30 October 2006

El Taco Loco Taqueria, Hong Kong

Name: El Taco Loco Taqueria

City: Soho, Hong Kong

Address: 9 Lower Staunton St. (just off the escalator)

Website: http://www.diningconcepts.com.hk/

Cuisine: Hong Kong style Mexican

Critique: Being in Soho, it is a bit of a pain to get to and not really worth the trouble. The beautiful Mexican decor is a delight to look at and it is tastefully decorated. The seven tables can fill up quick, but there is usually room at lunch time. Fully one half of their menu (the entire front side) is a drinks menu and their food menu is not extensive.

When we arrived for lunch on a public holiday, there was only one other person, who happened to walk in directly in front of us. She had her beer and chips before we even saw the waitress. We decided to order a large basket of tortilla chips and pico de gallo. We were sorely disappointed to find that the chips were an off-brand Doritos chip that is notorious for being slightly stale. The pico de gallo was good. A little frustrating at over $5 USD. It would have been worth it to have had regular restaurant style tortilla chips WITHOUT seasoning.

Among the four of us, we had a good variety from their menu: beef tacos, beef burritos, and chicken enchiladas. No one liked the tacos at all. The burrito was slightly better, and I am the only one who liked the enchiladas. The tacos seem to have been seasoned with chili powder instead of traditional taco seasoning. The shredded beef that they used for taco meat was extremely tough. They used the same beef in the burrito. However, the pico de gallo and the refried beans redeemed that effort. The enchiladas were served with sour cream and guacamole and all in a tin foil pie plate. While that was a bit out of the ordinary, the enchiladas was good. I would eat it again.

The tacos were fairly reasonable in price, except that no one ate them, so that makes them not worth the cost. The burritos were fairly expensive as well as the enchiladas. For 3 tacos, 2 burritos, 2 enchiladas, a basket of slightly stale off brand Doritos and four cans of soda pop, $24 USD was a little on the high side.

Comments/Recommendations: For my family, I am afraid that our visit today constituted 2 trips; our first and our last. I wouldn't mind going back again, but I don't think the family will be joining me. It is possible, that for the past month, we have been talking about going to El Chico's. When we saw this restaurant last week, it smelled good and perhaps we were expecting too much. In any case, the restaurant's motto or tag line is: "Muy authentica" (very authentic). I would propose a new motto: "Typical Asian Mexican Food".

Rating: 2 Fries

14 October 2006

Nanning Brazil BBQ, Nanning, China

Name: Nanning Brazil BBQ

City: Nanning, China

Address: 4-1 Education Street

Website: Unknown

Photo: Bob S.

Cuisine: Brazilian Barbeque

Critique: I didn't have too high hopes for this restaurant, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. They have a decent variety of meats; many of which are within the standard "Brazilian Barbeque" genre. Some, are not. I visited on a night when regular customers were dissatisfied with the service. I thought the service was decent. I am told that they are usually much more attentive to your needs, but this night was a national holiday night and they were very busy.

They had the biggest food buffet of any Brazilian Barbeque I have been to yet, with the possible exception of one in Tai'an. They had noodles, which were very good, by the way. They had veggies, soups, and a pretty good dessert bar. I was duly impressed with the fact that they had a soda fountain and brewed coffee!

The food quality was very good. The meat was hot and tasty. The kids seem to have a good time, however, they said that they didn't really like the food. Of course, they ate a lot and enjoyed the dessert bar, so you have to consider all that.

Comments/Recommendations: This is undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in Nanning. I truly recommend your going. Being that it is the only Brazilian BBQ place in town, if you speak Mandarin, you should be able to get a taxi to it without any problems. Be sure to get the prime rib and the lemon cake. Don't forget the all you can drink pop and coffee. This is a good value for the money and a good place to eat.

Rating: 3 Fries

21 September 2006

California Steak House, Shekou, China

Name: California Steak House
City: Shekou, Shenzhen, China
Address: Central Plaza, Sea World, across from the Ming Hua, next door to Starbucks

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Steaks and Seafood

Critique: The restaurant advertises an "all you can eat" bar-b-que buffet for both lunch and supper. The biggest signs outside the restaurant advertises "American beef and pork". I took a look at the buffet and it didn't look bad. There were very thin slices of beef, but the shish-kababs looked pretty good. It included a LOT of seafood, but it was squid, muscles, whole small fishes, etc. Inside however, the salad bar and dessert bar looked very good. The restaurant is tastefully decorated and includes indoor and outdoor seating.

Most prominent in the restaurant is a large screen TV. The evening I was there, they were playing re-runs of "Tom & Jerry" over and over. There was no sound, but they had nice classical music on their PA system. For me, the Tom and Jerry aspect took away from the dining experience, but I am sure my kids would have loved it.

I had the intention of ordering one of their "American beef" steaks. I settled on a piece that was not a conventional cut. The steak was two inches thick. I ordered it medium-well, but received it well on the outer 1/2 inch and raw in the middle. I sent it back for a re-cook. When it returned, it was medium well on the middle but very well on the outside. Without a doubt this is the toughest steak I have ever had in Asia, and perhaps in my life. I ended up cutting 1/4 inch cubes to chew; anything bigger and it would have taken me all night. The French fries and steamed broccoli that came with it were good.

I will brag on this: when I ordered the steak, I asked the manager how much the dessert bar would be to go with it, as the steaks were more expensive than the buffet. After a brief thought, the manager said that he would include the dessert bar at no charge. When my steak was finished, I really didn't feel like dessert, because my jaws were tired from chewing. However, the waiter brought over a "sampler" plate from the dessert bar with about 6 different desserts. The chocolate mousse was excellent as was all other desserts.

Comments/Recommendations: I would certainly recommend your not wasting your money on the "American beef". If, indeed, it was American beef, it came from some really old milk cows somewhere in New Jersey. I intend on another visit to see about the buffet, but mostly so I can get the dessert bar again. In fact, the dessert bar gave this restaurant one more fry than what I would have given it without it.

Rating: 2 Fries

Tivoli Ristorante Italiano & Bar, Shekou, China

Name: Tivoli Ristorante Italiano & Bar

City: Shekou, China

Address: Shop 117, Sea World, Shekou, Shenzhen

Website: www.itivoli.com

Cuisine: Italian

Critique: Location. Location. Location. Those are the top three things this restaurant has going for it. On the occasion of my visit, I was met by a friendly staff who were anxious to make sure I had a good experience. My intentions were to have a nice Italian dinner, but after I saw the menu, I decided to order a steak. It was cooked almost to my specifications. It included a trip to the salad bar. I must say I have seen better salad bars at school cafeterias. A bowl of mayonnaise and bananas should not be able to qualify as a "salad". I was delightfully surprised to receive a couple of pieces of garlic toast; it was very good.

For lunch, this restaurant would be appropriate for family dining; as with many restaurants in Shekou, evening dining would require an early entrance, due to the bar atmosphere.

Comments/Recommendations: I really would recommend ordering a steak. I will go back to try their Italian and update this listing at a later date.

Rating: 2 Fries

15 September 2006

Fat Angelo's, Hong Kong

Name: Fat Angelo's
City: Hong Kong
Address: 6 locations: three on Hong Kong Island at Elizabeth House in Causeway Bay, Elgin Street in Soho and Queen's Road East in Wanchai, one in Kowloon at The Pinnacle in Tsim Sha Tsui, and two in New Territories at Metro City and Tsuen Wan Panda Place.

Website: http://www.fatangelos.com/

Cuisine: New York Home Style Italian

Critique: Fat Angelo's is an immensely popular restaurant in Hong Kong and around Asia. Visitors to Hong Kong often head straight for Fat Angelo's to gorge themselves on all sorts of Italian delights. All dishes are served family style and you buy 1 dish for every one to two people. However, each dish is extremely expensive and most are just mediocre in taste. Where this restaurant really shines is in its service and family friendliness.

Now about the food...the best parts of Fat Angelo's are the free salad, the wonderful bread, and the desserts. You can "upgrade" to Caesar salad for a small price, but you don't get free "refills" on salad if you do. They also make some really great dinner rolls. Well, they are more loafs than rolls, but they have the rolls shape. Anyway, they bring baskets and baskets of bread. To me, that is a very good thing. They have a fairly large dessert menu which includes some yummy tiramisu, apple crumble, and some great cheese cake.

Each restaurant is tastefully decorated in 1950's Italian. The wait staff is attentive (generally) and really seem to want you to have a good time. They will go over-board to make your meal a success.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the Parmesan chicken, the cheese cake and the apple crumble, a la mode. I definitely DO NOT recommend the lasagna (the WORST I have ever had in my WHOLE life!), or the beef ricotta. For most dishes, Chef Boyardee makes better Italian. The high prices and low quality makes for an unfortunate combination. My kids ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich immediately after arriving back at home from at night out at Fat Angelo's. If the food quality was any better, it would have gotten a "4 Fry" rating, but because it is so poor, it will only get the rating below.

Rating: 2 Fries

09 September 2006

Gaucho Garden Grill, Shekou, China

Name: Gaucho Garden Grill
City: Shekou, China
Address: No. 3 Prince, Road, Shekou, Shenzhen Ground floor of Prince Hotel

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Brazilian Bar-b-que

Critique: This restaurants meets all expectations, if you are expecting a run of the mill Chinese style Brazilian BBQ. There is nothing special about it, however, the food is good. The management really has tried to bring a good "feel" of the restaurant; it has nice dishes, pictures of real gauchos at work, presumably in Brazil, and, of course, the pre-requisite silly cowboy uniforms, worn by the staff.

The main buffet section of the meal is located around the corner from the TV screen on the wall. That is good to know because service isn't too good and you might sit there for a while before you realize there is more to your meal than just meat. However, not much more.

The food buffet , while appearing on the surface to have a great variety, is actually stocked with items that you might have trouble identifying. On the occasion of my visit, the bread was stale-ish and there really wasn't much that looked appealing.

The BBQ is pretty good. During lunch time, they aren't just killing themselves serving the beef. They list beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. For the most part, the beef was tender. I didn't think they did a very good job on the pork, however. The chicken was pretty good. The mutton was OK.

Comments/Recommendations: I have had MUCH better BBQ in China. I have also had much worse. This was pretty mediocre; not too good, not too bad. I don't really have any recommendations for Gauchos. All you can eat meat at a good price. That ought to say it all.

Rating: 2 Fries

16 August 2006

Papa John's, Shekou

Name: Papa John's
City: Shekou, China
Address: Central Plaza, Sea World, next to the Ming Hua

Website: http://papajohns.com/

Cuisine: American Pizza

Critique: A great taste of home! Excellent decor. Actually, an upscale restaurant, if you didn't know it was Papa John's. The best tasting pizza I've had in Asia.

Comments/Recommendations: I don't normally review a chain restaurant, but this one is here for two reasons: I want you to know that it is available in Shekou; and it really does taste just like it does in the States, unlike Pizza Hut, which simply isn't the same. This truly is an exception. There is at least one other branch in Central Garden City next to Wal-Mart in Shekou and I have seen one in Shanghai. Now, if it would just come to Hong Kong!

Rating: 4 Fries

Parana BBQ, Shekou, China

Name: Parana BBQ
City: Shekou, China
Address: Astern, directly under the main bridge, inside the Ming Hua, Sea World, Shekou, China

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Brazilian Bar-b-que

Critique: The best part of this restaurant is that it is in the Ming Hua. The Ming Hua is the large former Russian passenger ship that has been turned into a hotel. I sat next to a port-hole. The developers of this hotel/restaurant extravaganza have done a terrific job on the hotel part and the restaurants. The hotel is quite posh and the rooms are actually two converted state rooms.

Now, the restaurant. I suppose that Parana is a nice phonetic attempt at spelling "Pirhanna", but you must at least be close for spell check to work. The waiters are made to wear the ridiculous cowboy uniforms that have become mandatory for Chinese Brazilian BBQ's. There was a large selection of meats and one of them was very, very good. One selection was small pieces of beef wrapped in bacon. It was almost as good as the same done with chicken. Speaking of chicken, I was a little disappointed to see how much unidentifiable chicken parts were presented on the BBQ swords.

In addition to the swords, like most restaurants of this style, a buffet is available. This particular buffet is lacking in all areas except for a very nice dinner roll. The wait-staff is friendly enough and the "cowboys" come by bearing their swords frequently enough to not let you get too hungry between servings.

Comments/Recommendations: The novelty of this restaurant is enough to bring you there one time, but it quickly wears off. There are three items on their swords that is worth the wait, but you can quickly pass on most everything else. Even their cooked banana and pineapple could be better. Again, the best part of the Parana is that it is in the bow of a ship.

Rating: 2 Fries

Roma's Bar & Grill, Shekou

Name: Roma's Bar & Grill, Shekou
City: Shekou, Shenzhen, China
Address: At the back of Taizi Hotel. Taizi Rd. Shekou

Website: unknown

Cuisine: steaks, varied

Critique: The convenient location of Roma's is one of the selling points of this delightful little restaurant. I was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the decor/ambiance. The menu, while not extensive, did provide a generous selection of steaks. It also had a small Italian, Tex-Mex and pizza selection. The tables were covered with paper and each had a small cup of crayons for the kiddies (or creative grownups).

I haven't had particularly good luck getting a steak cooked the way I want or expect, but I was pleasantly surprized to find my medium-well steak actually medium well. The baked potato was not over or under cooked and had an American selection of toppings, including real bacon bits.

Comments/Recommendations: I truly recommend the ribeye steak with baked potato. However, I want comment on the child appropriateness of Roma's. Each table, in addition to the crayons, is also decorated with a nice candle dripped bottle of some sort. The bottle is extremely unstable and can turn over at the slightest knock. When the bottle on my table turned over, it drenched me in hot wax. It covered my hand, my shirt, and my plate, not to mention the wall behind me. Accidents do happen, although I was just a tad dissapointed with the management who offered nothing in the way of compensation. I'll readily agree that they didn't "have" to do or offer anything, but the hot wax treatment did tend to ruin my evening.

Rating: 3 Fries

Amigos Tex-Mex, Shekou

Name: Amigos Tex-Mex
City: Shekou, China
Address: On the square at Sea World in Shekou, next to Amazan BBQ.

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Tex-Mex and varied

Critique: Amigos tries hard and the waiters/waitresses are friendly. The outdoor setting is delightful. The food is so-so. If you eat an early dinner or at lunch, the restaurant will be family-friendly enough, but any later and the party goers abound. The restaurant has a huge menu ranging from chimichangas to chicken enchiladas, but, it was just a 'half a bubble off' when it comes to real good Tex-Mex. It is certainly an acceptable substitute if you haven't had your Mexican food in a very long time.

Comments/Recommendations: I can say that the chicken chimichanga was a delightful surprise on the menu, but it didn't meet my expectation when it arrived at the table. I don't think I can even put my finger on what the problem was, but it just didn't taste "right". Now, it wasn't bad, but it just wasn't "right".

Rating: 2 Fries

08 July 2006

Jade Garden Restaurant, Macau

Name: Jade Garden Restaurant
City: Macau
Address: 35-39 Rua Dr. Pedro Jose Lobo

Website: Unknown

Cuisine: Cantonese

Critique: Wow! What great dim sum! I must admit that I have had good dim sum before, so I honestly wasn't expecting too much when we decided to eat at Jade Garden. We had a group of 13 or so, therefore we got a private dining room. That was nice, but tends to cut down on the level of service. The wait staff at Jade Garden surprised me again. We had really good service.

The problem for the casual diner will be a language barrier. The menu is in Chinese, so if you don't know what you want (or how to say it in Cantonese) it could be a problem. We were seated on the fourth floor of the restaurant (due to the private room), but I think if you sit on the second or third floors, you would have a better chance of getting what you wanted by pointing to others' tables or that I seem to recall them pushing some dim sum carts.

I don't deny being partial to cha siu bau. I happen to think that is the best single element of dim sum. They certainly didn't disappoint in this regard, either. We also ordered some noodle dishes and some rice dishes. I don't recall anything being bad or even "ify". My children really enjoyed the experience and ate well.

Comments/Recommendations: I definitely recommend the cha siu bau, but also a nice dish of gong chau ngau haw (beef chow fun). Their ying-yang rice tasted good, but the design wasn't too evident in the dish. I am giving this restaurant one fry less than what I think it should get, but I base that on the language barrier thing. If they were to get an English menu, I could give them the 4 fry rating. I'll have to go back from time to time to see about that!

Rating: 3 Fries

First Bite Sandwich Expert, Macau

Name: First Bite Sandwich Expert
City: Macau
Address: Rua do Monte 2-2A R/C

Website: Unknown

Cuisine: Western, Sandwich

Critique: This place has real potential. I ate there on two occasions, recognizing that this restaurant cannot handle a larger group. First and foremost, the first time there was the best sandwich I have had at any restaurant in Asia. I had smoked pork & mozzarella on a giant croissant. It was incredible. The croissant was just what you would expect at a great deli/sandwich place. I was really impressed. What I was not impressed with was that it took about 45 minutes to get my sandwich. I went back a second time, with just my family, to see if service would improve. It did. Immensely. However, the sandwich wasn't as good the second time. So, therefore I conclude that consistency is not their high point.

They do have a great variety. I think I remember their menu boasts 38,000 or so different combinations available. What I absolutely do not like is their menu system. They give you a "ticket" in which you create your own order for your sandwich. I don't like it that they place cheese and meat in the same category. What that means is that if you want cheese on your sandwich, you'll have to pay extra. With the large group, they got all the orders messed up and even took the liberty of changing some of our tickets. That didn't go over very well.

It is a smallish two-storey jobber with a nice decor. The wait staff were friendly, but didn't do a great job. For example: there was one young man whose job it evidently was bring the customers their drinks. The first night, their were 11 of us at our table. He made 11 trips with one drink each time. He took about 30 minutes to do this! The second time, with the 4 of us, he made two trips with three drinks but never brought my younger child her Coke. I had to ask another waitress to bring it. My children gave it a "thumbs up".

Comments/Recommendations: I absolutely would recommend this place. I do, however, in the same breath, recommend that you do NOT go in a large group. I also suggest that you put your name on your "ticket" so that they know to whom to give the sandwich. I recommend the smoke pork sandwich and I also recommend their giant croissant and/or their baguette.

Rating: 2 Fries

Fernando's, Coloane, Macau

Name: Restaurante Fernando
City: Coloane, Macau
Address: 9 Praia de Hac Sa

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Portuguese

Critique: This restaurant has enjoyed a high praise from those who have eaten there previously, from the Macau Tourism Board, and from other restaurant reviewers. I have to say that I was entirely disappointed with my experience there. First of all, the restaurant is all the way on the southern tip of Coloane Island on Hac Sa Beach. It takes a long time and a lot of effort just to get there.

I have nothing against al fresco dining, however, this particular restaurant seemed to be in a broiler. It was simply too hot to enjoy the food. At this point, however, I will interject and say that the cold water to drink was very, very cold. That is definitely a plus. I went with a very large group, so we were able to sample many different dishes. Now, there were things that I enjoyed; I simply see this restaurant as being previously over-rated. I want to bring some balance to that with this visit.

It is also fair to state that it isn't pure Portuguese food; Fernando is from the Azores, so it has a taste of the islands. Fernando was OK; a little curt, but not too bad. The service was adequate, but nothing to write home about. The portion size: cost ratio was a little eschew. It averaged US$7.60 per person. I didn't feel that I got my money's worth.

My children didn't enjoy the food very much and complained about it being so hot. There was a large area for them to play outside and there was also a foosball table. My children did not have a good experience there.

Comments/Recommendations: The bread is very good as is their pork with garlic. I would honestly recommend not going in the summer months, or only going there if you are already at Hac Sa Beach. Be sure to get the cold water; you'll need it.

Rating: 2 Fries

28 June 2006

Henry J Bean's, Pattaya, Thailand

Name: Henry J Beans
City: Pattaya, Thailand
Address: Amari Hotel, North Beach Road

Website: http://www.amari.com/airport/henrybean.asp

Cuisine: Western, steaks, ribs

Critique: Unfortunately, the very worst thing about this restaurant is that it is NOT open for lunch! It doesn't open until 5 pm. The next worst thing is that due to some weird loop-hole, they allow smoking inside the restaurant, contrary to all other restaurants in Thailand. Now, those are the worse things; here are the best things: The food is great. The wait-staff is friendly, their is a good variety of items on the menu. They include soft drinks on their Happy Hour. They have a live band that starts at at 7 or 7:30.

The restaurant is kid friendly and has a decent children's menu. The chronic complaint that my children (and wife) always seemed to have was that it was "too cold". I can think of a lot worse complaints!

They have a good selection of steaks and a respectable Mexican fare. My family has enjoyed the fajitas. My kids also enjoy their nachos. Their dessert menu is nothing to sneeze at either. The cheese cake is very good.

They have an old fashioned juke box which can be a lot of fun for large groups. Just be sure to bring an abundant supply of "one baht" coins. They have a great selection of golden oldies from the 50's all the way up through the 80's. Anyone can find a favorite if they spend a minute to look.

I think my favorite thing about the restaurant, besides the quality of food, is the way the waiters all shout "FA HEE TAAH, FA HEE TAAH" when they bring out the fajitas. It is shouted in a distinctly Thai accent and quite enjoyable.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the fajitas without reservation. I have enjoyed their steaks. The ribs are very good, although not as good as Tony Roma's. I would also recommend families to arrive early to beat the "party crowd". I was astonished to see a rather lewd and vulgar decoration at Halloween time last year. Remember, this restaurant is in the heart of Gomorra and often the clientele show that fact.

Rating: 4 Fries

26 June 2006

Miguel's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: Miguel's Fresh-Mex
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: Chaiya Pum Road on the East side of the moat.

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Mexican-ish

Critique: This open air cantina serves the best Mexican food in Chiang Mai, which really isn't saying much. However, on the three or four dining occasions I have had, I was pleased with the food. For an establishment of this caliber in SE Asia, they have a large menu variety. I guess the first thing they have done right is their refried beans. They don't have the funny after-taste that you can get from other so-called Mexican dishes in Chiang Mai.

The restaurant isn't good for a big group as there are only 6 or 8 tables with a few bar stools. It can get crowded at ex-pat lunch time, but is not bad at noon. Parking is difficult, but possible. It is right on the road, so there is lots of noise and exhaust fumes. Being open-air, it can get very hot, as well.

I wouldn't exactly call the place "kid friendly" as they don't have kid's menus. The prices are decent enough, especially since the quality of the food is good. I found the seating a bit uncomfortable, but no big deal.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the Burrito Ranchero and the Three Amigos. Of course, if you are hankering for refried beans, this is the place to get them in Chiang Mai. My kids liked the tacos. (I don't like tacos ANYWHERE) I was also extremely happy with their beef and bean chimichanga. I haven't seen anything close to good chimichangas anywhere else in Asia (so far).

Rating: 3 Fries

25 June 2006

The Flying Pan, Hong Kong

Name: The Flying Pan
City: Hong Kong
Address: G/F 9 Old Bailey Street, Central, Hong Kong Island OR
3/F 81-85 Lockhart Road, Wanchai

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Western, breakfast

Critique: Breakfast 24 hours a day. What a concept! And a good breakfast it is. I ate there the other day for lunch with my friend Alan. I can't wait to take my wife and kids there. It was stupendous!

It has the feel of an old diner, but everything is new and shiny. You get a pot of coffee when you order coffee, and they will refill it at no charge (as often as you like, I suppose). The portions are generous and most meals come with two side orders and a glass of juice. It would be a perfect place for brunch or a late lunch. The Wanchai branch was fairly full by the time we left at 1:30 pm.

The food quality was good, but the bacon tasted more like ham. The grits were good and there was enough that you don't need to make both side dishes grits! Alan's waffle looked a bit over done, but that, of course, can vary by cook. They provide maple and blueberry syrups.

Alan mentioned that they do have high chairs for kids and the waitresses don't seem to keep distracting the kids while they eat, which can often happen with little ones in HK.

They have a discount/membership card available, but you have to eat there 16 times before you get a free meal. It didn't seem that good of a deal to me, but I'm not sure that I really understood what it was all about.

Comments/Recommendations: I look forward to going to the Flying Pan again, real soon. I really want to take my wife there for brunch. I had the eggs benedict last time and I would recommend it to you. I am going to try an omelet next time, too.

Rating: 4 Fries

Bruno's, Pattaya, Thailand

Name: Bruno's
City: Pattaya, Thailand
Address: 306/63 Chateau Dale Plaza, Thappraya Road, Pattaya,

Website: http://www.brunos-pattaya.com/ (Includes a full menu with prices.)

Cuisine: Western, European, Steaks, Seafood

Critique: This is one of the fanciest places I have ever eaten. Outrageous prices by Thai standards; exceptional prices by US and HK standards. The steaks are the stars and they "shine bright". The quality of beef is exceptional and exceedingly tender. Chef Freddi oversees his staff in a top notch way. I have never had a bad meal there and I have eaten there a dozen or so times.

The desserts can be a little "high brow". What I mean by that is that they look good, but have a little too much liqueur for my preferences. (Just make sure you use a spoon!) Most of the desserts are very, very good.

Presentation is important to Chef Freddi and the meals are presented with flair. Each dish, from the complementary hors d'oeuvres, to the complementary palate cleansing sorbet, to the dessert demonstration at the end of the meal, is a sight (and taste) to behold.

The waiters are extremely attentive. My daughter accidentally dropped her butter knife and we were just going to "let it go", but the waiter in the next room noticed, and brought one within 10 seconds. When the main dish is presented at the table, something uncommon in Thailand happens; everyone gets their meal at the same time. If you have a party of 8, then 4 or 5 waiters will bring the plates, covered in a silver lid. At once, they will all uncover the plates to expose the awaited flavors. It is the small touches like that which make Bruno's special.

The downside is that it is in Pattaya. Seldom that I have been in there where there weren't older men with lady (or lady-boy) companions. That really distracts from the family atmosphere and consequently is the single reason that it doesn't earn 5 fries. If it was the same restaurant in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, it would have earned the coveted rating.

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend this restaurant. If you can overlook the other patrons, it is an incredible dining experience. The wait staff are incredible; the food is even better. I recommend the French onion soup, the Caesar salad, the pan fried snow fish, any of the imported beef steaks, and the apple fritters a la mode. My wife really enjoys the chocolate mousse and my kids like the grilled pork chop. Also, if you go on a week night, it is necessary to make reservations, otherwise you may not have a table.

Rating: 4 Fries

23 June 2006

Jackie's Cuisine, Yantai, China

Name: Jackie's Cuisine
City: Yantai, China
Address: 中华人民共和国山东省烟台市芝罘区福环山路付14号-3号 264000
Bus No.7, 23 or 52 to Jiao Yu Xue Yuan Or tell cab driver to "Jie Ke Xi Can"

Website: http://www.jackies.com.cn/index.asp

Cuisine: Western

Critique: An "oasis of happiness in the northeast" is how I describe Jackie's. They describe themselves as "Loud food and spicy music". Jackie's is a delightful place filled with very good food in an unexpected place. Yantai doesn't have that much in the way of western food, but they are light years ahead of many cities in China since Jackie came to town.

The decor and menu is reminiscent of Hard Rock, and I understand the Jackie used the be the manager of the Shanghai HRC. They have music videos on big screens and pop and music art throught the restaurant.

The food is just plain good. They have a great choice of Mexican fare, along with burgers, and other American foods. Seems like they also had a good selection of Italian meals.

They also do desserts right.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the giant nachos and the chicken parmesean. Also, any of the desserts will do the trick.

Rating: 4 Fries

China Palace Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: China Palace Restaurant,
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: Sheraton Hotel, 318/1 Chiang Mai-Lampoon Road

Website: http://www.sheraton-chiangmai.com/

Cuisine: Cantonese

Critique: This is a great place to eat! For three years, the staff of the China Palace pampered my family. Their keen attention to our needs and preferences always guaranteed us an excellent dining experience. They also always seemed to treat us even more special when we brought guests.

The Cantonese cuisine is the best Chinese food in Chiang Mai. They have a decent dim sum for lunch daily, but they really shine on their traditional Cantonese fare. They are exceptionally family friendly and always doted on my children. Early on, before my children began to appreciate Cantonese food, they even brough the makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my younger daughter. And, they only charged 80 baht ($2) which wasn't bad considering PB&J's are NOT on the menu.

The atmosphere is very nice, although they tend to play the same cd over and over for their background music. I think that is really my only complaint about the restaurant is the music, and then, it isn't really all that bad.

The staff have gone overboard to take care of my family. The food is delicious and is always fresh and hot. The prices are cheap compared to comparable restaurants in the US or HK. The ambiance is delightful.

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend the sweet and sour pork, the roasted pork with honey, and their Thai style spring rolls. Their hot and sour sichuan soup tends to be much more hot than sour and sometimes it is simply too spicy for me. This restaurant, the staff and mangament have EARNED themselves:

Rating: 5 Fries

Sojo's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: Sojo's
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: 169/4-5 Sridoncha Road Changklan A. Muang
(behind Phantip Plaza at the night bazaar)

Website: unknown

Cuisine: Western, Thai

Critique: This restaurant coffee house is a source of good "down home cookin". It is the only place I know of in Thailand with fried okra on the menu. They have great hamburgers, chicken fingers, and chicken fried rice. I personally think that their carrot cake is the best in town. I have often said that I thought they had the best hamburger in Asia. I will modify to say the best in Chiang Mai. They have a good breakfast menu available all day.

The prices are good to reasonable and they have a bottomless cup of coffee during lunch. They are extremely kid friendly and the waitresses/waiters do a good job in English. The children's menu is adequate and includes a (very good) cookie. I would say that I ate there on a semi-weekly basis for three years and only ever had a few complaints.

They are often crowded on a weekday at lunch and at "American dinner time". One plus is that they do not serve alcohol of any kind.

Upstairs is a coffee house and Wi/Fi source. They have numerous board games as well.

Comments/Recommendations: I recommend the Sojo burger with sauteed onions and bacon. They are a little skimpy on their french fries. I also recommend the carrot cake (see above). I am a little disappointed/aggravated that there is now a sign requesting you to tip. This is rather strange in a country where it is not culturally appropriate to tip. Go figure.

UPDATE: I just read on a blog where one expat family calls Sojo's "the Cracker Barrel of Chiang Mai". Well said.

Rating: 3 Fries

The Duke's, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Name: The Duke's
City: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Address: 49/4-5 Chiangmai-Lamphun Road (Near the Iron Footbridge)

Website: Unknown

Cuisine: Western

Critique: Farangs all over Chiang Mai cheered when this little jewel opened up on the east bank of the Ping. The menu is extensive with steaks, seafood, pizza, and sandwiches. Every Tuesday night is Mexican night and usually there are Mexican leftovers for Wednesday lunch.

The food is good. Period. The atmosphere is OK. It is a little dark, even in the daytime. It is pretty kid friendly though with a typical children's menu. It is fairly family friendly, especially for the early dinner seating. After 8 pm, the expat/tourist drinking crowd comes in and it can get a little noisy. The waitresses do a pretty good job at English, but don't expect to get your meals at the same time.

They have a very good desert bar. Chocolate cake, white chocolate cake, apple pie a la mode, cheesecake, and brownies fill the lighted counter in the back of the room. David is pretty picky about the coffee and does it right.

The prices are very good. Their "Big Daddy" steak is almost more than I can eat and will only set you back about 500 baht ($12.50)

Comments/Recommendations: I highly recommend the Cubano sandwich. It is a little taste of heaven on homemade sourdough (or something like it). I personally prefer the french fries to the onion rings, but only because they are a bit too spicy for my palate. The pizzas are an exceptional buy and good food. The apple pie is only good if it is a la mode. Be sure to ask them to warm it up. Many of my colleagues like their Route 66 hamburger. Basically, it is a HUGE double cheese burger. Again, almost too much to eat. They are open to changing your order to half fries/half onion rings. Or "Frings", as my friend Phil calls them.

Rating: 3 Fries

Five Fries

5 Fries - I don't just give these babies out; they have to be earned. Exceptional food, service, everything.

Four Fries

4 Fries - A nicer kind of place, maybe where you might go on a date. Perhaps a little more expensive, but worth it every now and then. Or, maybe just really good food, like the Rib Crib.

Three Fries

3 Fries - Good value, good food. Something like El Chico's. Somewhere you don't mind going more than once a week.

22 June 2006

Two Fries

2 Fries - On the order of Pizza Hut or Sonic: good taste, no frills.

One Fry

1 Fry: on the level of McDonalds or KFC. In the words of my mother, "It's filling." Nothing to write home about.

Finally Here!

Here are my critiques of restaurants I have visited throughout East Asia. This is meant for the "common traveler", not the big bucks, unlimited expense account ex-pat businessman. I will try to give an honest, accurate evaluation, enlightening you on the good, the bad, and the delicious! You must understand that this is a purely subjective rating system; I do it on the way I feel, and how the restaurant experience makes me feel.

I will readily admit that I like to eat; that has been a problem for most of my life. However, I do not live to eat; I just like it a whole bunch. :-)

Feel free to leave comments about any restaurant I have critiqued. Ask questions. My colleagues back in Chiang Mai will tell you that I never steered them wrong when it came to suggesting a restaurant. Those who have traveled with me know that I can sniff out a good place to eat in the most difficult of environs.