CHOMP! Views

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hibiscus - Dallas Restaurant Week 2014

I'm sorry I haven't been posting lately but I'm at my last quarter of school (before graduation!!) and it's totally kicking my butt! But I can't skip Dallas Restaurant Week! (Benefiting the North Texas Food Bank and Lena Pope Home.) This year I'm only doing 2. Partially to save money and I have no time, but also the list was quite uninspiring honestly... I've been to most of the places on the list already. I really wish they would add more new places.

Restaurant week is well underway, and my first stop is Hibiscus. They only participate for the first week so you have to book fast. I went for the first time in 2012 and had a good time, so I thought I'd take a different group there this time.

Hibiscus
2927 N. Henderson Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75206
(214) 827-2927
http://www.hibiscusdallas.com/
Price: RW $35/person (not including tax+tip)

If you've been to Hibiscus or it's surrounding restaurants, you know that there's absolutely zero self parking whatsoever... Unless you want to be circling an area with terrible traffic and walk several blocks to your destination. It was raining Saturday (last time I went it was raining too.. is that a sign? haha) And I'm assuming it's because of the storm, the lights at the Henderson/75 intersection were all flashing red. Everything was backed up, and the valet to Hibiscus is probably one of the worst locations ever since it's right on the corner of the intersection. Business was crazy, as usual, and the valet was backed up too. We waited in the car, in line for a good 15-20 minutes, causing us and half the group to be late. The valet guys were trying their best. I felt bad for them...

Finally we made it in. There were a lot of people waiting in the front bar area. Our group was seated after we got there. I think they wanted the entire party there, but I told them several people were stuck in valet so they took us to our table. We were seated in the back room again, which is nice because it's not as loud. While waiting for the others, we were given the menu and our drink orders were taken.

Hibiscus does their menu differently than most other places. They offer the 3 courses but the appetizer, sides, and desserts are served family style and it's 1 order to every 2 people. Since we had a party of 12, we were able to get multiples of each. And everyone orders their own entrees.

We got 2 of each of the appetizers:
Perla Burrata (fig mostarda, radish, sourdough). 
This was my favorite. Sweet and creamy and crunchy! The burrata was very delicate, it's an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. It spread well on the sourdough crackers. The fig was sweet and paired the burrata perfectly. I think I ate half of a plate myself!

Lamb Ribs (brown sugar-sherry glaze, smoked mustard). 
This looked delicious, and I don't even like lamb. I had to try some though. I could taste the gaminess which I didn't like, but it was pretty mild. But the crust on that rib was crispy and pretty amazing. The sauce and mustard was fantastic. I think this was the table's favorite.

Boston Bibb (citrus, chevre, candied cashews, avocado). 
I liked this for the freshness. It also paired really well with the burrata. But it was underwhelming. There wasn't any dressing which puzzled me. But the bibb lettuce was fresh and tender and the other elements went well with it.

We're off to a good start. I've enjoyed the appetizer round. While waiting for the entrees, I succumbed to peer pressure and ordered a cocktail. haha. Basil Gimlet (pearl cucumber, basil, lime) $10~ 
The waiter said it's normally made with vodka but I requested Hendrick's Gin (my fav). And he said he would make it sweeter for me. :) It was yummy. Very refreshing, and just sweet enough for me.

For the entree round, no one ordered the chicken option... booo. So no pictures. Sorry.

I got the Sea Scallops (corn pudding, saffron squash, chanterelles). 
I knew I wanted this one as soon as I saw their menu posted on their FB page. All the elements sounded fantastic. The plate was really pretty, but the portion size was quite small. But most scallop dishes tend to be this way. The scallops were seared and cooked perfectly. However, I did get a little bit of grit in one of them. The corn pudding was sweet and I liked the squash and chanterelles, I just wanted more of it. It was good, but not the best scallop dish I've had.

Tenderloin (marfa tomato, charred onion). 
The more popular choice around the table. I thought it was missing something when they served it. It looks so sad on the plate... no sauce and so small. I found it weird that it came with no sauce whatsoever. But the steak was tender and paired well with the tomato and onions. It was just eh in general.

For the sides, we had 3 choices, so we got 2 of each as well.

Bloomsdale Spinach. Garlicky, yummy. It was nice to get green veggies with the meal.

Potato Puree. Smooth and creamy, loved it. The orders got messed up and we were given a 3rd one of this and 1 less spinach. So we told the waiter and he brought us another spinach. Extra potato! Score! :)

Mac & Cheese. This was by far my favorite of the night. Creamy and spicy. I loved the crunch on top. It was super rich and I loved it. haha. We all wanted more! They had changed everything on the RW menu since the last time I was there except this dish, and 1 of the desserts. I'm glad they didn't change these!

Annnnd it's time for dessert. There were 2 options so we got 3 of each.
Warm Chocolate Tart (blackberry, orange, Marcona almonds). 
Sounded more interesting than it is. It was pretty but it's basically brownie in a tart shell. The tart itself was a bit dry. A scoop of ice cream or glass of milk was much needed. But I could really taste the orange infused in the tart. We actually had leftovers of these and no one cared to take it home..

Ice Box Pie (butterfinger, vanilla ice cream, oreo crust). 
Amazing. Another favorite of the night. I'm so happy this stayed on the menu from last time. We really should've just gotten 5 of these and 1 chocolate tart. haha. Who doesn't love butterfingers and oreo? Perfect amount of oreo crust to ice cream ratio. YUM!

It was a great dinner. I think everyone enjoyed the food. However, when we were finishing up dessert, we noticed there was an ant on one of the tart plates. Just climbing on an almond... haha. We showed the waiter and he was very apologetic and said he would tell the kitchen. But that was pretty much it. Nothing else was really done about it. We didn't make a big deal out of it either. It was a nice evening, and it was just an ant... not something grosser. haha. But hopefully they'll get that fixed or under control or whatever they need to do. For the most part, the waiter and assistant waiters were all good. Friendly and just attentive enough. Our bills were separated with no issues. I'd go back again for another restaurant week in the future.

**I also want to give a special shout-out to the valet. Somehow during the rain/traffic/running late at the beginning of the night. I had lost my valet ticket. We went to the valet stand after dinner and knew they were swamped. But no one was rude to us and they tried to help me look for my keys. However, sometimes they keep the keys inside the car, in which case... I think mine was in my car. So they radioed out to the guys to look for it. I kept apologizing and they were totally cool about it. They found it pretty quickly too, considering they had more than 300 cars that night! I totally appreciate their attitude and prompt service. They definitely deserved the big tip! :)

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:





~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lockhart Smokehouse in Plano

Last Saturday we were heading to Plano and I suddenly remembered that we still haven't tried the new Lockhart BBQ! I totally took the opportunity and suggested that we go there for lunch. Excited!!

Lockhart Smokehouse
1026 East 15th Street
Plano, TX 75074
(972) 516-8900
http://www.lockhartsmokehouse.com/
Price: $$

Walking in, I saw that there was no line!! No line!! That's freaking awesome. All I keep hearing was how long they still had to wait when they went to Lockhart. Apparently we came on the best day! Later after we sat down at the bar to eat, the bartender was telling us that they were swamped on July 4th with people coming in and ordering tons of meat for their "cookouts". And so the day after, it was much calmer, but still had a steady stream of people. We hit the jackpot on this one.

We waited about 5 minutes to order. That gave us time to look over their menu which was written on a chalkboard on the wall. As we got up to the register, they ran out of beans. Good thing we weren't going to order any!

We got a half pound of Beef Brisket (fatty) $7.99~ per 1/2 pound. 
 
I asked if they had any more burnt ends but they didn't. But it's ok. The char on the brisket was fantastic enough. So much flavor. The brisket was just fatty enough to be juicy but not too fatty. I put some on bread with some coleslaw and made a pretty epic sandwich. I've heard that their brisket can be dry but we certainly got a good batch. :)

Pork Spare Ribs $6.50~ per 1/2 pound. 
We got a half pound, and it was 2 ribs. TWO. Haha, they were a good size. I was so into the brisket sandwich that I only ate 1/4 of the ribs. We took the other one to go. The ribs weren't super tender but still very good. It did have a lot of flavor though. I still liked the brisket better, which is usually my favorite meat at a BBQ joint.

Lockhart Slaw (small) $2.50~ 
They also had a blue cheese slaw, but neither one of us are that big of fans of blue cheese. This was yummy. And SPICY! the heat starts slow and builds up as you eat more and more. My fiancee can't really eat spicy so it was all on me!! There were little chunks of brisket in there too. And it wasn't overly dressed and soggy. Yum.

Potato Salad (small) $2.50~ 
The potato salad was good too. Also had chunks of brisket in there. The potatoes had a good texture. And it was creamy but not overly dressed either.

The food was great, we were having a lovely lunch, but the best thing of all was their special dessert of the day. Whiskey S'mores Bread Pudding
We saw it on the board and had to get it. Sounded too amazing to pass up. As the girl at the register was scooping it into a container, I could already smell the chocolate. It was hot and gooey and chocolatey. So. Freaking. Good. We almost went back and got some to go but fought our temptations. haha. It was an amazing bread pudding. Probably in my top 3 of bread puddings ever. I can't say I tasted any of the whiskey but it didn't matter. haha.

We both thought the hype was legit. The food was great. And I was really impressed with the service. We sat at the bar but didn't order any drinks. The bartender was still awesome. Laid out paper towels for us, filled our water cups when it got low, and chatted with us. Very friendly and attentive. We really came on the perfect day. I bet when they get really swamped, they probably don't have the same amount of time to spend on each customer.

So 1 new BBQ place down, I dunno how many more to go. I really want to go to Pecan Lodge, everyone tells me it's even better. Some day... In the mean time, I will definitely return to Lockhart.

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion (and a big surprise!)

Surprise! We went to Roy's again. haha. Definitely one of our favorite places in Dallas. My bf told me he had made a reservation there for dinner on the 4th because he had a project that's ending and he wanted to celebrate. Naturally I said yea sure! And I was glad that his project was gonna be done... he had been so stressed lately. :( We always go to Roy's for special occasions. They always make us feel special and of course the food is fantastic. But little did I know.. his project wasn't a work thing like I assumed. After dinner we went home and watched July 4th fireworks on his roof where he proceeded to propose! What what?? The "project" wasn't work related at all, it was his months of planning the surprise proposal and getting the ring! Awww. So... SURPRISE to me! haha. What a sneaky guy. :P And of course I said "yes!" :D He's such a sweetie. hehe.

He said the plan had to include good food and Roy's holds sentimental value in both of us so it was perfect.

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion
2840 Dallas Parkway
Plano, TX 75093
(972) 473-6263
http://www.roysrestaurant.com/locations/tx/plano
Price: $$$$

We had an earlier reservation since we wanted to get back in time for the fireworks. And I saw that they had extended their happy hour (Aloha Hour) times as well as the menu. I suggested going a little earlier and trying some of the appetizers at the bar.

It's been awhile since I've been to happy hour at Roy's but from what I remember, their wagyu sliders are pretty awesome.

I chose the Crispy Pork & Steamed Buns (green apple slaw, red dragon sauce) $6~ 
Very good. The buns were steamed nicely and so fluffy. The pork was crispy and had a ton of flavor with the sauce. I loved the addition of the apple in the slaw. Never had that in a steamed bun before. It added sweetness and a freshness and a crunch. I would totally get these again.

He picked the Tempura-Crusted Ahi Roll (spicy togarashi miso butter sauce) $6~ 
There was too much rice to other stuff ratio. We wondered if it's because it's a happy hour item. But I liked the way they did the tempura. It seemed more liked breadcrumbs instead of an actual tempura batter. But it was nice and crunchy. And the miso butter sauce was good. Just needed more tuna!

They also have a list of cocktails on special for $6. He ordered a Mai Tai.

We finished right in time for our reservation. We were seated immediately. As we were sitting down, we told the hostess that we were so happy to hear that they put the classic version of the Misoyaki Butterfish back on the menu. She agreed that it should've never been off the menu! It was definitely a highlight to our week when we found out. :) Our waiter was super friendly and quickly greeted us, and he was fantastic throughout the night. 

We pretty much knew what we wanted going in. And since we had some food at the bar already we didn't order too much.

Lakanilau Roll (Wagyu beef, snow crab, tempura asparagus, avocado sesame miso, truffled greens) $16.90~ 
We tried this for the first time last visit to Roy's. Love it! I love the flavor of the beef with the truffle. Sure beats the tuna roll during hh! haha. It doesn't even need any additional soy sauce, it already has so much flavor.

Misoyaki Butterfish (Alaskan black cod, baby bok choy, Furikake rice) $34.60~ 
They brought back the Classic preparation of the butterfish!! About time! The Classic is the one with the bright green wasabi cream sauce. One of my favorite dishes of all time. He called ahead to pre-order it when he made the reservation. But then we found out they brought it back! Apparently enough people have complained/requested it that corporate knew they made a mistake. And according to our waiter, Plano is special cuz we got it back on the menu first! :D We asked them if they could split it since we were sharing. They have a $5.99 split plate charge, but we went ahead and did it since basically each person gets their own rice, bok choy, and most importantly... the wasabi cream sauce! The half portion was actually perfect. I mean, I can totally stuff more in my face, but my stomach might not be able to hold it all. haha. The fish was cooked to perfection. Melts in your mouth! Hence the name. The sauce is divine. I can just bathe in it. :P

Baby Greens Salad (shaved carrot, grape tomato, Japanese Yuzu honey emulsion) $9.90~ 
I wanted some veggies to supplement the dinner. In hindsight, we could've done without it. But it was good. Very light, fresh, wasn't overly dressed or filling.

Needless to say, it was a fantastic dinner. He did good by choosing the perfect restaurant. AND surprising me later on the rooftop. haha. And I guess in the future posts I have to refer to him as my "fiancée"! And thanks to Roy's for another great meal. :)

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Knife @ Hotel Palomar

I'm overdue for another post! I've got several actually. Last weekend was crazy busy and exciting! Hope everyone had a great 4th of July. :)

I've been trying to check out Knife for awhile with some foodie friends of mine. We had scheduled it weeks in advance and still had to reschedule another time. Finally it was the day! We were all pretty excited since we've all loved Chef John Tesar's (former Top Chef contestant) Spoon in the past. I think we all had pretty high expectations.

Knife
5680 North Central Expressway
Dallas, Texas 75206
(214) 443-9339
http://www.knifedallas.com/
Price: $$$$+

It is located in Hotel Palomar on Mockingbird Lane. I've always really liked that hotel, it's really nice and modern inside. Although parking is non-existent. They offer free valet to dining guests though.

Some of us arrived a little early so we went to the bar. The drink menu is displayed on an ipad, which is cool. But I didn't care for most of their cocktail options. Nothing really interesting stood out to me. The cocktails range from $10-14~ ish...

My bf ordered a Oaxacan Mule. I guess it's similar to a Moscow Mule? But it had pear liquor or something so maybe that's the difference. It came in a cool copper cup and adorned with sliced pears. He liked it.

My other friend got an Olive Oil Martini. She said it was super strong and did not taste any of the olive oil flavor.

Once everyone arrived we were seated immediately. The restaurant decor was nice. I especially liked the eclectic yet Western style in the bar area. Although there were 2 chairs by the hostess stand that looked like coffins... not sure where they were going with that. haha. Made for a fun photo op though! :P There was an open kitchen/plating area after you walk in. And I saw Chef John Tesar working! It wasn't as big of a space as I expected. We had 6 people and were seated in a giant booth with a giant table, probably could've fit another 4 people pretty comfortably. haha.

Our waiter came by with more drink orders. Then later explained the menu to us with the different cuts of beef, the aging time, etc. It was a little hard to understand him though for several reasons. 1) The table was so damn big, we all had to lean in to listen. 2) Once the dining room started filling up, the noise level was kinda high. 3) He had an accent, and I'm so bad with accents. XP

We started off with a Complimentary Crudite: Cucumber, Radish, Celery, Endive, Carrots, Jerky; with Green Goddess sauce. Cool presentation. The veggies were nicely chilled in the ice and fresh. I liked the Green Goddess sauce a lot.

Bread Basket: Biscuit, Bread
We got to choose from 4-5 kinds of bread. The waiter with the basket highly recommended the bread on the right. I think he called it "Lavon??", I can't be sure since I've never heard of it. I actually had to make him repeat it twice. haha. And in the end, I still didn't fully understand... The "lavon" bread was good, could've been warmer though. Fluffy, soft inside, and a harder crust on the outside. The biscuit was quite dense and kinda dry. Would've been better warmer too. And soaked in gravy... I'm just sayin'. hahaha.

It was time to order. Each couple ordered their own thing but we ended up swapping plates around the table.

Couple #1 got Teresa's Watercress, Endive and Walnut Salad (with goat cheese) $16~ 
They went ahead and split the salad for them (so the picture shows half portion). It came in these gigantic bowls. Cool presentation, but unnecessary? I got to try a little of the salad. I was hesitant since I don't like goat cheese at all, but it was good. The goat cheese was very mild. I loved the watercress, it's not everyday you see that in salads.

45 Day Dry Aged Niman Ranch Bone in Ribeye (32oz. for 2) $80~ 
This thing was massive. So impressive looking. And this is the first time I've had steak that was already cut for me. The meat was cooked well. And it had so much marbling, which I love. The flavor was great. They offer these sauces you can order on the side, but I think due to the aging process the meat already has a lot of flavor and the sauces are unnecessary. Plus with the fattiness of the meat, some of the richer sauces might be overkill? I really enjoyed this. Plus ribeye is my second favorite cut of steak only to prime rib. Can't say it was the best ribeye I've had, but it was definitely good.

They also got Johnny's Mac & Cheese $12~ 
There was some green stuff baked into the cheese. I'm guessing green chile? It was yummy. The pasta had good texture and it had a nice crust.

Couple #2 ordered the 45 Day Dry Aged Bone in Niman Ranch Sirloin (24oz.) $60~ 
This was also impressive looking and pre-cut. However, I didn't like this one as much. You can definitely taste the flavor difference between this and the ribeye. The ribeye was just richer and meatier. The sirloin is definitely a much leaner cut if you are into that.

Fettuccine Bolognese $19~ 
We also ordered this. They split the plates for all of us (half portion shown here too). I wanted to try their pasta because I know they make it in-house. I read online that the bolognese sometimes was too spicy so I asked beforehand if they can remove or reduce the spice. (I love spicy but my bf can't take much.) The waiter didn't seem to know and was hesitant to accommodate but he said he would write it down. I dunno how they prep the pasta, but I would think they could accommodate to people who can't handle spicy?? Wasn't too happy about that.... But I really liked the pasta dish. The fettuccine was cooked well. I loved the texture. The bolognese was good too. Not spicy enough for me, but still too much for my bf, so I ate his half too. I win! :P And we realized that the table was not so big after all. With all our large slabs of meat and split plates, the entire table was covered! hahaha. It was a feast!

They also got Roasted Okra, Tomato, and Bacon $9~ This was really good. Nice smoky flavor. The okra was cooked well. (sorry, forgot a picture)

Finally, the two of us opted for no steak because there were other dishes I wanted to try more.

Sous Vide Beef Cheek Open Faced Sandwich (morel mushroom gravy) $17~ 
I love beef cheeks. I've realized that the best part of any meat is the cheek. And fish too! The most juicy and tender. This was amazing. Sous vide is basically sealing the meat in an airtight bag and then cooked in a temperature controlled water bath for a long time. It makes the meat super tender. The meat was fork tender and had so much flavor. The combo of textures from the morel mushrooms and bread contrasted the soft meat. It was our favorite dish of the night.

Crispy Pork Belly (collard greens, pan juices) $18~ 
It also had pickles and mustard seeds. You know me and my pork belly! Gotta try it. They actually had 2 pork belly dishes and we chose this one. The pork belly was thick cut and had a really nice crust on the outside. The best part? The combination of the pickles, pork and mustard seeds. The slight acidity from the pickles made the dish. The collard greens lightened up the dish next to the fatty meat. Tasty. But not as good as the beef cheeks. :P

And of course we got the Fettuccine Bolognese $19~ as I mentioned earlier.

Vegetarian Collard Greens $7~ I wanted some veggies so we ordered this. Basically same as what was underneath the pork belly. Cooked well, nothing spectacular though. (sorry, forgot a picture, but it's just collard greens)

That was a lot of food. We were given dessert menus but seeing the price and how full we were already, none of us opted to get anything. I wanted to try one of them, but I think it was a good decision I didn't. Because... we were given Complimentary Mini Desserts (from left to right): Moscato Jelly, Shortbread Cookie, Banana Macaron, Brownie (with sea salt). 
 
The macaron was by far the best. And it was so cute! They did this too at Spoon, where you get a complimentary beginning and end. Which I like, and not many nice restaurants in Dallas does this. We also got some parting gifts. Madeleines, which are French butter cakes shaped like shells. I ate mine the next day. It was moist and buttery and you can see the vanilla bean specks in it.

Overall the food was delicious. Everything else just mediocre. The waiter was nice, but not as informative or accommodating as I would've expected. It was a bit loud in there and conversations were kinda hard because the table was so large. And honestly I was comparing it to Spoon, which was phenomenal, so Knife had a tough act to follow...

I probably won't return. But don't mark it off your list if you haven't tried it yet.

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~