Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Porterhouse Grill in Pocatello, Idaho

Porterhouse Grill at the Red Lion Hotel, Pocatello, Idaho June 2, 2006
The Porter House was an established eatery in the 1980's and the menu was superb. However when the chain changed hands it went from superb to the mundane and finally closed. About 5 months ago the chain management decided to reopened the long vacant restaurant. We went on a Friday evening at 5:30pm. We were the only patrons there, perhaps too early for the "crowd". The menu was an abbreviated and slightly up grated version of the hotel’s day restaurant, prices included.

We were a party of three and ordered three different dishes. Mine was an Asian influenced wheat noodle Vegetable, beef kabob inspired fare. Another was a healthy turkey wrap in a multi grain tortilla and finally a traditional steak dinner, rib eye with blue cheese, risotto and house vegetables. To start it off we ordered an appetizer, a multi grain/spice infused quesedilla with cheese, mushrooms and spinach. In all, the most spectacular part of the entire meal. It was absolutely delicious, served with a side of sour cream and a mild salsa; it needed nothing to add to its superb taste and texture.

Now one must remember the ambiance of an establishment, we had of course linen tablecloths and napkins, ours were black and red, the former were white, perhaps the same only aged? We had the tones of a newly formed micro light jazz combo complete with singer wafting in the air, through an open door of the adjacent Porterhouse Pub. Since we were the only occupied table in the establishment, the sounds carried through. I am all for newly formed groups, however since I was in the mood for a distinctive dining experience, I was not amused.
The wine list read from boxed fare to the mediocre for a normal bar type atmosphere. We were distinctively pleased to see that Mohitos were being served and ordered two. Two too many it seemed. Our waitress was also in charge of engineering the complex tastes of this Caribbean inspired drink and her only comment was, " I put in two sugar packets, was that enough?" OK, not enough crushed mint, too small a glass and just not enough of Mohito. So moving along to the main menu.

The rib eye encrusted blue cheese fare was fine enough, although slightly over done from the medium rare ordered. The down side was when the waitress entered stating that the risotto had gone bad and could she substitute something else. Ok, so we said wild rice, minute rice with a teaspoon of wild rice something mixed in is not a substitute. The upside would be the multi lettuce (escarole, radicchio, endive etc.) salad complete with a single hard crusted white roll with a foil-encrusted pat of "real" butter. Hummm……

The turkey wrap in the multi grain tortilla was a dry arid arrangement of turkey, some sort of lettuce with cheese perhaps provolone and some chopped up tomatoes and a slight version of dressing, ranch I think? All in all too dry.

Mine was the most interesting; it was a wheat pasta noodle with a kebab of beef served over with sautéed Napa cabbage and vegetables. Sounded good, however what I received was an over done kabob of beef, two no less served atop swimming wheat noodles infused with about thirty micro mini carrots and a trace of cabbage here and there. And perhaps about a cup of Asian inspired sauce, Hoisin, soy, sesame, etc., who knows, all I know is by the time I got it home in the to go box it had leaked through the bottom; a glutinous mess of oily sticky Asian stuff.

Now do not by any means discard this establishment for a dining experience, for the only way to get and maintain an eatery of fine staple goods is to frequent and comment as to its fare. So go and dine and do fill out the comment cards as to your tastes and wants and only by this will you be afforded a truly enjoyable eatery. I must say that the servers were ever so intent to serving our needs and tried to make our experience enjoyable. It was as though they could read our minds.

Vamos a Sol Rio! in Idaho Falls, Idaho

Real Mexican-Style Food
Brightly colored and decorated outside with umbrellas and tables for your waiting comfort, there was no dining al fresco. Once inside the ambience was lost, the usual strip mall fascade included no ceiling but exposed pipes and duct work. This only added to the reverberations of sound that seemed to gain momentum as the evening worn on. That the diners were celebrating Cinco de Mayo may have added to the festivities and noise.

The staff directed us to the bar area to wait, a small bar with three chairs, one table with three chairs, nestled against a service way. After ducking the service crew and several patrons we finally settled down to a two-foot square table for our dining experience. We were informed it was Margarita night, mass made quantities that seemed to be served faster than they could fill up the two-gallon jug. They were excellent not only in taste but price.

The usual chips and salsa were served. The table salsa is a liquid based cilantro salsa, mild enough for your children. We asked for the hot stuff and were served a mixed black bean salsa with a little bite but not much. The menu was not that of your typical Mexican food restaurant. Appetizers included nachos, prawns, and spinach artichoke dip to name a few. The main fare had chimis and burritos many types and flavors, tacos, chili verde, and molcajete, a thick Mexican stew. Chicken items such as chicken mole, arroz con pollo, nine entrees in all. The seafood offered 11 items, from fish tacos, your choice of salmon, battered cod or sautéd cod served up with mango salsa , black beans and rice. Salmon, shrimp or crab stuffed burritos, fresh talapia, several prawn dishes, and to round it off, your usual combo plate deals, tacos, enchilada, tostada, tamale and chili relleno combos to your choosing. A delightful assortment of salads and soups, and pasta dishes like tequila lime pasta even a Cuban pork sandwich.
I ordered the chili verde, my two companions ordered the supreme burrito, and the seafood B burrito stuffed with crab. The chili verde was a little salty to my taste also a little thin. I am used to a thicker chili. The meat was tender and did have a mild taste. The refried beans left you flat. There was absolutely no taste to them, no salt, not even a bean flavor. A Gerber baby would have found them mild to their pallet. The rice was flavored with a hint of spices, no onion, tomatoes just rice. The servings were ample enough for a normal appetite. Now the supreme burrito was at least 10-inches long about 3-inches wide and at least as high. Stuffed with rice and beans and your choice of meat filling, covered with a combo of red and green sauce and melted cheese, topped off with tomatoes, sour cream, onions and guacamole. I must say it was a delightful presentation, savory, aromatic and tantalized your taste buds. Well worth its modest price, and worthy of a large appetite. The seafood burrito was served in an 8-inch size tortilla, and was a flavorful sautéd crab combo served with melted Monterey Jack Cheese and Verde sauce, rice and beans. The burrito was light and did not have a fishy taste; you could savor the succulent crab morsels as they blended nicely with the sauce and cheese.

A medium priced meal at a strip mall location was well worth the trip. If you are looking for an interesting array of unusual items this might be well worth the dining experience. It offers children’s plates at $3.95 and the most expensive item on the menu is $12.95. If on the other hand you are looking for that snappy, spicy zing of jalapenos, hot red peppers and the zesty taste of garlic and onions this is not the place for you. Sol Rio offers mild flavored Mexican food the entire family can enjoy.

Would I go back? One cannot fully judge an eatery on just a single visit; Sol Rio offers me yet another dining experience.