PEr FYI

December 21, 2014

T.G.I Friday’s, New York City…far from the pinnacle of American cuisine, but they are decent

First I should say, I have never been all that crazy about this chain restaurant in the first place. Let me be clear on that. They’re far from the pinnacle of American cuisine, but they’re not terrible – they are decent.

Waking away from watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after 3.5 hours of standing by the roadside on 6th Avenue in the blistering wind and light snow, we tried to get into a couple of restaurants in Times Square but was told that waiting time is at least 30 minutes. We took a chance and jumped into the next restaurant with vacant tables, TGI Friday’s. Like all the TGI’s I’ve been to, the walls at this TGI Friday’s at Times Square are covered with everything but the kitchen sink.

We had the slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone (or should I say peel-off-the-bone) tender and juicy baby back pork ribs basted in Tennessee BBQ sauce, then fire-grilled and served with seasoned fries and ginger-lime slaw; and the Philly Stacked Burger (Braised shredded beef, mozzarella, Asiago & Parmesan, roasted cremini mushrooms, spicy giardiniera and green onion between two fresh burgers with Swiss cheese, horseradish spread, onion bacon jam and peppered bacon). The food was pretty damn good – definitely not the horrific, inedible trash-heap I was expecting – but the staff and general lack of care for customers negated all that. But…the ribs…I will return just for the ribs.

The prices were steep — most of the entrees are between $20-$30, with the sandwiches in the upper teens — but what else could you expect from a restaurant in Times Square? You’ll get the same at the Hard Rock or Bubba Gump nearby. This is the true truth, as I say it as it is…

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December 10, 2014

Coastal Flats, Washington DC…the best seafood is no longer relegated to the coastline

Coastal Flats specializes in American seafood fare. The tropical decor at the entrance – a colorful metal fish hanging from the ceiling above the hostess stand – reminded me of theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Cafe but I was pleasantly surprised. Our waitress was friendly, cheery, engaging and knew her facts about the menu. The restaurant is located in Tyson’s Corner – my absolute fav mall in Washington DC.

It didn’t start well. The classic crab and corn chowder turned out to be “big time salt lick.” They over-seasoned with salt and it buried the expected sweetness of the corn. It was a seriously salty soup. Just avoid the salt shaker for the rest of the day. Grouper fingers – an arsenal of crisply fried fillets (all meat, no filler) in coastal flats lager beer battered tartar sauce, accompanied with shoestring fries and extra chunky home made coleslaw – was very fresh and true to its word, crispy, perfectly fried and generously portioned. I sometimes run out of adjectives to replace words like ”really good” and this is one of those times. Jumbo lump crab cake sauteed with fries and coleslaw were also amazingly crispy and flavorful.  Lord, lord, it was heaven in my mouth!! It was the second place so far for me where I got to eat really good crab cakes, the first being at Old Ebbit’s Grill.

The best seafood is no longer relegated to the coastline. Coastal Flats is an interesting experience – and you’ll be amply rewarded for taking the plunge. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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October 3, 2014

Seafood Market & Restaurant, Bangkok…overpriced and extremely touristy

If it swims we have it….and so their slogan goes. Not 100% accurate but they come pretty close. Basically this huge place is half fish market, half restaurant. You pick your fresh seafood first by entering a small market area where a personal shopping assistant will push a trolley for you and help you select seafood and vegetables. Then give instructions on how everything should be cooked to the waitress and then sit at your table and wait for your meal to arrive.

The crab meat fried rice is really good. I don’t think I’ve ever ate a plate of fried rice that fast! The fresh oyster omelette: sweet salty molluscs enclosed in an eggy blanket was very good. And so were the lala with chilli and tom yum goong. The stir-fried scallop and asparagus wasa average at best and I am totally not impressed with the BBQ squid. Only order if you like bland, tasteless food.

It’s a novel and totally tacky experience…..school of marine creatures were among the 3-D display as if swimming above us in the large hall. The seafood here is overpriced (plus you pay a charge for the cooking) and the atmosphere is extremely touristy. This is the true truth as I say this as it is…

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April 28, 2013

Dapur Babah, Jakarta…food that doesn’t match up to the ambience

Dapur Babah is truly an eye-opener. The bustle of modern Jakarta disappeared as we stepped through the doors of this restaurant, to find ourselves in a borderline kitsch but cosy old-style tea shop, with antique tea sets, and photographs of Babah families on the walls. Babah is the term used to describe the Chinese migrants who intermarried with the locals and settled here during the early 1400s. Over time, they assimilated Malaycustoms into their lives, and created a fusion culture of their own. Malay influence is very strong in their clothing and food, but they have also retained their Chinese heritage.

 I honestly wasn’t that impressed by the food. We ordered a host of dishes, but nothing stood out for me. For instance, we tried the Nasi Goerih Bebek which was fried rice with duck. The duck… was… well… DUCK! I really think you could just put duck over a fire without any accompaniments and it would still taste great.

More than just a restaurant, Dapur Babah also brings to life an all-round experience of the rich Peranakan culture,  providing an even more complete feast for the senses. However, it’s not the place to get the best meal in Jakarta. This is the true truth as  I say it as it is…

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March 17, 2012

Joe’s Crab Shack, Los Angeles…crab may be their name, but crab didn’t seem to be their game.

This is a tough one to write, because my first visit about 10 years ago was unforgettable. This recent visit, was quite forgettable.

The ambience is a laid-back, roomy restaurant. Desiree, our waitress was friendly and service was good and quick. However, it is definitely overpriced for the quality of food you get.

We started with a classic sampler and had the steam Pot for 2 (a nice collection of seafood) as the main.  The crab was plain, lacking flavour, dry, not juicy and extra SALTY. Crab may be their name, but crab didn’t seem to be their game.

As soon as the song “Love shack” comes on, the servers put on a little dance thing in the middle of the restaurant…makes the dining experience that much cheesier and corny.

I wouldn’t return. Sorry Joe’s! This is the true truth and I say it as it is…

February 20, 2011

Rick’s Cafe, Casablanca…the highlight of Casablanca, Morocco

Of course, this isn’t the REAL Rick’s Cafe from the movie “Casablanca”, but an old mansion restored to resemble the era depicted in the movie – complete with arched doorways, a white bar and piano.  Immediately upon entering, you are rtaken back to the movie instantly. There are two floors, with antique tables and cvhairs surrounding a semi-circular bar on the first floor. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s screened upstairs where the wall are also decked out in movie memorabilia.

For those unacquainted, it is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an ex-freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in Casablanca during WWII. Despite pressure from the local authorities, Rick’s cafe became a haven for refugees looking to pruchase illicit letters of transit which will allow them to escape to America. The movie (and its song) is a captivating wartime adventure of romance and intrigue.

We sat at the bar and had a Casablanca bottled beer and simply soaked in the combination of the elegant atmosphere, nostalgic music and the fully-stacked bar. It really did make us feel as though we have stepped back in time and into a scene of Casablanca. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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