Don’t take anything seriously, except food!

Recently, I got to try a new Mexican restaurant in the Southpark area.  And when I say new, I mean new to me as the restaurant opened in April 2013.

Hidden behind Crate & Barrel @ Southpark, a few feet down from CowFish, is a great Mexican restaurant worth trying…Chuy’s!  While the location has been home to a few restaurants, I remember it last as M5.  A cool little place where the Who’s Who of Charlotte could be seen.

The décor is fantastic!  From the moment you walk in, (make sure to look up at the celling as you’ll see antique cameras on display) you’re transformed into their Tex Mex & eclectic environment.  The bar, with its own “car trunk” buffet area for the Happy Hour Nacho Bar special, to the Wall of Dogs, to the main dining area with palm trees, & Elvis décor, the place certainly makes an impression on you instantly.  The large patio out back would be great during the spring & summer months too. 

And the food packs a punch!  Make sure to try some of the Big as Yo’ Face Burritos or the loaded nachos…yum!  And as the name says, be ready to eat lots!  I ordered the beans & cheese Big as Yo’ Face Burrito and could barely get ½ of it down.  You could taste the freshness of the 12-inch tortilla, made in house.  In fact, Chuy’s Food Fullosophy touts authentic food all made in house.

When you are seated, you’re brought the normal platter of chips with two dips:  salsa (Fresca with a little heat) & a buttermilk jalapeno ranch with a tang.  The salsa tastes authentic & fresh with just a little heat but for the burrito, I asked for the full hot/spicy experience….got it!  And for those of you not sure how hot to order it, check out their spice meter.  They offer 7 signature sauces made in house from mild to hot!  & of course, I asked for the Hot!  

The Nachos looked & tasted great too…with handmade fresh chips topped with just enough sauce, beans, & cheese to give you that Tex Mex flavor.  Definitely trying those next time! 

And the prices match the food…which at times in the Southpark area doesn’t happen 🙂

Can’t wait for my next visit!

 

 

 

Chuy's on Urbanspoon

Surin – aahaan tai

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It was a chilly night out in ATL & we were ready for some heat & hot food so off to Surin of Thailand we went!

Located on Highland Avenue, the restaurant is right in the middle of the fun on a weekend.  Surrounded by other restaurants & pubs, parking can be a bear.

From the minute we walked in, we were hit with the warmth of the restaurant.  Being out in Atlanta on one of the coldest nights of the winter, the heat felt great! 

The restaurant is quite large with a good size bar area, the first thing you see, & walk right into when you enter.  They are in need of a hostess stand since you walk in & just wait and hope someone comes to seat you.  Since it was Saturday night, the restaurant was slammed so the only table to hold us all was near the back, close to the kitchen.  & apparently the back exit, that made it very cold.  Apparently, the door was opened a lot so the cold air just rushed in & the heat disappeared. 

Now I must say it’s been a while since I’ve had  Thai and I’ve been craving it for a while so welcomed the opportunity to try this new place with my crew.  Coconut soup was ordered to help us warm up again.  I haven’t tried this soup at Thai restaurants before so this was a first & not a good one!  While everyone loved the soup, I didn’t.  Too much coconut for me, in fact that’s all I tasted.    Couldn’t taste the mushrooms, scallions, or cilantro.  I had to pass.  But kudos to the way it was served…check out the picture.

We decided to order a few plates & just share:  Thai noodles with chicken, chicken fried rice, egg rolls, and cashew nut noodles with chicken.  Boy did we have lots of food…the portions are family style so be careful about ordering lots of plates. 

The egg rolls were crispy, as I like them & served with a tangy sauce, they weren’t bad.  The fried rice was delicious with veggies & chicken though not a lot of heat.  Thank goodness I asked for the extra hot sauce so I could add to everything.  Bland food doesn’t do it for me…something everyone knows 🙂 The noodles were cooked well & had a little heat.  I just added some more to kick it up a notch!  The chicken was bland so I ate around it.  I enjoyed that they served the peanuts on the side so you could add as you liked.  The veggies:  baby corn, carrots, zucchinis added to the flavor.  The cashew nut chicken again was not to my liking.  Too bland & the taste of cashews with the other flavors didn’t mix well.  The fried rice was definitely the dish of the night, everyone finished it quickly.  The other fav appeared to be the cashew peanut chicken.  And the soup was hit, almost all gone!

After eating so much, there was no space for dessert.  Thought I did want to try some mango ice cream, in warmer weather of course. 

Service was ok at best.  While the rest of the group has visited on many occasions with attentive waiters, we didn’t experience it that Saturday night.  Could it have been because they were busy, perhaps but they often are on weekends and that’s when the others had visited.  We constantly had to ask for everything, from refill of drinks, to silverware, to napkins.   And being seated by the cold doors was not a good idea on our hostess’s part. 

Not sure I’m a fan of this place but I’m willing to give it another try…on a warmer night.

 

 

Oh…spicy…bring it on!

Chicken 65 Yum!

Chicken 65 Yum!

wpid-IMG_20131023_204152_072.jpgwpid-IMG_20131023_204255_997.jpgwpid-IMG_20131023_204406_169.jpgAfter a long day, I headed over for some food therapy! & Spice South Indian Cuisine was the spot for just that! Often I think I should’ve been born a South Indian since that’s my taste in food. (Though I’m very happy being a Sindhi)

Since I was craving a dosa…I knew exactly what to order. Though the restaurant carries everything from traditional vegetarian, non-veg, dishes and desserts.
Since I was super hungry, I wanted an appetizer to boot 😉

Spice South is hidden in a nice area on Ardery Kell Road, at Fountains Shopping center. Now don’t go in expecting some grand place… it’s not. A small but quant restaurant with minimal artwork & decor. Even the staff is minimal…only 1 person manning the floor. That was a little hard to understand because trying to handle just a few tables can be challenging. And such was the case on this weeknight. Many tables tried to get the waiter’s attention + the phone was ringing off the hook. Since one person was seating guests, taking orders, delivering the order, answering phone, helping To Go customers, clearing tables, etc he must have been tired.

I ordered Chicken 65 with extra spice. This equates to Chili Chicken at other restaurants. Chicken 65 is boneless chicken (the only way I will eat any meat) deep fried & served with an orange sauce with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, yogurt, curry leaves, The chicken was cooked so well…nice & tender. Oh & the smell of it was just heaven….in fact, you smelled the dish even before you saw it! As it was very spicy & a large serving, I couldn’t finish it all…not eve 1/2. Leftovers are awesome ;). I would’ve liked it to be served as a true appetizer though..it was served minutes before my meal.

My entree was Pondicherry spicy Dosa. Dosas are a southern specialty…A thin rice crepe cooked with no fat! This one was cooked with red spices & stuffed with a potato filling served with sambar (curry) & coconut chutney. Again, a large plate but sooo good.

And what drink to enjoy all this spicy food with…a beer of course! The restaurant serves beer & wine and the selection of Indian beers is nice. I tried Maharaja…my first time. Good light beer that went well with my meal.

And the restaurant is not expensive like perhaps Blue Taj. Now I love Blue Taj but inexpensive it’s not. Prices here are reasonable. Dosas are $7-$9 while the entrees are $14-$20. And it’s definitely family style portions.

Go & try it out soon! & tell me what you think about it.

Spice South on Urbanspoon

Italian with a new twist….I’ll pass!

If you’re in the Atlanta area and craving something new….please avoid this please!
As you may know now, I’m a foodie & I truly enjoy some good Italian food. So I was intrigued when my cousin suggested we try a new Italian place for dinner, Osteria del Figo. She’d heard great reviews from friends/co-workers so we decided to try it together.

As you may have read about another one of my reviews, Mirko, this restaurant has the same theme. In fact, I’m a little late in posting but this is the first restaurant we visited before heading to Mirko’s that night.

The restaurant, located at 1210 Howell Mill Rd NW, has an odd entrance but never the less, we made our way inside. Now the restaurant is small so if you have a large group, you may want to eat out on the patio. I did enjoy the look of the restaurant with the lights display, as if you were in a garden area.

When you enter the restaurant, you’re greeted at the door with the menus on the walls. There’s also a seasonal or specials menu posted & someone is waiting eagerly to get your order.

Now the twist, you select your meal and how it’s to be prepared! You have a number of pasta, proteins, & sauces to pick from and create your own meal! Sounds pretty cool. Since we had time to kill, we started with drinks only…seasonal drinks of course. We did order a bruschetta appetizer…mistake! The bread was so hard to bite into I thought I lost a tooth!

Now comes the part I didn’t like. While I enjoy sitting on the patio occasionally, the reason I don’t like to eat outside is because of the bugs, flies. Yes, I’m spoiled…if I wanted to eat with nature, I’d go back to India and not be here! So I prefer most of my meals inside as I did this day. However, it certainly didn’t feel like I was inside with the nats and creatures flying around! I’m sure the patio door being left open contributed to this lovely effect but when you look down and your food has a bug sitting on it, I’m turned off. So off we went elsewhere!

I’m a little surprised at the reviews of this place. While it has a cool concept, it’s not put together very well. On a quite night, we should not have to keep asking for plates, napkins, etc. And as we sat at 4 top table, as I like my room , the waiter did not clean off the rest of the table’s silver way or glasses. The manager (I presume) came later to do so when he made his rounds.

Definitely a fail in my book!

Happy eating everyone!

Osteria Del Figo on Urbanspoon

Mirko- Benvenuti a casa

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Decided to try a new Italian place with my sis recently with a new twist.  It’s a pasta place that allows you to create your own dish.  Kinda cool so off we went especially after the not so fun experience earlier.

 Mirko is located in a shopping center but don’t let that deter you.  It may look small from the outside but the dining area is quite large.  A small patio area is also available. 

We went on a Tuesday nite so the crowd consisted of families, couples, to college kids.  Attire is casual & the décor is quite nice though I could’ve done without the woven baskets on the walls.  Tuesday was also Ladies Nite with specials on drinks and a free dessert, said the sign outside.  Sadly, it was misleading as you needed to order 4 dinner entrees for the free dessert.

We were escorted quickly to a booth & our waiter, Nick, also arrived quickly.  Being our first time, Nick was happy to share the menu & concept with us.  An added bonus, he shared his favorite dishes too.  Check out his pic!

While waiting for our meals, we were treated to rolls and bean dip (white bean dip with celery and garlic).  Definitely a pass, bean dip was blah & very thick.  I would’ve been happy with butter for my rolls, they were good!

Being a cheese lover, of course I went for the 4 cheese ravioli with a pomodoro sauce (classic Italian tomato and basil sauce) and pesto sauce.  Sis tried the spinach ravioli & funghi sauce (Funghi wild mushrooms, cream and parmesan).  The ravioli dish arrived with 4 large raviolis with the pesto on the side.  At first bite, I got a cold and not quite finished piece of ravioli.  In trying the others though, they were much warmer though the edges felt like they weren’t cooked all the way.  By the way, the pastas are all made fresh every day at Mirko’s.   Once Nick arrived with extra cheese on top, the dish was even better.  If you are a mushroom lover, then definitely try the funghi sauce because it’s loaded with mushrooms.  Definitely a fulfilling dish. 

As the drinks go, be aware they serve beer and wine which was enough for me.  I tried the Labrochuse that was a special that nite.  In essence, a red wine with fizz.  Not bad. 

A place I’d definitely try again soon & maybe this time I’ll have enough room for dessert.

Go try it out soon & ask for Nick….he was awesome!  Then again, the customer service was phenomenal. 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Dining Experience – The Blue Taj

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Having visited The Blue Taj in the past, I know of its reputation, food, & ambiance so I was happy to revisit.  While it was not the restaurant we intended to dine at, it is where we ended up & I’m so glad.

Hidden in the back, behind Terrace Café, the restaurant is clearly in a great local…Ballantyne Village.  It has a large indoor and outdoor seating area that gets filled quickly, especially the night we dined.

They say the sign of a really good Indian restaurant is to see non Indian diners & that’s exactly the case when we ate there recently. 

With no reservations, we popped in right before the rush hour traffic that starts at 6:30 & were quickly seated.  While we wanted to start with drinks on the patio & then venture in, our host was quick to tell us that the restaurant fills up quickly so in we stayed.

From the minute you walk up to the entrance, you can tell this place has a great vibe & that the decorator painstaking was involved in selecting every detail of the place.  From the entrance door, to the floor to ceiling wine cellar, to the lights, & curtains….you feel you have arrived in India, chic India that is.  From the colorful etchings on the walls that break up the restaurant into two, to the tin looking ceiling and chandeliers…you know that everything was handpicked & certainly not cheap! 

And this carries over to the table ware &  chairs…though I must admit the chairs were a little heavy to moveJ  From red or blue appetizer plates to the colorful chairs, there is an explosion of color…red or mehndi color as we say everywhere.  In addition, certain areas have been adorned with subtle blue lighting peeping in the corners making it look almost clubesqe.

The menu is large but includes everything you may want to feast on…from vegetarian to all types of proteins.   

 We started off with drinks of course 😉  The drink menu has certainly changed since the last time I dined in.  Gone were the regular old plain jane drinks replaced with authentic Indian spiced drinks like Spice Village Chai, Merry Berry, Dizzy Mumbai, Kolkata relapse…just to name a few.  All made with some great smelling & tasting spices.  We sampled the Merry Berry (light & sweet), Dizzy Mumbai (strong whiskey & great tasting cumin), Spice Village Chai (vanilla vodka with all the spices & chai taste), and Mumbai Margarita (little sweet for me but so different than regular margarita).  The rest will have to be sampled at another time….epically the Kolkata relapse…only one of those and you’re done for the night!

The list of appetizers made it hard to pick just one so we went for the platter.  Moments later a hot dish arrived with 8 items to choose from….paneer/chutney fried pakoras, samosas, onion pakoras, raga petis, all served with a sweet tamarind chutney.  Yum…it was fully devoured!

And we had trouble determining entrees too….as there were 3 pages to choose from:  Vegetarian, Seafood/Chicken/Lamb classics, & Tawa/Roasted/Tandoori selections.  But this is where a great host/waiter becomes very important.  True restaurant workers sample the drinks and foods & are very well versed in the ingredients of a dish.  A Great restaurant worker can ask you what types of dishes you like & recommend something based on that & sometimes a dish completely off the menu!  And that’s exactly what happened with us….I wanted chicken but not the usual chicken tikka masala but I do like its gravy.  And a recommendation is made, chicken with a smooth sauce in methi & hot spices…sold!  And what’s your hot level I’m asked from scale of 1 to 5…..4 please!  And keep that water coming:)  My friend liked lamb & coconut….so the recommendation was finely cut lamb in a coconut gravy.    We also learned that our waiter helped create the drinks that ultimately made it onto the menu…bonus!

The food arrived quickly & was just magnificent!  The chicken dish was marvelous….and hot!  I was sweating into my third bite…just the way I like it 😉  The jasmine & cardamom rice were fluffy & tasteful…the aroma itself was delish.  And of course, you can’t eat Indian food without a basket full of Nan.  The proteins were both very tender & prepared carefully and the sauces were a flavorful explosion!  Not one dish was seen going back to the kitchen!   Oh…back to my food.  I really liked my hot chicken sauce a little better than the lamb sauce just because it was so spicy.  In fact, yogurt was needed to put out the fire in my mouth.  And authentic homemade yogurt it was….ahhh!

During the entire time at the restaurant, we had waiters check on us constantly, filling our water glass as soon as it was ½ empty or sooner.  And everything was brought out quickly…even when the restaurant was totally full. 

While we wanted dessert, there was just no space left in us….on the next visit we shall try!  On the way out, we dropped in to visit the Bubble Bar….a nicely displayed bar with its special Bubble Bar seat (see the pic).

Cost is a concern as it can be pricey but if you want everything perfect, it will cost you.  This is not your average Indian place….their food is truly a work of Art!

I can’t say enough good things about this place….wonderful service, great ambience/décor, phenomenal food, & truly a great dining experience worth having!

 Definitely check them out & make reservations if visiting on the weekends!

Address:        14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Charlotte, NC 28277

Phone:           (704) 369-5777

Hours:           Friday hours 11:30 am–2:30 pm, 5:00 pm–10:30 pm

Italian food inspired by Tuscany

ImageA little late in posting the newest place I enjoyed but it’s been a hectic week.  So let’s get to it.

If you know me or have been reading my blog, you must know a few things about me by now:  Picky eater, cheese lover, & enjoys Italian food.  Well, Brio was a great fit for me!

Having been at Brio’s near Southpark in the past, I know of its reputation & atmosphere just had forgotten about it.  I’ve normally visited the bar area on a weekend for drinks before heading out somewhere else so getting to dine in the main room was nice.

I headed over with a friend for lunch just to relax & have a little fun.  And fun we had & enjoyed some great food/service too!

When you walk in, the hostess is friendly & ensures you’re seated immediately.  While there was only the two of us, we were treated to a spacious booth.  Great because we like our space J 

When you walk into the dining room,  you notice the warm colors & low lighting immediately.  As we walked to our booth, we passed a wonderful area we’ll try next time.  Bar style seating overlooking the kitchen…interesting!  And with enough distance from the wood fried oven so you don’t miss any eyebrows J

The seating is great & the room is spacious with booths and tables alike.  Our waiter, Robbie, arrived immediately & was happy to tell us all about the specials and the lunch lites. 

And when it came to ordering, it was tough I admit.  So much great stuff to choose from!  While my friend enjoyed the flatbread/salad combo, I went straight for carbs….Pasta Alla Vodka.  Oh my it was sooo good!  You can have it with pancetta but I did without as the only meats I like are chicken and lamb.  The pasta was authentic & handmade…so tender and delicious.  The ricotta cheese was just right…not too much not too little.  The sauce is delish…yes by the name you guessed it’s a vodka sauce with garlic, basil, parmesan, and tomatoes with a little spice!  Yum!  While the plate looks smaller than some restaurants, don’t worry, it’s more than enough to fill you up.  I even ended up with leftovers.  Oh & a side note, ask for a small side of pesto sauce.  The mix with the tomato spicy sauce makes the sauce even better!

Wish we had space for dessert…maybe next time.

Now it’s a great place for food, service, great atmosphere but with all that you’ll pay a little for the food too.  Though some of the lunch specials were $8.95 with entrée and salad.  My dish was $16 but so worth it for me.  Though for lunch, maybe a bit more than I’d spend every day.

Now go and enjoy & try out their Bellini Brunch on the weekends!