One of the many things that I love about my neighborhood favorite, Chef Geoff's Tysons, is that the menu changes seasonally. The Fall menu that is being featured right now is pretty fantastic. Some of the standouts are:
The duck confit appetizer - a nice big piece of duck on the bone, served over spatzle in a whole grain mustard cream sauce. The meat can be a bit difficult to cut off the bone, so just pick that sucker up and gnaw on it rib style. The spatzle is perfect - light with no hint of gumminess - and the mustard sauce is nicely balanced.
The apple and butternut squash bisque - this is your classic fall soup combo, with some unique garnishes in the form of ginger crème fraiche and crispy, fried, sweet, and a little spicy lotus chips.
The duck confit pizza - with roasted pears, blue cheese, and balsamic caramelized onions. It's a great balance of sweet and salty, and they are not fooling around with the confit - there is a TON piled on there. This is definitely a two-person pizza.
The pear and gorgonzola agnolotti - with Swiss chard, in an Amaretto butter sauce, topped with amaretti (Amaretto cookie) crumbles. I am crushing on this dish in a major way - I long for it. The agnolotti are fantastic, of course, but I want to talk about the chard - drenched in that sweet butter sauce with chunks of pear and the crunch of the amaretti cookies. Oh my goodness, I have honestly never had better tasting Swiss chard. I want to develop a recipe for this sauce just so that I can use it with chard.
There a few great looking dishes that I haven't had the chance to try yet: a burger topped with barbequed short ribs, Havarti, and green tomato; a butternut squash risotto with Taleggio; a rabbit bolognese with black pepper pappardelle, fennel, and grana padano. I will update this post after I have eaten more of the Fall dishes!
And let's not forget the drink menu - CG's is always coming up with great new cocktails. The Fall standout is the Saint Rosemary Sour, combining my favorite liquors - Pisco and St. Germain - with fresh lime juice, egg white, house made citrus syrup, and rosemary tincture, and topping it off with bitters and a rosemary sprig. Absolutely fantastic.
I had a massive craving for Nostos last week, and I ended up going two days in a row for lunch.
On the first day, I got the cold appetizer platter with skordalia, Greek beans, tzatziki, taramosalata, imam baildi, and pita. This was definitely enough food for an entire meal! The skordalia (potato and garlic puree) was so garlicky it was difficult to eat, and the beans were undercooked (read crunchy), but everything else was fantastic! The tzatziki was cool and creamy and perfect, the taramosalata (whipped fish roe and lemon) was briny and creamy and fresh, and the imam baildi (eggplant with tomatoes, raisins, and pinenuts) was sweet and delicious with some salty feta cheese.
The next day, I started with the avgolemono soup - chicken soup with egg and lemon. Oh my goodness, this was so soothing and wonderful. I like my chicken soup creamy with a lot of acid (I add lime juice and coconut milk at home) and the creaminess of the egg plus the kick of lemon was just perfect.
To go with the soup, I got the dolmades avgolemono - grapeleaves stuffed with rice and ground beef and topped with an egg lemon sauce. I normally don't like dolmades, as they can be bitter and tough, but here they are tender and lovely and the avgolemono sauce is just heavenly.
To finish off, I tried the saganaki - pan fried kefalograviera cheese (a hard, salty, sheep's milk cheese) that is then flamed table side and doused with fresh lemon juice. It forms a crust on the outside that reveals melty cheesy goodness on the inside. Fried mozzarella has nothing on this! I spread it on some bread, but I think you could just eat it as is.
We were invited to preview a new restaurant in Tyson's at a soft opening. Seasons 52 is an Orlando based chain dedicated to fresh, healthy, seasonal food. Their menu changes four times a year, and all of their dishes are under 475 calories. In addition to the regular menu lactose free, low sodium, gluten free, garlic free, vegetarian, and vegan menus are available. It is also a wine bar, run by a Master Sommelier George Miliotes (one of only 152 in the world). The bar section of the restaurant is huge, taking up half of the space, and featured live music the night that we were there. The decor is dark and modern, like an upscale steakhouse. The noise from the mall makes it a bit loud, but it still manages to be a cozy spot for a date. The servers were enthusiastic about the concept and knowledgeable about the dishes - they are tested on all menu items. The hostess replaced my white napkin with a black one when she saw that I was wearing dark clothes - that is one of the gestures that I really appreciate from a restaurant.
The cocktails are made with agave nectar (which is sweeter than sugar, with a lower glycemic index, and vegan friendly). I tried the strawberry basil martini, which was jammy and fresh - not watered down - and infused with basil. The server filled my martini glass, then left the extra in the shaker at the table with me.
One of the conditions of the free preview was that we each order a different appetizer, entree, and dessert - fine by me! The flatbreads are one of their specialties, so I ordered one from the daily specials. It was thin and crispy and the toppings of spinach, goat cheese, artichoke, balsamic onions, and red pepper were nicely balanced. Jasper ordered the chile rellano, which smelled fantastic but was too spicy for me to eat. Our guest had the sesame chicken skewers which were tangy and moist. For my entree, I ordered the BBQ chicken - which was juicy and flavorful, and served with green beans, mashed potatoes, and a delicious corn salad. Jasper said he was jealous of my dish, even though he ordered one of the specials - a t-bone lamb chop with demi glace, truffled mashed potatoes, and asparagus. The lamb was tender, and the potatoes had a good amount of truffle flavor. Our guest ordered the filet, served with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and asparagus.
The desserts are called "mini indulgences" and are served in shotglasses (in keeping with the low calorie mission). The website claims that Seasons 52 originated this trend. I have tried this kind of mini dessert at other restaurants and not been impressed - in some cases I thought they were actually pretty gross. I was surprised by how good the ones at Seasons 52 were. We tried the blueberry cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter, and the cookies and cream. The after dinner coffee was of good quality, and the espresso had a nice crema on top.
All in all, I like the concept and the food was pretty good - not as good as Morton's, but better than Chile's or Olive Garden (for reference). The location would be really convenient for a dinner and movie date, and I would like to explore the wine bar more.
The other day I was on my way to lunch at Chef Geoff's, when I saw a banner across the street saying "Now Open" at what looked like a Greek restaurant. I decided to try it out and changed course.
Nostos is an upscale Greek restaurant - something that is sorely lacking in the Tyson's area. Don't get me wrong, I love my Plaka, but it is not a good place for a nice dinner and drinks - Nostos definitely is. The interior is very modern with clean lines, stark white walls accented with dark furniture, and black and white photos. It is meant to look like the "sugar cube" houses of Greece with rounded, white washed walls and an exposed rafter effect. There is a main dining room lined with windows and a smaller room that could be used for private events. The large bar area is nicely separated from the main dining room, reducing noise interference. The bar is also well stocked with a wide selection in addition to Ouzo and Greek wines. The hostess told me that they are working on happy hour specials - I think that this may become a great place to hang out.
On to the food! The menu is clean and fresh, offering upscale (but still simple) versions of traditional food. There were a wide selection of mezze plates categorized as vegetarian, cheese, meat, or seafood in addition to several dips and salads. There were a few traditional entrees, and a wide selection of fish - prepared simply grilled with olive oil and lemon. I decided to order the "traditional sampler" entree in order to try a variety of dishes. The sampler came on a lovely, white, sectioned plate with moussaka, spanakopita, dolma, and arnaki fournou. The moussaka (layered casserole) was made the way that I prefer it - with potatoes in addition to the eggplant and ground beef, and topped with a nice layer of bechamel. The potatoes were very tender and the meat had a nice tomato-y flavor, though I would have preferred a touch more cinnamon. There was a nice bit of chewy, browned cheese on top. The spanakopita (spinach and cheese stuffed phyllo pastry) had a wonderfully herb-y flavor, though it was not terribly crisp. The dolma (stuffed grapeleaf) was tender and filled with a lovely mixture of ground beef, rice, and mint. It was topped with a delicious creamy egg yolk and lemon sauce that was like the Greek equivalent of Hollandaise. The arnaki fournou consisted of slices of slow roasted lamb in a gravy sauce. The lamb had a nice flavor, though it was not as tender as I would expect after "slow roasting". The gravy was lighter than I expected it to be, with a hint of lemon flavor.
As it was lunch, I did not have dessert, though I would like to come back and try the galaktoboureko, baklava, or rizogalo. I would also like to make a meal out of several of the mezze plates. Nostos is definitely worth a return visit - several, in fact.
This brand new restaurant from Michel Richard is meant to be a middle ground between the formality of Citronelle (6/100, 2011) and the casualness of Central (10/100, 2011). I would say that Richard has managed to pull of the balancing act quite well. The menu mixes upscale items - like rabbit and steak - with casual fare - like a burger. The menu is also full of Richard's famous quirk and playfulness with items like Japanese eel carpaccio and onion carbonara. The (small) dining room was much more hip and fun than I was expecting it to be. As you enter, your eye is caught by the huge, modern lighting sculpture and the neon purple lighting scheme. The music is a modern blend of electronica and techno-pop (but not the irritating kind).
It was packed to capacity on a Friday night (though not too noisy), and our table was not quite ready yet, so we waited at the small bar area. I ordered a French 1700 martini which was an excellent blend of fruit juices and creme de casis. Jasper had the Champagne St. Germain, his favorite combination, this variety included fresh strawberries. The wine list is also very good, especially the by the glass section. It is rare to see such nice wines (and such variety) by the glass. Soon we were lead to our table, which happened to be the coolest table in the place - a long piece of translucent stone, lit from within, and hung from the ceiling. It has one long bench on one side, and is separated in the middle by a funky centerpiece so that multiple parties can sit at the same table. This was the case on our visit - we shared the table with another couple, but it didn't feel like we were at the same table at all! It also has a great view of the open kitchen and Executive Chef Levi Mezick hard at work.
The bread that was brought out was warm and soft with a nice crust, but the butter looked like they just chopped a chunk off of a store bought stick. We ordered gougeres because, well, they had them. They came out in an adorable mini fry basket and were warm and puffy and cheesy. We both ordered the salmon tartare (can't share something that good) and it came out with a gift from the chef - the eel carpaccio. I was super excited because it had sounded really intriguing on the menu. The server described the eel to us as "sushi deconstructed". They take the whole eel, roll it up and thinly slice it (so thin it is translucent); then they top it with microgreens, rice pearls, and a delicious ginger sauce. I would come back just for that one dish alone. The salmon tartare was also excellent - it has nice big chunks of fish, it wasn't chopped to death, and had a nice lemony taste. It was served w/ tiny diced accompaniments - hard boiled egg yolks and whites, red onion, capers - and topped with crispy croutons that added a nice change of texture. It was a good decision to get two. We also shared the diver scallops, which were perfectly seared and served with a crispy onion strings and a gorgeous shallot jus that was perfectly sweet and pungent. The server brought us another gift from the chef which, unlike the eel, was sent only to us and not the other tables. He told us that the chef liked us, I told him that we liked the chef, too. I saw him go over to Chef Mezick and tell him that we said we like him, too, and Mezick smiled and waved at us. It was really cute and special. The gift was the smoked salmon terrine (another dish we had really wanted to try). The smoked Atlantic salmon was thinly sliced and layered with super thin strips of cream cheese mixed with tobiko (flying fish roe), served with a salmon puree and dice cucumber. It was fresh and delicately balanced, another excellent dish. We both ordered the short rib entree as it is something that Michel Richard is famous for - braised for 72 hours at 56 degress C (132.8 degrees F) so that it is perfectly tender and still red, though it is thoroughly cooked. It was melt-in-your mouth good and served with an excellent wine reduction, perfectly cooked haricot verts, and a garlic potato puree. After all this, you would think that we wouldn't have room for dessert (and we didn't), but we ordered it anyway. We decided to try the banana split, which came with a ton of whipped cream; raspberry, chocolate, and caramel sauces; chocolate pearls and pineapple chunks; vanilla and chocolate ice cream; and strawberry sorbet. We ate the whole thing.
I may never be able to move again, but I am really happy. I can't wait to go back, and I would love to try their lunch. Definitely check this place out, you won't be disappointed. Oh, and ladies - the waiters are really cute.
... is sliding a bit I was really disappointed by our last visit.
I decided to deviate from my usual favorites - which was my first mistake, I suppose. I ordered the hoisin duck crepes, which ended up being too spicy for me to eat. Jasper ordered the clam chowder - which he enjoyed, but I thought was waaaaay too salty, to the point of being inedible. I had been wanting to try the goat cheese agnolotti for awhile. It was alright, but I found myself wanting more of a citrus flavor in the butter sauce. I was also confused by the zucchini in the dish - it was in awkward little rounds that should have either been cooked much longer or much less - the in-between texture was disconcerting, and the flavor did not mesh with the agnolotti at all! It was the only bad meal I have ever had at CG's, and it was very frustrating