January, 2013

now browsing by month

 

Keke’s Breakfast Cafe Hunter’s Creek

Portabella Omelet

Keke’s Breakfast Café is located on Town Center Boulevard near John Young Parkway.  This is a local chain that have 5 locations in the area.  I have been to 2 other locations and had thought this location would be of the same caliber.  In the Hunter’s Creek area, there aren’t too many breakfast places aside from the typical IHOP/Perkins/Cracker Barrel restaurants.  I normally am not the biggest fan of breakfast but anyone who knows me, knows I love food.

 

It’s Saturday morning and boy, is it packed!  Luckily, it didn’t take long to get seated.  My server introduced himself and then proceeded to tell my friend and I that it’s his first day on his own.  Well, that’s not good since it’s quite busy.  I look over the menu and if memory serves me right, the Florida Waffle is quite delicious.  However true that may be, I’d rather have eggs this time.  I ordered the “Eggs Portabella”.  What came out wasn’t the “Eggs Portabella” instead, I got the “Portabella Omelet.”  I’m 100% certain I said “Eggs Portbella” but I decided to keep my dish, perhaps this will be good.

Portabella Omelet

 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really pleased with my dish at all.  Flavor-wise, the omelet was fine but the egg itself was overcooked.  The home fries tasted like they were parboiled then slightly fried.  It was greasy and bland, some pieces burnt.  You ever try another bite of something, perhaps thinking it’ll taste better?  Yeah, totally didn’t work.  I looked around at other guests, the home fries looked the same too.  Dull and blah.  The rye bread should be fine at least, right?  They buttered that bread till it was soggy.  I tried some of my friend’s “Banana, Nut and Caramel Waffle.”  It was fine, nothing spectacular but a little better than my meal.  I felt like the server was trying to avoid checking on us.  Or perhaps he was just really busy.  All I know is that he was constantly going and avoiding eye contact.  I had to flag him down to get a different side item instead of these home fries.  What can’t really be messed up?  A cup of fruit.  My fruit cup consisted of sliced bananas, strawberries, 2 orange slices, blueberries and grapes.

 

 

I did not leave here satisfied.  The menu items are overpriced and not worth it.  I’ll stick to Cracker Barrel for this side of town.

 

 

Keke's Breakfast Café on Urbanspoon

Frank & Steins revisited

Frank and Steins

Frank and Steins seems to be more enjoyable every time I come here.  I can honestly say that the first time I came here, I didn’t think much of it.  Service was average to poor and the food took awhile.  Well, it’s Friday night and I think I’m going to see what’s going on Downtown.  Might as well grab a bite to get my night started!  It’s pretty crowded, as expected but I found a spot at the bar.  I’m not a big beer drinker so I get a cider.  Don’t you beer snobs give me any grief!  I selected the Crispin Cider, quite tasty.

 

Time for a different dog.  You know, it’d be pretty fun if they had a hot dog punch card.  Like one of those ‘wall of beer” cards?  Yeah, I would totally take the challenge.  Not in one sitting of course, that’d be a horrible morning.  Moving on…  The menu never changes here but there are plenty of options and you can always customize your dog.  I selected the OFD.  It’s got a “Spicy polish Vienna dog with chili, nacho cheese, fresh jalapenos, and crispy fried onions.”  I’m sold!  Spicy chili cheese dog?  YES!  Might as well get some Jalapeno kettle cooked chips to round out my spicy experience.

THE OFD

Warning, this is a messy dog but you’ll surely enjoy it.  Great flavor, honestly I wouldn’t add anything else to it.  I guess I might have to make it a personal challenge to myself to try all the Signature Franks.

 

 

Bella Donnas Gainesville

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Bella Donna’s Italian Eatery on University Ave looks mediocre on the outside but I was surprised once I saw the menu inside.  If you’re a vegetarian,  there are toppings you don’t usually see in a typical pizza place such as eggplant and broccoli.  For the veggie lovers and the meat lovers, you’ll definitely find something to eat here.  They do sell pizza-by-the-slice for $1.75.  Seriously!?  For pizza that cheap, can it actually be good?  Well, for the price and the size, I’m quite content.

I had the Buffalo chicken pizza.   It was a hand tossed white pizza with hot sauce,  chopped breaded chicken pieces and some Bleu cheese.  The pizza crust was a bit on the hard side.  The pizza itself was a bit on the greasy side, but that is to be expected.

The staff was friendly and the food was quick.  It is minimalistic in here but that’s expected since it’s not some fine dining establishment.  This is a place to come if you’re on a budget (such as a college student, perhaps?).

I’d recommend this place.

 

image

Bella Donna's Italian Eatery on Urbanspoon

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Hawkers Exterior

Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a restaurant located on Mills Ave.  It’s in the Mills 50 district area, where Asian restaurants are abundant.  It is known for its low prices and tapas-style dishes.   I had been here once before but it’s been close to 2 years.  My first experience wasn’t amazing but I don’t recall it being horrible either.  I remember when this location used to be Chinatown Restaurant but I never had the food there, so I can’t comment on that.  On the exterior, the place is well maintained and has an obvious Asian influence.  Parking is limited and I ended up parking on the street instead.  Upon entering, there is a bar on the left and restrooms to the right.  Hawkers serves beer, wine and sake.  I was actually surprised by their beer selection for an “Asian” restaurant but ultimately, I selected a Malbec wine instead.  It was packed this evening, granted it is the weekend.

Hawkers Exterior

 

All the tables had Chinese newspapers as the underlying decor.  Very nostalgic for me, since it reminded me of when my family would cook anything with bones we’d have the newspapers on the table.  (It made for easy clean up afterwards.)  Definitely trendy appeal up in this place.  My server was Megan, very friendly, prompt and courteous.  She explained the menu well since there were some first-timers in the group.  I usually have a very good memory when it comes to food, but I could honestly not remember what I ordered my last visit.  I do recall purchasing two items, one definitely had noodles in it.  That didn’t help me much, since quite a bit of the dishes had noodles.  So my friends and I start to pick out some items.  The laundry list of food we ordered were the Basil Fried Rice, Siu Yoke, Pot Stickers, Hawkers’ Delight, Roast Duck, Char Kway Teo, Korean Bulgogi Beef Skewers, Five Spice Fish Tacos, Roti Canai, and the Mango Sticky Rice.

 

Basil Fried Rice

I absolutely love basil.  Well aside from fried basil.  But basil used in Asian dishes?  I absolutely love it.  So, naturally the Basil Fried Rice appealed to me.  The menu also lists Kim Chi Fried Rice, Chow Faan (which is literally fried rice), Yangzhou Chow Faan.  Overall the flavor was fine.  My friends said they thought the rice was too greasy.  I probably wouldn’t use the word greasy, but it was more “damp” than how I would like my fried rice to be.  Also, the flavor of the basil was not as prevalent.  Overall, it was a good portion size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siu Yoke

One of the things Hawkers does, is that they bring out food as soon as it’s done.  That’s a nice thing since you know the food you’ll be getting is hot.  Then it’s kind of fun, playing a game of ‘what are we getting next?’.  Next up, we have the Siu Yoke.  An equivalent Filipino version would be lechon.  I love me some roasted pork!  There’s just something about that pork skin, crispy, flavorful, mmmm.  (I love pork rinds, so it’s not that much of a stretch as to why I love the pork skin on Siu Yoke).  The roasted pork was served with hoisin sauce.  The pork was tender but very salty.  I don’t mind salt at all, but this was just salty.  Also, the hoisin sauce didn’t look right.  The sauce tasted fine but it looked like it had been warmed up.  The consistency was a bit off from the standard. The scallions on top were unnecessary.  At the same time, the Pot Stickers were brought out.  If you haven’t had Pot Stickers before, it’s essentially a dumpling with contents inside, in this case, it was chicken.  You can either have it steamed or pan-fried.  We elected for pan-fried because everything tastes better fried!  Am I right, or am I right?!  The Pot Sticker were decent although the sauce accompanying it, was very watery and lacked flavor.  What’s the point of having a sauce if it doesn’t add anything?  Just saying.

 

 

 

Hawkers' DelightOne of my friend’s insisted on having a vegetable dish.  FINE!  Some people can be so pushy.  (I’m merely kidding.  I’m super easy going when it comes to my food.  Just don’t touch my bacon!)  He selected the Hawkers’ Delight, which consisted of carrots, straw mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, tofu, and broccoli.  That’s a good bit of stuff and the flavor was good.  Not bad I say, not bad at all.  Unfortunately my next few dishes weren’t that spectacular.  One of the food “razzies” would have to go to the “Roast Duck”.  And yes, I’m air-quoting this “Roast Duck”.  I was quite displeased with this duck.  It was bland, the duck fat definitely wasn’t rendered properly.  This was a lame duck for sure.  Do yourself a HUGE favor.  Don’t bother ordering the duck and if you’re insistent on eating some duck, go to Tasty Wok.  It’s within walking distance (I suppose for some, that could be debatable.)  I was just flabbergasted.  I grew up eating duck, I even love eating the meat from the duck’s neck.  Strange, I know but you have to realize I’m Chinese.  The menu item says this duck is roasted to perfection.  pffftt!  Even the sauce accompanying it, was subpar.  It was a golden color liquid, not much flavor either.  At this point, I think they need some kind of saucier.  Yes, it’s a bit dramatic of me but why have a sauce if it doesn’t add anything to the dish?

 

 

Usually, I’m so engrained to take pictures of my food but the next few menu items, I didn’t even bother.  I had the Fish Tacos, which was alright.  It was deep fried fish (go figure), soft shell tortillas.  It wasn’t that much of a east-meets-west concept for me.  At least this dish wasn’t bad, but I probably wouldn’t continue to order it.  They really could have added more seasoning to it.  As I’m eating, I’m looking around and there are a lot of guests in the restaurant.  Most of which are not Asian. I’m not trying to insinuate anything BUT…. I just didn’t see many other Asian folks in this place.  HMMM…Next up, we have the Korean Bulgogi Beef Skewers.  The flavor of the skewers were okay although the meat itself was a bit of the charred side.  Extra flavor, I suppose?  Some portions of the meat were a bit tough.  I have made chicken bulgogi many times at home and I definitely let my meat marinate.  The beef here could have been marinated more.  On the end of the plate, there were a side of kim chi.  Sometimes, I’ve wondered if kim chi could go bad.  And folks, my answer to you is yes.  I can without a doubt say I’ve tasted bad kim chi.  This kim chi was just overtly sour, not spicy and just awful.  Worst. Kim. Chi. Ever.  EVER!  I am a big fan of kim chi, from its flavor to its nutritional benefits.  I even buy the big jar of kim chi from Woo Sung.  This kim chi was dismal.  Avoid at all costs.  One of my friends and I both stated we’re glad we didn’t get the Kim Chi Fried Rice.  Sour fried rice just doesn’t appeal to me.  I need something to get my mind of this horrible kim chi.  The Char Kway Teo is within reach and ready to be consumed.  I don’t recall ever having tried this noodle dish before but if the description states it’s “Malaysia’s most popular street fare” then theoretically, it should be good.  Theoretically is the key word.  Flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken… What’s not to like?  Oh yeah, the lack of flavor.  I’m glad the proteins weren’t overcooked but the overall flavor of the dish wasn’t that great.  I was half tempted to ask for some fish sauce and some sriracha.  Half of the dishes we ordered were “signature dishes” but I think they need to reevaluate some things.  My belly is getting full and it’s not from good food.  One last ‘small plates’ item to go.  The Roti Canai.  It’s a Malaysian flatbread served with a curry sauce.  Oh God, another “sauce”.  I hope this one actually delivers.  And guess what?  *pauses*  Something that has some flavor!!  FINALLY!  It only took towards the end of the meal.  Holy cannoli, we’re getting somewhere.  The flatbread is very reminiscent of a chapati (an Indian flatbread).  Warm, flaky, crisp flatbread dipped in a spicy, curry sauce.  The consistency was there, the flavor was there, the color was there.  I could recommend this although for $3 for one flatbread is overpriced in my book.  If you have others that want more flatbread then it’s an additional $1.50.

Mango Sticky Rice

At this point, most of the dishes didn’t deliver but I still don’t want to give up hope.  The Sitcky Rice with Mango sounds good.  Purple rice simmered in coconut milk, with mango pieces and mango ice cream.  Sounds really good, doesn’t it?  I do love me some mango.  Well, they get points for presentation.  Purple rice, how pretty!  Now for the actual taste of it.  Well, I could taste the coconut milk in the rice although the rice was very stiff.  I found the black grains of rice very distracting to chew through.  The mango pieces on top of the rice was tasty but the mango ice cream didn’t taste like mango ice cream.  It was more like mango sorbet.  Why does this matter?  When you list a menu item, even the description should be accurate!  If the dessert actually had mango ice cream, it would have worked better.  The creaminess would have gone well with the rice.  Between 4 people, only 1/3 of this dessert was consumed.  Shows how much we cared for it.

 

 

So final thoughts on this place?  I probably won’t be coming back here anytime soon.  It’s such a shame, because I’ve read so many good things and heard so many good things.  How can it be that the whole group and I didn’t find anything we really enjoyed?  Hawkers really ought to kick up the flavor about 4 notches.  I really feel like I got a good sample of the menu and no dishes really impressed me.  Perhaps it was for good reason why I didn’t recall my last experience here.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare on Urbanspoon

Mizu Japanese Steakhouse

Mizu Interior

I finally decided to try the Japanese steakhouse close to my place.  In general, I try to be open minded and give places a fair shot but for some reason, I never thought to try Mizu Japanese Steakhouse.  I would receive coupons for this place and I’d drive past it fairly often.  The ultimate reason I finally decided to go, was because one of my friends said it was good.  Alright, let’s give it a go, I suppose.

Mizu is conveniently located across the Loop, next to Best Buy.  The huge ad banner stood tall in front of the establishment.  This place sure loves to do advertisements.  I walk inside, greeted by the host.  So far, it smells good in here, everything looks clean, I think I might be pleasantly surprised.  After I get seated, I’m waiting for my server.   Waitng… and waiting..  As I wait, I look around the interior.  It’s actually much more spacious than I had realized.  I do like the interior, it’s got a nice warm feel to it.  There’s the dining area, sushi bar and the hibachi tables.  Ah!  He finally arrives, seems like a nice fellow although perhaps a bit frazzled?  The kind of frazzled where you’ve been running around and need a breather.  It’s a Friday, not going to let it bother me. Mizu Interior

 

The menu is fairly extensive, nothing really interesting strikes out, the typical fare expected at a Japanese steakhouse.  Same goes for the sushi menu.  I ended getting the Maki combo which consists of 1 California roll, 1 spicy salmon roll, 1 tuna roll.  When you order this combo, it comes with salad and Miso soup.  Or so they say.  I have had my fair share of Miso soup and I received Mushroom soup.  I’m not complaining, just stating it’s not what’s listed on the menu.  I enjoyed the soup, warm and flavorful.  Next up, was the salad.  Iceberg lettuce, 1 cherry tomato and some carrots.  The dressing was definitely mayonnaise based and it was a creamy citrus-like sweet dressing.  And yes, let’s not forget the water at the bottom of my salad.  Good thing I wasn’t really trying to eat that much salad anyways.

 

MakiCombo

 

 

Well, I’m not going to let some watery salad ruin my experience!  My maki combo comes out and what’s this orange thing?  Ah, a palm tree made from a carrot and some parsley on top.  How cute?  It’s nice to have some garnishes but this one threw me off.  Hmm…  Presentation is ok, I suppose.  Flavors were alright. Nothing to write home about, aside from my carrot tree.  Perhaps it’s just that culinary school side of me, but garnishes are suppose to have a purpose.

 

 

Hibachi Special

Since I’m a glutton, I ordered a hibachi dinner.  The chicken, steak, and shrimp.  Honestly, I’ve been to enough Japanese steakhouses that I wasn’t interested in watching the little show.  I’m all about the food!  Let me tell you, they sure don’t shortchange you on food.  Wow, my plate was filled to the max.  Unfortunately, the flavors weren’t all there.  I absolutely love shrimp but this was on the verge of being overcooked.  You know when it’s a bit too firm?  Sigh, boy do I love me some shrimp but this… was pushing it for me.  Also, the steak which I ordered medium well was just well done.  All the proteins (the chicken, shrimp, steak) was pretty much on the overdone side.  The “special white sauce” was very a little extra on the liquid side.  The vegetables were fair.  On a random note, the zucchini was peeled.

Is it bad that my favorite part of the meal were my noodles and rice?  The noodles were garlicky, my rice was seasoned well.  Needless to say, I definitely got my carbs in this evening.

 

So final thoughts on this place?  I probably won’t ever go back here UNLESS I’m just being super lazy and I don’t want to travel far.  Overall, just stick to Kobé Japanese Steakhouse.

 

Mizu Japanese Steakhouse on Urbanspoon