Mecha Noodle Bar

1215 Post RdFairfield, CT 06824 • (203) 292-8222 • mechanoodlebar.com
 

This just might be the most happenin’ strip mall in America. You’ve got Brick + Wood, Milkcraft and then right next door to that you’ve got Mecha. And all three are so damn good that they all have a long, damn wait.

Wait aside, Mecha is like Mecca for ramen. Worth the pilgrimage for great food. The décor is pretty cool as well, marked by the simple touch of 2×4’s dangling overhead to connote noodles. They’ve also cracked the code between kid-friendly and adult crowds, but sadly this secret is out, so there’s pretty much a wait no matter when you go, unless you just happen to hit the seam between rushes.

For those of you visiting from Westport on south, you’re probably wondering how it stacks up to Kawa Ni. Quite well, I would say, although very different vibes. I’d say Mecha is much more casual and high energy, whereas Kawa Ni is more intimate and adult skewed.

The menu is more noodle-based than Kawa Ni though, but very tasty in its own right. We started with a pair of Thai Iced Teas and the roasted mushroom dumplings, which were excellent, particularly with the brown butter miso sauce.

For noodles, I went with the Pho Shore, which as the name implies is loaded with seafood and other goodies. Speaking of which, be very careful with the thai chili add on. I like heat and this kicked my ass.

Wifey was smarter (as usual) and put the heat control in her own hands, opting for the Veggie Ramen and Sriracha on the side. This was also very good and we will definitely be going back. At an odd hour.

A very, VERY strong 3 knives for Mecha. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Milkcraft is right next door for dessert.

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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.

Le Baoli

Port Pierre Canto Bd de la Croisette 06400 Cannes, France • +33 4 93 43 03 43lebaoli.com

Le Bâoli - Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, France. Sushi and sashimi

As one might expect, the seafood in Cannes is pretty damn good as a norm, so it would only seem logical that perhaps the sushi in Cannes might also be quite exceptional, despite its unfavorable proximity to Japan. Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s god-awful. No, I think that’s sugar-coating it. I think it just might be the worst sushi can possibly be without getting you sick. I’m not kidding. I’ve had better sushi in the desert for Christ sake!

Everything was so flavorless I could’ve easily bitten off the tips of my chopsticks by accident and I would’ve never noticed the difference. From the rice to the seaweed to the fish (no matter whether it was salmon or tuna or anything else for that matter), it all tasted the same. Even the friggin’ wasabi didn’t help because it was just as bland as everything else!

Then, adding salt to the wound, which I suppose we should’ve put on the sushi, the service was shit and the music was so brutally loud that it took away from the fact that we were sitting on the beach overlooking the Mediterranean. But instead, we felt like we were a captive in the movie Saw.

1 tooth

Aberdeen Seafood & Dim Sum

3 Barker Ave. White Plains, NY 10601 • (914) 288-0188 • aberdeenwhiteplains.com/index.html

SONY DSC

This place is the real deal. Down and dirty (emphasis on dirty). Locals only. And by that I mean we were the only honkies in the joint. Which is usually a good sign that you’re in for a nice plate of authenticity.

What isn’t such a good sign, however, is that it’s located in a Marriott hotel and the fish tanks that line the entrance are all brightly lit- kinda cruel for your more nocturnal sea creatures, such as lobsters, but then again, they are about to be eaten, so who really cares I suppose.

On the plus side, the fish tanks make for a highly engaging distraction with the kids while you wait for the food to come. But just wait until you have to pry them away to eat. It’s as if they learned a thing or two from the octopus and grew suction cups on their face to keep it stuck to the glass.

As for the food, there are only two ways to go here, dim sum (only served for lunch), because their dumplings are killer (if we had stuck with these, I might go 4 knives). Or seafood, as the wall of fish tanks might imply. And if you look around at what all the regulars are ordering, it’s pretty much fish across the board.

If, however, you choose to stray off of the recommended path, I think you will come to regret it (I speak from experience), because the chicken lo mein and orange beef were both oily as hell, like any number of other Chinese restaurants you’ve probably tried, with the exception of a scant few such as Rice in Armonk (RIP), Chin Chin, Shun Lee, China Grill and from what I hear, Han Dynasty. Still on my wish list if anyone wants to take me. Hint, hint.

Lastly, the service it’s definitely friendly, but not very thorough, which I found pretty unforgivable considering we were only one of two tables in the entire place for at least the first half of our meal.

2 teeth

Fred L’Ecallier

Place de l’Etang, Cannes, France • 0493431585 • http://www.fredlecailler.com/#_=_
5422

If you’re staying in the heart of Cannes, it’s a bit of a hike on foot, but it’ll be worth it on your way back, because you’ll want to burn off the mounds of food you are likely to consume. Not that the food is that heavy, it’s more a result of everything looking so damn good and tasting as good as it looks. So before you know it, you’ve ordered enough seafood to deplete the Mediterranean Sea, from bountiful whole fish to shellfish and everything in between, it’s sort of like Astoux & Brun in that regard, but with much better décor.

Speaking of, this is perhaps my favorite reason for making the trek to Fred, for the setting. You sit in a secluded, yet expansive garden, with a delightful wooden trellis overhead, set away from the street, so there’s no such thing as a bad table- unless you have to sit inside due to rain, I suppose. Not that the inside is atrocious, but compared to the alternative, there’s no contest.

Service is also hard to compete with, because they are shockingly warm and friendly, and I’m not just saying that as a stereotypical dig on the French. There is just so much pride in their restaurant that you can’t help but love them for it. Not snooty pride though, sincere pride. Like it’s their baby. And whoa baby is it something to be proud of.

4 teeth

Aromi

Mánesova 1442/78, 120 00 Praha 2-Vinohrady, Czech Republic
+420 222 713 222 • http://www.aromi.cz

126911-14-aromi-prague

When in Prague, the temptation is to take in one of the amazing Czech bier gardens and in all honesty, should definitely do that too. However, if you find yourself growing tired of Eastern European fare, than I strongly urge you to take in one of the best Italian meals I’ve ever had in Europe. And strangely enough I’ve been to Italy twice and Aromi is better than 95% of the meals I had in Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence and Tuscany.

From a killer wine list to an amazing olive oil served with the bread, things started off with all systems go and not a hitch followed. Everything was delicious from the antipasti to the pastas, entrees and dessert. And for a land-locked country, even the seafood was excellent.

Service was friendly and attentive, offering great recommendations and the décor is warm and elegant, yet inviting enough to welcome even the most casual of diners.

It was easily my favorite meal in Prague- well, tied for my favorite, after all, bier gardens do have their merits.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Beer

McSorleys-light-and-dark

Staropramen

While Pilsner Urquell is the more well known Czech beer in the U.S., and rightly so, it’s pretty special, its Czech brother Staropramen might just be even better. Not just because one is a pilsner and the other lager. And not just because it’s harder to come by, and therefore more elusive and special- because it stands as well on its own as it does with food. Urquell, while terrific in both respects as well, falls a hair short by itself, because it’s so much lighter, which makes for an ideal meal companion, and drinkability, but on its own the flavor is not so impressionable that it would ever have you savoring the aftertaste. Whereas Staropramen is all of that and a bag of yum. Crisp. With a longer, more complex taste. And a much stronger finish that could put most Olympic gymnasts to shame.

 

McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured)

For my micro brew bestie I have to give it up to McSorley’s in New York City. It’s the oldest bar in Manhattan offering up only two beers since 1854, McSorley’s Ale and McSorley’s Dark Ale (pictured). Served in biblical proportions. No seriously. This isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a Noah’s ark business model. They only serve their beers in twos. And while both are great, I’m a bit partial to the dark. It has a Negro Modelo vibe about it, but with a little more ester to it. If you’re in NYC for a visit or live there, this place is a must for a glass of beer. Well, technically two glasses. Or four… Or six… They go pretty quickly.

 

Sapporo

If you’re getting sushi you have two options as far as I’m concerned. Sake or Sapporo. Screw Asahi and save the green tea for dessert. Sapporo is the perfect companion. Made remarkably smooth with the use of rice, which is perhaps part of why it grooves so well with Japanese cuisine. In fact, it goes so well, it’s almost as if it were purposefully engineered to go specifically with sushi. Well, be it the case or not, suffice it to say that Sapporo is the Sonny Bono to raw fish’s Cher.

 

Guinness

I’m not exactly sure why any other stout beer exists, because they’re all trying to be like Mike. And they all fall miserably short. Tasting like the hops took a shit in your glass. But not Guiness. Oh no. This stout manages to caress your buds in a lather as smooth as milk. But the craziest thing is that while most stouts are very heavy and highly caloric, Guinness is neither. The only nit is that she’s a temperamental brew. She doesn’t like to sit around, so make sure you’re getting your pint from a place that pours a lot of it, otherwise don’t even bother. And while the bottle and can versions are much improved over the years, they still don’t compare to the likes of a well-poured pint from the keg.

 

Blue Moon

This newest comer to the list exploded onto the scene about ten years ago and shook up the beer category so much that it needed Dramamine to recover. In fact, this Belgian Wheat is so damn good it’s the only one that I keep stocked in my house. Goes great with seafood, burgers, dogs and pizza. And while it’s often served with a slice of orange, don’t discount it as a fruity, fru fru brew. It’s just as great sans slice, and better than every other Belgian beer I’ve had.

 

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

As the only non-mass beer on the list, I feel the need to go above and beyond to say just how special this beer is. If you should be so lucky as to happen upon a tap, be sure to order it. Spare no expense, because it will pay for itself on the first sip. You have never tasted anything this special in beerhood. Forget the opulence of Chimay, although I must admit it sort of reminded of the creamy Belgian, but instead of deriving its cool from brewing it in a monastery, Kentucky pulls a trump card and brews it in actual bourbon barrels, as the name suggests. The result layers the beer with incredibly complex notes that subtly spring to life in your mouth. Balanced by a hint of sweetness, the takeaway becomes smooth and creamy. And while the alcohol content is a bit higher than the others, it’s surprisingly easy to drink. Perhaps too easy.

Providence

5955 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90038(323) 460-4170providencela.com

 michelin-andre-2

We were so excited to eat here after reading all of the amazing reviews and seeing the menu.  And the only served to raise expectations even higher as it is very pretty, yet understated with classy touches like the hint of barnacles on the ceiling.

But then the food came and was one unimpressive dish after another. Everything was bland to be honest. Even things like salt and pepper ice cream for dessert, which seems like the antithesis of bland, and yet it was to the taste.

And it’s such a shame too, because the preparations sound so creative. The dishes are all well cooked and beautifully presented, but nothing, not one single bite rose above an “eh.”

Instead try Son of a Gun, it’s much more of a casual scene, but if you want truly flavorful seafood dishes, I highly recommend it.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Fish

2009-11-25-20091124vanderbiltfish

La Chevre D’or – Eze, FR

If you’re going to pay 90 Euros for a piece of turbot, it had better be the best friggin’ turbot you’ve ever had. And so it was. Flaky, moist and cooked to perfection. Yet more flavorful than you would ever think a white fish could be. Plated in such a way that even your eyes feel like they are getting in on the action.

Craft – New York, NY

Chollicio is the man. There’s no denying it. Ever since Craft hit the scene over a decade ago it has been one of New York’s finest. And it does so through very unconventional means, simplicity. He doesn’t go crazy with the sauces and accouterments. He doesn’t try to get all techy with foams and shit. He keeps it clean and let’s the fish shine in all its fishy glory.