Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Empire - Revisited

If we were to give out an award for most the improved restaurant we have visited it would surely go to Empire Asian Restaurant and Lounge in Boston's Sea Port District. We first visited Empire about two years ago, a month or so after its grand opening. Our first time around we were beyond disappointed with both the service and the food. Therefore, in the spirit of full disclosure, we were more than hesitant when we decided to give this Big Night Entertainment restaurant another chance. 

 For the first time in the short history of our blog we actually told our waiter, "yes, we have been here before and it was awful." We suspect our comment did not land on deaf ears, the service was above par. Our waiter was very knowledgeable on the menu and made some terrific suggestions. We are pleased to give Empire an A+ for service. 

To start our meal we decided to order a few cocktails. The White Sake Sangria composed of sauvignon blanc, sake, guava, mango, and pineapple was deliciously refreshing. In contrast, the Hot Night in Bangkok Martini made out of Avíon Silver, plum sake, passion fruit, and sriracha packed a real punch. This martini is certainly not for the faint of heart, the sriracha is the dominant flavor and after a few sips the spiciness really starts to take over your palate. 

White Sake Sangria

Hot Night in Bangkok


Previously at Empire we stuck with the more traditional items on their menu. This time around we branched out and ordered some of their more creative offerings, like the Lobster Cupcakes. These "cupcakes" are created from pressed sushi rice, spicy garlic butter, and broiled Maine lobster. Our waiter suggested we ordered these and we are glad we did. Unfortunately, these "cupcakes" do not hold very well together and it is difficult to get a balanced bite. However, the flavor is superb. The have a deliciously mild heat which perfectly compliments the delicate flavor of the lobster. Outstanding dish!

Lobster Cupcakes

Lobster Cupcakes

A few days before dinning at Empire we asked the restaurant for some suggestions via Twitter. One of the suggestions were the Spicy Salmon Rice bites composed of seared sushi rice, a spicy salmon topping, and togarashi special sauce. This was one of the least successful dishes of the night. The dish is crispy, has both notes of sweet and savory, and achieves a good balance between hot and cold. Sadly, the combination of flavors is just ok. Apart from its stunning presentation there is nothing really memorable about this dish. 

Spicy Salmon Rice Bites

Next came another one of our waiter's suggestions, the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. As one of the specials on the menu these wok fried wings with jalapeño and cilantro shocked us when they reached the table. The neither looked, nor tasted as they were described. Our waiter described this dish as being similar to "Korean fried chicken," which is usually extremely crispy and full of flavor. These wings were a bit on the soggy side. The flavor of the breading and topping was delicious, however once you reached the actual chicken the flavor seamed to disappear. Lackluster is the word that comes to mind when we remember this dish. 

Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings

Next we ordered the Red Dragon Roll, which was another one of Empire's Twitter suggestions. This roll is made out of Blue Fin Tuna, red chili miso, sake, and daikon sprouts. This is the perfect summer sushi roll! The tuna was incredibly fresh and the flavors worked well together. We would order this dish again. 

Red Dragon Roll

The manager surprised us by sending out a complimentary Empire "House Maki" roll. First of all, we would like to thank Empire's manager for the lovely gesture. Second, we would like to say that this ended up being one of our favorite bites of the night. The House Maki composed of a whole tempura roll, spicy tuna, avocado, and wasabi tobikko was exquisite. It reminded us of really good comfort food. A very enjoyable dish! 

Empire "House Maki" 

Our last savory dish was the Beef and Kim Chee Fried Rice, which is made with pickled kim chee, tender beef, a fried egg, green onion, and garlic chives. The kim chee was cut into large pieces with made it very hard to get an even bite. The fried egg was delicious. This is your run of the mill fried rice. Good but not spectacular. 

Beef & Kim Chee Fried Rice 

Last but not least, we were again surprised be the manager with Empire's Pandan Profiteroles. Once again, our thanks to the manager. This dessert is composed of a chocolate sauce, sweet berries, and pandan ice cream. We would have substituted the profiteroles with a soft sponge cake that could soak up the delicious pandan ice cream. Although messy to eat, this dessert was very good. The chocolate sauce had a luxurious texture and the berries lightened up the rather heavy dish. This dessert was a delicious way to end our meal! 

Pandan Profiteroles

Pandan Profiteroles


To read our previous review of Empire visit http://www.bostonfoodandlove.com/2012/07/empire.html.

For more information on Empire visit http://www.empireboston.com.


Empire Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon Empire on Foodio54

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wahlburgers (Hingham, MA)

On our way back to Boston from the Cape we decided to take a small detour and have lunch at Wahlburgers. This much talked about burger restaurant sits on Hingham's waterfront. We had been looking forward to their burgers for a while now. We are fans of the show and the family's many personalities. Upon arriving we were greeted by a friendly host who explained the restaurant's set up...window ordering to the right, full service to the left. We decided to sit in the patio area, which has a partial view of the ocean. 

We ordered a few burgers from the Wahlfaves portion of the menu and a few sides. Spoiler alert...the burgers come on their own...sides are extra. To begin, we had the BBQ Bacon Burger, topped with bacon, avocado, BBQ sauce, jalapeños, and white cheddar cheese. This burger had good, solid flavors. The BBQ sauce was delicious and the bacon was cooked to a perfect crisp. However, the burger was severely overcooked, we asked for a medium temperature and received a well done burger. It could have also benefited from a few extra pinches of salt. 

BBQ Bacon Burger 

 Next came Wahlburgers' O.F.D. or Original from Dorchester burger, which is topped with bacon, swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and a housemade tomato jam. This burger fell a bit flat in our eyes. Once again the burger was sinfully overcooked and lacked seasoning. There was nothing memorable about this burger. 

O.F.D. Burger 

Our favorite part of our meal were Wahlburgers' Sweet Potato Tots which, just like Wahlburgers' menu describes them, are "simply addictive." We could easily eat a whole bucket of them! These little tots are a delicious spin on the original potato version. Delicious! 

Sweet Potato Tots 

Our final dish was Alma's Macaroni Salad. According to the menu this salad contains red onion, sweet peppers, parsley, and a creamy mayo dressing. Nowhere on the menu description is celery mentioned. However, celery is all we could taste. We suspect celery salt is used in the dish and unfortunately we are not fans of its flavor. However, if you like the flavor of celery, you will enjoy this creamy, refreshing, just like mom used to make macaroni salad. 

Alma's Macaroni Salad

Wahlburgers delivers great service, an excellent family atmosphere, and a beautiful location. The burgers were not earth shattering good but they did deliver solid, classic flavors. The sides are the stars of the show...we recommend you not leave without trying their Sweet Potato Tots! 

For more information on Wahlburgers visit http://www.wahlburgersrestaurant.com

Wahlburgers on Urbanspoon Wahlburgers on Foodio54

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beech Tree Cantina (Hyannis, MA)

While at the Cape last weekend we decided to skip our usual Urbanspoon and Yelp searches for nearby restaurants and just follow the crowd. Our laid back, no research approach led us to the Beech Tree Cantina, located right on Hyannis' Main Street. It was our last night at the Cape and after two days of nothing but seafood we were craving something different. The Beech Tree Cantina delivered just that...its fresh Mexican cuisine was a great ending to our weekend trip! 

We were more than tempted by the margaritas coming out of the Beech Tree's bar and ended up ordering a guava frozen margarita. However, the flavor and color of the margarita reminded us more of passion fruit. The bartender got a little carried away with the ice and in turn we received a tower of frozen margarita, that we in no way could ever responsibly finish. Even with the excessive amount of ice this margarita tasted of pure tequila.

Guava Frozen Margarita 

As an appetizer we ordered the Guacamole. Made "table side" with fresh avocados and vegetables this humungous guacamole dish was delicious, especially when sprinkled with a bit of extra salt. Plan on sharing this appetizer, there is more than enough to share with friends! 

Guacamole

Next up came Beech Tree's Quesadilla, stuffed with jalapeño jack cheese, corn, roasted onions, peppers, and carne asada steak. The cheese was perfectly melted and the steak was cooked to an ideal medium. The vegetables could have been cut smaller for our taste. All in all, the flavors of this dish were excellent! 

Carne Asada Steak Quesadilla 

Last but not least we ordered one of Beech Tree's Cantinas Chicken Street Style Tacos. Our only complaint would be the price of this dish. $5.50 for a single, regular sized taco seemed a bit steep even when compared to the Boston prices we are used to. This was a straightforward taco; chicken, plenty of fresh vegetables, and a creme sauce. The chicken was juicy and well seasoned, making it a tasty taco! 

Chicken Street Style Taco 

Overall we really enjoyed our experience at the Beech Tree Cantina. The service was good, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was as laid back as you can get. This is fun place to have a few drinks and hang out with friends! 

For more information on the Beech Tree Cantina visit http://www.beechtreecantina.com

Beech Tree Cantina on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fresh Ketch (Hyannis, MA)

Last weekend we decided to get away to one of New England's most popular summer getaways, Cape Cod. Getting down to the Cape was surprisingly easy, getting through the Sagamore bridge was a breeze...we just got lucky! We decided to stay in Hyannis, a.k.a the Cape's "city." Hyannis has that addictive beach town feel that automatically puts you in the mood to relax, have a cold beer, and eat something straight out of the ocean! 

On our first night there we were craving seafood and thus we ended up at Fresh Ketch, a seasonal seafood restaurant located right smack in the center of Hyannis' Main Street. The restaurant has a laid back, welcoming air and, best of all, no wait on a Friday night. We weren't in the mood for a huge meal and decided to stick to soup and appetizers...all seafood based of course! 

First up came Fresh Ketch's Scallops 'N Bacon. There is absolutely nothing negative we can say about this dish. Fresh sea scallops, wrapped in crispy bacon, served with a tangy rémoulade...it's hard not to like that! Delicious! 

Scallops 'N Bacon

Second we had the Crab Cakes. These were perfectly fried! There was very little filling, making the lump crab meat the star of the dish. No need to open the spicy rémoulade, just add a squirt of lemon and these are perfect as is! 

Crab Cakes

Last but not least we shared Fresh Ketch's Lobster Bisque, we upgraded to the bread bowl. This bisque was full of both lobster flavor and meat. This is a classic, well made, delightful lobster bisque!

Lobster Bisque 

Next time we are in Hyannis we will be returning to Fresh Ketch. Both the food and service are excellent. Their prices are extremely reasonable and their location is impossible to beat. Great place to enjoy a meal while on the Cape! 

For more information on Fresh Ketch please visit http://www.freshketch.com

Fresh Ketch on Urbanspoon Fresh Ketch on Foodio54

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Merengue Restaurant

We are Caribbean food enthusiast, Aida is, after all, from Puerto Rico. Therefore, every time we hear of a Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Cuban restaurant we can't help but give it a try! We have been hearing of Merengue Restaurant in Dochester for awhile now and last night we finally decided to give it a try.  

We were welcomed by a friendly host and led into the main dinning room which to our surprise featured live music. The decor is bright with lots of island flare, which is fitting given that Merengue specializes in Dominican cuisine. We ordered a couple of cocktails, sticking to the classics, a Cuba Libre for James and a Mojito for Aida. Merengue does not serve watered down drinks. Rum was the dominant flavor in both of these drinks. 

Cuba Libre
Mojito

To start we ordered the small Picadera Merengue with fried cheese. This is a sampler platter of yuca sticks, fried plantains or tostones, and fried pork, beef, and chicken chunks. The meat was perfectly fried! It was not dried out, crispy, and flavorful! The fried cheese was addictive, the yuca sticks were light and fluffy, and the tostones were as good as any we've ever had! Everything was improved by being slightly dunked in the garlic mojo acompaning the dish. 

Picadera Merengue 
Picadera Merengue 

James decided to order the 8.oz Grilled Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri Sauce accompanied by white rice and coconut pigeon peas. On paper this dish sounds delicious, however it disappointed. The steak was chewy and lacked seasoning and the coconut pigeon peas were served lukewarm at best. This dish needs improvement. 

White Rice with Coconut Pigeon Peas 
8.oz Grilled Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Aida ordered the Chicharrón de Pollo with Mofongo. Chicharrón de Pollo are delicious fried breaded chicken chunks. Mofongo is smashed fried plantain with pork. The Mofongo was flavorful but the pork skin inside was soggy and unappetizing. The fried chicken was the star of this dish! It was well seasoned and deliciously crispy! 

Chicharrón de Pollo with Mofongo 

For dessert we ordered the vanilla Flan. This custardy dessert was delicious! The strawberries added a nice freshness to the dish. The Flan had an awesome silky texture and was not overly sweet. A great ending to our meal! 

Vanilla Flan 

Merengue Restaurant is great spot to grub on some traditional Dominican food. The service and atmosphere were both excellent. There is plenty of on street parking and it is just a short 10 minute drive from the Back Bay. We would recommend Merengue to people looking for good food and drinks at more than reasonable prices. 

For more information on Merengue Restaurant visit http://www.merenguerestaurant.com

Merengue on Urbanspoon Merengue Restaurant on Foodio54

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Met Bar and Grill (Natick)

Last Saturday we decided to change our usual go-to place, P.F. Chang's, at the Natick Mall and give the Met Bar and Grill a try. After a marathon shopping day our wallet was running a little low so we decided to take a sneak pick at the menu before asking for a table. In the spirit of full disclosure, we had heard this restaurant had great burgers and even greater prices. To our surprise we found their menu prices to be right about average. 

We arrived at the restaurant at around 8:30pm and were seated right away. We attributed the emptiness of both the restaurant and mall to the eighty degree, sunny weather that day. Our waiter came over right away and to our delight agreed to leave the pitcher of water at the table...Aida drinks lots of water with her meals and most waiters never really agree to do this. Something as small as constant flow of water can make or break a meal for us, in this regard the Met Bar and Grill was exceptional! 

As our first appetizer we ordered the Short-Rib Tacos which are braised in cola and cocoa and served with charred onions and a spicy aioli. These tacos were delicious! Aida is normally not a huge fan of beef and she could not get enough of these! The short-rib was tender, the taco shell was crispy, and the sauce, when we choose to add it, did not overpower the dish. We found the portion to be a bit small, that would be the only negative about this dish.

Short-Rib Tacos

Next came the Met Bar and Grill's Nachorella Sticks which are filled with pepper jack cheese fried in a crispy tortilla breading and served with a trio of Mexican sauces. To put it simply, these are the best "mozzarella" stick we have ever had! They were gooey, crispy, and mildly spicy. The Nachorella Sticks are a modern interpretation of the classic jalapeño poppers. They are deliciously addictive, especially when dipped in the roasted salsa!

Nachorella Sticks and Trio of Mexican Sauces

Nachorella Sticks

Trio of Mexican Sauces: Chipotle Aioli, Guacamole, and Roasted Salsa 

The Met Bar and Grill is known for it's burgers. Therefore we just had to try them! James decided to order one of their more original burger creations. The Tokyo burger comes with topped with avocado, Muenster cheese, pickled onions, sticky soy, and diakon sprouts. James not a particularly a fan of this monster burger. He found it to be under-seasoned and packed with competing flavors. There was just too much stacked on top of the perfectly cooked medium patty. We upgraded to the Met Fries which are truffle fries with fried sage served with a side of truffle mayo. These fries were not the best, the overwhelming amount of truffle flavor completely overpowered our tastebuds. 

Tokyo Burger with a side of Met Fries

Aida decided to order another one of the Met Bar and Grill's International Burgers. The Paris burger is made up of a perfectly cooked medium beef patty, Brie cheese, a fried egg, caramelized onions, and truffle mayo. This burger was absolutely delicious! The flavors balanced each other perfectly. It is creamy, cheesy, and eggy...everything we would expect from a good burger! However, the brioche bun completely disintegrated under the gooey cheese and runny egg. Aida went to pick it up for the first bite and could not locate the bottom bun, it was completely soggy. This is definitely a knife and fork kinda burger. 

Paris Burger

For us the appetizers are the stars of the Met Bar and Grill, we will definitely come back just for the Nachorella Sticks! When shopping at the Natick Mall the Met Bar and Grill is a great spot for a meal. We would suggest you stick to their more traditional burgers and definitely order some apps! 


For more information on the Met Bar and Grill go to http://metbarandgrill.com

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Tapeo Restaurant and Tapas Bar

Last week Aida and one of her good friends went to dinner at Tapeo Restaurant and Tapas Bar. Tapeo has been serving Spanish tapas for 15 years on Newbury Street. This restaurant has a cozy atmosphere perfect for small gatherings. We went on a Saturday night and the place was packed, we strongly suggest you make a reservation before heading over. 

Before talking about the food, which was good, we would like to address Tapeo's service. Our waiter was very scattered. Just to give you an idea it took about 15 minutes before she even acknowledged we were there, 20 minutes to get our glasses refilled with soda and water, and another 15 minutes before she came up to pick up our payment. We were disappointed with the service, especially considering that she would check on the table two feet away from us every seven minutes or so, yet never bothered to ask us how we were doing. 

Now on to the food, we stuck with Tapeo's tapas menu. First up were the Tostadas de Alcachofas, which are artichoke, mushroom, and goat cheese crostini. Aida's friend did not enjoy the amount of artichokes, frankly there were just to many which made it sloppy to eat. These tostadas were very flavorful. The goat cheese added a nice creaminess to the dish and its flavor did not overpower the artichokes.

Tostadas de Alcachofas 

Second we had the Patatas Bravas, which are potatoes with Piquant Tomato and Aioli Sauces. This potato dish was delicious! The mildly spicy aioli really took it to the next level. The potatoes were cooked well and the portion was perfect for sharing! 

Patatas Bravas

Next came Tapeo's Chicken Empanada. Aida is from Puerto Rico and her friend grew up in Chile, therefore between the two they have had plenty of empanadas. Compared to others this empanada was not nothing out of the ordinary. The filling was flavorful and the empanada shell was well cooked. We wished we had been told that there only came one medium sized empanada per order for these savory pastries are hard to share.  

Chicken Empanada 

Our fourth tapa was Tapeo's Pão de Queijo, which is a crusty Brazilian cheese bread. This bread was addictive! It was packed full of cheese flavor. We could have easily had five more orders of these! Delicious! 

Pão de Queijo

Last but not least, we had Tapeo's Gambas con Gabardina, which are saffron battered shrimp with a spicy green mojo. The thick batter overpowered the shrimp's flavor. However, the mildly spicy mojo verde was absolutely delicious! It was the best part of this dish and it helped enhance the otherwise lost shrimp flavor. 

Gambas con Gabardina

Overall, we had a good time at Tapeo Restaurant and Tapas Bar. Their excellent location is hard to beat. The food was good and the atmosphere was fun. However, the service needs improving. It was good place for a girls night out! Next time we are definitely trying their Sangria...it looked delicious! 

For more information on Tapeo Restaurant and Tapas bar visit http://www.tapeo.com/default.aspx

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