Equus in the Castle Hotel & Spa, Tarrytown, NY- Outstanding Food and Service

Castle Hotel and Spa in Tarrytown, NY is such a beautiful place. It is a picture perfect fairy tale hotel – a corner room at top of the castle with windows on two sides overlooking the Hudson River at sunset. I felt like Rapunzel letting down my hair and letting my prince up. The Equus restaurant is really something – deserves a top rating and review. It was perfect… even the French fries.

Unfortunately, this meal was eaten so long ago that these items have rotated off their current Summer menu. I had to reconstruct the meal from pictures and memory.imageFrench Fries, like the authentic fries from the good French bistros.imageSome sort of squash soup. This was delicious. I remember the taste and smoothness but not the ingredients.imageLobster Salad with foam. Also excellent. The lobster was tender. image Lamb… I really regret not writing the ingredients down. This was the best dish of the night and possibly the best lamb that I have had this year. I remember being surprised at how good it is and how impressed I was. The dish itself when described to me sounded heavy but it turned out to be just right. The grain that accompanied the lamb balanced out the red meat well. It was so good that I thought of thanking the chef!imageCobb Salad: Avocado, Bacon, Cucumber, Onion, Blue Cheese, Shrimp. Good and fresh.

Well worth the money. Outstanding food and service. Outstanding hotel and staff. Highly recommend both.

This experience took place at

Equus
Castle Hotel & Spa
400 Benedict Avenue
Tarrytown, NY 10591
914-631-3646

Wanderlust Grand Cayman- Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill in Rum Point Beach

Having had multiple mediocre meals in Grand Cayman, I finally landed on something very delicious, at Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill. Rum Point beach is a local favorite; it is serene, clear blue water and sky with bewitching sun and music. It took me out of NY; took me out of being me; took me to a point in time where everything was perfect. This was serenity.

SPICY RED CONCH CHOWDER, garnished with chives. Hot, hot, hot but simply just right. Yum. BLACKENED FISH SANDWICH: lettuce, tomato, onion & mango mayo. Delicious. Fresh. So much better than the blackened fish at the Lobster Pot at less than half the price.EL CUBANO: roasted pork, smoked ham, swiss cheese, dill pickle & mustard. Best Cubano sandwich I have ever had. The mustard and the pork made it perfect.

Loved Rum Point in Grand Cayman. Loved my Cubano!

Rum Point Wreck Bar & Grill
Rum Point, Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-947-9412

Wanderlust Grand Cayman – Lobster Pot Restaurant and Wine Bar in Georgetown

Do you know that cabs in Grand Cayman are often old beat-up minivans that are driven by an elderly couple who will talk your ears off? I think their names are Leslie and Neil. Not only are they cab drivers, they double as sightseeing guides and food critics. Because of Leslie and Neil’s welcoming and embracing attitudes toward the tourists, we jumped off at the closest restaurant, Lobster Pot in downtown Georgetown. In fact, I escaped the cab and left my friend in the cab to pay. I waited at the curb for at least three minutes before Leslie and Neil let my friend out.Marinated Queen Conch: Lobster Pot’s traditional Cayman style recipe. Kind of not a fan of the traditional recipe. Too sweet and the conch too chewy.Daily Fresh Ceviche: Finely diced fresh catch of the day tossed in limes and spices with crisp bell peppers, cilantro and red onion. Acceptable.Captain’s Catch of the Day: Grouper(?) served blackened Cayman style with chef’s vegetables and golden fried plantains. The blackened fish was acceptable but too black peppery spicy. The plantains were soft and ripe.    I was stupid. I asked for the daily catch to be grilled. It was tasteless even after I salted. I don’t understand how freshly grilled fish can fail but they did. Poor fish – they sacrificed for no reason.

Leslie and Neil, originally from the UK, are long time residents of Grand Cayman. They drove us around downtown Georgetown which was a disappointment – it looked desolate and gaudy, reminded me of Virginia Beach. They also highly recommended the Lobster Pot which was another disappointment. Lobster Pot was set up right by the water. We sat on the deck overlooking the deep water in the dark with a huge yacht in the distance. There were musicians playing guitars and singing for the guests. The air was warm. The breeze caressed my face.

The Caribbean does not agree with me- Leslie and Neil were blasting heat in the 78 degree weather.

Lobster Pot Restaurant and Wine Bar
245 N Church St,
George Town KY1-1107
Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-949-2736

Wanderlust Grand Cayman: Anchor & Den of The Marriott Beach Resort on the Seven Mile Beach

I really should be more grateful.

Earlier this year, I was at the Grand Cayman enjoying the radiant sun, wearing sandals when New York was freezing and gray. I ended up at the Anchor & Den  having a late afternoon snack. The wait staff composed of people from around the world: Germany, The Philippines, Scotland, Mexico, and the other Caribbean Islands. It was a beautiful resort: open, airy, sunlight filling all the windows, white sand beach, gourmet chocolate bar, artisan cocktails, impressive artwork on the wall, and many many well-dressed and smiling tourists.Jamon Iberico on garlic bread. Delicious Jamon. The garlic bread was too garlicky – not suitable after the first piece.Tartines: Black mission fig and bell peppers, nicoise olives, curry herb paste on homemade grilled sourdough. Fantastic. Sweet and soft with a tangy and salty aftertaste.

I really should be more grateful but I was not. Why? Because it felt all too perfect and too made up. I may be naive but I do know the world does not look like this.

Anchor & Den
Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort
389 West Bay Road Box 30371
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Phone:+1 345-949-0088

Thai Spice in Norwalk, CT – Authentic Food Served by Teenagers

This was a funny little experience. I ended up in this stretch of suburban sprawl in Norwalk, CT, hungry. Looking around me, there were corporate parks, bad Chinese food take outs, genetic diners, fast food joints, liquors shops and massage parlors. As I was getting desperate, I saw Thai Spice, squeezed in between an empty office front and a massage place. The menu looked authentic and I went in. imageTod Mun: fried fish cakes, cucumber salad and crushed peanuts. The restaurant was empty and all the wait staff were in the back, eating dinner. They didn’t care to take the order; didn’t care whether there were utensils on the table; didn’t bother to even place the dish in front of me. The slid my big bowl of soup across the table to me – like slow motion bowling.imageNua Nam Tok: beef, lettuce, onions, lemongrass, roasted rice and mint. So good. The onions were strong. The beef was tender and the roasted rice smoky.imageThai Green Curry: coconut, vegetables, lime and green curry paste with shrimp.imageThai Boat Noodle Soup: beef, beef balls, rice noodles, and beef broth. Almost as good as the Vietnamese Pho and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The broth was tasty. The noodles were infused with the beef aroma. It was very satisfying!

Despite the service, the food was amazing. Authentic, delicious and fresh. If this were a take out place or a strand in the food court, I wouldn’t complain at all. But with the restaurant set up, the dismal service by the teenagers was disappointing. I seriously consider skipping out on the bill because I didn’t think they would have noticed. I also considered calling the restaurant owner – I doubt the owner would be ok with paying all these people to not serve the customers.

This experience took place at

Thai Spice

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center
345 Main Ave #2,
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 846-3533

 

River Tavern in Chester, CT – Goooooooooooal

A friend of mine convinced me to drive two hours to Chester, CT (population < 4k) to try out River Tavern, a farm-to-table New American restaurant. I was impressed. I did not imagine such well-executed dishes from an eclectic menu could exist in the middle of nowhere. We spent a lot of time discussing where the customers of this restaurant could come from.image Chester, CT is an hour away from New Haven, CT. This is a little town with only one main street and one busy block.image River Tavern is very particular about everything, from the tea-pot, tea cups to how much the wait staff know about the menu. They are knowledgable and extremely detail oriented. You can tell that the owner has high expectations and the staff cares deeply.imageRiver Tavern’s menu changes daily. Thank goodness I took pictures of the menu on Feb 28th. This is the Smelts: Fried smelts with celery root remoulade, rye crisps, dill + lemon. You may think fried smelts are heavy… Yes, that is possible. But you have not tried them with the dill + lemon sauce. It was excellent!imageP.E.I. Mussels: sautéed with merguez, garlic, chilies, oregano, tomato paste + wine. I ordered this dish because I have never seen Prince Edward Island mussels cooked with merguez before. Unfortunately, the merguez was used in the pot and not served to the customers. Even more unfortunately, I could not taste the merguez in the broth nor the mussels. Other than that, this was an excellent dish as well.imageSoeltl Farm Beef Burger: cheddar cheese, homemade pickles, ketchup + green on brioche, served with french fries. Best burger ever! Cooked perfectly medium and juicy. The homemade pickles were awesome. The fresh veggies were just better on the  burger than those that are a day old.imageFalafel: fried + served with hummus and a cucumber, lettuce, pickles onion salad, spiced yogurt sauce, pine nuts, lemon + olive oil. Decent to almost excellent.

Interestingly, they also listed Pho on their menu and I was tempted to order Pho in the middle of nowhere CT. After I grilled the server again and again on how the Pho is prepared, I decided to go against it because they ran out of Hoisin sauce. I believe I made the right choice since the burger really scored! This reminds me of listening to the soccer games on the Spanish radio station… Gooooooooal.

Highly recommend it.  Will go back again and again.

This experience took place at

River Tavern
23 Main St
Chester, CT 06412
Phone:(860) 526-9417

Curry Chicken with Mac and Cheese – An Unbelievably Good Combo That Warms the Heart

Would you have considered eating curry chicken wings with mac and cheese?

No! I wouldn’t either. But it was such a delicious combination when the umami in the cheese complements the spiciness in the curry. The fat in the wings added the smooth texture to the pasta. The meat on the wings balances out the fat and the simple carbohydrate. It was darn good!imageWhat the combo looks like when mixed together. That’s right – you must mixed the two. For those of you who don’t like your food touching each other, this dish is not for you.image Mac and Cheese just fresh out of the oven.imageCurry cooking in the pot with the chicken. Tasted too spicy and not enough balance – but not so fast – mac and cheese took care of that concern easily.

A friend of mine made this for me. Not only was it savory and delicious, it also warmed the heart. Friendship rules. Thank you.

Oceana in Manhattan, NYC – The World Is My Oyster, A Matter of Food and Life

I have been thinking a lot about how to write this post because the experience was not only about the food. The food played a big part for sure but the experience was more about connecting the dots in life, much like how the oysters showed up on the plate for me that night. Oceana is a seafood restaurant located on 49th Street and Ave of the Americas in New York City. It’s supposed to be a great one with a premier locale.

Oceana belongs to the Livanos Family who owns Moderne Barn in Armonk and City Limits Diner in White Plains. I was not aware of this fact until I did the research on Oceana post my dining experience.  Interestingly, the performance of Oceana is consistent with my experiences at both restaurants in the Westchester county. It’s consistently fine but not outstanding. Read my earlier posts, click here for Moderne Barn and here  for City Limits.image Chef’s compliment – Something about sunchokes with cream. Couldn’t really hear the waiter. It was good. imageOysters: Naked Cowboy (LI), Summerside (PEI), Dabob Bay (WA), Totten Inlet (WA), Fanny Bay (British Columbia), Tokeen Bay (AK).  I won’t point fingers since I am not 100% sure… I believe starting at 12 o’clock is the Naked Cowboy (2 each) and then rotate clockwise to Tokeen Bay. If that were true, Dabob Bays were really dumb! They were tasteless and meaty with a low salinity. Naked Cowboys and Summerside were everything one would expect from east coast oysters. They were beautiful, sweet and strong with a mineral taste. imageTamari Glazed Steelhead Salmon: soybeans, water chestnuts, shiitake broth. Excellent. Excellent. This was the best for the night.imageSticky Toffee Pudding: rum caramel, coconut ice cream, toasted coconut. Oceana’s dessert menu sounded very promising but the reality is far from satisfactory. This was ok but I certainly would not spend my calories on it.imageChocolate Layer Trifecta: chocolate cake, toffee crunch, chocolate crémeux. I love chocolate. Chocolate makes me happy. When a menu item lists chocolate three times, I expect the dessert to deliver a pleasant punch if not a high. Hershey’s kisses is the quality of this dessert. Mediocre and main stream. I had two bites.imageChef’s Compliments: They came by twice to try to give us the same complimentary dessert. My friend believes that the chef went out to a Duane Reade across the street and bought a bag of these to distribute to the diners. Sadly, they taste true to the Duane Reade candies.

Whenever I have oysters, I highly anticipate. Oysters are a representation of best things life can offer – smooth, alive, salty and sweet, mineral/floral, and filled with changes and surprises. They never sucked for me until those two dumb oysters that night. On that tray of twelve, some were pleasant highlights and two were not worth eating, reminding me to check my cavalier attitudes at the door, pay attention to my present-and-now, connect the dots and don’t let the restaurant bring their oyster sampler. Take charge to find that oyster high. Live deeply and fully.

Consistently with the other Livanos Family restaurants, Oceana was fine but not outstanding.

This experience took place at

Oceana

120 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

Oriental Garden Restaurant 福臨門海鮮酒家 in Chinatown, New York- Dim Sum Brunch Anyone?

My sister and I met up in Oriental Garden in Chinatown for a dim sum brunch. In the last twenty years, I ate only once in Chinatown. Recently, I ate at Shanghai 456 and now Oriental Garden. I did not have a great experience at Shanghai 456 and hoped that Oriental Garden would be better.imageBaked Cha Shao Bao 叉燒包imageFried Dumpling, Chew Chow DumplingimageRoast DuckimageTurnip CakeimageSteamed Spare Ribs, Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice, Beef Balls and Shrimp Dumpling

Here is the comparison between eating in a good Chinatown restaurant (Oriental Garden) and eating in an equivalent restaurant in Asia:

The ambiance is much better in Asia
The service is better in Asia
The food is equivalent – the Chinese know how to cook!

Chinatown is good for tourists, the Chinese who live in the US and miss home, and the non-Chinese who need a little culture. Oriental Garden or not – really does not matter. They are all kind of good in their own way. But there is really nothing better than buying that ticket and get yourself on a flight. As soon as you land, you will be in awe of the difference. Take a deep breath in and let it soak in. The overwhelming amount of interesting food, the people, excellent service (no tipping required), and the culture.

I will not be home in Asia this Summer and it saddens me greatly. Chinatown – you and I will be much closer friends for the next few months.

This experience took place at

Oriental Garden Restaurant

14 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
Phone:(212) 619-0085

Cellar 49 in Tarrytown, NY- A Weird Basement Restaurant in an Estate Mansion

I found myself at Cellar 49 in Tarrytown, NY. This is the on site restaurant for Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center, one of the Destination Hotels. This was a completely weird experience. The estate is large and well-manicured; the restaurant is located in the basement or the wine cellar of this majestic old house. All sounds great so far, right? image For a 8:30pm dinner, there were no other diner in the restaurant. The servers had nothing to do and were way too friendly. See this little hut in the photo? It was built to block the entrance to the kitchen. The picture in the middle of the wooden wall blocks the window into the kitchen.imageWINGS / sweet chili or honey buffalo. Surprise! These honey buffalo wings were excellent. Not really spicy but they were fried perfectly and seasoned with enough sugar to keep me going until tomorrow morning.imageBABY BEETS / smoked / yogurt / candied cashews / herb puree. Interesting plating and concept. Liked the color play but the beets were not seasoned properly. The herb puree did absolutely nothing.imageSMOKED PORK CHOP / grits / chard / peach preserves. The glaze and the execution were what made the dish stand out. The meat was tender, juicy and sweet- like all good tropical fruits. I was impressed by how tender it was because this chop was thick and wide.imageDUCK TACOS / chorizo / onion slaw. The concept was intriguing and worthy. The execution was terrible. The duck was dry. The combination of duck and taco was a no go. Did not taste the chorizo – perhaps it was masked in the slaw.

Although we were the only ones in the restaurant, the noise level was intolerable. The loud conversations from the bar were piped directly into the restaurant space. It was not just loud, it was crystal clear. I heard the entire conversation about someone they know between a woman and the server.

Overall, the food was a little awesome when they hit it right; when they didn’t, it was disappointing. Out of the four dishes, two were excellent. The entire experience of eating at a restaurant alone in the basement of an estate mansion while listening to loud conversations next door was just weird. I wonder how destination hotels stay in business with no one dining in their restaurants.

This experience took place at

Cellar 49
Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center

49 E Sunnyside Ln,
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Phone:(914) 591-3183