Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dollar Sushi at Pad Thai

Dollar. Sushi. What's that? Sushi can't possibly be a dollar. And who would pay for dollar sushi? Doesn't that imply some kind of "Everything Must Go" sale on old ingredients?

I'm here to tell you that yes, Virginia, there is a dollar sushi night every Sunday and Tuesday. You may know the restaurant. It used to be called Delight Thai Cafe, then they closed for a while and re-opened as Mai Thai. And now, it seems that they've just gone with calling themselves "Pad Thai." It's a fitting name, since they had a reputation for really good Pad Thai. We stuck to sushi, so I don't know if it's still as good as it used to be.

The dollar deal is on nigiri sushi only, which are a large, single piece of fish (or eel or whatever) draped on top of a mound of rice. No fancy sauce, no wasabi mayonnaise, just the real deal. Full sushi rolls are still regularly priced, but supplementing our selection of three rolls with four pieces of nigiri for only a buck each was pretty nice.

The sushi roll call: Philly roll on the left, eel to the front and right, then a "salmon tempura" roll in the back. The roll contained asparagus, crab, maybe even avocado, and salmon of course. The outside was coated lightly with tempura batter and deep-fried, cooking the salmon just slightly and giving the whole thing a satisfying crunch. It was the least traditional roll, but probably our favorite.

The Philadelphia roll was fine, just about the same as anywhere else except that it was pretty light on fish and heavy on cream cheese. The eel roll was completely bland. Our nigiri tasted just like it should - not too fishy, pretty firm. The white fish was a little sweet and buttery. Kaitlin enjoyed the Tamago and Eel.

The best part? They seem to have done away with a once-full bar and now invite customers to BYOB. We brought a bottle of Riesling and the staff happily supplied us with a corkscrew, glasses, and an ice-filled wine cooler at no extra charge.

The verdict? Don't drive all the way to Montgomery just for dollar sushi night. And if you're serious about cheap sushi, the little place up the road called Kyoto is really hard to beat for a good deal. But if you're in the neighborhood and you're looking for something to shake up your usual sushi routine, give Pad Thai a try.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MoMA or Momo?

My business trips to New York are a mad dash to fit in as much stuff around the business as possible. When I started seeing all the press for the Tim Burton retrospective at the MoMA, I put it on the top of my "to do when not doing business" list for my next trip to the big apple.

Most of my free time fell on a Tuesday. The MoMA, as a general rule, is closed each and every Tuesday of the year. I had a little time on Wedensday, and then a little time turned into half an hour, and I was all the way down on Union Square and Tim Burton was scratched off the list.

Conveniently, I had planned ahead for such an event. I'd noted the location of Momofuku Milk Bar, a place I knew almost nothing about, except that "Momofuku" is some kind of shorthand for good food.

When at a milk bar, order milk. They sell soft serve in a variety of non-traditional flavors including "cereal milk" and the one I settled on, "salted caramel pistachio." For upwards of three dollars, I was handed a tiny dixie cup full of greenish, brownish ice cream and a wooden spoon. How New York.

But oh, how good. It was soft serve, but it was rich and so salty on the tongue. The pistachio and the caramel had a kind of peanut butter taste, except this was a peanut butter I would eat right out of the jar. I walked the long blocks back to my hotel, not bothered by honking taxis or by the vast puddles that a morning of rain left behind. Even in a city as alien and wonderful as New York, good ice cream brings me right back home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

At Lavomatic with CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati Card

I've been meaning to get to Lavomatic Cafe since, oh, I don't know, a year and a half ago when everyone else went. Thankfully, it's still rocking the Gateway quarter of OTR in late 2009. Alex and I made the trip down Central Parkway for a Friday night dinner.

I took the opportunity to put the CityBeat 'Best of Cincinnati' card to work. It's a program that offers members a 40% discount at a slew of local restaurants. There's a $25 fee to get your own card started, but once you've got one you'll add money to it like a gift card. The 40% discount comes out when you load the card with money. Take a look at all the rules here.

Full disclosure for you, me and the FTC: CityBeat gave me a card with $50 so that I could give it a try. They're offering the card now at a $25 discount (so, for free basically) if you use promo code boc4free when you sign up for one.

Like the great adorkandhispork once said, I don't like calling what I do reviewing a restaurant. There are plenty of people in Cincinnati who do that, and they do it very well. I'll just tell you about my experience and let you decide whether you want to take your dining dollars to Lavo or not.

The dining room is elongated like a train car and stacked with a bar on the first floor and more seating upstairs. The kitchen is partly visible from the doorway, like an invitation to hurry up and get something to eat. We started off with the tater tots: your standard tot, but with bacon, truffle, and a tomato-based puree. Delicious, sort of greasy, and pretty filling.

We moved on to more re-purposed diner favorites. Alex got the meatloaf cupcake and I ordered the grilled cheese. He cleaned his plate if that tells you anything about the quality of the meatloaf cupcake. My grilled cheese came alongside a bowl of thick tomato soup with a generous sprinkling of basil and garlic. Simple and very good.

Our server was fairly attentive, though the wait times for an appetizer plate to be cleared and a glass of wine to arrive were longer than we would have preferred. Full credit to our waiter, though, who had to make mini cardio workout trips up and down the staircase to deliver food and drinks from the first floor.

Take a look at the restaurant list if you're interested in the card. It's not a bad option for a holiday gift, especially if you get in on the $25 off promotion. If one of their partner restaurants is on your usual dining out hit list, then it would be a better value for you.

A couple of facts:

  • There are no limits on what you can order
  • Tip isn't included
  • Can NOT be used on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or New Year's Eve
No explanation necessary, Lavo rang up our dinner on the CityBeat card without a problem. My card with $50 would have cost me $30 (if we ignore the initial fee). Our dinner with beverages, an appetizer and dessert included came up just over $50. Essentially, we got a $50 meal for $30 (though we still tipped our waiter on that $50). In my book, that's a pretty nice deal.

As for Lavomatic, I couldn't be happier that I finally made it. Though you could easily spend more than $50 on dinner for two there, the options are flexible with many less expensive plates to share over a cocktail or glass of wine. Next time I'm in the Gateway Quarter shopping for a set of trendy kitchen towels, count me in for another meal at Lavomatic.