Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Bad Spice

My sister and I had girls night out on a Tuesday and we needed to eat something quick and easy to make it to our 7:45pm movie. I recognized Spice, the name, because I visited their other locations, one in the Village and the other very close to the one I'll be reviewing on 22nd Street and 8th Avenue in NYC. Having experience the food at the other two locations made me eager to taste the food a new bigger location, but I was disappointed.

Unlike the modern decor of the other two restaurants, this one looked as if it was a pub decorated with dark and plush green seating all over the place. Not only was decor in poor taste for the brand I was so used to loving, but the place was actually extremely warm. The decor did not deter me from sitting down and ordering food and although I didn't have a good first impression my love of Spice convince me to stay. I was looking forward to the dish I was used to eating.

My sister ordered the Satay Chicken for the appetizer and I was disappointed first by the way it looked and then by the way it tasted. It wasn't the white meat slices of grilled chicken I was used to. The pieces looked as if they were beat up with a knife. What did they do wrong! It was obvious that it wasn't the same cook. I couldn't help it ask our waiter if this was the same restaurant. We returned the appetizer since we clearly weren't going to eat that mess.

We stayed for the entree, I ordered the Vegetarian Duck I was looking forward to eating, it wasn't as big a disappointment as the appetizer, but I'm never going there again. My dish was very salty and tasted too much like butter, and had the same butchered meat look of the appetizer. I didn't have a choice but to stay and eat since I was super hungry and had a very tight deadline so we stayed. It's pretty clear that the Wife wasn't satisfied so I'm giving this location of Spice a 1 star. I don't really like to give this star, but they really deserved it. Hopefully, they'll learn and hire a new chef and change the decor so they can survive.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Osteria Cotta

This little restaurant on the Upper West Side of the city was pretty unique and extremely cozy. I like the staging of the restaurant and the wait staff was nice too. The food was great especially the Risotto Balls and the Marinated Roasted Peppers. This was a Tapas Bar so we also tried the Garlic and Pesto Bruschetta, and my wife specifically ordered Eggplant. I am not a big eggplant lover so she had it all to herself. For dessert, we had Tiramisu which came in a glass cup, different presentation, and it was extremely delicious.

Pretty much, this is all I have to say about this restaurant and I would definitely go back. Normally, I would have much more to say but for this particular restaurant, there isn't any connections.  Overall, a good experience and with all that being said, I am giving this restaurant 3 stars. 

A Different Take on Tapas

We've always had a thing for Tapas I personally don't like being disappointed by one dish, therefore, choosing from many ensures I'll get at least one dish I like. This week we decided to try a bit of a different take on Tapas at Cotta an Italian Tapas/Wine Bar in the upper west side of New York City.

As we walked in I noticed the decor as a designer that's the first thing I notice. The place has dark lighting and wooden walls. For the most part, the downstairs is made up of high communal tables and a bar. You can feel the breeze from the outside if you sit by one of the windows as they open wide.

We were greeted by two ushers, one of whom took us to a table in the downstairs section of the restaurant. I noticed that most tables seemed to be communal but we had our own four-seater. As soon as we sat down, our server came, a young lady who we later learned was a trainee. I politely said that we needed more time to order.

Cotta had an array of tasty Tapas that we were eager to try, but we're not conniseurs of some Italian dishes so it took us a while to decide. We 're accustomed to choosing our own entrees so it took us even extra time to come to a mutual decision on Tapas, but I did order me their version of Mojito which was just right. After much discussion we chose the Marinated Roasted Peppers, Arancini of Risotto, Roasted Garlic Bruschette, Pesto with Ricotta Bruschette and Eggplant Caponata and for dessert a Tiramisu. Okay, so it wasn't like a trial where people have to come to a unanimous decision. My husband doesn't care for Eggplant so it wasn't on his list. All of the food was great. We actually had to return one of the dishes because my husband didn't realize that Smoked Salmon wasn't like other meats, it isn't cooked hot. As I said, you can't go wrong when you choose bites of lots of different foods.

I was a little thrown off by the fact that our server was a trainee. The senior server was actually standing in back of her at first, which was a little odd. The senior server also told us the specials of the day. And she was there when we received our Tiramisu in a cup, which we had never tried before. We wondered if it tasted the same...and thank god, it did. Another odd thing was that when we were almost finished with the meal the server told us to take stuff off the other chair because there were people eyeing the table. A couple actually sat down in our four-seater five minutes before we left.

All in all we had a good time at Cotta and would recommend it anyone looking for a quick meal. We didn't try the wines but they had quite a listing which I think I would try on my next time back. I forgot to mention that it wasn't the biggest place, but that it had an open look. I'm giving Cotta 3 stars for okay service, great food and ambiance.


Monday, May 16, 2011

What rhythms with wrinkles…? “Sprinkles”

I’ve visited LA once, got around to seeing Hollywood but always wanted to visit Beverly Hills, CA.  When I think of B.H., I think of "Beverly Hills Cop," the movie, palm trees and nice cars but the thought of cupcakes never entered my mind. Well, that is exactly what Sprinkles is, a new cupcake shop from the West Coast that landed in the Big Apple. 

My wife and I went to the Grand Opening on Lexington on the East Side of the city.  The inside of this small block store was amazingly packed and the line spanned the entire block as if free food was being handed out.  Finally, after about 45 minutes of waiting outside give or take, we made it inside and that is when we ordered.  Prior to entering, we had the chance of perusing the many varieties of cupcakes that were offered on that day based on the “Flavor Card.”  The flavor card is a color-coded square sheet detailing all of the cupcakes sold and organized based on the day of the week.  I ordered 1 chai latte and 1 red velvet cupcake. 

After the first bite, I really wasn’t that blown away with the taste and immediately starting thinking about the deliciousness of a Crumbs cupcake.  It was cool to witness and be around the grand opening of this new spot but when I go back and a line is already there, I will come back another time.  I would like to experience a few more of the cupcakes on the flavor card but won’t stick it out in line.  The line would have to be short so I could get in and out in a jiffy.  Based off my experiences of eating great cupcakes, I am giving this spot 3 stars.  Maybe in Cali the flavor resonates better but here on the East Coast, I wasn’t that impressed with the likes of Beverly Hills on my first venture.


Add a Little Sprinkle to Your Life

A passerbyer couldn't help but look inside to see what everyone was standing in line for
As we arrived to the new Sprinkles cupcake store we were greeted by a Sprinkles employee and a line that spanned almost an entire city block. The wait was probably half an hour, but it was opening day so a bit of a wait was expected as this is a very popular cupcake store in California with what seemed to be loyal following. To pass time, I took pictures of the store which was adorned with the two-color circles, the Sprinkles motif.

As we waited, we reviewed the menu which was given to us prior to entering the store. We noticed that some of the flavors were only available on particular days of the week, which I thought was a very good marketing strategy. The strategy serves to encourage people to come by on slower days so that sales remain constant throughout the week.

As we finally got in the store I was impressed by the decorations but mostly by the very fast service the store provides. Someone took our order at a glass counter where all of the available cupcake flavors can be seen. Unfortunately, the store is quite small and with no place to enjoy our cupcakes we decided to take our order home.

I must say I wasn't that impressed by the Sprinkles in overall taste. I was expecting more than what I received. The cupcakes were good. They were fluffy not greasy. However, I expected more of a unique flavor as there is so much competition in the cupcake market now that I think Sprinkles can be beat. Overall we had good service and good cupcakes so I'm giving Sprinkles 3 out of 5 stars.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Agua Fresca a Refreshing Restaurant in East Harlem

I didn't expect much from the Agua Fresca restaurant based on its location in the middle of a residential block in East Harlem. But I was pleasantly surprised, Agua Fresca, is a great restaurant that offers Mexican cuisine at a reasonable cost and exceptional taste.
As we walked in we were surprised by the size of the restaurant it probably was the size of a NYC livingroom. But it was very nicely decorated with wooden chairs and Mexican art, colorful walls. The sounds was soothing spanish, not too loud, but romantic. We were seated in what appeared to be a stage where we could see the outside through a very large window.

There was only one waitress as it was a very small restaurant, she was charming, and it seemed like everyone who walked in knew her. It seemed like the restaurant has repeat customers. It wasn't full, she had about four tables which seemed to be able to handle.

I had the Vegetarian Tacos and two Sangrias, and shared the Guacamole and Fried Sweet Plantains with my husband. I must say I wish I had a bigger appetite because the food was exquisite. I was ful to the rim with what I had. We started with an unusual Guacamole smoky with red peppers, one of the best I've ever had. It was very spicy and the red peppers gave it an extra kick. Although I had tacos before, they were never this tasty, it was something about the sauce and the care they took in the presentation that was unexpected. The Sangria was the best I've ever had, it had just the right combination of fruit and alcohol. My husband and I had an amazing time. We wished to go again very very soon and I'll try more dishes then.

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for Mexican cuisine in a quaint restaurant with an amazing chef who seems to right blend of authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist. I'm giving it 4 stars for it's outstanding service and original take on Mexican cuisine.

A little restaurant discovered on East 117th in Harlem with a big bang!

Agua Fresca or defined in Spanish as meaning “cold water,” packed a warm punch, there was nothing cold about it. Not knowing what to expect because it’s a new NYC restaurant, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to witness. This restaurant was small in size, with very few tables, with enough room to relax and enjoy the dine-in experience. I've had times, dining out in restaurants around the city, when I've had to swallow my food because lots of people are waiting and the wait staff hurried me along but it wasn't the case at Agua Fresca. Agua Fresca is different, it's a perfect spot completely hidden from the hustle and bustle of city life where each tastes allowed me to savor the moment.

Well, if you are looking for a good experience where you can totally relax, enjoy the food and the experience, Agua Fresca is the place to be. The food was great. I had guacamole, garlic chicken wings, and two glasses of the best sangrias in town, everything was delicious. I highly recommend Agua Fresca and I’m looking forward to returning for another wonderful experience. I give this restaurant 5 stars.