Don't forget there is steak too.  Not burned little cubes of tough meat.  They were cubed, but nice pieces, cooked medium, some pink, not all grizzled and fatty.  This was good steak.  Wait a second.  Inexpensive and good?  That's right.  This mountain of food was $11 and I had a great lunch from it too.

The sushi is not designer it's just sushi.  It's made well, it's made quickly, and it tastes great.  You won't get all of the crazy sauces, kiwi-topped silliness like some lake area places.  This is just the stuff you really like without paying too much. 

So about that buffet?  It's more of a Chinese-style buffet.  It's got rice dishes, noodle dishes, soups, salad, all kinds of chicken, pork and seafood.  It's also only $5.99.  Wait, you want sushi?  Sure... add $2 for the standard rolls.  Not $2 each.  $2 period.  Like the buffet, eat your fill!  Wait... $2 and I can get 3 rolls?  Yes indeed.  This is not a joke.  I now make excuses to get there at lunch so I can eat buffet and sushi (followed closely by a nap).

Listen.  I love glamorous food.  This is not that kind of place.  This is good family eating, great prices and super nice people running it.  This is what a mom and pop place is supposed to be and I will be coming as long as they will have me.

Tokyo Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

LePeep lays an egg

Mothers Day brunch can be one of the busiest days of the year.  If you are good, you can look really good.  If you are bad, you can look OH SO BAD.

LePeep is in the back of the Arboretum Shopping Center, yet pulls a HUGE crowd.  They certainly have a following.  The corporate website says they are franchises and allows local operators to make some market adjustments to the menu to fit their area.  Does that include using imitation crab in their crabcakes?  4 days since I emailed that question to corporate and no response tells me they don't know what to say. 

Adding insult to the crab injury, they burned the crab cakes.  I think someone forgot to flip them.  One side went untouched, the other side was black as pavement.  Hey, at least someone tried to cover it with sauce.  That's the answer for all that ails you - SAUCE IT! 
The dark blue arrows to the left indicate the easily spotted char from the ill-fated cooking of the crab cakes.

The light blue arrows show that delightful red coloring that is a dead giveaway to the fake stringy crab-ish stuff they used in the cakes.  I wish I took more photos as I cut into them so you could see all of the red coloring.  It was awful.  Not the light redish that real shellfish will get on the edges.  This was like chunks of vinyl (and tasted like it too).

Want to know the rest of the story?  Here you go...

The poached eggs were overcooked and the yolks were solid.  The english muffins were never toasted.  There were two of us with the crab cake benedict and both were cooked with the same lack of care.

The Tex Mex benedict showed up 8 minutes later.  The 18 Wheeler was a hit with two ladies that love French Toast.  Want to know why we didn't send them back?  See the time on the Tex Mex.  We would have been there forever - killing a day full of Mothers Day fun.

Now I will say the owner/manager was trying to facilitate a good service all around.  She was really keeping the servers on their toes to manage the crowd.  I wish she slowed them a little so the cooks would not let something like this go.  There is no doubt they just wanted to shovel it all out as fast as they could.  Again, the sauce covers their mistakes, right?

By the way - call ahead seating is overrated.  I called at 8, had a nice conversation with a young lady that was sure to tell me if I was not there at 11am (as I asked for) that I would go to the bottom of the list.  When we got there, right on time, she still passed us over for everyone that just walked up.  WHAT'S THE POINT THEN PEOPLE?

When and if I ever hear back, I will update the review.  For the time being - it seems like they are satisfied with unsatisfied.
Update:  I emailed corporate on the Monday after Mother's Day and it went a week unanswered.  I then called, got a general voice mail box.  My message was not delightful.  How dare they leave an unhappy customer without a reply after all this time.  They called me another day later, stated that they DO ALLOW IMITATION CRAB in their menus, more specifically, the crab cakes.  They also said they sent my concerns to the local owner.  They should have contacted me already.  Ya think?

So the local owner calls me, remembers our table (large group and late tex mex was a giveaway).  Promised to make it right next time and send a certificate for us to return.  The reason she did not reply sooner was her email was not working on her computer.  While we were talking, I heard her iPhone ring and get silenced.  I am glad that the iPhone doesn't do email or I might have not believed her email excuse.  BTW, no certificate to return yet.  Been a week.  Here we go....

Le Peep on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blu Star Grill - more of a half star

So the title intrigues you huh?  Well, there are two aspects to every restaurant... front of house and the kitchen.  I can assure you the kitchen carried the visit tonight.  Was it bad?  No.  Was the food good?  Sure.  Was it what I expected?  Sorry, but no.

My wife had eaten there a couple times prior and had thought we could go as a family tonight.  We entered and after a few seconds we were greeted with a "be with you in a just a minute".  We heard that two more times from two other people.  At some point it became a few minutes.  The waitress we would have came over to seat us and as we followed her, she handed off menus to the owner and said something to him.  It created a pause and we stood waiting for direction.  Who do we follow now?  Well, sure enough, it was still her.

The restaurant has a few tables going with two servers and a host/owner on the floor.  We ordered our beverages and reviewed the menu.  My wife had mentioned there were some organic foods as well as other healthy items (bison being one example).  One thing she mentioned was a Blackened Salmon on a salad.  To my surprise, not on the menu nor a specials board.  I continued to look down the menu and just wasn't getting the vibe I hoped for.

Our daughter is a salad lover - so picking the Cobb with chicken tenders on it was an easy choice.  The salad dressing choices are eclectic, but lack some staples.  She loves Blue Cheese and it was not on there.  She lost interest in the salad and looked at other items with disappointment.  As the waitress returned, I asked if there was any Blue Cheese and she said they have it.  Why then leave it off the menu?  These are laminated single pages!  Put what you have on the menu.  I ordered the Cobb as well with the Roasted Red Pepper & Garlic dressing.  My wife ordered the Strawberry Fields salad (comes with grilled chicken).

While we waited for the food just looking around.  The decor is neat and clean.  Nice details to pull the theme together.  A TV on the wall in dining room with ESPN on seemed out of place.  It's more common these days, but not needed here.

The owner was floating around quite a bit.  It appeared he knew someone at the table next to us.  They received a considerable amount of his attention - we didn't even get a head nod or "how are you" thrown our way.  The other waitress spent a lot of time on this other table too - my beverage sat empty, and the finished plate hung out at the end of the table for far too long.

A couple more tables came in and he made an effort to help with the larger one.  The rest of us were left to our rookie staff.  That's really what it boils down to.  The wait staff lacks the leadership and customer skills that a seasoned team would have.  The owner, Nelson, appears to come from a corporate environment and not the restaurant world.  I love an adventure - and he is on one - but he needs a skilled leader in the customer care business.

Now the salads were plentiful.  The dressings were great, as if home made.  The food is certainly not a concern.  If the folks delivering it take away from the experience - the food will not make up for it.  First things first, get the menu right and teach it.  I wanted a salmon salad dang it.  I wasn't going to ask for a custom order.  I had to pay an extra 50 cents for extra dressing on my wife's salad.  I would be afraid to get a custom salad order.

Will I go back?  Most likely.  Will I settle for below average service?  Not likely.  Will I get a salmon salad?  I don't know if I can afford it.  I guess we will see.

 Blu Star Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The TOAST of Davidson is TOAST for dinner

So okay, I have written about Toast before.  Breakfast is one thing... Dinner deserves a separate post.  Now it's confession time - I have eaten dinner here 3 times.  I will incorporate a little from each, but mostly last night's visit.

So why wait you ask?  Fine, I will tell you, but briefly.  Visit 1 was en route to an event with my daughter and some friends.  I was so caught up in the company and conversation, I did not pay close attention.  The second time, there were a couple small hiccups.  Again, with company and conversation.  This visit was fully intended to share the experience with y'all. 

What really pleases me is that even in a high rent district like downtown Davidson, Toast offers a 3 course Prix Fixe menu at dinner (as well as a full menu).  Dinner is only served Weds- Sat.  Don't show up on the wrong night and blame me.  They have a diverse wine and beer menu as well, so this is not a lame attempt to tap a new market - they put on a complete experience in a cozy space that screams "date night". 

So my personal addiction is the Tilapia Provencal.  It's a great portion of fish on a bed of Parmesan risotto, topped with a warm tomato confit.  This tomato concoction is large chunks of roma tomatoes, with kalamata olives, red onion, capers with just enough liquid to be married together and not become a sauce.  It really makes the dish. 

Their Pot Roast is the mega meal deal.  It's a fantastic portion of "falling apart" beef, topping thick slices of carrots and some ridiculous mashed potatoes.  The portion has to weigh in over 2 pounds.  No lie.  You getting hungry yet?

The Chicken Marsala rivals mine.  Two nice breast portions sauteed with mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce, served atop mashed potatoes with green beans on the side.  My wife had a nice lunch today too.  Portions are not an issue.

Two other mains that I have had or tasted are the Salmon Carbonara and the Chicken Pot Pie.  Of all of them, the Salmon was my least favorite.  Don't get me wrong - it was fine.  I prefer one nice portion of salmon in any dish.  To make it carbonara-style, it was in smaller bites within the sauce.  The creamy base overtakes the character of the fish.  The pot pie was a surprise.  A crock chock full of meat and veg, with a big puff pastry top.  I have never seen or tasted one with this much prep work involved.  It's the best pot pie I have had hands down.

Now back to the prix fixe stuff.  Each comes with a salad or soup (love the wedge), your main (see above) and a dessert.  Those choice as of today are pumpkin cheesecake, a blondie a la mode, a great banana pudding, or a chocolate delight (in the brownie family).

Just to make sure I don't miss anything... Servers were on point and very friendly; we were seated promptly; the manager that night (Patrick) checked on us a couple times and had a ton of personality.  Ask him about delis!  The setting is as eclectic as Davidson and it is a perfect fit across from the green.

It's your turn

Toast Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cosmos on Rea Rd sets the standard

We have had multiple trips to the Cosmos in uptown that were always a joy.  With the extensive time we spend in the Ballantyne/Blakeney areas, it was about time to try this newer location.  It's snuggled in a small plaza with Cafe Really (see recent post) and a deli/meat market.  Parking is not a great issue, since it's the only real draw at night.
One thing I strongly recommend with any restaurant that has a bar - SIT AT THE BAR!  The bartenders are more personable, have much more time in close proximity to care for your needs, and in many cases have the most experience as servers.

This visit rung true to that.  We had a great server (bartender) and his knowledge of the sushi menu made a couple of great recommendations.  Caleigh's Comet roll was advised and boy did it deliver.  It has a nice heat for someone that wants a little bite.  It would be too much for the timid.  I was thrilled with the taste and heat.

Their entree salads are very large and a little quirky.  From Caesar, to garden, then off to Strawberry Fields (forever).  Sorry, had to drop a Beatles reference.  Before my time - but I did see the Bee Gees movie "Sargeant Pepper's".  There is a Greek and a Flank steak.  Here is the kicker.  The flank steak comes with fries on the salad.  Okay, not the healthiest option, but if you ever feel like salad leaves you a little hungry, this one does not.

There are plenty of specials, both food and drink.  Check their website and make a stop.  This is a recommend for sure.

P.S. - They do brunch :)

Cosmos Café Ballantyne on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Raw chicken wings at Pizza Hut (Wing Street) Mooresville !!!

That is not wing sauce, that's raw poultry.
 There is something really wrong when you bite into a buffalo wing and it's chewy.  Really wrong is really raw.  It was the blood coming out kind of raw.  This whole Wing Street concept will be a dead end if they make people sick under-cooking chicken.

Our waitress was hard to find, yet there was only 2 other tables in the whole place - 4 people in all besides us.  When I brought this to her attention, she was not even surprised, and make no attempt at an apology.  A few minutes later she came to the table and said that they were being remade and she would take them off the bill.  I was quick to state that I did not want any wings now.  She said they would cook them well done.  They should have been done well and we would not be talking about needing well done. 

About 15 minutes later she brought the bill to the table with no other discussion about what they just tried to feed me.  I was quite curious as to why a manager has not made an attempt to discuss this, so I went to the register to find one.  Kristin had to look around for him for a few minutes.  Ryan appears with a note book in his hand.  He said sorry and he was checking some numbers.  Not sure why he offered that, but I had to ask - "What do numbers have to do with under cooked wings".  His reply was priceless - "It was slow, so I came in late.  My numbers are off, so I had to check them."  I would love to know what that has to do with this situation.  He said that they were not going to charge me for the wings.  WOW.  Are you serious?  I did not eat them, so not charging me is the LEAST they can do, right? 

I asked why he did not come to the table to at least check on us and talk about the wings.  He said he had to check his numbers.  After continuing to tell me what he HAD to do, I explained that he HAD to address his customers when they receive raw chicken.  Numbers can wait.  His notebook can wait. 

As if I backed him into a corner, he said he would give me a $10 credit toward a future visit.  I was happy to inform him there would be no future visits, that he can keep his $10 and he had a real issue back there in his kitchen. 

Needless to say - wing night with the guys will not be traveling on Wing Street.  The detour signs are up. 

Pizza Hut on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Opinions Needed

Have you ever made tuna salad and regretted the calories afterwards?  Our dear friends at the Charlotte Observer shared a post from Jill Wendholt Silva of the McClatchy Newspapers.  If you try it, comment.  I won't have time for a couple weeks to mess around in the kitchen. 


Garden-Fresh Tuna Toss

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped romaine leaves
1 cup peeled, quartered and sliced cucumber (about 1/2 large cucumber)
1/4 cup diced red or green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 (5-ounce) cans solid white albacore tuna packed in water, drained
4 whole-wheat bagel thin sandwich breads

COMBINE salt, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth; set aside.
PLACE romaine leaves, cucumbers, bell pepper, red onion, tomato and tuna in large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently.
TOAST the bagel thin sandwich bread on bagel setting of toaster. Divide tuna between sandwiches.

Yield: 4 servings.

PER SERVING (1CUP): 236 calories; 19g carbohydrate; 22g protein; 8g fat (30% calories from fat, 1g saturated); 21mg cholesterol; 345mg sodium; 3g dietary fiber.