|CHUCK FURUYA OPENS OUR FIRST BOTTLE OF VINO|
Sunday, May 31, 2009
VINO ITALIAN TAPAS AND WINE BAR
Great friends, great wine and great food. Wow.....what a night we had at Vino's. This place is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Hawaii. We have been three times now and all three times were absolutely perfect. The food, wine and service are all top notch. Throw in Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya (photo above) and his stories about wine tasting trips all around the world and you have a very memorable evening. Our friends Tom & Arlene spare no expense when dining. They had Chuck choose the wine and everyone ordered a dish or two to share family style. Family style is the way to enjoy Vino's. Order a bunch of dishes and share them. This allows you to enjoy the many flavors on the menu. The great thing about Vino's is that you have a Master Sommelier (there are only two or three in all of Hawaii) helping you with wine selections. Chuck is a down to earth local boy who does not act the part of Sommelier. He is like an old friend sharing stories about his family, friends and great wine experiences. You can give Chuck a budget when you arrive and he will pick the best wines to meet your budget. Say you want to spend no more than $50 on a bottle. You tell Chuck this is your limit and he will select wines below this price point. I have never been disappointed in his selections. In fact, most of the time I am blown away. Wines from France, Spain, Italy and America that I would never have known about if it were not for Chuck. Enough about the wine, now lets get into the food. We started with the Cheese and Salumi Platter ($13). Three different cheeses served with an assortment of salami meats. This was delicious. The Hudson Valley Foie Gras Bacon followed ($18). This is amazing! Foie Gras served on toast with an apple type sauce. The Foie Gras melts in your mouth like butter and is filled with a richness that is indescribable. We enjoyed two salads. First the Waialua Asparagus Salad ($12). Heirloom beets, Hau'ula tomatoes, Nalo Greens, herbed red potatoes and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. This is a great salad. The fresh beets, asparagus and tomatoes exploded with flavor. Then you have the contrast of the crusty herbed potato. Our second salad was a Ceasar. Good but not great. When the entree's came it seemed like there was no end. First came two types of Snapper from the Hiroshi's menu next door. This is another great thing about Vino. They have a sister restaurant called Hiroshi's. You can order off of both menus. Our fish came from the Hiroshi menu and was probably one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted. The fish was incredible. It was smooth and buttery. Not dry and flaky or fishy. Wish I could remember the name of this dish. It is a must try. The House made Three Cheese Gnocchi ($16) followed. Jumbo lump crab, roasted wild mushrooms, sugar snap peas, sage brown butter sauce & Kabocha pumkin puree. Yum.....The Vino's House Made Ravioli ($8) was also delicious. Sweet fennel sausage, baby spinach, ricotta cheese in a slow cooked marinara sauce. I love this dish and the marinara sauce. The Red Wine Braised Shortribs ($20) with horesradish curst, roasted garlic potato puree, rosemary shallot confit and white cannellini beans is the bomb. We also found room to try the Truffled Mac & Cheese ($15). Aged Black Diamond White Chedder, double cream Gouda and garlic cream, mushrooms and proscuitto. This is not your average mac and cheese. Everything this evening was great. By far one of the best dining experiences you can have in Hawaii.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
WAIKIKI YACHT CLUB
We were curious when friends asked us to join them for dinner at the Waikiki Yacht Club. I have not been to a Yacht Club in 20 years and no nothing about boats or private club etiquette. Oh well, I threw on some shorts and a aloha shirt and made my way down to Ala Moana Beach park to see how the rich people live. We found parking quickly along the park. We entered into a small hallway where we were asked to sign in. Once signed in, they asked us for the name of the guest we were seeing at let us in through a locked door. The Yacht Club is somewhat old and showing its age. The age of the patrons however is older. We entered to find a very nice indoor/outdoor seating area and large bar overlooking the boats. I made my way to the bar and asked for a cold brew. The bartender asked if we were "guests" and I politely said yes. The beer came, conversation began and I was a happy camper. We moved outside to a table along the dock and enjoyed the great view. Our friends arrived and quickly began to introduce to many of the members. We took a walk along the slips and view our friends beautiful 30' boat. After the tour we were taken to the dining room which is wide open. Our table was right in front with great views of the boats and city skyline. Really nice spot. The menu has steak, prime rib, fish and several pasta selections. Prices range from $10 to $20 for entree's with a soup and salad bar. This is a pretty good deal. I loved the salad bar. It was loaded with fresh veggies. The salad was fantastic so I tried the Portuguese Bean Soup. Served with a nice garlic bread. Good too. I would return here just for the soup and salad bar. For my entree, I ordered the Pan Fried Mahi Mahi. I requested pasta in place of rice or potato and the waiter said no problem. They should never write Pan Fried on the menu. Pan seared or roasted sounds better. My Mahi was not fried at all. No batter or heavy oil. Just good, fresh Mahi served with an avocado relish and good pasta. I loved the dish. We also tried the Shrimp Scampi which according to my wife was bland and so so.
My daughter ordered a three cheese pizza that was served on a flour tortilla and then covered with enough cheese to cover Diamond Head. It quite simply was uneatable. Overall experience here was great and we all want to return to enjoy the beautiful evenings on the dock and great company.
|WAIKIKI YACHT CLUB|
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Over 15 years ago I used to frequent Auntie Pasto's quite often because the prices were low and the food was good. Why I stayed away from the place for the past 10 years is crazy. Perhaps I thought it was better to pay $20 or more for a plate of pasta at more hip and trendy places. Well, we made it back last night and I am so glad we did. Once again I found the food to be good and the prices very reasonable. The kicker was that the service was great too. Auntie Pasto's has been somewhat of a Honolulu tradition going on 25 years now. They are in the same location and serving the same basic menu items. I remember going here week after week because you could take a date here and get out the door for under $20 total. The portions are large and the prices are still really low compared to other Italian restaurants. The fresh baked bread and basil/olive oil is free and delicious. We started with the Red Pepper Calamari ($9.50). I liked this dish because the Calamari was not fried. Large whole pieces of Calamari cleaned and stuffed with mozzarella cheese and then topped with tomato, onion and peppers. The dish is not too heavy and the onions and peppers really compliment the Calamari. The Caesar Salad ($6.75) was basic and covered in too much bland dressing. I ordered the Meat Sauce Bolognese with Spaghetti ($8.50). This is a steal. You get a huge plate of pasta covered in a rich and very meaty sauce. There was enough here for two people. At $8.50 this is the deal of the day. We also tried the Shrimp Scampi Pasta ($12.95). Large shrimp in a fairly bland sauce served with pasta. This dish just needed more garlic or something to make the flavor pop. The service on this visit was perfect for a Friday night. We were seated and quickly served our drinks, then appetizers and our entree. The employees were professional and pleasant. I am glad that we re-discovered Auntie Pasto's and will be back again soon.
Monday, May 11, 2009
GIBSONS STEAK HOUSE
We always dine at the Chop House when in Chicago. I have never had a bad steak there and really looked forward to visiting again during our stay in the Windy City. A few days before leaving for Chicago I had lunch with a rep that lived in Chicago for many years. She gave Gibsons high praise and told me to give it a try. I did and she was right. Gibsons is a terrific steakhouse. We had reservations for 8:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. We arrived early to find the place absolutely packed. I am talking shoulder to shoulder packed in the bar and restaurant. No recession in this town. Everyone seemed to be out this night. After checking with the hostess we pushed our way into the bar. There wasn't an empty seat in sight. Then two people got up from chairs placed around a piano. We sat and were quickly greeted by a smiling waitress that took our drink order. At about the same time the piano player showed up and began playing some nice jazz tunes. The drinks came quickly and the waitress was still smiling. Wow....great service when the place is packed to the max. I like Gibsons. We were seated about 1/2 hour late. The tables in the main dining room are as close together as any place I have ever been. They really pack you in. Tight and crowded. There were two large men seated across from our table. My wife said she has seen them on a basketball team. I looked over and did not recognize either of them. Turns out it was two players from the Boston Celtics that were in town for a playoff game. Anyway back to the food. So the place is packed and steaks are flying left and right. You would think that this would reduce the service level. Not here. We had two great waiters that actually took time to ask us questions and make us feel right at home. They displayed a platter of raw meats and described each cut in detail. I went for the W.R. Chicago Cut ($42.50). This is a bone in rib-eye. It was cooked to perfection but not the best rib-eye ever. I had to put the house seasoning salt on it to get more taste. We also tried the Porterhouse Steak ($47.50). It was also very good. The steaks came with a nice house salad at no charge. We ordered the Vegetable Combination ($11.25). Huge pieces of green beans, broccoli and some other stuff. The Asparagus with Hollandaise ($9.25) was awesome. The biggest asparagus I have ever seen. Perfectly cooked and served up with a tasty hollandaise. The service was great through the entire meal. This is amazing considering the volume of business this place does. I will go back to Gibsons in a heartbeat.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
MICHAEL RICHARD CITRONELLE
How do you spend $700 on a dinner for three? Well I will tell you and I am not proud of this. This is the stupidest mistake ever in my dining experiences. It is my fault completely, I should have not swallowed the bait fed to me by the Frommer's Guide. Frommer's boldly states that Michael Richard Citronelle is the city's best restaurant period. With this in mind I booked our table weeks in advance. My wife kept reminding me that she did not want to spend money on a fancy three hour meal. Time and time again she tried to talk me out of it. But no, I had to make the call and find out for myself if this was indeed the best restaurant in DC. We arrived early as the place was just filling up. The waiters here are well polished French type and from the time you sit down to the time you leave you feel like you don't belong. Our table was nice and situated near the glass enclosed wine cellar that is divided into two rooms. One for red wines an the other for whites and champagnes. Beautiful set up. We ordered Pasta with Butter Sauce for our daughter ($16) and then I boldly decided to try the Chef's Tasting Menu for the evening. Something like 9 courses. The cost......I really don't want to remember but here it is...$190 per person plus and additional $90 for the wine pairing. This means one meal was $190 and the other with wine was $280. I want to stop writing it makes me ill. The meal began with an appetizer of fresh crab stuffed into a egg shell. Nice presentation but crab is crab. Along side the egg shell was what looked like a piece of egg quartered. It was actually cheese made to look like an egg. The last thing on the plate was a chicken nugget. This was a fried piece of chicken. I kid you not. Next came a cold asparagus soup. It was absolutely perfect. There was some soft shell crab, halibut that were good also. Then came my favorite part of the meal. A mini lobster burger with potato chips served in a basket. For this course the waiter instructed us to use our hands. No forks required. The lobster burger was fantastic. This was followed with what the waiter called slow cooked short ribs that have cooked for 72 hours. He said that it would melt like butter in your mouth. Not true. You had to chew the thing and the flavor was no better than short ribs served here in Hawaii at many restaurants. There was a cheese course and all of the cheeses were really good. The deserts included a Kit Kat type bar and a chocolate degustation that was o.k. One of the chocolates was covered in coco powder and terrible. The meal was good but not worth the incredible high price. The service was good. I especially liked the wine steward who politely explained the origin of each wine. The wine pairing was perfect. Every wine complimented the food. Probably the best pairing that I have ever had. My only complaint is the price. I won't make this mistake again. We will be eating left overs at home for months to pay for this one.
|MICHEL RICHARD CITRONELLE IN WASHINGTON DC|
We wanted to try out a Washington power steak house our last night in DC. Our Frommer's Guide recommended The Caucus Room as a place where the politicians come in droves for their steaks. The guide said that the place is happening when Congress is in session. If they are not the place is empty. I guess Congress was out the Friday night we arrived. There were only about four tables seated by 7:00. With this low turn out you would think the service would be incredible. Well it was not. Our waiter while nice was not into providing a high level of service. Just kind of went through the motions and gave us the check. Never saw him again or even got a thank you. As for the food, the place is overrated. We started with a Caesar Salad and a Bib Salad ($8). The Caesar was good but the Bibb was better. The Bibb had a thick piece of bacon and Stilton Bleu Cheese dressing that was very good. I ordered the 10 oz Center Cut Filet Mignon ($39). Served with fresh horseradish, roasted garlic and bearnaise sauce. You need the garlic and sauce to get any flavor out of this steak. It was quite dry and flavorless. We also tried the USDA Prime Delmonico ($49). This is a 22 oz. bone in rib eye. This steak was cooked perfectly, juicy and full of flavor. A huge difference from the filet. The mashed potatoes ($8) were excellent especially if you add the horseradish to them. All in all this was a decent meal. Would I go back. Probably not.
|THE CAUCUS ROOM MENU|
Labels: caucus room restaurant, the caucus room dc, THE CAUCUS ROOM STEAK HOUSE RESTAURANT WASHINGTON DC STEAK, the caucus room washington dc
It had rained for two days and we were set on not attending the Washington Nationals baseball game. We were making plans to do something else when I said lets just take a cab over to the stadium to check it out. If the rain continues we can leave. I had already bought the tickets so what the heck. When we arrived the rain had turned to a light mist so we entered the stadium with our umbrella's in hand. The place was empty. I mean empty. This new 41,000 seat stadium had no fans. Just a few die hards like us out for a good time. From the time we entered the stadium to the time we left all of the employees and food servers here were fantastic. They all welcomed us to the park and thanked us for coming out. This happened at every place we stopped to eat or shop. While taking a lap around the entire park we found a place in center field called the Red Porch. It was a restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating perched on two levels overlooking the field. We were seated at a table outside that was covered from the rain. A waitress quickly came to our table and offered us menus. Menu's at a baseball game I said. This is great!. We ordered three beers, Chili Dog, Quesadilla and Cookies and Milk. The entire tab was $50. This is a bargain. We kept thinking they would make us leave our great table and make us go to the seats we paid for which were about 10 rows up from the dugout. Great seats but sitting at a table and getting waited on was a treat. Turns out you can stay as long as you want. this means we could have bought an $8 ticket and stayed at the Red Porch through the entire game. We stayed until the seventh inning and enjoyed every minute of this park. The employees are fantastic and you can't beat the prices. The Nationals do everything possible to make your stay enjoyable. The food was not fantastic. The hot dogs are very bland. We were very happy that we braved the rain and spent a few hours at the park. This was a great evening with the family.
|NATIONALS PARK ON A RAINY EVENING|
|WE DISCOVERED THE RED PORCH AND NEVER LEFT|
|THE RED PORCH IS THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE GAME|
|WE LEFT OUR EXPENSIVE SEATS BEHIND HOME PLATE AND SAT HERE|
|WE WERE WAY OUT THERE BUT ENJOYED THE GAME AND FOOD|
|THE MONOCLE, WASHINGTON DC|
|THE MONOCLE BURGER|
Labels: monocle washington dc, the monocle capitol hill, THE MONOCLE RESTAURANT WASHINGTON DC CAPITOL HILL DINING, the monocle washington
Our Frommer's Guide listed Oyamel as the best Mexican restaurant in Washington, DC. Given this, I had to give it a try. Cannot tell you if it is really the best because it is the only Mexican food we ate while in DC. I can tell you however that it was great. We started with fresh guacamole that is made by the waitress right at your table ($13). Avocado, green tomatillo, serrano chili, crumbled queso fresco cheese served with a basket of warm home made tortilla chips. The guacamole was delicious. Rich and buttery with a kick of heat from the serrano chili's. We followed this up with a shrimp, crab, avocado, red onion and tomato ceviche tostada ($8). This too was delicious. We went nuts with the tacos. They are very small hand made tortillas filled with a variety of different meats and fish. They run $3.50 to $4.00 per taco. This is kind of expensive for just a few bites, but the flavors were fantastic. We enjoyed the Grilled Marinated Chicken, Shredded Beefe braised in a rich and tangy sauce of pasilla and guajillo chiles, Seared Fish, Yucatan-style BBQ Pork, Stew of shredded chicken with potatoes, chorizo and chipotle and probably some others I forgot. We also tried the grilled lamb chops ($11) and grilled skirt steak ($9). When you take the grilled steak and mix it with the Oyamel Frijoles Refritos Con Queso ($6.50) (refried beans with melted Chilhuanhua cheese inside with Mexican cream and cilantro) you have a super tasty steak taco that was the bomb. The refried beans here were the best I have ever had. Could have ate three orders of them. This was really good Mexican food but the bill with a few cocktails came up to $100. A bit high for tacos I think.
|OYAMEL COCINA MEXICANA IN WASHINGTON, DC|
|TACOS AT OYAMEL COCINA MEXICANA|
MT. VERNON VIRGINIA
We took a 90 minute boat trip down the Potomac River to the home of our first President, George Washington. The story of Mount Vernon and the man that made it his home is one that every American should know. George Washington was a great man. A true hero that fought for our country (and almost died). He was a General in the Army, Our first President and one of the most beloved Americans in history. His life at Mount Vernon is well documented. There is a museum on the property and tours of his home. 40% of the furnishings in the home are actual pieces from George's life. It is awesome to say the least. On the property in a simple tomb are the bodies of George and Martha Washington. Resting where they were most happy. Mount Vernon. After a few hours of walking the grounds we decided to have lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn. This beautiful restaurant takes you back in time with it's furnishings and the period costumes the waitresses wear. We ordered up the Fried Green Tomatoes ($3.95) and a Caesar Salad ($2.95) as appetizers. The Tomatoes were lightly battered and served with a nice marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. Delicious. The Caesar Salad was basic and was served with way too much dressing. I opted for the Duck and Sausage Cassoulet ($8.25). This dish was fantastic. Large pieces of pulled duck meat, sausage, white beans and vegetables baked under a light crust. Yummy. We also tried the Mount Vernon Meatloaf ($8.25). Topped with mushroom gravy and served with fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes. The piece of meatloaf was huge. There was enough for two people for 8 bucks. It was really good too. Not too dry and very flavorful. The entire meal was good and probably the lowest price we paid for lunch during our visit to Washington. I would definitely recommend Mt Vernon and the Inn to all travelers visiting our Capitol.
|THE MOUNT VERNON INN|
|OUR FIRST TRIP TO THE HOME OF GEORGE WASHINGTON|
|DUCK AND SAUSAGE CASSOULET|
Many years ago I spent a week in Boston. Everyday during that one week I ate at Legal Seafoods. It was just that good. I went back each day for a bowl of chowder or some fresh fish. When we saw that Legal Seafood was in Washington, DC, I made it a point to visit this place first. I knew that we would return more than once and we did. Twice in one week. Legal Seafood does it right. Fresh ingredients, great service and reasonable prices. The Oysters here are incredible. Fresh as they come served on a platter of ice. We tried the fresh clams too. These were huge clams that were meaty and delicious. The clams were around 12 bucks for a half dozen. The oysters were $12.95 per half dozen. Our waitress was not happy that the oysters did not come out of the kitchen fast enough so she gave us an additional 6 pieces for free. Turns out we have an Oyster monster living with us. Our daughter can devour a dozen on her own. I have not meant too many eight year olds that love fresh oysters, clams and crawfish. She opted for the kids menu whole main lobster ($16). Yes the kids menu here has lobster on it. The kids meal is a one pound lobster served with corn on the cob and fresh grapes. On another visit our daughter ordered Ravioli filled with cheese ($5.95). These Ravioli were molded into the shape of a fish tossed with cheese with marinara sauce on the side. It was a hit and finished. On our two visits we enjoyed the Seafood Antipasto Salad ($16.95). This is enough for two people and our waitress happily split up the order for our table. The salad includes grilled shrimp, calamari, marinated clams, mussels and huge pieces of provolone cheese and tomatoes. We requested that no mussels be included and they added more clams without a question. Both visits also included Legal's New England Clam Chowder ($6.50). This is some of the best chowder you will ever have. Thick and rich, filled with nice pieces of clams and potatoes. On one visit I just had to try the lobster roll ($22.95). The lobster roll price is not on the menu. I should have asked before ordering. Was a bit surprised when we got the bill. At $22.95 it better be good. And it was......Huge chunks of lobster with a hint of celery and mustard, mayo served on the perfect piece of brioche bun. The bun does not overwhelm the lobster and does not fill you up. All you taste is lobster. Clean, fresh lobster that is heaven. There are many items on the menu here that I would love to try. There is a page of fresh fish options and tons of fried favorites such as clams, calamari and fish and chips. Legal Sea Foods is a gem that should be enjoyed as often as possible. I guarantee if we had more days in DC we would have been back again.
|GREAT LOBSTER ROLL|
|GREAT SEAFOOD SALAD|
OLD EBBITT GRILL
Old Ebbitt Grill is just steps from the White House in downtown Washington. Established in 1856, it was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still popular with political insiders and celebrities. We wondered in for lunch and were seated immediately in a nice booth. I looked around at the crowd but did not recognize anyone in the restaurant. Most tables were filled with men in suits talking business. The lunch menu features items such as Pan Seared Alaska Halibut, Jumbo Crab Cakes, New York Steak, Meatloaf, Pasta, Ribs and even some Grilled Calf's Liver. We began lunch with a small house salad ($3.25) and a Caesar Salad (6.50). Both average in taste. The Caesar had perfectly browned bread crumbs that were fantastic. We tried the Spring Vegetable Pasta ($12.95). Fettuccine pasta with asparagus, arugula, red onions, garlic oil and pecorino Romano cheese. This was a large portion and pretty good in flavor. Our daughter tried the Macaroni and Cheese from the kids menu ($6). We about died when this load of pasta and cheese hit the table. It was a huge portion even for an adult. Loaded with a ton of cheese. Probably too much cheese for our liking. I tried the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($15.90). This is the price for one crab cake. If you order two the price is $23.95. The Crab Cake was thick and filled with almost all crab meet. A touch of Old Bay seasoning was noticeable. This dish is served with asparagus and Tom's potatoes with a mustard aioli. The asparagus was grilled to perfection and the two potato wedges were delicious. This was a very nice lunch that I topped off with the Ebbitt Grill Signature Bloody Mary. Served with a spear of celery and a huge piece of shrimp. The glass was rolled in Old Bay Seasoning. ($12).
|OLD EBBITT GRILL - WASHINGTON, DC|
|LUMP CRAB CAKE|
|LOVED THE MAC N' CHEESE|
|SPRING VEGETABLE PASTA|