CHOMP! Views

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Last Friday, I got to go check out the new Kent Rathbun restaurant, Hickory. It's located on 121 and Tollway where the old Zea Woodfire Grill used to be. (I miss Zea.. that was a good place...) I was pretty excited about it since I like all of Chef Rathbun's restaurants. My favorite being Blue Plate Kitchen before it closed. :( Still makes me sad when I think about it. I was hoping Hickory would be a good replacement. Plus it's so close to my house!

8100 Dallas Pkwy. #115
Plano, TX 75024
(972) 712-7077
Price: $$-$$$

I had looked it up on Yelp before going, mainly to check out all the food pictures. hehe. But I noticed the reviews were all hit or miss. The misses mainly being service was slow or the waiters didn't know what they were doing. Hmm... I've always had spot on service at Blue Plate, let's see what happens here.

We arrived at 6PM. Since they don't currently take reservations we decided to go earlier. The parking lot was already super packed... wow. I was a little nervous. I circled the lot like 6 times! But walking in, the place was only about 25% full. I guess all the people from the parking lot were going to Blue Mesa next door? My friends got there a few minutes before me and they were already seated and gotten their drinks.

After I sat down, our waitress came to bring my friend her cocktail, and asked what I wanted to drink. I just asked for a water. Then we were chatting as we waited for another friend to show up. Haven't gotten my water yet... My friend arrived. The waitress came to take his drink order...he got a beer. I reminded her of my water. She said "of course". She brought him his beer. Still no water for me. I'm thinking she forgot my water. :( So when she came back again to go over the menu... I asked her for a water again. At first she responded like this was the first time I ordered one. And then a few seconds later, it's like a switch came on and she realized she never brought me one. "I'll go get your water right now," she said. Weird... I finally got the water.

She kind of went over the menu. Told us what the tacos were for the day, etc. And left, to give us more time to decide. We decided to get a few BBQ meats and sides and do family style. All the sides sounded delicious. I think I can make a meal just out of the side dishes. haha.

When the waitress returned, I took charge and ordered for the group. For the BBQ meats, they were measured by the half pound. I casually asked her how big the portion size was for the brisket since I wanted to be sure we're getting enough food. I also gestured with my hands to her to see if she can give us a general amount. At first she points to the menu and says "It's $11". Huh?? Yes, I know it's $11, it says so on the menu. So I gestured again... What is the portion size? Waitress: "oh, it's half a pound". *FACE PALM* Yes, duh, I know it's half a pound. It says that on the menu too. So I'm still trying to gesture with my hands... like this [   ] much meat? Or THIS [            ] much? Waitress: "um, it's half a pound". Ok... I give up. I stopped asking and just ordered. Apparently she didn't know how much meat came in each half pound order. Which we later found out is about 4-5 slices of brisket.

The food all came fairly quickly and they all looked yummy.

Smoked Pepper Crusted Wagyu Brisket (chef's choice) 1/2lb. $11~ 
Not the moistest brisket I've had, but it was still very good. The chef's choice is a good cut. I wish parts of it had a little more fat but it's not a big deal. It also had good flavor. We all liked it a lot. We decided to order another half pound. Careful with the jalapenos though. The ones we got that day were on FIRE! I can handle spice... but whoa!

Thinly Shaved Roti Pork Shoulder (mustard-brown sugar glaze) 1/2lb. $9~ 
This was yummy as well. The meat was super tender and I loved the flavor of the glaze. It kinda reminded me of a Chinese dish for some reason... thinly sliced pork belly with a garlic sauce. I think it's probably the way the meat was sliced. If you are looking for pulled pork or something of the sort, this ain't it. I think it's better. :P The BBQ sauce on the side is the same as the brisket. At first I thought it was a bit too sour, but the more I ate the more I liked it. I thought it paired with the brisket and pork well. A little goes a long way though.

So the main dishes were good... but the side dishes were the stars.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts $5~ Gotta have the Brussels sprouts.. duh! Nicely charred and full of thick cut bacon. Noms.

Jalapeno Jack-Blue Corn Grits (roasted tomato butter) $6~ 
I liked everything but I'd have to say this was my favorite of the night. (Just by a little.) It was so interesting. I guess I've never had blue corn grits before. The texture is different than regular grits. It was creamy and a richness from the tomato butter.

Texas Cheddar Mac & Cheese (parmesan cornbread crumble) $7~ 
I love it when restaurants use Cavatappi pasta for mac and cheeses. It has a lot of texture and the shape is fun! The pasta was al dente which was great. I loved the crumble. It's also really cute in the mini skillet.

Our waitress came by to check on us regularly. We didn't really need anything most of the time, but she filled our waters and stuff. But, when we were almost done eating, she brought over this little carrier with condiments and pickles. 
We all thought it was really strange. There was maybe enough pickles in these tiny containers for like one person. But why give it to us this late in the game? I wonder if it was just an off day for her. But I'm thinking she just needs more training in general... It was a bit surprising to be at a Kent Rathbun establishment and not get good service. But it is fairly new, so I'll let it slide.

We decided to share a dessert. My friend chose the Skillet Cobbler $7~ 
The seasonal fruit was nectarines and that sounded really good. The waitress said the ice cream was vanilla bean from Henry's. It was pretty good. I really liked the crumble. And the cobbler was nice and hot. The ice cream however, was a little weird... I love Henry's Ice Cream. It's always super rich...but this once seemed icy. The consistency was just a bit off. Still tasted good though. The dessert didn't compare to the rest of the food though, in my opinion. It was just good.

So... the food was yummy. The prices are pretty comparable to other BBQ restaurants I guess, but it didn't feel like going to a BBQ restaurant. I'm not sure how I feel about that. haha. Something weird about eating BBQ without the butcher paper and roll of paper towel for the mess. :P The service was along the lines of what the bad Yelp reviews mentioned. I think our waitress just needed more training. She couldn't answer our questions and seemed confused half the time. She also messed up our split checks. She gave one of my friends a crumpled up pieces of receipt that looked like it was supposed to be in the trash and then picked back out, and the amount was wrong. We were scratching our heads with that one as well. Lots of head scratching during this dinner. hahaha. At least she was nice. I might give it another chance. There are some burgers there I'd like to try. But I'll wait a few months and let the wait staff get their bearings.

Oh... and I still miss Blue Plate Kitchen. :(

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Monta Ramen

Dallas, it's time to rejoice! We now have a good ramen shop. Yaaaaassss!! Just last week, the Las Vegas ramen shop, Monta Ramen, has officially opened. Now, I've never been to Monta in Vegas, but I've always heard good things about it. Plus, I've had Japanese food in Vegas (off the strip) and they have some legit Japanese food. I was very excited when I found out they were opening a location here.

Monta Ramen
800 North Coit Rd, Ste 2550B
Richardson, TX 75080
(469) 333-7777
Price: $$

We went on Saturday, 2 days after they opened, for a late lunch. We arrived at 1:30PM and there was a fairly long line out front. I wrote our names down on the list and counted 7 groups ahead of us. On the wait list, you can indicate if you want to sit at a table or at the bar. I put both so we can potentially get in faster. The wait wasn't super long.. I'd guess about 20-25 minutes, but their waiting room had no AC... only a small fan. It was pretty damn hot.

Finally, it was our turn. Our group of 3 were seated at the bar. It was a pretty small space. Maybe 7-8 seats at the bar and about 10 or so tables of 2 in the entire space. It looked like there was a small section of the dining area not yet being utilized... maybe they'll open that up in the future. It can probably fit another 2 tables of four.

We've already been studying the menu while waiting. I wanted to try everything. This is the first time I see a menu at the ramen place in Dallas that reminded me of the restaurants in LA. They offered the same items as many LA ramen shops. Several different types of ramen broth, fried rice, and various appetizers. And guess what, the prices match LA as well! All the ramen were under $10. Now that's what I'm talking about. Ramen is NOT supposed to be ridiculously expensive. But it seems like the trend it's been taking since it's considered a "novelty" in Dallas?! Places like Ten Ramen and Wabi House where, after you add a few toppings, becomes like a $18 bowl of noodles. That's just crazy to me. You don't even need to pay over $10 for a bowl of amazing ramen in Japan!

Anyways, we decided to order a whole bunch of stuff. Whatever we don't finish is going to be leftovers for dinner. :P

Gyoza (handmade pan-fried pork and vegetable dumplings) $5.95~ 
These looked good. They had a nice sear on the bottom. Unfortunately, the meat inside was quite dry. I could see that it was dry when I look at it too. Flavor is not bad. They might wanna tweak their filling recipe a little.

Takana Fried Rice (mustard leaf, onions, green onions, egg, chopped chashu pork with rice) $6.95~ 
This is one of my favorites when I go to a ramen place in LA. Shin-Sen-Gumi makes a great takana fried rice. I like their fried rice better than their ramen. haha. Monta's was pretty good. Not LA caliber but a good fried rice still. The chunks of chashu was a little dry but overall I enjoyed it.

Chashu Bowl (slices of grilled chashu prok served over rice with green onions) Reg. $5.75~ 
First of all, TOTALLY did NOT look like the picture on their menu. hahaha. :( The slices were no where as impressive looking. However, the pork we did get was super tender and moist. The flavors were good too. The rice texture was nice and chewy. Maybe just a bit more pork on top would make this a good side dish, or even main dish.

Chashu Buns (steamed buns filled with chashu pork, served with Monta's original spicy bun sauce) $5.95~ 
My fiance really wanted these, I was on the fence since I saw a pic of them and it looked pretty sad. And they were kinda pathetic looking... Kinda flat, with a piece of iceberg lettuce sticking out. But guess what? This was the best appetizer we got. The buns were steamed perfectly fluffy. The pork was super tender and the flavors were just right. I mean... they could've put more pork, but the amount that was in there was definitely enough for the buns to meat ratio. And the lettuce added a touch of freshness. Thumbs up.

Hiyashi Chuka Cold Noodle (pork chashu, egg, cucumber, bean sprout, kikurage (woodear mushroom), and tomato. Choice of sesame or yuzu sauce) $9.50~ 
I got this. I've had cold ramen in the past and I've always loved it. I've always preferred dry noodles to broth since I'm not much of a soup person in general. And cold noodles are so refreshing on a hot day. This was loaded with toppings. They certainly didn't skimp on anything. The sesame sauce was good. It had a slight tang to it. It wasn't as good as the one I had in Taiwan...but then again, nothing is as good here as in Taiwan. :P The noodle texture was spot on, nice and chewy. I liked it a lot. And my fiance loved it. haha.

Kuro Ramen Black Garlic (pork broth, two slices of pork chashu, kikurage (woodear mushrooms), bamboo shoots, green onion) $8.95~ 
I told my fiance to get this. I also told him to get it with the thicker noodles. It normally comes with thin. He loved it. He couldn't decide if he liked this or the cold noodles better. hehe. This is the first time I've seen black garlic ramen in Dallas. I liked it a lot when I had it in NYC and Japan. This was delicious! The broth had a ton of flavor, but it wasn't too salty. We did notice half way through that it didn't come with an egg. But to add an egg is $1.50, cheaper than all the other ramen places. It does have TWO pieces of chashu though, and the meat was super tender. The thicker noodles were the same as in my cold noodles. Cooked perfectly chewy, it makes all the difference. I find the thin ones don't have enough texture and usually ruins the whole bowl for me. Personal preference... but try the thick noodles vs the thin and decide for yourself. So the ramen is good!! Definitely closest thing to ramen I've had in LA. Will definitely be back to have this again!

My friend got the Tonkotsu Ramen (pork broth, two slices of pork chashu, kikurage (woodear mushrooms), bamboo shoots, green onion) $7.95~ 
Normally comes with thin noodles, my friend requested thick noodles. She loved it. The broth also had a lot of flavor without being overly salty. Which seems to be a struggle for most other places in Dallas. Salt does NOT equal flavor, people!

Great first experience. They have a few kinks they need to work out with the appetizers. So I'll be back in a few weeks to test them out again. The waitresses were all very nice. And I noticed the majority, if not all, of the staff were Japanese, which is a very good sign. I also heard that they are under the same owners as Mr. Max in Irving, which is a fantastic hidden gem for Japanese food. The only big complaint was the AC... remember how I said the waiting area was too hot? The dining room barely had AC at all too. I was so glad I got cold noodles. haha.

Soooo happy the Dallas ramen scene is finally on the map now, with a place that has good ramen and reasonable prices. :) AND a great location! Yay!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Casa Rubia

This past Friday, I was invited by a friend to a gathering of foodies at Casa Rubia in Trinity Groves. She told me it was going to be a group of foodies, friends, and friends of friends, and I could bring some people. So I asked 3 of my friends to join me, who I'd thought would enjoy the food. :) They specialize in Spanish cuisine. I have always wanted to go to Casa Rubia. Out of all the places in Trinity Groves, that was the main one I wanted to try. So, yay!

Casa Rubia
3011 Gulden Ln.
Dallas, TX 75212
(469) 513-6349
Price: $$$-$$$$

The reservation was at 8pm. My friends and I arrived about 15 minutes early so we just hung out at the bar. They all ordered drinks. Sangria, some sort of Blueberry fizz drink, Sparkling Sangria. None of them were my thing, but they all enjoyed them.

The restaurant is fairly small. But they have a big patio dining area. I saw that 2 long tables in front of the kitchen were empty. I figured one of those was for our group. A few people were running late so we just hung out at the bar a little longer. We later realized that half the other group was already there. So we made our introductions. The restaurant never once pressured us to get everyone there to seat us, so I thought that was pretty cool. Finally, we sat around 8:30pm. We had a total of 11 people. Everyone seemed to be getting along just peachy, considering it was 3 different groups of friends. :) Food always brings friends together.

We decided to do family style for the entire table, which is what they recommend anyways since it's tapas style. The guy that made the reservation took charge and ordered for everyone.

Manchego, Mahon, Cana de Cabra, San Simon, Idiazabal, Valdeon
Tasting Queso Plate $24~

Fermin Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Lomo Embuchado, Chorizo Picante, Lardo Iberico de Bellota, Jamon Serrano, Mousse de Higado con Macetilla Vinaigre, Fermin Salchichon de Bellota
Tasting Embutido Plate $33~

We got the tasting plate for both the cheese and meat. It came on this hefty wood board, looked super impressive. It also came with some bread. I sat in the middle of the long table so I got a good look at everything! :P Everyone just dug in! There were so many different things and none of us knew what was what. haha. I got to try several different types of cheeses and meats. Honestly, I can't tell you what anything is. But my favorite was this pepper wrapped in some sort of fatty meat... I'd guess it was the Jamon Serrano.

Bread with Tomato and Garlic
This wasn't on the menu but was requested by one of the ladies in the group. She was Colombian and was speaking Spanish with the waiter. He said they can totally do this. There was a name for it... starts with "M"? But I can't remember for the life of me. This was sooooo good. The bread was soft but had a really nice crunchy crust. The tomatoes and garlic spread had so much flavor. I'm gonna have to keep this picture to show the restaurant when I go back next time!

We got 2 of each of the hot dishes since we had so many people. The portions of each is not super big but was just the perfect amount for everyone to share.

Alcachofas (crispy artichokes, meyer lemon, fresno chile, mojama, saffron aioli) $12~
Baby artichokes are so cute! Each one is bite sized. So yummy. Not at all tough like artichokes can sometimes be. Great flavors from the chile and aioli as well.

Pulpo a la Plancha (Spanish octopus, duck fat potatoes, pickled onions, smoked tomato-Jerez vinaigrette) $16~ 
This was the one thing I really wanted to try. Not only did it not disappoint, it totally exceeded expectations. The octopus was cooked perfectly... sooo tender. And the dish was just exploding with flavors between the char on the octopus, the duck fat potatos, and the sauce. Best dish of the night, but only by a little since everything else was also delicious. Definitely a must order!

Rossejat (toasted fideos, chistorra, gulf shrimp, crispy calamari, charred citrus aioli) $15~ 
I also wanted to try this one. I saw a preparation for fideos on the Travel Channel once and have wanted to try it since then. It's like short pieces of pasta that's been sauteed and crisped up in the dish. Very interesting. The shrimp and calamari on top paired well with the fideos and sauce. Another winner.

Paella del Dia (market price) 
Only available for 4 guests or more. We knew we wanted to get this. It comes in this gigantic pan. The waiter told us it takes 35-40 minutes to make this. So it was going to be our last dish. Initially we were contemplating getting 2, but my friend who's been there said it's A LOT and quite heavy. I'm so glad we only got one. They plated it out for us since our group was so big. That entire pot made 12 plates! And each portion was actually quite big. 
It was soooo awesome looking! It was topped with a bunch of (I think) kale, peas, mussels, clams, shrimp and an entire chicken. I haven't had much paella in my life but this was great. I had heard some no so great reviews on it, but for us, it was delicious. The rice was perfectly cooked. I've had previous ones where the rice was too mushy or undercooked. This had good texture. The chicken was the star for me. Super tender and lots of flavor. If you have a group of 4 or more, don't skip this. Plus, it certainly makes for an impressive photo! :P It capped the night off just perfectly. Everyone was content, and I was surprisingly not exploding like I normally am. hehe.

We decided to go to the Cake Bar to get dessert, but one guy wanted to get something here. Pan Calatrava (vanilla bean flan, texas blueberry, almond bread pudding, ginger ice cream, sea salt caramel) $8.50~ 
Everyone got to take a few bites... some more than others.. *ahem*me*ahem* haha. It was another winner. The portion was bigger than I expected. And it was excellent. The bread pudding had the most amazing crust and caramelization on top. The flan was creamy and contrasted the bread pudding texture well. The waiter poured the caramel on top. I always like tableside presentation. Loved it! I'm glad he spoke up and got a dessert when no one else did. hehe.

It was a fantastic meal. And we made some new friends. :) Thanks to the guy that ordered for the group, it was just the perfect amount and guess what... it came out to be $32 a person. What?!?! Yea... and that's including all the booze too. Wow. Ah-MAH-Zing!!! I will definitely be back. In fact, I already have a reservation for next weekend. hehe.

Quality of Food: 4.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Value: 4.5
Overall Experience: 4

Oh yea... here's some of the cakes we got at Cake Bar. All super moist and delicious. You can get a slice a la mode (vanilla or chocolate ice cream). The Chocolate cake was the best. 

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake 

Key Lime Cake (a la mode)

Chocolate Cake (a la mode)


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wabi House 2.0

Three weeks came and went... my group went back to Wabi House for our follow up dinner. They have 2 small parking lots in the back of the restaurant now, which is nice. Parking in Lower Greenville sucks so much! We arrived at 6:30PM, the place was still pretty empty at the time and we were seated immediately.

Wabi House
1802 Greenville Ave, Suite 100
Dallas, TX 75206
(469) 779-6474
Price: $$-$$$

I wasn't too hungry to begin with so I didn't really plan on ordering any appetizers. Plus they are so dang expensive! What place has appetizers that cost more than the entree? Sigh... Anyhoo... the rest of the group wanted appetizers so the masses win. haha. The waitress had some suggestions. And they all turned out to be really good!

Karaage (spicy aioli, shishito pepper, watermelon) $10~ 
The chicken was fried well and still juicy inside. I love the spicy aioli... which is just a fancy term for spicy mayo. hehe. Love me some spicy mayo. The watermelon was super interesting... it was a little salty and a little spicy and still sweet. I normally don't like watermelon at all but I actually ate a couple of these. It's a good dish, the lightness of the watermelon is a good contrast with the fried chicken.

Chicken Meatballs (minced chicken thigh, shallot, egg yolk tare) $9~ 
This was pretty cool. You break the egg and dip the chicken in there. The chicken had a nice texture. The flavor was a little sweet. I loved the egg yolk tare. I can just drink that up. haha. But damn... $9 for only 2 skewers? Wow...

Bone Marrow Shitake (fried shiitake mushrooms tossed in bone marrow butter) $13~ 
This came highly recommended by the waitress. It doesn't look that appetizing but it was delicious! The mushrooms were lightly fried so they weren't oily or heavily breaded. They weren't really tossed in the bone marrow butter, more like placed on top of it. The bone marrow made the butter even richer, gave it a hint of meat flavor but wasn't overpowering. I actually liked the mushrooms with the spicy aioli. It was my favorite out of the 3 but damn, $13 for fried mushrooms. I just can't get over how expensive the apps are... :(

Most people got the Tonkotsu ramen again. I got to try the broth and it was better! Everyone who had it the first time agreed. The broth seemed creamier and richer in flavor. Yay for improvement!

This time I got the Tsukemen (chashu, egg, chili strips, negi, pork belly dipping broth) $11~ Plus woodear mushroom +$1~ 
It has the same thick noodles as the Dry Garlic (dry ramen). Still legit! I freaking love their thick noodles. It's got so much texture and cooked perfectly al dente. The dipping broth had a ton of flavor. But it was a bit salty... and just kept getting saltier and saltier. By the time I finished eating, it was like I sucked on a salt brick for the last 20 minutes. I know the dipping broth generally is saltier and heavier than regular ramen broth, but it shouldn't be like just eating salt. That's easily fixable though.. just dilute with some hot water. The noodles, however, love them! 
I like the addition of the bacon too. But I think that contributed to the overall saltiness. It was a lot of food. I actually took half of it to go. FYI... they don't do to-go orders so they had to give me styrafoam cups to hold the food. hahaha. Whatever works I guess. So I had it again for lunch the next day. I poured some hot water into the broth and it was perfect! I'd have this again. And ask for hot water if it's too salty. :P

It was a better experience this time. Not saying the first time wasn't good. But I'm glad they showed significant improvement. :) Still super expensive... like $3 just for 1 extra piece of chashu (pork belly)... that's just kind of ridiculous. Doubt they'll reconsider their pricing though. ha. I guess I'll go sparingly...

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