Nov 30 2009

The Top 100 List: #47 Simms Steakhouse’s “Baseball Cut Sirloin”

jko

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Simms Steak House’s “Baseball Cut Sirloin”

Location: 6th ave and Simms

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Up front, I’ll own up to the fact that I’m very hard on steaks.  And maybe it’s not fair.  I spent an entire summer perfecting a steak recipe – the results of which will blow your head off.  So it’s with guarded reservations that I go to a restaurant known as a “steak joint” and dive into theirs.  It’s always the same thing: the need to get the steaks out quickly means they have to use high heat.  And high heat affects the quality of the inside of the meat.  What you get is a rainbow of doneness: well, medium-well, medium, and finally that small circle of perfect medium-rare.  With less heat (and more time), the whole thing could be medium rare… I’m just sayin.

Simms falls into this same pattern.  The round, “baseball cut” steak arrived medium rare, with precisely the rainbow mentioned above, and was just average.  Average steakhouse steak, with a hefty pricetag of $26 (for sirloin, not filet mignon mind you).  The teriyaki glaze made for some fleeting interest in the crust, but nothing too exciting.  One final compliment: the service was truly fantastic.  I only wish the steaks had kept up.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: 0 (from 4 votes)

Nov 29 2009

The Top 100 List #46: Liks Ice Cream’s “Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip”

jko

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Liks Ice Cream “Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip”

Location: 13th st

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

The Skinny: This particular flavor is so popular, I had to put my name down on a list to be called when it arrived.  But after my first little bit, I was glad I did.  The chocolate chips are sweet and rich, and the flavor of the ice cream hits a lot of good notes.  According to the oddly sweet employee (who called me “hon”), they do actually mix Jack Daniels into the chocolate ice cream recipe, which I was excited to hear.  It gave the whole thing a caramel & alcohol flavor that combined perfectly with the chocolate.  No word on when they’ll introduce the Jack & Coke ice cream float.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +8 (from 8 votes)

Nov 28 2009

The Top 100 List #45: El Taco de Mexico’s “Chile Relleno Burrito”

jko

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El Taco de Mexico “Chile Relleno Burrito”

Location: Santa Fe and 6th

Rating: 7.9 (out of 10)

The Skinny: There is a certain attraction about a place that makes no excuses for the decor and just blows you away with their food.  El Taco de Mexico is such a place.

I wouldn’t call it “run down” necessarily; it’s just that it never started out as much to begin with.  It’s basically a long counter with an equally long board over it offering a selection of mexican favorites – sometimes translated to English, but generally not.  The Chile Relleno burrito was why I was here, but you could make a pretty certain guess that anything they serve would be good.  Back to the Chile Relleno Burrito – it was absolutely delicious, every bit deserving to be on a list of top eats in Denver.  I had mine smothered in Green Chili, which I highly recommend, since it was so good I nearly licked the plate for more.  Yeah, it’s not going to fit into anyone’s weight loss program with the dollop of refried beans in every burrito, but god damn was it good.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 27 2009

The Top 100 List: #44 – 240 Union’s “Chicken Fried Lobster Tail”

jko

Chicken Fried Lobster Tail

240 Union’s “Chicken Fried Lobster Tail”

Location: 6th and Union

Rating: 7.8 (out of 10)

Price: $26

The Skinny: Could anything sound better?  Simultaneously invoking the thought of crispy fried chicken and delicate, moist lobster – this dish promises much and nearly delivers it.  The crust is what you’ve come to expect from anything chicken fried – golden, ruffled, and crisp.  The lobster inside was cooked very well – soft and tender, yet firm enough to stand up to the crisp shell.  And the tarragon sauce was genuinely fantastic.

So… why not a higher rating?  Well, although on their own, the components were executed very well, the issue was that when you combined them, it was a little like simply eating a wonderful piece of fried chicken.  For me, the shell overpowered the subtle and delicate flavor of the lobster tail, giving you a feel only for the tenderness, and missing out on everything else.  Having the feeling of eating a terrific piece of fried chicken is nothing to complain about, mind you, but it doesn’t quite make it to the lofty standard that the description implies.  Still a really excellent dish – and I cannot say enough about the delicious tarragon sauce.  I want to put it in my cereal.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 26 2009

The Top 100 List: #43 Baur’s “Famous Mija Pie”

jko

Mija Pie

Baur’s “Famous Mija Pie”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6.7 (out of 10)

Price: $8

The Skinny: Baur’s has a long and impressive Denver tradition – 100+ yrs of candy making, restaurant running, and high society catering.  All of which is quite evident when you step through the doors and take in the scene.  It’s all fairly old school, like you just stepped out of color and into black and white.  You get the sense that you might be out of place without a black top hat and cane like the other “gentlemen” of the day.  This facade thankfully falls away once acquainted with the younger and more casual restaurant staff who were more than accommodating to my late afternoon single order of Mija Pie (pronounced “my-jah”).

You might expect that a former confectionary would put out a delicious homemade dessert… and they certainly do.  Fittingly, the best parts of the dish were the chunks of English toffee candy, which I found delightful and the waitress admitted was the only Toffee she’s ever enjoyed.  I wish they had found a way to incorporate the chocolate without making it a pudding, but it did the job.  Overall, I left plenty satisfied, accepting the many calories I’d just consumed as a fair trade for the joy I got out of it.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 25 2009

The Top 100 List: #42 Chez Jose’s “Grilled Fish Tacos”

jko

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Chez Jose “Grilled Fish Tacos”

Location: Cherry Creek

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Price: $7.75

The Skinny: Maybe we’re a little spoiled in Colorado when it comes to our fast Mexican food scene.  We’re the birthplace of Chipotle, Qdoba, and Il Pete’s – within miles of Wahoo and Costa Vida – and around any corner have access to the hole-in-the-wall authentic stuff.  If nothing else, we have decent benchmarks for taste and preparation.

Chez Jose’s Fish tacos just didn’t go anywhere above and beyond that benchmark.  For one thing, the tacos are a complete and utter mess.  I’m not usually one to pick on this, but c’mon… they fall apart faster than middle east peace.  You’re left eating 80% of the taco by scooping it with a fork, which just won’t do.  One bright spot is the flavor of the fish, which is pretty good – spicy and tender.  Overall: dead average.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 24 2009

The Top 100 List: #41 Lucille’s “Eggs Jennifer”

jko

Eggs Jennifer

Lucille’s Creole Cafe “Eggs Jennifer”

Location: Logan and Alameda

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

The Skinny: I’ve generally stayed away from bringing price too much into the equation, but $10.50 for eggs benedict deserves to be pointed out.  With that warning, it really is a great tasting breakfast.  The eggs were poached beautifully – firm without breaking or cooking too far.  The yolk spilling out like a cream over the spinach, tomato, and English muffin.  I know it’s hard to screw up hollandaise (Snooze), but theirs was mouthwatering.  Add in a soft avocado, and it all worked very, very well – good for the soul.

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Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)

Nov 23 2009

The Top 100 List: #40 D Bar Desserts “Cake and Shake”

jko

Cake and Shake

D Bar Desserts “Cake and Shake”

Location: E 17th

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

The Skinny: So, I watch the Food Network here and there, and I am big fan of spiky hair D Bar owner, Keegan Gerhart (who also hosts Food Network Challenge).  But I’m more in awe of him for making this amazing shake than being on TV.  The vanilla shake itself is a delicious version of the classic, with one profound addition: the impossibly good chocolate pearls.  Mixed in throughout the shake are these crunchy little round cereals coated in dark chocolate.  One taste of the two together, and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.  It’s sensational.  As Evey M said, it “cannot even be described without using profanity”.

The cake, I have to say, does not match up to its partner in flavor, ingenuity, or profanity.  Sure, it’s rich, decadent, and sweet, but nothing that you haven’t seen many times before.  The shake is why this made the top 100 list and gets the high rating.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +4 (from 6 votes)

Nov 22 2009

The Top 100 List: #39 Pete’s Kitchen “Chili Cheese Fries”

jko

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Pete’s Kitchen “Chili Cheese Fries”

Location: E Colfax

Rating: 5.2 (out of 10)

The Skinny: You have to smirk when you see something like this on the list of 100.  The mere mention of Pete’s Kitchen to most Denverites brings back foggy memories of 2am food binges in a room full of other such ravenous drunks.  In that state, it might be a good guess that the most popular, greasy, belly warming request is the chili smothered cheese fries.  But although it might be a beloved Denver tradition, are the chili cheese fries actually any good?  That was what I set out to discover.

The answer:  Meh… they’re ok.  The fries are so underdone they’re practically just soft potatoes, but the chili is pretty tasty, and of course the cheese makes everything a wonderfully gooey mess.  It definitely belongs on the list, however – perhaps more for the local tradition than the great taste.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)

Nov 21 2009

The Top 100 List: #38 St Kilians Cheese Shop “Burrata”

jko

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St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop “Burrata”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Ok, I cheated a little here.  Both St Kilian’s and Osteria Marco offer Frank Bonanno’s Burrata, and St. Killians doesn’t carry the amazing cheese outside of the summer months, so… off to the Osteria I went.

The dish is definitely a showcase of the cheese.  Served naked, except for a few slices of toasted and oiled bread on the side, the statement is made: “other cheeses may need to dress up with fruits and jams, but not this one”.  And they’re right.  On its own, it is at it’s very best.  The cheese is composed of a thin bubble of mozzarella on the outside, which wraps up the milky soft ricotta on the inside.  Once punctured, the ricotta escapes in tiny creamy pearls, spreading smoothly over the bread or directly in my mouth.  This is the best that moz and ricotta get.

Now…If only I liked moz and ricotta as much as I love blue cheese and brie.  Regardless, Frank Bonanno strikes again!

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 20 2009

The Top 100 List: #37 Bakers Palace “Banh Mi”

jko

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Bakers Palace “Banh Mi”

Location: Federal and Alameda

Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

The Skinny: For the uninitiated, Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made with a small baguette.  There are usually a host of varieties available, and at Bakers Palace, I think there were about 10 options to choose from. When I make a “best value” list, these Vietnamese sandwiches will be on it.  At $2.75 per sandwich, you feel as though you’re buying it in Saigon with American dollars.  The bread was great – crusty yet soft – I could hear the crackle when I squeezed the sandwich in my hands.  The filling (on the #9) was decent: Pork, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, onions, etc.  It all tasted fresh and crisp.  Nothing earth shattering I’d say, but slightly above average.

One word of caution:  Choose wisely.  At that price, I tried 2 sandwiches: the #9, and the #1.  The #9 was pretty decent.  The #1…inedible.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)

Nov 19 2009

The Top 100 List: #36 Beatrice and Woodsley’s “Car Eatin Catfish”

jko

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Beatrice and Woodsley’s “Car Eatin Catfish”

Location: Broadway

Rating: 6.6 (out of 10)

The Skinny: I’ll admit, I like a good themed plate.  I once ordered swordfish at a restaurant and it was served on a sword – much to my delight.  In that spirit was the car eatin catfish, a southern dish which was served on a wood plank with a Georgia license plate, a side of grits, and fried green beans.  All that was missing was some moonshine and a NASCAR race.

The catfish, admittedly, is not something I would generally order at a restaurant, but this one exceeded my expectations.  Lightly fried, the fish was moist and flakey throughout.  Unfortunately, I found the breading to be oddly inferior to the excellent crust on the fried beans, and the green tomato sauce didn’t do much either way. The green beans, incidentally, weren’t even the best thing on the plate.  That title belongs to the surprisingly tasty rock shrimp grits, which were a pleasant surprise.  Overall this was pretty decent and might just have changed the way I see catfish from here on.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Nov 18 2009

The Top 100 List: #35 Red Tango’s “Chile Relleno Plate”

jko

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Red Tango “Plato de Chile Rellenos”

Location: Wheatridge

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

The Skinny: This is what I love about a list like this: I would bet many people, like me, had never heard a peep about Red Tango.  It’s a total hole in the wall in a blah area of 38th ave in Wheatridge – and it just so happens to turn out delicious chile rellenos.  Easily the best in the city.  The pepper is soft, the crust flaky and crisp, and the cheese…. oh the cheese.  It just comes oozing out of the pepper with every bite, beckoning you.  Top it off with a layer of their tasty green chili sauce (better than the red), and I found myself searching around the plate for just one more bite.

Although the facade of the restaurant may be uninspired, the inside is a different story.  You get the sense that there is a great deal of pride taken with everything they put in front of you – from the upscale plates, to the surprisingly good salsa, to this excellent relleno.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)

Nov 17 2009

The Top 100 List: #34 Bones’ “Suckling Pig Steamed Buns”

jko

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Bones’ “Suckling Pig Steamed Buns”

Location: Governors Park

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Frank Bonnano’s noodle bar lives up to his excellent reputation with these tasty little buns.  Yes, the suckling pig (great way to write “pork”), hoisin, and green onions were delicious – but make no mistake, this is a bun dish.  Its got to be 70% bun, 30% fillings.  And the bun is good – fluffy, soft, pliable.  Ok, maybe it was slightly too much bun for me, but that didn’t hold back the dish much.  The hoisin and chili  sauce on the side added an excellent punch to the fillings, giving the whole thing a sweet, spicy, meaty bite.

Just a side note – the miso broth in their noodle bowl is amazing.  And having the chef right in front of me, moving like a whirlwind, yet still tasting her flavors every time was a great sign.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 16 2009

The Top 100 List: #33 Jax’s “Oysters on the half shell”

jko

Jax

Jax Fish House “Oysters on the Half Shell”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Fresh Oysters are always a favorite of mine.  And of anywhere for them in Denver, Jax has the best reputation – freshest oysters, best price, Hosea Rosenberg, etc.  It’s not that they do anything special per se – in fact it’s probably that they shy away from doing anything to ruin this great seafood tradition that keeps people coming back.  Having someone in front of you cracking fresh oysters, setting them over ice, and sliding the whole tray over with horseradish, lemon, cocktail sauce, and tobasco doesn’t need any frills.  Jax has simply established itself as the place in Denver to get this done right.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 15 2009

The Top 100 List: #32 Tamayo’s “Arrachera”

jko

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Tamayo’s “Arrachera”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Served only during lunch, their Arrachera was very good.  Generally made of skirt or flank steak, theirs (skirt) was cooked perfectly, and was everything I wanted it to be.  Char marked on the outside, pink on the inside, and full of flavor with every bite.  On the side, the guac blended excellently with the spicy-sweet mole in the cheese enchilada, and the potato gratin wasn’t bad either.  Overall, I was satisfied forking over $17 for it – felt it was a strong dish.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 14 2009

The Top 100 List: #31 Zengo’s “Angry Zengo”

jko

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Zengo’s “Angry Zengo”

Location: Riverfront

Rating: 6.8 (out of 10)

The Skinny: It’s “angry” due to the heat: Spicy yellowfin tuna inside and a sprinkle of wasabi tobiko on top.  A little bit of avocado and flavored mayo are there to settle things down, though, and it all results in a pretty decent tasting combination.  But pretty decent is not the best that Zengo has to offer.  Their Won Ton Tacos and Soft Shell Crab apps are two of the better bites anywhere in the city, making my list of must-eats all day over the Angry Zengo.  It should be angry it’s not one of those two.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 13 2009

The Top 100 List: #30 Denver Bread Company’s “3 Pound Boule”

jko

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Denver Bread Company’s “3 pound Boule”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

The Skinny: Does a loaf of bread belong on a list of must eats in the city?  I’d agree with the magazine that this one does.  The loaf itself is huge – moist and soft inside, chewy on the outside.  You step into the shop and it’s clear that this is what they’re known for – stacks and stacks, row on row of the Boule loafs (pronounced “bool”, not “boolay” according to the cashier).  There is a reason Venue, Bang, St Killian Cheese shop, and other restaurants in town serve it to their patrons.  I also found it to be pretty versatile.  Great as grill bread, grilled cheese, a Panini, or by itself with some olive oil.  Just a warning: price is $9.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Nov 12 2009

The Top 100 List: #29 Boa’s “Thailand Pad Thai”

jko

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Boa’s “Thailand Pad Thai”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

The Skinny: I think someone at Denver Magazine (who created this list) lives in the Highlands.  Was this a decent pad thai?  Sure.  Was it a must eat pad thai in all of Denver???  No, it was not.  When eating Thai, I kinda expect to have the flavors jump out at me, grab me with both hands, and compel me to keep eating – but there was something missing here.  I challenge anybody to compare this to the Pad Thai they’re serving up at XO downtown and tell me which is better.

**UPDATE: XO downtown has temporarily closed in order to move to another location.  So my challenge will have to wait…

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 11 2009

The Top 100 List: #28 Sabor Latino’s Paella

jko

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Sabor Latino’s “Paella”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 5.8

The Skinny: The saffron rice base was very good, and just look at this list of ingredients:

-          Ribs

-          Scallops

-          Mussels

-          Shrimp

-          Orange Roughy

-          Chicken Thigh

-          Hard boiled egg

That is an entire  zoo and aquarium in a bowl, which would be exciting if everything tasted great.  Unfortunately, all of these individually (with the exception of the excellent chicken) were just ok.  At $20, you definitely get a diverse and ample portion of food, but it is not 20 bucks worth of flavor.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 10 2009

The Top 100 List: #27 Larkburger’s TruffleBurger

jko

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Larkburger’s “Truffle Burger”

Location: Boulder

Rating: 5.9

The Skinny: When I saw Larkburger on the list, it seemed a little odd since the closest joint is in Boulder.  And if you’re going to include Boulder, where is the must eat dish from a heavyweight like Frasca?  Perhaps the Truffle burger down 36 is so good that it was worth the exception?

Regrettably,  no.  Although I found the truffle aioli to be very good indeed, the rest of the burger was fairly average.  Like what you’d expect out of a neighbors backyard bbq.  Nothing special about the bun, onion, lettuce, or the meat, except that they lay in proximity to the delicious truffle sauce.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -3 (from 7 votes)

Nov 9 2009

The Top 100 List: #26 Lime’s Scorpions

jko

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Lime “Scorpions”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 5.8

The Skinny: Scorpions = Jalapenos stuffed with shrimp & cheese and fried.  Sounds fantastic.  And it’s not that I didn’t like the Scorpions themselves, it’s just that they’re swimming in a very bland enchilada sauce.  Yes, the sauce gives the presentation a little something, but for me it hurt the flavor.  If you can try them without sauce, the jalapeño stuffed with shrimp were spicy, salty, and crunchy – just perfect for a glass of beer.

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Nov 8 2009

The Top 100 List: #25 Parallel 17′s Tuna Taro Tacos

jko

Tuna Taro Tacos

Parallel 17 “Tuna Taro Tacos”

Location: E 17th st

Rating: 6.5

The Skinny:

“if the Gods had not created yellow honey, men would say the figs are far sweeter”

- Xenophanies (foodie/philsopher, few thousand yrs ago)

The point that ‘ol Xeno makes is about relative taste, and how it affects final judgement.  I submit the Tuna Taro Tacos at P17.  The taste is good, but the biggest problem facing the dish is that the strikingly similar “Won Ton Tacos” at Zengo are even better.  Both plates are near mirror images of each other: 3 small, hard shell tacos, filled with cubes of tuna, over a bed of avocado (mousse at P17, guac at Zengo).  Although both work very well, the shells and guac at Zengo add another dimension that isn’t matched at P17.  Even second best it’s still quite good – but would be much better without the Zengo version to compare it to.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Nov 7 2009

The Top 100 List: #24 Wen Chocolate’s Savannah Truffle

jko

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Wen Chocolates “Savannah”

Location: Riverfront Park

Rating: 5

The Skinny: This one was a bit difficult to rate.  The actual chocolate part was very good, and the inside of the truffle delicious.  But spicy heat with chocolate?  Hmmm.  Speckled into the bite sized dessert are little flakes of spice that take about 13 seconds to hit your taste buds (according to the gregarious and likeable owner).  Not overpowering, but it’s definitely there.  Now, I love my spice, and I love my chocolate, but this is not an ideal marriage.  The chocolate was good enough for a return visit and a trial with another partner.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: 0 (from 4 votes)

Nov 6 2009

The Top 100 List: #23 Sushi Sasa’s Ankimo (Steamed Monkfish Liver)

jko

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Sushi Sasa “Ankimo (Steamed Monkfish Liver)”

Location: Riverfront Park

Rating: 6.9

The Skinny: Foie Gras is not exactly the most popular of all delicacy dishes, and probably even less so when named “steamed monkfish liver” –  so I wouldn’t expect massive appeal, but it was very nice. Three rich, creamy and flavorful medallions that melt in your mouth.  The other components on the plate suited it perfectly I thought, balancing each bite.  Was it amazing?  No -  but I’m not obsessively into foie gras like others may be.  Still very good.

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Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)