Review: Stateside

13 June 2017

The previous night I had skipped dinner and had an amazing night seeing the first proper show of this leg of the King Crimson tour. So glad I came all this way for it. Last time I had heard so much of Lizard was in Seoul on that infamous night of excess in 2015…

I had to return my car and switch hotels to near the airport, and of course in the meantime I almost died a few times driving thanks to idiots who CANNOT MERGE. Or inexplicably one of the MIDDLE lanes of the Interstate would come to a DEAD STOP despite other lanes going 55+. I hate this place…

I got to my airport hotel, dumped my rental car, and eventually took the LINK into town. King Crimson was on again at the Moore Theater at 7.30pm and I decided to return to Stateside for an early dinner.

Last time I was at Stateside I forgot to take pictures so I didn’t write a review — and I promised myself I’d return and do a review as it was rather good. But as I sat down at the bar at an early 5.30pm and it was already a bit of a shitshow… With cocktail in hand I ordered 2 small plates and let’s see how it goes, since I don’t need to be at the venue until perhaps 7pm.

1

Very quickly these sad-looking duck rolls appeared. Now if you know Vietnamese rolls, like ones I had in Vietnam, you’d cringe with these. The meat was bad, the herbs didn’t taste fresh. Shocking this would be served in Seattle. I shook my head after finishing the last one… If I wasn’t so hungry, having skipped lunch, I would have pondered abandoning it…

And again, very quickly, the second item appeared, the pork collar…

2-pork collar

Now this was such a ridiculous way of serving this dish. The pork was good but with “vermicelli wrap” thing was done so poorly it flaked and there was no way to eat this properly. Use a fork and knife you end up wasting some of the vermicelli, which was unfortunate; use your hands and it blows up into pieces even before the first bite. Poor kitchen execution of a poorly-planned dish.

I was shocked, what has happened to this place? I’ve read a few recent, worrying reviews too about Stateside and I was hoping it was just BS, but this was not good. Nowhere as good as my previous visit, and now I’m sad I have to write a negative review.

I was still hungry with those 2 small plates, but the place was turning into a shitshow and I didn’t want to have more mediocre food, so I left. Ironically what took the longest to get to me all night was my bill… I paid and headed out hungry and disappointed…

Stateside
300 East Pike Street
Seattle, Washington

* PS Ended up at a izakaya next to the Moore Theater and had a few bites and sake in there before the show. Not bad, but annoyed by the idiot who chose to sit next to me in an empty bar and yell into his Bluetooth…damn you Seattle, I really cannot stand you…

Review: Art of the Table

11 June 2017

I flew into Seattle from Omaha on a relatively smooth flight. A little hiccup with the car rental but I was out the door pretty fast. Seeing the usual stupid traffic on I-5, I pushed north from the west side on 509 into 99. Traffic far better there, and — knowing how bad Seattle drivers are — it was a saner choice. Something about Seattle drivers when they get onto an Interstate — or their inability to get onto it individually without causing drama for the thousands of other drivers already on it (like going on at 20mph or slamming on the brakes because they got scared)…

I made it across the bridge into Fremont (ironically named for the town in Nebraska) and went to look for my destination of the night, Art of the Table. Again, typical Seattle, searched for parking for 20min… That proved futile, and I was gonna give up until I found a tiny pay lot and I went with it. A bit of a hike, but I got there on the quiet Sunday night and perched myself at the bar.

Looked over the menu, I enjoyed a cocktail as I ordered. Chilled, chatting with the bartender a bit before my first item appeared — the grilled asparagus.

1-asparagus

Now the asparagus, hidden below, was nice, the star was the tea duck egg. What a joyous rich snack! I love duck egg, but doing it tea egg style was excellent. Lovely fusion!

For some reason it took ages for the next course, so had another drink before it arrived — the scallops.

2-scallops_edited

These are supposedly gin-cured, not bad. Width of a scallop slice is important as it has to balance with the strength of the natural flavours of the scallop; sometimes milder scallops need a thicker slice while a sweet one could use the thinnest of slices to make its point. This was somewhere in the middle. Anyway, not bad.

I decided to order a main course at this point and switched to some wine. Chilled out and chatted more with the bartender before it arrived — the duck confit.

3-duck

Excellent stuff, cooked perfectly with fabulous meat. I’ve been having a lot of good duck lately, like during my short hiking trip a few weeks back at The Vault in Beacon (NY) and Nudel in Lee (MA). Nice close to this night.

A drink later I headed out, thanking the bartender for his work — tho again, the mandatory 20% is a little annoying. I would have tipped a bit more this evening, but seeing that mandatory thing I just left it as is. One of the most annoying trends in the industry — and the only thing to marr an otherwise nice quiet dinner.

Art of the Table
3801 Stone Way North
Seattle, Washington

Review: Table 128

10 June 2017

Had a raging hangover after that wonderful evening at Proof, but trudge on I must. I spent the day exploring central Iowa. My goodness, after today, I have seen corners of Iowa most Iowans have not; frankly I’ve probably visited more of Iowa this year than most presidential candidates, from Keokuk to Denison, from Essex to Dodge City, from Oskaloosa to Sioux City, from Ames to Iowa City, from Davenport to Council Bluffs…

But I was knackered, and my little rental car was getting beat up from the dirt and gravel roads I’ve had to deal with during the explorations, so I headed back to get some rest. And lo and behold my HP laptop, which I purchased a few months ago to replace my bricked-after-3-months Compaq laptop, bricked itself. Actually worse than a brick because it just emits a loud, hi-pitch sound non-stop. UGH.

I then made the decision to stop travelling with a laptop, which is gonna slow down my postings here because I frankly cannot write reviews using my phone… In any case, with this hanging over me, I headed to dinner. I need something to clear my head…

Dinner tonight is at Table 128 in the nearby suburb of Clive. I was told many good things about this place last night, so was looking forward to a good meal. I have to say, the staff here was excellent again and super friendly. Des Moines has won the award of the friendliest place I’ve visited since Louisville most certainly.

I enjoyed a drink and ordered. Chatted with the bartender until my starter appeared…

1-curry meatball

Hmmm…not too sure about this combination, a sweet-ish “curry” lamb meatballs. The flavouring was odd, but once you got through that the lamb itself was fantastic. Too bad the naan was utterly inedible…

Was a bit worried after this start, but then the main arrived.

2-cheeks

Quite a nice cheek dish over a bed of horseradish risotto, which wasn’t bad albeit mild. The cheeks were good, I just love their complex texture in general but this was a good one. Nowhere as good as the amazing one I had in Honolulu at Lucky Belly, but this was nice.

I enjoyed one more drink but after last night’s excess I had to call it a day. I thanked the excellent staff, including one that was headed to school in DC (my hood), so gave some tips before I headed out the door and back to my hotel. Looked at my pricey brick and sighed…

I left a little part of myself in Des Moines, but sadly, also a part of that brick… Next up — after driving back to Omaha — Seattle.

Table 128
12695 University Avenue #140
Clive, Iowa

Review: Proof

9 June 2017

I headed out of Omaha, disappointed by that poor experience at The Grey Plume, for neighbouring Iowa — my third time in this state this year. I spent the day exploring the northern part of the state, places that few see. Yes, lots of farmland, but there are also surprised along the way. I got to Des Moines on a rather warm day knackered.

I had planned for dinner at a place downtown called Proof. I wasn’t sure why the hotel rates in Des Moines were so crazy this weekend, which left me at a distant suburb. Nevertheless the minute I sat down at the bar at Proof I knew the trek into town was worth it.

The bartender was a class act all night, and reminded me of some of the best mixologists I’ve seen — humble yet knowledgeable, willing to experiment, and a good person to chat with all night — without missing a step in service. I relaxed with a cocktail and looked over the menu. Cool little place, I can get to really like this like Boiler Room in Omaha.

I moved onto a second cocktail when my starter appeared — a halloumi salad.

1-halloumi

Now you think halloumi in Iowa? Yes, and it was good — as halloumi always is. Throw in some grains, shoots and radish and you got a wonderful little starter. Nice! Then the main course, and I smiled.

2-pork chop

This is a wonderful pork chop cooked perfectly from a wonderfully sourced animal. Lovely taste, bringing out the best of the pork without smothering it in some over-cheffed fashion. Excellent!

I was enjoying myself so much with the food, drinks and banter I ended up staying for quite a long time, and started the “test my bartender” thing by having him use me as a guinea pig for drink ideas. That was fun, and led me to order a dessert…well, my kind of dessert…

3-charcuterie

Yes, a nice meat and cheese plate. The sausage of the day was excellent, as were the cheeses — especially the prairie breeze. Worked so well with the cocktails. Perhaps a few too many, but a lovely evening with some excellent talent here. A cute place to enjoy an evening!

sign

If you ever find yourself in Des Moines I seriously recommend this place. Fab food, excellent drinks, wonderful folks. It’ll surprise you, and you’ll never think about Iowa in the same way again!

Proof
1301 Locust Street
Des Moines, Iowa

Review: The Grey Plume

8 June 2017

After last night’s fabulous dinner at the Boiler Room, I had very high expectations for dinner tonight at The Grey Plume. I had a long day that took me around Nebraska and into Iowa, where I had to go somewhere that was way off the beaten track and nearly destroyed my rental car on the non-road that I needed to take…

I got to downtown Omaha and got to the restaurant and was seated. Already things seem a bit odd as service seems a bit confused. Hmmm…there seems to be only 1 person working the entire section and I sat for about 10 minutes before I called them for a drinks menu. Really not liking the start here — nearly totally opposite from last night.

I ordered a drink and tried to chill, but things seem to run very differently here. A wee amuse and very quickly my starter arrived.

1-cauliflower soup

Cauliflower soup, not bad, but touch acidic. The dish was brought out by someone in the kitchen, plating it in front of me. Sadly, all show. Very meh item, with the aforementioned acid cutting through everything else. Sigh…

Took me ages to get someone’s attention for some wine, and I was starting to lower my expectations seriously for my main course. Then it came — the pork tasting.

2-pork tasting

After last night I wanted to enjoy more pork, and this was pretty good to be honest. Parts of it were excellent, such as t eh belly. The sausage didn’t quite work. But there was too much residual mess on the plate that made this too incongruent for me. And talking about plate, this plate was NOT designed for use to cut on the sides as it elevates, so the dish would perilously nearly tip over if you apply any cutting pressure on 1 or the other side. Trying too hard to be too cute.

In any case, I couldn’t get any attention for another glass of wine so I didn’t bother. Just nursed the last drops. I ordered a coffee and a drink and skipped dessert. When I asked for the bill I was unpleasantly surprised to see them adding 20% already on the tab for service.

I was too tired to argue, and that would probably take another 20 minutes, so I didn’t bother. I just expressed my displeasure at having to pay 20% for sub-standard service on the credit card slip. Compared to last night’s excellent service, tonight was a total letdown. Sigh…

The Grey Plume
220 South 31st Avenue #3101
Omaha, Nebraska

Review: Boiler Room

7 June 2017

I began a pretty long trip that would take me across the US and back, the main part of it going to Seattle to see the first few King Crimson concerts. But with some time, I took advantage of airlines that do one-way ticketing to create stops en route. The first stop brought me to Omaha, Nebraska — where I’ve not been in over 2 decades.

The city has certainly changed. I got in late afternoon and wandered around a little before settling into dinner at a cool little place called the Boiler Room. I knew this was a sign when this showed up on my drinks menu…

menu - 02

Yeah, I’m going cross-country for a King Crimson concert so I had to order it…

kc

Not bad, perhaps just a little sweet for me, but not bad at all. Coincidental or a sign? Anyway, I ordered my dinner in the meantime and chilled. Nice bar (I chose to sit at the bar) and enjoyed chatting with the bartender all night, as well as some fellow patrons. Soon the starter arrived.

1-tongue pastrami

Mmm, a rather flavourful rendition of a pastrami pork tongue. Nice texture, lovely flavour here. A really nice start! Then the main course, the pork shoulder…

2-pork shoulder

First of all I apologise as the camera refused to focus correctly for some reason. But damn this was good. Juicy, tender pork that was cooked perfectly, bringing out the very best of the excellent meat. And on the side was a cute and delicious piece of belly with some green strawberries. A fabulous dish!

I was a bit too full for a dessert, so had a liquid one. A very long list, and I went with an armagnac. Amazing how much Omaha has changed. My expectations for this part of the trip has increased dramatically! A great start!

Highly recommended if you are in Omaha — for food, drinks, or anything else!

Boiler Room
1110 Jones Street
Omaha, Nebraska

Review: Nudel

24 May 2017

I got the hell out of that disgusting hotel in Fishkill and headed out north, exploring a few other places along the Hudson. Checked out some historic churches and cemeteries, and did a bit of hiking later in the day in the Berkshires as I crossed into Massachusetts.

I was totally knackered by the end of the day as I found a nice place to stay in Lee. I decided to go to a place in nearby Lenox for dinner called Nudel. Got there and chose to take the counter.

I enjoyed a glass of wine as I watched them work — and I tried not to laugh when a rather unsophisticated diner at a table couldn’t understand her food and tried asking for all sorts of odd substitutions…seriously just go to Applebee’s if you’re gonna not want this or that…

I ordered and chef then asked if he could flip the main first and the starter second, as that affects cooking time. I’m game, since he said the portions were about the same. Why not. And not too long later the “main” arrived — skate wing.

1-skate wing

A nice piece of fried skate wing, quite a large portion. A salad type of dish so I feel better. The fiddleheads were a nice and much-liked surprise, and the fish was delicious. Excellent. Then I relaxed with some wine before my “starter” arrived…

2-duck confit

Now this is an excellent duck confit. Again perfect execution — awesome crispy skin, and extremely delicious meat. Fabulous stuff. Two days of excellent duck, following that excellent breast at The Vault in Beacon

Unfortunately none of the desserts grabbed my attention and they don’t have a full liquor license nor dessert wines I decided to head out. A nice place, definitely worth dropping in anywhere in this corner of Massachusetts!

Nudel
37 Church Street
Lenox, Massachusetts

PS: Unfortunately my saga just began as some Masshole had parked in a way that I was stuck. I went to 6 nearby establishments looking for the moron but no go. The closest restaurant, Zinc Bistro, was extremely helpful and encourage me to call the cops. And with the help of a wonderful officer from the Lenox Police Department he guided me onto the sidewalk all the way down the street until there was enough of a gap in the roadside barriers to sneak back onto the road. That got me back to Lee for the night, and a last day of trekking through the rather wet Berkshires before heading into Springfield and soon after a late flight home — that was unfortunately very delayed. Landed just before midnight and I sprinted to the last train and got home… Yes, all while ill.