Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Food me!: An Introduction to Me and My Food Philosophy

First of all, Hello!
Second of all, it took every ounce of my being not to spell Philosophy with an F. I love alliteration.

If you know me you will recognize the picture of my facing a delicious gourmet cupcake. Otherwise, I've decided to host this blog in true food critic form -- anonymously. That said, I do not have a fancy culinary education or anything like that "qualifying" me to grade the nature of a roast duck, but this isn't a blog for food critics and those seeking the next hip/posh/vogue place. This blog is about information.
This blog is for you. It's for me. It's for food. I intend to give you a real, down to earth observation and evaluation of the different restaurants I visit. Hopefully, this can serve as an honest and reliable resource for anyone looking to dine in the area.

A little bit about me ...
I am a poor college student. I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to a lot of different cuisines growing up. My mother makes some of the most delicious Italian food you will ever savor (even though she is Polish). I have always loved food. Everything from comfort food to exotic delicacies. I want to try it all.
Currently, I live in the KC metro. Luckily, it has lots to offer in the way of cuisine. So, happy hunting for me and my voracious appetite.

The process ...
Each blog will start with the bottom line. Crazy! I know. Shouldn't it be at the bottom? No. I think if you're in a hurry and need to know if that hole in the wall is worth a try or that steakhouse is worth the price tag, I want you to know right away. No scrolling.
The bottom line will include a one sentence summary, the price, the service and the overall experience. Price will be rated with dollar signs ($-$$$$). $ - less than $8ish a plate. $$ - less than $16ish. $$$ - less than $30ish. $$$$ - pretty much everything else, don't expect to see many of those. (I happen to believe the price ratings on Google and Yelp are pretty useless.) The service will be rated as slow, moderate or fast. I encourage you to read the long description for more details on that, but if I say service is slow, I mean block out a couple hours just to be safe. The overall experience will be rated from A-F. There is no magic formula for that, just my gut reaction. (Pun intended.)
Following that will be a personal account of my experience and my evaluation of the service and quality. I'll tell you if you can take clients there, dates, if it has an adventurous money, if it's stacked with classics, if the waitstaff is delightful or distressing. That's where you will find all of the gritty details.
At the very end I will tell you if I would take my mother there (a food connoisseur in her own right and the best chef I know) and if I would take my boyfriend there (a meat and potatoes penny pincher who graciously tags along for many of my culinary adventures).
Other weird thing ... My posts will be PREdated from when I post them to reflect WHEN I was actually there, versus when I got around to blogging about it.

Finally, my personal food philosophy ...
I enjoy good food. It's that simple. I don't get a kick out of paying $15 for a tablespoon of soup in an avant-garde bowl and I don't enjoy the idea of combining things simple because they shouldn't go together or having my food present in a difficult to deconstruct tower. I think the heart of every restaurant should be it's food. Everything else is just fluff. Whether it is a traditional sushi bar or a fusion steakhouse, the chefs and staff should take pride in what they do and strive to do it best.

If you have any questions, just ask. If you have any requests or recommendations, just say so. (Examples: I'm coming to KC and have to take a client out near Brookside. I am taking a cheerleader out on Thursday and she wants to go to Jack Stack. My parents are coming to visit. I'm bored and I want to eat something adventurous. I went to Domo and it was amAHzing. Where do I go? What do I expect?) If you disagree with my assessment for any reason at all, please PLEASE say so in the comments. If I think some place is awesome and your experience is awful, I very much want for you to let me know, so I can let everyone else know. Yeah? Yeah!

Okay, folks. I'm excited to get started!


Carmen's Cafe

Hello! Hello!

So, today I decided to try a little place by campus. Again, in Brookside ... right across from Domo, actually.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Fabulous tapas. Fabulous prices. Fabulous staff.
Price: $$
Service: Moderate
Overall: A+

Let's start with a little education for those who are asking, "What the hell are tapas?!"
Tapas (n.) - Small plates of food intended to be shared among multiple diners. Often "bite-sized". Carmen's offers an impressive selection of exotic and delicious tapas and Italian entrees and does it cheap! Every college student's dream. Social food that won't cost and arm and a leg. And cheap doesn't mean dive-y. The atmosphere was warm and fancy -- just like the service.

I was dining alone in the middle of the afternoon, so I elected to sit at the bar. The bartender promptly placed a white napkin as a place mat and furnished the setting with utensils, water, bread and warm butter. I have no bigger pet-peeve than being served cold fricking butter with bread. I don't have laser vision! How am I supposed to spread that?!!!! So, already I was satisfied. The service didn't stop there. Throughout my meal the staff was attentive and inviting.
So, I ordered these stuffed raviolis in a cream sauce and a stuffed artichoke appetizer. Confession: I have no idea how to eat an artichoke whole. I'm sure I looked like an idiot. That said, I can't comment on how it was prepared, but the stuffing was scrumptious. I got the bread stuffing, but I have this feeling that the crab stuffing is just heavenly. The raviolis - a tapas selection - were savory and the flavors were perfectly balanced. I could have eaten six plates of just those. It's the kind of food you just want to wrap yourself up in.
The rest of the menu is stacked with delectable, traditional, pasta-based Italian dishes and saucy tapas whose descriptions caused me to salivate. I mean that quite literally. I was nearly drooling.

Another thing I think is worth mentioning. From my seat I could see the behind the bar food prep area. It was pristine. (This is something always worth noting in a restaurant. If a food prep area is visible, take the time to look at it. If it looks gross, be wary. If you can't scout it out, the restrooms are usually a good indicator of a restaurants standard of cleanliness.) That kind of thing really reinforces the evidence of how much pride the employees at Carmen's take in their work.

I would take just about anyone here. Tapas are GREAT for dates. Talking about what food to share helps you get to know someone and takes a little pressure off grasping for topics to converse over. Great atmosphere, great people, great food. There is something on the menu for everyone. You won't be leaving feeling like you got robbed. It is just all wins!

Hope I've helped you find a new date night/lunch spot!

Carmen's Cafe
6307 Brookside Plaza 
 Kansas City, MO 64113
Carmen's Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Domo Asian Diner & Sushi Bar

Hello friends!

My boyfriend was nice enough to take me to Domo in Brookside. More specific info and links will be posted below.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Best sushi and Japanese cuisine in recent memory.
Price: $$-$$$ (Just depends.)
Service: Slow (Worth the wait, though.)
Overall: A

So, it's my birthday and I get to go wherever I want. I haven't had good sushi in a quite a while because I spent the last summer interning in a tiny town where their idea of sushi is imitation crab at the grocery store, so it seemed like an obvious choice. When we arrived there were a couple other groups who appeared to have just been seated. We were seated immediately. The staff was prompt in taking our orders. The girls there are very, very nice. There are wrap around booths, quaint semi-private two seat tables and patio seating. The atmosphere was asian, which was to be expected. Soothing colors, bamboo and that. It just reads as very calm and very quaint. A place to slow down and enjoy your company. That is something I appreciate.
However, no one there moves with any particular sense of urgency, and for the first half of the time we were there, only one chef was behind the bar preparing food for at least a dozen people who all came in within twenty minutes of eachother. If you want to go here - and trust me you do - set aside an appropriate amount of time. For a full meal, let's call it two hours.

So let's talk about the menu. I am in LOVE with their menu. They have plenty of newbie friendly food - teriyaki,tempura, etc. - selections as well as and impressive array of traditional Japanese items like jelly fish and octopus. The sushi menu is fairly extensive and includes specials, sashimi, sushi, specialty rolls. Plenty to choose from. Evaluating pricing is difficult with sushi because the norm is to get a bunch and share. It honestly just depends on how many rolls you want to eat. In my experience, though, Domo's prices are extremely reasonable.

A few things were less than ideal. The salad isn't worth your time even though the ginger dressing is delicious. Skip it in favor of the edamame or miso soup or be a little more adventurous and try something you've never seen on a plate before - you may be surprised how much you actually like jellyfish. The soda was flat. That isn't really anyone's fault unless they know how to recalibrate the machine, but play it safe and traditional and get the green tea. I read reviews pretty intently before deciding to go to Domo. There was a consistent stream of complaints about slow service, so I was prepared for this. I want you to be too. If you are absolutely starving when you walk in, immediately order an EASY appetizer. Nothing that requires frying or roasting or what not. Avoiding grumpy tummy is a must if you are to enjoy the wonderful prize at the end.

Speaking of wonderful, their sushi! Holy bath mats, Batman! Really folks, I have eaten a lot of sushi in my day. Some even call me a sushi snob. Believe you me, Domo's sushi is well portioned, carefully crafted and mindfully balanced. The filling to rice ratio is ideal. The amount of sauce on rolls that require it is generous without being over-whelming. If I'm not mistaken they even use real wasabi. (Most places you've been use horseradish that is dyed green. Not the same.) My boyfriend and I got four rolls between use and were VERY satisfied. I can not give them enough praise. Just exquisite. 100% approved for boy/girlfriends, parents and clients.

Since I've got you here I want to share with you a few things I do when eating sushi. Tricks of the trade, if you will. First, I always try to diversify what kinds of fish I'm getting in my roll. If I'm with someone new, I always get one that is crab-based and leave for them, just in case the rest is a little to exotic. It's just polite. Second, I like to dip my rolls in soy and wasabi. I create a very thin soy/wasabi paste in my dish and dip my sushi in that. It is efficient and adjustable. Third, the pickled ginger is there for a reason! Its intent is to cleanse your pallet between rolls. Some rolls have intensely different flavors, and you don't want one overpowering the other, right? Some people think the ginger tastes like cleaning fluid. Their wrong, but if you are one of these wrong people, use green tea or sprite to freshen the senses between rolls. Fourth, if you are with someone who is not so handy with chopsticks, take the pressure off and use your fingers. Sushi was originally a finger food anyway. You're just sticking with tradition!

Thank for reading!
If you go, promise me you'll comment about your experience, okay?


Domo Asian Diner & Sushi Bar
6322 Brookside Plaza, Kansas City, MO 64113
Domo Sushi & Grill on Urbanspoon