Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Skewer's Wood Grill Tewksbury

I had business in this area so I decided to try Skewer's Wood Grill in Tewksbury for lunch today since they come recommended and seemed to have mostly positive reviews on the web.

Small place with counter ordering and then you pick up your food when they call your number or if you don't pay attention, they will bring the food to your table.

In a place called Skewers you have to try the skewers, right? Here's the lamb skewer from the "Create your own meal" section, one skewer and one side that comes with grilled pita bread & tzatziki and for my side I ordered roasted potatoes. The lamb was ordered medium and only the big piece of lamb had a trace of pink in the middle. The rest of the (previously frozen) lamb was just gray inside and was completely devoid of any char marks. The "Roasted" potatoes was just unseasoned steamed potatoes. I actually went up and asked if this really was the roasted potatoes and the chef said "Yes, we roast them in the oven" and then he showed me where they were kept. Naturally, on a steam table so any hope of crisp roasted potatoes went up in steam. I wanted to try the Gyro, but the spit only had a nub of meat on it and was not even turned on at lunchtime so I stayed away from it.

Skewer's Wood Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Szechuan's Dumpling Arlington

Szechuan's Dumpling just opened in Arlington Heights last week and I was dying to try it and today was the day for a lunch visit! They took over a space formerly occupied by an American Chinese restaurant, Jade Garden, of no fame whatsoever so there were high hopes for this restaurant and the buzz was on out on the web already.

Interior is OK, one big square room, nice and bright with big windows looking out over Mass Ave in the center of Arlington Heights. Parking could be an issue on a busy day, but you could always park at Penzeys, who doesn't need some more spices?

You get some plain boiled peanuts to start with when you sit down.

With lunch you get a House Daily soup, today it was pork with yellow beans. Nothing really exciting here.

Of course, I had to try the Pork Mini Juicy Dumpling and here they are! 8 dumplings and there was really nothing mini about them. They are served with a Black Vinegar/Soy/Ginger sauce. Somebody else reported that you got a chili sauce with them but this is what I got and the dumplings were really good and don't just bite into them, you will get soup all over you. The trick is to carefully bite the top off, slurp off some soup and then add some of the sauce and then carefully take a bite. The pork was nice and juicy but the soup was overly salty but I haven't heard any complaints about that anywhere so this might just be opening jitters.

My main lunch dish was the Shredded Pork with Bamboo Tips and Hot Chilli. This was marked as spicy on the menu (Yeah!) but didn't look very spicy but after tasting it, it was nice and hot with a good amount of heat from the bird eye chillis. The pork was tender and the bamboo shots had been properly soaked so I was very happy with this dish. There is Calamari, Squid, Pork Kidney, Okra among other things available on the lunch menu! They also have Braised Pork Legs and I'm assuming that's Pork Shank but have to ask the next time. I asked if the Ma Po To Fu (their spelling) was vegetarian or not and the very nice waitress said that it comes with pork, but they can make it vegetarian if you ask. The service was good and they were pretty busy at lunch and the managers were walking around asking people how things were. The very reasonably priced soup bowls were enormous and I like that you have a choice of noodles and the same goes for the stir-fried noodles.
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Szecuan's Dumpling on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dumpling Cafe Boston

It's good that I'm such a calm person otherwise I might be really upset after 1. Trying to find on street parking in Chinatown at lunchtime 2. Having to give up and pay for parking and 3. Having the GPS trying to navigate me out of Chinatown, forgetting that I put it in walking mode while looking for the liquor store that was part of the reason for the trip. "Stupid thing! I can't drive there!". Anyway, the lunch at Dumpling Cafe in Chinatown was very pleasant despite having to share a table with two strangers but I really didn't mind.

This is a small place in Chinatown and the wall to the right is one big mirror. Service was quick with lots of waitresses working.

After ordering, I asked if there was any soup included and was told, only rice. Promptly thereafter, a bowl of soup arrived with some pork swimming in there and also some unknown veggie. Not very exciting.

Twice Cooked Preserved Pork at Dumpling Cafe was the reason for the visit. This is how it should be done, twice cooked pork belly, not sure what the preservation adds but it had a nice firm texture. Cabbage and leeks added a nice crunch and the Halapenos added a nice bit of heat. The smoked tofu was also nice and again I did eat the tofu. The sauce wasn't your normal brown glop but a tangy, glossy bean paste and chile sauce.

Dumpling Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FuLoon Malden

I haven't been to FuLoon in Malden in ages for lunch, probably due to the fact that the lunch menu is on par with the buffet and both have nothing going for them and can't really be recommended. As mediocre as the lunch menu and buffet is, the normal menu has a lot of outstanding dishes listed and this is probably the best Sichuan restaurant in Boston with an outstanding chef. Recently J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote an article on Serious Eats about 12 dishes that shouldn't be missed at FuLoon and Dan-Dan Noodles were mentioned. I didn't even know they served Dan-Dan Noodles since they are called something completely different on the menu.

The room is nice with an impeccable maintained fish tank in the middle. Looks like the booths got redone since I was here last. The forgettable buffet can be seen behind the fish tank.

NOODLES WITH SPICY SZECHUAN SAUCE is what the Dan-Dan Noodles are called on the menu. Wish I had known before because this is a dish I try at all Sichuan Restaurants I go to. One of the best versions of Dan Dan Mien I've had, with flavorful chunks of pork and plenty of pickled mustard root (Usually Sichuanese ya cai or Tianjin preserved vegetable, not sure what they used here) piled on top of just-cooked noodles. Toss it all together to let the sesame flavored chili oil coat the strands and then dig in. This looked like it had gotten the white guy treatment and they had held back on the chili oil but after mixing it together and tasting it I can happily say that it was plenty spicy and flavorful. This was also a very generous portion for $6.50. Most places serve this as an appetizer.

Went for it today and ordered two dishes, the second one seen here was the Bang Bang Chicken (No idea where the name comes from). This is an appetizer-sized portion of tender shredded chicken tossed with cilantro and scallions in a vinaigrette flavored with roasted chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. Again it looked like the heat was absent but I can assure you it was not! Really nice dish.

Fuloon on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taipei Gourmet Lexington

There was a comment about Taipei Gourmet's Twice Cooked Pork made and I couldn't get that out of my mind so I had to go there today and for the first time in a long time order from the lunch specials menu.

The hot and sour soup was OK, Not as tasty or rich as I remember from my first visit but that was quite a while ago.

Twice Cooked Pork was really tasty with tender pork and crisp cabbage and peppers. Even the tofu triangles were good and I'm not a fan of tofu. This is a very traditional Chinese dish and was competently executed with a hint of heat included. It was good enough that I finished the whole dish and I normally don't do that even at lunch. I had asked about this dish previously, hoping it was made with pork belly so I already knew that this would be the traditional pork loin.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Punjabi Tadka Arlington

Since my Monday Indian restaurant doesn't serve lunch on anything that resembles a holiday I decided to see if Punjabi Tadka in Arlington had improved since I was last there in Early November.

Well, the condiment containers looked the same with a nice scum on the Tamarind chutney. The Papadam that was included in the lunch was nice and spicy.

Lunch Chicken Saag comes with basmati rice. The rice was cooked well and was OK. The Chicken Saag had four big pieces of chicken and was cooked perfectly. The dish was nice but on the bland side, no change here. On the good side, the amount of food you get here is certainly enough. This must be the only Indian restaurant in this corner of the earth that doesn't ask you how spicy you want your dish. They also have a sign in the window saying "10% off on take out over $30 and 15% off on dine in over $30" so they must be looking for customers. Tip: If you are eating here on a freezing cold day, don't sit near the window! It was radiating cold something fierce.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vine Brook Tavern Lexington

Vine Brook Tavern in Lexington took over the space vacated by Buca di Beppo in Lexington who took over what used to be Vinni T's for the longest time. Vine Brook Tavern opened in late 2012 and have got really mixed reviews on the web. The owners have a long list of successful restaurants behind them including opening restaurants for Michelin-rated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten in Paris, London, and Mexico City. The chef, Chris Frothingham, is a protege of Todd English, not sure if that's a plus or a minus.

The interior is completely redone and looks nice with a big u-shaped bar downstairs. The only resemblance to the old place is the entrance-way leading up to the hostess station.

Upstairs looked nice too, with a separate bar. They opened up the floor to the right so it's now open to the ceiling.

The prices are on the expensive side but this is fine dining in the burbs and you should expect to pay. Here we have steak frites, sliced butchers sirloin, parmesan & arugula fries, Burgundy demi-glace, whiskey-onion butter. Not sure what the cut is, I have heard of butcher's tenderloin but never butchers sirloin. The steak comes out as ordered, but the compound butter on top was frozen and really didn't have a chance to melt on the rare steak. The Burgundy demi-glace was absent and putting the steak on top of the fries made them soggy and I suspect that the demi-glace was dumped in there as well. The fries were good but severely lacked salt and having not being salted immediately after being taken out of the fryer it was hard to get the coarse salt that was on the table to stick to them. The service was friendly and quick and of course you get linen napkins as expected. I'll be back, a neighboring table had the Fish and Chips and it looked really good.

Vine Brook Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MuLan Waltham

I haven't been to MuLan in Waltham for quite a while, but I have thought about this dish since I last had it and decided to see if it was as good as I remembered it. Normally I go on Fridays and they are super busy so I was curious to see what it looked on a Wednesday and they were fully occupied again shortly after noon. Might have been a Chinese New Years thing since I saw a number of tables that were taking their elderly parents out for lunch.

Pork Chop Noodle Soup is a big bowl of noodles that comes with ground pork, green veggie (not sure what it is) and an (I think) soy marinated egg. Not sure what they do with the egg but it's delicious! The broth was good and there is a BIG heap of noodles underneath.

Not only do you get a BIG bowl of noodles you so also get a platter with the actual pork chops on it. In this case about four of them, deep fried to a crisp but still tender and juicy inside. $7.95, not sure how they make money on this but I'm happy!

Mulan Taiwanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

La Posada Arlington

I had to go the Meat House in Arlington Heights before my Groupon expired, and since La Posada is just up the street in Arlington Heights it was convenient for lunch. I also wanted to see if the Dumpling House was ready to open and it looked almost ready with a finished interior and flowers in the windows. Can't wait despite that the parking around the center is terrible.

The salsa was very chunky with big bits of onion and tomatoes mixed in. The chips were OK but clearly not made today.

Sopa de Albondigas. Classic Mexican Meatball and Rice Soup Garnished with Totopos and Cheese said the menu. Also got a slice of avocado in there. This looked really good, but it was SALTY! Not really sure what the soup tasted like due to all the salt. There was some rice on the bottom of the bowl but it was very sparse and the meatballs didn't impress either. They were a bit too rubbery.

La Posada Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Popeyes Methuen

Spork time again! Time for another visit to my fast food chain of choice, Popeyes in Methuen. Well technically it's in Salem, NH and no spork were used in this visit either.

Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Box. 8 shrimps and one side and a biscuit for $4.99 did sound intriguing and I decided to try it with Cajun Fries. The shrimp was cooked perfectly to my amazement and they were surprisingly spicy with a really nice crisp exterior. The Cajun fries were OK, nicely cooked but not very spicy. Add a dollar and you get two sides and add another one and you get a soda as well. This was a really nice lunch.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Locum Meum Woburn

Travel ban still in effect, the car plowed in, storm door blocked by snowdrifts, guess it's time to see what's in the freezer.

I had tried the beef one before and it wasn't bad so let's see how the chicken one does. The burrito and quesadilla were also on sale at Target a while back. Only contains 25% of your daily sodium intake.

After microwaving it for 2 minutes per side, it looks a bit messy! I must say it was surprisingly good, big chunks of chicken, the corn and black beans had a nice consistency, still a bit firm and tasty. You could actually identify what was in there. Not a bad lunch overall.

Love Google! I asked translate "my place in Latin" and it was done.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pho #1 Woburn

Decided to walk down to my local Vietnamese restaurant, Pho #1, not because of the snow but I wouldn't risk losing my parking space. Spaces are at a premium during snow removal and if your car isn't out of the way, you will be fined.

This is a REALLY small place. There are two four-tops behind me otherwise this is it. The place is clean and the heat was on today. As you can see, not too many customers for lunch. Guess everyone is at home waiting for the three feet of snow that is expected overnight.

Dac Biet Beef noodle soup medium sized bowl of our popular beef noodle soup, with combining sliced rare eye round, well-done flank, brisket, tendon and tripe is what the menu says. At the best I would call this a passable rendering of Pho. The broth is OK but lacks the depth of flavor, only a few pieces of tripe and tendon and the brisket was mostly missing. Adding some Hoisin sauce and Sriracha helped with the flavors as did a side dish of the homemade chili oil.

The governor has just issued a travel ban on ALL roads in Mass starting at 4:00PM today. $500 fine or up to a year in jail!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Mughals Burlington

I couple of weeks ago I asked Dharmesh, the owner of The Mughals in Burlington if he could put the Tandoori Wings on the buffet next Thursday instead of Tuesday and he happily obliged. They were absolutely fantastic and I sent him a thank you email telling him how good they were.

When I looked at the online buffet menu today I was very happy to see that the wings were present again so I loaded up a few in my takeout container. Spicy, tender and succulent wings for lunch, what could be better?

Well, the rest of the food wasn't bad either. I really really like the mini samosas with potatoes and peas. They do have a little kick to them from the spices. You can also get a small container for the tamarind chutney condiment that traditionally accompanies the samosas. The tamarind chutney is made in-house and is really really good. Thursday is now the new day for wings on the buffet.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taipei Gourmet Lexington

Only wanted something light today so I decided to see how Taipei Gourmet in Lexington does the very common Taiwanese appetizer Salt and Pepper Chicken.

A good amount of food, nice crispy outside. There was also a good amount of fried basil and thinly sliced birdseye chilies in there to make this dish very exciting! It looked really good and the chicken was very juicy and tender, but there was a lot of bone splinters in there and, unfortunately, a lot of the chunks did have very little chicken on them but it was tasty. I did know it was served on the bone but didn't expect mostly bone.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Szechuan Chef Chelmsford

I have been going to Szechuan Chef in Chelmsford for a long long time. A group of us used to go every Monday and Wayne (the owner) told the kitchen what to cook and we eat what was served and really enjoyed it. Sometimes it was just a few of us so we didn't get many courses but other times it was 10+ of us and we really pigged out. I even started to like eggplant after eating it here. He has had a small daily lunch buffet that wasn't really too exciting and for the time being it is on hold. He has a lunch special menu, again nothing really exciting but some good stuff on the back of it. However, you can now order almost anything off the menu as lunch size portions for lunch prices. Obviously, half a duck doesn't scale down but most dishes do so this is a great chance to try dishes from the special Chinese menu without having to pay full price.

The interior is bright and scrupulously clean and to the right is the front desk with a new? Bar area. This used to be a waiter's station behind a screen.

Decided to try a few dishes from the Chinese menu to see what the reduced prices and portions would look like. Started with Mapo Dofu that come out vegetarian since I forgot to ask for "with meat" but it was still excellent but could have used some more Sichuan peppercorns. Nice level of heat and plenty of chili oil and plenty of food.

Next was the Spicy Chili Chicken from the Chinese Menu where it has three stars and the funny thing is, on the main menu it only has one star! Tender chicken and with all fresh peppers it had plenty of heat. I'm not sure if I agree with the tree star heat rating but would go with two. Apart from that this was a very tasty dish. With a small white rice, this comes to $12 something before tip and I think that was VERY reasonable. I'll be back to try more specials at these lunch prices and the portions are certainly big enough for me at lunchtime.

Update. After finishing the leftovers, I must have gotten the Spicy Chili Chicken from the Chinese dishes menu (1 star) instead of the 3 stars of the Chinese Menu.

Szechuan Chef's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Outback Steakhouse Burlington

Having found a buy one get one free lunch special I headed to the Outback Steakhouse in Burlington for some (now) reasonable priced takeout lunch.

I also had a free Blooming Onion coming thanks to filling out a survey after my last visit. I love this thing! And how about charging $7.29 for an onion! How brilliant is that?

This is a full-size Shrimp and Caesar Salad with about 10 small Shrimp, supposed to be fire-grilled but was pretty much devoid of grill marks. Cooked perfectly though. I must admit that I really like their Caesar dressing for some reason. Salad is always fresh, croutons are very tasty so not a bad meal. It might also be sort of healthy.

My other lunch was Prime Rib Dip Sandwich. Thin-sliced seared prime rib with grilled onions and Swiss cheese served with very tasty fries. The rib was a bit too well done for my taste but, on the other hand, I forgot to specify the temp when I ordered. The sandwich was overall very nice, the onions still had a bit of crunch and the dip was flavorful as well. Of course, dipping the sandwich in the dip made a holy mess of the sandwich, but a very tasty mess.

Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon