June 10, 2011

food trucks

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 6:32 pm

Okay, here's the thing. Food from a truck is awesome. It's great when you can grab some awesome tamales from some grandmother and her kids in a truck when you're in a hurry and running across town, or grabbing an awesome hot dog when you're late for a meeting downtown. It's good food and it's convenient and it's cheap.

The trendiness of it kills it for me. This is not a "i am too school for school" anti-trend thing. It's a convenience thing. Standing in a massive line in the hot sun in 93F heat is not convenient -- it's masochistic. While my coworkers baked in the sun to get cheesesteaks, I drove to Kroger and got stuff to make awesome turkey subs and was on my way back before the line had moved.

I'm not hatin'.. just sayin. Call me when the food trucks have reached market saturation and you can get food from them quickly. I'll be at Kroger.

Negative Nelly here, over and out.

June 15, 2009

sushi snobbery

So, I seem to have incurred some wrath by daring to criticize local favorite Sam's Sushi on twitter today:

it's really hard to take a place like Sam's Sushi seriously after the place i went to in SF. sushi nazi? really? newsflash, you're INLAND

Nick called me out in particular:

@cwage Dude, I love Sam's Sushi! You've adopted "other cities are cooler" syndrome. I'm betting the SF places are also more $$$.

Now, the disclaimer I have to immediately throw out is that I've never actually been to Sam's. But it has nothing to do with the fact that it's in Nashville, or even that it's subpar sushi in exchange for cheapness. It's because of his reputation for being a "Sushi Nazi" on top of that. For one, I don't really care to get yelled at. I try to get paid to be yelled at, not the other way around. Possibly I'd consider it, if it was supposed to be some amazing experience, or something -- but everything I'm reading seems to indicate that it's a pit. This review is particularly brutal:

The first thing I noticed was how sloppily it was assembled. Sushi is one of those culinary niches that takes pretty exacting technique and attention to detail. It takes practice and focus to make tight, neat maki, which is why it isn't something delegated in kitchens, but reserved for a specific sushi chef - a guy who knows what he's doing. Sam, with way too much rice spilling out of his maki and his loose wrapping, clearly does not know what he's doing.

...

I tried another piece of nigiri, no soy sauce this time. I nearly gagged. The fish was not only at room temperature (which was warm, considering the place had no a/c or circulation), but also was very, very obviously not fresh.

Before I totally gave up (and because I was hungry), I tried a piece of crunchy shrimp roll. The shrimp was bland, the tempura not at all crispy or light and once again it was definitely not fresh seafood. The biggest offense with his roll, however, was the rice. The grains seemed bigger than they should be, making me think he was using regular long grain white rice, instead of the slightly more expensive sushi rice. Additionally, I found out part of the reason why his rolls are so sloppy, other than the over stuffing. When my roll fell to bits when picked up and when I tasted the rice, it was clear there was no vinegar in it, meaning it was not prepared correctly for sushi and therefore, not sticky rice in the least. Let me reiterate, this guy has no idea what he's doing.

Granted this review is flanked and outnumbered by plenty of other positive reviews, but they all seem to amount to variants on a theme of: "it's cheap!!!!" or "you get a ton!!!" or others that don't seem to indicate a vast familiarity with sushi. This really has nothing to do with whether or not it's in SF, or some sort of elitism. Even Koto and Ichiban (to name the closest downtown sushi alternatives) I know are great places that do a pretty good job for a sushi restaurant in Nashville, despite some obvious limitations. This isn't because Nashville is some backwater hole. It's because we're not coastal. There's just some stuff you don't get here. That's life.

I can understand a restaurant being cheap, mediocre food. Sometimes you just want something cheap on the go. I've eaten sushi from Kroger before -- I'm no elitist. I can also understand the appeal of a haughty "Nazi" serving finely crafted food at the expense of condescension and beratement. You know, if you're into that. But you can't really mix the two. You're gonna yell at me as you serve me your mediocre sushi? Uh yeah, I think I'll pass?

Incidentally, the place I went to in SF is Hama Ko. Yes, it was expensive. But it was also one of the best sushi meals I've ever had. And I didn't get yelled at -- I got served warmly by a charming old Japanese couple. I had the opportunity to try sea urchin, which was incredible, and unfortunately something that would probably be a bad idea to try around here, even if you could find it.

February 9, 2006

hot kabobs

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 10:36 pm

On a whim, after reading the Scene's review, Amanda and I went to Hot Kabobs tonight.

It was great, that's really all I have to say -- cheap as hell, good food, friendly service, and a really cozy little restaurant. We'll definitely be back. I had a sirloin kabab, and it was great, though I sorta wish I had gone for khoresht, which is what Amanda had, of a split-pea variety. It was really tasty. Next time.

Amanda noted tonight that we really have no reason to go to some stupid chain restaurant ever again -- Nashville is increasingly blessed with awesome locally-owned restaurants that are multitudes better and cheaper to boot.

December 15, 2005

ichiban

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 1:25 am

Ichiban: my new favorite sushi restaurant.

Yes, Benkay, you have been usurped. Mostly. Let me get my apologies for Benkay out of the way first. I will concede that Benkay has a better and more comprehensive Japanese food menu (i.e. not just sushi). This is the place I would take someone to get a real introduction to Japanese food in Nashville, and their sushi and sobas are on par with Ichiban. That said, Benkay has two major factors working against it:

  1. They are not 1 block within walking distance of me.
  2. They are owned by Moonies. (No joke. Search for Benkay.)

But enough about Benkay. Let's talk about Ichiban. I love this restaurant. It's not the cheapest place in the world, but I love it. It's small, cozy and warm. On a cold, blustery December night, there's no place better to wind up than at the spacious wooden booths at Ichiban, ordering some sake while you wait for a giant piping hot bowl of tempura soba. That, my friends, is fat-man's heaven, and it's my little downtown refuge from the cold hard world.

Anyways, the menu is small but solid. The sushi chef is great -- everything is fresh and tasty. I usually get the soba with a few rolls of sushi, but they were out of soba the other night so we had the udon, and it was just as good.

Also, I am fairly certain that they put something in their unfiltered sake. I even asked them what brand they used, and verified it's just Momokawa Pearl unfiltered sake (god's gift to man) that I buy. But no matter how many times I drink this stuff at home, it's just not the same as it is at Ichiban, either served in a masu (a presentation that is growing on me) or a wine-glass. It always seems creamier and tastier. A testament to the euphoric effects of atmosphere, I suppose.

Anyways, do yourself a favor and check out this restaurant. And while you're at it, call me. I'll meet you there. Seriously, I can be there in 5 minutes.

December 4, 2005

coco loco

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 1:02 pm

Amanda and I went to Coco Loco for lunch yesterday. It was a pretty interesting dining experience. Coco Loco is actually a night club converted into a restaurant by day. We sat down at tables right in the middle of the dance floor after being greeted by the hostess over by the bar. The decor is pretty much what you'd expect of a nightclub converted to a restaurant -- christmas lights strung up everywhere, animated palm tree light displays, etc. You'd think I would criticize this as cheap or corny, but it works. Suddenly it struck me as we were sitting in this night club converted to a restaurant with a linen table cloth and $10 worth of christmas lights: this is infinitely more comfortable and cozy than the Ikea maple and steel hyper-moden decor of places like Le Peep, where I feel like I'm eating on a fashion show runway or something.

But anyways, let's get to the good stuff: the food. My favorite by far was just the plaintain chips they brought out as an appetizer. They were served with what was, as far as I can tell, a bowl of chopped garlic in oil (maybe slightly pickled?). It was a fantastic taste combination I would have never thought to put together. We had an empanadilla appetizer, and then we split the "Coco Loco Combo" which is just a sampler of some of the highlights of their menu. Their menu apparently is a hybrid of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Mexican food, but most of the stuff on the sampler is Cuban/Puerto Rican. A beef and a chicken fricasee, rice and beans, fried pork, shrimp (with more garlic, yum) and some fried plantains on the side.

It was a great meal and we got out of there for like $25 (They appear to keep the same menu for lunch and dinner). Give it a try sometime!

November 13, 2005

American Cafe: A Brief Review

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 5:23 pm

Dear American Cafe in the Green Hills Mall,

A Caesar salad is not iceberg lettuce tossed with italian dressing.

Yours,

--Chris

PS. Your restaurant sucks.

July 31, 2005

reviews

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 11:02 am

Since I have a lot more local people reading my blog these days, and reviews seem to be all the rage, here a few whirlwind reviews:

  • First, just a recommendation to get some of the Tanzanian Peaberry at Portland Brew. They were out last time I was there, but get some if you can. It's good.
  • We ate at La Luna on Friday night. I thought it was really good, although I think I liked it more than Amanda. The atmosphere is cozy, and the food was all very fresh and well-spiced (a lot of times you go to a place that serves kebabs and they forget that it's not just meat on a stick). It was also oddly abandoned for a beautiful Friday night. It's BYOB, evidently with a $5 corking fee.
  • I will admit that I slammed on Cafe O2 pretty hard when it first opened (It is directly under our old office). Mostly because I thought it would immediately go out of business. But it hasn't, and I admit the place is growing on me a bit. If for nothing else, we are starting to like it just because it's a place downtown that isn't a pulsating danceclub with the menace of getting dry-humped or shot. I haven't tried the actual O2 yet, but last night we just stopped in, I had a beer, Amanda bought some earrings, and I sat on a comfortable couch and perused Frida Kahlo's diary. It was nice. I don't know that it can last, though -- particularly because what I like about it would probably disappear in a linear correlation with its popularity. But, who knows? Rumor has it she might open a pub down there, but I'll believe it when I see it.
  • On a whim, we stopped in to some "lounge", downstairs below BB King's. We were just wandering by, and I asked what it was. He said "sortof a martini lounge". It was basically a dance club that happened to have very large couches. The music was so loud there was no talking to be done, so we finished our drinks and skedaddled (to Cafe O2, which was why it was so welcome by comparison). As we were leaving, the bartender told me apologetically that if we came back later there might be more people there, as if that was why we were leaving. It didn't seem like much of a lounge -- Amanda speculated that he probably told obvious yuppie-fuck couples like us that it's a "martini lounge" and then groups of single guys that it's a dance club, etc., just to get them in the door. Anyways, that sucked.
  • CentreSource relocated its office to Foster Ave, and there's some barbecue place right down the street. I can't remember the name, so I'll have to find that later. But, it was terrible. It was expensive, as far as barbecue joints go. You basically grab a tray and make a pass through a cafeteria-style thing, and the guy dishes you your choice of 3 meats. The meats they had were: a big slab of very dry beef of some sort, some sort of kielbasa-like sausage, and .. no joke .. barbecued bologna. Bologna? I paid $8 for bologna ?! Where's the pulled pork? The portions of the very mediocre meat you get were very small, and the sides were not good enough to make up the difference. I am depressed, because having a good barbecue place within walking distance of our office would have kicked ass, but alas, I won't be going back.