Eat It, Damn It!

Reviews, raves, slams, and damns.

Monthly Archives: August 2010

Incas

I was excited to try a Peruvian restaurant. I don’t believe that I’ve ever had Peruvian cuisine, so trying something new had me all a-tingle. Little did I know I would be in for one of the more boring meals in recent memory.

Corn Nuts

The meal started off with an complementary dish of something akin to popcorn crossed with corn nuts. It came with a green sauce. I asked the waiter, “What is this called?” “Peruvian Green Sauce.” Okay, not the most exciting name. It tasted like a chipotle made with green chilies instead of red. It was to be the highlight of the meal.

Arroz on Mariscos

I got the Arroz con Mariscos (Peruvian style seafood Paella $14.00). There was shrimp, scallops, and clams mixed in with the rice and vegetables. The shrimp portion consisted of one full sized prawn (legs and all), a few jumbo shrimp (back section of shell intact), and baby shrimp. There was a jumbo clam in the shell, and plenty of bits of scallop. This should have been delightful, but it was boring, boring as all hell get loose. Bland as loose-leaf paper, even a healthy dollop of salt could not revive this dead dish.

That brings up another issue: there was no salt at the table, so I asked the waiter for some. I waited, waited, and waited. I was ready to raise a stink, but my girlfriend intervened. He seemed illuminated when she asked for the salt. “Excuse me, we asked for some salt.” “Oh, salt. Sure, one moment.” Oh salt? You didn’t understand what I asked for so you just nodded, smiled, and said “OK”? What the hell? I have been to plenty of places where there was a language barrier, but the people are usually helpful and try to figure out what you are asking for, whether though pointing, repeating, or generally muddling through for an answer. This dude just smiled and blissfully went about his way.

Bisteck a lo Pobre

My girlfriend got the Bisteck a lo Pobre (pan friend steak with french fries, plantain, and rice $13.00). The plantain was the highlight of the dish. Sweet and well cooked, it came out perfect. The rice was… rice. White rice. The french fries were undercooked and had no crispness or outer shell. The steak was a cooked piece of meat. No more. No less.

Maybe I am missing something. This place was raved about by friends. The place was filling with customers at the dinner hour. They have more than one location. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would go here twice. The dishes were fresh, but it tasted like flavor had been removed. Maybe I don’t have the most sensitive palate, but when I heard Peruvian food, I expected some bold flavors. I think I got two. Sadly, they were from the green sauce at the start of the meal.

Incas
401 Monroe Turnpike (Route 111)
Monroe, CT 06468
203-261-1200
(Google Map)

Bayou Restaurant

The Bayou is very popular with folks from Mount Vernon. Aside from the food, they also have many live acts. Some are cover bands, some are original blues, some reggae, so generally a mix of styles. One of the big draws for local acts, at least among my friends that have played the Bayou, is the fact that they feed the band.

House Salad

The entrees come with a house salad. Pretty standard stuff: romaine lettuce, tomato, red onion, and some form of honey dressing. Tasty.

Metloaf

My girlfriend got the meatloaf. It comes with a side of mashed potatoes and greens. The meatloaf is topped with what the menu called “white trash gravy”. That gravy was some form of spiced ketchup. Nothing to go crazy over, but it didn’t detract from the taste of the meat. The mashed potatoes are topped with a brown, probably beef, gravy. There are plenty of delicious lumps inside, good and fresh. I’m not sure if the greens are kale or spinach, but they are firm, tart, and really good. The meatloaf is nice, something akin to a really good meatball.

Louisiana Sampler

I got the the Louisiana Sampler. Technically, it is an appetizer, but as you can see by the size, it is a meal unto itself. It comes with a mug of gumbo (mug? Yeah, a mug), pile of jambalaya, and pair of crawfish pies. The gumbo is awesome. It has plenty of crawfish and sausage, and is topped with a little yellow rice. Super. The jambalaya was also nice. I’ve had jambalaya here a number of times, and if I have any complaint, it is that this dish is rarely the same twice. Sometimes it’s more moist, sometimes there is less sausage. Of the number of times that I’ve had it, I can only recall once that I didn’t enjoy the dish. However, many times have not lived up to one spectacular occasion. The crawfish pies are flaky and tasty. Accompanying it was some sort of white sauce with a few slices of Granny Smith apple. The sauce had no real taste, and I’m not sure that the apple went with the pies. They were “Eh.”

As you can see by the photos, the lighting is pretty low. The décor is pretty causal, no need to dress up for this venue. Check their calendar if you want to hear live music, but if not, there are plenty of evenings where you can enjoy the quiet, kick back a few drinks from the bar, and mow through a hearty meal.

Bayou Restaurant
580 Gramatan Avenue
Mt Vernon, NY 10552-2118
914-668-2634
(Google Map)

Zuppardi’s

New Haven, Connecticut pizza fans fall into a few sects: Sally’s or Frank Pepe’s. There are even a few people that subscribe to the Modern camp.

The first time I tried Sally’s, it was cold, very, very cold outside. I know this because I had to wait outside for 45 minutes. By the time I got inside, I could not feel my feet. I took stock of the pizza area, with the multiple ovens, and at least eight people in the kitchen area. I then waited another 30 minutes for my pizza. When I got the pizza, it was boring. It was well made, properly charred, the right blend of ingredients, but boring. Perhaps they had an off night, but a 45 minute wait, service from an indifferent staff, and a line filled with Connecticut’s version of hipsters… no thanks.

I did not try Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, but the one in Bridgeport. Again, long wait. Again, boring pizza. Well made, proper balance of ingredients. Again, blah and boring.

Thankfully, between Bridgeport and New Haven, there is a gem. Nestled amidst residential dwellings, off the beaten path, and thankfully, if there is a line, only one that last five or ten minutes, there is Zuppardi’s.

I’ve been to Zuppardi’s a few times, and if there is any gripe to be had, it would be with their consistency. Mind you, the pizza is always very good, but sometimes, it is a little saltier than others. Sometimes, it appears that the ingredients are different (more on that later), but the pie is never boring. It is always very good, well made pizza.

On this particular occasion, I was joined by my girlfriend and a friend from out of town. As she was from Arizona, there was no point in going out for Mexican.

Sausage and Mushroom

The sausage and mushroom pie ($21.25) was near perfection. This was in stark contrast to the last time that I got sausage from the same establishment. The last time, the sausage was sliced, not the chunk, lump-style goodness that you see on this gem. While not especially loaded with fennel or spice, the flavor was sharp. The mushrooms… well… they were mushrooms. Not fresh, but not bad. They were in abundance, but not in excess.

Pepperoni

The pepperoni pie ($18.50) was well made, but I just don’t think that pepperoni works particularly well on a Zuppardi’s pie. Some might say that the pepperoni overpowers the sauce, but I think that it makes the whole experience too tart. That’s right, tart, not salty, maybe tangy, but mostly tart.

Zuppardi Upskirt

Zuppardi’s sauce is very savory, not sweet. The crust is thin, but not to the point of being a wafer. While there is no great snap or crunch to each bite, the pizza does have a proper crust and char.

If you are planning a trip to New Haven, I would definitely take a detour to West Haven to check out Zuppardi’s over some of the more hyped pizzerias of Connecticut.

Zuppardi’s Apizza
179 Union Avenue
West Haven, CT 06516
203-934-1949
(Google Map)

Marnick’s

I think my girlfriend likes Marnick’s so she can eat near the water. It’s located on the beach, complete with a patio and full bar. Maybe she just wants the occasional plain old diner. I was surprised to see their website. It displays a place far more ostentatious than reality. Marnick’s is really a diner at heart.

Omelet

My omelet was respectable: egg whites, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese ($9.45). All omelets come with choice of toast and a side of home fries, french fries, hash browns or fruit salad. Generally, after a night of drinking I would definitely opt for one of the fried potato options, but I was stone sober. The fruit salad was just a little cup, but it was fresh, not from a can complete with heavy syrup. The omelet itself was respectable, but nothing to go crazy over. Perhaps some might find it striking that the cheddar was white instead of orange, but it didn’t make much difference in the flavor department.

Grilled Chicken

I didn’t try my girlfriend’s grilled chicken sandwich ($8.95), but she gave and a nod and a sigh at first bite, so I’ll assume she was pleased. Instead of fries, platters come with potato chips. I find that a little weak, but it appears to be par for the course once you start moving North.

Onion Rings

The onion rings ($3.75) were good. They were thick and well cooked. They were not especially greasy (as far as onions rings go). I would definitely recommend them for sharing.

If you need a diner by the water, Marnick’s is a great option, but not someplace I would race to for special occasions.

Marnick’s Restaurant and Motel
10 Washington Pkwy
Stratford, CT 06615
203-377-6288
(Google Map)

Gourmet Laguna Restaurant

I love hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Let’s be clear about what that does and does not mean. It does mean a place that probably has not been reviewed in Zagat. It does not mean a place that is dirty. It does mean a place that may not get much foot traffic, as the storefront may be off the beaten path. It does not mean someplace that people avoid. It may mean a place where the clientele regularly speak a language other than English. It does not mean a place where you will not get served because you speak English.

Gourmet Laguna Restaurant is almost a hole-in-the-wall. It is located just off the main road (Central Avenue) and is a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of place. I discovered it while using back roads to escape traffic and said to myself, “Ooooh, hole-in-the-wall. Gotta try it.”

GL Storefront

In the immediate interior, there are a few tables and the counter area. The counter area also has a few steam trays with various stews and other items. However, as I walked in, I saw someone at a table eating a huge sandwich and thought to myself, “That’ll work.”

The Jungle

My girlfriend and I took a seat in the front. A gentleman I assume was the owner (he had that air) asked “Would you like to try the patio?” A patio? Where is there a patio? He ushered us through to the backyard where there was a little fenced in area with tables and umbrellas. “We call this The Jungle.” I was digging this place more and more by the minute.

Chips & Guacamole

We started off with the Chips & Guacamole ($5.95). I make guacamole often and I usually like it simple: ripe avocado, lime, and kosher salt. This guac was simple and delicious. There was some strips of raw white onion inside, but nothing to overpower the dish. The portion was very generous, plenty to share. The chips may have been made in-house as they tasted very fresh and surprisingly un-salty. The guacamole itself could have used a pinch more salt, but that was easily remedied with the handy shaker on the table.

Beef Cemita

The Steak Cemita ($7.50) made me roll my eyes and groan with my first bite. SUPER! The menu states that each sandwich comes with mayo, Oaxaca cheese, avocado, hot pepper, papalo herb (if available). Meat choices are steak, chicken, chorizo, pork and milanesa. Our waitress asked if we would like it spicy with jalapeño or chipotle. My girlfriend went with jalapeño. The bun was very similar to the bread used on the burger at Veselka in the East Village. The steak was chopped and grilled to perfection with plenty of tender, meaty flavor shining through. The Oaxaca cheese was shredded and plentiful. The portion of avocado was very generous. The jalapeño added some additional flavor, but those who fear heat should not be fearful. The mayo and cheese definitely cool the sandwich down.

Chicken Torta

The Chicken Torta ($7.95) is served on something closer to a club roll than a hamburger bun. Inside is lettuce, refried beans, mayo, tomato, onion, Oaxaca cheese, and avocado. The meat options are more varied and include ham, skirt steak, roasted pork and more. I opted for the chipotle on this dish. While I think it gave the sandwich a certain tang, my girlfriend was tearing up after a few bites. I had the option of grilled or fried chicken (I went with grilled). The meat was tasty and the portion generous. I can definitely recommend it to poultry eaters, and I was very happy with the sandwich, but the steak may be more exciting overall.

I will offer a warning to diners: Most of our dishes included slices of raw onion. If raw onion is something that gives you indigestion you should ask the server to leave it out of your meal. They were very friendly and accommodating, so I don’t imagine that you will have any problem.

The appetizer and sandwiches were a very filling meal. We were unable to try any of the deserts which included Tres Leches Cake, Homemade Flan, and Strawberries con creama. Maybe next time.

Not that I am an expert on Mexican food, but the menu and meal seemed considerably closer to Mexican than Tex-Mex. While I was full, I didn’t have the weighty lump in my stomach that comes with a Tex-Mex meal that includes cheddar, monterey jack, and sour cream. It is an excellent place for lunch or a low-key dinner. According to their menu, catering is also available.

Gourmet Laguna Restaurant
10 Cross Street
White Plain, NY 10606
914-285-1610
(Google Map)