Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Jia Yuan, 3500 Remembrance Road, Walker ~ 3/17/16

We read about this place and decided to stop in for lunch, and it was so worth it. We were late for lunch so had the place to ourselves. When we walked in we seemed to surprise the woman at the counter. But she gave us our paper menus and we took a seat to decide what we wanted to order.
It wouldn't be the Hunan Tirple Delight :-)
We always check out the hot and sour soup in any new to us restaurant and our server/proprietor dished it out from the lunch buffet counter.
It was hotter than most but quite good and a close second behind our always favorite from Wei Wei Palace.
Most dishes here are served in take-out containers which is convenient for all but were heavy on styrofoam, which is not good. Customers pick up their utensils, napkins, etc. from a central shelf that also contained kids' entertainment tools, which was cool. There were pitchers of water in the cooler from which we replenished our waters. It was a little like being in their living room and we liked the atmosphere, complete with kids' drawings lining the walls.
This looks to be a two person, man and wife operation, and other than immediately bringing our soup, cooked everything else to order. English was understood but everything was written down in Chinese. And back to our initial ordering, when we stepped back up to the counter and placed our very large order, she wanted to take the menus back from us but we kept them to use as placements and reference. Hope that was ok :-)

After the soup & wontons, the Szechuan Beef and Hunan Pork Vegetables arrived.
Vegetables were crisp, pork was a little tough, but all in all, very respectable dishes. We liked the plenitude of vegetables and the plates not filled up with rice.

Under the Special Combination Plates we selected Jia Yuan Special Chicken. It came neatly in its own styrofoam container :-(  with what we think might have been the best egg roll we ever tasted. It wasn't stuffed with no-name, no-taste fillers and was actually enjoyable with flavor, as was the chicken (General Tso style but not as sweet, and spicier).
The last dishes to arrive were Singapore Mei Fun Lo Mein and our dumplings. Usually the dumplings would have arrived earlier but these were obviously made with care and had an extraordinary, thicker, wonderfully textured shell. We requested pan fried and they accommodated us with these lovely items.
The Lo Mein dish looked appealing, the noodles were great, but there was an overwhelming spice in this dish we could not identify but did not care for (maybe Madras curry?). We're generally fans of curry in food but there was something about this one we didn't like.
The men's bathroom had a sign on it not to use and a trip to the women's wasn't good. Pretty dirty.

After all of our dishes were served, the man and wife came out and sat at a table next to us and began to eat. But before he sat down, he walked into the men's room and used it :-)

We had probably interrupted their planned lunch with our arrival which is why we received a disconcerting look when we first walked up to the counter. But kudos to this hard-working couple who puts out such great food! This is not your typical Chinese restaurant and although they have sweet and sour items on their massive menu, the food preparation is superior and highly recommended.
Jia Yuan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Taqueria Maravatio, 1100 Chicago Ave SW

Today we drove on a whim down Grandville/Chicago Avenue to see if we could find a small, unknown, local restaurant ~ because we love doing that. We happened on this place straddling a corner at Chicago Drive and Godfrey, across from Holy Name of Jesus Parish on Godfrey and a McDonalds on Chicago Drive.
Aztec or Mayan art decorates portions of the six-sided building but around back it's plain with the parking lot and two entrances.
When we walked in it looked like it was counter service and we did the awkward looking-around-trying-to-figure-out-the-place-thing with the locals staring at us. But we spotted a woman waiting on a table so we grabbed two menus off the very large counter and took a seat.

The place holds about 11 tables/booths wrapped along the exterior wall which is lined with windows so everyone has an outside view, except for this table for two. And there's a big booth down at the end.

The kitchen is open from the counter view and we spotted two men working there. The one and only server was continually cleaning when not waiting on customers. And the place is spotless. When I later walked into the Ladies' Room I saw washing your hands instructions in Spanish and English, along with the old washed-the-floor water. Well, at least it was washed.
We were quickly served chips and salsas, green and red, and both with a nice kick.
Water took a bit longer to come by and unfortunately arrived in large styrofoam, lidded cups. But the food did not disappoint. We selected from a simple two-page menu, complete with a hamburger with yellow cheese :-)
We each picked two tacos and a gordita. Steak, Chorizo, and Barbacoa tacos, and steak Gorditas. There was absolutely nothing to complain about. Fresh cilantro, plenty of limes, and other vegetables accompanied our food.
And most importantly, the tortillas are made in-house and that was obvious. This place rivals San Jose Taqueria and should definitely be visited. We needed to go back to the counter to pay, and that took a while on the old cash register. While I was waiting, the cook put a huge bowl of soup/stew on the counter and I asked our cashier/server if that was for her. She said it was and it was a concoction of meat and vegetables and soup, and she hadn't eaten all day. It was steaming hot and looked delicious! Hey, that wasn't on the menu...

There are two TVs back to back but nothing was playing, just a low-key music soundtrack. Decor consisted of a picture of John Paul II and a painting of a pope with Mary. But with all those windows, there isn't room for much more.
The tables are numbered by a taped up paper number. Not so classy but whatever works.
There were crazy locks on the way out, modified during the day by tape.
There's not much internet information available about this place but it looks like it used to be the El Kiosco Tapatio Restaurante. What is was before that we have no idea. It looks like it was some sort of fast food chain. But this is a lovely reincarnation of a unique building and an obvious local favorite from what we observed. Freshly prepared food in a clean, local restaurant with house-made tortillas - what more could you ask?
Taqueria Maravatio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato   

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Raad's Mediterranean Grill, 962 Cherry St SE ~ 8/11/15

We've been hearing about this place and finally made it there today for lunch. It's been in business for two years and when we walked in today, it was empty. That can't be good.
There are about nine tables set in a pleasant atmosphere and six chairs lined up against a street-facing window.
We walked in and were greeted with "to go or here?" Not the most welcoming greeting by our server. We seated ourselves and perused the 6-page menu. Appetizers & salads, two pages of entrees, beverages-smoothies-desserts, an ala carte and kids page, and a lunch menu. We had to start with a few appetizers ~ Samosas and Falafel. Our server, "is that all?"
The samosas were served with delicious tzatziki sauce and the falafel arrived draped in tahini and parsley. This was all made to order and we waited for it, but it was worth the wait. We next ordered from the entree menu, Gyro and Kafta. Each entree comes promised with salad, rice, hummus, fresh pita bread, and optionally served as a wrap or plated. We took plated. And we need to talk about the salad first.
We'd like to eat this everyday, seriously. There's a lemony dressing (house recipe) that tops off radishes, parsley, tomatoes, onions, lentils, pita chips made on the premises, and pomegranate seeds. The salad is alive with flavor and texture and is altogether amazing. The Gyro then arrived.
Hummus, rice and gyro were beautifully presented. As we are waiting for the Kafta, the owner and/or chef stepped out to ask whether I'd like tzatziki or garlic sauce (he whispers 'garlic'). How could we not take the garlic :-). He then notices our notes and camera. "Are you food critics?" Well, we do have a blog. "Why didn't you tell me? I would have taken good care of you." No. That's not how we like to review restaurants. And when the Kafta finally came out he accompanied it, chatting up the food, and due to his hovering we neglected to get a food photo, until the leftovers arrived at home :-)
There are 16 spices in the rice, according to our chef, and the garlic sauce and the rest of the food was well prepared and fresh. The garlic sauce was a great recommendation so don't miss it. We asked about the lack of customers and our guy said it's always like this because no one knows about them, which is sad because the food is wonderful. It's made as it is ordered, table for table. Pita bread is brought in from Detroit and was promised with the Kafta entree but never arrived so we can't comment on that other than we didn't get it.

Ideas for improvement? Train your servers to be more welcoming and customer savvy. Add building signage and update the tacky sandwich board sign. Clean the one bathroom customers use. Avoid loud conversations between the server and chef while customers are waiting for food, and don't make customers listen to your phones ring as well as to your subsequent conversations. And maybe change the soundtrack to a consistent mideastern vibe rather than a random jazz/pop thing.

Online reviews complain about the prices but there is a lunch menu available with reduced costs. We hope he stays in business and maybe he does well enough with take-outs and catering to stay alive.
The smoothies were recommended to us by the chef as being all natural with no added sugars, etc., so we took two to go. Delicious! Check out this place, at least for the falafel, hummus, garlic sauce, and the salad! They have local delivery service and you can find them on facebook and at www.raadsgr.com
Sad Update 2/18/16 ~ we drove by earlier this week and the restaurant is closed and the building vacant.

Click to add a blog post for Raad's Mediterranean Grill on Zomato

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sushi Kuni, 2901 Breton ~ 3/26/15

They call themselves a Japanese Fusion restaurant and five years ago moved into the space that used to be Shogun.
Enter this establishment and you are immediately struck by the lovely ambiance. The lighting is dim and the decor subtle and tasteful. The place is divided into two areas, this row of booths and small tables upon entry,
and another dining area with a few larger tables, a few booths, and the sushi bar.
The menu features Korean dishes, sushi, and Asian Fusion, so there are choices galore. Sometimes this style of restaurant tries to be too many things to too many people but we think it works here overall. And we started with tempura and dumplings.
The shrimp tempura was a little bland but the dumplings (beef gyoza) were great. The sauce enhanced the flavor of these perfectly prepared and not overly fried dumplings. So on to the entrees.

Two of us are huge fans of Udon, those thick, chewy Japanese noodles, so two dishes soon arrived ~ Vegetable Udon and Spicy Seafood Udon.
The mildly flavored broth in the vegetable dish was excellent and the spiciness of the seafood dish broth slowly built up while eating. Both are classic dishes well prepared, and the noodles had the perfect, chewy texture we hoped for.

Chef's Choice Sushi was our third dish, and it was fine although not as fresh or well-cut as that found at Maru.
The soundtrack playing was really interesting and we couldn't quite figure it out. It was completely instrumental and each of us recognized different tunes ranging from "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka, a theme song from Lord of the Rings, a praise chorus worship tune, and a Metallica hit. It was a unique and strange soundtrack for our lunchtime dining :-) But our major complaint was that the overhead light at our booth was disconcertingly bright and not centered over the table so it only bothered the person it shone upon.

Find them on facebook but they haven't posted since November of 2014. And their website at sushikuni.net is halfway functional and doesn't reflect their current menu. In order to read the menu pages that are there, at least three clicks are required to get it to a readable size.

So check them out in person. The atmosphere is great and we'd like to go back to try some of our favorite Korean dishes. And be aware, you have to walk through the Suma wrestler's curtain legs to find the restrooms (and notice the aforementioned blinding booth lights in this photo!).
Sushi Kuni on Urbanspoon