Thursday, June 28, 2007

Viet Garden - DJ

1237 E. Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

Viet Garden is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. It is located in Viet Town Colonial and Mills. Viet Garden is located in an older strip mall that has several Vietnamese restaurants including Little Saigon. We have tried the others but we always come back to Viet Garden as the best.

The restaurant is decorated with faux banana plants and faux orchids. The walls are covered with idealized paintings of Vietnam with a strange purple cast. The business here is usually quite brisk. The owner Charlie is always friendly and smiling. He tells of the labor involved in making the soups (Pho) 9 hours everyday of cooking the broth.

The menu is extensive and includes a Thai section as well. My favorite dish is #44 “Grilled Chicken with Fresh Lemon severed with rice vermicelli and vegetables (Bun Ga Nuong Chanh)”. This dish has strips of grilled marinated chicken on top of rice vermicelli. There are sliced cucumbers, bean sprouts, and julienne carrots on the side. The dish comes with a fish sauce mixture with sliced carrots on the side it is topped off with chopped peanuts. This is mixed with Vietnamese host sauce and poured over the dish to add some heat and a sweet tangy flavor. This is one of my most favorite dishes at any restaurant.

The staff is always friendly and efficient. The atmosphere is nice. This is a favorite place to eat.

Rating: *****
Service: *****
Quantity: Perfect
Price: Meal/Water: $8.00

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tasty Wok - DJ

1246 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803


Tasty Wok BBQ & Noodle House is a small Cantonese diner on the corner of East Colonial and North Shine Ave in Viet-town. It is just east of Mills Ave. It is best described as dinner style with Ducks hanging in the corner. The menu has 58 items with the addition of about 12 more Americanized items. i.e. General Tao Chicken and Sesame Chicken among others. We had come on the recommendation of our Chinese friend. He said to stay away from the noodle soups and go for the Pan Fried dishes.

The dish I ordered was # 40 Ha Moon Chow Mei Fun (Rice Noodle). The dish looked very similar to Pad Thai with out the red coloring. The dish came with chicken and rice vermicelli noodles. There were onions and bean sprouts also mixed in. The killer for me was the eggs mixed in with the noodles just as in Pad Thai. I cannot eat eggs so my dining partner graciously offered to switch. He had ordered # 41 Beef with Pan-fried Noodle. The dish had egg noodles that had been pan fried until crispy topped with slices of beef and Kai-lan or Chinese broccoli, this was in a dark sauce. Both dishes were good and we had plenty left over.

Service: Excellent 5
Quantity: Enough for two.
Price: Meal/Water under $9.00

Tasty Wok BBQ & Noodle House - DT

My friend Mike says, “You need to try the Tasty Wok BBQ & Noodle House.” I trust Mike. So we went. He said, “Their English may be a little rough but get something in the pan fried noodle section of the menu.” So we did. He was right except their English was just fine. All of the waitresses were very kind and I’m starting to identify the Cantonese restaurants by their roasted poultry on hook display. I thought about getting the General Tso Chicken because I’m starting to crave Americanized Chinese food but, for the sake of the blog, I got the Beef with Pan-fried egg Noodle. DJ was also leaning toward the Sesame Chicken but settled on the Chicken, Pork, Shrimp with Pan-fried Rice Noodle (Mi Phen) with just Chicken. Our dishes arrived in no time. The quantities were huge and the food was hot. We switched plates since DJ’s contained egg and well I told him I didn’t know CPR. Seeing the look of concern on DJ’s face, the waitress even came over to make sure all was well. She taught me how to say egg noodle in Chinese. Don Mi. Both meals were quite good. I liked the combination of Chicken, egg, onion, scallions, sprouts and egg noodle. It was cooked in an oil that was light and buttery. The Beef dish was served with Kai-lan (Chinese Broccoli). The beef was tender in a brown sauce that was simple but tasty. The Kai-lan leafs were not over cooked and resembled spinach. Judging by how much brown sauce DJ had on his shirt, I think I can say he liked it.

Service: Excellent 5
Quantity: Enough for two.
Price: Meal/Water under $10

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Paco's - DJ

1801 W Fairbanks Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789


Paco's recently celebrated their 25 anniversary. I have eaten here off and on for the last 25 years. When I first arrived in Florida it was one of the only non-chain Mexican restaurants around. Most of these chains have closed up shop, but Paco's is still the same. I remember when only the front room was used for lunch, and RC was the drink of choice. This has now changed there are lines out the front door if you arrive after 12:00PM and Coke is now served.

Paco's is a small restaurant occupying a renovated 4 room house at the corner of Fairbanks and Clay. The rooms have been painted bright colors recently. Not much else has changed. The food is still the same, just as good as ever.

The staff is friendly and greats you as an old friend, not with shouting as some fast food Mexican is prone to do. The menu classifies Pacos as a Tex-Mex restaurant, something I had been trying to figure out until recently when I noticed this on the menu. They do not use as much cheese as the normal Tex-Mex restaurant, which is good.

Today, I had one of the old standbys Combo A – Two Tacos and one enchilada with beans and rice on the side. I choose to go chicken all the way, but the cheese enchilada is also good. The standard taco at Pacos is packed with the filling of your choice – chicken, beef, or beans. Then toped with chopped lettuce and diced fresh tomatoes. The enchiladas are filled with the same fillings with the addition of black olives and onions as choices. The sauce is a type of green sauce that is very good. The beans are topped with melted cheese. Rice is also included.

This dish has tasted the same for the last 25 years as far as I can remember. A taste that I often crave.

Paco's also has daily specials that include a soft drink of your choice. I think they are now $6.95. This is a good way to get your Pacos Fix for the week.

Monday Tostada
Tuesday Burito
Wednesday Taco Salad
Thursday Enchilada
Friday No special

Rating: ****
Service: Excellent: *****
Meal/Water: $8.75

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Border Grill

Border Grill
Mandalay Bay
Las Vegas, Nevada

The dish I had as described in the daily special menu.

Chicken Enchilada – Smoked Chicken & Oaxacan string cheese in a chipotle cream sauce, with an Ancho chile corn salad.

The dish was preceded with homemade corn chips and 3 salsas. There was a tomtailo, red chile, and a smoked chipolte. All 3 were good. The chips were a little greasy but were still good. They were made from thick homemade tortillas and were crispy.

The enchilada dish arrived promptly, and the presentation was very well executed. The plate had a base of the chipotle sauce with streaks of cream streaked through the sauce. The three chicken enchiladas were topped with a corn salas which consisted of asparagus that had been thinly sliced and cooked just till tender. There were also slices of Ancho chiles, corn and onion in the salad. This was topped with the string cheese.

The Chicken Enchilada’s were made of homemade corn tortillas, rolled around the chicken and cheese mixture. This dish might have been the best enchilada dish I’ve every had, except for at Orlando's in Taos, New Mexico. The thick tortilla and the chicken mixture had just the right texture and flavor.

The restaurant advertises themselves as Real Mexican, it is not the standard Tex-Mex fair. The restaurant was created by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. They had a Food Network show called The Two Hot Tamales when the network was still new. I still have some of their recipes. I would give this restaurant a must visit while in Las Vegas.

Rating: *****
Service: *****
Meal/Water/Tip: $30.00

The Two Hot Tamales

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Viet Garden - DT

East Colonial, just east of Mills.

This is not my first trip to Viet Garden. I believe everyone I know has been there. Hands down the best garden rolls ever. Garden rolls, sometimes referred to as summer rolls, are rice wraps filled with rice vermicelli, shrimp, pork, lettuce and basil and served cold with a side of peanut sauce. I like to mix a bit of the red chili sauce in the peanut sauce. You can choose tofu instead of meat, but I wouldn't. I believe I have an unhealthy addiction to them. I picked some up on the way home last night. (It's not on my way). So far I have tried the Prig King Curry, the Cashew Chicken, the Grilled Chicken with lemon and the Pad Thai. They weren't bad, but they weren't standouts. Today I ordered the #58 Grilled Pork with Rice. It comes with their sweet broth on the side and a lettuce, tomato and cucumber presentation. The white rice is served with few crispy garlic chips. I mixed a touch of chili sauce in the broth before pouring it over the rice. I asked for another side of peanut sauce for the simple salad. I found myself tearing into this plate of food. I found it odd that the grilled pork was served cold. My friend ordered the same dish but his was served warm. I didn't care. It was outstanding! The marinade was light but sweet. I will find it hard not to order this again. Did I mention the Garden Rolls?

Gonzalez y Gonzales

Gonzalez y Gonzales
3790 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, Nv

I should have known when I called and ask where the restaurant was located. The answer was inside New York New York next to the ESPN Zone. The restaurant was billed on the out side as Tex-Mex. They ask if I wanted to sit at the bar, I preferred a table. There was one open near the front door.

The chips were crisp, but the salsa was not that good. No heat and not that much taste. I ordered Chicken Enchiladas with beans and rice on the side. It arrived in a timely manner. The dish was presented nicely. The chicken was tender and the sauce was good, but the dish lacked something. The rice was nice the accompanying beans were as to be expected. The meals was just not as good as I would have liked.

Women’s boxing was on the TV. The view out the door was faux New York, a deli and an Italian restaurant, with “outdoor” seating. The whole experience was lacking authenticity from a local restaurant that one might visit more than once.

Service: Good
Quantity: Plenty
Meal (Supper)/Drink/Tip: $15.00

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trattoria del Lupo

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
Las Vegas, Nv

I went to Wolf Gang Pucks Italian Restaurant for supper with a group of people.

Several appetizers were ordered I had some of the Caprese - Heirloom Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, Aged Balsamic. They were very good tomatoes but 19.00 worth! Maybe they were shipped over from Harrods in London. There were yellow, red, and a ruby red tomato; as well as a variety of cherry tomatoes.

I ordered the Grilled Atlantic Salmon grilled over Hard Wood with Spinach, Potatoes and Salsa Verde $29.00. The presentation was not up to the price. The potatoes were greasy. The salmon was nothing special. The restaurant was too dark for a photos.

If I were to compare it to Mesa Grill I would have to give Puck 2 stars and Flay 5 stars.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Meal (Supper)/Drink/Tip: ~$50.00

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mesa Grill

Caesars Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109

Mesa Grill is buried in the back of Caesars Palace, near the sports bet area. When I arrived I was told there would be a 10 minute wait for a table. Even though there were many empty tables. It was a pleasant wait, it was cool inside. The temperature outside is a blistering 102 degrees, which must make the temperature on the street 110 at least. The high for today is suppose to be 104.

I was seated with a view of the open kitchen, which was interesting. I ordered the Roasted Corn Soup with smoked tomato salsa, and the Ancho Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with Spicy Black Bean Sauce + Roasted Jalapeno Crema.

The table next to me received their soup before I did, so I had a commentary on the taste before mine arrived. The 12 year old described the soup as tasting like creamed corn only spicier. Mine arrived a few minutes later. I would have to agree that it did taste like creamed corn; only the corn had a roasted taste. It had a decorative sprinkling of red chili oil with the smoked tomato salsa on top of that. The tomato salsa must have had some jalapeno peppers chopped up in it as well.

The Salmon was plated attractively. It was sitting on top of a black bean sauce which was cold. I think it would have been better if it had been at least room temperature. The salmon was cooked to perfection. The honey glaze had a crunchy feel and was very good. The salmon was propped up on a pile of cooked spinach. The sauces around the edge were very colorful. There was a bright green chili oil, an ancho chile sauce, and a creamy white sauce that had smoky taste. The salmon was topped with a tomatilo salsa. The dish was very good I would give it a 5 star.

The bread basket contained a corn bread muffin that was half yellow meal and the other half was blue corn meal. It was excellent.

Rating: *****
Service: ****
Water/ Soup/Lunch: 40.00

Friday, June 15, 2007

Shin Jung - DT

So Mike says “Hey you should go to the Korean place across the street from Barney’s”. I trust Mike, so we went. I think it’s been there a while. It was half full on a Friday. Again I am guessing by the demographics that this is “authentic” Korean cuisine. I hate the word cuisine. It’s so cliché. DJ ordered the chicken lunch, RB ordered the beef. I wanted the chicken but I thought I should get something different for the sake of the blog. I got the pork lunch. The lunch included miso soup, a very salty, marinated bean sprout served cold, cold kimchi, small ginger salad, white rice (fried rice $1 more) and the meat. Typical miso broth with scallions. The sprouts were ok. I found it best to just mix them with the fried rice. I’ve never had kimchi before so I can only say that it was alright. Salad was typical. I sprang for the $1 fried rice. More egg than I expected. The pork was prepared in a sweat marinade with lots of rub. Almost too rich but I ate it all…I always do. Overall, having never eaten Korean victuals before, (ahhhh not cliché) I enjoyed it. The atmosphere was chummy and the service good. I would eat here again.

Service: 4 out of 5
Quantity: plenty
Price: lunch/water just over $9

Shin Jung - DJ

1638 E Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32803


Shin Jung is a cozy little restaurant with 12 tables; eight of which have built-in BBQ burners in the middle, so you can cook your own meat. We decided on the box lunches - beef, chicken, and pork boxes. DT opted for the fried rice. We had steamed rice. This came out in little stainless steel containers with a lid. The rice had been cooked in these separate little containers. We each had 3 sides of marinated bean sprouts, kimchi, and a small salad.

The meal began with the delivery of miso soup. Then the box lunch came out. The salad had a sweet and sour dressing that was very good. The bean sprouts were slightly sweet. The kimchi, well; it was kimchi. I would haved to describe it as marinated cabbage that was served cold. The marinade on the grilled chicken was slightly sweet.

RB said I had not said a word for the last ten minutes. I guess I could not talk and eat with chop sticks at the same time. I enjoyed the meal.

Orlando Weekly says Shin Jung has been around to 10 years. The restaurant was full when we were there. Almost everyone else were Koreans. This is a place we will add to our list of places to go for lunch.

Service: Good (5 out of 5)
Quantity: Plenty
Meal/Water/Tip: Under $9.50

Thursday, June 14, 2007

FHO - Topping Off Party - DT

We are appreciated at FHO. They treated us to a free lunch today. Hamburger, chips, watermelon, drink and fresh churned ice cream (with toppings). The ice cream was outstanding check 'em out. FHO treats us to a strawberry festival in the spring and a corn festival in the summer. This summer they opted to celebrate the "topping off" of the new tower by having a full blown picnic lunch. Not too filling and the service was good. For the money, I give it 10s all around!

FHO - Topping Off Party - DJ

The FHO Topping off Party was held today. The food was an excellent value - FREE! We had burgers with no toppings, chips, watermelon and "Old Fashioned Homemade Ice Cream". The burger was actually pretty good, they were grilled outside beside the tents that the food was served from. RB stated that it might be the best meal he has ever had at the cafe. The ice cream was excellent. I had strawberry. It was just the right consistency, and it was served at the right temperature.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ming's Bistro - RB

The Steamed Pork Buns were very good. It would be worth going back just for that. I also had Duck Noodle Soup with thin rice noodles, it was very hard to get the waitress to understand which noodles I wanted in my soup. The duck was tasty but the broth was very bland. Next time I'll try something other then the Duck Noodle Soup.

Service: Good (4 out of 5)
Quantity: Plenty (3 small buns to an order)
Appitiser/Meal/Water: Under $11.00

Ming's Bistro - DT

Definitely not you average General Tao Chicken place located just off Mills and Colonial. I'm not an expert but compared to the Chinese food at every other stripmall, I would call it authentic. Being the only non-Asians in the place reinforced that impression. I ordered the Singapore Rice Noodles and asked for it to be spicy mild. It was just right. We all agreed the meals were prepared a little on the bland side but I can add my own salt. (You can't take it out). It was half full on a Wednesday. The waitress was very nice and even tried to help me pronounce "thin rice noodle" in chinese. I think it was "Mi Phen". I definitely enjoyed the roasted poultry (mostly poultry) proudly displayed hanging in the heating booth then cut up on a tree stump by the nice lady with the cleaver. Bonus! DMJ and RB ordered the noodle soup with roast duck. Not sure they cared so much for the more exotic parts of the duck. I would eat here again for sure. Colorful description aside, I found the place clean and relaxing and my new favorite place for Singapore noodle.

Service: Good (4 out of 5)
Quantity: Plenty (I told RB not to let me eat the whole thing)
Meal/Water: Under $8

Ming's Bistro - DJ

Ming's Bistro
1212 Woodward St
Orlando, FL 32803, US

I had the Roast Duck Noodle soup. With a bit of difficulty, I was able to order my soup with some surprisingly large rice noodles. The soup was rather bland looking with the duck accompanied by bok choy and those wide rice noodles. Ming's Bistro seems to be a more authentic style of Chinese restaurant, than we usually encounter. The dishes looked like something that would have come directly from China rather than the Americanized versions.

I'm not sure I was ready for that experience. Next time I'll walk around the corner to Viet Garden.

Service: Good (4 out of 5)
Quantity: More than I wanted
Meal/Water: $6.50