Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Le Cirque in the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

I think perhaps once in every one’s lifetime they should really dress up and dine out with a touch of opulence and elegance. Le Cirque is just such a place, not only to experience some quality French food, but to be pampered to the extreme. I had on this occasion my son and brother in law accompanying me for this adventure in dining.
Since dress codes are enforced I made sure that both my companions had the appropriate dinner attire. Dressed to the nines we ventured down the elevator and traversed the casino to the main entrance of Le Cirque. It is small, intimate and very formal; we were greeted immediately by a hostess who checks our reservations. Our table was not quite ready so we were required to sit in the entry lounge which consisted of a small seating area and an ornate bar which would seat about 4 guests. Quickly our drinks arrived and after a brief period our table was ready.
The matre’d came for us and the waiter carried our beverages into the dining room. We were seated at a table for four complete with white linens, china and crystal. Menus were passed out and soon we were ooing and awing over each offering. My brother in law was having difficulty with the menu, he had forgotten his glasses, but our ever so aware waiter soon presented him with a pair of reading glasses kept for just such occasions.

The décor is in pastels of pinks and yellows with a whimsical circus theme. Fine tapestry materials are draped from the ceiling with circus murals painted on the walls. The dining room is small and intimate but the tables are far enough apart to provide you some privacy. You are also afforded a view of the inner garden and fountain through a large window. Conversations were kept to a respectable level so there was no chatter or distractions; clearly each diner was there to enjoy the food to the maximum.
The menu features fine French cuisine whose offerings change seasonally and in some instances daily. There is an option to dine prix fixe three-course dinner or choose the five-course option which changes nightly. An expert sommelier is available to help chose the right wine for the menu and also to select one to your budget. The three course dinner is around $95.00 and the five course $115.00 plus the cost of your wine. We chose the three course dinner and the sommelier helped us pick a nice wine to accompany entrees but stay within our budget of $40.00 per bottle, a nice red which came from Paso Robles California, my childhood town.

We dined on Bass (Chilean Sea Bass - Herb & Ginger Chilean Sea Bass, Hon Shimeji Mushrooms, Swiss Chard, Citrus Vinaigrette), Chicken ( Poulet Rôti Contiser à la Truffe Noir - organic Roasted Chicken, Black Truffle, Macaroni au Foie Gras) and Veal (Filet de Veau - Milk-Fed Veal Tenderloin, Pink Lady Apple Beignet, Creamy Polenta, Prunes & Armagnac Preserve) and we sampled each other’s dishes and to our delight each was suburb. The salad was served first along with an assortment of bread. The main courses along with our sides came next; not huge nor were the offerings small. There was enough to satiate your appetite but not enough to send you out with a bloated feeling. I need to add that Le Cirque makes an absolutely marvelous cup of coffee; one could almost chew the richly roasted coffee beans.

Open Tuesday –Sunday from 5:30-10pm, no children under age 12 are allowed nor are cell phones, cigars or pipes. Reservations are absolutely required.
3600 Las Vegas Blvd S (Bellagio Drive) Las Vegas, NV 89109 (702) 425-6502

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Taste of India & Nepal

Click to enlarge - Interior of Taste of India and Nepal
Taste of India & Nepal
330 N. Main Street
Pocatello Id. 83204
(208) 478-0172

In the 1990’s, Keshab Chhetri was a Sherpa in Nepal earning living guiding climbers up the mountains. Fate would have it that during a 14-day climb he would meet a woman who would change his life forever. Keshab got to come to America for a few months to see what the USA was all about. After returning to his native land, the desire to return became stronger and he came back to America several more times before deciding to stay for good. Keshab lived in various places in California, from Long Beach to Atascadero, but finally settled in Pocatello, Idaho. He wanted a quiet and safe environment to raise his family but he also needed to earn a living.
Click to enlarge -Naan, tandoori clay-oven baked bread.
The Taste of India & Nepal was born. It features the cuisine of Himalaya and is operated by Keshab and his family. Richly decorated with deep red walls and swag silken tapestries draped on the ceilings with luxurious deep purple scarves adoring the doorway dividing the two dining areas. White linen table cloth covered tables with a glass overlay and cloth napkins jetting out of your water glass. Soft Indian music in the background and a gracious host to greet you at the door, although small in stature the restaurant makes up in the quality of its food.

A generous menu offers the diner an assortment of Click to enlarge - Curried chicken plated with basmati rice, saag aloo [spinach, potato and spices], and raita[yogurt - cucumber sauce].appetizers, main dishes, curries, vegetarian and traditional tandoori -style cooking done in a traditional clay oven. Your choices include chicken, lamb shish kebab, tandoori shrimp or lamb tikka. Most of these dishes are savory and spicy and can be ordered to your heat preference. The vegetarian curries are served with basmati rice and include chole (chickpea) saag aldo (spinach) mushroom bhaji (mushroom and peas) most are served in savory gravy with potatoes and spices.

A generous array of curries is offered including vegetable, chicken, lamb or seafood. Rounding out the menu is Mo Mo (steamed dumplings) served with a spicy tomato sauce and filled with a
Click to enlarge - Curried chicken in serving bowl.
variety of meats. Naan, the leavened bread that is cooked in the tandoori oven, is available as is Poori, a puffy deep fried wheat bread. If you order hot and spicy, I would suggest a side order of Raita (a cooling yogurt cucumber sauce similar to tzatziki sauce) or Dal (lentils cooked in spices). You can order a dessert of gulab jamun (cheese balls in sweetened cardamom syrup) or Kheer (rice pudding). Beer from the U.S. and India are featured as well as wine by the glass. Soft drinks, tea and coffee round out the menu.

Open Monday through Saturday, lunch is served 11am-2-pm, and on Saturday, 11:30am-230pm. Dinner is available at 5pm-9:30pm all six days.

More information is available at their website, http://www.tasteofindianepal.com/ .

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ruby Tuesday - Pocatello, Idaho

Click to enlarge - Salad from the salad bar and my glass of Pinot Noir

Ruby Tuesday’s
Pocatello, Idaho

I usually don’t need a reason to dine out. Being it was my birthday, I got to chose where and when. Since I had never eaten at the much advertised restaurant chain of Ruby Tuesdays, it was an obvious choice. The décor is an upscale version of most chain establishments, tables and booths and a centralized bar area with seating and even dining al fresco weather permitting.
We were quickly seated in a booth, which I soon realized was just a bit smaller than your usual booths. My daughter and I were touching shoulders and my son easily fit into his solo position opposite us. None the less, the wait staff was pleasant and efficient. Menus in hand we soon picked our entrée’s and salad bar. The salad bar is modest in size but does serve mescaline greens, romaine and ice berg lettuce, and prepared salads of potato, macaroni and my favorite of the evening blue cheese cole slaw. There are your usual toppings and about 6 dressing choices. They serve a garlic cheese drop-style biscuit with your soup or salad - don’t get too hungry because the size is not much larger than a silver dollar - not to be confused with the generous portions of the same style biscuit served to you at Red Lobster. And one per customer, at least that is what we were served.
Click to enlarge - Chicken Fresco, a chicken breast topped with vine ripened tomatoes, lemon butter sauce and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.I chose the Chicken Fresco, a chicken breast topped with vine ripened tomatoes, lemon butter sauce and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. It was served with sides of creamy mashed cauliflower and Bleu cheese coleslaw. The chicken was moist, had good flavor and a sufficient portion. The sides were adequate and served to accent the chicken.
My son chose the Chicken Bella, “Sautéed baby portabella mushrooms and artichokes in a Parmesan cream sauce over a fresh, grilled chicken breast.” The sides were white cheddar mashed potatoes and fresh, steamed broccoli. The chicken was well cooked, moist and tender, the sauce flavorful but not overpowering the chicken or mushrooms. Click to enlarge - Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese, made with chunks of lobster meat and rich, creamy cheese.
Click to enlarge - Chicken Bella, “Sautéed baby portabella mushrooms and artichokes in a Parmesan cream sauce over a fresh, grilled chicken breast

My daughter wasn’t very hungry and chose a side dish, Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese, for her dinner. The menu describes it as, “…the ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese, made with chunks of lobster meat and rich, creamy cheese. The classic comfort food!” Curious, we asked the waitress if the lobster was real and were assured it was. Although a side dish it was not too bad, but not that great; after all it was a side and meant to be eaten with other food.
They have a nice wine list and actually offer you a choice of prices per glass to choose from, a good selection of beer and a full bar plus the usual non alcoholic beverages. I chose a medium priced Pinot Noir to accompany my dish, my son opted to try a seasonal draft which when served was dark and by the expression on his face very bitter. The waitress took it away after a little discussion and served up a glass of regular beer.
It is a nice family style establishment which offers a wide variety of food choices at medium prices. For a casual luncheon or dinner Ruby Tuesday’s is a nice option.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thai Paradise - Pocatello, Idaho

Thai Paradise
Pocatello, Id.

Nestled in the old town area, Thai paradise offers the casual diner an excellent variety of Thai and Pho dishes. Open for lunch Monday –Friday 11am-2:30pm and Saturday noon to 2:30pm and dinner Monday-Saturday 5-9pm. Parking is street side until after 5pm when the parking lot across the street allows general parking.
An impressive menu offers appetizers, salads, soup, Pho (Noodle soup) stir fried noodles, entrees which are served with steamed jasmine rice or brown rice for a dollar extra. Curries, rice dishes and a selection entitled Chef’s Favorites which include BBQ Thai chickeClick to enlarge - Lemon Grass Chicken with curry sauce and Broccolin, Thai steak, salmon curry, Click to enlarge - Appetizer is crispy wontons filled with port and veggiesshrimp stir fry and spicy sesame mussels to name a few. For those with a sweet tooth there are nine offerings that include such delectable items as coconut rice topped with coconut custard, fried banana wraps with coconut ice cream, Thai paradise delight - a purple coconut rice with coconut ice cream and attap fruit (palm seeds). All of the ice cream is homemade.

Wine and beer is available along with the usual offering of soft drinks and ice tea with one free refill on the tea or sodas. Also offered is sweet Thai ice tea or coffee available with cream. Portions are generous and they offer the diner the choice of “heat” ranging from none to very hot. Prices range from $7.50 to about $14.00 and take out is available.
Click to en;arge - Som Tum (Papaya salad)
Click to enlarge - Thai chickenWe made reservations right at 5pm which was a very good idea since 25 minutes after our arrival the waiting area was already filled and patrons were standing outside waiting patiently for their turn. We found the food to be fresh, seasoned well and served to you hot from the kitchen. We ate to our fill and then had the left over’s boxed for that mid night snack.

The décor is tastefully done with rich colors, wood and textures to add to your dining experience. Thai Paradise is located at 140 S Main Street, downtown Pocatello, (208) 269-7313

Sunday, September 19, 2010

JandD's Family Restaurant - Brigham City, Utah

JandDs Exterior from Maiin Street
J&D’s Restaurant
720 So. Main St
Brigham City, Utah
(435) 723-3811

Located on Main Street in Brigham city, J&D’s is truly a family style establishment. Booths are the mainstay with a couple of tables for larger parties and a friendly wait staff and affordable prices. If you prefer the home cooked style of food this is a must try, since the food does resemble what you JandDs Salad served with the BLTwould prepare at home.

They have a large breakfast menu, some three pages worth, and offer them all day long. The dinner menu offered a nice selection of favorites and they have a daily/weekly special at a nice reduced cost. We all ordered from the lunch/sandwich part of the menu. It states, “All hamburgers are one third pound served lettuce, onions, pickles and tomatoes on request. Add extra patty, $1.89. All burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of soup, salad, tater JandDs BLT Sandwich on Toasttots, sweet potato fries or French fries.”

The fish double dish sandwich ($6.49) was served open faced with cheese on a regular hamburger bun accompanied with tater tots. The BLT ($4.79) was served on toasted white sandwich bread and with a nice mixed salad. The cheeseburger ($4.79) was served as well on a regular hamburger bun with a nice helping of French fries.

I say family style because that is just what it is, JandDs Double Fish Sandwich with Tater Totsno pretentious food presentation, no swirls of some colored sauce, nothing piled on top of a mystery ingredient but most importantly a nice helping was given and not a tiny tid bit nestled in the middle of your plate. The food could have been cooked up in your grandma’s kitchen and would not have tasted better.

While we dined the staff and patrons interacted JandDs Cheeseburger with French friesas old friends, this must be the favorite get together diner for the town. That marks a good place to eat when passing through a strange town, if the parking lot is full it must be the place of choice.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Alfredo's Granada Restaurant - Burbank, California

Alfredo’s Granada Restaurant
1100 W. Victory Blvd
Burbank, Calif. 90506

Yet another Mexican eatery, perhaps not least, the staff, are happy, eager and remember a customer which is hard now days for most places. Although not huge they can accommodate large parties or just one or two. The menu offers the usual Mexican entrees, a la carte; children’s menu and some darn tasty drinks and prices range from about $8-$12.00 for dinners. I love a good margarita and they do have one to keep coming back for, and for the rest of their drinks they are equally well indeed.
They serve you warm chips and a mild salsa, when we asked for one with more bang we got what I would compare to the Pace medium salsa heat, not bad tasting but not the fire I was hoping for. Their food is consistent in quality and quantity so I am told; my in laws have been going to Granada’s for many years and will not eat Mexican food anywhere else. Eager to sample the food I was impressed with the overall taste, it was good, not great but real tasty, which for a Mexican food establishment is what it is all about. Modest prices with a pleasant décor and some tasty food prepared for American tastes make this a nice family restaurant.
Whenever I try out a new Mexican place, I rate the service, drinks, the salsa and then the entrée in that order. Service would rate 5 stars, drinks are also 5 stars, salsa at 2 and the entrée would be 3 which place Granada’s at around 3.7 stars. If I don’t have good service it somehow diminishes the food. You could have served me a Taco Bell taco that night but with the pampering I got that night I felt I was dining at the Ritz.
Parking is difficult with on street parking only and sloping sidewalks make handicap access difficult but not impossible. Those waiting for a table congregate outside which makes entering/exiting a chore during peak times.