Saturday, March 24, 2012

Phila Fusion

I feel like it's been a while since my last post, sorry about that! The other night we went to Phila Fusion for dinner to take advantage of restaurant week. Instead we ended up taking advantage of happy hour, getting food that wasn't on the restaurant week menu, and paying about the same anyways. But that's getting ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning.

As soon as we sat down we were instantly greeted by our waitstaff. They are extremely attentive at Phila Fusion, I think we were asked at least four times if we knew what we wanted or had our drink orders ready before we even had a chance to open the fairly extensive menu. I felt like saying "calm down guys, let us breathe for a second". Other than the hovering, the atmosphere of Phila Fusion is very inviting - a good place to go out with friends, take a date, or have a big family meal. It's got a more sophisticated but still casual feel that I always like.

We didn't even realize that even though we were there on the weekend that happy hour was still in place from 4-6. Seeing as we got there about 5:45 we thought why the heck not, two for one drinks sounded pretty good. I was sticking to the Zen Ice Teas (right) which were so good you barely realized they were alcoholic (aka dangerous), while my date was drinking the sake-tinis (left) which packed a little more punch.

Aren't those some fancy looking drinks? I had never seen cucumber as a drink ornament but it was refreshing and complimented the sake with it's cool flavor.

For one of the appetizers we chose crab rangoon which is cream cheese and crab meat in a crispy little dumpling.

These are very rich but since you're only having one or two it's the perfect amount. The only thing I had trouble with was for whatever reason the shape of the dumplings and the gooey yummy insides made it difficult to eat gracefully, but oh well.

The other appetizer we got was an order of the Vietnamese fresh rolls with shrimp. If you've never had fresh rolls before you should definitely try them some time. It's vermicelli - which is sort of like glass noodles - with shredded lettuce and carrots and whatever else you pick which in our case was shrimp, all wrapped up in rice paper and topped with peanuts with a sweet dipping sauce. Yum.

Every restaurant does fresh rolls a little different. Phila Fusion cut them up into cute little bite sized pieces and added basil which was the perfect addition to the rolls...see the dark green in some of them? And whatever that dipping sauce was was perfect, fresh rolls are so light and delicate that they need a little flavor punch with a sauce like that.

It was after our second appetizer that the restaurant had really started to pick up. When we first walked in we were one of probably three parties there. Soon though the restaurant was hoppin' and starting to get a little loud. At first I thought it was getting too loud, but I think that was just in comparison to how when we first walked in you could hear everyone's conversation and maybe even a pin drop. But once I got used to the noise level it felt more just like a bustling, friendly restaurant.

I was so excited when our main courses came! I got Spicy Eggplant that had fried tofu, eggplant, peppers, onions and basil. This dish definitely earned the two chili peppers next to it on the menu, it was spicy enough that I went through at least two glasses of water. But seriously, look at how fresh those vegetables are:

I truly believe that there is nothing that can take the place of satisfyingly spicy Asian food. And the entrees are huge, I was only able to eat about half of what was on my plate and was able to enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.

My date also went for a spicy dish and got the Crispy Chicken Basil which was fried chicken stir fried with onions, red peppers, mushrooms and basil. This one also earned it's two chili peppers and was a completely different kind of spicy then my dish even though they both had "spicy sauce" on the menu. I feel like that's a good thing though, you don't want everything with spicy sauce to taste the same...

Like that little carrot butterfly on the corner of his plate? Don't worry, I got one too. A+ for presentation.

So I forgot to explain what I mentioned earlier about restaurant week. So restaurant week was an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $20.12. So my date got the crab rangoon, crispy chicken, and a dessert all from the prix fix options. But I wasn't feeling anything on the restaurant week menu so I chose the fresh rolls and spicy eggplant...which came out to about $20 anyway without a dessert. So I guess what I'm getting at is that it's a pretty good deal for the amount of food you're getting, and even when they try to do special deals it's barely less expensive than their regular menu!

So with that in mind, let's end this review on a sweet note (get it - because it's dessert) The two dessert options on the restaurant week menu were green tea or red bean ice cream. We went with the green tea and even got a cherry on top.

Green tea ice cream, for those of you who have never had it, is not your average ice cream. It's not very sweet and sort of has this chalky taste to it. It's not for everyone, and I don't think I've ever met a kid that likes it, but it's definitely an interesting flavor that's worth exploring. I happen to like it, but only a couple spoonfuls to stop my mouth from burning from a spicy meal. Next time you see it on a menu try it, you just might like it!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Week of Specials

So as promised on my week of take-out post for Mamatoga, I've done a little bit of research for some in house specials. Now I'm sure there are a million more than what I have here, so feel free to leave a comment for any specials that I've (accidentally) left out. I've also decided to just focus on some weekday specials. Mostly because there aren't that many weekend specials and also because I feel like sometime people need an extra little push to get out during the week. Sound good?
So here we go:

Hattie's: half price mac and cheese, bring the kids!
Bailey's: Martini madness
Wheatfield's: Meatball Mondays, $14 all you can eat meatballs and linguine.
The Wine Bar: Happy Hour ALL NIGHT...well from 4 to 11:30 but that's still pretty exciting

Max London's: $22 Tuesdays - say that ten times fast - for three courses
Hattie's: Buckets and Beers, buckets of delicious fried chicken and $2 PBRs
Bailey's: $1 Tacos, $3 Coronas, and $4 margaritas, haven't tried their tacos yet but I'm hoping they're better than Catina...
Twenty 8 Tables: Tapas Tuesdays, $9 small plates
Wheatfield's: half off bottles of wine
Beekman St Bistro: prix fixe menu three courses for $30, only from October-June so hurry up!
One Caroline: prix fixe three course for $25

Max London's: Wood Fired Wednesdays, pizzas are $9 all night
Hattie's: $5 margaritas
Bailey's: Pasta dish for $12.95 and $5 house wine
Wheatfield's: Whacky Wednesdays - random table of up to four guests will receive their meal for free!
The Wishing Well: $1 oysters and $1 sliders at the bar along with other small plates that change weekly

Max London's: Thirsty Thursday, happy hour drink specials (2 for 1) all. night. long.
Wheatfield's: 3 Course Thursday for $19
Mouzon House: prix fixe three course dinner for $25 only January through April
Forno Bistro: $8 for pizza and beer at the bar, Sunday-Thursday
The Wishing Well: New England Seafood Dinner for only $25, I'll give you a hint, it has a lot of lobster...

I also realize that I'm writing this the day before restaurant week starts, so hold off on these specials for another week and go take advantage of some great meals for only $20.12, the list of places you can go is here. And again, let me know if I missed any specials, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Max London's

This past Sunday a group of us went to Max London's for brunch. This was a pretty big deal because the past two times we tried to go the wait was almost an hour! So third time was the charm and we had a game plan - instead of going at normal brunch hours (I'm thinking 11-12ish) we went at 1:45. And it worked, we only had a ten minute wait! So I think that's the trick from now on, have a small snack for breakfast so you can last until early afternoon for a late brunch.

Needless to say, after not being able to go twice I was more than just a little excited for brunch at Max's...and I was not disappointed. First off, the coffee. Instead of having a tiny cup of coffee that I'm constantly trying to catch the waitress to refill, we got a HUGE french press for the table. I know it sounds like a little thing, but I loved the fact that I got the perfect sugar/milk/coffee ratio from being able to refill the coffee by myself. Does anyone else know what I mean or am I just a coffee snob?

I also really liked the decor of the place, I had never really made it past the bar (they have amazing happy hour specials and appetizers), but it's a pretty great space. There's an interesting mix of modern and country that you would think would clash, but Max somehow makes it work. The restaurant was also much more kid friendly then I would have thought, we saw a lot of young families enjoying brunch with high chairs and everything.

The coffee was not the only exciting thing on our table, the food was pretty amazing too. I got the salt cod-potato cakes which I've decided is like the badass version of eggs benedict with a Portuguese spin.

Instead of english muffins there were cod and potato cakes that were surprisingly delicate and truly melted in your mouth. And then on top of the poached eggs there was hot sauce instead of hollandaise. The toast on the side was more something to snack on after the fact, because nothing could distract me from those eggs and cakes. One thing that I noticed is that unlike eggs benedict, after I finished I didn't feel over-full or anything like that since it was such a light meal.

The bread for the toast was definitely high quality which leads me to the next dish that my friend got - french toast with cinnamon butter and local (real) maple syrup.

I like that you can tell just by looking at the picture how good the bread is. I wonder if Max gets a family discount on bread from his Mom next door...Another thing that my friend pointed out about the french toast was how much he loved the cinnamon butter. Has anyone ever had that experience where you get french toast that has cinnamon sprinkled on top, you take a bite and accidentally inhale dry cinnamon and then you're coughing up a storm? Doesn't that stink?

He also got a side order of potato hash. How cute is that little cast iron dish!

This side was pretty big for one person so the whole table got to have a little bit. The hash was crispy and well seasoned, not greasy at all! And I love onions with anything potato so overall this hash got two thumbs up.

The next meal was a tuna sandwich with a side salad. This was one of the most interesting tuna salads I have ever had.

The tuna had chopped red onions in it which I always love but is pretty classic. What made it interesting was the arugula which gave it a peppery taste, combined with an orange aioli that was sweet and citrusy. It was that kind of taste combination where you kept wanting to take another bite to figure out which flavors were what. Not too shabby.

Last but not least there was a croissant breakfast sandwich.

This is not your average breakfast sandwich - it's got fontina cheese, scrambled eggs, and smoked ham. I smelled this sandwich before I even saw it, for a vegetarian I really do love the smell of smoked meat! And having a croissant instead of a roll or english muffin made this sandwich stand out even more, how could you say no to such a light and buttery pastry?

This was a fantastic brunch experience, and even though there's always a long wait they are open until 3 so maybe try going a bit later? It's definitely worth it, and it just means that words gotten out how good Max London's brunch is so you gotta plan ahead. I had to work later that day so I didn't get a chance to try their breakfast cocktails, does anyone have their favorites? Leave a comment and let me know so I can try it next time!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Little India

One of my favorite places to go for lunch is Little India, one of Saratoga's hidden treasures. I went with two friends on a weekday and we were one of three tables taken up, I think they get most of their lunch business from take out so it wasn't that sad restaurant kind of empty. As soon as we sat down we were greeted by one of the waitresses, all of the staff there are extremely friendly and are happy to explain anything on the menu. I think especially for people who have never had Indian food before the menu can seem a bit overwhelming, but they can always help you pick out something you'll like. I also love the family atmosphere here, while we were having lunch there was a little girl having a blast playing with the cash register who was just too cute. This is definitely a place where families are more than welcome to bring little ones yet it is still intimate enough to bring a hot date.

Back to lunch. We ended up ordering an assorted vegetarian platter, Aloo Chana, and order on naan, and Vegetarian Korma...don't worry I'll explain what that all is. First we'll start with the vegetarian platter. This is just a great way to sample a little bit of everything, samosa (big guy on the left), pakora (small brown fritters on the edges) and some aloo tikki (round one in the middle).

A lot of times I'll get this as a meal, but we decided share everything so this was perfect so that everyone could have some of all the appetizers. I actually think I prefer it now as an appetizer because it's different variations of fried vegetables which can be a little heavy as a whole meal. It's also fun to mix and match all of these sauces with the appetizers and the naan, which is traditional Indian bread. Sorry, I'm not going to even pretend to know what the sauces are...all I know is I really like the brown sweet sauce...

So for three people we got one appetizer and two entrees, which was still enough for everyone to go home with a decent amount of leftovers. For entrees we got Aloo Chana and Vegetarian Korma. Aloo Chana is chick peas with potatoes in a gingery tomato sauce. You can ask for it either mild, medium or spicy. We went for medium and it was just enough heat but not so much that you can't taste any of the flavors.

Vegetarian Korma is a sweeter dish with vegetables, cheese, raisins and sliced almonds.

There were a bunch of different vegetables in there but I really liked the broccoli and getting a spoonful of both the cheese and the raisins...yum!

We ended our meal with some Indian tea. This tea is a sweetened black tea with milk and spices...pretty much just tastes like a dessert-y chai tea. Simple but very satisfying at the end of a midday feast.

And one last thing I wanted to point out to you...

The food is not the only thing that keeps me coming back for more. You just can't beat ten dollars per person PLUS leftovers! Little India has great lunch specials that are still dinner sizes, very easy on the wallet.