Saltwater

128 Washington StNorwalk, CT 06854 • (203) 939-9502 • saltwatersono.com

This place should be ashamed of itself being so close to actual saltwater and yet doing its bounty such a disservice. And thing of it is, I kinda blame myself, because from the moment you walk in the décor pretty much screams DANGER! CRAP THEME RESTAURANT. Complete with aqua painted floors, wall and ceiling and actual blue and white beach gazebos as booths.

And yet I pressed on, because this is what I do for you, my readers. I eat shit food so you don’t have to. But that’s just me. I’m a giver… of primarily scathing reviews.

And scathing this shall be, because virtually everything was bland or worse, including our waiter. Not that he was bland, he was just flat-out terrible. But to be fair, we got off on the wrong foot because the place was entirely out of lobster in any way, shape or form by 8pm on a Saturday night! A seafood restaurant, on the second biggest night of the weekend, is out of an ingredient that’s in a quarter of the dishes on the menu. WTF?!

So, with two major strikes already against it, the rest of the menu was going to have to be stellar and spoiler alert, it wasn’t.

The octopus was average. The scallops over the risotto cake was a glorified bowl of mush. In fact, the only things that even registered on the foodometer were the raw oysters and the Sono salad. The oysters being hard to claim as a culinary success, if you ask me, because you’re really taking credit for nature’s unfettered fruits

There were other dishes on the table as well, but I can’t recall what they were, which I think speaks volumes- the fact that my mind is blocking the meal like a traumatic incident. Be warned!

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Marea

240 Central Park SNew York, NY 10019 • (212) 582-5100 • marea-nyc.com

Poetry comes in many forms and at Marea, that form is fish, named after the stunning Tahitian island and for good reason, this place is stunning. Not so much from a décor perspective, although it is clean and elegant. The food, however, handily solidifies this as one of the top places to get your fish on in the city.

And oh boy is it on. Starting with the seared yellowtail, blistered carrots and potatoes. It is so ridic, I can’t even remember how to spell the other half of that word.

Also swoon-worthy is the lobster caprese, which is essentially as it sounds, in other words, really friggin’ good.

The octopus starter is also very good, but I did find it to be the least inventive of the three and not quite at the same caliber.

For entrees, I only had my one, but one is all it took. So good I’m glad I didn’t share. Perfection on a plate, although when I tell you the accompaniments you’re going to think I lost my marbles. Lettuce and pistachio. Yah! That’s it. How it could be so good can only be described in a word, magic. AKA butter.

Come dessert, this is my only caution, because there is a miss in the midst. The affagato is made with WAY too much coffee to the point where it throws the who thing off balance and basically tastes like a cup of coffee with cream in it. For true affagreatness, I recommend Fortina in Westchester and Stamford, CT. But fret not, dessert is not a total bust. Case in point, the donuts, warm, deep fried proof dipped in lemon crème and chocolate. Oh daddy!

Now for my only real gripes. The wine list, while decent is a bit pricey. And although I sincerely appreciate the wait staff’s sensitivity to hovering by letting us have our space, it is at the peril of attentiveness, because if you don’t ask for things your meal can easily turn into a seven-hour time vortex. Which brings up a very real dilemma, because as you know, I HUGE pet peeve of mine is being rushed out of a restaurant for turnover sake. But I guess my frustration lies somewhere in the middle. Can’t we find a happy medium?

That’s really it though. Marea is pretty perfect. No need to come off as one of those people who is so bored with life, they have to find shit to bitch about. So I’ll shut up now and you go to Marea.

Maison Premiere

298 Bedford AveBrooklyn, NY 11249 • (347) 335-0446 • maisonpremiere.com

 

More like Maison Meh. And to think this place was actually considered for a James Beard! It’s not even worthy of a James Buchanan. Sure, the setting is nice in the back garden and the oysters are money, especially with that marvelous mignonette, but just because the serve absinthe doesn’t make them 4 stars (unless you got really drunk on the absinthe and meant to actually click 2 stars). This over inflation of culinary prowess makes Brooklynites look desperate, trying to keep claiming that all the really good restaurants are now in Brooklyn and not Manhattan. They aren’t. I’m sorry to break it to you. Okay, so you’ve got Vinegar Hill House, Blanca, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Peter Pan Donuts, Peter Luger– Okay, fuck it. So you have a lot of good restaurants. That still doesn’t change the fact that Maison isn’t one of them.

The crudos are crapo. The cod brandade is blandade. The sardines and olive starters are passable at best. And even the octopus is a rubbery mess. And I wish I could say things got better but apart from the Atlantic Cod served over Tarbais beans and the pork porterhouse with mashed potatoes and shrooms, they got so much worse. The lobster roll would be considered a crime in the state of Maine. And the duck au poivre is so inedible it could almost start a war again with France.

But the atrocities against our mouths weren’t quite done yet as the monster rose back up from the dead for one final blow, in the form of empty calories. Both the cheesecake and the absinthe pana cotta were bunk, sealing the fate of MP with a firm two knives.

Pearl at Longshore Restaurant & Bar

260 Compo Rd SWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-6260 • pearlatlongshore.com

Four!!!! That’s the knife count I’m giving, because it is very seldom that country club food is ever this good. Not even remotely. But once again, Westport manages to buck suburban expectations to show the world that you can have your crab cake and eat it too.

Like most country clubs the setting is a stunner, after all, you’re usually sitting amidst an immaculately landscaped golf course. But very few clubs are on the ocean, overlooking the water. Which decidedly takes things up a notch as you sit on the outdoor patio, overlooking a sailing class as they practice in the channel between there and Saugatuck Island. Also, a little know secret, Westport is apparently where Great Gatsby was inspired, looking across the Long Island Sound to the houses on the other shore. And while I sat there having my brunch, I must admit, I felt pretty great.

Things did start off a little rocky, however, with poor service and the Nutella cinnamon buns that tasted a lot like Pillsbury. Not that I have anything against the Dough Boy, but when I go out to a restaurant I expect them to up the game over things my kids could make.

But after that, Pearl went on a tear. The warm, fresh-baked bread and olive oil was so good you could tell it was the start of something special. Then came the Maine lobster benny which was absolutely superb! The eggs, runny, the potatoes spicy and the lobster…lobster-y?

The egg white frittata was also delish, although a bit inconsistent. My wife’s was loaded with all sorts of goodies and full of flavor. Whereas my mother’s was anemic with ingredients and the lesser of the two. So if you get gipped, I’d send it back for a do-over.

The French toast is also really good, soaked like a baller, dusted with confection and berries and hard to resist wolfing it down before anyone asks for a bite.

The only miss for me was the Belgian Waffle. It’s pretty pedestrian compared to the other options.

As for dinner, I haven’t actually been yet. Only for drinks, but watching some of the dishes go by, I have very high hopes.

La Perla

Old Mutual Building, Beach Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town, 8005, South Africa • +27 21 439 9538 • laperla.co.za

If you should ever find yourself in Cape Town and you are staying at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, affectionately known as “The Nelly” and realistically known as “an old folks home,” do NOT ask them for restaurant recommendations because they will send you to places like this.

La Perla is a tourist trap located near the water, offering little more than friendly service that knows how to cater to visitors like myself and a view of the water. But friendly service in Cape Town is fairly common and sadly they didn’t have the food to back them up.

It starts off promising, however, with a decent bread basket and a capable beef carpaccio that will lull you into thinking you are in for a treat. But then the flavorless caprese salad comes and you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.

And then everything turns South with a seafood platter that is impressive in size only. To give you an idea of just how big this thing is, it could handily feed 10 people without any other course accompanying it. So don’t let them oversell you on it, because it is a waste of food and money. Not to mention it depletes the ocean’s crustacean population.

Also be wary of anyone who tells you that he linguini with clams is the way to go. Unless you are going to spit out, I suppose. I’ve had a Lean Cuisine version that rivals it.

Shockingly, as a closer, the chocolate cake was actually killer good. Less shocking, however, is that the pineapple coconut dessert was par for the course.

Two Oceans

Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, 7975, South Africa • +27 21 780 9200 • https://www.two-oceans.co.za

This place is quite literally living on the edge, nestled into the side of a rocky cliff, overlooking the Cape of Good Hope (pictured). As a result, the views are absolutely stunning, and although it’s as touristy as all hell, they somehow manage to pull things off with a modicum of class. I might even go so far as to say it just might be one of the best on site tourist trap restaurants I’ve ever been in.

Our lunch began with our charming waiter, Lovermore taking our order and making strong recommends, for which I couldn’t love Lovemore more (I know it sounds like something out of the movie “Superbad,” but I shit you not that this was his real name, or at least what he goes by and appears on his nametag).

Per Lovemore’s suggestion, we opened with a refreshing bottle of a South African Chenin Blanc and a dozen oysters that were awesome sauce. This was then chased by the giant prawns, which were buttery beyond belief, in a good way (for taste buds, not arteries).

The caprese salad was quite enjoyable as well, although the biscuit they serve with it, while also tasty, was extraordinarily hard to cut. In fact even Durst with a bone saw might find this to be a challenge.

The only out and out miss was the Turkish Delight cheesecake for dessert. I guess I was homesick for my home away from home and paid the price dearly, because it was disgusting. But I’ll gladly take the heat for this one, because I shoulda listened more to Lovemore. God, I love the wordplays with his name.

I also love the fact that this place manages to buck expectations and temptations to phone it in and be just another touristy cafe that has you by the balls since there’s nowhere else to eat. Good on ya, Two Oceans. For that alone I give you two thumbs up.

The Whelk

575 Riverside AveWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-0902 • thewhelkwestport.com

Having been to Le Farm (RIP) many, many years ago and loving it, I was pleased to learn that The Whelk was actually the mother ship. Plus, I had heard from just about everyone who lives within 50 miles of Westport that this is the best place to eat in town, so expectations were as high as the studio producers who thought Office Christmas Party was a good script.

But The Whelk delivers, hype and all. With its casual Cape Cod charm and equally warm service, I was sucked into being a convert faster than Vin Diesel, strapped to Usain Bolt, glued to a cheetah, duct taped to a rocket booster, wired to nitrous oxide packs.

A great deal of that being due to our adorable server who made us feel welcome, special and taken care of. What more could you ask for? Well, good food, of course, and The Whelk answered that call without a moment to spare, starting with some heavenly deviled eggs topped with fried oysters (pictured). They were literally amazeballs- ball-shaped and amazing. Oh, and an Ultimate in two categories; deviled eggs and oyster dishes.

And just as we were descending back to earth, up we went again with the scallop crudo and another Ultimate, which is also amazeballs, but not literally this time. Blessed with heat and blood orange, this place definitely knows how to handle its mollusks, which shouldn’t come as a shock I suppose considering the name of the establishment is a mollusk.

Another brilliant starter is the crab toast. Bright and lemony with the perfect hit of spice on the finish. Simple, but perfection.

For entrees, I highly recommend hake if it’s still on the menu by the time you go. It’s cooked like a boss, with a beautiful preparation that I won’t taunt you with because it was already gone by the second time we went, replaced by a trout with collard greens that didn’t quite fill the void left by the wonderful hake.

What is always there, however, is one of the best burgers I’ve had in a very long time, so if you’re not feelin’ the fish, you will not go hungry my friend.

The only mortal dish for me that I have discovered thus far (apart from the trout, which technically I didn’t order) would be the salt and pepper squid. I mean it’s good, but no better than any halfway decent fried calamari you could get a bagillion other places.

Capping things off on high, we ended the night with the white chocolate and cherry bread pudding, which if you’ve been following me for any length of time you know is my weak spot. But weakness aside, The Whelk finished strong. And while the Banana Bavarian is also good, it’s not even worth comparing it to the bread pudding, therefore I won’t.

The place packs ‘em in almost every night, for good reason, so be sure to make a reservation, go on an off night or an off hour, or prepare to wait. Fortunately it’s worth it, because as those before me suggest, it truly is the best restaurant in Westport. Hell, I think it gives Pearl and L&W in NYC a run for their money!

Tommy Bahama Restaurant

9101 International Dr. Ste 1200 Orlando, FL 32819 (321) 281-5888tommybahama.com

tommybahaamafood

I know. I know. Ferocious, what in the hell are you doing eating in a clothing store? And a fairly cheesy one, no less! Well, it might surprise you to know that what their clothing lacks in taste, they make up for with food. Stop laughing. I’m trying to be serious here (for once). The food is actually pretty impressive and all hand made to order.

At the start, I found their bread to be just okay on its own, but the butter they serve it with makes it a worthwhile event. It’s made with cinnamon, nutmeg and honey.

The best thing of the meal for me was the coconut crab cake with thai chili. I know everyone on Yelp swoons about the coconut shrimp, but let’s be honest, how hard is it to nail as a dish? Have you ever had a bad one? Crab cakes on the other hand, are more of a skill test, especially this far from Baltimore. But consider this test aced, because it was friggin awesome. Spicy and sweet. Crunchy and tender. And much lighter than one might think.

On the heavier side, but also very good where the Chicken “Lollipops” rolled in hazelnuts with a jerk remoulade. I’m not exactly sure how you can call a drumstick a lollipop, but I’ll forgive them because they were also pretty damn-tastic.

Down from there, I stole a bite of the crab and avocado salad and found it to be decent, but not quite as nummy as the mentions above.

And the only miss for me was the ahi tuna taco appetizer, served on fried wonton shells with spicy mayo drizzle that was more drizzle than spice. That said, if you ask for a side of that thai dipping sauce from the crab cake and dip the tacos in them, then you’re talkin’.

Being that we were quite full at this point we opted for a half portion of the key lime pie to share and while it is also pretty good, it does fall a touch shy of great, because it lacks the necessary tartness that true key lime pies should have. Luckily it doesn’t go too sweet though either.

So skip the Hawaiian shirts and the tuna tacos and you are poised to have yourself a Bahelluva good meal.

3 teeth

Lupulo

835 6th Ave. New York, NY 1000 • (212) 290-7600 lupulonyc.com
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I’ve been to Lupolo twice now. Once for dinner and once for lunch and while neither of them changed my life, of the two I actually kinda lean more towards lunch, to be honest. The expectations are lower for that meal occasion, and I think that helps this place a lot. Because while Lupolo tries very hard to live up to the New York scene it doesn’t quite stick the landing when it comes to the caliber of cuisine.

In terms of décor, however, I find the vibe to be high energy and equally high noise level, almost reminiscent of a fish market with its nautical ropes, distressed wood and beautiful ocean blue sea tiles- mixed with a healthy dose of New York hip (pictured). In pleasant contrast, however, the servers are all Portuguese-nice. Maybe this is a stereotype I have, but one has to admit that as stereotypes go, it’s a pretty good one to have.

From dinner, the only real stand out was the mackerel spread. The octopus, red snapper cru and Iberico ham all falling into the vortex of yawn.

Whereas for lunch, the bacalhau a bras, an open face scrambled egg sandwich with salted cod flakes, potato and black olive proved much better. But I say this with a grain of salt, or more accurately, with several drops of hot sauce, because it was only with their hot sauce that I found the dish worthy of my love. So be sure to ask for it. Just also be sure to use it in moderation, because it’s muy potento.

2 teeth

The Lobster Press

2 Penn Plz New York, NY 10121(646) 776-3700 thelobsterpress.com

Lobster+Press+with+sauce_credit+Mark+Rywelski

Are you sitting down? If not, I’ll wait… Okay, here it goes. There is a really great place to eat in Penn Station. All right, stop laughing. I’m trying to be serious here. It’s called The Pennsy and it is quite literally the answer to my foodie prayers, single-handedly making me happy to be close to Penn Station, which is no small feat.

So what is the Pennsy? The Pennsy is a high end food court dressed with a modern, industrial vibe and loaded with some pretty kick ass options ranging from Batali grilled cheese sammies, to Cinnamon Snail (which you already know how I feel about), to a Marc Forgione lobster hut.

Now, if you haven’t already read my review of Marc Forgione, you should go do that so that you can appreciate the unbridled joy that I am about to spew effusively.

The very same magical chili sauce you’ll find in Marc’s transcendent lobster appetizer at his signature restaurant is transformed into a dipping jus for a hot pressed lobster and cheese sandwich served on a blissfully crunchy ciabatta. Oh. Daddy. Yes!

Then wash that puppy down with some spicy Maine Root Ginger Ale and- Fuck it. I just heart the Pennsy. ‘Nuff said.

3 teeth