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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: 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.