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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Midnight Ramen Pop-Up - Bishop Arts District

Saturday night after the art show, I went to a pretty cool event in Oak Cliff. It was a midnight ramen pop-up at Ten Bells Tavern, held by chef Justin Holt... previously of Lucia in Bishop Arts District, and now moving to Driftwood. Both great restaurants from what I've heard. I've been to Driftwood but yet have had the pleasure of dining at Lucia. 

This was a one night only, starts at midnight, first come first serve deal. $5 for a cup of homemade ramen, cash only. He actually did a couple of these in the past, which I never got the chance to go, so since I was in the area already, I HAD to check it out!! And shout-out to CraveDFW for letting me know about the event! :) 

Good ramen is hard to come by in Dallas. I have no idea why!! So this is totally caught my interest. We left the art show and parked ourselves inside Ten Bells Tavern around 10:30pm to hang out. There was no line yet, so we are sure to get some!! I was so anxious and excited, I've never been to one of these things before! 

Around 11:15pm or so we see a girl with a $5 bill in her hand go stand by the kitchen door. That's my cue! The line has started. We immediately got up and stood next to her. Other people quickly saw us and lined up as well. Everyone was chatting and energetic while waiting. It was so much fun to be around all these people that came for the ramen. :) My fellow foodies. We even made a couple of friends! 

We're getting all hyped up and talking about how many bowls we're going to get, what's going to be in it, IF we can get more than one per person, etc... Finally around 12:15am they started taking orders. YAY!! So my bf and I had a $20 so we got 4 orders. The noodles were served in a styrofoam cup and wasn't very big. They smelled amazing!! We got ours pretty quickly and sat down to eat. I didn't even take the time to look at the other people in line but they were probably staring at us with jealousy. hahaha. 

The noodles came in a white broth, with half a marinated egg, pork belly, fish cake, and I'm pretty sure I got a bamboo shoot in mine. 
First of all, there was so much pork belly and it was fantabulous!!!!! Super moist with the perfect layer of fat and crispy skin on top. It's probably one of the best pork bellies I've had in ramen in a longggg time! And he wasn't shy with the portions which was even more awesome. That alone was worth the $5 for me. 
However, the rest of the bowl was just ok. The noodles were thicker than your typical ramen noodles and they were a little overcooked. I love chewy ramen noodles and this was not it. Although I can cut him some slack as the noodles probably got softer as they sat in the broth while the kitchen cranked out 20, 30, or 50 bowls at a time. It wasn't the most efficient operation or biggest venue. So you had to just deal with what you got. 
The egg was cooked really well with a nice soft yolk but it was sooo salty. The broth was too salty as well. By the time I finished all the stuff, I couldn't drink the broth because it was too salty. My friends all pretty much felt the same way as me. Great pork belly, not enough noodles and too soft, and too salty. Regardless, I still had a great time and I'd go to another ramen pop-up in a heartbeat! 

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Ambiance: n/a 

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The Cedars Social

Last Saturday, I went for dinner at The Cedars Social for the first time. I was going to Underground, an art show at Southside on Lamar, and this was right across the street. Plus I've been wanting to go there for awhile now, it's just usually pretty packed. 

The Cedars Social 
1326 S Lamar St 
Dallas, TX 75215 
(214) 928-7700 
Price: $$$ 

We made an early reservation at 6:30PM. The place was about half full at the time. The decor is artistic, urban and rustic at the same time. I liked the vibe of it. We were seated pretty quickly. I've heard good things about their bar, their bartender/mixologist is quite well known in Dallas. And I didn't realize the menu was created by Chef John Tesar (from Spoon)! Awesome! 

The drink menu is VERY extensive. It was quite overwhelming to decide on something. But the waitress was very helpful and actually recommended something for me. It was a variation of another cocktail, London Summer. I really like Hendrick's Gin, so she said they can use that instead of the Plymouth Gin. It also had lemon juice, orange juice, cane syrup, and cucumber. It was refreshing and yummy. :) 
My bf also got a couple cocktails, he enjoyed them all. Patsy (Jameson, Averell plum gin, lemon juice, cane syrup, Fever Tree ginger beer). 
(Annnnd... Heck yea!! Rocking the CHOMP! shirt!! hehe)
I'm not sure what the other one is called... All the cocktails were priced at $10+. 

Everything on the menu sounded fantastic but I had already looked at the menu online ahead of time and knew exactly what I wanted. 
Pork Belly (green garlic spaetzle, chipolini onion, corn, favas, quail egg) $14~ 
So the kitchen messed up and mixed my side order with my small plate order and put the pork belly on a bed of Brussels sprouts. I thought it was a bit weird when I got the dish that it was over Brussels sprouts, but I love Brussels sprouts so I didn't mind it. It was a nice slab of pork belly. Cooked perfectly, and just enough fat vs meat ratio. The quail egg on top was a nice touch. I scraped my plate clean!! 

Side of Orzo. 
Also, the waitress had told me earlier that they've replaced the spaetzle with orzo, so when I asked her about the orzo missing from my plate, she went and got me a side of it. More food!! Yay! I find most places typically overcook orzo, but the texture was great. It was a nice addition to the pork belly dish. 

Crispy Brussels Sprouts (bacon, shallots) $8~ I still got my side, so I had DOUBLE the amount of Brussels sprouts. AWESOME!!! It was delicious, great texture, lots of bacon. Mmmmmm. Goood! (I was so into eating I forgot a picture... haha) 

Lemon & Thyme Roasted Chicken (orzo, Jerusalem artichokes, sunburst squash, morel mushrooms, fennel) $23~ 
2 people ordered this. The plate was so pretty with the different colors and the chicken looked like it was seared nicely. The chicken was fine, but I liked all the sides much better. There were a lot of stuff there that I don't see very much, like the Fiddle Heads!! YUM! And whatever that beautiful orange colored sauce was was tasty. My bf liked it but said it was his least favorite out of all the other stuff he tried. I think my pork belly was definitely a winner. haha 

Pork Chop (roasted apples, basmati rice, spring vegetables) $24~ 
Another friend got this. It looked soooo good. And it was! The pork chop was tender and juicy, which is hard to do. The sides were good as well. 

He also got a cocktail recommended by the waitress. It was called #4 or something? Had cracked black pepper on top. Interesting! 

Iceberg Wedge (blue cheese, toasted walnuts, crispy bacon, marinated cherry tomatoes, chives) $10~ 
One of my friends also got a salad to start. It looked very pretty but she said it had a little too much dressing and blue cheese. Other than that, it was good. 

Hand Cut Parmesan Fries (with truffle oil) $8~ 
She also got some fries. I thought they were good. I would've preferred more truffle oil but I know that's an iffy ingredient. It's a love/hate thing with most people. She thought they were overcooked, but I like crispy fries and enjoyed it. 

I totally wanted dessert! When do I not? hahaha. 
Buttermilk Pie (added with vanilla ice cream) $9~ 
This was my choice. I would've preferred the pie to be thicker, height-wise. But it was very good. My bf and I fought for the last bite. haha. 

Bread Pudding (added pecan praline ice cream) $9~ 
I also got to try this. It was a tad small in my opinion. haha. But very good. Super moist. I loved the plump raisins in there. And paired very well with the ice cream. 

It was a great meal! There's not much I can complain about... I would've liked to have tasted the actual pork belly dish with the proper sides, but I didn't mind the mix up so oh well. I'm glad we went earlier because by 7:30pm the place was packed! Our waitress was very nice and great with recommendations. :) It wasn't a cheap meal by any means, but the food quality and taste were great, so that's all that really matters in the end right? hehe. I look forward to going back in the future. 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

I finally got to try Ethiopian food this past Saturday. I've been talking about trying it for years! Just never got around to it. But this time I got a group of people that are also newbies to Ethiopian cuisine and went to go check it out! I heard that you eat with your hands so it seemed more fun with a group of friends. :) 

Our initial destination was unavailable so someone suggested this place. Most of the Ethiopian restaurants in Dallas are within a 5 minute drive from each other apparently... 

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
9191 Forest Ln. Ste 2 
Dallas, TX 75243 
(972) 792-8442 
Price: $$ 

There was only 1 other table there when we arrived, and it never really got busy... But the waiter and the lady that ended up serving our food (I'm assuming she's either the owner or chef, or both) both seemed to be Ethiopian. That's a good sign right? haha. This is totally out of my realm btw... 

Since none of us have ever had this before we opted to just order a bunch of stuff and share. Ordering was a bit complicated because we didn't know what anything was, couldn't properly pronounce any of the dish names, and didn't really know what the proper etiquette was to eat Ethiopian food. haha. We decided to have everything put on one large plate and we'd all share. That was what the lady suggested we do... 

Now.. I have to apologize.. I totally forgot to take a picture of the menu (which I normally do), but for some reason I thought they would have a website so I didn't. Epic fail on my part! :( So I did the best I could to recall the dish names and descriptions. I don't, however, remember the exact prices. But all the dishes we ordered were between $10-14 each. 

Everything was served with (and on) injera, traditional Ethiopian bread. The bread is traditionally made of teff flour and has a soft spongy texture and sour flavor. The injera was used as a base for all the dishes and also served on the side. You basically tear off pieces of injera and use it to pick up your food. 

Round 1: 

Lega Tibs (tender pieces of beef sauteed with onion, garlic, jalapeno, tomato and herbs). The beef was a little tough but had a lot of flavor. It was pretty good. 

Doro Wat (chicken leg simmered in berbere - red pepper sauce, spiced butter, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom; served with hard-boiled egg) $9.99~ The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I'd say this was one of my favorites during round 1. The sauce was good too. I was really hoping for a big bowl of rice to put it on though. hahaha. 

Gomen? (greens slow cooked with ginger and spices with tender cuts of beef). I liked this because it had some veggies in it. The greens were cooked well and had lots of flavor.

Yebeg Wot (tender pieces of lamb braised in special berbere sauce). I don't like lamb but I tried a piece just to keep an open mind. Nope! Taste lamby... not for me. haha. But the meat was super tender. Everyone raved about the lamb dish. 

So there were 6 of us. We devoured round 1 pretty quickly since we didn't really know what to expect and how big the portions were. Everyone seemed to love it. They liked the injera as well. Except me... I really did not like the injera. First of all, it has that sour flavor. I've heard it being compared to sourdough before which I don't like. But it's actually more sour than sourdough. Second, the texture is soft and floppy and kinda mushy... not my thing. Third, it was grey in color... not the most appetizing looking. I ate only a little bit of it and ended up using a fork to just eat the meats. I know, I know... party foul! haha. The meats were good and they were full of spices. Some spices were not familiar to me and with all the meats on one plate, it was hard to distinguish. Reminded me of Indian food for sure, but with a slight variation in flavor. I definitely prefer Indian food more. 

Obviously it wasn't enough food so we ordered round 2! 

Doro Tibs (pieces of chicken breast sauteed in herb butter with jalapeno, onion, garlic, and black pepper) $9.99~ I think this was the best dish of the night. The chicken was tender, it had tons of flavor. Everyone loved it. 

Kitfo (steak tartar from lean ground beef, seasoned with spiced butter, hot pepper; served rare or well done). They told us this is usually served raw, but they cooked it for us. It had a very unique spice to it. I quite liked it! If I only had some rice!! Dang it!! XP 

We got another lamb dish, and I cannot recall the name for the life of me. It looked just like the first one we ordered with a lot of sauce. haha. But it was a different one. I didn't bother trying it this time. I left more for the others. 

I was pretty full at the end of it. But most of us had room for dessert. haha. Some people ordered coffee. Which was basically an espresso... I don't drink coffee so it was too bitter for me. But those who normally drink black coffee loved it. My bf, however, poured like half a cup of sugar in there. hahaha. :P 

The lady (chef/owner?) came out and gave us some dessert on the house. How nice of her! 
Fried Dough (topped with honey and powdered sugar). 
They reminded us of beignets. There were black specs in it like black sesame seed, but it wasn't. It had a very unique flavor. The lady brought out the spice for me to see since she didn't know the English name of it. I believe it's black and white cumin (Tikur and Nech Azmud) after doing some digging in Google. haha. But don't quote me on it. It made it different than any regular beignet or doughnut. It was a nice end to the meal...something sweet. 

Definitely an interesting experience. And it was fun to have tried it with a group of friends. I'm glad they all enjoyed it. I would probably have Ethiopian again, but definitely not often. And I'll have more knowledge about what to order next time. If you don't like foods with a lot of spice, this is probably not your thing... But I would recommend you try it at least once in your life, just for the experience. Be adventurous! 

**Disclaimer: The ratings are based on my personal experience... My friends loved it way more than I did!** 

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Koung Thai

Last Friday we went for dinner at Koung Thai in Rockwall. It's my bf's favorite Thai place and he LOVES their Thai tea. He's taken me there once before but we got the food to-go.

Koung Thai 
2006 S. Goliad St. #218 
Rockwall, TX 75087 
(972) 722-1761 
Price: $$ 

I wasn't planning on blogging about this so I only took a picture of my own dish. But it was so yummy I decided to write about it anyways. :P The place was pretty packed. I think a lot of people there are regulars (like my bf) because the waiter seemed to know them and was very friendly and casual with everyone. He also made the rounds to each table pretty frequently. With such a small staff, I was impressed with the service. 

I wanted to try something new... I always seem to get the same 4 dishes when I have Thai food so this time I ordered something else! The waiter said it was a very good choice! 

Pad Woon Sen (stir fried glass noodle with egg, fresh mushroom, carrot, baby corn, snow pea pod, scallion, chinese cabbage, woodear mushroom) Tofu & Vegetable $9.95~ 
I asked for no carrots (since I don't like them) and they accommodated without question. :) It looked delicious and tasted great! I'd say I've got a new favorite Thai dish! I ordered it at a level 2 spicy. They have 1-5 (5 being the spiciest). Normally I can eat pretty spicy but their spice level is LEGIT! Be careful here!! Level 2 was perfect. Just enough spicy without killing my tongue. I think 3 would've been ok, but pushing it. The tofu had great texture. There were lots of veggies and flavors were bold. Totally enjoyed it. 

The bf's food was good too, as was the Thai tea. hehe. This is in my top 5 best Thai places in the Dallas area now. Needless to say, we'll be back. Maybe I'll venture out and try something else new next time. :) 

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nazca Kitchen

On Tuesday I had lunch with my L2E crew from work. It's getting harder and harder to meet up with everyone, now that we're all on different teams... I suggested Nazca Kitchen. I was supposed to go there last week but ended up not going. The menu looks fresh and healthier. :) 

Nazca Kitchen 
8041 Walnut Hill Ln. 
Dallas, TX 75231 
(214) 696-2922 
Price: $$ 

Nazca features South American cuisine... mainly Peruvian inspired foods. This type of cuisine is hard to find in Dallas so of course it's worthy of a try! The decor is open and bright, quite inviting. We were immediately seated at a booth. 

There were so many things I wanted to try on the menu, but I decided to stay healthy... But later I sabotaged myself with dessert... hahaha. :-/ 

I got the Perico Wrap (Spinach and bacon with scrambled eggs, cheddar, cilantro, onions, peppers) $6~ 
It was under the "lite" section in the menu. It was a good size for the price. I really liked it. Especially with the salsa on top. There was lots of spinach which was great. The eggs were cooked well and I got the saltiness from the bacon. Overall it was light but still filling. I took half of it to go for my lunch the next day! 

I also got the Baby Kale Side Salad (tossed greens, kale, carrots, feta, avocado, mustard seed dressing) $5~ 
I picked the carrots off since I don't like carrots. Everything else was great. It was really fresh. The dressing was unique...slightly sweet. I liked it. I took half of that to go as well! :P 

One friend got the Spinach Talon Chicken Wrap (Peruvian style aji amarillo chicken, spinach, cheddar cheese, eggs, pepitas, herb sauce and criolla) with side of Butternut Squash (butternut squash, red onion, cranberries and almonds) $10~ 
I was also looking at this. It was pretty similar to my wrap. I only got to try the butternut squash side, which was delicious! The squash was sweet and cooked well. The added almonds gave it a nice crunch. 

Another friend got Chile Jam Chicken Wrap (grilled chicken, leaf lettuce, almonds, criolla, yogurt and spicy chili jam on a sun dried tomato tortilla) with side of Quinoa (quinoa tossed in tahini glaze with broccoli, tomato, feta and pepitas, peppers, pecans and olives) $10~ 
I was also looking at this too! Haha.. all good choices. I tried a bite of the quinoa. Pretty standard if you've had quinoa before. Light and fresh. They both said the food was pretty good. 

Rum-Bread Pudding $6~ 
So I saw a check-in deal on Yelp to get a free bread pudding so I HAD to do it. Doesn't get any better than free dessert!!! Even though I'm supposed to be eating healthy during the week. haha. The bread pudding was super moist!! It wasn't overwhelmingly sweet like it looked. I thought it was pretty good. Would've liked more whipped cream on the side though. That little bit melted very quickly. 

The service was uber slow! It turned out to be a longer lunch break than we wanted. We also had issues splitting the check. But despite the lacking service, I enjoyed the food a lot. I think I would go again... just when I'm not in a rush. 

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