Johnny Sanchez- CBD (New Orleans)

When you have two celebrity chefs and one restaurant opening the expectations tend to be high. Aarón Sánchez and John Besh’s collaboration brings traditional Mexican cuisine to the heart of New Orleans. If you are going in expecting burritos and enchiladas then you are in for a disappointment. The menu features items such as the ‘coba triadic’ a raw fish ceviche, crispy Brussel sprouts and kale salad (See Menu) alongside several typical mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas.

The restaurant is located on Poydras street in the CBD. The decor is cool and hip: Giant graffiti art covers one wall and beautiful chandeliers hang from the high ceilings. The bar is the perfect spot for happy hour drinks and tacos.

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We went early Saturday evening at around 6.30 p.m. Besides a few other patrons the restaurant was still empty. The menu was one page with a handful of small plates, tacos and large plates. We decided to order several small plates in order to try as many dishes on the menu as possible. First up was the Cobia Tiradito, a ceviche consisting of leche de tigre fish, cucumbers, avocado and other vegetables ($16). The flavors were great but it was drenched in rock salt which took away from the overall flavor.

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Next up was the Queso dip ($10) which was good for the first 5 minutes but turned into hard cheese within minutes. As far as queso dips go, this dish was not anything extraordinary. For a healthier dish to counter-balance the quest dip, we ordered the Kale salad ($12). It was the best thing about our meal even though it too was too salty.

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The beef flautas ($12) were an epic failure and we left the dish untouched. It was dry, salty and just not what you would expect at a place like Jonny Sanchez.

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Overall, we were left unsatisfied and decided to stop ordering before we were disappointed further. The best part of the meal was the plantain chips and salsa dip although after having the top layers of the chips suddenly the chips became stale leading one to assume that they reuse their chips!

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There is nothing I hate more than trying a new restaurant and being so utterly disappointed. Needless to say, Johnny Sanchez will not be added to our list of ‘must-dine’ spots in New Orleans. With so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, the competition is tough and restauranteurs need to be on top of their game. The celebrity name can only take you so far when the food is just not good. I hope that this place improves because it is a beautiful restaurant in a spot that lacks other similar options.

 

Johnny Sánchez Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A Foodie’s Guide to Lafayette, Louisiana (the Capital of Cajun Country)

It’s that time of year. Festival season has arrived in Lafayette! While having spent the majority of my time in New Orleans at the Jazz festival in the past few years, this year I am staying put in my new hometown of Lafayette to attend Festivale Internationale de Louisiana.  So I am preparing this guide for those out of town visitors and locals alike looking for some local gems to dine at and to experience cajun cooking (and the occasional non-cajun meal).  As a caveat, my followers will know that I am not cajun, nor am I even from here but having spent the past two and a half in this town and being an avid foodie, I’ve tasted my way through town and can confidently list my favorite places to dine which is quite personal to my taste. I hope you enjoy my picks.

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1. Dark Roux |3524 Kaliste Saloom Road | (337) 504-2346

Dark Roux is Lafayette’s newest farm-to-table restaurant focusing on serving local foods and telling the story of Louisiana foods. The menu features local farmer’s and suppliers such as Gotreaux Family Farms, Mary Mary Markets and Bread & Circus Provisions. Favorites include boudin balls for appetizer and boudin benny for brunch. The restaurant also has a bar and pantry stocked with local products. On weekends a live band plays outside making it the perfect place to brunch or have a romantic dinner with your loved one.  (see menu).

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2. Bread and Circus Provisions | 258 Bendel Road | (337) 408-3930

It all started with a condiment and charcuterie stand at the farmer’s market at the Horse Farm in Lafayette and evolved into a restaurant last year and brought with it a breath of fresh air to the local Lafayette dining scene. This hip restaurant features local favorites with a modern and unique twist. (see menu).

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3. The French Press |  214 E Vermilion St | (337) 233-9449

Chef Justin Girouard spins out some delicious local fare with his own personal touch. He makes his own boudin (not blood sausage as in France but Louisiana’s version of boudin: a mix of sausage of pork, rice, and cayenne).  A great place for brunch and lunch. Everything on the menu is delicious but an all time favorite  is the Cajun Benedict (see my post dedicated to the Benedict…because it is that good)!

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4. Bon Temps Grill | 1312 Verot School Road | (337) 706-8850

Bon Temps Grill is where we take our out-of-town guests for a good local meal. Bon Temp Grill serves “Swamp Edge” cuisine in an urban Cajun atmosphere.  The restaurant layout is cool and the food is fantastic. Favorites include the tuna tartar served with a side of potato chips and the buttery bbq shrimp. Don’t leave without tasting the bbq shrimp, it is absolutely to-die-for! And if you are bold enough try some of the frog legs.

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5. Pamplona Tapas Bar | 631 Jefferson St | (337) 232-0070

While it is hard to find any other types of authentic foods in Lafayette there are a few hits that should not be missed. Pamplona Tapas Bar is our favorite go-to spot for tapas and wine. The restaurant features Spanish cuisine en par to many tapas we’ve tasted in Spain. The cocktails are unique and delicious as are the large variety of spanish wines. So if you are looking for something other than your traditional cajun, hit up Pamplona located in the heart of downtown Lafayette.

6. Saigon Noodles |2865 Ambassador Caffery Parkway |

One of the few authentic vietnamese restaurants in Lafayette, Saigon serves up some of the best vietnamese dishes in town. Located in a strip mall the place can easily be missed. Favorites include the bbq short rib meal served with rice and salad and the large variety of pho to slurp through. Saigon Noodles recently opened a sister restaurant on Johnson street called Blu Basil Wine & Grill.  

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7. The Saint Street Inn |

The Saint Street Inn was founded by Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler, two journalists turned chefs determined to keep the cooking local. Seafood from the Gulf, produce from Acadiana’s farms and innovative cooking set the table for an inspired menu.  Nestled in the heart of one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, The Saint Street Inn also plays host to a variety of community events, from benefits and fundraisers to live music events and cookoffs. Both the kitchen and bar stay open late and there’s always a spot on the big front porch to sip a local brew and watch the sun go down.

8. Johnson’s Boucaniere | 1111 Saint John St| (337) 269-8878

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Johnson’s Boucaniere opened in 1937 in Eunice, La and relocated to Lafayette some years ago.  Boucaniere which means ‘smokehouse’ in english is a popular spot for lunch in Lafayette. At JB they smoke all of their speciality meats which include pork sausage, pork and turkey tasso and beef jerky. They also serve plate lunches from their in house made smoked meats which are made fresh weekly. Make sure not to miss this one.

9. Pop’s Poboys | 740 Jefferson Street, Lafayette, LA 70501 | ((337) 534-0621)

I’ve never been a fan of Po-Boys (shocking!) until I tried Pop’s. Pop’s Poboys opened in April 2015 and is located in beautiful downtown Lafayette. Chef Collin Cormier and team bring eclectic flair to Louisiana’s favorite sandwich and beyond. Their twist on the traditional poboys are out of this world delicious. Favorites so far include the Banh Banh shrimp and the Hot Hot for all those fried chicken lovers out there.

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Photo courtesy of Pop’s Poboy website

For desserts and coffee these three are my go-to in town for quality coffee and sweets:

10. Carpe Diem! Gelato-Espresson Bar | 812 Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA | (337) 534-4155

If you crave real gelato and dreams of being back in Italy make your way to Carpe Diem located on Jefferson street to get your cravings fulfilled.

11. Reve Coffee Roasters | 200A Jefferson St, Lafayette, LA 70501 | (337) 534-8336

Reve is a micro-coffee roaster servicing the greater Acadiana area (and beyond) in the retail and wholesale of freshly roasted, specialty grade coffee beans. Be careful as their coffee is addictive!

12. The Lab | 1042 Camellia Blvd. #6, Lafayette, LA | 337.889.5782

The Lab handcrafted coffees creates delicious coffee flavors that are hard to find around here. Not to mention their delicious baked good and house-made gelato. Located in the beautiful River Ranch neighborhood the Lab is definitely a treat.

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Have I missed any of your favorites? Please feel free to share as I continue to eat my way through Lafayette!

(Please note some of the photos are taken from the restaurant’s online gallery: French Press, Johnson’s Boucaniere, Saigon Noodles, Jolie’s, Olde Tyme Grocery + Bread and Circus).

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A New Type of Rotisserie at Narcissa- East Village (NYC)

Narcissa is the newest addition to the New York dining scene opening up months ago in André Balaz’s newly renovated Standard hotel on Cooper Square. The restaurant is split into two sections: one space boasts rows of farm-style wooden tables facing the open kitchen bordered by a wraparound chef counter, the other is the louder larger restaurant and courtyard. Fun fact: the restaurant is named after a dairy cow at Andre Balazs’ Hudson Valley farm which supplies organically-grown vegetables, herbs and eggs to the restaurant year round.

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The menu features various unique twists on your classic vegetables featured as shared plates and a range of meats and seafood cooked rotisserie style for the carnivores.

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Talented chef, John Fraser has a way in creating new flavors with classical dishes such as the Baby Chicken Rotisserie which is a melting pot of flavors. It consists of juicy chopped pieces of rotisserie chicken mixed in a bowl with broccoli rage, spiced sausage and brood ($30). Appetizers will leave the vegetarians extremely happy having a large choice ranging from Rotisserie Crisped Beets served with a bulgur salad, apples and creamed horseradish ($15) to the English Pea Tortellini in a mushroom bullion topped with opal basil ($16).

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The Mission Figs served in a bed of homemade ricotta cheese and topped with mangalitsa ham and sunflower seeds ($16) was full of competing flavors and was devoured by our party within seconds.

DSC_0245Each of us ordered a different main dish and I can honestly say that all of them were equally delicious, flavorful and unique. However, the Baby Chicken Rotisserie and Maine Scallops were the most popular. 
DSC_0252 DSC_0253 The dessert options were just as good as dinner with a range of plates to choose from all priced at $9. Our table opted for the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart served with a curry-roasted banana and espresso ice cream and a bowl of fruit sorbets.

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DSC_0259 The only downside of our dining experience at Narcissa was the service. While the hostess was pleasant and seated us promptly, our female server was impatient, rude and a bit abrasive. Not sure if she was just having a bad night or if this reflects other service staff at the restaurant but it put a slight damper on our experience. DSC_0260 DSC_0261

Narcissa on Urbanspoon

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Brunch at Estela- Nolita (NYC)

I don’t know how I learned about this restaurant but somehow I did and it made my list of new place to try in New York. Estela is located on an lonely strip of East Houston bordering Nolita. It is a beverage-driven restaurant from former Blue Hill at Stone Barns beverage director Thomas Carter and James Beard Award-nominated chef Ignacio Mattos.  The walk- up bar-restaurant’s decor seems typical of what I’ve seen multiply not only around New York but around the country: exposed brick, wood floors and marble bar and wood tables. It’s sleek and sophisticated.

DSC_0266 The brunch menu was limited with only a handful of plates to choose from. I would encourage sharing plates as you won’t fill up on one. It is definitely not meant for those of us with healthy appetites.

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First up was the Endive with walnuts, anchovy, and ubriaco rosso ($14). A small plate of fresh and crispy endives laying on top of a bed of walnuts, anchovies and ubriaco rosso cheese (italian for drunken sunset). The mix of flavors and textures was perfect and left me wanting more.

DSC_0271 Next came the Burrata with salsa verde and charred bread ($15), a serving of rich and creamy bur rata cheese on top of charred bed in a bed of tangy salsa verde. Verdict: amazing, unique and delicious.

DSC_0272 The Cod with peas, spigarello, and aïoli ($24) was a healthy, flavorful and unique.

DSC_0274However, my favorite was the Celery with grapefruit, pecorino, and hazelnuts ($12) dish. It was such a different mix of ingredients and flavors yet so simple.  The flavors and textures complimented each other in the best way possible. So good indeed that later on in the week I attempted to re-create the dish at home (didn’t turn out quite the same).

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The avocado, pancetta, and egg on Danish pastry ($14) was good but didn’t warrant the $14 price tag.

DSC_0277Overall, our experience at Estela was pretty fabulous. I would definitely return to try their small plate style dinner and drinks. For brunch however, I prefer something a bit more filling and hearty.

Estela on Urbanspoon

 

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Brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda-Soho (NYC)

The name is catchy, the place is always packed and everyone raves about it. Of course I had to check it out.  Jack’s Wife Freda is a new-ish addition to the Soho neighborhood where husband and wife bring together their experience and backgrounds to create a new and unique menu and flavors. Dean is from South Africa and Maya is from Israel which makes complete sense with one glance at the menu.

DSC_0216Arriving early on a Saturday there were only a few tables left and we were seated outside. The menu/placemat was simple with limited options. Two dishes were ordered: the Mediterranean breakfast and the Rosewater waffles.

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The poached eggs came with a side of sliced avocados, labne, pita and salad which resembled and tasted identical to the traditional persian salad (salad shirazi) consisting of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. It was healthy, fresh and satisfying. DSC_0222

I had really high expectations for the rosewater waffles being from a country where rosewater originated and is used liberally on many sweet dishes. This waffle barely tasted like rosewater and was really not that special. There was nothing that made it stand out from any other restaurant waffle except the use of yogurt as opposed to whipping cream. DSC_0220

Based on the two dishes we tried, we both agreed that there was too much hype around this place. Yes the name is catchy, the location is cool and the clientele is young and stylish, but there was nothing about the food itself that stood out. So if its ambiance you are after then sure this is the place for it, but if you just want really good food there are plenty of options in the neighborhood with less of a line up.
DSC_0219 DSC_0218  Jack's Wife Freda on Urbanspoon

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Dinner at Peche- Warehouse District (New Orleans, USA)

Another great restaurant by the Donald Link restaurant group has opened on the corner of Magazine and Julia streets in the warehouse district. This time, it is called Peche and focuses on simple coastal seafood with a unique, modern approach.

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The restaurant showcases an open kitchen where diners can see the fire and seafood grilling in the back, an oyster bar serving fresh gulf seafood including oysters, crab meat, and fresh gulf fish and a large bar. The result is a very fresh seafood-oriented menu (although if you really want red meat there are a few options there as well). The decor is rustic seaside with exposed wooden beams throughout the open plan restaurant. One thing I noted while we were dining was the noise level. It was extremely loud. Too loud. We had to shout to hear each other at dinner.

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Our meal included many various dishes from the menu including oysters (both Connecticut and Gulf), frog legs, smoked tuna dip, shrimp toast, and tuna tartare and salmon. For the main entrees our table shared two whole fish: red fish and mangrove snapper.

2-_DSC0400Almost everything we ordered tasted perfect but I did find the fresh oysters to be extremely salty. Too salty to eat. I was told that that is how oysters from the East Coast taste. But I’ve had enough oysters to know that that is not the case, especially not with gulf oysters. I heard others complain of the same. But other dishes were quite perfect. The smoked tuna dip served in a bowl with a side of crackers was so good, I may have finished one completely on my own.
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The Whole grilled fishes were served on a large plate smothered in delicious sauce. The red fish was sizzled to perfection and covered in a citrusy herb topping which made it extremely tasty. The snapper was prepared in a different sauce but was just as good. In the end there was nothing left except two fish skeletons staring up at us in shame.

And while completely full at this point, stuffed with enough seafood for a month, we ordered dessert. My favorite was the chocolate, peanut butter and banana pie and citrusy key lime pie.

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Overall, dinner at peche was a great experience. The food, decor, service and ambiance make for a great night out. I guess the New Orleans Saint’s feel the same as I do, throughout the evening we saw some of the players including one of my favorites, Jimmy Graham. Donald Link has done it again. I’m wondering what will come next, Boeuf the steakhouse?

Peche on Urbanspoon

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Lunch at SoBou- French Quarter (New Orleans, USA)

While staying in the French Quarter we decided to check out some of the new restaurants that have opened in New Orleans since we moved away to Philadelphia last summer. Our list included SoBou, the new contemporary restaurant located in the W Hotel by the same family as Commander’s Palace (a personal favorite).

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This ‘South of Bourbon‘ restaurant focuses on tapas style small plates and modern twists on Southern classics. Led by chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez the food proved to be fresh, innovative and exciting. The decor is modern, elegant and trendy. Many tables have beer taps built in for easy access.

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We went for lunch around 1 pm and the restaurant was winding down with less than 3 tables. However, it took a very long time to get anything on our table. And while our server was knowledgeable and attentive, it did not take away from the fact that we waited for what seemed like 30 minutes to get our first order served.

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 The Yellowfin tuna cones were served in a small tomato infused cone filled with a pineapple ceviche, tuna, topped with basil and avocado ice cream. It was small enough to eat in one bite. However, I was not a big fan of the ice-cream/fish combination. I’m a firm believer that fish and dairy should not be mixed at a meal let alone in one dish.

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Next came the Butternut Squach Beignets, large deep fried balls of dough mixed with duck debris and squash drizzled with a sweet foie gras fondue sauce and chicory coffee ganache. The Count loved the mix of sweet and savory flavors of this dish but for me it was too much fried dough.

08-_DSC0427 For our main entrees we had the SoBou Burger and Rosemary Crusted Oyster Salad. The burger was plain and simply delicious. Grilled to perfection giving it that smokey grilled flavor that many burgers these days lack.

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The oyster salad was a great light lunch option. The oysters were lightly crusted in a rosemary breading cooked just right, set on top of a bed of tossed greens in a light sauce.

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We also ordered a side of fries and were surprised to note that we were charged that extra dollar for ketchup. It threw us off a bit given that you really don’t expect to be charged for ketchup in an upscale restaurant such as SoBou. And while we may be spoiled up east in Philadelphia and New York with the special attention we’ve been given by chefs and wait staff, small details such as this really do take away from the experience.

SoBou on Urbanspoon

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Tapas in Seville (Sevilla, Spain)

After our three days of adventures in Madrid we packed our bags hopped on the train and made our way south to Sevilla.

Sevilla was all that I imagined it to be and more: bursting with color and antique charm, beautiful historic buildings, endless rays of sun and flamenco. The Alcazar Palace Complex is a stunning collage of architectural styles and beautiful green gardens took our breathe away and the Cathedral was impressive you with its beauty and its status as the burial site of Christopher Columbus. We spent our days touring the town on foot and nights eating tapas in only a few of the more than 4000 tapas bars in town.  On the first day that we visited the town  we ended our walk at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Around the corner from the Plaza de Toros we found a restaurant called Baratillo dedicated to the art of bull fighting and decided to give it a try.

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Bull heads lined the walls and locals and tourists alike crowded the room. As a newbie to the art of tapas we werent too sure of our selections but there was one thing that I discovered while in Sevilla which was so delicious that I ended up having three servings per day.I wish I remembered the name but only have the photos to remind me of the taste. Fries served with a meat stew and gravy. Very simple but simply  delicious.

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The dish called Broken Egg or Huevos Rotos  is quite popular all around Spain consists of fried eggs, fried potatoes and pieces of Iberico ham. It is simply delicious and made it to our list of orders on every occasion.

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The house special- the Berenjenas Baratillo was to die for. Not sure what the sauce that covered the thinly sliced eggplant dish consisted of but whatever it was- it was so delicious we had to order more.

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Baratillo restaurant is located at: Calle Adriano, 20, 41001 Seville, Spain, El Arenal


 

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MoPho Nola (New Orleans, USA)

There have been many new restaurants that have opened up in New Orleans since I last lived there. One of the latest talked about place is MoPho located in my old n’hood of Mid City/City Park. It has brought life to what was once a desolate strip mall type area with a shabby burger king and a few other stores that service the college across the street. MoPho is a beautiful, hip new modern-asian style restaurant serving your traditional vietnamese phos along with rice bowls and appetizers. (see Menu)

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We started off with not 1 but 2 orders of the Crispy Chicken wings tossed in a lemongrass/ginger sauce. Result: Perfection. It was so good I was tempted to order more and forget about my main dish. There was also an order of Fried Shrimp which were good but nothing like the chicken wings. An order of handmade fresh spring rolls were also ordered and having recently perfected shrimp rolls in my cooking class I was not overly impressed by the roll. It was falling apart and the noodles too thick for my liking.

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For our main dishes the three of us ordered the rice/noodle bowls. You have the option of picking your main ingredients: rice or noodles and the protein of choice. We had two beef cheeks and one grilled jumbo shrimp. At this point, I had already filled up on a full serving of the chicken but had no choice than to finish what was in front of me. The bowl was fresh and flavorful however, I didn’t particularly enjoy the beef cheeks which were overly gelatinous.  33-IMG_4723

MoPho reminded me a bit of NOLA’s version of  the Momofoku restaurants in the East Village, NYC. Same types of offerings and flavors and definitely a few hipster waiters and waitresses. Overall, I think it is a great addition to the New Orleans food scene offering something completely different than anything else you will find in NOLA. It is a modern take on Vietnamese food and the restaurant ambiance and food are both great reasons to check out this place if you have not yet done so.


 

MoPho on Urbanspoon

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Addicted to Gyoza King since 2003 (Vancouver, Canada)

It seems that the majority of my time was spent eating in the West End where there is a densely packed number of Korean, Japanese, Malaysian and other Asian restaurants. Gyoza King is no new addition! It has been around for over a decade. The tiny Japanese restaurants specializes in handmade gyozas with different fillings including the pork, prawn and chives, prawns and pork and chives. They also serve pages and pages of other Japanese delicacies typically found in Izakayas.

2-image_37 As a regular, I have the menu memorized and always order two servings of the pork, prawn and chives and pork and chive gyozas. You just can’t go wrong with these pan-fried dumplings. They are as good as it gets and you would do yourself a huge injustice if you went to the restaurant and failed to get the dumplings.  3-image_39

Next, I always order the Agadeshi Tofu. Pieces of skilen firm tofu are cut into cubes, lightly dusted with potato starch and deed fried to a golden crisp. They are then served in a bed of hottentsuu borth made of dashi, mirin and sho-yu (Japanese soy sauce) and topped with finely chopped spring onions, grated daikon and dried bonito flakes which dance in the heat to give this dish the ultimate visual appearance. The agadeshi tofu at Gyoza King is the best I’ve ever had through my trips around the world.

4-image_40 5-image_41 6-image_43 An order of kimchi Udon is only one of many servings of udon offered at Gyoza King. Udon served without the broth is what I would explain to those who have never tasted it as the Japanese version of spaghetti. Instead of meatballs and tomato sauce the Japanese have come up with their own concoction of tasty sauces to blend the udon with making it a hit at the dinner table each and every time. 7-image_46All this food would not be complete had it not been for the bottle of unfiltered sake which made everything taste even more delicious but yet filled us up too quickly. I was sad that I was too full to eat all my other favorites on their menu like the Chicken Karagge (Japanese fried chicken), ebi mayo (fried shrimp with mayonnaise) and tuna tataki. 8-image_52


 

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