Friday, March 27, 2009

Kanak India, Because Suburbanites Like Saag Paneer Too

If you like Ambar but the thought of parallel parking in Clifton on a friday night makes you nervous, take comfort- the same fantastic food is now available in Montgomery. Kanak India, sister restaurant to Ambar, is serving up nan and saag paneer in a new Montgomery location. The food is awesome and the parking lot is spacious.

The Kanak India menu, from the beer list to the dinner specials, is identical to the menu you'll find at Ambar. And why mess with a good thing? Ambar has a solid reputation for consistently good Indian food. I expected a good meal at Kanak, and that's what I got.

We started off with vegetable samosas. They were mildly spicy, delicious with the green sauce, and a bit starchier than samosa's I've had elsewhere. We followed the samosas with more potatoes - in the aloo saag - and the chicken shahi korma. The saag, a creamy spinach sauce, was thicker than I remember the saag paneer at Ambar. The flavors were good, but the texture was a little bit different. The chicken shahi korma was buttery, just spicy enough, with cubes of cheese and little bursts of sweetness in the dried fruit. I could drink that sauce with a straw. So good, so everything I wanted it to be. Most entrees are served with rice, and ours was just a little bit fluffier and a little less greasy than the rice I've had at Ambar.

To boil it down, Kanak serves great Indian food. It brings another dining option to those who can't make the trek down to Clifton (though personally, I like the vibe down at Ambar better.) Make a trip to Kanak if you're up north and looking for a good meal. You will be rewarded with kofta and korma aplenty.

Kanak India on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Famous Dave's: Barbecue for the Minnesotan in All of Us

Famous Dave's is sort of the TGI Friday's of barbecue restaurants. Yes, it's a chain. It's got a big flashy website and a line of nationally distributed hot sauces. I'd be a better citizen and human being if I supported some of our excellent local barbecue restaurants instead of Famous Dave's, but I can't help it. It's the Minnesotan in me that keeps me going back to Dave.

Famous Dave's got a start in the upper Midwest and gained popularity around the twin cities, where regular folks like you and me enjoyed decent barbecue at reasonable prices with kind of a northwoodsy vibe. It reminds them of their cabins on lakes up north, where every Minnesotan would rather be at any given moment.

How's the food? Good. Decent. I ordered a barbecue pulled chicken sandwich, which arrived erupting from the sides of the seasame bun, loaded with melting monterey jack cheese. It's tasty food of the comfort persuasion, but not as flavorful as I'd like. Dave's sort of under-sauces their barbecue grub and gives the diner some artistic license with an arsenal of sauces at each table. My sandwich was good, and then better when I doused it in sweet and tangy sauce. I didn't touch the devil's spit.

My sister was happy with her pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw. I couldn't convince her to help me eat the bread pudding for dessert, so instead we ordered a Kahlua brownie sundae. She won't eat any dessert that isn't covered in fudge and rediwhip. This infuriates me, but I calmed down when my huge brownie arrived. It was plenty fudgy, warm, and brownie-licious, but it didn't taste like Kahlua at all! A major disappoint for a lush like me. But what do you know - we polished it off anyway.

The short version: Famous Daves has a kitchy, homey appeal. You could do worse if you're dining in the chain restaurant category. Eat there if you're already in the neighborhood and be prepared to sauce up whatever you order. You'll be thankful for the roll of paper towels at each red-checkered table.

Famous Dave's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2009

Restaurant Week is Back!

Get ready Cincy foodies, Greater Cincinnati Independents is sponsoring Restaurant Week again, Monday March 16th - Sunday March 22nd. Each of the 26 participating restaurants will offer a three-course, prix-fixe dinner for $26.09. Take a look at their website; most of the restaurants have a menu available already.

Comparing the menus at work today, we couldn't help notice that not all restaurant week offerings are created equal. $26 for a turkey sandwich and some side items at Greenup? Probably won't be on my itinerary. I'll be at the Brown Dog Cafe enjoying some pan-fried duck breast.

So many restaurants, so little time! Are you participating in Recession Week... er, Restaurant Week this time around?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Silver Spring House, the Real Neighborhood Bar and Grill

There's a time for adventurous dining, and then there's a time for a bottle of domestic beer and a char-grilled chicken sandwich on the patio of the Silver Spring House. It occupies a fuzzy piece of real estate in the northeastern suburbs - is it Symmes Township? Is it Blue Ash? Loveland? I'm not sure. I don't think it matters. It's a neighborhood restaurant, with reliably satisfying food, and a whole lot of chicken on the menu.

When you go to the Silver Spring House, know these things: it's pretty busy most nights after six, and you may have to challenge someone to a battle of wits for a parking space. Know that you won't find many vegetarian options on the menu outside of cheese quesadillas and salads with craisins. Know that sitting inside is family-friendlier, and that the expansive, open-air patio is second to none in good weather.

What's good? Chicken sandwiches, dressed up in their tangy barbecue sauce, or dressed down in some basic seasonings. Wings are crispier than they are greasy, and the house salad with grilled chicken, goat cheese and basil dressing is a personal favorite.

Occasionally, I'll get a piece of chicken that borders on over-cooked, approaching dried out. It's been known to happen. But the Silver Spring House has enough going for it to keep me coming back. Not a bad option at all if you're in the neighborhood, whichever one that is.

Silver Spring House on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 6, 2009

When in Vegas, Do as the Vegans Do

So I work in technology media, and I guess that kind of job lands you in Vegas a few times a year. Not the showgirls, Cirque du Soleil Vegas. Mostly it's hanging around the convention center and the hotel scrounging for free WiFi and bagels.

We tried to fly through Charlotte early last week to get to Vegas on the heels of an Eastern seaboard snowstorm. We didn't get very far. Flight delayed. Exasperated ticket agents. People with mullets who didn't understand what was happening.

When we finally got on an airplane headed for Charlotte, airborn at long last, the pressure began to leak suddenly from the cabin, and our captain announced that he'd be taking us back to Dayton.

Raised Catholic, the first impulse I felt after nausea was guilt. Jesus would smite me now, surely he would. I hadn't been to church in years. I hadn't even filed my taxes yet.
The good news? We landed in Dayton. The bad news? We landed in Dayton. Eventually, we found a plane that would actually take us to our destination.

Arriving in Vegas around 8 PM meant that it was 11 on the east coast and I was a hungry, hungry hippo. Conveniently, the very hotel I checked in to was a mecca of casual dining establishments.

Mexican sounded like a great idea - doesn't it always? Margaritas, tableside guacamole assembly, and a build-it-yourself spread of supreme taco fixings. That's the kind of indulgence I needed after an intense day of air travel.

There were more good meals during my Vegas stay. Caprese salad at some Italian place at the Venetian (not owned by Mario Batali, sadly) - good. Tall pink cocktail - even better.

After a long day working and what was turning into a long night, a walk down Las Vegas Boulevard was disturbing and invigorating all at once, the way Vegas is disturbing and invigorating all at once. Thinly veiled advertisements for prostitution. Drunk midwesterners howling at each other.

But how can you dislike a town lit up like fireworks at 2 AM on a balmy Tuesday night? A warm walk back to an overstuffed hotel bed is a walk I'll take, especially in Vegas.