Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cincinnati Imports in the Headlines

Grab today's Enquirer and check out the local section for a featured story on the Cincy Imports! If you missed it, you can read it on the Enquirer's website. It's a very nice story, and I'm excited to see what this group will be up to next!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Aqua and the Pursuit of Perfect Sushi

Serious food, hip soundtrack, and unheard of service. Aqua's reputation is well-known by now, but since I'm a relatively new girl to the city, I checked it out for the first time on Saturday night.

Between the attentive staff, the classic Beck tracks on the overhead, and the cosmopolitan decor, Aqua in Mt. Lookout had me at hello. But how did the food stack up? And more importantly, is it worth dropping upwards of $40 a person on dinner there?

I stuck to an appetizer and a couple of sushi rolls for dinner, covering all my food groups with the addition of a Stella Artois. First course, warm napa cabbage salad. It arrived in all it's bacon-y glory as a kind of rich, warm slaw loaded with pear slices and sweet-roasted walnuts. Very tasty, but heavy. For my taste, a little too heavy for an appetizer.

Two sushi rolls followed. Featured on the left, the dynamite roll. On the right, the Mei roll. The dynamite roll was a home run, with a just a kick of spice and a fresh, clean taste. The Mei roll was good, but not a home run. Ground rule double.

The verdict? Good sushi, better atmosphere. I wouldn't put Aqua's sushi above Beluga's, but I will say that this is a restaurant and a kitchen I trust. The moment I put down my chopsticks after my last bite, a server removed my plate, all ninja-like. The whole staff was on point. Though I didn't venture into the entree menu, I feel pretty good about recommending Aqua to anyone looking for a nice night out.

Also, a sushi taste-off may be in the works with liberal foodie, so stay tuned sports fans!

Aqua on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kar-ma Asian Bistro

Lao Tzu once said: "A thousand weekday lunches begin at the Kroger salad bar."

Well, maybe not. That's how it feels, anyway. When lunch hour rolls around I usually head to Kroger, get something vegetable-y, and bring it back to the office. Not today. I convinced two of my co-workers, adventurous eaters themselves, to sit down for a real lunch at Kar-ma Asian Bistro. Their menu is a little bit Thai, a little bit Laotian, a little bit rock and roll.

The space is bright, clean, and contemporary. We had a seat and wasted no time in ordering appetizers. What's more decadent than lunchtime appetizers? Mine, pictured above in all its deep-fried glory, was the shrimp roll. They were surprisingly light, kicked up with a little help from the spicy dipping sauce. A nice start.

The main attraction arrived and I dove into my green curry as soon as the waiter delivered some white rice. The eggplant, bamboo shoots, carrots, and basil all come standard in the green curry. I ordered mine with tofu. So rich, it was almost buttery. The tofu was browned nicely on the outside, but still spongy enough to soak up some of that flavor. Tasty curry, and just spicy enough for my (mild) preference.

On the left, orange chicken as ordered by one of my dining partners in crime. He was satisfied with the dish, but pointed out that it's hard to mess up something like orange chicken. True enough.

Kar-ma narrows down the "spicy" equation to a 1-2-3 scale with 3 being the hottest. I was fine at a 2, but those who prefer spicier cuisine will definitely be able to handle a 3.

To round out the meal, the waiter dropped off a hershey's kiss for each of us with our checks. Score! How did they know they could buy a good review by bribing me with candy?

Kidding. But really, I had a very nice meal at Kar-ma. I'd even say it's worth a trip out there if you're a fan of Asian food. I'll be back some lunchtime, someday. Until then, it's back to my spring greens and dressing packets.

Kar-Ma on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bistro Ginza, Where Sushi is Fancy Again

Sandwiched between fast food joints in the strip mall wasteland of Deerfield is a neat little restaurant called Bistro Ginza. It's surprisingly high on atmosphere, despite being just steps away from a car wash. The service is great, the miso soup is tasty and the spicy sushi rolls are actually spicy.

We started with spring rolls. Does this presentation remind you of that scene from Beetlejuice? With the cocktail shrimp? Okay, maybe not quite. I liked it anyway, and the rolls were darn tasty.

Next, soup. Not bad, a little skimpy on the tofu. But who cares? Sushi. I ordered the spicy mango roll, and what do you know? It was spicy! It had a real punch along with the mango sweetness. It was good enough to qualify a second trip to try more rolls, that's for sure.

I'm glad I finally tried Bistro Ginza. My only gripe is with the prices. The food is above average, for sure, but prices on special sushi rolls ranged from $13 on up to $19. It would be hard to drive by Kyoto and their bargain-basement sushi prices to get to Bistro Ginza, but with so much more to offer in atmosphere, I'll make the trip back.

Bistro Ginza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 14, 2009


How awesome was Cincy Imports? Pretty awesome, actually. Glad I jumped in and got to meet bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Looking forward to the next event.

Also, my cake decorating skills are improving. So the ribbon is a little funky, but I can live with that. This Monday night is like the final exam, we have to bring in our own cake and put the finishing touches on it at class. I'm nervous.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day, I know I'll be enjoying one of my favorite kinds of food- junk food.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bootsy's: Funkalicious or Just Funky?

Bizarre. Funky. Delicious. Bootsy's is all of these things. I visited this mecca of all things Funkadelic last night with two good friends. We passed through the mini-shrine of Bootsy Collins memoribilia into the visually loud and quickly-crowding bar upstairs. A host was quick to have a table cleared for us and we were seated at a booth within a few minutes. Immediate seating at seven at a popular downtown restaurant? That's pretty funky.

So is the decor. It's like a permanent mardi gras upstairs with a little bit of Spanish flair thrown in. All of this I would find bewildering, even off-putting if the food wasn't good. Jeff Ruby is definitely pulling his weight here, because the food isn't upstaged by the surroundings. It's fantastic.

Incidentally, it's also impossible to photograph sitting at a glowing, neon-red table. Oh well. If you can make it out in the picture on the right, that's the braised pork belly. Trendy, trendy. And so good. I've never had pork belly, so I can't really compare, but I can tell you that this stuff melted in my mouth. We stuck to tapas and beer for a nice, round meal, and I'd recommend attacking the menu that way. Our favorites of the night include the pork belly, plantains three ways (pictured on the left), and the ropa vieja.

The prices are pretty recession-friendly too- six tapas and three beers came out around $60. Bootsy's is over-the-top for sure, and it won't appeal to everyone, but I'll be back for more plantains and funkadelic ambiance.

Bootsy's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 1, 2009

This Weekend in Food

Twist was still kicking on Friday night, even though it was sickeningly cold out and in spite of the bad news about Pigall's. We had a few rounds of petite bites with a few rounds of drinks. The short and sweet version: the mango drink is delicious and so is the croque monsieur.

Saturday night I tried Thai Cafe on Ludlow for the first time. Don't confuse it with the Delight Thai Cafe in Montgomery, which appears to be closed forever and ever. The Thai Cafe in Clifton is an Asian restaurant dressed up in art-deco duds. I had the Pad Thai with tofu, which is sort of like getting ice cream. Even when it's mediocre, run-of-the-mill ice cream, it's still fantastic. The noodles were cooked just right, but it was all a bit greasier than I would have liked. The Thai Cafe was a cut above mediocre, and I'd recommend it to someone in the neighborhood for a movie or some shopping.

A source that I trust tells me that Ruthai's in Mount Lookout serves up the best Thai food in the city. Agree? Disagree? I haven't tried it myself, but it's on my hit list.