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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Brunch @ City Hall Bistro

In October, I had a lot less media events to attend so I used my free time to connect with friends I haven't seen/talked to in a while. Plus I got to go to some of the places that I've been wanting to go for the first time, or return to cuz the first time was so good. City Hall Bistro blew me away when I went for a media dinner. I dreamed about it all the time so when I planned a brunch with a friend, I suggested it. She also loves this place so it was quickly decided. We just can't stay away!

City Hall Bistro
1321 Commerce St.
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 651-3686
Price: $$-$$$

Checking out their brunch this time. They have a pretty small brunch menu, the rest of the options are available on their dinner menu as well. But everything sounded yummy. My friend is gluten free so we couldn't share a whole lot. I love my carbs. :P So naturally we over-ordered. She got 2 dishes and I got 2... and sampled each others.

We started with her choice, Chia Seed (apple, date, dried fruit, goji berries, cinnamon, labneh) $12~ 

The chia seeds are soaked in coconut milk (which is good cuz she's dairy free as well). The only dairy was the labneh that they usually dollop on top. So they just put it on the side. What a beautiful dish! Just lightly sweet the texture of the chia seeds were perfect. The fruits on top were strategically placed, I just loved the plating. It was a nice, light start to the meal.

Next was my pick: Hazelnut Waffles (nutella, banana) $11~ Too bad they don't have a gluten free options. These are yummy. I especially loved the hazelnut crumbles on top. It didn't really even need the maple syrup. The waffle texture was good, it didn't feel heavy. Which means I can eat more! :P

Her choice: Black Rice (harissa chicken, kale, sofrito, poached egg) $17~ I wanted this too, so I was glad she chose it. hehe. Also a beautiful dish. Loved everything about it. The flavors were great. I love black rice. The poached egg was so soft it just mixed with everything. And I like the greens in there since we didn't really have any other vegetables in the meal.

Lastly, this is not part of the brunch section but I wanted to try it since the first time I dined here. House-Made Cavatelli (braised short rib, fresh peas, parmesan) $14~ 
I love all pasta. And when it's mixed with short rib? Sold! Freaking loved it. This was my favorite. The pasta shape is fun... although you can also say they look like bugs. But delicious bugs! :P And the texture is on point! The short rib was SUPER tender. The peas and pea greens added a nice freshness since this is a heavier dish. I'd eat this dish again any day.

It was such a great meal. I loved catching up with my friend and enjoyed the lovely ambiance of City Hall Bistro. Got to try 4 new dishes there too so it's definitely a success. Hopefully I'll get to go back soon. There are more things to try!

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Earls Kitchen + Bar

Last week, I had the pleasure of checking out Earls in Legacy West for the first time. I had been hearing great things of the restaurant so I was excited when I was invited to come check out their new Fall Menu. I'm obsessed with Legacy West btw... and I cannot wait for their Food Hall to finally open! So far every restaurant in this area has been excellent.

Earls - Legacy West
7401 Windrose Ave. Suite D100
Plano, TX 75024
(469) 969-2490
Price: $$$+

Earls is a Canadian restaurant chain but each location is regionally specialized as far as the menu goes and I believe how they source their ingredients as well. The menu is pretty eclectic... worldly. It ranges from Asian influences, to some Jamaican inspired dishes.

On a Monday night, the place was pretty busy! The decor is warm and dimly lit. Not the best lighting for food bloggers but definitely has a more intimate atmosphere if you want to do date night. But is also good for groups as well.

They started us with some cocktails. Y'all know me... don't really drink. But I sampled 2 of the cocktails.

Charred Jalapeno Margarita (El Jimador reposado tequila, Ancho Reyes, Triple Sec, charred jalapeno, fresh lime) $9~ 
If you go on Mondays, this is $5 all day! They have some pretty amazing Happy Hour specials btw. AND they have Reverse HH too. Lots of food and drink specials. My friend enjoyed this. It does have a kick to it!

Jasmine (Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, Campari, fresh lemon, peach and black tea bitters) $10.50~ A beautiful cocktail. I liked it but was still too strong for me so my friend helped me drink it. If you like sweet, this is a good choice.

We got a preview of some of their new seasonal items before it rolled out the next day...

Maui Ahi Poke (sesame soy marinated ahi tuna, avocado, mango, with tortilla chips) $13~ 
A colorful dish. I had to get mine without the mango since I'm allergic, but the mango really added a splash of bright colors. Really enjoyed this. The tuna chunks were large and tender, very fresh. I loved all the veggies in there as well. A great starter to share with friends.

Blackened Swordfish Tacos (two flour tortillas with melted white cheddar, roasted jalapeno crema, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro) $12~ My favorite thing about this? That roasted jalapeno crema!! It definitely made this dish. The fish was a bit tough and dry, but swordfish is generally quite dense. 

Warm Kale Salad (black kale, baby potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, cranberries, toasted almonds, brown butter vinaigrette) $16~ 
This dish typically comes with Grilled Chicken but we got a version without meat, which is fine because I was already getting full. haha. Freaking loved this salad. So many textures and flavors! My favorite part was the roasted brussels sprouts but it was all delicious. Everyone raved about this salad. I don't think I even needed the chicken, but having chicken would definitely make a filling meal. The salad was dressed perfectly, not drowning and not bland. I would totally eat this again.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (chicken breast in an authentic jerk marinade, glazed with sweet tamarind and seared to a smoky finish, served with coleslaw, dirty rice, and black beans) $20.50~ 
We got mini versions to sample, thank goodness. Cuz the full portion is huge!! You can totally feed 2 people easily. Love this dish too. Bold flavors, you can really taste the smokiness, and everything worked together so well. The chicken was super tender. I loved the crispy toppings on the chicken too, more texture.

We were stuffed but they were serving us pie. Yaassss! Pumpkin Pie (cinnamon, sugar, chantilly cream) $8~ 
I thought we were going to get sample portions but no, they basically gave us each a quarter of a pie! Wow. Needless to say I had to take most of it home. It was a good pumpkin pie. I wish the crust was a bit more flaky with crunchy edges, but the flavor itself was great. And loved the whipped cream on top.

It was a great meal. I will definitely go back to Earls to try more things. In the mean time, y'all better get over there to try the seasonal menu items, they won't be around forever! Also shout out to our wait staff, they were all wonderful. Very diligent and accommodating with all the different food allergies in the group. Thank you so much for hosting me, Earls, and welcome to Plano! :)

*The meal was comped but all opinions are my own.*

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Oni Ramen - Deep Ellum

Y'all. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I've found the best ramen in Dallas. I've been disappointed in the ramen scene in Dallas for quite some time, but we're actually starting to get some good ones. Some of my go-tos... Wabi House, Monta, and Santouka (inside Mitsuwa's food court). But Oni Ramen blows them all out of the water. The other ones all have their strong points, but overall, Oni shines in all accounts.

Apparently there was already a location in Ft. Worth that I wasn't aware of, but we went to the new Deep Ellum location a few weeks ago. Since then I've been back already. I rarely go back to a restaurant within a month these days. I've never been to the Ft. Worth one so this review is purely for the Deep Ellum location.

Oni Ramen - Deep Ellum
2822 Elm St.
Dallas, TX 75226
(469) 620-2162
Price: $$

The layout of this place reminds me of ramen shops in Japan. It's pretty small. A few tables, some bar seating, and 2 tables outside in the back. You can either order at the computer screens or sit at the bar and get full service. I've gone twice now... first time we did the kiosk, second I sat at the bar. I'd have to say I prefer the bar seats because I always like to ask questions and potentially have substitutions and stuff. Yes, I'm one of "those" people. haha. Plus you get to chat with Brett, who mans the bar. He's a super cool dude. :) But seriously, you can't go wrong either way here. The food is ultimately good both ways of ordering.

The first visit. We did the kiosk orders and then went to go find seats. It's self service this way so there's a water station where you can get your own water.

At first glance, the bowls look freaking fantastic. I was impressed by the amount of toppings that come standard to their noodle bowls. And even the add-on's are reasonable in price.

Kyushu Tonkotsu (garlic-white pepper pork broth with pork belly, bamboo shoots, woodear mushrooms, mustard greens, red ginger, green onion, black garlic oil, and egg) $12~ 
My husband got this. First thing that draws my eyes were the 2 massive pork belly slices on top. The color on these were perfection. And they are "chopsticks" tender. I can use my chopsticks and cut right through. The broth had so much flavor, and was surprisingly not too salty. That's one of the main problems I find with ramen in Dallas, and in general... after a while it becomes too salty. This wasn't the case. The flavors were bold and rich and you can continue to taste them til the last bite. The noodles were chewy and curly. My favorite kind. The black garlic is always a good choice, it adds another depth of flavor. Plus the black looks cool. hehe.

Rich Tonkotsu (rich pork broth seasoned with soy topped with pork belly, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, woodear mushrooms, and green onion) $9~
Soft Boiled Egg +$0.50~
Leafy Greens +$0.75~
Medium Spice +$1.00~

I love that they have a lot of vegetable toppings. Another thing I don't like is typically ramen doesn't come with a lot of veggies. I really enjoyed the leafy greens in there. The soft boiled egg, a must, was cooked perfectly and actually had great flavor! I got the medium spice in the ramen and it gave a good level of heat. Wasn't super spicy so I enjoyed it tremendously. My sister got the demon spice on the side. (Oni means demon in Japanese... so they've got a demon spice add on as well as a Oni Reaper ramen.) With the demon spice on the side, my sister said it wasn't too spicy. But I suspect if she had gotten it mixed IN the broth, the heat would've built up quickly. I'm OBSESSED with their pork belly. And you get TWO!!!! They are large, thick cut, and so freaking tender.

My bro in law got the Tan Tan Men (spicy sesame seasoned dashi broth topped with tempura shrimp, woodear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, leafy greens, green onion) $11~ This one can be made vegetarian or vegan.
Chicken Thigh +$2~
The flavor on this was different than the others. You can actually taste the difference between each type of broth. He enjoyed it a lot. And this one comes with a slightly thicker noodle... also curly. :)

Second visit. I went with 2 friends that wanted to go after I told them about it.

Signature Miso (rich pork broth seasoned with sweet and nutty soybean paste topped with pork belly, bamboo shoots, buttered corn kernels, bean sprouts, and green onion) $9.50~ My friend is a ramen snob. She's really picky, and she could not stop texting people about this place. Yaaassssss!!!

Chef's Creation: Miso with Black Garlic (rich pork broth, pork belly slices, diced pork belly, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, buttered corn kernels, leafy greens, shredded leeks, toasted seaweed; soy marinated soft boiled egg). 
The chef created this for me. I feel so special! The black garlic oil covered the entire surface of the broth. It was pretty damn cool. So yummy. TONS of flavor. I especially loved the black on the noodles as I pulled them up from the broth. Serious food porn here, y'all. He also gave me a mountain of diced pork belly below the slices. Tip: if you want a bunch of meat, get the diced, it's $1 less as an add on, but it's just as tender and I think you get more! This was amazing. And so far I've tried several flavors now and they are all consistently excellent.

Like I said, best in Dallas. It's legit. Speaking from someone who's been to Japan twice. And the first time in Japan, I made a point of basically doing a ramen tour... hit up more than 7 or 8 ramen shops while I was there. And comparing prices against other places in DFW, you get the most bang for your buck here at Oni. Most of the toppings come standard, and you get a lot of it. The overall portion size is good too. I have yet to finish my bowl. Although both my friends, both small Asian girls, killed theirs. haha.

You KNOW I'll be back soon. Thanks for feeding us, Chef Jesus!
Also... this is NOT HOSTED! I just love it so!

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