Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ryu of Japan on Mom's Birthday

Mom and I celebrated her birthday at Ryu of Japan after reading an awesome review by Boots in the Oven.  My parents' favorite cuisine is Japanese.  Dad can't get enough of sashimi and sukiyaki while mom can't do without hamachi kama.

We decided to skip ordering dinner entrees altogether in favor of several courses of appetizers.

We began with a small dish of monkfish liver, which unsurprisingly has a texture similar to foie gras but on the drier side.  It was quite delicious but I kept wishing I could pair each bite with a carb like rice or baguette!

Ankimo (monkfish liver)

The Ryu Special was basically a trio of sashimi (tuna, salmon, and yellowtail) rolled up in cucumber.  This was light and summery, delicious but hard to keep intact.

Ryu's Special - salmon, yellowtail, and tuna sashimi wrapped in cucumber with shiso and roe

Agedashi tofu is as standard as udon at Japanese restaurants but Ryu's is heavenly.  The broth that the fried pieces of tofu was soaking in really made this dish sing.

Agedashi Tofu

I was a bit underwhelmed by the ginger eggplant.  It was good, but a little bland even with the lovely curling bonito shavings.

Nasu No Shogayaki - ginger eggplant with bonito shavings

Mom and I always reminisce about the whole grilled squid served at the cafeteria in the Japanese department store, Shirokiya, in Honolulu.  I grew up scarfing down Shirokiya's smokey ikayaki.  We were super excited to see ikayaki on Ryu's menu, but this version just can't compare to Shirokiya's.  It's a bit tough and although it's grilled, Ryu's ika doesn't have that intense smokiness present in Shirokiya's version.

Ikayaki - grilled squid

No Japanese meal is complete without hamachi kama for my mom.  This was simply prepared with a sprinkle of salt and grilled.  This dish never falters.

Hamachi Kama - yellowtail collar

The next few dishes were fillers for the meal.  The trio of sashimi were fresh, the spider roll was a bit heavy on the eel sauce but otherwise quite satisfying, and the hotate hokkai was my one regret.  Instead of whole scallops, we got scallop bits that were indiscernible among the bigger chunks of chopped krab and smothered in spicy mayo.  It was a wreck.

Salmon, Tuna, and Yellowtail Sashimi

Spider Roll

Hotate Hokkai - broiled scallops with roe and mayo

But rather than leave you with a bad impression, the overall meal was delicious and affordable.  I've complained about how I can't seem to find a traditional Japanese restaurant that doesn't break the bank in Austin, and Ryu has given me a reason to stop whining.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Noble Pig

Noble Pig


After classes ended, I decided to finally treat myself to the much talked about sandwiches at the Noble Pig.  Noble Pig makes everything in-house, from the bread to the pickles and to the house-smoked meats.  They really take ownership of the quality of the sandwiches!

When I researched their menu, I knew that I had to try the duck pastrami to satisfy my duck addiction.

Duck Pastrami Sandwich with potato salad, chips, and housemade pickled veggies

Smoked Duck Pastrami Sandwich with Russian dressing and rye pickles

The duck pastrami tasted very earthy and the rye pickles gave the sandwich a nice crunch and tang.

The Noble Pig with spicy ham, pulled pork, bacon and provolone cheese

The Noble Pig sandwich was packed with porcine goodness and ended up surpassing the tastiness of the duck pastrami in my humble opinion.  But that's a bit unfair; this sandwich has 3 kinds of pork in it!  

I'm really curious about the delicious looking breakfast menu.  I might just have to fight some traffic in the morning to try it out!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Second Bar + Kitchen and Google Places

I attended a food blogger cocktail party hosted by Google Places at Second Bar + Kitchen almost a month ago.  Apologies for the long delay in posting.  Finishing grad school got in the way of food blogging!

Spicy Mango at Second Bar and Kitchen

Food Bloggers

This event was the first time I heard of Google Places and my first taste of Second Bar + Kitchen.  Google Places is a recommendation engine of local restaurants and businesses that's tailored to the preferences of each user.  Users can link their Google Places profile and recs to their own blogs and websites.

While we learned about how Google Places works, we also enjoyed a cocktail and food tasting with the focus placed on rating 3 different off-menu mixed drinks created by Bill Hankey.  The winning drink of the evening is now on their cocktail menu!

First, the spread:
Cheese Board

Beef Short Rib with truffled grits

Beet, Watermelon, and Blue Cheese Skewers

Queso Fundido with avocado and sausage and chipotle masa chips

Veal Meatball

Black Truffle Pomme Frites; Buffalo Fried Pickle

Pomodoro San Marzano Pizza (mozzarella, basil, and olive oil)

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

On to the drinks!

The first cocktail we tried was Forever My Queen which was a strega concoction with lemon juice, tequila reposado, and orange liqueur.  This was really strong and really sweet.

"Forever My Queen"

Next was the Dickle Daisy, which I thought would contain pickle juice (just shows you how much I know about alcohol...).  It's George Dickey sour mash whiskey with lemon juice and powdered sugar.  This was surprisingly good.  I was ready to vote for this until I got a taste of the last cocktail...

"Dickle Daisy"

The Gin and Jam (housemade raspberry preserve) appealed to me with its presentation, and it tasted fresh and moderately sweet.  This made voting a no-brainer.

"Gin and Jam"

Ballot Jars

And the winner is...
Gin and Jam!