Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kauai Pasta @ Lihue

What a find! Our last dinner in Kauai was at this cozy little Italian restaurant in Lihue. They have another location in Kapaa but this was closer to where we stayed. This somewhat smallish place is usually packed for dinner. Tourists, you see? And locals as well. The dark, warm, cozy interior is typical of any gourmet Italian restaurant.The food was great and at the same time not too spendy.

For starters we got the Garlic Buttered Grilled Sweet Corn - with garlic aioli, parmesan and crushed chiles. The corn was very juicy and grilled to perfection. The flavor was out of this world. It was quite filling too.

Grilled Corn @ Kauai Pasta
We got a side of the Kalani Farm Field Greens - Kauai fresh farm tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and balsamic vinaigrette. Fresh, nutty and crunchy!

Salad Greens @ Kauai Pasta
Pesto Pasta was called for. Fettucini tossed in Kauai basil & Italian parsley,  blended with macadamia nut, Parmesan and Olive oil. I twirled my fork through the pasta, took a bite and instantly knew I was in an authentic Italian restaurant where they take food seriously.
Pesto Pasta @ Kauai Pasta
Most of the pastas can be made vegetarian. The waiter was friendly and catered to our needs promptly. He offered to split the pasta for us into two plates and the picture above is just one of the plates. That shows the portions are big!

On the whole, Kauai Pasta is a great little authentic Italian restaurant on the Island. It is a must-try if you are craving Italian!
Kauai Pasta on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Duke's Canoe Club @ Lihue

We are a big fan of Duke's here at Alki Beach and love the Duke's at Waikiki and were thrilled to have a Duke's right where we stayed, at Mariott Beach Club in Lihue. It was our regular hangout for a late night drink while strolling the beach in the wee hours.
Why this place was perfect? Well, for one, it was on the beach. Second, it was on the beach. Third, it was on the beach! You could listen to the waves, go in bare foot, sit outdoors and just have a ball! There were big screen TVs for the TV junkies. The waitresses were friendly and very attentive and it's always packed. Heck, everyone wants to hang out at Duke's.

We had lunch on one day. The Grilled portabello mushroom sandwich. - ciabatta bun with pesto-goat cheese, grilled tomato and roasted red balsamic red onion

And the waitress offered to make a veggie version of the Grilled Turkey, Bacon and Avocado Sandwich with Avocado, green sprouts, tomato, Swiss Cheese, Watercress, honey mustard sauce on a multigrain bread. Both came with crispy waffle fries.

They never go wrong with their creations. The friendly service and the laid back atmosphere along with scrumptious food makes one want to eat here again and again!

Duke's Kauai on Urbanspoon

New York Street Food Scene

Aloo Puri Cart @ 39th st & Avenue of the Americas

An Indian family travels all the way from NJ everyday and sets up this cart at 39th st & Avenue of the Americas. They are open Mon - Fri 9am to 5 pm. They serve indian veg and non-veg platters for $6 /$7. My favorite is their Aloo Puri. The lady rolls out the puri stuffed with daal and fries it upon order. It comes with a side of two subzis (veggies) - aloo (potato) gravy and channa (garbanzo beans) masala and a lahsun (garlic) chutney. At 2 for $3 or 4 for $5, it is dirt cheap! The puris are fresh, hot, fluffy and delicious. The gravies were okay, could be better. The chutney was fantastic and was more than enough to eat with!

Somewhere near the ferry terminal to Staten Island we came across this Falafel Biryani cart! Made a perfect spicy lunch on the go!

And a mobile Frozen Yogurt truck! Only in NYC you get to see all you that wish existed, I tell you.

In Little Italy there was this Cannoli cart that had a wide variety of fillings in the holy cannolis! We tried the Pistachio. Yummy!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Traveler's Thali House @ Seattle

Sometimes it's Bastoncini Noisette.....other times it is a nice big Thali laden with ramekins containing various colorful, delectable dishes to feel all's well with the world. Thali is very popular in the Indian subcontinent and the contents vary from region to region. The most popular is the unlimited Rajasthani Thali at Rajadhani.

When words reached my ears about this Vegetarian Thali place atop Beacon Hill, a trip to the south side of the town was mandatory. We trekked up the hill to the purple house that houses the restaurant only to see it closed. It's noon, isn't it? Darn! The wait staff was courteous in letting us in while the kitchen was still being set up. The floor had food strewn hither tither. The table was worthy of a wipe. The high chair was dirty. Obviously, they had just opened and were yet to clean the place. I wanted to make an about turn and head out. The wait staff was cool about the mess and cleared it all as though it was a no biggie.

Okay, to the food.

We ordered a Deluxe Thali ($20). They have Thalis in different sizes. The contents are a pre-fixe, though. The Thali menu changes once a month. With the Deluxe comes a Soda / Chai. A ordered Soda. Water was all I wanted, but again, the waiter brought me a complimentary Chai to cheer me up. May be he knew I was a little grumpy with the messy surroundings.

While we waited for the food, we looked around. It was a bright day and they were laying tables out on the lawn. One side of the cafe was for selling tea bags, basmati rice, incense sticks, cook books et al. Somehow, the place screamed Dalai Lama. All I needed was my yoga mat and a "Om Om" music in the background to get me started with my meditation. We decided to pacify the rumbling stomach with a plate of Samosa. Served with a mint chutney and a sweet chutney, they were uber delicious.

The Thali catwalked to the table at about the same time. With it came papad and roti / naan.

While the contents of the Thali were fantastic, the roti / naan wasn't very fresh. For one, they are not made in house. They are frozen and heated up upon order. So, it kinda lacks the fresh Tandoor taste. The aloo gobi, malai kofta and daal were out of this world. Very homey food. The kind that will never bother your stomach how much ever you eat! Here's a picture of the menu that describes the Thali -

Then came the dessert - Saffron Kheer and a couple of milk sweets.

Oh, did I mention that it is an all vegetarian place? If you are in the area, this is a must - try! Just for the amazing Thali!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine in Seattle

Harissa is a warm, vegetarian friendly, inviting restaurant in a small neighborhood, serving Lebanese food at its best. With excellent service and amazing food, this is a show stopper! There is a nice little bar as you enter and a quaint dining space with table linens, potted plants, et al.

It happened to be a bright and sunny day and we were escorted by the man in black to the beautiful patio. The clear blue skies above us, the wooden decor of the patio and the Arabic music playing in the background transported us to the Mediterranean land.

Walid brought us menus and water. Not a huge menu, but they have interesting options like Stews, and Lebanese Tomato Salsa .We asked for Walid's Combination plate - A generous portion of the four most delicious appetizers of Harissa; Hummus, Eggplant Salad, Labneh and Walid’s Tomato Salad.

Walid's Combination Plate
The Eggplant Salad was off the charts. It was more chunkier than Baba Ganouj and paired well with the rustic pita bread. The pita bread was soft at the right places and crisp at the edges, very similar to the tandoori naan.The hummus was a little grainy as opposed to the creamy ones I have had at other restaurants. Lots of garlic in everything. The labneh was so creamy that my eleven month old smacked her lips and asked for more! I mean, who can resist herbed cream cheese? Walid's tomato salad was like a Lebanese Salsa with crunchy walnuts. The plate was polished off in no time. The pita was a little inadequate, though. For the price, it would be nice to have the pitas coming. Just because they were so nice.

Next was the Spanakopita - Oven baked fillo dough stuffed with fresh spinach, chopped onions and feta cheese served with tzatziki sauce.

Spanakopita @ Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine

It came with a very flavorful Lebanese Pilaf and Fatoush (Lebanese Salad) on the side. The entire plate was topped with garlic sauce. I must make a note to ask for more garlic sauce on the side the next time. It was fantastic. The salad was fresh, the rice was flavorful, tzatziki sauce was cool and refreshing and the spanakopita was out of this world. I wish they had a buffet lunch on weekends; I could then devour endless Spanakopitas.

It is a little pricey but the food justifies the cost.We were so stuffed we couldn't order desserts We are so going back to try their Stews. And the Spanakopita! I highly recommend this place to other Mediterranean food lovers like me. And hey, this place is very kid friendly. So is Walid :)

Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lombardi's Pizza @ New York City

One cannot go to NYC and not eat the famous NY style Pizza at the hundred year old America's First Pizzeria. No kidding, Lombardi's was established in 1905 and is the First Pizzeria in the whole freaking country! It has been the best Pizzeria in the US for more than hundred years now!

The restaurant looked small from outside, but when we ventured in it was quite roomy. There were two floors and we were escorted to the basement floor. Of course we had to wait for half hour before we were seated. Long, long lines. The tables were packed so close to one another like blueberries in a plastic carton. Naturally, no high chair here either. We were used to it by now. Baby on lap was the only way to eat at this ancient Pizzeria. But that didn't stop us.

They only make two Pizzas. The White Pizza - Mozzarella, Ricotta, Romana cheese and oregano, basil, black pepper and garlic infused oil. and the Original Pizza - Fresh mozzarella, san marzano tomato sauce and topped with romano and fresh basil. One can add any number of toppings for $3.00 each. We ordered a half and half of the White Pizza and the Original Pizza.

The Pizza came out in a snap and at the same time it wasn't too hot to burn my tongue. The ingredients were fresh and flavorful in both the Pizzas. The crust was neither too thin nor too thick, the typical chewy NY style. The Original Pizza was more lighter than the White Pizza. The ricotta cheese was a little too heavy for me. While the Pizza was great, it was not outstanding. I mean, we could get this in other cities too. But of course, this is the first Pizzeria in the US. So the credit goes to them!

Lombardi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Gourmet @ New York City

Ooh la la! Hot hot hot!! On our last day in NYC we were looking for some place near our hotel for a quick lunch and thus ended up at Szechuan Gourmet. The food is as lip numbing, spicy and greasy as Szechuan food should be and we thoroughly enjoyed indulging in the above mentioned threesome.

A nice casual lunch spot in Midtown Manhanttan, that's always bustling with people, mostly Asians! That's a good sign, what? The waiter could speak good English and we had no trouble in communicating our vegetarian, no meat instructions. The decor is plain. Well, I was looking for a quick lunch and didn't care too much about the decor.

For starters we got the Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. Very tasty!

Steamed vegetable dumplings @ Szechuan Gourmet

Spicy spring bamboo shoots - Whoa! Watch out for this one. Very spicy. Very very spicy. It is eaten cold like a salad. The seasame oil, ginger, soy sauce and other spices impart such great flavor.

The Dan Dan noodle was not listed on the menu. But all the reviewers on yelp recommended trying it. We asked the waiter if they have Dan Dan Noodle and he said "Of course and it is vegetarian!" A bowl of hot steaming noodles in a spicy broth was brought over right away! I could have one bowl now.

Dan Dan Noodle @ Szechuan Gourmet

For the main course we got the Veggie trio in spicy garlic sauce - String beans, asparagus and eggplant tossed in spicy garlic sauce. Ordered a rice on the side and dug into the greasy goodness.

Veggie tripo in spicy garlic sauce @ Szechuan Gourmet
Everything we ordered was fantastic and there are tons of vegetarian options to choose from. The ones with a delicate stomach are better off requesting a milder spice level. The service was quick and efficient. If you are craving Szechuan food, this is the place to go to!

Szechuan Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Buddha Bodai @ New York City

I love dim sums. Chinese equivalent of tapas, these are something I wish vegetarians could dig into and enjoy as much as the meat eaters. But alas, finding veggie dim sums is such a challenge. Or, so I thought until I visited NYC. In NYC's Chinatown one can find quite a few veggie dumplings and dim sums places. The challenge here is in picking the right place especially when you don't have the time to try them all. We picked Buddha Bodai based on the yelp reviews. And I must say I am so glad we did!

Located in Chinatown, this restaurant is usually bustling with vegetarians and vegans, majority of the crowd being Asians. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many Asian vegetarians / vegans! The décor is very plain. Nothing noteworthy. Lots of tables and Asian waiters and waitresses. Big families out on a Saturday morning for a brunch of dim sums and dumplings! high chairs. Be prepared to have your little one on your lap all the while you eat! Or take a stroller, like I did.

The waitress gave us a big sheet of paper that listed all the dim sums and we were supposed to check the ones we wanted and hand it back to her. So many options but not so big a tummy. Everything looked exotic. The decision was made and the sheet was handed over. She brought over some tea. And then the tiny plates catwalked to our table one after the other.

The first to arrive was the Sweet Malay Roll. I wish I could describe this accurately. Okay, I shall try. It was more like a sweet bread lathered with jam and rolled. It was not too sweet, yet very delicious.

Sweet Malay Roll @ Buddha Bodai
Pan fried turnip cake - Well, the name says it all. It came with some soy sauce and a hot sauce. Delicious!

Pan fried turnip cake @ Buddha Bodai
Fried Taro custard - Oh my! The outer taro shell was so so so crisp. It was a tad greasy and the custard inside was not too sweet. On the whole, this was fantastic!

Fried Taro Custard @ Buddha Bodai
Durian pastry - We saw this Asian family at the table next to us dig into these and we had to have some. We asked them what it was and called for it right away! The pastry was filled with the Durian fruit. Sweet and yummy!!

Durian Pastry @ Buddha Bodai
Pan fried dumpling - Again, the name says it all. Came with a soy sauce dip.

Pan fried dumplings @ Budhha Bodai
Bean curd roll with veg Chicken - This was the least favorite of them all as it was a little too meaty for my taste.

Fried eggplant stuffed with veg meat - The eggplant was nice and succulent. The veg meat was not too meaty. A tad greasy but definitely delicious!

With our tummies pleading us to stop hammering them with more food, we had to refrain from ordering more. The dim sums were fantastic. The service was good. The menu is so huge that one has to visit multiple times to try them all. Prices were so reasonable. And it is all vegetarian / vegan. I would definitely go back the next time I am in NYC!!
Buddha Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 13, 2012

Vatan Indian Cuisine @ New York City

After scouting the list of Indian restaurants in NYC, Vatan was chosen for their huge Gujarati thalis. And the fact that it is all vegetarian! Where we live, Gujarati food is rare. So naturally, we had to eat here. Vatan serves a three-course pre-fixe menu with two seating (at 6:15 pm and 8:00 pm) every day. Priced at $29.95, it is an unlimited meal and one has to go with a big, roaring appetite to taste and indulge in all the delicacies. Weekends require advance reservations. They are usually full. Well, someone or the other is celebrating a birthday or an anniversary, what?

Pssst......The guy at the front desk can be pretty annoying with his instructions and lectures on where to keep your stuff and where to sit, just lend a deaf ear. I have heard that if you are late, he gives  nasty lectures until he seats you. So do yourself a favor and be on time. Bah!

Once inside Vatan, you will find yourself in a little village in Western India, complete with thatched roof and faux banyan trees. The tables are set apart (yet they don't have a high chair for kids) and one has to take off their shoes before sitting on the concrete slab that acts as a chair. The lighting is dim and the waitresses are dressed in traditional Indian outfits.

As I sat cross legged on the monstrous slab, the waitress sauntered over with the menu and some colorful crispies to nibble on. The menu is mainly for information on what will be served and for ordering beverages. Your meal is pre-set.

Colorful  crispies @ Vatan
The first course - the Appetizer Platter - made its way in a huge steel plate. The chutneys and condiments came in another big platter.

Appetizer Platter @ Vatan
Clockwise from the top left hand corner - Ragada Pattice - fried potato cutlet in a dried yellow pea soup -was a small portion but very flavorful and just the way it has to be. Mini samosas - triangular savory pastry filled with potatoes and peas was meh. Muthiya - steamed flour with spinach - was yum yum yummo! I asked for three helpings of just this. Each extra helping was brought over in a teeny tiny plate, you see. Channa - garbanzo beans with onions and coriander - my least favorite. Not sure why this was even included in the Thali. Khaman - steamed gram flour cake - was nice and soft and spongy. Batata vada - fried potato balls in a chickpea flour batter -was awesome. So was the mirchi bajji - fried hot peppers with garam masala. The sev puri chaat was great too.

Other than the Samosas and the Channa, everything was delicious. I like the fact that it is unlimited. That way even if you don't like something you can eat more of what you like!
The Chutneys - the date chutney, green chutney, roasted garlic, pickled carrots and green chilli pickle. All very good indeed.

The second course then made its way.

Fresh, hot fluffy Puris - puffed whole wheat bread. Starting clockwise from the left -
Dal - boiled lentils cooked with indian spices.
Kheer - Rice pudding with saffron and dry fruits.
Chole - Chickpeas cooked in tamarind and garam masala.
Ful-gobi - Cauliflower and green peas sautéed in a savory sauce.
Batakanu sak - Potatoes cooked in a mild red gravy.
Bhaji - Sautéed spinach and corn.
Papadam - thin lentil wafers.

Aam ras (mango pulp) is listed in the menu as "available upon request". God knows why. The weird thing is that the waitress neither mentioned it nor asked if we would like some aam ras. We glanced at it on the menu by chance and when we asked her she said it was upon request as if we had to file some application for it. Bring it over, we said. It was sweet and refreshing. Very delicious. Who doesn't like mangoes? Be sure to ask for it. Puri is eaten with Aam ras in the western parts of India. It sure is a treat! And yes, it is part of the meal and you don't have to pay extra.

The entrée complements came in another big platter

Kadhi - Soup with yogurt and chickpea flour in authentic spices
Khichdi - Lentils mixed with rice and assorted vegetables
PulaoBoiled rice with peas.

The pulao was nothing fancy, but the kadhi and khichdi were awesome! My one year old loved the khichdi.

The grand finale to the dinner was Ice cream - homemade indian ice cream. We got the mango ice cream. Not sure, it could be seasonal. Masala chai - Indian tea cooked with cardamom, ginger and milk.

So, yes, most of the items were delicious. They may serve the extra helpings in extra small sizes, but don't let that stop you from asking for more! Food is great and unlimited. So eat and be merry!

Vatan on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tortilla Republic @ Poipu

Beach music, airy outdoor seating, earthy décor, friendly service and great happy hour sets this restaurant apart. Located in the Kukui ula shopping mall, this restaurant serves Mexican food with an Island twist and makes the best drinks in Kauai.

Comfy cane chairs awaited us as the waitress showed us to our table. Talk about beach décor. Fans, woody interiors, lots of sunshine, cool breeze.....I could go on and on. The happy hour menu lists lots of veggie appetizers priced at $5. And the cool cocktails are $5 too. On an Island that is heavily priced this is a steal. For the décor, awesome food and lip smacking drinks I would go here again and again.

I ordered a Hydration Margarita for me

and a Tortilla Tai for A.

Both were delicious. The best we had had in Kauai.

We started with the Jalapeno Croquetas Charred Jalapenos folded with potatoes and goat cheese, fried, cilantro crème .

Delicious! Crispy on the outside, soft, gooey medley of potato and goat cheese topped with a dollop of cilantro crème, this was finger licking good!
Huarache Thin Flatbread with Oyster Mushrooms, Roasted Shallots, Baby Arugula, Jack and Manchego Cheeses.

As good as a flatbread can get. The toppings were a good mix of greens and cheese. It was quite filling and totally worth the five bucks!

Patatas Bravas Pimenton Dusted Fried Potatoes, Fresh Aioli, Rioja Sauce, Chives

A must-eat for us at any Mediterranean restaurant, this was fantastic and a big plate! Rioja sauce was a nice Spanish touch. The waitress was very friendly and attentive. If you are looking for a classy happy hour with delicious drinks and scrumptious food in a lovely, casual, beach atmosphere with great service while not ripping your pocket, this is the place to go to!
Tortilla Republic on Urbanspoon
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