Friday, June 29, 2012

Mermaid's Cafe @ Kapaa

It's official. This hole in the wall is a Wrap heaven. Or a Sandwich heaven. Oh alright, it is heaven indeed! I love these teeny tiny shacks that make humble efforts to serve up vegetarian/vegan foods.

Mermaid's Café
You order at the window, sit at a table (if you are lucky to get one) on the roadside, pay by cash only, pick up your food from the window and dig through it. You are free to BYOB. They even have high chairs for kids. Service can be a little casual and laid back, but hey, you are in Kauai! Just chill.

This is the kitchen where the wraps and sandwiches materialize.

The menu is on the wall.

We got the Tofu Satay Wrap - Tofu wrapped in tortilla with rice, peanut satay sauce, ginger soy sauce, and a light crunchy salad of mungbean sprouts, green onion and cilantro with a fresh squeeze of lime.

Tofu Satay Wrap @ Mermaid's Café

Mmmmmmmmmm yum.yum.yum! I probably had an O face while eating. You know, like on Food Network when someone tastes the food and go "Ooooooooh yeah! This is soooooo good!", it looks like they are faking it, but now I know. It was foodgasm. I could taste all the ingredients distinctly.

Then came the Focaccia Sandwich - Avocado served on a freshly baked focaccia with pesto aioli, tomato, cucumber, organic greens and red onions.
Very fresh and packed with flavors! The combination of the various ingredients and the sauces is like a match made in heaven. Couldn't go wrong! Must.Try.

Focaccia Sandwich @ Mermaid's Café
Mermaids Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Caracas Arepas Bar @ New York City

Caracas Arepas Bar is a tiny, dark, cozy Venezuelan restaurant in East Village that probably makes the finest Arepas on Earth. How else does one explain the long line waiting to get in? With about 5 tables and a tiny bar, it certainly is a hole in the wall. It was my first rendezvous with Arepa and I am in love.

After about 40 minutes we were shown to our table. We were the only one with a 11 month old in tow. Like all New York restaurants they neither have a high chair nor a changing table. We had to fold the stroller and shove it away for lack of space. So, yes, all through the dinner we took turns having the infant on our lap while trying to enjoy the delicious Arepas. Do people with kids never eat out in NYC???

The menu is very vegetarian friendly and customizable to one's choice. They substitute baked tofu for meat in any of their Arepas. Arepa is a corn flour bun, grilled and baked. Once stuffed with the filling it looks like pita pockets. It is not quite a snack and it is not a meal either, but it somehow fills up the tummy. To quench our thirst , we got a drink each.

 For starters we got the Guasacaca and chips - Guacamole with homemade chips. The chips were very light and not a bit oily. I guess they are made from Yuca or some other root.

Guasacaca and chips @ Caracas Arepas Bar
And the Yoyos - Sweet plantain with white cheese fried in cinnamon plantain batter. The sweetness of the plaintain + the saltiness of the cheese = Yumminesss! A little warm at each bite with the cheese melting in your mouth......ummmmm this was fantastic!!

Yoyos @ Caracas Arepas Bar

For the main course, we ordered the Leek Jardinera - grilled leeks, sun-dried tomatoes, carmelized onions and guayenes cheese. The Arepa by itself was rather dry and tough. But when married with the caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes, it was kind of sweet and spicy. The cheese gave it the right amount of wetness and balanced the dryness of the Arepa. The food can be a little bland. If you like it spicy, pour in some of the yellow sauce that rests on every table. It will be much better.

Leek Jardinera @ Caracas Arepas Bar
And La del Gato - guayenes cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado slices. This was my next favorite. It was a tad dry but the flavors were excellent.

La del Gato @ Caracas Arepas Bar
The waitress was very friendly and the service was excellent. They also have a to-go joint right next door which is a wee bit more spacious, where one can eat or take it to-go.  They have branches in few other locations. If you have never had Arepas before, you must visit this place. And, if you are an Arepa lover, you definitely must visit this place.
Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Island Tacos @ Waimea

With three tables, four stools at the counter and three picnic tables out-front, this little shack in Waimea serves up Mexican food with an Island twist. More famous for their seafood tacos, this place is a treat for the vegetarians too! One can substitute tofu in any of the items on the menu and it is open on Sundays!! Yes, this was the only shack that was up and running on a Sunday in the sleepy town of Waimea. After a trip to the Canyons we had no choice but to eat here and it was a treat!

We got their Tofu Tacos that came filled with seasoned rice, shredded cabbage, cheese, salsa and a cilantro lime sauce. The taco shell was crisp and tasted more like a Chappati than a tortilla. There were two tacos in a plate and they were not very huge. The filling was a little bland, so we paid for some wasabi aioli sauce on the side. It was much better with the kick of wasabi.

It can take a while for the food to make an appearance as they are always packed. Try some of their Cinnamon chips while you wait. The waitress was friendly. Each taco plate could range from $10-$15 which is a standard for most restaurants in Kauai. If you like Island flavors, you should try this place for their unpretentious tacos!

Island Taco on Urbanspoon

Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill @ Poipu

While Josselin's Tapas may be a paradise for seafood lovers, it is a complete rip off for vegetarians. It is a $$$ restaurant owned by an award winning chef who has a modern take on food, offers tiny tapas plates where the focus is on presentation. This restaurant came suggested by another couple we met on the trip as an awesome restaurant in Poipu. Dinner plans materialized instantly.

At 6pm the restaurant was almost packed. They have a fairly big seating area.

Josselin's Tapas
There's an open kitchen on one side where the Chefs in white aprons plate the food. The fine dining ambiance with dimly lit interiors and the cost of each plate that's not proportionate to the portions make it suitable for special occasions when you don't have a roaring appetite.

The Sangria lady rolled her cart to our table to lure us into buying some atrociously priced Sangria.

Tropical Sangrias were too tempting to resist. So a mango Sangria without ice was ordered. And the lady made sure to fill no more than half the glass with the said drink.

The food! Our choices were limited to the "Tapas Inspired from local farmers" section. The waitress brought over some bread and Olive oil vinaigrette combo.

Bread and olive oil
We ordered the Steamed and Seared Spinach Portobello “Pucks” / Spicy Garlic Sauce. Very similar to Tibetian Momos, these steamed and pan seared dumplings were the most filling of the lot. The spicy garlic sauce complemented the dumplings really well.

Then came the Organic Beet Ravioli / Pumpkin Seed Pesto / Orange Mint Vinaigrette. The description was so misleading. We imagined Ravioli stuffled with beet in a pesto sauce. When we got the plate, we rooted around for the Ravioli and then realized the beet itself was folded like a Ravioli. A few slices of oranges were added just to fill up the plate. This was the greatest disappointment of all.

The Avocado Sampler / Roasted / Tempura / Avocado Mousse / Panna Cotta / Peanut Butter came next. Avocado in three forms
-- Avocado tempura with a little soy sauce on the plate and orange
-- Piped Avocado mousse topped with peanut butter, flower petals on top a buttermilk sesame panna cotta
-- Tomato bruschetta roasted avocado topped with garlic flakes and foam.

Avocado in various forms was interesting and tasty. The portions were as big as the samples at Whole Foods. I understand Tapas is bite sized food. For the hefty price, I expect more flavors, exciting ingredients, more vegetarian options. better service, knowledgeable waitresses and above all a better dining experience. I won't go back here again. Certainly not for vegetarians!
Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill (Kukui'Ula Vlg Mall) on Urbanspoon

Postcards Cafe @ Hanalei

Picture a quaint little cottage complete with candle lit tables, table linens, out door seating, a busy kitchen and a long line waiting and you have it! Postcards Cafe is a charming, picture-perfect, cozy restaurant in Hanalei in the north shore of Kauai. They have some outdoor seating too.

Postcards Café @  Hanalei 

This restaurant is sought after by one and all visiting or staying in the northshore and can get really crowded. They are open only for dinner and that explains the long lines.We got there at ten to six and were lucky to beat the crowd.

Inside Postcards Café
The menu is not very huge, but most of the dishes have vegan and gluten free options. We ordered the Hanalei Taro Fritter- Local taro, polenta-crusted, with pineapple ginger chutney to start with.
Taro is found in abundance in Kauai. One can find Taro chips, Taro bread, Taro fritters, Taro Ice Cream and what have you! The polenta essentially made it nice and crisp on the outside and the taro itself was soft and tender inside. The pineapple ginger chutney was a fantastic dip. It married well with the fritter. The spiciness of the ginger and sweet and sourness of the pineapple...ummmm I could have some now.

Taro Fritter @ Postcards Cafe
For the main course, A and I opted for The Sombrero - Luscious enchiladas! Corn tortillas layered with vegan jack cheese, veggies, spices and mole sauce, topped with a macadamia sauce and served with pinto beans. Sombrero in my dictionary would translate to fantastico, what?

The Sombrero @ Postcards Cafe
It was an open Enchilada with all the veggies, cheese, beans and sauces pile on top of corn tortillas. The different flavors blended very well. The eggplant had absorbed all the flavors and every bite was juicy and succulent.

The dessert menu was too tempting and we ordered the Postcards’ Famous Chocolate Silk  - With a crust of graham crackers, dried cherries and crushed cashews, this chocolate (tofu) pie has no butter or eggs. It is vegan!

Like someone said, Chocolate is God's food and it will taste heavenly in any form. We dug into it and polished the plate so clean to the extent of being embarrased. Sigh! That's what Chocolate does to me. No butter, no eggs. I could eat one every day.

The waiter was very attentive and courteous. He offered to wash the toys that my little one kept dropping on the floor. We asked him for some bread with macadamia nut butter. He brought over the last batch of leftover bread after a while, apologized for the same and gave it on the house. The fresh batch of bread was in the oven, apparently. A little steeply priced. Each entree is $19 - $31. But hey, we are talking fine dining in Kauai. And they use fresh, local and organic ingredients. So, there. The taste is exceptional. Don't miss this restaurant on your trip to Kauai!

Postcards Café on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Kati Roll Company @ New York City

Kati Roll Company is the first fast food chain to bring Kati Rolls to the United States. This joint serves up different kinds of Kati Rolls and fresh hot chai.They have three locations in NYC. I went to the in Midtown Manhattan. Decor is sparse. Did I mention that it is a fast food joint? There were tables in the front as well as a few at the back and Amitabh Bachchan's movie posters adorned the walls.

Kati Roll Company @ NYC
There is an open kitchen where one orders and the guys keep whipping up rolls after rolls.

 Kati Rolls are a type of Indian street food, originally from Calcutta. An Indian flat bread is rolled up with some kind of filling and the result is a Kati Roll. The filling is what makes these wraps interesting.

We tried the Unda Aloo Roll - Spicy potato roll with a layer of beaten egg. Delicious!

Kati Roll @ Kati Roll Company
and the Achari Paneer Roll - Grilled Indian cottage cheese cubes marinated in a spicy pickle. Awesooooome! This was my favorite and I went back for them a couple of times more in a span of three days! You can even choose the type of flat bread you want - the slightly thicker paratha or the lighter roti. I prefer the paratha. Wash your palette with hot cardamom chai. It makes a complete meal.

Each roll is $5.50 or 2 for $10! Not bad, huh? Oh, anything less than $10, pay by cash only. Service is usually fast, though at peak hours one should expect a long wait.
Kati Roll Company on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Verde @ Kapaa

Verde is a family owned hole in the wall Mexican restaurant in Kapaa that is known for great food and hospitality. With a very customizable menu, it certainly is a heaven for vegetarians. If you are setting out to explore the Northshore, this will be a great lunch spot.

We got there at 11:15 am with rumbling stomachs. The hostess who I believe is the owner greeted us and showed us to our table. She brought over a basket of chips and told us to help ourselves to the many different salsas from the salsa bar.

Chips and Salsa @ Verde

Salsa bar @ Verde
A and I opted for the Bean and Cheese tostada - Layers of guacamole, local greens, pico di gallo, garlic aioli, green sauce, beans and cheese piled up high on a flat toasted tortilla. It was garnished with crispy tortilla strips! Mountain of goodness!

Bean and Cheese Tostada @ Verde
It had a whole lot of flavors - fresh, crunchy, garlicky and spicy!

We then asked for the Verde Verde Burrito - Green beans, spinach, broccoli sauteed in chipotle, guacamole, potatoes, cheese with green sauce. We asked for eggs to be added to it. The lady was more than happy to customize it and asked us how we would like the eggs to be - hard boiled, poached or scrambled? Hard boiled, it was. One of the few restaurants that can toss and play around with any combination you want! And just for this reason, it is a complete lurer! And the taste was fantastic. 

Verde Verde Burrito @ Verde

We ordered dessert to-go. Sopaipillas - A triangle shaped fried pastry that's hollow inside. You bite the corner off and drizzle honey into it. Again, a classic I have never had before.

Sopaipillas @ Verde
The food was fresh and made to order. The service was excellent. The lady made us feel at home, chit chatting and playing with my eleven month old. She even offered a side of guacamole for the little one to snack on, for free. A great casual lunch spot in Kapaa. A must-try if you haven't already!

Verde Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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