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Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse

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2950 Erie Blvd E
Syracuse, NY 13224
(315) 445-1111

The menu had plenty that on another night might have appealed, but nothing spoke to me, and it was my last night in town. We ended up at Riley’s for dinner, but only after we acquired our quest item.

East Utica Greens.

I’d hoped my trip to Syracuse would include some local fare. I’d done my homework and figured that salt potatoes were the thing to try. As I found after a few quizzical, you-aren’t-from-around-here looks, salt potatoes are summer fare in Syracuse. So, if it was going to be something local, it had to be Utica Greens, a dish made with sauteed escarole, hot peppers, and prosciutto with a broiler toasted breadcrumb topping.

And the verdict? I dig it. It’s a definite upgrade from creamed spinach when it comes to a side at a steak house. The heat from the peppers showed up to the soiree immediately and definitely heightened the flavor. While there’s not quite enough protein in the dish to make it a meal on its own, there’s plenty of porky flavor in the dish to make it disappear off the plate. The $10 full order was generous enough that the two of us didn’t have room to finish it, but I’ll admit that I’ve had a moment or two of hankering since then. I think I smell a new Thanksgiving side dish.

Despite our unconventional greens-and-out meal, the wait staff couldn’t have been more friendly. When I quizzed our server about the unique decor and the provenance of the restaurant, she coughed up the information like a stoolie under a spotlight. I managed to leave my credit card and had to drive back 90 minutes later to retrieve it and they had carefully locked it in an office and asked me for ID before surrendering it, a step that put appreciation in a race with humiliation over the whole thing.

Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

November 12, 2013 at 10:04am

Posted in food, Syracuse

Riley’s

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312 Park St
Syracuse, NY 13203
(315) 471-7111

My favorite stop of the Syracuse trip, bar none. Even better than Dinosaur BBQ, which I loved with only minor reservations. And to think that I wouldn’t have made it here at all were it not for a sandwich place that I didn’t even get to visit.

Let me back up.

The menu at Darwin looked delicious and it was second on my list to visit. They are, however, a lunch-only establishment, and all my lunches were being handled. So, no Darwin. I did some poking around the website and found that Darwin was run by the people from Riley’s. So, figured I, next best thing.

By the time I got to Riley’s, though, the thought of a full-blown entree was too much. That and I noticed about three things on the dessert board that sounded delicious, so I was going to need to save room.

That said, maddest of all props to the Riley’s menu. On one side, you’ve got a standing selection of burgers, sandwiches, and sides. Everything I tried on that side (read: one thing (because it was so delicious that I didn’t bother moving on)) was outstanding. It’s the other side that’s impressive, though. A hand-written menu of dishes that changes daily, complete with illustrations. We’re not talking about a big place here. It’s a small neighborhood tavern. I’d love to know who on the staff has time to create that thing daily, but I really do appreciate the time that goes into its creation, as well as the herculean task of creating new dishes every night to populate it with. My co-worker Todd got a scallop in pineapple curry dish the second night I was there and it was spot on, with the sear on the scallops being particularly impressive.

As I scanned the sandwiches and burgers, the Knickerbocker was the only thing that wasn’t easily sussed. When I asked the waitress, she let me know it was an open faced sandwich with turkey, ham, cole slaw, tomato, and Russian dressing on rye, served either hot or cold. I was hooked by the description alone and got it hot. I chose very well. It’s a saucy, messy fork-only sandwich that comes out on the plate as a glorious mound of food. The sweet dressing combined with the rough-cut slaw and the salt of the ham was just about perfect. It’s clear that they roast their own turkey in house, as it was Thanksgiving fresh but also featured in one of the entrees. I loved this sandwich enough to make it back the second night and order it again.

It’s served with Irish chips, a fried potato side that hits notes from crisp potato chip all the way to fluffy french fry depending on how thick each chip was cut. The overall effect is like some mad culinary instructor’s lesson in the Maillard reaction. They are unsalted but served with malt vinegar, and they are highly addictive. There’s a bit of joy in grabbing one after the other and waiting to see if you’ve gotten one of the thicker, softer chips or a dark, caramelized crispy one.

Dinner was topped off with a slice of chocolate chip walnut rum pie. I’ll let that combination wash over you for a moment. It’s twice as good as it sounds. I took them back to the hotel to eat, and the second night the server gave me the tip that a few second in the microwave would turn things gooey and lovely. He was not wrong, though the unwarmed version was good on its own.

For Wednesday and Thursday nights, it was plenty crowded. That said, I’m surprised that there aren’t lines out the door for this place. It was pretty perfect both nights and I can’t wait for my next trip back.

Riley's on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

November 11, 2013 at 8:38am

Alamexo

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268 S State St
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
(801) 779-4747

Tonight’s dinner was delicious. They are still in their soft opening, so things were a bit more leisurely than a usual meal, but certainly not unexpectedly so. The staff could not have been more accommodating and friendly, taking care of my wife, two daughters, and I very quickly when we showed up right at opening.

We started the complimentary chips and habanero salsa, which had a pronounced heat that sneaks up, and also with with queso fundido. It’s served on a black iron skillet and the baked corners of the dip were my favorite part.

We also ordered two sides. The fried plantains were caramel goodness on the outside and creamy and sweet on the inside. When they call these sweet plantains on the menu, they aren’t kidding. Had I not known better, I’d have mistaken them for ripe bananas.

The second side was the corn. We got it mostly because it sounded like something our girls would eat happily. They barely got a chance. The sweet roasted corn, creamy sauce, chili and lime was pretty much a perfect dish. I was reminded a lot of Eva’s brussels sprouts, not because of the flavor profile, but because it might just be the perfect vegetable dish. When we go back, I’ll be ordering a plate of this for myself.

We had the mole poblano enchilada as our main. My first taste of the dish was to taste the sauce, and I was immediately struck with a strong bitter note. I found that when it was paired with the tortilla and fried pork, however, it was a beautiful and complex combination, and the bitter flavor melded nicely with the other flavors of the sauce. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m not sure. The bitter flavor was something my wife mentioned without my saying anything,

The meal ended with delicious, fresh churros. It sounds as if a full dessert menu will be available starting tomorrow, so we’ll have to check that out on a subsequent visit.

Written by ireviewsomething

October 14, 2013 at 9:38pm

Posted in food

Bistro 222

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222 S Main St #140
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 456-0347

Had a lovely early lunch today with the place to myself. You can rail against the merits of many things, but I’m afraid arguments against lunch at 11 am are going to find no purchase here. The place was quiet and the staff was attentive without hovering.

Anyway, I started with the mushroom bruschetta. Absolutely delicious, even given my bias against tomato jam as a general concept; it seems like an excuse to use bad tomatoes, covering them over with a bunch of sugar. Sure enough, this particular jam was on the sweet side, but the sweet note wasn’t wholly unwelcome. It did verge on overwhelming the flavor of the mushrooms, which were beautifully roasted and meaty.

My main was the mahi mahi tacos. I love seafood, but tend not to order fish tacos very often after having been spoiled by ubiquitous and amazing versions in San Diego. However, the extremely helpful server sold me on house made corn tortillas, so I jumped. There are three tacos in the order. They are on tiny tortillas, around three inches in diameter. The fish, on the other hand, it copious, and the result is a very protein-heavy dish that I really enjoyed. Rather than eating a mouth full of tortilla, I was eating fish, and that’s a nice change of pace when it comes to my fish taco experience.

The condiments on the tacos were a bit clunky. The pineapple relish was too chunky for the tiny form factor of the taco, though the flavor was nice and surprisingly spicy. The pickled onions were also a bit hard to manage. That said, the flavors were dead on.

The price was right, the food was delicious, and I’ll be back very soon. It looks like they have a few dinner-only items, which will probably be when I’ll return.

Bistro 222 on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

October 14, 2013 at 9:34pm

Bánh Mì in SLC – Redhot

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165 South Main Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
(801) 532-2499

I suppose it’s strange to review a hot dog place without having had a hot dog, but here I go anyway.

I had two bánh mì sandwiches: the pork belly and the beef. Short version: pretty tasty, with some dizzying highs and a few low spots.

To start with, the proteins were a definite high. Given my lifelong vendetta against pigs, it’s no surprise that the pork belly was my favorite. Even bad pork belly can be pretty good, but this was spot on: crispy edges, nicely rendered, with plenty of lean and just a kiss of honey. The beef wasn’t quite as good, though it was tender and tasty as well. I can’t say that I got much miso flavor, but the taste of beef has a tendency to sit on top of and squash some spices, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that something as delicate as the flavor of miso. The pork belly awesomeness made the meal, though.

The chipotle aioli added a bit of creamy, though not much else. Things are going to go downhill from here, too, so you can look at those four stars and know that the pork belly was responsible for most of that.

The bread was ill-suited for the challenges of the sandwich, and was a soggy mess by the time I ate my sandwich. Either a crispier, more traditional product is in order, or at least a bit of toasting. The daikon and carrot had clearly had some sort of quick pickle on it at some point, as it was in that familiar territory between cooked and crisp, but there was zero acid and also no sweet, both of which are notes that are typical in this kind of veg. I really missed both, but the acid in particular. Also missing was the usual pate, which if it’s the traditional chicken liver with a dash of cognac, can also add a bit of acid and give the palate a break.

Prices are expensive: $5.75 per sandwich. With better bread, pickled veg, and some pate, I’d have had no problem paying that price for the pork belly sandwich, so it’s not incredibly far off the mark.

Bánh mi options are scarce downtown; you’re either paying artisanal prices at Copper Onion or heading east to catch Lewis Bros. on the U campus. If I was craving a Vietnamese sandwich and was downtown, I’d brave the non-optimal parts and have another pork belly. Were the pickles and bread right, though, I can see this becoming a frequent and joyful stop for me during Sundance.

Redhot on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

October 14, 2013 at 9:30pm

Bánh Mì in SLC – Noodle and Chopstick

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2000 W 3500 S
West Valley City, UT 84119
(801) 886-1543

Welcome back!

I never got a chance to visit Pho Green Papaya before the remodel, but the promise of bánh mì on the new menu dragged me across Redwood to take care of a late night craving. What I found was a nicely updated sandwich and a strong contender for my sandwich dollar on the west side.

I had the kalbi and the grilled pork sandwiches. The first and easiest difference here is the size of the meal; rather than the usual torpedo loaf, the bread here is much longer and thinner. My sandwiches were each about a foot long. The bread was crusty, with a pleasing chew, and the configuration made for a sandwich that was both easy to eat and that has a nice bread-to-filling ratio.

So far as I could tell, both sandwiches were dressed the same save for the protein. A tasty pate was on the bottom of both sandwiches; I ordered extra, and will continue to do so from now on. Along with the proteins was a sweet, sesame-heavy mayo and the usual cilantro, jalapeno, pickled carrots, and cucumber. The mayo is tasty, though it slightly dominated the other flavors in what is a pretty complex sandwich to start with. I’ll have them go easy on it next time, if not forgo it completely.

As far as the two proteins went, the pork was my clear winner. It was incredibly tender and married with the pate really well. I love a good kalbi, and this tasted about as I expected. That said, it was a bit more chewy than I’m used to short rib being. In their defense, I did show up about ten minutes to close, so maybe I was getting the last servings of the night.

Will I be back? Without question. There are other sandwiches to sample, as well as a non-sandwich menu that looks intriguing. New favorite? I’m up in the air. Oh Mai is such an established habit for me at this point, and their variety, the extreme differences among the various sandwiches, and proximity may win the day. That said, when I’m on the west side, the N&C sandwiches are definitely in the mix. If I’m looking for a more traditional and inexpensive sandwich on Redwood, I’m headed to Hong Phat. If I want something modern, nicely updated and reconfigured, I’m heading here. Truly tasty food, and I am excited to explore the rest of the menu.

Pho Green Papaya on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

October 14, 2013 at 9:26pm

Bánh Mì in SLC – Pho 33

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7640 S. State Street
Midvale, UT 84047
(801) 562-5888

This review is primarily for the Vietnamese sandwich appetizers now on the menu. By themselves they’d have gotten a measly two stars. I’ve had an enjoyed thoroughly the rare beef pho here, though, and on its own I’d have given it 4.5 to 5 stars, so I landed at 3 overall.

The sandwiches were available in two varieties, a brisket and a traditional pork cold cuts. Bottom line: neither one was great. Both versions of the sandwiches that I had were swimming in mayo. This made for an uncharacteristically gloppy mess for this type of sandwich. There was no pate in sight, though the addition of fish sauce definitely upped the flavor quotient. The protein-to-filling ratio was decent, though I’ll say that the thick cut jalapeno tended to mean either a mouthful that was a blast of heat or no heat at all. Something thinner and more distributed would be better when it comes to the peppers.

The bread is insubstantial at best, and the addition of a bunch of wet ingredients transformed it pretty instantly into mush. Needless to say, I really missed the usual crusty baguette here. And bread brings us to another issue, the overall size of the sandwich. At $3.95, these are comparable in price to the low end of the Oh Mai menu, and a full dollar more expensive than the sandwiches available at Hong Phat. They are, however, extremely small. Two of them would be required to make a meal.

In their defense, I was warned that they were small by the server and told they were appetizers. That said, if you are going to serve a tiny sandwich, a much tinier price is in order.

I was rooting for these sandwiches, as the location would represent the furthest south I’ve seen banh mi crop up, and having a stop to sate my craving on the south end of the valley would have been keen. Sadly, I’m not enamored.

Pho 33 on Urbanspoon

Written by ireviewsomething

October 14, 2013 at 9:22pm

Posted in bánh mì, food

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