Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Assignment #3: Reviewing reviews

This assignment was more difficult for me then the last two week's assignments.  Reading reviews of a restaurant and dissecting them can be a challenge! I decided to post about a little Ethiopian restaurant on Magazine St. called Cafe Abyssinia.  I've only been to this restaurant once, but from reading the 23 reviews on "Urban Spoon" I have concluded that my experience was very similar to the experiences of other diners.   Overall, the reviews reflect a similar notion, and one that I agree with: the food was pretty good, the atmosphere was "awkward", and the service was awful.  It's also worth mentioning that most of the Urban Spoon posters, similar to myself, had never before experienced Ethiopian cuisine and therefore were basing their judgements of the food quality on how it tasted to them, not how authentic they believed it was.  However, judging from the decor, seating, and smell of this place, they aren't trying to fake anything.  Let's jump into the comments, shall we?

First, my favorite review (bolding done by me):
"I came here wanting to love this place. I have been to ethiopian restaraunts and have always enjoyed the experience and the food. My wife and I ordered a lamb dish which was very good and the samabas(?) which were amazing.
If we had to do it again, we would probably want to come with a group of 6 to 8 as one dish and one serving of two samabas serves two people. I feel Ethiopian food is best enjoyed in large groups so you can try a bunch of different things.
The restaraunt really needs to work on its service. Our waiter was doing the congenial NOLA thing of being nice and talking to everyone which I don't mind. However, there is a fine line between friendly and OMG get me my check. He crossed it. He was a nice guy but I wish he would have just been a bit more "rushed."
I would give the place 3 out of 5 stars that could have been 4.5 out of 5 stars with better service.
Anyway we will return

This poster comments on a number of things.  He remarks that Ethiopian food should be enjoyed as a group.  I tend to agree with this.  Just like traditional New Orleans food (read: jambalaya, gumbo), Ethiopian food is often prepared and served family style.  This makes eating with one or two people kind of awkward because its a large amount of food meant to be shared, relished, and enjoyed over loud conversation that has now been reduced to "just a meal."  Eating this kind of food without a large group almost detracts from the authenticity of the food itself.  The poster then goes on to state that the service was slow and the waiter, though Ethiopian, was participating in "the congenial Nola thing of being nice and talking to everyone."  This is the second parallel in this relatively brief post that relates NOLA food with Ethiopian cuisine.  The waiter was being friendly and talkative; however, many people find this as an annoyance.  The poster obviously found this to be irritating and therefore may not have gone to this restaurant looking for a true Ethiopian experience along with his true Ethiopian food.  

The commenter had a very similar experience to my own experience, making me feel like I understand what this man wants when he goes out to eat.  He ends his post with "we will return", which can be seen as his way of letting people know that despite the small issues with service, this place is worth going to more than once. I tend to agree. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Birthplace of My Sushi Obsession

Shogun Restaurant in Metairie has managed to reserve a spot in my life as the root of my love affair with Japanese cuisine, and specifically, sushi. I first came to this restaurant 13 years ago, when I was 5, and yes, I remember the entire experience.  While I wasn't munching on raw fish at such a young age, I distinctly remember enjoying the fatty texture of a crunchy roll, a delicious combination of deep fried tempura batter wrapped in the traditional sushi nori and rice.  Since then, I have probably visited this restaurant over one hundred times and I have never had a bad experience.  Unlike many "oriental" restaurants, Shogun does not try to capture your attention with ridiculous lighting or other gimmicks.  In fact, aside from the traditional asian lightbulbs  on the porch, the restaurant does not appear to be any different from most standard American restaurants.  However, the restaurant pulls you in by the hospitality of the elderly Asian lady who greets every customer, and the extremely friendly and interactive staff that operates the sushi bar.   The restaurant is located right behind a large neighborhood and has a very popular following among locals. Its not uncommon for the waiters at Shogun to greet their customers by name, or to know what they want to order.  I ordered a bean sprout salad, a spicy tuna roll, a salmon skin roll, and a natto roll.  As an appetizer we ordered the panfried gyoza dumplings, as pictured below.  As per usual, the dumplings were cooked to perfection and were not at all gummy which I find to be common in Japanese restaurants.  They had a buttery flavor that was offset perfectly by the umami flavor of the dipping sauce.   
 I left Shogun extremely satisfied with both the quality of the food and the quality of the dining experience. I will soon be coming back!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breakfast at a Thai Place?

I spent my Saturday morning enjoying this satisfying steak and egg breakfast at Chill Out Cafe on Maple St. in New Orleans.  This small cafe boasts serving a  "Breakfast and Asian Fusion" on its sign.  The word fusion made me think I would be consuming some kind of bacon and hash brown spring roll. However, this is unfortunately (fortunately?) not the case. Instead, Chill Out Cafe offers a plethora of mainstream Thai dishes ranging from the classic "pad thai" to more sultry dishes such as eggplant curries as well as a nice selection of classic American breakfast options.  While my breakfast was comparatively simple to most dishes served at the restaurant, it was done quite well.  The steak was seared perfectly, giving it a nice charred crust while still maintaining tenderness, a trait uncommon for most breakfast steaks.  The eggs were a beautiful bright yellow hue, and had a buttery velvet texture that made me hate my mother for all the years I ate dry scrambled eggs.  The bread, toasted lightly with a dab of butter, was a nice starchy way to fill out the meal and prompted me to make a delicious steak and egg sandwich which seemed to confuse our young thai waitress.  The meal was a nice way to start my morning, and I will definitely be coming back in the future.