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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Las Vegas - Sweets Raku

This past weekend I was in Las Vegas. A friend had recommended I check out Sweets Raku since I love desserts. As soon as I looked it up on Yelp, I knew I had to make time for it. Unfortunately they don't take reservations so I told my friends we were gonna go soon after they open to avoid the after dinner crowd!

Sweets Raku
5040 W Spring Mountain Rd. Ste 3
Las Vegas, NV 89146
(702) 290-7181
Price: $$-$$$

It's located in Las Vegas Chinatown, which I've never been to. And in the same shopping center as Aburiya Raku, its sister restaurant (and our dinner destination.) It's a little hard to find since they don't really have a sign outside. Just look for the big spoon. As you walk in, you see a glass display wall of wines, quite modern in decor. I was so excited when we entered. First, because the place was still pretty empty and there were room at the bar! And second, the chef and waitresses were all Japanese and it really made me feel like I was back in Japan, in some fancy afternoon tea place. Yay!

We were immediately seated at the bar, which everyone says is the way to go since you can watch the chef work. Sure enough, she's chugging away at some delicious looking sweets! The chef, Mio Ogasawara, won 2013 Pastry Chef of the Year, Desert Companion Restaurant Awards. As if my expectations for this place needs to be any higher! :P

There was a yummy looking display right in front of my seat. Caramel Roll Cake (caramel sponge, caramel cream, chocolate mousse and banana) $18~ for whole cake. And the chef was making it as we sat down. It was really cool watching her work. She moves really fast!

We were first given a drink menu. My friend decided to get a bottle of the Rose 'N' Blum Red Moscato, Sonoma, 750 ml $35~ I'm picky about wines and only like the really sweet stuff. This wasn't the sweetest Moscato I've had, but it was sweet enough for me. Best served chilled.

Next we were presented with a plate with our menu on top. It's edible! The paper AND the gold ring that held it. The menu was made of rice paper and the ring was pulled sugar. If eaten on it's own, the paper is a bit dry but after we ordered, we were given a raspberry sauce for dipping. It made a huge difference! The two paired really well together. I was going to save part of the menu but ended up eating the whole thing and scraped up every little bit of the sauce. haha.

There are 2 options, either do the 3 course prix fixe or just get a dessert a la carte. The difference is only $7, which one do you think I went with? hahaha.

3 of us ended up getting the Prix Fixe (3 course dessert: Amuse, main dessert, and petit four) $19~

The Amuse was a Orange Sorbet with Strawberry Jelly. The colors were so vibrant and so was the flavor. The orange was very refreshing and definitely cleared our palates for whatever was coming next!

For my main dessert, I chose Red Rock (raspberry fondant). Raspberry lava cake, topped with pulled sugar. 2 types of ice cream, I think one was pistachio and one was vanilla. Chocolate sauce, little pieces of dried fruit, granola/corn flakes of some sort. And homemade yuzu marshmallows. 
We watched as they put the little cakes into the oven. They baked while the chef puts together the rest of the plate. The plating was so beautiful. Every little decoration and accent was strategically placed... dots of chocolate sauce, mint leaf, dried fruit.. all artistically arranged on the plate. Then we saw her flip out the cakes and top with the sugar threads. Definitely the most beautiful looking dessert of the night in my opinion. And it tasted amazing. I cut into the cake and the sauce just poured out. There was even a full piece of raspberry in the center! 
The cake was soft, luxurious, decadent without being too heavy. Everything paired together so well. I loved the added texture with the crunchy flakes. The yuzu marshmallows were fantastic on their own. You can definitely taste the yuzu (which is a Japanese citrus) in a light fluffy piece of cloud. Love love loved it!

One of my friends got the Baton (chocolate and pistachio mousse). Chocolate cake topped with chocolate cream, some sort of red (raspberry?) sauce, chocolate mousse and pistachio cream all layered inside a thin chocolate cookie cylinder. Topped with a pulled sugar ribbon. 
This was my other choice so I still got to try it. He said he has had the Red Rock before. This was my favorite, even though everything was good. The waitress said he needed to break the cookie and eat everything together. I was kinda sad to see such a beautiful plate be destroyed, but I also wanted to eat some. haha. 
The cookie was so thin and delicate, slightly bitter from the dark chocolate that worked so well balancing the different types of creams and mousse inside. It was also decadent without being too heavy. None of the desserts were overly sweet, just like how they make them in Japan.

Another friend got the Mt. Fuji (chestnut cream cake). Sponge cake with chestnut mousse, then covered with chestnut cream. 
The cream piping technique was so cool to watch! It came out looking like spaghetti. hehe. Apparently this is their number one seller. I have a feeling it's because of the presentation. Really cool looking dish. 
I almost got this one but was glad I didn't because it was a lot of cream. I like things with a crunchy texture and this one was just all soft. Plus my friend said it kind of tasted like taro to her, which I agreed. I'm not a fan of taro. I thought I liked chestnuts though, maybe I just haven't had enough to really know. But still, it was a good quality and definitely pretty dessert.

The final Petit Four was a cream puff. We got to choose between chocolate or vanilla cream and either strawberry, raspberry, or black currant jelly. It came with a caramel sauce with candied orange peel and passion fruit and raspberry marshmallows. Even the plating for the cream puffs were fantastic. And all the homemade marshmallows throughout the night were like little pieces of clouds. So dainty and yummy. I chose vanilla cream and black currant, it just seemed more unique than the other jelly flavors.
 The puff was nice and thin and filled to the brim with cream and jelly. Yummy!! My friend got chocolate cream with strawberry jelly. 
He said the black currant was better. The addition of the caramel and candied orange peel was a nice touch. Lots of complex flavors but all worked together.

Two friends ordered a la carte, which is $12~ One also got the Red Rock and the other got Marriage (strawberry and banana). Sponge cake with banana custard and cream, topped with a strawberry mousse "ball", and fresh berries. Again, really gorgeous plating. I was especially intrigued with the ball of strawberry mousse on top. The dessert was light and airy and not too sweet.

While the chef was making the caramel roll cake earlier, I saw her cutting off the ends. So I asked our waitress what they do with those and if we can get a sample. She brought us each a taste at the end of our meal. :) Light cake with fluffy cream. It was tasty.

This was an amazing experience. I'm so glad we put it on the schedule and got a seat immediately. The decor was bright and clean and modern, the plating and presentation were top notch, and the service was great. All the waitresses were full of smiles and very nice. It does take a while since the desserts were made to order. We were there for a little over an hour and half. But it's for the full experiences and shouldn't be rushed anyways. It brought me back to dining in Japan... I miss it. I'm going to have to make this a "must visit" every time I'm in Vegas.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

True Food Kitchen

Last Friday was Good Friday and it was a work holiday! Holla! So I planned to go check out True Food Kitchen with 2 of my friends for lunch. Due to some last minute schedule conflicts/cancellations, I was all of a sudden on my own. Booo. I've never really dined out by myself, so I was a bit nervous.

Walking to the restaurant, I saw there were groups waiting outside. AND people waiting inside. It's already 1:30PM! I told the hostess it was for 1 and she said there's open seating at the bar, whereas a table was a 30 minute wait. So I guess being by myself worked out! The place was very bright and energetic. The bar area was nice and open and you can see into the kitchen. I sat down and was immediately greeted and brought a water. So far I'm liking it.

True Food Kitchen
The Plaza at Preston Center
8383 Preston Center Plaza Drive
Dallas, Texas 75225
(214) 377-3333
Price: $$-$$$

*FYI, the location on Yelp is wrong. It's in the same shopping center as Sprinkles Cupcakes on Preston and NW HWY. I almost drove to the wrong place!*

I've been wanting to try this place for awhile. It was my initial choice for my birthday dinner but it didn't work out. Looking at the layout, it probably wouldn't have worked with a group of 30 people anyways. It's quite loud in there since it's just one open space.

They got some interesting drinks so I wanted to try some.

Hangover Rx (coconut water, pineapple, vanilla, orange juice) $5~ I was able to get a sample of this since they pre-made it. It was delicious. I don't really like coconut water, so the first sip I was a little weary, but the more I drank the more I liked it. Very refreshing!

Green Arnie (matcha green tea, honey lemonade) $5~ 
I ended up ordering this since I love matcha. It was so green! I liked it, but not as much as the Hangover Rx actually. I felt like the honey lemonade overpowered the matcha. I really didn't get much of the tea flavor. And the honey was too strong. I'm not a huge fan of honey.. I'm slowly trying to get more used to it. But if you love honey and lemonade, this is a good choice for you.

I already knew what I wanted to order. The "Inside Out" Quinoa Burger (hummus, tzatziki, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado, feta) $12~ With side of kale salad and sweet potato hash. 
The food came out really fast. I was soon stuffing my face with yummy quinoa. I guess it's good I got to sit at the bar, and get my food so quickly. I was starving! I pretty much loved everything about this dish. The quinoa patties were crispy on the outside. Loved it! I've never had crispy quinoa before, it adds amazing texture. The hummus with the veggies was fantastic and the kale salad added more texture. My favorite though, was the hash. The sweet potato pieces were still slightly crunchy, which I normally don't like sweet potato to be, but it had so much flavor. And the way it was diced made it ok that it still had a crunch. I think I can eat a large bowl just of this. But everything worked well together. It was gluten free AND vegetarian! It filled me up without pushing me over the edge. Although I think a fried egg on top of the burger might just be even more awesome. haha. Again, loved it, will totally order it again.

I got a drink to go for my bf. Cucumber Refresher (cucumber, honey lemonade) $5~ He totally loved it. Super refreshing. Again, heavy on the honey for me, but still pretty good.

I enjoyed lunch very much, even if it was by myself. My waiter at the bar was super nice and didn't make me feel self-conscious about sitting by myself for the first time. I know it's no big deal, but just something different for me. I can't wait to go back in the near future. But I'll make sure to make a reservation!

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Overall Experience:


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Downtown Frisco StrEATS Festival

I got to go to my first ever soccer game this past Saturday at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco. And it just so happens that The Downtown Frisco StrEATS festival was the same day! Woot! So we headed over there in the afternoon to get some food before the game.

This would be my 3rd year going to this food truck festival. Seems like they got the set up pretty much down now. It was basically structured just like last year. There were quite a few trucks there. Most of which I've either tried already or didn't care to try.

There were 1 or 2 that I've never seen before and one was The Guava Tree truck. It is a Cuban American truck. I love Cuban food and wanted to try something new so here I am. Plus they didn't really have a line which was also quite enticing. haha.
They only had 3 choices so I got the Cuban Sandwich (sliced ham, slow roasted pork, swiss cheese, sliced pickles; drizzled with guava mustard on freshly pressed Cuban bread) $9~ 
It sounded pretty awesome. I have to say I was disappointed when I saw it. The bread was supposed to be pressed! Where was the crispy part on the bread? And for $9 it wasn't very big. It was really tasty though. And the bottom bread was crispy which I really liked. The ingredients had good flavor, although I didn't get any "guava" from the mustard. I would totally get this again, IF it was $3 cheaper. They had these guava and cream cheese filled mini donuts that looked yummy but I resisted because I wanted ice cream. Ha! :P

Overall Experience:

My bf went to the Nammi truck. He got the Rice Bowl (Honey ginger pork, Jasmine rice, red cabbage sautee, cucumbers, pickled daikons and carrots, cilantro) $9~ 
I've only had their Banh Mi, so the rice bowl was also something new. I really really liked the red cabbage sautee. He loved it. The whole thing was pretty filling and not greasy or heavy. The fresh and pickled veggies added a lot of freshness with the meat and rice. I thought the meat could've been more tender but it was good enough. He liked it over the rice bowls at Ssahm from last year's festival.

Overall Experience: 

I mainly wanted ice cream and was disappointed that Coolhaus wasn't there. But no fear! What's Da Scoop was there! And I know their ice cream is good! :)The bad thing about a nice day is that everyone wants ice cream. We spent the majority of our time at the festival standing in line. But I gotta have my ice cream!!!!

He got the Bourbon Street Sundae (Bourbon Cherry Compote, Vanilla Ice Cream, Crushed Graham Cracker & Pecans) $6.50~ He opted for no pecans. It was delicious, but this for $6.50? A bit steep if you ask me. Oh well, how often do we go to one of these food truck festivals. Yum!

I had my eyes set on the Cherry Amaretto Fudge (amaretto ice cream with cherry fudge and black cherries) Single Scoop $3.25~ Plus waffle cone +$1~ (the scoop was bigger than the picture, it was melting so I had to eat some!)
Of course I had to get a cone. That's one of the best parts of having ice cream. The ice cream was amazing. Creamy, smooth, with lots of chocolate fudge swirls and large chunks of juicy cherries. My bf regretted not getting the same flavor. haha. But of course I shared! :P Really really really good, I was craving it again the next day! I hope they have this flavor again next time I see them.

Overall Experience:

I'd say our trip to the festival was a success! With the ice cream being the ultimate winner. Got to try all new things and everything tasted good. If only I can just get more of the cherry amaretto ice cream!!