Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vin de Set Rooftop Bar & Bistro

Vin de Set
2017 Chouteau Avenue
St. Louis, MO  63103

A couple of months ago my girlfriend, Janice, and I went to dinner at Vin de Set.  I had heard a lot about Vin de Set, especially the outdoor space, and I was eager to try it out.  Unfortunately, the night that we went it was pretty chilly outside so we skipped the Rooftop Bar and stayed inside.

We started the night by ordering a bottle of 2007 Steltzner Claret Bordeaux Blend.  It was so fantastic that we had a second bottle.  I believe it was aroun $25/bottle.

I had read some reviews about Vin de Set and everyone raved about the crepes.  I also happened to be watching a show on Food Network at the time about food trucks.  One of the trucks focused on selling crepes and they looked delicious so I was anxious to try one.  We settled on the Crab & Shrimp with tomato-lobster cream sauce ($8.59).  It was amazing.  I was afraid that it might be a little too fishy but the tomato cream really cut through and it was creamy, delicious and luxurious.  The portion size was perfect for sharing.

For an entree, I ordered Steak au Poivre grilled beef tenderloin medallions w/ brandy-pink peppercorn sauce, haricot verts & yukon gold mashed potatoes ($22.99)  I substituted the haricot verts for grilled asparagus.

I thought this dish was good but it doesn't really stand out among all of the other meals that I have had.  I ordered the steak medium and it came out a little past at almost medium well.  The seasoning was good and the asparagus and potatoes were also fine.

Janice ordered Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops w/ atrichoke quinoa & champagne vanilla bean beurre blanc ($22.99)

I was excited to try her dish because, at the time, I had never had quinoa before and every cooking show I watch talks about it.  It reminded me a lot of bulgur wheat; however, I think the vanilla bean made it to sweet.  At first taste it was really good but after several bites the sweetness was overwhelming.  The scallops were cooked perfectly but since they were in the same beurre blanc as the quinoa, they were a little too sweet for my taste.

We finished the evening with a cheese course.  We ordered wo cheeses served w/ pickled brussel sprouts, stone ground mustard & jams ($11.99).  I can't even remember the cheeses that we chose but what I do remember is how disgusting those pickled brussel sprouts were.  Our waitress told us that people either loved them or hated them and we hated them.  They were a definite palate cleanser.  They were also very proud of the in-house stone ground mustard and we both thought that it was gritty and sour.  The cheese plate was not a success.

The ambience of Vin de Set is quaint and cozy.  It would be a perfect place for a date or, as in our case, with a friend to share a bottle of wine.  While I would visit Vin de Set again, at least for the crepes and wine, there are definite other places that I would try out before I went back for a second time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IceKitchen Restaurant and Vodka Bar

IceKitchen Restaurant and Vodka Bar
302 Westport Plaza Drive
St. Louis, MO  63146

A couple of girlfriends and I ate at the IceKitchen last Friday night before heading out to the Muny.  I made online reservations at Open Table and it worked great.

Located in Westport, right across from the Trainwreck, it has a huge outdoor patio and quite a few seats inside.  I felt the decor was a cross between a swanky nightclub, an urban loft and '70's vibe.

We ordered the Antipasto Platter (8.75) as an appetizer.  It came with a few pieces of thin, crusty bread, olives, carmelized nuts, sausage and a thin swipe of some type of pesto.  I didn't even think about the fact that I can't eat pork when we ordered it so I didn't get to taste the meats on the plate.  The nuts and bread were good but, overall, I thought it was a bit pricey for the amount of food that was on the plate.

For dinner, I ordered the Chicken Lollipops (7.75) and an IceKitchen House Salad (4.25).  The salad was beautiful with the ribbons of carrot sitting on top of a bed of lettuce.  The dressing was a rice-wine vinaigrette that had a taste of ginger to it.  It was sweet and savory.  I have never tasted a dressing like this before and it was quite tasty. 

The Chicken Lollipops were marinated in Asian spices and sriracha with a pear-ginger sauce.  Since the wings were grilled and not fried, some of the skin was a bit chewy and not crispy but the spices and marinade on these chicken drummies was delicious.  The pear-ginger sauce was sweet, sour, tangy and spicy.  Loved it!

Our dinner reservations were at 5:30 so we were there in time for happy hour.  They did have some pretty good happy hour specials.  Quite a few of the Small Plates were half off (I got mine for half) and all of the martinis, specialty drinks, pitchers of sangria and domestic beers were half off.  I split a pitcher of red sangria (21.00)with one friend and was excited to get it half off.  I, personally, felt there was a little too much peach schnapps in it but at the happy hour price it was well worth it.

I would like to go back to the IceKitchen on a weekend and sit out on the patio.  I wasn't overly impressed with the food but I think the place could be fun on a nice summer evening.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top of the Riverfront

Top of the Riverfront
200 South 4th Street
St. Louis, MO  63102-1804

This was written in 2007, and I did not revise it.  I just copied and pasted.

We decided to celebrate our first anniversary by going to the Millenium Hotel and eating at The Top of the Riverfront. If you haven't heard of this restaurant it is located on the top floor of the Millenium, 28 stories above the ground. It is one of the most unique restaurants in St. Louis as it is the only one that rotates which gives the patrons a 360 degree view of downtown St. Louis, the Arch, the Mississippi River and Busch Stadium.

I called about a week ahead of our anniversary date and made the reservation (men are not required to wear a jacket and tie) When we stepped out of the elevator we were a little surprised to see a couple of guests in jeans and sweatshirts; however, once we stepped farther into the restaurant we were met by a courteous hostess who took our name and reservation time. She pointed us in the direction of the waiting area and while waiting we were entertained by the piano player.

To actually get to your table you have to step onto a rotating floor. The view is absolutely amazing and the fact that there are only two rows of tables on this rotating floor allows for every seat in the restaurant to have a perfect vantage point. When we were seated at our table we were directly over Busch Stadium. We could see all of the downtown area and it was very mesmerizing. I will caution you that it does take a few minutes to get adjusted to the fact that you are moving. I sat in the seat closest to the window and when I looked down I could see the stationary floor of the hotel and the track of restaurant floor, which was moving, and it did make me a little queasy so I just tried to avoid looking down for the rest of the dinner.

We were greeted by our server and decided upon a bottle of wine (we chose an Australian shiraz priced at $30). I ordered the filet with the peppercorn sauce while Scott had the filet with the gorgonzola butter sauce. The dish came with a green bean and carrot medley and a cheesy potato side dish, which reminded me of scalloped potatoes (the filet was priced at $32 including both sides). I ordered the ceasar salad which came with an Australian imported white anchovy and Scott ordered the white bean chili (both the salad and chili were priced at $7). However, when our food came out the waitress actually brought out two salads instead of Scott's chili. Instead of sending it back, he told her that he would go ahead and try the ceasar salad. Since he typically doesn't like anchovy-based ceasar dressings, he was not impressed with this course. Without us asking, our waitress did take the salad off of our bill since this was not what he had originally ordered.

The filets were both tender but both were slightly over-cooked. We each ordered them medium and they were closer to medium-well.

For dessert, we ordered a peanut butter cup pie. It tasted very much like a Reese's peanut butter cup but it was extremely rich (the dessert was priced at $7)

My overall impression of this restaurant is that you definitely pay for the view. While we did enjoy the taste and tenderness of the filets and side dishes, I would not say that they made a lasting impression on us. The service was adequate but at times we felt as if our waitress was too busy to give us adequate attention. While we were not surprised by the total of our bill (especially since we had the bottle of win), we both felt that the price did not reflect the quality of food but that the view made up for this deficiency.

I would definitely go back to Top of the Riverfront for a special occasion. However, there are so many other restaurants in St. Louis to try that I would not put this back on my re-visit list anytime soon. Out of 5 stars, I would give Top of the Riverfront 3 3/4 stars.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas

4510 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169-7111
(702) 853-2337

I was so excited to go to the Hofbrauhaus.  Located off Strip, down by the Hard Rock Cafe, theHofbrauhaus offers a taste of Munich during Oktoberfest.  They feature a house band, from Germany, that rotates every 3-4 months and they encourge participation from the patrons.

We ordered the Jumbo Complete, a large pretzel, as an appetizer.  It came with 3 type of dipping sauces--"Obatzer" cheese, sweet mustard and onion mustard.  The pretzel was much harder than what we are used to in the US but it had a lot of salt on it and the onion mustard was really, really tasty.  

For dinner, I ordered the chicken bratwurst (around $13.95) that comes sitting on top of some wonderful mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.  The sausages were great with a hint of spice to them and the mashed potatoes were so good.  The sauerkraut is a traditional kraut in that it is a little sweeter than what I am used to but when I combined the kraut, sausage and potato in one bite--it was fantastic.

If you go online and sign up for the Hofbrauhaus newsletter, you can print off a coupon for 1 beer.  It is a small beer (around 10oz) but, hey, it was FREE!  After getting our free beer, we could not leave without drinking out of one of those huge steins.

Our waitress, Michelle, was great.  She was cute, personable and she was from Germany.  She had great recommendations and told us about different German traditions.

One of the traditions is when you do a shot, you get paddled 3 times.  They bring the shot out on a paddle board and they do not hold back when giving you your swats.

What I loved most about the Hofbrauhaus was just the energy.  The polka band, the people, the service.  There were two separate tables of people from Germany visiting Vegas and they were eating at Hofbrauhau.  One gentleman, Peter, said he had been coming there for 25 years.  Each time he comes to Vegas he eats there everyday because it tastes like home--now that is an endorsement!

Prost! (Cheers in German)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blues City Cafe

Blues City Cafe
138 Beale Street
Memphis, TN  38103
Phone # 901-526-3637

My senior year of college and the couple years after graduation, my friends and I used to spend a lot of time in Memphis on the weekends.  We had so much fun on Beale Street just dancing, listening to music and being silly.  On one of my very first trips to Memphis, probably around 1997, we ate at the Blues City Cafe and I discovered what has become an obsession . . . their Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms ($6.95).

These little caps of joy are so sweet, delicious, buttery, fatty and yummy that I kid you not when I joined the Army in 1999, I would literally dream about Blues City Cafe's Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.  They are so delicious.  They are cooked in and come out in an 8-inch iron skillet full of melting, hot butter and they are just divine.

Last year Scott had business in Memphis and, of course, I wanted to go.  We had our meals planned for the entire weekend but I made him take me to Blues City Cafe right before we left so I could have my mushrooms.  Scott didn't even eat that day, he just sat there and watched me having a blissful heart attack with my butter-cooked Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms.

Let me know if any of you have been or if you go in the future.  I'd like to hear what other people think about the places that I love.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mesa Grill

Mesa Grill, Las Vegas
Ceasar's Palace
3570 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109-8924
Phone Number:  (702) 731-7731

I was so excited to eat at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.  Being a Food Network addict and impressed that Bobby Flay is an Iron Chef I was thrilled to eat here.

I can't really say a whole lot about the decor, atmosphere, etc at the Mesa Grill.  I can't really say that anything stands out about it.  To me, it just looked like any other restaurant.

Scott and I ordered the Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Quesadilla ($14.00) as an appetizer and Scott also bought a "special" margarita ($10.00).  I was so excited for the quesadillas because I always heard these chefs talking about creme fraiche and I felt a little hoity-toity to finally know what it is that they were talking about it.  Creme fraiche is just buttermilk and whipping cream that is concocted together (this does not sound as nearly impressive) but it has a slightly sour flavor to it and buttery at the same time.  The margarita was terrible.  I mean absolutely awful.  It tasted like they had poured some tequila in a glass, topped it off with some lime juice and forgot the sweet and sour.  AWFUL.

I ordered a 16 spice-rubbed filet (around $30) but when I went and looked on the menu it doesn't show it.  I'm wondering if it is one of those seasonal or rotational things?  Anyway, the 16 spice filet was very interesting.  It reminded me so much of a pot roast.  The outside was crusty, seared and carmelized but the inside of the filet pulled apart like a really tender, moist pot roast does.  You know, fork tender.  I have never had a steak like that before or since. 

I kind of remember that it came with a side or maybe we split a side but apparently it wasn't very memorable.

I remember being somewhat disappointed after eating at the Mesa Grill.  I thought it was good but not that good.  The pot-roast like filet, creme fraiche and the crappy margarita are what I remember about it the most.  I guess I was expecting to be blown away since it is Bobby Flay's restaurant but I really wasn't.

Let me know if any of you have been or if you go in the future. I'd like to hear what other people think about the places that I love.


Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab
3500 Las Vegas Blvd S
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Phone: 702-792-9222

Joe's was recommended to me by a friend who lives in Las Vegas.  Located on the bottom floor of the Forum Shops at Ceasar's Palace, Joe's reminded me of an old Italian restaurant with the dark wood and white linens.  There is a indoor patio area, a bar area and then a larger dining room.

We were led into the bar area for drinks until our table was ready and then moved to our table.  Let me start off by saying that the service was superb.  We had our waiter and at least 2 other "helpers" assigned to our table to literally be at our beck and call.  Anything and everything we wanted or thought about wanting was immediately taken care of.

There were 5 people in my party and we started off with Stone Crab Appetizer ($19.95) which was definitely not a large order but Scott and I were able to split it.  After the appetizer, everyone at the table was given the warm towels to wash up and then the rest of our meal came out.

Now, here is where I made my mistake, I ordered the filet mignon ($35.95) and Scott and I split the Jennie's Mashed Potatoes ($7.95).  I say that I made a mistake because when the name of the joint is called Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab you should probably order either Seafood, Prime Rib or Stone Crab--duh!  My filet was fine but it was definitely not the best steak that I have ever had and it wasn't really even memorable.

Let's move on to the good stuff . . . Scott ordered the Jumbo Alaskan King Crab legs ($59.95).  These crab legs were unlike ANY I have ever had before.  From the presentation until the last morsel, they were fantastic.  They rolled the crab legs out on a white linen draped cart and a special server was there with his scissors to cut open each leg and to make the meat extremely easy to get to.  Once they put them in front of Scott, I looked down at my $40 steak and I was jealous, if you can imagine that.

These crab legs were as thick and round as two of my fingers put together.  They were the moistest, juiciest, sweetest crab legs that I have ever tasted.  They were so huge and he got so many that he couldn't finish them.  Of course, when he was paying $60 for one entree, you better believe we finished them all.  They were absolutely fantastic.  I just cannot say enough about them.

One of the people in our party ordered the Lyonnaise potatoes ($7.95) and they put my Jennie's Mashed Potatoes to shame.  They reminded me of old-fashioned German potatoes made with onions and they were crispy and yummy.

If you are looking for a nice, but pricey, place to eat in Vegas, I'd give this place a try.  We had a concert at the Coliseum the night of our dinner at Joe's and it was so convenient to just eat and then walk through the Forum Shops to get to the show.

Let me know if any of you have been or if you go in the future. I'd like to hear what other people think about the places that I love.