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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Toko V

Saturday night we went to Toko V. In the old Village Marquee spot (and Marquee Grill before that) in Highland Park Village. They split the place into 2 restaurants... downstairs is Village Kitchen still headed up by Village Marquee's Chef Andre Natera. Upstairs is now the Asian fusion place, Toko V.

Toko V
33 Highland Park Village
Dallas, Texas 75205
(214) 522-6035
Price: $$$

I've been wanting to try both places but Toko V a little bit more since the menu seemed more interesting. A friend of mine talked to them Saturday around noon to see if we can make a reservation. He was told that they would take walk-ins not reservations. So our plan was to go check in around 7pm and hang out at the bar until we got a table.

The layout of the place was pretty much the same but the decor inside had been updated. The bar area is still really cool with a nice patio area above the theater. Our semi big group of 8 had turned into 12 by the time we arrived. haha. I was worried that we wouldn't be able to get a table. A few of my friends had arrived earlier and was talking to the hostess. Initially it was sounding like bad news, but by the time we got there, they were prepping a table for us! Apparently a large group cancelled and we took their table. Sweet! Although walking in, I saw plenty of open tables... which they said were reserved. But they told my friend we couldn't reserve? Weird...

Doesn't matter. We got a table! Time to look at the menu. :) I already knew what I wanted tho. hehe

A friend ordered Pork Potstickers (seared pork dumplings with champagne Tozsu sauce) $10~ 
Nice presentation in the steam basket but really? $10 for 4 small dumplings? And he said it was so-so. He'd rather go to Jeng Chi where it's cheaper and better.

Another guy got Fried Beets with Mayo (smoked and fried with Togarashi and Yuzu Wasabi Kewpie mayo) $8~ 
Interesting. Can't say I've ever had fried beets before. I liked the color. And the texture was pretty good too. But it completely lacked seasoning. And there wasn't enough mayo to help it out. :(

Pork Buns (char su braised pork, sriracha aioli, Asian slaw) $14~ It came 3 to an order. They looked pretty good. I didn't get to try it. But my friends didn't seem impressed.

Tuna Tartare (diced tuna, cilantro lychee sauce) $16~ 
My bf and I got this to start. It came with 4 pieces of shrimp chips to eat with. It was very good. The tuna was fresh and the sauce was refreshing. Slightly sweet and tangy. And the shrimp chips added a nice crunch. I also liked the strips of seaweed on top.

One friend got the Snapper Ceviche (crispy amaranth, compressed tomatillo, pickled peppers, chili threads) $16~ 
The portions here aren't very big if you haven't noticed... For the price anyways. The snapper was also very fresh and had great texture. I loved the crispy amaranth with the tender fish. The flavors were light but good. I think she got this as her main dish and it definitely wasn't enough!

Green Curry Bowl (coconut broth, ramen noodles, cilantro, Thai basil) $12~ Add Roasted Pork +$5~ 
This was my main dish. I knew I wanted to try this the moment Toko V opened. I love green curry. And I love ramen, so I'm hoping this would be good! And it was! The portion was pretty good. The roasted pork was super tender. The curry had good flavor, with a slight kick. There were cherry or grape tomatoes in there.. but they were kind of out of place. They didn't soak up any of the broth flavor so it was just like random tomato flavor. haha. Not sure if it was meant to be like that. The ramen was slightly overcooked, but still decent. But it was very rich... a friend of mine ordered it too and it was too creamy and heavy for her to finish. I finished mine though. haha. I really enjoyed it. Although thinking of the final price... $17. I'm not sure it was worth it.

My bf got the Lemon Grass Shortrib (braised short rib, steamed rice, fried egg, soy maple syrup) $17~ 
So did 2 other people at the table. The meat was a good size. But it was slightly dry. The roast pork in my curry was wayyyy better. But eaten as a whole (with the egg and rice and sauce), it was still very good. The sauce was the kicker. It was pretty sweet, just like maple syrup, but it worked! You need to mix everything together for the dish to work. I had my first bite without the sauce and it was just ok. My bf and another friend LOVED the sauce.... they scraped up every last bit. My other friend, though, said her rice was undercooked.

Miso Salmon (mustard Mirin glaze, steamed rice, grilled bok choy) $19~ 
This was a nice big piece of salmon and it was cooked well. I liked the glaze as well. But rice was seriously undercooked. I normally kinda like undercooked rice (for the texture) but this was still gritty. Eh...

One guy ordered the Steak with Wafu Sauce (charred marinated strip steak, Wafu sauce, watercress slaw) $28~ 
He had asked the waiter what would fill him up the most and this was the recommendation. It was tiny! I don't think it should be called "steak" since it was actually small cubes of beef. For $28??!? He was very disappointed. They did throw in a free bowl of rice, but he inhaled it so fast.. and was still hungry after. I'd say skip on this one!

Yellowtail & Super White Tuna Roll (diced spicy yellowtail, tempura flakes, topped with super white tuna, cilantro and sriracha) $13~ Sorry the picture turned out so blurry!!! :( My friend said it was pretty good. But the rolls were really small and it wasn't very filling.

Aside from the terrible steak recommendation, our waiter was great. He was very attentive and accommodating. The water glasses stayed filled and he was friendly the entire night even after I had all these questions and requests. :P

One of my friends wanted to try the Donut Croissants (with Mexican hot chocolate sauce) $8~ "Cronuts"!
They were technically a dessert at Village Kitchen which was downstairs, but the waiter asked and was able to get him an order of it. So he took it to go, and we all went next door for some gelato at Paciugo! haha!

Wasn't the best meal. Very expensive and not too satisfying. Most of my friends left hungry. Although I think me and my bf's choices were the best out of the bunch, so we still enjoyed it. I wouldn't recommend it and I won't be going back. I still wanna try Village Kitchen though. One of my friends went and said it was really good.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sichuan King - Double Feature!

I think I have found my new favorite noodle place in Dallas. Actually, I can't say I had one to begin with since Dallas didn't really have a legit noodle house. I mean King's Noodle by Chinatown is ok, so is Mian Cuisine in Plano. But they don't keep me going back.

Sichuan King
400 N Greenville Ave
Richardson, TX 75081
(972) 907-1186
Price: $-$$

Sichuan King is pretty new. It took the old Jeng Chi spot on the Chinatown strip. I walked by one day and saw some pictures of their dishes in the window. Looked good, but I wasn't getting my hopes up. But I did notice they had hand cut noodles!!! OMG. One of my all time favorite things in the world! I've never seen it here before. And even in Taiwan now, it's harder to come by. This means I MUST try it!

We decided to go for lunch one day. Kind of last minute... I also called up my sister who wanted to try it. They've got 2 things we love noodles (esp hand cut for me...) and spicy. It was packed when we arrived around 12:45. But we got a booth in the corner. The place smelled so good!

There were only 3 of us, but we wanted to try so many things!! Finally we decided to get a variety of things and share.

N5. Spicy Ground Pork Noodle (with sliced noodle) $6.95~ 
Basically spicy zha jiang mian. Which is my absolute favorite type of Chinese noodles. I was so excited! It looked yummy when it came and I mixed the sauce/meat/noodles around. We loved it! It was actually spicy for one! The meat and sauce had good flavor and the hand cut noodles were great! It had great texture, which is super important. By far my favorite noodle dish there to date. I can just go back and eat that if everything else isn't up to par. hahaha

N14. Pork & Mustard Leaf Noodle $6.95~ 
We wanted to try a soup noodle since the first one was dry. We got the regular noodles and it's not spicy. My bf doesn't really eat spicy so this'll help balance out the other spicy dishes. If it was just me and my sister, I think everything would be spicy. haha. This was pretty good. The broth had nice flavor and the pork was tender. I'm not as big of a fan of soupy noodles so the zha jiang mian was more my thing. My bf and sister liked it a lot!

A6. Hand Pancake $3.95~ 
This is similar to a green onion pancake but instead of flat pieces, it's pulled loose by hand. I've had hand pancakes in all different kinds of flavors but this one is the basic one. It doesn't have green onions in it just FYI. It was pan fried nicely so it had a crispy layer along with the softer doughy parts. The one at Mian Cuisine is slightly better. But this was still really good... dipped in the spicy meat sauce and/or chili oil. I thought we were gonna have some left over but I was wrong!

A8. Sichuan Spicy Wonton $4.95~ 
My sister and I love spicy wontons. These were great. The texture of the wonton wrapper were cooked nicely. And the meat inside was tender. Sooo much better than what we had a few weeks ago at Monkey King in Deep Ellum. The chili oil was actually spicy! That's important! The only thing was that it was lacking slightly in salt. But I actually kinda liked it that way. Some of the other dishes were saltier and stronger in flavor so it was ok that this one was lighter.

Sauteed Water Spinach (with garlic). 
Lastly, we had to get a vegetable. Something fresher to cut all the starch! Water spinach is one of my favorite Chinese veggies. The portion was big and it was delicious.

It was a great lunch. We were pleasantly surprised since we all set our expectations pretty low. After strings of disappointing noodle houses in Dallas, it's hard not to set ourselves up for disappointment. But this place is legit. I'm not comparing it to places in Asia or anything. But as far as noodles in Dallas? I'm going to Sichuan King! :)

Oh yea, we also saw almost every other table in the restaurant with different kinds of hot pots. Every one looked red and spicy and yummy. Definitely have to go when the weather gets cooler to try them!

Guess what, I went back to Sichuan King within a week. haha. There's just so many more things I wanna try!

N7. Spicy Beef Noodle (with sliced noodle) $7.95~ 
I tried this more for my sister's sake. Beef noodle soup has to be one of her favorite noodles, if not THE one. I got the hand cut noodles of course. It was alright. There was a slight sweetness to the broth and I can taste the spicy, but it was pretty mild. The beef was super tender, but there wasn't very much of it. And the flavors in general just wasn't very traditional. I think the beef noodle soup at King's Noodle or Mian Cuisine are better.

N10. Ground Pork & Cowpea Noodle (with sliced noodle) $6.95~ 
My bf wanted a dry noodle. Normally this is a spicy noodle dish, but the waitress said we could get it non-spicy. And I think the description "cowpea" is incorrect. It was actually Chinese long beans in the dish (I had that in the beef noodle soup too). This was similar to N5 we got the previous time. I think hand cut noodles are better in a dry preparation. In soups, they get kinda soft. I liked this one a lot too. I think the flavor (and of course the chili oil) in N5 was better. But for a dry noodle, I'd get this again too.

A5. Scallion Pancake $2.95~ 
We tried the regular green onion pancake this time. I have to say I prefer the hand pancake. This was good but doesn't compare to Jeng Chi's just down the strip. The outside needed to be crispier.

Sauteed "A" Choy (with garlic). 
Gotta get our veggies in. :P It's a type of Taiwanese lettuce and one of my favorites as well. Again, the portion was pretty big. But we killed it between just the 2 of us. :)

It was still a good lunch. I still have plenty of other stuff I wanna try. But it'll be hard not to order the 2 different dry noodles again.

I'm so happy that we finally have hand cut noodles in Dallas! And I hope Sichuan King continues to do well because I plan on going back a lot!

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Cadillac Road to Table featuring FT33 :D

On Tuesday, a friend of mine got a last minute invitation to Cadillac's Road to Table event (presented by Cadillac and Bon Appetit). He had been on the waiting list for several weeks and they contacted him the afternoon of the event. So it wasn't until 2 or 3PM that day when he called me to see if I wanted to go. Initially we were hesitant since it was such late notice and it didn't start til 8:15PM in downtown. (We both live in West Plano...btw. It's a bit of a drive.) But we decided to go. Why not? Do something new. Plus it includes a full dinner featuring some special chef!

I started do some digging into the event since I knew nothing of it. I realized that the featured chef was Matt McCallister of FT33! One of the hottest new restaurants in Dallas and of course it's been on my radar since it opened a year ago!! Now I'm super excited!

I met up with my friend and we carpooled downtown. We arrived at the Cadillac venue, got registered, and they told us we'll have a car waiting for us to test drive to the restaurant. Restaurant?? I assumed we'd just have some food made by the chef at the venue, but we get to actually go to his restaurant?!?! I'm on cloud 9 by this point. haha.

So Cadillac was featuring their new ATS which we got to test drive. It's a pretty sweet car. Lots of leg room, smooth ride, and plenty of gadgets.

And then we arrived at FT33. OMG OMG OMG!!! I still can't believe this is happening! This place has been at the top of my list for a while and I heard it's pretty hard to get a reservation. And now we get to have a 3 course meal AND meet the chef? So excited my heads about to pop! hahaha.

While driving to the restaurant, our Cadillac rep actually gave us a brief background on the name of the restaurant. Apparently FT33 stands for "fire table 33". Table 33 is a table for 6 that is directly in front of the kitchen, and deemed the best seat in the house. Cool! That's a nice little trivia. And I said how awesome would it be if we got to sit there tonight! :P

1617 Hi Line Drive, Suite 250
Dallas, Texas 75207
(214) 741-2629
Price: $$$$

We were greeted by people from Cadillac. So far I've been very impressed with their friendliness and professionalism. Everything was running very smoothly since we didn't have much event details to go on. We were directed to some waitresses with cocktails and wine. They told us that dinner wasn't starting for another 20 minutes so feel free to have some drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

I started with a Gimlet. Pretty good! But I need some food in me so I don't pass out! haha.

Several waiters walked around with food on wood platters. I loved the presentation!

Chicken Liver Mousse. Very rich mousse and quite livery. Liver is not usually my thing. But you could tell the quality and smoothness of the mousse is good.

Next was a Pork Terrine of some sort. With some kind of gelee on top. It was beautifully presented and my favorite hors d'oeuvres of the night.

Charcuterie Board. Hard to eat in passing but the meats paired well with the pickled vegetables.

Then it was time for dinner. We walked into the restaurant and looked for a table to sit. A lot of the tables were pushed together so we had to sit with other people. Which is cool. We met some good/interesting people at our table. And guess what, when we walked in, there were 2 seats left at table 33! It's like fate. It was left there just for us! :D I couldn't stop taking pictures of the kitchen. haha.

Here's a blurb I got from the FT33 website on the restaurant...
"FT33 is Chef Matt McCallister’s first solo venture, opened on October 13, 2012 in Dallas and serving “season-inspired modern cuisine.” He showcases the highest-quality products and treats them with respect. “I don’t print my menu until I know which ingredients are best that day,” he explains."

It's pretty cool that he doesn't finalize his menu until that day. This ensures the best quality of ingredients. I'm super impressed!

Before dinner, a rep from Cadillac welcomed us all, and then introduced the chef and he talked about his food and restaurant for a bit. They did this in between every course so we got to understand more about the restaurant and also the dishes we were eating. Each course was paired with wine as well. OMG! And the waiters just keep refilling your glasses. haha. I wish I drank wine! XP

For the first course we had Farro Risotto (herbs, wild mushrooms, puffed grains, kale juice). 
I love farro (ever since I saw Giada De Laurentiis cook with it. hehe). I love the texture and this dish was fantastic. All the flavors were balanced and there were several layers of textures. The kale juice kept it fresh while the puffed grains added a crunch. And the wild mushrooms were earthy. Loved it! I did hear mixed reviews from other people though. Farro is not a common ingredient so some people didn't know what to make it, especially when they see "risotto" and already had a different expectation. And some didn't like the texture. For me, I'd take chewy and crunchy over soft and mushy any day! I think if you like cous cous, quinoa, wheat berry, or the like... then you'll love this dish.

For the main course it was a Sterling Lamb Duo (salsify, apples, coffee-chocolate crumble, pumpkin). 
I was nervous about this dish since I don't like lamb at all. There's a stank and gaminess to it that I just cannot stand. But I told my friend I'm going to eat it all! The presentation was fantastic. It looked small but it was quite filling. The piece on the left was lamb shoulder. It was leaner but still super tender and moist. The meat was fork tender. And guess what, I did not mind it being lamb at all! I could still get a hint of the gaminess but the meat was cooked so well that I didn't even care. The piece on the right was the lamb belly. You know how I feel about pork belly and this was pretty close. Again, fork tender. It was amazing. Every element on the plate was fantastic, but it worked together so well to make an even better complete dish. The pumpkin puree was magnificent. Everyone at our table raved about it. Silky smooth and you can really taste the pumpkin. The sweetness paired with the lamb superbly. There was another sauce that was an apple puree. It was so fresh, it help cut the fattiness of the lamb belly. The salsify is a type of root vegetable. You'd think it would be hard but it was tender with just the right amount of crispness. And the coffee chocolate crumble? Genius! It wasn't overly sweet or bitter, but helped elevate the flavor of the lamb. And I liked the extra crunch it gave the dish. Gorgeous dish... and so yummy.

For dessert we had Roasted Sweet Potato Budino (coffee, cocoa nibs). 
I was really excited about this. Budino is basically pudding. But his budino had this fantastic texture. My friend and I were wondering how they got the consistency. The budino was rich and smooth and paired nicely with the soft and fluffy mocha cream. The coffee and cocoa nibs added a slight bitterness and depth of flavor to the pudding. And I liked the texture of the crumble and thin brittle/wafer pieces on top. A perfect end to a fantastic meal. I scraped every plate clean!

Such an amazing experience. Flavor and texture explosion! haha. I'm so thankful for my friend for bringing me! :D After the dinner we got to meet the chef. Holla! I told him that I had never eaten more than a bite of lamb in one sitting and I cleaned my plate! I hope he knows that's probably the biggest compliment I can give him. haha. I'm super impressed that the chef is so young too. Only a few years older than me. This Saturday will mark their one year anniversary of FT33!! Yay!!! Best wishes to Chef Matt McCallister and the FT33 team. Actually, if they continue to do what they do, they really don't need any luck! :)

Quality of Food:

Service: 4.5

Ambiance: 4.5

Value: n/a (courtesy of Cadillac & Bon Appetit)

Overall Experience: 5

But wait... the night's not over yet! The Cadillac people have brought over Escalades to drive all the guests back to the venue. Since everyone's been drinking they shuttled us back. Never been in an Escalade before! Sweeet! We got to sit in one of the uber big Escalade ESV's. :)

Back at the venue there were more desserts (from La Duni) as well as gourmet coffee. You can also walk around and look at some of the new cars. We were stuffed, but of course I tried all the different desserts. :P

We also got a gift bag to go! Wow... I'm so happy I got to experience this event. And impressed from beginning to end, with Cadillac and FT33. Professional, welcoming, and enthusiastic. What a night! :) And the cars were really nice! If you are in the market, don't forget to check out Cadillac.

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