Restaurants/Bars

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Restaurant Review: Le Metro Bistro

Published November 19, 2014 by mrsrag
lemet
1155 main street, Jupiter, Florida
Phone: (561) 429-5464
Website:  info@lemetrobistro.net

It’s hard to imagine that the Abacoa Town Center is providing a worthy locale for the level of French cuisine that is being offered in this hidden Jupiter gem.  Ross and I rarely venture off the culinary beaten path, as we have our “tried and trusted” favorite spots.  But Le Metro is a date night must!  The menu caught my eye as I thumbed through one of those giant coupon books and we decided to give it a shot.  The results were, as my date stated, “eye rolling good”.  My only regret was my last minute entrée change; switching from the Dover Sole to the bouillabaisse.  Which, believe me – was magnificent, but I had been eyeing the Sole since I had spotted the menu.  And during our visit to the restaurant I overheard a gentleman, who seemed like a regular of Le Metro, ask if the chef was in.  Once this was confirmed he proceeded to order the Sole.  A sure sign that my last minute change was destined to end in food envy.  For a Saturday it seemed relatively slow, but as the night filled out, so did the seats. We grabbed a beautiful spot on the outdoor patio.  And as we warmed up with the Escargot & Mussels, my taste buds transported me to the French Riviera.  And I wasn’t surprised to read that the Chef de Cuisine, Christian Alunno, hails from Nice.  Only a native could be responsible for this flavorful tour of the Mediterranean coastline.  His resume is impressive.  But the food does more than prove his talent, it embodies his passion for the craft.

mussels

As Maria mentioned, we have our regular spots and favorite dishes all over the area.  Beef Carpaccio at Brio, flat breads at Season’s 52, white chicken chili at Cheesecake Factory, oyster shooters at Spoto’s, sushi at Too Bizaare, guacamole and queso dip at Rancho Chico, buffalo wings at Bru’s Room and of course the incomparable Chilean Sea Bass at The River House, blackened, thank you very much.  Well, we have a newcomer to the line-up, and my goodness, what an addition Le Metro is!!  We stumbled upon this jewel by pure random chance, as we had no clue what or where we wanted to go, just that it be someplace different.  The first place we called, the number was disconnected.  Little did we know at the time, fate was working the room.  I was more than skeptical of our final choice to be honest.  Maria liked the menu, but I had never heard of the place and Abacoa has not been a destination of ours in recent years.  Our error to be sure because this food experience was certainly among my top 5 of all time.  To our list we can add: escargot and the mussels at Le Metro.  The escargot is served in the usual dish with the six little holes for the snails to occupy, but there is nothing else “usual” about these melt in your mouth mollusks.  Sautéed in Pernod and garlic butter and served with the lightest toast points, one bite sends you to an Earth shaking food orgasm.  The Prince Edward Island mussels are served in a light broth of shallots, garlic, parsley, diced tomatoes, white wine and cream that is so good they should offer it as a soup on it’s own.  Dipping the fresh made house bread in there will make your taste buds feel like they died and went to Heaven, and you will most certainly need a re-up on the bread.  For my meal I had the Braised Short Ribs which were tender and delicious, but the appetizers totally stole the show.  We will be going back to Le Metro soon, Maria has to try that sole, but not until we’ve earned it.  We’ve been dieting since that night.

Le Metro proved to be the most surprising restaurant outing we’ve had in years.  Its location is quite understated and although we hope to bring it some business, it was rather nice being able to enjoy a Saturday evening without the usual hustle & bustle of crowds.  The ambience was elegant, yet casual, and the staff seemed quite down to Earth.  I will mention the only disconcerting moment of our evening was when the bartender came to ask if we had paid our bar tab.  And then the waitress double checked with us.  We had grabbed a quick cocktail at the bar and decided to stay for just one more, as we were informed that it was still happy hour and we could grab a 2 for 1.  We 100% knew we had paid with cash before camping out at our dining spot, but this confusion left us feeling a bit awkward and uneasy.  Especially because we didn’t want our server to feel stiffed.  Perhaps it has something to do with my extensive experience in the restaurant industry as a server, bartender and a manager.  And Ross’ empathy with servers stems from his daughters’ vast experiences in the field.  But we always try to be great customers and just decent human beings in general.  We try to leave well deserved tips, help bus our table a bit and speak to servers with a certain level of mutual respect.  This was a small blip in an otherwise flawless experience.  We will most definitely be heading back to Le Metro for a romantic dinner or just an evening of delectable apps and cocktails.

The bar tab incident was a bit aggravating but certainly not a night wrecker.  The family of eight that dined next to us were obviously regulars, complete with spoiled children and an air of entitlement about them that provided us with some pleasant “people watching” and listening moments.  A personal favorite was the seemingly endless “water spilling incident” drama.  The waitress was a good sport and she handled that group better than I ever could.  Really the only true negative of the night was that I had promised Maria I’d take her dancing after dinner, but the crème brulee (also exquisite) we finished the night off with, finished us off.  We went for a walk, then took our overindulgent asses home.  Next time honey, promise.  Le Metro is amazing, surprising and wonderful all at the same time, and you should experience it ASAP.  The food is beyond compare and the prices are surprisingly reasonable, the end result is nothing short of euphoric! 

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 5 Wine Glasses.    

  

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Review Revisited: The River House

Published August 16, 2014 by mrsrag

Location: 2373 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL   Phone:  561 694-1188  http://www.riverhouserestaurant.com

 

Hi everyone, we’re back!  I finally made an honest woman out of Maria, as the official union of MRS and RAG took place August 9th in Saratoga Springs, New York.  Surrounded by our families and closest friends, beyond all comprehension, the most beautiful and awesome woman in the world said “I Do” to me!!  Greatest day ever, and by all accounts, everyone had a blast.  The DJ played overtime and all the hardcores were out there dancing with us until 1 AM .  My son and best man, Ethan, put on an especially good show, showing off some moves I didn’t know he had!  My bride was the star though.  In a sea of beautiful people she stood out like a brilliant star.  Google “Luckiest Man in the World”, you should see a picture of me.  Anyway, as you might guess, after all the planning and anticipation, it all went by in a flash.  When we got home, we felt like we hadn’t seen each other for a week, so we decided to treat ourselves to a night out at one of our very favorite places, The River House.  And it was soooo good, we decided we had to give them a little more pub.  It’s been a couple of years since our last review of TRH, after Maria’s first visit.  You might remember, in that one, she made a crucial error not taking my advice and getting the sea bass blackened.  Well, live and learn she did, blackened it was this time, and amazing it was.  My turn to screw up.  I told one of our waiters, the very entertaining Billy, to just “bring me the biggest filet you have, medium rare.”  Mistake.  It was good, but bone in.  We are not bone in filet folks.  Not sure why anyone would want a bone in their filet mignon, but again, live and learn.  I was too intoxicated with being home, being there and being with my new bride.  In the pantheon of mistakes, not the worst one in history. 

I know it’s cliché, but the wedding was literally, a blur.  I know that I thoroughly enjoyed the blur and that’s what’s important.  But I most certainly did not get enough one on one time with my new husband.  So, a lovely welcome home dinner was seriously in order.  And what better place to celebrate our new status than that of the incomparable River House.  Their delectable menu paired with a naturally beautiful ambience makes it one of our no-brainer picks for a special occasion.  We made sure to get there early enough to enjoy the scenic patio bar and sip some cocktails beside the intracoastal waterway.

RHwater

And what a breathtaking view!  It’s exquisitely romantic.  And then to follow this up with killer food is just an added bonus.  I love Chilean Sea Bass and I’ve had my share over the years at quite a number of high end institutions, but the River House is in a class all its own.  It’s winning edge comes in a 2 oz. ramekin filled with their signature Mango salsa that accompanies this perfectly blackened fish.  The fish flakes off in giant, bright white strips of melt in your mouth goodness.  The end result of proper culinary training.  My thought would have been to get two of these, but RAG loves his filet.  In truth, although the River House executes a wonderfully juicy steak, it holds no water to the Okeechobee Steakhouse IMO.  There is just no other choice at this establishment than the bass.  End of story.  BLACKENED!!  LOL.

I won’t disagree with the sea bass assessment or the Okee Steakhouse kudos, but I do think TRH serves up a damn good filet.  I’m the jughead who ordered it with a bone.  Bones or no bones, you still get that beautiful view.   Be sure to stop by the outside bar before dinner for a glass of wine by the water.  There’s usually a wait, especially during season, and you’ll hardly notice as you sip your libation and watch the boats float by.  The best food you’ll find anywhere, including a fantastic salad bar,  service beyond compare, idyllic setting.  What more could you ask for from a restaurant?  These days establishments come and go, so when you see a place stand the tests of time, you know they must have it going on.  1984.  Just another year you say?  Oh no my friends.  One of the best years of movie releases ever (don’t believe me?  google it.  you won’t believe the classics).  The year The River House opened their doors, and also the year Maria (MRS) arrived on the scene.  No offense to George Orwell, good book, but in reality, a magnificent year!  

My husband is the sweetest man alive, in case you were wondering.  And oh, that salad bar is divine.  It’s the scene of one of our telling first dates.  “You like BEETS!?”  Ross exclaimed that sentence as I heaped a hefty serving of the root vegetable onto my plate on our first visit in 2011.  There are so many reasons to love this place, including their sense of humor.  I got a good chuckle as we ascended the ramp and read, “No Crybabies” on their conduct list.  Didn’t catch that gem on our first trip.  You cannot have a bad time at the River House.  There’s just too many wonderful things to fall back on.  Even when you make a tiny mistake, like ordering the wrong steak, there’s always the view, the salad bar and that gorgeous piece of bass to fall back on.  Blackened.

Ross’ Rating:  5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Wine Glasses.

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: III Forks

Published May 23, 2013 by mrsrag

Location:  4645 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Just west of the Publix plaza, next to Cantina Laredo.  Phone: 561 630-3660. www.iiiforks.com.

III Forks (spoken Three Forks) is an upscale steakhouse chain.  Though the word “chain” is somewhat loose when applied to them.  They have seven total locations, three in Texas (Houston, Dallas, Austin), three in Florida (PBG, Hallandale, Jacksonville) and Chicago.  I would say they are going for quality not quantity at this point.  Maria and I had been to III Forks once before, the one in Hallandale just outside of Gulfstream Park.  We went with friends after a day at the races, and had a wonderful filet mignon and sea bass (our “go to” surf and turf).  The company and the food were superb, but Maria was under the weather that night and we had to leave early.  Last night we were trying to think of something to do.  While perusing through the Palm Beach Post, I came across a mention of a wine tasting at III Forks for $15 per person, appetizers included.  A night out at Forks for peanuts?  Very appealing.  Proprietor/Head Chef Tommy Nevill directed the proceedings himself, pouring our wines while educating us along the way with the history of each.  Dapper and nattily clad in a tuxedo, Tommy along with our bartender Christina, couldn’t have made us feel more comfortable.

We’ve enjoyed both locales that we’ve visited.  At the Hallandale venue they had a young woman, with quite a good voice, crooning soft love songs.  I was so disappointed when my head cold caught up with me during dinner.  The setting is what you’d come to expect from a steakhouse, dark and sleek with bright white linens and ambient light.  We sat at the gorgeous inside bar while dining on the hors d’oeuvres.  Nevill was a gracious host and as he described each wine to us you could feel the passion for his craft emanating from him.  Our first wine was a sparkling Italian Prosecco, which was a bit on the dry side for my palette and honestly forgettable.  Next he served us two Pinot Grigio’s, side by side for a better comparison, along with our first snacks.  A mini caprese of fresh mozzarella wrapped around basil and cherry tomato, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.  Unfortunately that bite was overshadowed by the highlight of the hors d’oeuvres, IMO, a bite sized chicken parmigiana with a healthy bite of chicken and a generous slathering of marinara sauce.  It was absolutely delicious and was well paired with our favorite of the two Pinot Grigios, a sweeter and fruitier take called Rose’N’Blum.  This white and our first red, which soon followed were the big winners out of the wines for me.  The red was a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Cab and a few other type of grapes.  I not only loved the taste of this blend, but we also liked the bottle, which featured what looked like a mad scientist donning goggles and a tattered suit.  Fitting depiction considering the name, Stark Raving.

I prefer the Gardens Forks.  The bar is elegant and the atmosphere is more intimate.  Hallandale is okay too, but it has a mall feel.  The food at each is top shelf however.  A few suggestions, beyond the aforementioned filet and sea bass, from my previous visits would be: bacon wrapped scallops, the wedge salad and the rack of lamb for my fellow carnivores.  To die for!  In addition, the wine selection is vast and varied, and Tommy Nevill has his finger on the pulse of everything current.  Subsequently, your palette should have no problem finding something to make it sing.  One final note; I’m generally a white wine guy, but during our tasting the red blend by Stark Raving was my favorite.  I would take the description of the bottle’s label a step further.  I thought the guy looked like Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes.  Yet Downey also plays Tony Stark/Iron Man.  Stark Raving?!  Those clever devils.  III Forks will not disappoint you, I can’t wait for our next visit!

This was an inexpensive, educational and entertaining night out.  I love finding new and exciting things to do…but I have to admit it really is Ross’ special gift.  He scours the paper and unburies these hidden gems.  And please don’t be intimidated by your local ‘wine tasting’ – these events are for everyone not just for connoisseurs.  You don’t have to write down notes, you don’t have to say if the wine has a good ‘nose’ or drop other fancy terms.  You just have to go with an open mind and enjoy yourself.

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Wine Glasses.

 

Restaurant Review: Yard House

Published February 28, 2013 by mrsrag

Location: Downtown at the Gardens. 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens; Palm Beach Gardens, Fl 33410. Phone: (561) 691-6901. http://www.yardhouse.com.

We recently had the pleasure of dining out with a good friend of ours visiting from up North.  Ross and I decided to take him out to one of our trusted standby’s, The Yard House, and it dawned on us that we have yet to review this wonderful establishment.  Truthfully, we haven’t been dining out very much lately.  Ross has become quite fond of my cooking and I thoroughly enjoy making meals at home.  This latest outing in Hallandale Beach was a much needed exception and proved to be one of our fondest trips to the popular eatery.  All three of us were on board for ordering a bunch of appetizers and sharing, which is one of my favorite ways to get a taste of as much as possible.  We started with one of Ross’ favorites, the California Roll, which is an untraditional take on the sushi roll of the same name.  This dish is served as one giant roll, with layers of Snow crab (FYI Most California Rolls are made with imitation crab), sticky white rice, cucumber and avocado.  This giant single roll is surrounded by wasabi soy sauce and dots of spicy Sriracha.  We paired this dish with a serving of Grilled Sweet Korean BBQ Beef, which is a long winded name for short ribs, Kung Pao Calamari and the Béarnaise Sliders.  The Kung Pao Calamari was our visitor’s selection and a pleasant surprise on my part.  It’s something I would never think to order, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We have been eating at home a lot lately as Maria mentioned, and trust me, her cooking would get 5 wine glasses every time!  This review was long overdue however.  Yard House is part of our lunchtime rotation, which includes Cheesecake Factory, Brio and Tabica Grill among others.  Yard House is a chain that is currently in 15 states and growing.  They could easily be classified as sports bars as there are TV’s everywhere, but the food is consistently better than the pub fare you get at most places of that genre.  And I’m not the most daring of beer drinkers, but if  you happen to be, their selection of hundreds of taps should allow you to find something you like.  Shock Top Raspberry is my top choice.  Most of our dining and drinking experiences are at the above listed Palm Beach Gardens location, but we did try the Hallandale restaurant (next to Gulfstream Park) the other day.  Maria mentioned the great apps we had that day, but two other favorites of note are the Spicy Tuna Roll and Carnitas Street Tacos.  The latter a Maria staple with roast pork, grilled onions, pico de gallo, guacamole and pineapple is a slice of soft taco heaven.  The STR, my choice, is another variation on the roll theme.  One hockey puck-sized stacker with seared rare ahi, avocado, edamame, cucumber and soy sauce.  Highly recommended.

Believe me, he’s very loose with the culinary compliments, but thank you regardless.  THE CARNITAS…yum!  I cannot believe I forgot to add my favorite and we most definitely rounded out the Hallandale meal with these tasty treats.  I recall our guest had stated very astutely, “The pineapple is a wonderful surprise.”  Ross likes referring to our guest as the ‘Michael Jordan of the Daily Racing Form’, but I digress.  The pineapple he said and our mouths all agreed.  They offer eight different styles of ‘street’ taco and as you can probably imagine it ranges from some poultry manifestations, to fish, beef and an interesting collection of vegetables.  This vegetarian taco (which is denoted on the menu conveniently) consists of shiitake mushrooms, roasted pasilla peppers and grilled onions with lemon sriracha aïoli, jack, feta, avocado and red chili.  That’s a mouthful.  I’m now determined to remember and try it.  And I have experimented with quite a number of the bountiful drafts.  However, I owe my expertise of beer to the one and only Mews Tavern – ‘The home of 69 brews’ in Wakefield, Rhode Island.  Over the years I ventured into some blondes (get your mind out of the gutter), some porters and some Belgian whites.  Yard House is one of the only places I’ve ever seen feature some of the many drafts offered there.  Major tip of my hat for that detail and another for raising the standards of bar food.  And yet one more facet of praise, keep playing the awesome classic rock tunes.  We love singing along.

Yes of course, classic rock, it’s noted on the sign out front and it plays all day.  Lots of 70’s hits, you’ll be singing to songs you haven’t heard in years.  Great food, a vast variety of brews, sports on TV AND Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin et al.  If you’re looking for a romantic evening out with your girl/guy, Yard House probably isn’t the right destination.  For all other occasions?  Go to the place, “Where great beers come together!”

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4 Wine Glasses.

Restaurant Review: Red Tapas Bar and Grille

Published December 16, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: Downtown at the Gardens, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens #3102, Palm beach Gardens, FL 33410. Next to Dirty Martini. Phone: 561 333-7331.  info@redtapasbar.com.

 

I’ve heard some people say that size doesn’t matter.  This is a lie…a bold faced lie.  It absolutely does matter.  Especially when it comes to food portions, in my opinion.  Tapas is defined as “small savory dishes”.  Usually, it’s appetizer size portions served with cocktails.  I’ve had tapas in many different places; Las Vegas, Rhode Island, California and the Sunshine state – just to name a few.  Tapas appeals to me because I enjoy variety when I’m eating and I like getting a taste of everything the venue has to offer.  The several items we tried at Red Tapas were absolutely delicious, intricate and complex dishes that exhibited culinary prowess.  As I explained earlier, tapas is defined as “small plates”.  These plates were very small indeed.  Honestly, too small for my apetite.  And the prices seemed excessive.  Ross and I decided to have a taste of their Filet Mignon Carpaccio, blackened Edamame and Lamb chops.  I wasn’t expecting a 20 oz. steak or two giant chops, but I did expect to feel satiated at the end of the meal.  Instead I found myself already pondering what I was going to eat for dinner.  Perhaps, I’ve been utterly spoiled by our other bar hopping favorites.  Without naming any names, there are a couple of places that come to mind when I hear Carpaccio.  One place has a Ahi Tuna Carpaccio and the other has a beef.  The portion sizes that you receive at these other destinations are quite impressive.  Literally they are triple the size of the Filet Carpaccio we tried and half the price.  And if you’re lucky enough to stop at one of these places for happy hour, you are looking at an even better deal.  In this unstable and weak economy we really enjoy getting the most bang for our buck.  I didn’t feel like we got our money’s worth at Red Tapas.

I am going to name names honey if you don’t mind.  You see Maria and I were heading for The Cheesecake Factory for their wonderful and ample Ahi Carpaccio, when we spotted the brand new Red Tapas (they’ve been open a month) and decided to give it a shot.  I thought the atmosphere was pretty decent, we sat outside near the bar in an interesting cushioned, bench-like table combo, they also have tables with little gas firepits at them which I thought was cool as well.  The music selection was a bit odd for 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a pulsing, generic club beat, but at least it wasn’t too loud.  I’m in total agreement with Maria’s evaluation of the food, very good but way too small and overpriced.  The lamb chops were the bomb, but $15 for two little ones?  Their beef carpaccio was delicious, but again, $11 and very small.  You can go around the corner to the Gardens Mall and have an equally delicious, giant beef carpaccio for less money at Brio.  Honestly, we’re the furthest thing from cheap people that you’ll run into, but we’re also not about squandering money either.  I’m certainly not ready to give up on Red Tapas.  The place is aesthetically pleasing and we noticed they have a happy hour 4 to 7, so I’m pretty sure we’ll give them another try.  But I would say if money is a concern for you and you’re starving, you may want to consider an alternative destination.

I’m definitely up for giving them another try.  Planning would have garnered some success, as Ross previously mentioned, we could have waited for happy hour.  The place has only been open for a month, so I’m hoping they get some accurate feedback and make the necessary changes to be successful.  On a positive note we did have a very tasty Riesling called Su Yuen, made by the Francis Ford Coppola winery.  This crisp and refreshing white wine could have easily accompanied any of the numerous dishes on the diverse menu.  It was the highlight of my first experience at Red Tapas.  Hopefully, there will be more things to rave about following our next visit.

Ah the Su Yuen.  Nice wine, nicer bottle, with a little fable about the Princess and the history of dim sum on the label.  You know, we ended up at The Cheesecake Factory for the ahi carpaccio the next afternoon.  Christmas shopping takes a lot out of you, you simply have to find a place to unwind and detox from the “holiday cheer” you encounter out there.  Wherever you end up, I hope you find the right combination of loved ones, laughter and libation.  Cheers! 

Maria’s Rating: 2.5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Ross’ Rating: 2.5 Wine Glasses.

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill

Published September 9, 2012 by mrsrag

Location:  200 East 13th St., Riviera Beach, FL 33404.  Phone: 561 845-5532.  tikiwaterfrontseagrill.webs.com

If you follow MRSRAG, you know that Maria and I love a water view when we eat or have a drink.  Our best dinner ever was at The Chart House in San Diego, yards from the Pacific Ocean.  We’ve reviewed in this space, Season’s 52, The River House and The Rum Bar, all on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Up next is the Tiki Waterfront Sea Grill in Riviera Beach.  We love The Rum Bar for a drink, but when we want a better selection of food without losing that beachy feel, we go to the Tiki.  Perched above the Riviera Beach marina and with a nice view of Peanut Island, the atmosphere is laid back, the drinks are good, the menu has a nice variety and the live music is usually rockin’.  We have several favorites, but the thing that always has me speeding to get there is, believe it or not, the Wakame aka Seaweed Salad.  If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot, I bet you won’t be disappointed.

When Ross first told me that the Tiki had his favorite seaweed salad – I was skeptical to say the least.  The only place I was ordering seaweed salad on a regular basis was Japanese Sushi houses.  I didn’t expect to find Wakame at a Florida Beach bar, but sure enough it was listed under side dishes.  And it was damn good too.  The perfect accompaniment to any of the items on their extensive menu.  It’s a nice, refreshing change from getting greasy french fries as a side.  It has only been upstaged by my new favorite item, the blackened chicken and brie sandwich, which I suggest you get in a wrap.  Although, I would not dream of discounting the rosemary foccacia it usually comes on.  It’s just that the bread always seems like empty calories and it takes up the allocated space I have reserved for alcohol during my visit.  It’s always Corona’s with lemons at the Tiki for us.  Yes, lemons.  When Ross first met me I was a lime girl, but I finally gave in and gave his lemon a try.  Needless to say, it tickled my fancy.  He has never steered me wrong…at least not yet.

That chicken wrap is very good, I never miss a bite or two, as Maria is always very generous.  There are some decent starters on the menu too.  Two good choices are the Tuna Ponzu, their variation on seared ahi tuna, and the Tortugas, bacon-wrapped scallops served with an apricot-horseradish dipping sauce.  Our favorite though is the calamari, served with a marinara sauce.  They are always tender with an ample supply of the tentacle variety.  Nothing against the standard loops but we love tentacles, really.  Finally, hailing from New England originally, I know a good lobster roll when I see/taste it.  And while the Tiki version is probably not going to win any competitions, it’s about the best you’re ever going to get this far removed from ‘Glahsta’ (think Perfect Storm).  Served as it must be on a toasted and buttered hot dog bun, it is loaded with Maine lobster and not overpowered with celery or mayonnaise.  It also comes with my beloved Wakame, and for a mere $3.75 more, don’t hesitate to double up on the luscious side.  So, the next time you’re in the Singer Island area and the skies are clear, just drive a little south of Blue Heron Blvd on US-1 and take a left at the light at E. 13th St.  You’ll enjoy a nice, relaxing beverage and some really good food, while watching the boats come and go in the incomparable Florida sunshine.  Sounds rough, doesn’t it? 

Maria’s Rating: 3.5 Wine Glasses out 5.

Ross’ Rating: 3.5 Wine Glasses.

 

 

 

Restaurant Review: The River House

Published August 30, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: 2373 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Phone: 561 694-1188.  http://www.riverhouserestaurant.com

 

First I must say that this review is LONG overdue.  We haven’t been to River House in a while, but the night is still vivid in our memories.  Also, as with many of the places we have been and will go to, this was Maria’s first time but not mine.  I’ve been in South Florida a long time and I certainly want to experience new things, but there are many great places that I just must take her to.  The River House was a MUST.  Located on the northwest corner of PGA Blvd and The Intracoastal Waterway, much like another one of our favorites Season’s 52 (which is directly across the waterway), the ambiance is sublime.  They don’t take reservations and there usually is a wait, but the night we went we sat right down.  This was very good, but we did miss out on a pre-dinner drink at their cool waterfront bar.  I highly recommend this course of action if you do run into the inevitable wait.  And by the way, River House is well worth any reasonable wait.

What a wonderful date!  I loved that night so much.  Ross always has the greatest suggestions of places to introduce me to and River House was one of the best.  I remember I hadn’t moved down yet and was just visiting for a long weekend.  Ross said we were going somewhere kind of swanky, so I got decked out in a nice dress and some heels, which I save for special occassions.  Somewhere in our preliminary discussions involving food we had found that we shared a favorite fish, Chilean Sea Bass.  I’ve had some good striped bass and black bass, but the Chilean breed is fantastic.  Blows every other fish out of the water, pun intended.  Ross told me the best sea bass he had ever eaten was at River House.  Naturally he was excited to take me, he also raved about their stacked salad bar.  We thought it’d be a good idea to start there.  On our first trip up, Ross filed in behind me.  I loaded up my plate, because I am NOT one of those girls who doesn’t eat on a date.  I love to eat.  All my faves, chick peas, the standard veggies and a nice helping of beets.  “Beets!?…I’m the only person who ever gets beets,” Ross exclaimed in my ear.

She likes beets, just like me!  When that happens you just know it’s love.  After all, beets are universally know as the “Love Barometer” vegetable.  Seriously though, The River House has a killer salad bar.  Everything you want and bread and cheese too.  The service is beyond compare as well.  Every table gets at least  two waiters and they are at your beck and call.  The wine list is extensive, the food is fabulous and predominantly steak and fish.  For crab lovers I strongly suggest the crab cocktail appetizer.  Jumbo lump blue crabmeat served with a delicious mustard sauce, a fantastic way to begin your meal.  Maria and I almost always get two different dishes at dinner (as I’m guessing many couples do), and we contemplated a filet mignon and Chilean Sea Bass, but ultimately decided we both wanted the bass, bad.  I’ve had the filet there before and it is to die for, however the CSB takes one to a higher plane.  I’m certain Maria will agree with me, there was a tiny hiccup though.

Well, I learned a very valuable lesson.  And something extremely helpful about Ross.  When we were ordering our fish, the waitress asked, “Grilled or Blackened?”  I pondered for a moment, remembered that I had thoroughly enjoyed it grilled and stated it clearly for the server.  Ross let out a strange sound that I have become rather familiar with.  It’s a slight inhale through his teeth coupled with a slanted left eye.  Now I know this sound to be a distinct warning against a certain course of action.  After she took the order he asked, “Really?  Grilled huh?”  The dishes arrived, my sea bass grilled and his blackened.  I took a few bites of my fish and then offered him a taste, and he followed suit.  His sea bass kicked my sea bass’ ass.  I wish I had known at the time what Ross’ warning sound was!  They serve the blackened bass with a remarkable mango salsa that complements the dish so well.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Next time I will be ordering the sea bass blackened, so I don’t experience the same food jealousy I felt that night.

Truth be told, the grilled sea bass is still awesome.  The thing is, the blackened version is one of the best dishes on this planet.  I tried, gently, to steer her in the appropriate direction, even though she didn’t take my advice it all worked out.  We had a wonderful evening.  The River House is fine dining at it’s best.  The prices aren’t cheap, but you get tremendous value for your dollar.  The food, service and setting are about as good as it gets.  My wish for you is that your companion for dinner, whoever he or she might be, is as fucking kick-ass, knockout beautiful, intelligent and sweet as mine was.  Bon appetit.

Maria’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses.

Ross’ Rating:  4.5 Wine Glasses.     

 

 

Restaurant Review: Spoto’s Oyster Bar

Published August 24, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: 4560 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418.  Phone: 561 776-9448.  http://spotosoysterbar.com

Oysters are supposedly an aphrodisiac.  I can’t support or deny that claim.  However, I can tell you that the oysters at Spoto’s are the best I’ve ever had.  Clean and smooth with all my favorite enhancements.  The shooters come dressed with cocktail sauce, tabasco sauce and a dab of horseradish.  If you don’t care for the spice just get them to subtract the horseradish or tabasco, but the heat really completes these little shots of heaven.  Everytime I bring these up to someone they say, “Ooh, those sound good…you get them with the vodka right?”  I absolutely do not.  Adding vodka to the Spoto oyster perfection known as the shooter is sacrilegious in my opinion.  If it’s not broken don’t fix it.  The original booze-free formula is essential.  Plus, I gave up shots after the first and last fraternity party I ever attended.  I walked across some sacred frat mosaic bearing their name, so 8 little minions (aka pledges) picked me up and tried to truck me to the showers.  I guess they knew I meant it when I said if I got one drop of water on me I would come back later and tear each and every last one’s testicles off with my mouth.  Anyhow, I digress.  Shooters are a must.  I know Ross will agree because he is the person who turned me onto them.  Spoto’s was one of the first places we went together.  He raved about these shooters for days and as soon as I had one I understood why.

Trust me, she would’ve messed those frat boys up!  My honey is one tough hombre.  Just saying.  Anyway, I’ve been going to Spoto’s for years, starting with the old place that used to be in downtown West Palm Beach.  The food is great, but I have always been a big advocate of sticking with the theme of the restaurant you’re going to.  You don’t order a burger at a chinese joint, or a pizza at a mexican place etc etc.  Everything at Spoto’s is good, we’ve had filet mignon and several fish dishes, all better than average.  But at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, if you want to have an ultimate experience, one almost otherworldly, you have to get the oysters.  And I cannot recommend more vociferously that you should get them in shooter form.  Preferably bluepoints.  I couldn’t wait to bring Maria there when she first came to visit me, and we’ve been back many times since.  We even met my daughter Rachel there on our second visit, and that was the first time that Maria and I (as a couple) and Rachel all sat down together and hung outThere is a subplot that we haven’t explained to you all just yet, but that’s for another day.  Suffice it to say, you really couldn’t find a more comfortable place to sit and talk.  We each had a nice glass of wine and shared some truly fantastic oysters, and the evening couldn’t have gone better.

In familiar Gallo fashion, Rachel struck up some small talk with a blonde woman seated near us at the bar.  She was flying solo, so we told her to slide on down and join our little party.  Rachel spoke to her for several minutes, immediately launching into hilarious stories about her personal life, which is also a Gallo trait.  We all laughed as she told tales of her boyfriend playing video games all night and she concluded with a, “Well, what do you do!?”  Clearly, judging by her voice inflection she was commenting on her own situation she had just described, but the woman answered, “I work at Publix.”  WOW.  We all had to stop a second and make sure that A.) She was serious & B.) That we didn’t laugh in her face.  Everytime we visit Spoto’s Ross and I recount this comical event and the wonderful evening we spent laughing with Rachel.

The Publix lady!  I’m not sure to this day if she wasn’t listening or is just not firing on all cylinders, either way that shit was FUNNY.  I think Charlie was our bartender that night.  You can’t go wrong with Charlie, Pete or Linda at lunchtime, as you can see we spend most of our time at the bar.  Occasionally we sit at a table, but the bar is so aesthetically pleasing, all the wine bottles perfectly placed and the aforementioned wonderful bartenders, make it our “go to” comfort zone.  I know we’ve lauded the oysters ad nauseum, but I would recommend Spoto’s to anyone who likes good food, great service, clean and comfortable surroundings, a nice wine selection and prices that are in the middle range of fine dining.  If you love oysters, obviously you MUST go.  And if you do find yourself at Spoto’s and enjoying yourself, I would also recommend joining their 45 Sixty Club which is free.  For every $250 you spend you get $25 off your bill.  That’s a decent deal.

Everytime we’re there I see a good deal of people feasting on this giant bowl of linguine and clams.  I always say I’m going to try it, but I never have the appetite.  It’s definitely on my to do list for one of our future visits.  I’ve heard people rave about that dish as well as the Jambalaya.  Ross already told you about their great loyalty program, which we recently cashed in on with our frequency as customers, but there’s also this deal called “Washington Wednesdays”.  It has made Wednesday my favorite day to go to Spoto’s!  And you don’t have to be a member to benefit.  All day Wednesday they offer oyster shooters and/or shrimp cocktail for a dollar a piece.  The shooters are usually $2.50 a piece, so the deal is more than 50% off.  Ross and I joined Linda during lunchtime on a Wednesday.  We had a few beers and a glass of wine along with 6 shrimp and 12 shooters.  The bill came to $46.00 and we ate like kings.  Then I gave her my loyalty card and after scanning it she found that I had $25.00 to redeem.  We ended up with a bill totaling $34.00 bucks – with tip!  I felt like we found money on the ground.

We like found money.  And we love Spoto’s.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses. 

Restaurant Review: Cantina Laredo

Published July 19, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: 4635 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418.  Phone: 561 622-1223.  www.cantinalaredo.com

“Modern Mexican” is the tagline for Cantina Laredo, a chain of restaurants located in 15 states, the UK and also The United Arab Emirates.  I think of it as “upscale” Mexican, personally.  And while you can get many of the staples that one thinks of when craving something from south of the border; like tacos or enchiladas, you can also get an assortment of steaks, fajitas that include quail as a main ingredient, chicken dishes stuffed with shrimp or covered with artichoke hearts, mushrooms and spinach, and a fish of the day.  There is also my personal favorite, Carnitas, which are braised pork shanks topped with a spicy chipotle-wine sauce.  The meat is so tender, all you need is a fork, and the sauce sometimes catches up to me when I’d rather it didn’t, but so worth it!

I absolutely love Mexican food.  Throughout my years in college I worked at a small Mexican joint in Wakefield, Rhode Island.  It had the best guacamole and this unforgettable fish taco topped with a chipotle mayo coleslaw.  It was a small mom and pop operation called Surfin’ Tacos, and in my humble opinion it was one of the first establishments that revolutionized the way Mexican food was prepared.  They used all fresh ingredients and bought local from RI farms.  Since then there’s been a high influx of these “fresh” and “gourmet” Mexican chains.  Surfin’ Tacos didn’t stay afloat, but I still think of it fondly…especially when I think about all the cooking experience and killer recipes that I acquired.  I still follow their recipes and think of myself as a fairly ruthless judge when it comes to Mexican food as a whole.  This was my first time at Cantina Laredo and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had heard from several people that their guacamole was unbelievable, so that was the first thing I ordered.  The thing I most liked about this was watching our server prepare it tableside.  They used almost all the same ingredients that I use when I make it at home, with a few added surprises.  I found the guac very flavorful and enjoyed it thoroughly.  I even made some mental notes on how to amend my recipe at home!

“What the faaahhkk?  Eat some guac!!”  An actual line Maria said to me one day when we were being silly.  Thinking we might pitch it to avocado growers as the tagline for an ad campaign.  Maybe not.  Anyway, the guacamole is fabulous and made to order, no small dish from the back room that’s been sitting there all day.  A certain, “must order”,  for any chunky, green-dipping lover.  The ambiance is also quite good at Cantina Laredo.  Soft lighting, very clean with plenty of cozy booths.  As luck would have it, we were there on a Wednesday, and they happen to have a promotion of half price bottles of wine every hump day.  (Not sure what it is about Wednesdays.  If you save room, you can go across the street to Spoto’s for dollar oyster shooters too.)   The wine list is not that bad, decent selection, and our $27 bottle became $13.50.  Nice.  Almost Publix priced.

The half priced bottle of wine was a definite bonus.  For my main dish I had the fish of the day, a Chilean sea bass in a delicious mango buerre blanc.  It was delightful!  My only complaint would be the filet size.  Whoever said size doesn’t matter wasn’t talking about sea bass.  As a matter of fact – I don’t agree with that statement at all, but I digress.  I do understand it was most likely a lunch portion and Chilean sea bass prices are through the roof, but I thought they could have given me a few more ounces for my buck.  The food was good, but I did feel that it was minutely overpriced.  Overall, I had a nice experience and would definitely revisit on a Wednesday for the wine deal.  I am just the type of woman who likes to get her money’s worth.  Furthermore, I prefer to get my Mexican food at some hole-in-the-wall stand in California, with a tiny Mexican woman cooking up my carne asada burrito.  Of course, that can’t always be a reality.  But, some of you will understand – once you’ve been there for Mexican, it just doesn’t seem the same anywhere else.

I can understand her feelings here.  She has a much more extensive backround in Mexican food than I do.  Maybe I can find her that special hole-in-the-wall, I’ll try.   Another problem though, other than the size issue, is Maria is totally spoiled when it comes to Chilean sea bass.  You see, The River House has the BEST you can find anywhere, and we are forever comparing to them, quite unsuccessfully I might add.   I will suggest she tries something else on our next visit.  If you are driving home from work and hankering for Mexican with a $10 bill in your pocket, stop at Taco Bell and get a bag of tacos.  If you get home from work, and you and your honey would like to sit down and enjoy a well prepared Mexican dinner, by all means, give Cantina Laredo a try.  And if it’s Wednesday, even better.

Maria’s Rating:  3 out of 5 Wine Glasses.

Ross Rating: 3.75 Wine Glasses.

Bar Review: The Rum Bar

Published July 13, 2012 by mrsrag

11511 Ellison Wilson Road,  North Palm Beach, FL 33408.   On the southeast corner of the intracoastal waterway and PGA Blvd.  Phone: 561 627-1545.  www.panama-hatties.com

Have you ever had one of those nights when you say, “Wow, how did I get this wasted?”  Well, I haven’t had one of those in a while.  Usually, at the start of the night I have a decent gauge on how much I am planning to drink, but I shocked the hell out of myself on our first night back home.  Ross and I found out about a deal at Spoto’s (our favorite raw bar spot – and a review for another day), so we headed out for some oyster shooters and then decided to swing by our favorite little tiki bar.  Apparently, the technical name is ‘The Cruzan Rum Bar’, but we just call it ‘The Rum Bar’.  Always have, always will.  We had a few glasses of wine at Spoto’s and thought a nice pina colada would top off our own little welcoming party.

I see where you’re going here my dear.  I’ll take a little side trip before we finish that story.  The Rum Bar has been my favorite for several years now.  The combination of awesome location, great drinks and always friendly service are nearly unparalleled.  Maria and I are closing in on our first year together, and Rum Bar was one of the first places I took her when she arrived from NY.  She quickly came to love the place like I do.  It’s just right anytime of day.  You want an afternoon libation?  Go and sit at the back bar and watch the boats glide by on the intracoastal.  Or maybe you are a boater, as we are on occasion (renting is nice, no headaches), so just pull up to the dock out back and tie up before you tie one on.   Perhaps the nighttime is more your thing.  The weekends are packed.  Kick off your shoes, take a walk in the sand and play a little ring toss or if it’s cool enough, sit around a blazing fire while you sip the best pina colada you’ll ever have.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the food, but they recently changed the menu for the better, and we had a couple of extremely edible items on one of our recent trips.  Saul (pronounced sah-ool, aka The Moneymaker), Kevin or the recently returned Mike (you were sorely missed my friend), or any of the other bartenders will always take good care of you.   They’ll even change that ‘hammer to the head’ Jimmy Buffet channel if you ask them nicely.

I had no preconceived notions about the food, because up until our last visit I had never had it.  So, we perused the revamped menu and I ordered something called the black and bleu burger.  Blackened beef patty smothered in melted bleu cheese, topped with bacon on a fresh bulky roll.  It’s not my usual burger order, but I was more than pleasantly surprised.  It was exactly what I was in the mood for and although I gave Ross a few bites, I had to fight him off at the end.  His chicken avocado sandwich was good, but nowhere near as delectable as the juicy, cheesy burger I had.  Well, lets get back to the story of our first night back in Florida.  To our dismay, none of the familiar faces were behind the bar.  A friendly new girl made our pina coladas.  Honestly, not the best one I’ve ever had there, but I’ll give her a free pass since it’s her first month.  Half-way through the pina colada is when I started to realize how drunk I was getting.

I’ll continue the story in a second.  Just want to say, The Rum Bar is great anytime, but the winter is really the best in my opinion.  When it gets cool at night  and you throw on a sweater or sweatshirt, sit around one of the three fire pits and just meet and chat with people from all over the map.  Love connection or not, always an interesting evening.  Okay, so the story.  We ate our dollar oyster shooters at Spotos (a fantastic deal by the way), had our obligatory glasses of Riesling and headed to The Rum Bar for the aforementioned pina colada.  Now maybe it was that we were wasted, I’m sure it was a contributing factor, but I think my stupidity was the key.  After our one drink, we decided to leave.  I suggested strongly to Maria that I give her a piggyback ride, she aquiesced, and I began to run down the wooden boardwalk in flip flops as fast as I could.  Hard to see where this is going, right?  I hooked a flop close to the exit, wavered for a couple of strides and knew we were going down.  I shrugged her off to the left so she landed in the sand and fell HARD myself on my left side, mostly left elbow.  Please, don’t try this at home, I’m a professional idiot.  Thankfully, Maria came out unscathed.  Me, not so much.  The good news is Johnny Knoxville called, thinks I’d be a great fit for Jackass.  

Jackass, thats an interesting and fitting word.  As soon as Ross picked me up a lightbulb went off in my head.  We are definitely going to fall, I thought to myself.  My mistake was not voicing this and for that I sincerely apologize.  Ross’ elbow looks like Russell Edgington’s face after being dug up (shout out to the True Blood fans that understand that reference).  And I take back calling you a jackass because it was truly sweet how you flung me into the sand to ensure that I didn’t get hurt.  We heard a lot of whoops and hollers from the bar – so luckily someone got some enjoyment out of it.  Ross rallied and we went to his favorite pool hall, but the elbow is still raw and in pretty bad shape.  Anyhow, I digress…the Rum Bar is fabulous.  We love it and we will continue to go there for the wonderful drinks and atmosphere.  Perhaps, we’ll just leave out the high speed piggy back rides.

Let’s take the “perhaps” out of that last sentence.  I too am happy that a few lucky souls had some good laughs at our epic bag, too bad you didn’t record it, would’ve been You Tube gold.  Last time for that, but certainly nothing close to our last time at the never disappointing Rum Bar.

Maria’s Rating:  4 Cocktail Napkins out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  4.5 Cocktail Napkins.