Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gaucho Steakhouse

Many Brazilian restaurants are very similar in style with the major differences coming in the meats that are served.  They look very nice and, for a single price, you have access to a great salad bar and many grilled meats that are served on skewers by servers in Gaucho outfits.  In general it is an exercise in gluttony and while there is a discount for those that are simply eating at the salad bar, I don't know that it is really worth the price.  We recently went to Gaucho Steakhouse in Northville, Michigan, which is near Detroit.  Like the Brazilian Steakhouses in Chicago, it is a large space in it's own building.  The entrance is large with a curved and glass backed waterfall to one side.  The lights are hanging and the inner walls have bullfighting murals.  The bar is large and sits near the entrance and the salad bar which has just about everything you might want is located in the center of the restaurant.  There is a semi-private dining room in the back for large parties where we had been seated in the past, but we were seated in the main dining room near the front of the restaurant this time. 
At everyone's place setting there was a two sided coaster, red on one side and green on the other.  As it might be expected, red means stop and green means go.  When we were seated, the coasters started in the red position.  This allowed people to go to the salad bar which is pretty impressive.  In addition to some very fresh vegetables, it also included Blue, Swiss, Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Parmesan Cheese, Ham, Salami, Tortellini and Risotto.  There was also Soup, Crab Salad, Lobster.  These were all very good, but the point of going to a Brazilian Steakhouse is to have the grilled meat and salad wastes stomach space. 
When a diner was ready, they flip the coaster to the green side and the gauchos begin arriving.  There were thirteen meats on the menu.  Most of it was beef, but there was also pork, lamb, chicken and shrimp.  I started out with Chicken and Lamb which were juicy and very flavorful.  I then went on to the pork shrimp and many cuts of beef.  While I did try most of the meats, I did miss the Linguica Sausage, the Lamb chops, and the Ribeye.  It was all very good but because it was essentially a moving buffet and it was tough to photograph everything.
I finished the meat part of the meal with the Top Sirloin.  This is their signature meat and well worth trying.  It was tender and juicy with a nice garlic flavor and it was a great way to finish the savory portion of the meal.
After the salad and the meat, we were pretty full, but many of us had saved enough for dessert.  They had a pretty extensive dessert list.  I went with a classic dessert that I thought went well with the meat, an Apple Cobbler with Ice Cream.  The Apples were baked in a Caramel Sauce with a Sugar Dough and were served with Crushed Pecans and the Ice Cream and it was a great finish to a great meal.      

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Siena Tavern - Brunch

While the last time I went to Siena Tavern was during brunch, I did not go for brunch so I decided to make it the location of my brunch together for this month.  The Italian-ish restaurant in river north run by Executive Chef Fabio Viviani is spacious with both modern and vintage elements done in a siena color scheme.  The restaurant is in an office building and the outer walls are tinted glass looking out to the street.  Despite being located in an office building though, the space does look friendly and the waitstaff are very helpful. As far as the food was concerned, I continued my habit of trying both sweet and savory starting with the Monkeybread for the table.  Our jaws dropped when this arrived because it just looked ridiculous.  The sweet sticky bread was topped with Hazelnut Cream, Hazelnuts, and was sitting in a thick, buttery caramel.  It was amazing and despite the size of it, it was pretty big, it disappeared quickly. 

For my main course, I went with a hash, as I frequently do, but this was a major variation on the standard hash.  It was a Lobster Hash with Poached Eggs, Lobster (obviously), Caramelized Vegetables (Asparagus, Onions, and Carrots), House Cured Pancetta, and Truffled Hollandaise Sauce.  The entire dish was very flavorful.  The lobster was sweet and tender and came in large pieces.  The eggs were poached perfectly with solid and firm whites and liquid yolks.  The vegetables were tender and had a caramelized sweetness.  The pancetta was firm and flavorful with a sweet pork flavor and the hollandaise sauce was great.  It was creamy and buttery with a significant amount of pepper and enough truffle to give it a good truffle funk without overwhelming it.

This brunch was a favorite of mine and I will probably repeat it in the future because many of the people that expressed interest had to cancel at the last minute and this is a place that deserves wide acclaim.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fuji Sushi

I like sushi, but I will admit that it isn't for everyone.  It takes some taste adaptation and you have to get past the fact that much of the fish is raw.  This is not the case for all sushi and you can, in fact, have a great sushi meal where you have no raw fish (or fish in general) at all.  Most people that have come to like sushi though, have gotten past the fact that many of their choices are going to be with raw fish.  In Midland, there have been places that have served maki rolls for years, but it has only been recently that a sushi restaurant, Fuji Sushi, has opened up.  I have, for years, tried to convince my family that sushi was good, but when the only examples that they have had experience with have been mediocre maki, it's a really hard sell.  My youngest sister is very open to new culinary experiences despite the fact that she thought that she disliked sushi.  One of her friends convinced her to come with her to Fuji Sushi where she discovered that she did like sushi.  She prefers maki (rolls) to nigiri (raw fish with rice) or sashimi (raw fish), but it is a start.  Knowing that I like sushi, she invited me out with a friend, her husband, and my parents.  From the outside, it doesn't look like much, occupying a store front in a small strip mall.  Inside, it really isn't that much more impressive with white walls with a cherry blossom tree design near the rear of the dining room.  There are booths on one side and tables occupying the rest of the space.  The sushi bar is in the back of the dining room on the right side.  The menu has a pretty good list of maki with the usual suspects showing up on the sashimi and nigiri lists (the usual suspects being a lot of tuna, salmon, shrimp, octopus, and eel).  They also had a variety of appetizers and non-sushi items for those that are yet averse to sushi.  I started things out with a standard appetizer found at many sushi restaurants, Spicy Tuna Tartare.  It was served with a spicy sauce and topped with Tobiko (Flying Fish Roe) which, while salty, is more used for texture than flavoring.  The presentation was nice as were the flavor and texture and the tobiko provided a nice crunchy contrast.  The fish tasted very fresh which tells me that they have a good supply chain which is especially important for inland sushi restaurants.
For my main course, I went with the Sushi Deluxe plate which featured 10 pieces of assorted nigiri and a tuna roll.  The choices made for the plate were made by the sushi chef which I actually prefer because he knows what is best on any given day.  The fish was presented in a line on top of a coconut leaf.  In front of it was a shrimp and the tuna roll.  Wasabi and pickled ginger were presented to the side for seasoning and palate cleansing.  The tuna rolls were simple with simply the tuna, the rice, and seaweed to wrap it.  It was simple but good and allowed me to get the fresh taste of the tuna.  The shrimp was tender and obviously very fresh because it had none of the bad flavor that comes when shrimp gets old.  As far as the rest of my nigiri, I was served white tuna, yellowtail tuna, salmon and more tuna.  It was all fresh and had a good texture and taste, but I preferred the rich, fatty flavor of the white tuna best.

I am glad that a sushi restaurant has opened up in Midland, I hope to return sometime when I am in town.  While it isn't a great, high end sushi place, it is good for what it does.