Friday, January 28, 2011


"MEI", Japanese Restaurant, located at 8608 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, OH 45242 (513) 891-6880 has been in business for almost 10 years but it wasn't until last night, when we went with friends from the neighborhood, that we had heard of it, or given it a try.
This clean, bright, minimally decorated place in Montgomery has several dining spaces. The largest contains 4 Hibachi tables with flat tops and counters seating 8 or 10 while the other area has the entrance, a Sushi Bar, and one section with tables and another with 3 or 4 booths.
Our server a very worldly Caucasian( teaches at UC, English as a second language) was pleasant, knowledgeable, patient and accommodating.
The menu is large and there is a separate listing of house specials and one of Sushi combinations.

We came from having drinks and nibbles at the other couple's house and so the four of us opted to split several small dishes and only one major "role". Each dish would easily serve as a first course for one, a decent split for 2 and a taste for three or more. Our selections were: Tempura( 2 shrimp and a selection of vegetables) all fried in a light batter and served with a very light sauce for dipping. Deep fried Smelts, crisp, warm and enough that we all had two or three. An excellent grilled duck slices(5) beautifully seasoned and done just right, firm and crunchy.
Meat filled Dumplings(5) which may have been the least interesting to me; Yakitori( slightly grilled chicken pieces on a skewer) and a Spicy Tuna Roll( 8 pieces) nicely put together but nothing special to distinguish "MEI" from other Asian spots. These dishes call for beer and we each had Kirin Ichiban, except for Marilyn. Total, before tip $58, for the four.
I was pleased that we went( always like a new place and someone else's suggestion) but if I do go again, I will explore some of the larger dishes and probably some that are less ordinary.

Also this week we have gone to two standbys. "Knotty Pine on the Bayou" where the best items remain their Grouper( excellent, possibly the best in the area) and the Etouffee, slightly spicy and very rich. Also the "Turbo Dog Ale" remains my favorite to accompany Cajun dishes.
The other evening we stoped by the Oriental Wok( Regency) before theatre, to help them finish the "flown in" "Laughing Bird Shrimp" which I, and the restaurant, originally attributed to Argentina but which actually come from Belize. Any way they served us a large platter, which a friend and I split, half prepared with whole pepper corns in a slightly sweet sauce and the other half prepared as we had last Friday, lightly stir fried in a Wok. Marilyn went with Pork Chow Mien which must have been good as she made "all gone"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Earth, Water, Wind, Fire

According to Asian beliefs these( above) are the basic elements that govern everything, even their cooking, for health and long life. Some are more obvious when it comes to selecting a meal than others but all can be included, one way or another. I give you this preface as several of our meals out, during the past week, have been at Asian restaurants. See if you can find the elements.

"Pho Long Thong"(Vietnamese) Findlay Market, 114 W Elder, 45202 (513) 257-7014 opened about 2 months ago. I had walked past, when shopping, but had to find the right "adventurous" person to join for a first experience. Wednesday, mission accomplished, and I'm glad it was.
The restaurant, stand alone, not in the main market building, is small, clean and bright. There seem to be about 8/10 tables and a stand up area where people wait for "carry out". The staff is very friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable, which helped. There are a couple of starters, two salads and several sandwiches and wraps. Most people, we included, tend to order the noodle dishes, in our case the Pho( hot Vietnamese traditional rice noodle soup) but there are also two cold noodle dishes.
We started by splitting an order of spring roles, served very hot, crisp and filled with pork, mushrooms, carrots and glass noodles. As mention we each had a bowl of Pho, which comes either small($5), medium($6.50) or large($8), the latter can serve as a hot tub. We chose the small, which for us was plenty, although younger guest seemed to go with the medium. There are 4 choices of meat: beef( the most popular) , chicken, pork and tripe. My friend had the chicken and I the tripe.
The broth is poured over the thinly sliced meat and is hot enough to cook or sear that ingredient. The soup is pungent, flavorful and keeps the bowl full of noodles, herbs and spices tasty and warm through out the meal. It was great and I am sure we will both return. If there is any down side it is a need for a better air circulating system but that will be fixed, don't stay away.

Back to "Bombay Brazier" 7791 Cooper Rd 45242 (513) 794-0000, our new Indian hang out in the "burbs". Four of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner based on each of our individual suggestions to Rip and Gee, the delightful owners. We again ate in the "wine room" which is quiet, attractive and a great place to relax and visit. Our four selections were: "Chicken Mango", grilled chicken breasts sliced and cooked with sweet Mango in a slightly thicken sauce; Lamb Tiki Marsala, grilled chunks of tender lamb is a generous sauce with a tomato and cream base( I think) seasoned with Marsala wine and various spices, great over rice; Tandoori Prawns, large shrimp baked in a tandoori oven and seasoned with onion, tomato's and peppers and our unusual creamed spiced spinach with mushrooms. All items can be ordered with the amount of spicy "heat" desired. Accompanying were two Nan's, one onion and the other garlic and bottles of a wonderful French beer, "Foster Amber". We never leave empty and often with a carry out box for lunch the next day. The people, food and brew are all great.

The third ethnic was our friends the Wong's', "Oriental Wok" at the Regency( Hyde Park). We are spoiled, there, by Guy Burgess the chef and Susannah Wong, his wife and co-manager.
Guy had fixed a couple of special dishes, a hot, hearty Oxtail soup, not your usual Asian first course, but terrific on a sub zero evening. The broth had an excellent beef flavor and the oxtail was cooked perfectly. Next came a most interesting Duck Con fit Salad. A coarsely cut cabbage slaw and pieces of roasted duck leg both slightly marinated and served, interestingly, on a divided crisp puff pastry, something really new and delicious.
There were four of us, all either had our own helping or we split orders, which is what we did with the last two additions,"Laughing Bird Shrimp"( I believe from Argentina) which Guy dragged lightly through corn starch and flashed fried in a wok with an extremely light seasoning and one full order of roasted Bar-B-Qued pork on a bed of bean sprouts and mushrooms.
Ed, can you blame us from going often.

Topping off this ethnic week was lunch at "Oakley Pub and Grill" 3924 Isabella Ave 45209 (513) 531-2500 where I almost always eat the grilled Grouper sandwich with the crispy cold slaw. The Grouper which is one of the better around town comes on marbled rye. I have tried to buy the rye in stores but have just recently learned that it only sold to restaurants, Oakley, here I come with wallet in hand.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Interesting Week

I usually don't comment on private dinners but last Saturday night, our friend and trainor, Pat Gaito, fixed an outstanding Italian dinner, for eight.
He started with a cold Antipasto, meats, cheeses, olives, roasted peppers and a fairly spice mix. That was followed by a large bowl of steamed shell fish( shrimp, mussels, clams) all cooked in a broth with white wine and a dish he claims to have invented, Chicken Scappilla( slices of grilled chicken breast, spicy Italian sausage, red and yellow belle pepper slices plus mushrooms and onions also sliced and cooked in a very tasty, fairly thick, herb seasoned, broth). All this was accompanied by large baskets of fresh Italian bread and several bottle of excellent wine. Come to your own conclusions.

Monday night was good, but not outstanding, shared Italian food at "Maggiano's" in Kenwood Mall. A well run large Italian chain dinning establishment which is always pleasant and offers good standard fair and attentive service, Monday was no exception.
Four of us divided two orders of Capellini, made to order, with artichokes, mushrooms and sun dried tomato's all tossed in light Olive oil and garlic sauce. We also split a large chopped salad which came, unfortunately, with it usual toppings( avocado, onions, prosciutto and cherry tomato's) but this time not in abundance. We should have sent the salad back for the more usual treatment. Drinks before, our usual, and coffee after brought the charge to $34.74 for the two of us.

Thursday was a fine visit at "Otto's" 521 Main in Covington and I feel that reporting in depth is "gilding the lilly" as we go there enough that any regular reader knows "the drill". Marilyn and I each had the "Wedge of Iceberg"( covered with blue cheese crumbles and bacon bits) while for our main courses I had Salmon and she Tilapia. My Salmon, rubbed with sauce, was roasted and came on a bed of sweet potato fries all topped with fresh asparagus spears. The tilapia, which was sauteed in lemon butter and capers, came with fingerling potato's and asparagus. We completed the meal by sharing, with the other couple, an order of warm apricot bread pudding covered with vanilla sauce. A very fine full dinner, as usual, at one of our "homes away from home".

The last spot, this week, was Friday at "Maribelle's Tavern" 2062 Riverside Dr. Cincinnati 45202 (513)861-2484. We have been there several time and have seen an evaluation from a bar and "hamburger joint" to a more diverse and slightly upscale dining spot. The "Bombay" is good and reasonable as is Marilyn's, large, cranberry juice and soda. I started with a half order( plenty large) of the Goat Cheese salad; mixed greens, sweet potato slices, goat cheese, nuts and cranberries, followed by lamb sliders and an order of Brussels Sprouts( small sprouts sauteed in brown butter). Marilyn had a large portion of Duck roasted nicely and covered with a light citrus sauce. The duck came with eggplant slices and cornbread dressing, with berries, as a foundation for the dish. We also had a good taste of their jalapenos grits. A fun evening with good friends and good interesting food, in a spot where in the past you could walk in but you now better have a reservation, especially on the weekend.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Raving Fans"

I am currently reading, "Raving Fans" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The book is a general approach to Customer Service on a broader level than my restaurant hospitality bible, "Setting the Table" by Danny Meyer. It is a worthwhile read for anyone in any business.

I have been a "Raving Fan" of "La Poste" 3410 Teleford (Clifton) 513-281-3663 since it opened several months ago. This week my experience dropped me from that category to just a fan. No one can expected everything at every meal be up to their imagined expectation and so it is not surprising that my meal left me slightly disappointed with my choices and the results from the kitchen. "La Poste" was reviewed in the current issue of "Cincinnati Magazine" with a full color picture of the wild mushroom Flat bread topped by a beautiful fried egg.
I ordered this as a starter and to my surprise received the flat bread in quarters( no problem) with a mound of watercress nestling a coddled egg, hardly done. The flat bread and mushrooms were quite tasty but the egg added nothing to the enjoyment of the dish.
Next I chose a new menu item "Veal Shot Ribs" which unfortunately, that evening, were quite stringy and chewy. They came with a couple of pieces of underdone sweetbreads, in a delightful sauce on a bed of soft polenta and all was topped with caramelized onions. The flavors were terrific but the meat detracted.
For dessert we shared the white chocolate, sour cherry, bread pudding smothered in Carmel sauce and including a scoop of vanilla ice cream, deliciously deadly.

The other venture this week was to "The Wine Guy Wine Shop, Wine Bar and Bistro", (a mouth full) in Rookwood Pavilion, 2692 Madison Road 513-834-571. This was a new spot for us. It is not our "cup of tea" or glass of wine.
"The Wine Guy" has taken over the space previously occupied by "Smith and Hawkins". The space is fairly large and has been divided into, wine bar and retail wine shop, and restaurant and kitchen. Decorations are pleasant, mostly wine rack and bottles, however the cement floor, heavy chairs and large tables make managing less than easy for us ancients. It is defiantly a "young persons spot". The noise level is on the high side, and if I go again, doubtful, I may take a tablet to communicate with the server and our dinner companions. I was medically restricted from alcohol( only 24 hours) and so I had no wine. Marilyn, as reported previously, does not drink alcoholic beverages. The couple we were with each had several glasses which they reported a standard while the tables around us had 4 glass "flights" which are the trademark of the place.
Our Italian Wedding soup came luke warm, always a deterrant, and was nothing special. My Seafood Carbonara had sufficient shrimp, mussels and clams along with bacon, ham, peas, mushrooms and spinach all mixed in bow tie pasta with a creamy egg and cheese sauce. The dish was quite salty but the portion was large enough to satisfy both that evening and at lunch the next day. My main course was the most expensive pasta on the menu that evening at $19.99.
It was an interesting new experience but it is doubtful that we will return of our own volition.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year

I have been tardy in bringing my postings up to date and I will not list all the excuses. Yes, we did "Eat Out" over the holidays, but not quite as much as usual, since there were other activities and of course family events.

No place new was added, in the almost two weeks since I have written, but we did have some very good meals and several "old stand bys" did them self proud.
Maybe the most enjoyable was our dinner, with family, at "The Precinct", our neighborhood steak house, less than 5 minutes away at 311 Delta Ave. 513-321-5454.
Marilyn and I usually split a steak but that evening we decided to divide a Veal Chop and that was a great choice. It came perfectly prepared(medium rare +) and divided beautifully. The meat had been grilled and was presented in a bath of natural gravy with some finally diced mushrooms and possibly a splash of wine.. Our usual accompaniment, a house baked potato, also divided, seemed even better than ever. They seem to have a special knack of finding and baking sweet, firm potato's with a delicious crusty skin, never mealy inside. Perfect accompaniment for whatever meat one orders. We each order our own salad. I usually choose the "Greek" and we again divide some onion straws. That evening everything was outstanding.

Several visits to "J Alexander's Restaurant"( Rookwood Plaza) 2629 Edmondson Road (513) 531-7495 once again confirmed that a well run chain restaurant can provide a pleasant dining experience. One night Marilyn and I each had the "prime roast beef sandwich", a generous 8 oz, or more, cut of nicely roasted prime roast beef, served as ordered. Ours were both medium rare. I requested horse radish and received both the grated and the sour cream mixed, on the side. The beef comes with shoe string French fries but substitutions are willingly made. One of us stuck with the FF while the other had steamed broccoli, these we of course divided. Service always seems attentive and accommodating.
The other visit I went with the "soup and salad" and demolished a decent sized bowl of Chicken Pasta Soup( light on the chicken and heavy on the tasty, but thick, soup) plus a full helping of crisp Cesar salad. The meal was not as memorable as the "prime rib" but decent, none the less.

Other regular visits included "Senate" 1212 Vine St. (over the Rhine) 513-421-2020. My creamy tomato soup was certainly "creamy" but did have some tomato flavor while my "Mcbelly" Sandwich was a terrific combination of chopped roasted pork, cole slaw and bar-b-Que sauce, topped by FF onion rings, on a wonderful Gimmenetti bun. A filling and a delicious lunch, at a fun "in" spot.
"Sky Galley" at Lunken Airport, again in our neighborhood, is always easy to get in and serves decent food, usually from pleasant servers. The other night was no exception. I often have fried chicken livers with bacon and onions, very bad for me but prepared as well as any in the area and beyond. That night the rest of my meal was fairly healthy as I had two "sides", steamed broccoli and apple sauce. I tried in a small way to make up for the fat and cholesterol in the main course. Remorse!
We're headed for a new spot tonight and so when I next rouse myself I'll at least report on something different.