Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brio Chestnut Hill

Brio Tuscan Grille in Chestnut Hill is part of a national chain and conveniently located in the Chestnut Hill Square open-air shopping mall. Their brunch offerings looked good so on this gorgeous Sunday I headed down there. It's a surprisingly fast drive to get here despite the slowish traffic on Rte 9.

Of course, there is plenty of parking and they also have a nice patio for al fresco dining, weather permitting. It's the last days of February and we are hitting 55 today with almost no snow on the ground, how nice is this?

Very inviting and spacious inside.

There is also plenty of seating in the bar area. During the weekdays, they have a very reasonable bar menu with small plates.

A nice bread basket arrives. The crispy herb crusted flatbreads were delicious and you also get real butter. Nice linen napkins but paper covered table.

The brunch menu is very similar to their lunch menu with some brunch dishes added. I decided to try the Ham & Biscuit Benedict ($11.50). "Poached cage-free eggs, Cherrywood smoked ham, housemade biscuit, grilled asparagus, hollandaise, brunch potatoes." The eggs were very small and slightly undercooked, so there were a few snotty bits but this is better than overcooked. The thick slice of ham was delicious as was the crumbly biscuit. The hollandaise was fine and the asparagus was cooked perfectly and was delightful. The badly reheated potatoes, on the other hand, was pretty terrible and was also seriously greasy. This was too bad since the rest of the food was delicious. Service was fine and prompt.

Brio Tuscan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Porch Wakefield

The Porch Southern Fare in Wakefield opened recently on Tuttle Street and was easy to get to.

Getting out if there was another story since at both ends of the street you can only turn right and left and neither takes you back to where you come from.

You order at the counter and then pick up when you name is announced. It was pleasant and bright inside with just a few tables available. Mine was on the wobbly side. There is an open kitchen where you can watch the food being prepared. Not sure where the BBQ is being cooked since there was no sign of a smoker.

The menu is on the wall with some specials at the counter. 

I went with The Revelator, Meat Loaf Sandwich ($7). "Slab of beef and pork, American Roll, spicy ketchup and pickled sweet peppers." It hard to see in the picture but there is a substantial slice of meatloaf underneath the peppers. The meatloaf was super moist and really tasty. The sweet pickled peppers were also very good, could have been pickled a bit more to get some more acidity in them. The spicy ketchup wasn't. The bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord that is delivered daily was excellent. I would have been happier if this was priced at $7.95 or even $8.95 and included a couple of sides. That what you get at Blue Ribbon for example and their sides there are very generous. I was curious as to what the black stuff on the bottom was and kept rereading the description but nothing should be black.

I finally turned over the meatloaf and it was all charred on the bottom. No big deal, adds character.

I went back a couple of days later to try the fried chicken and got another wobbly table.

This is the Fried Chicken Platter with two small sides ($13). I ordered all dark and got a big drumstick and a gargantuan wing. The brined chicken was perfectly fried with a tasty and crisp outside and a really moist inside. It's hard to see the size of the pieces but they were substantial. The mashed potatoes were nice and buttery but the Collard Greens was the star and was outstandingly good! They might have been a tad too vinegary for me but despite that they got devoured. This was an excellent meal even if it was on the pricier side. They have public WiFi available with the password nicely displayed, however, unless you knew what was here before you have no idea what to connect to.

The Porch Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, February 26, 2016

Golden Ginger Wilmington

Golden Ginger in Wilmington is set back from Rte 38 quite a bit so they can be hard to find. No sign today of the friendly hostess. It's been quite awhile since I stopped by here for their Curried Chicken that is now named Currie Chicken on the menu.

Not a very prominent location.

I decided to take a seat at the Sushi Bar today. Sushi in Wilmington? Yes, I know but I'm brave.

The interior really looks like something from the 80's. They don't seem to serve in the nice window area and it seems to have morphed into an area for the manager to hang out.

Miso Soup and a Green salad are included. The soup was on the salty side but at least, it tasted of something. The salad was nice and even had some crunchy onions included.

I went with the Chirashi Sushi ($14.95). "Assorted Seafood on Seasoned Rice." The fish was nice even if it was way too cold and the octopus was really tender. Not sure what the white slices to the right was, didn't really taste of anything. The rice lacked seasoning and was also too cold and had dried-out kernels of rice mixed in and was also slightly undercooked. I got just about what I expected so I can't really complain. 

Golden Ginger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Viet Thai Lowell

Viet Thai in Lowell are located on the busy Merrimack Street with only metered parking with a minimum $2 if you are using a CC.

This was always a good alternative to the always excellent South East Asia restaurant around the corner. They have since closed but are open under new ownership and name.

The non-vegetarian side of the buffet. There is also Vietnamese "Goi Cuon" spring rolls wrapped in fresh rice paper off to the right. The rolls used to come with both pork and shrimp for the buffet but now there is only pork, noodles and scarce vegetables. I was only there briefly since I was doing take-out but the buffet seemed to be refilled promptly. Nothing is labeled, so you take your chances.

The vegetarian side with the two kinds of soup. The buffet is still $7.95 for dining in.

Since I'm a small eater, I figured that takeout is my best bet and I will get food for dinner as well. Today's loot included two Vietnamese "Goi Cuon" spring rolls with the delicious peanut dipping sauce (up top). The crispy fried chicken wings are a favorite here. The two fried spring rolls didn't fare so good in the container but despite that they were still delicious. Not sure why I put two Rangoon's in there but to my surprise, they were really tasty. The Fried Chicken legs were also really good and juicy. I think there is a piece of General Gau's chicken in there. To the right, there is a heap of delicious pork belly that I also used to fill up gaps in the box. There is also some fried rice underneath the rolls. The fried rice turned out to an excellent Thai Basil Fried Rice. I'm the king of the takeout box, remember that there is also vertical space in the box. The rule here is that the box has to close. Not a bad deal for $9.09 with tax rounded down to $9. Minimum CC charge is $10.

The dining room with the buffet. The buffet used to be where the tables in the bottom of the picture are and was accessible from two sides but have now been moved to the back wall.

The entrance dining room. Of course, everyone is sitting in the other room since that's where the buffet is.

Viet-Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

As Good As It Gets Wilmington

As Good as it Gets Cafe in Wilmington is located at the intersection of Rte 38 and 129 in a strip mall. They serve breakfast all day (6 AM to 3 PM) plus a variety of sandwiches. The menu was quite extensive and everything seemed priced very reasonable.

They are located in a strip mall and are not very visible.

Open and bright dining area with waitress service.

So I decided to forego breakfast and ordered the Fish and Chips ($9.95) for lunch from the Traditional Menu section. The unseasoned fries were cooked nicely and the slaw was OK, very lightly dressed. The also unseasoned fish had a nice coating but was slightly dry on the inside. Not sure what the fish was since it had a pinkish tinge to it.

They do a brisk takeout service at the counter.

As Good as it Gets Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, February 22, 2016

Raagini Andover

I visited Raagini in Andover back in '13 when they first opened and their buffet was OK, so it was time for a revisit.

They are located in the same plaza as Stop & Shop. Taking Rte 133 off 95 saved some time in getting here.

Condiments and salad is of course available.

It's a nice looking buffet but the price is now $11.95 and there was no Tandoori Chicken available.

Unfortunately, they just put out the Sterno heaters as I got up to the buffet and as a result, everything was stone cold except the Keema Chicken Curry so I guess that it was made today. This was at noon and they open at 11:30 so there was no reason for not having hot food on the buffet. The curry was excellent and on my next visit to the buffet, the rest of the dishes had heated up. The Chicken Shammi Kebob with Cabbage was good but I'm not sure I would call a pan fried chicken sausage a kebob. The Dal and the spinach with chickpeas were just OK even when warmed up.

Fresh flowers on the table are fine, but unfortunately, most flowers had been dead for quite a while.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

MuLan Waltham

I headed down to MuLan in Waltham on this warm Sunday since I was craving a dish that I haven't had for about a year.

The new and expanded Mulan. If getting rid of the parking meters was part of the Mayor's plan to make Waltham more welcoming to visitors, she has certainly succeeded as far as I'm concerned. I will not visit Medford center with their newfangled parking meters.

The dish that I have been missing is the Mulan Special Fish ($16.95). An enormous portion of fish in a fiercely hot sauce. They don't hold back on the heat here at all. You also get a burst of floral heat/numbing when you bite into the Sichuan Peppercorns. I stuffed myself silly and still had about 2/3 left. They also had a special New year's menu that of course didn't have any English translations. Isn't this discrimination? They also have a $20 CC minimum and that violates their agreement with Visa since they are only allowed a $10 minimum.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Loui Loui Stoneham

Loui Loui in Stoneham opened a week ago in the Redstone Plaza. They advertise themselves as serving Louisiana seafood. No working website yet.

They took over the spot where Uno's Something resided and they took over from Baja Fresh that I really liked.

You pick and order from the menu on the wall. For the seafood section, you pick your protein, sauce and level of heat. The prices are per pound and I was hoping to do half a pound of shrimp and half a pound of crayfish but they only sell it by the pound, so that didn't really work out. I asked where the crayfish was from and he said "I have to get back to you on that" and never did. Hopefully, it's from Louisiana and not the cheap Chinese variety. I went with the Shrimp ($13), Louisiana sauce and medium hot.

Paper on the tables and paper towels on the tables. With the big windows, it's nice and bright inside.

The food comes out in a bag swimming in the sauce. This is going to be messy so put on your bib!

The shrimp was good sized and unshelled with the heads left on. The good part was that the Louisiana sauce was delicious and even with the medium heat, packed a good punch. The unfortunate part was that the shrimp was terrible. Mushy and soft to the point that it was hard to get the shell off. I was going to go back tomorrow for either the Shrimp Po'boy or any of the baskets but I'll wait and see if this place improves the quality of the shrimp, this was just terrible. They have only been open for a week but that's really not a good excuse for this.

Loui Loui Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, February 19, 2016

Heng Lay Lowell

Heng Lay in Lowell is a hidden gem that isn't talked about too much, guess people want to keep it to themselves. It were way off the beaten path and located at 153 Liberty Street. No website.

Small frontage but there is parking available in the back and at the side of the restaurant.

A couple of round tables for families dining in, then just about eight four tops available.

I had high hopes for the Spicy Chicken Wings ($8). "8 Jumbo Chicken Wings marinated in home-made sauce and chili sauce". They didn't disappoint, perfectly cooked with a crispy outside and really juicy inside. They were seriously spicy but with a sweet component that keeps the heat down. It was both drums and flats and I appreciate that they leave the tip on, something more to gnaw on. A must-have dish here and it really puts the dry wings at Simply Khmer to shame.

I was looking forward to trying some dishes that other reviews have raved about but I couldn't see them on the menu, should have written down their names. Oh, well next time so I ended up with just BBQ chicken with rice ($7.95). The chicken was cooked well and was nicely seasoned but in the end, it was just chicken and rice. It seemed that almost everyone got a soup dish with something on the side so I had to ask what it was and it turned out to be something called Dry Noodle soup with the soup on the side. I must say that the owners? was super friendly and happy to explain the dishes especially when they saw me ogle dishes as they went past.

They take their condiments seriously and notice the little condiment dishes there on the table? That's really smart. I like to dip things in the chili paste or chili oil.

Heng Lay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato