Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Awesome Sushi Deals

My brother loves Chinese buffets, he has always loved Chinese buffets, an always picks to go to them when he gets to choose where we eat. When he said that he wanted to go eat sushi for his birthday, and that it was from this place that had all-you-can-eat sushi, I did everything I could to try and talk him into another place. I thought to myself that this place had 0 chance of being good! I knew that it would be a Chinese buffet with some California roll that had been sitting on the buffet for 8 hours. I suggested just about every other "good" sushi restaurant that I knew of, but he wouldn't budge and insisted that this WAS "good" sushi, so I went along with it. When we arrived at Asian Palace (a name that shouts "buffet") it had big block lettering on the overhang, just like all the other Chinese buffets have. Then when I walked into Asian Palace, I was pleasantly surprised and had to admit that I was WAY WRONG!

Asian Palace has an interior that rivals that of any upscale Asian restaurant that you would find in Vegas or LA. They had sushi, sashimi, and maki all made fresh to order. I was shocked! We went for lunch, they have a limited menu with all-you-can-eat (made to order) sushi menu, but we asked if we could pay the upcharge to experience the full dinner menu, (seeing 3 large men that look very hungry for uncooked fish) they reluctantly obliged. We started with a round of miso soup, which was very good, but only made me more hungry for sushi. It took a while for our food to get to our table, but that is because it is all made as you order it.

We had sashimi ranging from salmon, to albacore, to red snapper. All tasted very fresh. We also had just about every sushi and maki roll that we could fit in our stomachs. We had the: KU roll, yellowtail roll, filet Mignon roll, spider roll, spicy tuna roll, eel roll, dinosaur roll, squid roll, and I am sure many other rolls that are escaping me. All of the rolls were fresh, some were not my cup of team (i.e. the filet Mignon roll and the squid roll), but for the most part it was so delicious that I could not put the chopsticks down. I found the KU roll and the spider roll particularly delicious.

All in all, Asian Palace IS "good" sushi, despite its unassuming name and exterior. I am very glad that my brother dragged me to this place and recommend it to anyone, whether you are looking eat one roll or 20 (You can also order a la carte, you do not have to pay for the all-you-can-eat if you don't feel like burying $22 worth of raw fish and rice). This place is the exact type of place that this blog was created to find; something that is awesome, wrapped in a package that you would never believe could yield such a gem. I officially take back all of my hateration.

Asian Palace on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bar Louie

Let it be known, before I go any further: Bar Louie is a chain and I do indeed feel a little bit dirty writing about a chain bar, but Bar Louie is awesome and here is why.

I first heard about Bar Louie when I was on a job site in Ohio (Bar Louie is based in Cleveland). Everyone always talked about going and getting a hotel in Perrysburg (closest Bar Louie to where I was) just to go to Bar Louie for a night. I thought that either these people were crazy or this is one awesome bar.

Fast forward two years later, a Bar Louie opens in KC. I knew I had to go try it, even though it was an evil corporate restaurant chain. I checked out their twitter account (that since the grand opening has been essentially abandoned) and they said that they had dollar apps and dollar martinis during opening weekend. We went with a group of about 8 people, late at night, and each got our first app and first martini for $1 each. We had nearly half of the apps on the menu: traditional and boneless wings, spinach and artichoke dip, pot-stickers, and chicken nachos. Each and every one of the apps we had were delicious. As for the martinis, my wife got the cosmo, which was great and very strong. My inner ghetto child came out when I saw a martini called the "hypotizer", which was a martini made with hypnotic, also dangerous. We had a great night and after the waitress let us know about $1 burger night every Tuesday, we knew we would be back!

When we did get the opportunity to go back on $1 burger night, we hit the tail end of happy hour, so we were able to get 1/2 price draws to wash down the burgers we were about to indulge in. The rolling overhead doors were up and it was super nice outside. When you go for dollar burger night, you get the burger itself for a dollar, then you pick and choose your different add-ons and toppings for a small up-charge each. I personally got 2 burgers each with lettuce and guacamole, for $1.50 each. The bun was good, not a wonder bread bun, but more of a roll. The burger beat the crap out of a McDonald's dollar menu burger, not what you would expect from a $1 burger. The burger was a fat burger, grilled on the flat top, had the slight amount of crisp on the outside (from the flat top) but still juicy on the inside. The guacamole was fresh, not like the wholly guacamole crap that you get from the supermarket, they make it fresh in house daily. Great $1 burgers. The fries were irresistible too.

Bar Louie is a chain, but still has multiple local micro brew draws on its impressive wall of taps (which does earn them some street cred). They have my favorite beer (Boulevard Tank 7) and Boulevard's Boss Tom's Bock (just to name a couple), to go along with other great beers like Stella, Landshark and Dos XX.

Third Bar Louie experience: Rock the Tot. A tater tot eating contest. I have only competed in a couple eating contests in my day, but it had been many years since I had won the pizza eating contest at Lazer 105.9 on the Merrill in the Morning show #humblebrag. I ate a lot of tater tots in 6 minutes (1lb 12oz), I was edged out by the guy who got second (1lb 14oz), but we were both hustled by the ringer Randy Santel (4lb 6oz). Randy not only won a giant trophy, the cash prize, and a year's worth of free loaded tots (although, in all fairness, 4lb 6oz is probably already a years worth of tots), but he also placed in the top 5 nationally. For placing in the top 5 nationally, he won a trip to Cleveland to compete in the nationals. Pretty sweet for an eating contest with no entry fee.

All in all, Bar Louie has such a good atmosphere, good food, and smoking deals, that I am able to excuse the fact that it is a chain.

Bar Louie on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 22, 2012

100 Twitter Followers Celebration

To celebrate this wonderful weather, summer solstice, and having 100 Twitter followers, I thought that I would go pick up some of Boulevard's Smokestack Series new limited release Love Child #2 for my wife and I. When I went to go buy the Love Child #2, I knew nothing about it, but have not tried a Smokestack Series beer that I haven't liked (in fact, Tank 7 is my favorite beer). After picking up the beer (for a bit more $ than I would have preferred, but...), I read the label. The label tells of a fruity beer that has medium levels of sourness. I didn't really know what to think, because I have never had a sour been before, but I was pleasantly surprised.

We sat out on the deck and enjoyed this beer that was dark in colour, but did not taste dark. If I would have closed my eyes I would have sworn that I was drinking a glass of fruity white wine. It was not what I expected at all from a bier (German spelling, just to keep you on your toes), but was very refreshing on a warm summer's night. It was not extremely sour, but was prevailing characteristics. When you sip it, you get hints of cherry, you can definitely taste the oak (from the barrels that it is aged in). There is no real floral or hoppy taste/aroma. Again, the closest thing I can equate the taste to is a white wine, but then again I am not a bier connoisseur.

Boulevard is always pushing the envelope with their limited release biers (see Chocolate Ale). This is another solid selection from Boulevard. I raise a glass of Love Child #2 to Boulevard Brewery, summer weather (notice the condensation on the glass), and my first 100 Twitter followers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tasso's

The setting: my mother's 60th birthday party. My wife and I decided that we had to throw her a big party for her 60th birthday, because she does so much for us and we couldn't remember the last time she had a birthday party. My wife had heard good things about parties at Tasso's in Waldo, she had heard that there was plate breaking, music, and even a belly dancer. That sounded right up my mom's alley. My mom loves dancing and used to even dress up as a belly dancer on rare occasions. So, we called a made reservations for our group. We even got one of her closest friends to fly in from Denver for the surprise festivities. When we took my mom to the airport to pick up her friend, we told her that we were going to the airport for frozen yogurt (as her visitor was a surprise), and it was a believable fib (as she knows my affinity for finding food in strange places).

Tasso's is a Greek restaurant (more Mediterranean food, I know), which makes it a perfect venue for a party. The Greeks have wonderful food, love to be loud, dance, and party, and are never in a hurry to kick you out (so you're encouraged to stay as long as you like).
We were shown to our table that was big enough for our party of 8. The Maitre D was welcoming us and discussing all things Greece with my mother, letting us know how often the owners went back to Greece, telling us about their farm there, etc. (he was quite a funny guy). Then our waiter takes our drink orders, we ordered two bottles of wine (a house white and a house red), they were both quite good for being relatively inexpensive (considering the setting). Then he brings us a few orders of the Saganaki (flaming cheese), which had been built up quite a bit by everyone telling us to order it, and it did not disappoint. Our house salads were great, we even purchased a bottle of Tasso's Greek dressing to take home with us ($6 at the door).

Then came the main dishes. Most attendees ordered the Arnaki Tasso (leg of lamb), as it is a traditional Greek dish and it came highly recommended. It is hard to get good lamb in KC, at least an affordable plate of lamb. The lamb was very tender and had great flavour, the Mousaka and Swordfish Steak (ordered by other members of our party) were very good as well. For dessert, they even brought the birthday girl a Baklava sundae with a candle in it. It sounded so good that everyone else at the table got one too. they were delicious! I know that it kind of stabs a traditional Greek dish like Baklava in the heart and Americanizes it, but I dont care, it was wonderful, I would go back just for the sundae. Everything about the food was an A+ experience.

My mother had a wonderful birthday. She drank her share of wine, had her first ever shot of Ouzo, kissed strange men, ate, danced, and even challanged the belly dancer to a dance batte (the below videos will tell the story better than I ever could with words). When she awoke the next morning and called us to thank us for her night out, she told us that she "could handle a night out like that about once every 60 years". I recommend Tasso's to anyone who has the time to go and take it all in.
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Tasso's Grecian Food on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Classic Rock Coffee Bar

Normally, I am not a coffeehouse guy. I don't often drink foo-foo coffee. I like my coffee like I like my women, strong and black (just kidding, I don't care if they are strong). I think that for the most part foo-foo coffee drinks are well overpriced. I have a hard time paying what coffeehouses charges for their "coffee" (and also strongly dislike the behemoth corporate "man" that is Starbucks). However, yesterday was the perfect storm of warm weather, a flashy sign and a catchy sounding coffee drink. 

I have been rooting for something to succeed in the space that used to house The River Market Brewery since it closed down. I have wanted to try the Opera House Coffee and Food Emporium since it opened in that space. Yesterday the flashy sign for the Classic Rock Coffee Bar, that is inside the Emporium, caught my eye. I was impressed (as a protein powder fiend) that they offered not only smoothies, but coffee drinks, with protein powder in them. I also thought to myself that an iced coffee sounded kind of good. 

Scrolling through the iced coffee list, I saw a coffee drink named the "Dirty White Boy", I thought "That is me!". It was a spin on a white chocolate mocha. The coffee drink was delicious. It was rich, not bitter at all (like that large coffee chain's iced coffee), and refreshing. The barista's were very busy behind the counter, but did not rush me. 

The Classic Rock Coffee House does the classic rock vibe perfectly. Guitars and flames on the menu, hints of classic rock flare around the bar, and the cherry on top (guitar stirrers, shown pictured). I will definitely be going back and taking my wife for her favorite type of coffee (foo-foo), next time we are at the City Market and I have $4 in my pocket.


Opera House Coffee and Food Emporium on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jazzoo

For those who have never been, Jazzoo is a fundraiser for the Kansas City Zoo, that takes place at the zoo. There are over 60 food vendors, bands, shows with select animals, and an extensive open bar. The main demographic that attends this event are rich white people from Leawood, as the tickets are astronomical (but it is for a good cause). However, if you are able to score a couple free tickets, it is an epic party! You get a bunch of old rich guys that are used to wearing suits to ditch the suit slacks, but keep the top half of the suit. the slacks are replaced with anything from golf pants, to animal print, to board shorts, or (in my case) light pink shorts (#getit #nothingextremethough).

Once we got in and got our first drink, we mingled a bit and then started hitting food vendors hot and heavy. There were so many vendors there that we could not possibly hit them all, as we were already late due to the traffic jam of cars trying to park. Some of the vendors were not so great, some were good, and some were amazing. For the purpose of not writing a novel the size of Of Mice and Men, I will do my best of hitting the high points.

The first standout dish of the night was the spinach, artichoke, and crab dip that was provided by Orange Box. It was a very creamy, but not overly rich, dip with a large amount of crab. Seafood loving dip heads, this is what your life has been missing! My only complaint was that there weren't enough chips to eat all of the dip with.Orange Box on Urbanspoon

Next door was Fogo de Chao, they were serving up sirloin and Italian sausage. The sirloin was more tender and juicy than any sirloin I had ever had before, it was on par with what I would expect from a higher quality steak cut, not quite a filet, but then again, nothing is really a filet. The Italian sausage was flavorful and juicy, just as we have all come to expect from Italian sausage. The cherry on top of this great plate of meat, was just that, a grilled cherry. I would have never thought of grilling a cherry, but it blew my mind!Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon

Mestizo by Aaron Sanchez, by all accounts, was serving up delicious crab tostadas. I cannot wait to visit the full version of Mestizo and try out the full menu. Mestizo on Urbanspoon

K.C. Hopps had a very strong showing.

75th Street Brewery had 4 of their micro (or possibly considered nano) brews. Women in my group thought a lot of the raspberry wheat. I personally tried the brown and the IPA. Both were very good and what I would call fairly hoppy for their style of beer. A Coloradoan would ask if there were any hops in them at all, but for those of us down at "sea level", they should be plenty hoppy for your liking. 75th Street Brewery on Urbanspoon

Blue Moose came strong with a shrimp and chicken curry dish. The dish had great flavour and lots of meat. It was a bit runny for my taste, but that is what the rice is for.Blue Moose Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

810 Zone had shrimp wontons and mini martinis. The shrimp wontons were as good as you expect shrimp wontons to be. The martini was SUPER strong, it was almost like a shot, both in size and in potency. 810 Zone has very good bar food, and although it has proven to be a bad luck location to watch a KU game, it is still worth a visit.810 Zone on Urbanspoon

To bring it home for K.C. Hopps was O'Dowd's with the bread pudding. It had great flavour and consistancy. It was not too runny, like flan. It was not too dry, like bread. It was the perfect level of moisture.O'Dowd's Little Dublin on Urbanspoon

Although the K.C. Hopps restaurants had a very strong showing, the Bread & Butter Concepts restaurants stole the show!

BRGR was handing out full burgers, that I believe to be a modified version of the Knob Hill burger. Quite delicious, I was going to town on that burger so hard that I even ended up with a little sauce on my suit jacket sleeve (Ooops).BRGR Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

Urban Table was handing out samples of their Urban Chicken Salad Sandwiches. It was awesome, but it left me with one question. What exactly made this chicken salad so "urban", so I asked, and I believe that I stumped the poor girls working that booth. They gave me an answer something to the effect of "it has cranberries and arugula in it". Which may make it delicious, but last time I checked, neither of those things are native to downtown KC. Perhaps someone else can "riddle me that", or perhaps it like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, "the world may never know".Urban Table on Urbanspoon

Finally, best in show, Gram and Dun. Gram and Dun was serving up Chicken and Waffles! My North Carolinian soul food roots screamed like a little girl full of excitement when I heard about the chicken and waffles. I gladly waited in the longest line that I saw that night, while many in my group scoffed at the wait, I was just happy to give it a try. A fried chicken tender served on a homemade waffle, topped with both hot sauce and syrup, GENIUS! The hot sauce was quite hot, I am very glad that they used it sparingly, or we may have had issues. Gram and Dun won my heart that night, can't wait to try the rest of the menu!Gram & Dun on Urbanspoon

After this, we tried a couple other booths, but none of them quite measured up. So we danced the night away with a good group of friends to some Earth, Wind, and Fire before making our way over to see Dolowite shut the party down.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Caspian Bistro

To continue my recent run on Mediterranean places, today we go to the Caspian Bistro. The Caspian Bistro is an awesome place to get some Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. I have a coworker who is a Diamond VIP in their frequent flyer program, so whenever a team lunch comes up, the Bistro is always the first place that gets mentioned (and usually where we decide to go).

Stolen picture alert: As I was at the Bistro with a group of coworkers, one of whom is very close to the owners of the Bistro, I didn't think that it was the appropriate time to bust out the camera phone and start playing paparazzi. Therefore, I have stolen most of the pictures from today's post from the Bistro's own website. I apologize for the cop-out, but wanted to maintain journalistic integrity and credit the source of the photos in today's post.

The Bistro is a great place to gorge yourself on large quantities of delicious kabobs and saffron rice. When most people think of kabobs, they think of satay style kabobs, but these are not the small individual style satay kabobs, these are the giant meal sized (use a sword as a skewer) style kabobs. Other options besides the kabobs are available (Gyros, etc), but when I go to a place I like to order the dish that they are known for. In other words, order the kabobs. They have many different kabob options: filet Mignon (thinly sliced), ground beef, ground chicken, marinated chicken, and Cornish game hen.

As you are waiting for your food, they put out a layered flat bread for you to snack on, it is quite good. I recommend saving some of it for when they bring your meal, put some of the zaziki sauce on it and it is incredible. The Bistro is the home of the best zaziki sauce I have ever had in my life! You can taste the cucumber in the sauce.

We got a group of 4 of us together and ordered the Shamshiri platter (I wish I had a picture of this thing, although I would have probably needed a wide angle lens to get all of it in the photo), which is served with 7 skewers of meat (one of each variety, two of each of the ground meats), roasted tomatoes and other veggies, and everyone gets their own individual plate of saffron rice that is the size of a human head. The saffron rice is not the same saffron rice that is in something like a paella, it is more along the lines of rice topped with saffron (but is still very very delicious). Of all the skewers, the marinated chicken is my favorite, followed by the Cornish game hen, filet Mignon, and then the ground meats. The marinated chicken had the best flavor and texture, in my opinion, with the Cornish hen in a close second. The Cornish hen does still have bones (cartilage) on one side, but that would not deter me from ordering it, just making note of it. The filet Mignon was very flavorful and was not overcooked, but I guess I just prefer my filet in steak form and not in slivers. The ground meats are not my favorite, but are the favorite of a co-worker of mine, so don't let my opinion stop you from ordering them. The ground meets taste to me like there is some sort of a gelatin added to help the ground meat stay together on the skewer, similar to the gelatin that you use to make beef jerky with a jerky shooter. Again, not bad, just not my personal flavour (yes I have adopted the Queen's spelling of the word "flavor" and will be sprinkling it in to my posts where I feel like it). Lunch portion of the ground beef pictured to the right.

For lunch, there were plenty of open tables. But I am told that for dinner, it is hard to get a seat. They do have a belly dancer that will come in for one show on the weekends, so do be aware of that if that kind of thing is too risque for you. Also, this is a Mediterranean restaurant, therefore you can expect to be served at a Mediterranean pace. My suggestion is to enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant and plan to go to the Bistro when you have the time to enjoy it.

Caspian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cafe Medina

I found Cafe Medina though a Deal Saver deal (one of those Groupon or Livingsocial type deal sites). I find a lot of my new places through these types of sites, they are really quite useful. Cafe Medina is not in plain sight, its located at roughly 135th and State Line Road, in a strip mall nestled between a Church's Chicken and a physical therapy office and behind a Taco Bell (as their website will inform you). Check out the view from the front window.

Cafe Medina appeared to be relatively new and was not packed at all on the inside. It is the type of place that you go up to the register to order, and then they bring the food out to you, kind of like a fancy deli atmosphere. The fare is Mediterranean, with what I believe to be a Saudi influence (which could be completely wrong) based on the decor and the name. I have been on quite the Mediterranean lately, but I attribute that to my new found search for New York Falafel, which is similar to my Mexican street taco search.

We had no idea what we wanted, aside from the falafel, so we asked the young lady taking orders what her she would recommend. She told us to give the shawarma a try. We made both the falafel and shawarma sandwiches into combos, getting hummus with a tabouli salad with one and baba ghanoush with a tabouli salad with the other. The falafel was very good, but still not the same as the food cart in NYC. The shawarma however was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had in my life! The seasoning on the chicken meat was incredible, it had a perfect mixture of what I believe to be cardamom with hints of all-spice, it was almost like a holiday flavor. This was the first time I had had shawarma and it was awesome! The hummus was good, it came with roasted red peppers in the middle that added quite the kick. The pita was great! The pita is made in house (just like everything else on the menu), and you can tell when you taste it. This was also my first time to try baba ghanoush. It took me a couple bites to get used to the different taste, but once I did, it was quite good. It is an eggplant dish with a smokey flavor and also came with roasted red peppers, I will definitely order this again. As for the tabouli salad, it is chopped parsley dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. It is a very fresh tasting salad and cleanses the palate well between strong flavors. All in all Cafe Medina had a strong offering and I will definitely be going back again!

One other good thing about Cafe Medina: they have Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew. This is not a selling point that will make or break a restaurant for us, but my wife and I both only drink diet soda and its nice to have an option besides Diet Coke, so we make sure to make note of that.

Cafe Medina on Urbanspoon