Sunday, July 4, 2010

Drift Away Cafe

Cuisine: American
Price: $8 - $24
Separate bar: yes
Takeout: yes
Coke or Pepsi Products: Coke
Address: 7400 Skidaway Road, Savannah, GA 31406
Phone: (912) 303-0999

He says: An OK local dive, but I'm not sure it's a place I'd go back to

Before I get started on my review, I wanted to explain a few things that have happened since our last post. I spent the first week of June in the hospital in Statesboro and a couple of days at the Mayo Clinic at Jacksonville. I am OK now, but it made it difficult to blog (however, I thought about doing a post about IV fluids and hospital food). We went to a restaurant the night before I had to go to the hospital, but once everything happened we didn't get a chance to review it so hopefully we'll get back around to that particular restaurant. I'm glad to be back and writing again, so with all that out of the way I'll tell you what I thought about Drift Away Cafe.

We went to Drift Away Cafe with my parents after a long day of riding scooters around Isle of Hope. I recently bought a Vespa and I love it. The only problem (at least my dad will tell you) is that now my mom wants one. So my parents came down and rented two scooters from Motorini Savannah and we decided to cruise down to the marshes and ride around on Isle of hope, a local historic and very expensive waterfront community.

We drove past Drift Away Cafe and decided we were hungry. Dad said he's heard from people at work that it's pretty good, so Licia and I decided it would be a good place to pick back up on the blog.

Since I've bought the Vespa as well as staring at a pretty big pile of hospital bills, needless to say we're on a bit of a budget, so we've decided we're going to start sharing our entrees. I had a tea (which wasn't very sweet) and we ordered the Baja Fish Tacos: 2 grouper fingers, lightly blackened, wrapped in a flour tortilla served with homemade pico de gallo and steak fries.

I don't think I've ever had a fish taco before, so I don't really have a base line to compare these to but I thought the fish was good. The fish was blackened nicely without being overly spicy and losing the flavor of the fish. The only thing I have to complain about is that I thought it was a little overpriced at $11 for fish fingers served plain, open faced on a tortilla. I think I could have made it at home for about $3. But if my restaurant was located 5 minutes from a bunch of multi-million dollar homes I might up the prices on my menu too!

The major problem I had, more than the prices, was the service. It took over half an hour before we got our food. My parents split a burger and we split the fish tacos and we couldn't believe it took so long for those two simple dishes.

The view we had was very nice. The back wall is one big window overlooking the little creek and lush green garden they have flowing behind the restaurant. They also had the Braves on a TV in the corner, which I will always approve of.

Overall it was an OK experience. The food was good enough, and while the service was lacking, the atmosphere made up for it. In the end I thought it was a quaint local spot, but I don't think I would go back or recommend it.

Taste: 3 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: 1 noms
Service: 2 noms
Cleanliness: 5 noms
Atmosphere: 5 noms

Overall Noms: 3.2

She Says: Maybe the Drift Away Cafe should just ... drift away.

If there's anything I hate more in life than listening to the stupid, annoying sounds vuvuzulas (so I'm anti-World Cup ... sue me) is having a beautiful day ruined by sub par food (or having a wonderful dessert date at Lulu' s ruined by the sound of Will's vuvuzala app * shoots evil glance at boyfriend*).

It was the kind of Saturday we Savannians dream of: the wind was blowing, there was no humidity, and the temperature wasn't in the 100's. So Will's parents came down for the day to go for a scooter ride. We rode out to the Isle of Hope, where we took in the marshy sights, and stayed cool riding under live oak trees that formed a canopy over our heads. We were in scooter heaven.

After taking in the Isle of Hope we decided to drive out to Wormsloe, a historical plantation that I've never seen before. I was excited, but also hungry. So we all drove to a cute little dive a couple of blocks up from Wormsloe. It was the typical dive: the kind that has the sea shells and beach decor covering wood planked walls (cute, but forgettable). When we walked in we just knew it was the perfect spot. Nobody was in there except a few old men at the bar, which made for a quick in-and-out lunch. We were going to be in Wormsloe in no time.

The waitress came and got our drink orders promptly. I could already see the plantation in my head. But that image quickly faded as the waitress didn't come back to get our food order for another ten minutes.

When she did come back, Will and I ordered fish tacos to split ... that took 30 MINUTES to get to our table. Now I'm no math wiz, but I do know that fish doesn't take 30 minutes to cook. I was annoyed and the plantation was slowly fading away in my mind.

To make matters worse, when the tacos did get there, they were sub par. Granted, I'm extremely picky when it comes to fish tacos, since I ate my first one in Hawaii. But there are simple rules when it comes to fish tacos: use fresh fish, good tortillas, and light, fresh toppings.

This cafe clearly didn't know these rules. We ordered the fish lightly blackened, but there was so much seasoning that I couldn't even taste the fish. Seasoning on fish should be low key so the fish speaks for itself, but this fish was mute. Besides the overwhelming taste, the pico de galo was too chunky (and not fresh tasting at all), and the tortilla was a simple flour tortilla that had been a little too overcooked on the grill.

I wish I could tell you the travesty ended there, but it didn't. We ended up having to go up to the bar to pay for the food because our waitress was too busy gossiping about one of her coworkers to bring us a piece of paper.

By the time we got out of the cafe, and drove a couple of blocks down, Wormsloe had closed for the day. We literally got there just in time to see the main gate shutting. Sure, I could go back to Wormsloe any time. It's just a short drive away from the apartment. But that's not the point. The point is that when I go to a restaurant expecting to get in and out in 45 minutes, but not getting even getting my food until 45 minutes after I've sat down, I'm never going back. Ever. Especially when there are only two other customers in the place, and all they're having is Bud Lite. So Drift Away Cafe, you can just drift right out of my memory, because I'll remember you for nothing more than bad service, sub-par food, and a missed Wormsloe trip.

Taste: 0 nom
Plating/Appearance of Food: 0 nom
Service: 0 noms
Cleanliness: 5 noms
Atmosphere: 3 noms

Overall Noms: 1.6

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Distillery

Cuisine: American
Price: $3 - $24
Separate bar: yes
Takeout: yes
Coke or Pepsi Products: Coke
Address: 416 West Liberty Street, Savannah, GA 31401
Phone: (912) 236-1722

She Says: I'll be grabbing a beer there more often

Today was worth celebrating for numerous reasons. It was the last day of classes after a rather long school year (insert glass of wine here), it was the last furloughed pay period (insert more $ here), and it was Friday (insert Will and Lola here). So Will and I decided to spend the cool Savannah evening at The Distillery, a historic American pub nestled in between Martin Luther King Drive and Liberty.
We'd been to the brick building once before to sample bites of their burgers on the Savannah Foody Tour (a great tour that takes food nerds to all the well-known and hidden Savannah eateries), but we never sat down and ate a full meal. So we went back to get a big bite of the local hot spot.

You always know a place is good if you go to eat at 5:30 and more than half the restaurant is filled. If we'd gone anywhere from 7-8, I'm sure we would have been put on a rather long wait list, especially since there's live music every Friday. We decided to sit outside at one of their four iron tables, although it was tempting to sit inside, as it had a cozy pull-up-a-chair-and-grab-a-beer type vibe with its brick walls and booths.

Our waitress Karen was prompt to get our drink orders, and helped me pick out one of their many beers on tap. I went for the Bells Oberon, a belgium white ale with a little more of a hop kick to it than the average belgium white, which went perfectly with the pretzel bites we ordered for our appetizer and the fish and chips I ordered for my entree.

I was really surprised at how fast the food came out, and thought that the quality was going to be low since we waited so short of a time. But I was wrong. The pretzel bites were fresh out of the oven. They were accompanied by a spicy mustard that lived up to its name and a cheese sauce that had the slightest bit of beer mixed in, which made for a great dipping sauce.

The light fish had a nice crispy beer batter that complimented it perfectly. The heavier batter, mixed with the delicate fish was absolutely perfect in my eyes. Not to mention, the two sauces I got to dip my fish in were amazing. One was a house version of creole remoulade - a sauce usually made with mustard, ketchup, tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, shallots, garlic, and green onions - that the Distillery twisted by adding a bit of mayo and some other spices that made it perfect for dipping my fries and fish in. The other was a homemade tartar sauce. Usually, I'm not a tartar sauce kind of gal. But this sauce had a perfect hint of lemon in it that made it fresh.

All in all, if you're looking for well executed, traditional bar food made with really fresh ingredients, The Distillery is where you need to go. The prices, ranging from 3 - 20, are perfect for all types of patrons. They have higher priced meals for those in need of a good seafood dish and lower priced meals (located on the back of the menu and all under $6) for those who don't want big portions or don't want to spend big bucks. For an appetizer, a beer, sweet tea, fish and chips, and a 3/4 pound burger with sweet potato fries, we paid $37. I'll definitely be going back for more.

Taste: 5 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: 5 noms
Service: 5 noms
Cleanliness: 5 noms
Atmosphere: 5 noms

Overall Noms: 5

He says: An exception to the rule

The Distillery is a one of the cooler restaurants I've been to since I've lived here in Savannah. It's tucked away just off MLK behind the Old Savannah Trolley Tours building, so it could be easy to miss if you weren't looking. The building itself has quite a story behind it (which is told in their menu and too long for me to explain on here) going through several facades before becoming the pub it is today.

We first learned about this place during one of my first weeks in Savannah when I decided to play tourist for a day, and Licia and I made a date out of going on the Foodie Tour thinking it would be a fun way to spend a day and maybe find a restaurant or two that we didn't know about yet. The tour was great and I'd definitely recommend it even if you're a local (I think over half of the people on our bus actually were locals, oddly enough).

We decided to sit outside on a nice evening. I saw the wrought iron tables and chairs outside and thought, "Oh man, this is going to be uncomfortable, but it will make the girlfriend happy." But I was pleasantly surprised when I sat down and the chairs leaned back. Maybe it's the fatty in me, or maybe it's just a guy thing, but there's something about leaning back in a chair that makes you feel good and when I'm comfortable, I'll probably give your restaurant a higher rating on this blog (Figure 1). However, for every chair that reclined, there was a cigarette in the ash tray. This grossed me out to no end. Seriously, just dump it out when you bus the table. I don't want to see someone else's half smoked cancer stick and all of their ash staring at me while I eat. Again, it's the small things that go a long way with me.

Yes, you can buy my love, along with my "Noms"

So, on to the food. First up, the tea. If you've been following our blog you know I instantly judge your restaurant by your tea (Figure 2). The tea here was definitely....funky? It's like, I could tell there was a good batch of tea in there somewhere, but it had this weird after taste like maybe the urn wasn't washed properly and I was getting the bouquet of a thousand old batches of tea. It was drinkable, but not great. I also had issues getting a refill. Maybe it's because we were sitting outside, but I don't think our waitress came to check on us until she brought our check.

I don't care if you've owned this restaurant your whole life, THIS TEA IS SUB PAR!

We ordered the pretzel bites and they weren't great either. They lacked flavor and were tough to chew rather than soft and more bread like. Maybe it's something to do with them being bite size that gave them the different texture, but they weren't something to write home about.

This is where my exception to my rule comes in. Usually a restaurants tea is a good barometer of how the overall experience is going to be. Good tea = good food, bad tea = uh-ohs. My entree was the Big Mike Burger: 3/4 lbs burger hand pattied on a certified organic bun with a side of sweet potato fries. Not gonna lie, this is probably the best burger I've ever had. This thing was cooked and seasoned to perfection and I guess it's because it is hand pattied, but it was also incredibly tender and juicy.

Artists rendering of me eating the Big Mike Burger

All in all I'd give The Distillery my seal of approval and recommend it. My only suggestion would be to avoid the tea and order the deep fried moon pie they have on their dessert list. It took all of me not to order it, because I knew it would be a two man job to eat that thing and I knew there was no way I was going to talk Licia into helping me.

Taste: 4 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: 3.5 noms
Service: 3 noms
Cleanliness: 3 noms
Atmosphere: 5 noms

Overall Noms: 3.7

Monday, March 15, 2010

T-rex Mex

Cuisine: Mexican-American
Coke or Pepsi: Coke
Separate Bar:
Address: 217 West Broughton Street
Savannah, GA 31401

Phone: 912-232-3466

He says: This T-Rex is about to be extinct if something doesn't change

This place has had their name on the door for what has seemed like forever, but have just now gotten their act together to get it open (first red flag). A buddy at work told me Wednesday that he had gone there for lunch so I thought this would be a new adventure/blog post for Alicia and myself.

It has a very cool atmosphere down in the basement of a building on Broughton. SCAD students obviously had their way with the interior. Even the tables were painted (part of our table was done with glitter paint, which made me wonder if that was a health code violation). The colors are very bright with artwork on the walls and cool light fixtures. They also had good music, and more importantly, at an acceptable level. I hate restaurants with the music so loud that you can't converse with those around you.

First up came the tea, my first impression of the restaurant. It wasn't great. Seemed to be bordering on old. Entrees were limited as far as selection, and reminded me of my college diet - salads, burritos, quesadillas, tacos, nachos - and ranged from around $5-7. The menu was the sorriest wrinkled up 3 pieces of paper and stapled together in the corner. It looked like it had been through the washing machine once or twice. I didn't really want to touch them.

So on top of the tea being sub standard and the menu looking like I need a tetanus shot to go with it, our waitress didn't seemed really enthused about waiting on us. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for Brian from Office Space, but when we're only one of three tables in the whole place it can't be that bad...can it? It probably didn't help that she was the waitress/bar tender/and probably cook/microwave user.

I ordered a chicken burrito. Chicken, cheese, beans (in order of what should be most predominant in the burrito). What I got was a bean burrito. Beans, beans, beans, beans, cheese, beans, chicken, and beans. Terrible. Seriously, how do you mess up a chicken burrito? The bean juice made my tortilla so soggy that it basically fell apart as I ate it and ultimately turned into a train wreck. It was so terrible I didn't even bother taking a picture of it.

This woman knows how to make a chicken burrito.

Accompanying my soggy bean burrito was a ramekin of boogers that they insisted was "salsa". Even if this was "salsa", how do you expect someone to dip a large triangular chip into a bowl with a 1.5" diameter?

Needless to say I walked out of there horribly disappointed. I'd go as far as to say it is one of, if not the worst restaurant I've eaten at here in Savannah. If you want a burrito, I'd recommend Moe's. It's cheaper, better and they welcome you the second you walk in the door.

Taste: 0 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: 0 noms
Service: 1 noms
Cleanliness: 3 noms
Atmosphere: 5 noms

Overall Noms: 1.8

She Says: The food is as confusing as the name

Here's a food code to live by (I think Celeste would be proud): if the name of a restaurant sounds like the owners put little thought into it, or just put words together that simply sound cool but mean nothing, chances are high that the food isn't going to be good. This couldn't be more true for the latest new "Mexican" restaurant in town, T-rex Mex. What does a T-rex have to do with Mexican food? Nothing. Yeah, sure, it rhymes, but so does Dr. Suess - that doesn't mean the Who's down in Whoville know how to make a kick-ass chimichanga.

Needless to say, I was thrown by the name before even entering the basement restaurant. The decor, which had a cool, Spanish-gothic vibe to it, made me forget about the name for a little bit. The exposed brick on the wall matched with brightly colored, morbid paintings made an interesting and artsy atmosphere for sure. It was clear that the owners spent some time on the design. I just wish they would have spent more time on the food.

When we got the menu, I was shocked, but not in the oh-my-god-these-dishes-sound-amazing way. No, I was shocked in the great-I'm-about-to-pay-for-food-I-could-make-at-home sort of way. The menu, which was extremely minimalist (which isn't a bad thing, as long as the food that's on the menu is something better than what a ten year old could make), only offered basic nachos, burritos, quesadillas and tacos. So there I was, in an artsy, Spanish pub-like atmosphere, named after a dinosaur, ordering Moe's cuisine ... from a waitress. Needless to say, I was confused. I didn't know whether they had just opened and didn't have a large menu yet, or if they just didn't care about the food all the way around. But I did know that paying $8 for nachos with salsa, cheese, tomatoes, and jalepenos on it (it was extra if I wanted chicken or beef) was ridiculously over priced. I could essentially get the same thing at Taco Bell, without having to leave tip.

To make matters worse, the food took twenty minutes to get there. TWENTY MINUTES! Will (who's no Bobby Flay in the kitchen) could have made me better nachos at home in half the time. I'm not really sure what took so long, but I'm guessing it wasn't the cooks because when I got my nachos the cheese was rubbery from standing under the heat lamp so long. I couldn't even finish my nachos, because I couldn't break through the cheese.

I wasn't please with T-Rex Mex at all, and I won't be going back. In fact, if there were RAZZIE awards for restaurants, T-rex Mex would win one for sure. Next time I want a burrito, I'll make sure to go to a place that focuses less on dinosaurs and decor and more on the food.

Taste: 0 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: 0 noms
Service: 0 noms
Cleanliness: 5 noms
Atmosphere: 5 noms

Overall Noms: 2

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Troys Mediteranean Cuisine

Cuisine: Mediteranean
Price: $8 - $24
Separate bar: no
Takeout: yes
Coke or Pepsi Products: Coke
Address: 10510 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA 31419
Phone: (912) 921-5117

He says: If the food was this good in Troy, Odysseus would never have left.

Troy was what I’ll call a “Google Gamble”, meaning I Googled “Savannah restaurants” and picked one from the list. This was a definite winner. I’ve seen Troy several times tucked away in a shopping center down near all of the car dealerships on Abercorn and just assumed it was some mediocre restaurant the car salesmen go to on their lunch hour. This place was fantastic, and definitely in my top 5 Savannah restaurants and on my short list for favorite restaurants period.

First off, is it just me or does every Greek restaurant look the same? It’s always murals of old bricks and vines on the walls and the usual mass-produced oil paintings of wine bottles and Mediterranean village seascapes. Not that I have anything against that, but they always feel so generic to me.

We walked in and were immediately seated and greeted by our waitress Petya, who was absolutely fantastic. She has become one of only two waiters I know by name and would ask to sit in their section over and over again (the other being Gary from Elizabeth’s on 37th).

She asked us if this was our first time there, how we heard about the place, found out I was a Geographer and asked me if I knew where Bulgaria is (yes I do, see Figure 1), told us about her home in Bulgaria, and most importantly – knew everything that was in every dish. She easily talked me into the special.

Figure 1

First came the tea, which was excellent, along with a home made garlic rosemary focaccia bread with some kind of garlic/rosemary/red pepper butter that together made a heck of a combination. I ate a loaf and a half by myself.

My entrée was the special for the evening, which was panko-crusted sea bass with a white poblano pepper vinaigrette sauce, spinach and garlic mashed potatoes on top of a spinach and roasted pepper salsa. . .hey, you got a bit of drool there.

This was one of the best dishes I’ve had since I moved to Savannah. The fish was flavorful, moist, and it also had good texture (sea bass is a more steak like fish, rather than flaky). The potatoes were rich and smooth and I wish I could have gotten another scoop. As I shoved the last forkful of fish and potatoes in my mouth, looking for the nearest wheelbarrow to haul me out to the car, Petya just HAD to come and mention dessert.

“OK Will, just listen to what they have and then politely decline and find the nearest Tums,” I thought to myself right before she opened her mouth and mentioned the white chocolate bread pudding with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with white chocolate. Damn. “Yeah, I’ll have that”.

Twenty minutes later, and absolutely wanting to explode/die (but in a good way), we finally made our way out. When we both got in the car we turned to each other with that “Wow, totally didn’t see that coming” look in both of our faces. We’ll definitely be coming back.

Taste: Five noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five noms
Atmosphere: Three noms

Overall Noms: 4.6

She Says: A Bright Spot in the Storm

There is nothing better in this world than expecting absolutely nothing out of a restaurant and getting five star cuisine . . . especially on a Thursday . . . after budget cuts have been announced. I'll admit it, I had bitched at Will about the Georgia education cuts so much last week that I'm pretty sure he just took me out to Troy to make me shut up for an hour. I don't blame him really. In fact, I'm thankful.

Troy doesn't look like much from the outside. It's truly forgettable on first appearance. Troy is located on Abercorn in between Oglethorpe Mall and Armstrong University in a small strip mall. I honestly can't even remember the shops that were next to it. But I can remember thinking, great, another Sushi Time Towa.

When we walked into Troy, I still wasn't impressed. The decor was so stereotypical, with paintings of wine and fruit hung everywhere (what Will calls "Asian sweat shop" oil paintings) and the typical maroon and tan color scheme throughout the joint. By this time, I was having bad flashbacks to Mr. Miyagi and was expecting nothing less than imitation Mediterranean food.

Then our waitress came. I was intrigued by Petya (pronounces exactly how it's spelled) from the moment she asked me what I wanted to drink. Her thick accent was beautiful, and her personality was even better. She told us she was from Bulgaria, which made Will's geography ears perk up. To stroke his ego even more (oh yeah, she totally knew who to get her tip money from), she asked him if he knew where the country was located, he quickly answered, and she looked impressed (at about the same time that she imagined a money ball going right in the money basket). All jokes aside, Petya was probably one of the best waitresses I've ever had. She explained all the menu options thoroughly, made sure our palettes could handle the ingredients by asking questions like, "now you do like spicy food, right? Because this dish is going to be spicy," and kept our drinks filled all while telling us stories about herself and asking us questions about our lives.

Before my dinner plate even arrived, we were given rosemary & garlic foccacia bread. More importantly, we were given rosemary & garlic foccacia bread made in house that day. It was fresh, aromatic, and incredibly delicious. Petya even made sure to fill up our bread basket a few times while we waited.

When my seafood stew arrived, I couldn't help but just sit and smell it for a few minutes. Not only did it look lovely, with mussels, calamari, shrimp, scallops, salmon and grouper all covered in spicy tomato sauce base, but it smelled amazing as well. If this is what the Mediterranean smells like, send me on a plane.

The taste didn't disappoint either. I used to think I didn't like cooked seafood, but after eating every piece of seafood this dish had to offer (some of which I had never tried before), I've changed my mind. The calamari wasn't rubbery at all. The mussels weren't slimy like I had always imagined them to be, and my arch-nemesis salmon actually tasted lovely with the tomato sauce (which wasn't spicy while I was chewing it, but heated my throat after I swallowed it). Not one piece of seafood overpowered the other, and I finished my stew NEEDING to know the recipe.

For dessert, I ordered the homemade tirimisu. I love tirimisu, but this one had a little too much sugar and not enough espresso. So I only took a few bites and saved the rest for later.

All and all, Troy was a pleasant midweek surprise. It also didn't break the bank. With Olive Garden-like prices (but way better food quality), our total bill (including two entrees, two desserts, a sweet tea and a glass of wine) came to around 55 dollars. Not bad for a midweek find.

Taste: 4.5 noms (if only the dessert weren't so sweet)
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five noms
Atmosphere: Three noms

Overall Noms: 4.5

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Il Pasticcio

She says - a dream come true . . . sort of

Il Pasticcio is one of those restaurants that has taunted me on the corner of Broughton and Bull from the first time I saw it in 2008. It's not just any building that can deter the average St. Patty's Day drunk from the festivities, but Il Pasticcio did just that. There I was, decked out in tacky green and looking for a restroom when I passed Il Pasticcio. It's massive windows beckoned me to look into inside. The walls were lined with wine and the tables were decorated with what I call the Pretty Woman set up: lots of forks, lots of glasses, and a table cloth I'd be scared to eat on. I was in awe, but I was also a poor college student at the time. So I stuck it in the back of my mind and continued my St. Patty's Day quest.

Ever since that day, I have dreamed of eating at Il Pasticcio. I'd look at it through the car window like an intrigued child if I passed it while driving home. I'd stop and read the menu if I walked by it while running errands. But never, EVER did it cross my mind to go until Will suggested it for our Valentines Day dinner. I reacted the same way I did when I found out Nine West was having a 50% off sale last Christmas: I lost my breathe, felt faint, then asked, "really"?

So the day before Valentines Day, we dressed up, drove downtown, and went to the Italian restaurant I had been dreaming about for the past two years, Il Pasticcio. I knew it was going to be a good night when we found a parking spot right around the corner from the restaurant on a Saturday night. When we walked in, we were greeted by two well dressed hostesses, one of which escorted us to the second story (there are three in total) of the restaurant. The decor was nice, but a little too modern for my taste. Exposed brick made up the walls, and modern, I'm-not-really-sure-what-that-is-but-I-think-it's-a-bull artwork was displayed. It isn't that I don't like modern art, it's that the loud colors in the artwork took away from the restaurant's most beautiful feature: the wine cases. Glass cases filled with wine are used to separate the rooms, and line the ceiling in Il Pasticcio and they are absolutely beautiful. I could gaze at them for hours. The way the light hits each liquid is absolutely exquisite. Who needs art when you have that?

Needless to say, the wine list was not small. Ranging from under $10/glass to $2000/bottle, Il Pasticcio is the place to go for every wine drinker. If you are new to wine, you can try out different types for an average price; if you are a pro who likes to spend the big bucks, this is the place to go. The only bad part about such a big wine list is knowing where to start. I'm a less-than-$10-per-bottle type of wine drinker, so I really wish there was a sommelier there to help. After looking for ten minutes, and still having no clue what to get, I opted for a vodka and cranberry instead.

Where the restaurant failed to help us place our drink orders, our faithful waiter Edwin stepped up to the plate and helped us figure out what to order from the Valentines Day menu. I ultimately decided on pomegranate infused foie gras for my appetizer and lobster stuffed ravioli for my entree. But before my salad even arrived, we received bread with a roasted red pepper dipping sauce. It was fresh, and the olive oil in it was fruity, making my palette excited for the salad that was up next.

I'm a firm believer that salads (and all food really) should reflect the season. This salad did just that. It was a mix of herbs, dried cranberries, sheets of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and walnuts. While it may seem like a traditional winter salad, it was well executed and all the ingredients meshed perfectly together.

As soon as I finished the last bite of salad, my foie gras was sitting in front of me, looking perfect on the plate. The foie gras sat on top of toasted brioche, was topped with a small salad and walnuts, and was complimented by two candied figs sitting beside it. It was absolutely beautiful. But that didn't stop me from digging right in. This particular foie gras was infused with pomegranate juice, so it had a slight red tint to it and was a bit sweeter than foie gras naturally is. But it melted in my mouth. It was almost like a really fine cream cheese, smooth and rich. Matched with the figs and sugary walnuts, it was a perfectly sweet dish. It wasn't so sweet and rich that I felt like I couldn't eat any more, but it wasn't savory enough for it to be an appetizer in my mind. I really think it would have made the perfect dessert. What would have changed it from being a dessert to an appetizer in my mind was the walnuts. If they would have been seasoned with spice, it would have triggered that salty/savory button on my tongue. I'm not saying it wasn't delicious. It was divine, but it wasn't right as an appetizer.

Next up was my ravioli. Maybe it was the vodka, but I almost cried when Edwin sat this dish in front of me. The ravioli was absolutely the most amazing pasta I've ever seen. The artist had cut strips of white and black pasta dough, then rolled them side by side to make a black and white striped ravioli. This was accented with a rose colored blush sauce (made from tomatoes, butter, and cream), and big pieces of lobster. It took me a couple of minutes just to admire it. Then, I dug right in. The blush sauce was amazing: rich, buttery, and creamy. The ravioli dough was perfectly in between too light and too heavy and the filling was a light mixture of ricotta cheese and lobster. I savored the first bite, but then was immediately put off by the second. I got a strange, overwhelming lemon taste that completely took over the delicate filling. So I tried another bite of the same piece of ravioli and got the same thing. The next piece of ravioli didn't have that flavor, but the following piece did. I was perplexed and a little disappointed. It seemed as though the chef had used a mixture of lemon and water to seal the ravioli together, but brushed a little too much of the mixture on some pieces. Luckily, those two pieces were the only ones that tasted this way. However, it left me unsure of what I was getting every time I put a piece of ravioli in my mouth, which is never a good thing for any restaurant.

After our entrees, we ordered dessert. I got a lovely chocolate cup filled with pineapple and pomegranate sorbet. Again, it came to the table and I was in awe from its appearance. The pastry chef had made a cup out of chocolate, but also had managed to sweep an rainbow of white, green, and pink colored chocolate right through the middle of the cup before the chocolate hardened. It was gorgeous. Will and I sat for ten minutes talking about how the chef could have done that before I even took a bite. The sorbet was the perfect ending. The sweet and tart flavors cleansed my palette and pleased my almost bursting stomach.

Before I knew it, we were leaving. It really was like a dream. But in my dreams, I imagined the entrees to be better than the one I got. In my dreams, Il Pasticcio was the perfect modern Italian restaurant. In reality, it was good. But when I eat at a restaurant where entrees start at $2o and go up from there, I'm expecting my dreams to come true.

Taste: Two and a half noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms (I would rank it higher if I could)
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five noms
Atmosphere: Four noms

Overall Noms: 4.3

He says - It's a step up from Olive Garden

Ok, so Il Pasticcio was little more than just a step. This place was pretty amazing. The ambiance of the restaurant combined with a steak so tender you really don't even have to chew it (you ever seen a duck eat?) made for a fantastic experience for myself.

As always, as soon as we walk in I'm scoping out the art on the walls. They have huge impressionistic bull and bullfighter paintings on the wall. I'm more of a realist when it comes to art, but I was in love with these life size brightly colored bulls and bull fighters on the wall. The walls are a very dark, rich looking, wood which gives a very intimate setting but the seats have fire engine red upholstery which really pops against the dark walls. I guess I would call the overall look "modern rustic with a mediterranean flair" (shut up, can't a man watch HGTV?).

Another cool aspect of this place was the ENORMOUS wine list. The wine list was at least 200 wines deep (ranging upwards of $1400 for one of the bottles, a little classier than the Arbor Mist Licia drinks). The best part was the wine cellar . . . or should I say, wine ceiling! The dining room was two stories high and the perimeter of the room is a glass wall to the second story that showed rack after rack of wine bottles.

Our waiter, Edwin, was fantastic. I always like a waiter that doesn't act like he's too snobby to take my order. He walked up to us and answered all of our questions, made recommendations and broke down each dish for us.

First up was my appetizer - Ahi tuna with sesame sauce and angel hair pasta. This was a gorgeous piece of fish. Perfectly seared on the outside only about 1/16th of an inch deep with a rich red color in the center. Seriously, one of the best pieces of fish I've ever had in my life. It was a very light appetizer (I needed that in order to eat my entree) and primed my taste buds for my main course.

My entree was the 16oz dry aged Kansas City strip loin with shrimp and a side of what I am going to call "Fancy Funyons". This wasn't the be all end all of steaks, I like my steak with little to no fat on it and this cut had a little too much fat/gristle for me, but that was due to the style of the cut, not the quality. It was definitely one of the most perfectly cooked steaks I've ever had. I ordered it cooked medium and it was textbook. It was slathered in butter and topped with fantastic grilled shrimp. The "Funyons" were onions cut in long thin strips and then deep fried with a peppery kick. They were so good that I wanted to order seconds.

My steak and shrimp with fancy Funyons
(that's my finger to show you how thick that steak was)

For dessert I had a dark chocolate Godiva tort. This thing was Wilford Bremley's nightmare. A dense chocolate tort with a rich chocolate ganache icing and a strawberry on the side. Both of our desserts were amazing and left us stuffed to the gills.

Taste: 4.5 noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five noms
Atmosphere: Five noms

Overall Noms: 4.9

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Would you believe me if I told you the Holy Grail was in Statesboro?

Nikko Japanese Steak & Seafood

Cuisine: Japanese
Price: $2-20
Separate bar: No
Takeout: Yes
Coke or Pepsi Products: Coke
Address: 701 Piedmont Loop, Statesboro, GA
Phone: 912.489.4003

He says: A little loud at times, but hands down the best sushi I've had so far

OK, close your eyes and think about where you would think you would find the best sushi. Morimoto's restaurant? Maybe somewhere on the west coast or Hawaii? Well, you're wrong (at least as far as I'm concerned). The best sushi is in Hickville...I mean Rednecktown...I mean, Statesboro, Georgia.

Seriously. I've eaten sushi at this place for almost 3 years now and I've yet to leave thinking "Ya know, they didn't seem to be on their A-game tonight." They give you monster pieces and they are always rolled to perfection. If you've never had sushi before or want a place to take a sushi virgin this is the place to do it. If you don't like the sushi here then you'll never like it. Their tea was excellent, their wait staff is always on the spot and the food is out quick even on the busy nights.

That being said, there are a couple of small things that bothered me on this trip. They've recently moved to this new location and while it looks nice, the open floor plan will sometimes lead to it getting a little louder than I would prefer. The other place was a little more intimate. The main thing that bothers me about their new place is a lack of booths. Granted, they didn't even have booths at their other location so this is a step in the right direction, but I don't know anyone who wouldn't prefer a booth over a table. If you're going during the weekend try and beat the dinner rush by getting there a little early so you can claim a big comfy booth. The only other thing that bothered us was that the door didn't close all the way for some reason tonight. There was a 5 or 6 inch gap and cold air was blowing on us most of the night, but this has never happened before so I'm gonna chalk that up to a one time fluke.

We ordered our usual - the sushi dinner, consisting of an order of crunch rolls, eel, white fish, and crab, along with a separate order of teriyaki chicken. Right off the bat our waitress told us that they were a little overwhelmed at the sushi counter so it may be a few minutes longer than normal before we got out order. This scored big time brownie points with me. There's nothing I hate more than sitting in a restaurant tapping my foot and looking at my watch wondering where the heck my food is. If it's going to take a few minutes normal than longer, just tell me. Then I know y'all are just busy instead of being slow. There's a big difference.

Even after telling us it would take longer than normal, I swear our food came out as fast as it normally does. It was fantastic as usual, except for the crab. I don't know how the crab was. It could have tasted like dish soap, road kill or dog poop, but I'll never know. Why you ask? Because Licia ate my piece. I'm just going to assume that when she ate her piece, it tasted so bad that she didn't want me to go through the suffering so she took one for the team and ate the other piece for me. That's the only reason I can think of as to why she would deny me the pleasure of sampling that night's piece. This woman has told me she loves me before. I'll just leave it at that. /bitter

Taste: Five noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five nom
Atmosphere: Four noms

Overall Noms: 4.8 noms

She Says: "It's cool, the sushi chefs are used to us by now."

If it's a Friday and Will and I are in Statesboro, you will find us at Nikkos. Just ask the wait staff. If you've been reading the blog from the beginning, then you already know Nikko's is the reason Will and I started reviewing restaurants in Savannah (and you also get a gold star). Nikko's is the place we both first tried sushi and for that reason alone, I don't think it will ever be beat.

This particular Friday, we were accompanied by Will's parents (Celeste and Bunk), his brother (Cree) and his brother's fiance (Gina). If you know anything about Bunk and Celeste, you know that Will inherited the perfect food critiquing gene from them. He gets his price questioning skills from Bunk, a man who may or may not have "who can buy the cheapest lunch" competitions, and gets his restaurant judgement skills from Celeste, who judges a place based on two things: how good the sweet tea is, and whether her glass has a good ice to drink ratio. Their methods may sound like madness, but trust me . . . they work like a charm.

With company in tow, we sat down and ordered drinks. Our waitress was fast and the ice ratio was perfect, so we went ahead and ordered. Will and I got our usual sushi dinner (which is the sushi dinner special with our own substitutions): eight pieces of nigiri (three eel, three white fish, and two crab) and a crunch roll (fried shrimp wrapped in a roll with cucumber and a spicy sauce). Our waitress (as usual) told us there would be extra cost for making changes to the sushi dinner on the menu. This may seem like a small thing to people, but it goes a long way in my book. Not once have we ever made substitutions without our waitress or waiter telling us there would be an extra charge. Most nights, they will even go back to the chefs, get the exact dollar amount, and report back to us before even placing the order.

After waiting a while (which didn't really seem like a long time, because our waitress let us know before we ordered that the sushi chefs were a bit behind), our sushi came. I got excited . . . a little too excited. The good conversation mixed with the fabulous sushi in front of me made me forget which sushi pieces were mine. Before I knew it, I committed the ultimate sushi no-no: I ate a piece of Will's crab nigiri. But don't worry ladies and gentlemen, he made me pay for it . . . by reminding me every minute for the rest of the night that he had a hankering for crab. But the crab was so good, that I really didn't care. I made up for it by giving him a piece of my crab the following week. At least I didn't forget to toast the last piece of crunch roll like somebody I know . . .

All in all, Nikkos has it all: good service, great sushi, and glasses that stay perfectly iced.

Taste: Five noms
Plating/Appearance of Food: Five noms
Service: Five noms
Cleanliness: Five noms
Atmosphere: Four noms

Overall Noms: 4.8 noms