Revival (MSP) – Incredible Fried Chicken

bl_1Revival is located on the northeast corner of 43rd and Nicolet. When you enter the restaurant you are surrounded by vintage 1950s colors…oranges, browns and golds, with wallpaper adorned with large marigolds. The bar resides along the rear wall with a view of the pass from the kitchen with six metal backless stools. The remainder of the dining area includes tables with metal chairs and a long banquette under the front window that occupy the remainder of the dining area. Total seating is in the 40s, it is comfortable and the sound level allows for conversation.

Tucked behind the bar are three taps for beer (an additional two were not connected on the night I visited), and the menu offers an additional 17 beers in bottles and cans, wines by the glass, sweet tea, sparkling water, root beer and Mexican coke. The wine list is limited with a handful of whites ($28-$55), a few more reds ($30-$65) and half of the wine list comprised of sparkling wines ($30-$210).

©jeff “jfood” schlesinger

©jeff “jfood” schlesinger

I was glad I arrived early on a Tuesday evening since the place was already half full at 5:30 and by 6:00 all the table were occupied and there was only one bar seat unoccupied.  I chose a seat at the bar so I could watch the food and have a chat with the bartender.

The menu is diverse (on line version very accurate) with appetizers (priced from $5 to $15) ranging from a simple farm greens salad, to fried chicken livers, to pickled pig’s feet, to a pimento cheese and meat plate or choose two pieces of fried chicken. Entrees include a larger plate of fried chicken, (offered several spice levels from regular to poultrygeist covered in a sauce made from ghost peppers), pork chops, shrimp and grits, and pork shoulder or opt for a burger, or a pulled pork or grilled cheese sandwich

bl_3I ordered a 2-piece fried chicken plate for my appetizer and the Revival Burger with bacon for my second course with a side of hushpuppies. The server brought two sauces, a sweet potato sauce with habanero which was very spicy and a North Carolina vinegar sauce that was a little sweet and delivered much less heat than the habaner


The two courses were delivered simultaneously and I decided to first eat the fried chicken. There was a leg and a portion of the breast. This was one of the best fried chickens I have eaten in a long time. It had an overly crispy crust and was still very moist on the interior. I asked the bartender about the preparation and he told me the chicken is first seasoned, then marinated in buttermilk for eight hours before being slightly floured and fried. As I watched the pass during my meal I would guess that half of the orders were fried chicken, after eating it I completely understood

bl_4I next moved to the burger. It consisted of two thin patties on a buttered and griddled bun with two thick strips of bacon, melted American cheese, mayo and a few slices of B+B pickles. The first bite was a shock, it was incredibly salty, the meat was incredibly salty and the bacon added additional saltiness. The server approached to check in and I told him…he immediately removed the plate to have the kitchen prepare another, and we decided to skip the bacon on number 2. The second burger was a different, and much more positive experience. The meat reminded me of the burgers I made as a youth, a good beefy flavor with the grind still evident, the exterior was charred and crispy and the meat was still very juicy. The kitchen was generous, maybe too generous with the mayo and cheese, it was a little difficult to contain all of the creaminess in each bite and it overpowered the meat, I would have preferred a little less mayo and almost scraped some from the bun. The B+B pickles were delicious and these are always welcome on my burgers. The hushpuppies were a little bland and delivered a touch of sweetness

Overall I highly, highly recommend the fried chicken. The burger needs a little work to balance the saltiness of the bacon with the beefiness of the patty and the kitchen should better balance the amount of mayo. The bartender and the other staff were exceptionally customer friendly and that went a long way to convert what could have been a disappointing night to a positive experience.
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Match (SoNo) – #3 on 2015 Best Burger List

Match BurgerOnce again Chef Matt Storch’s “Match Burger” takes one of the top spots in my annual review. Anyone on Chef Matt’s FB page sees his weekly Thursday posting announcing the Thursday Night Special Burger night with a photo of perfectly prepared burgers. The Match Burger delivers an incredible array of flavors and starts with a rich, grass fed short rib, chuck and brisket combination. After grilling the patty to create a crisp char and smokiness, the burger is dipped in a Bacon-Cheese Béchamel and then bacon bits are placed atop the cheese-dipped burger to add saltiness. The burger is finished wit a heaping of sweet & sour onions and encased in a sweet onion brioche, which added just a little more sweetness to the combination. The fries at Match were outstanding (maybe the best in the area), crunchy on the exterior, soft and moist on the interior and were the perfect complement to the burger.

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Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill (Miami) – Great Potential

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I recently attended a conference in Miami and a few of us decided to sample the local fare on the last evening. A foodie friend suggested Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill, it offered excellent food with a good vibe, not far from the hotel. After a five minute cab ride we entered the terrace and immediately agreed the vibe was very relaxed Miami and if the food was equal, this would be a great recommendation. The terrace was fully enclosed by foliage, offered long wooden tables and a full view of the evening sky with star-shaped Pythagoras solids lightly illuminating the space. The interior is slickly designed with a 20-foot wood beamed ceiling, an open kitchen along the rear wall, leather wrapped banquettes and white topped tables.

img_0281The server approached and asked for drink orders, and throughout the entire service was fully capable of answering each and every question about their specialty cocktails, explained each dish and throughout the evening was spot on in her attention to the table and her friendliness couple with professionalism. Many other restaurants would benefit from her attitude and training. We ordered cocktails and several dishes to share.

Two of the dishes were excellent and highly recommend each.

img_0283My favorite dish of the evening was the kimchee beef tartare with a quail egg and crispy potato strings. A large plate of crisped shoestring potatoes was intermingled with diced beef and chives, finished with a light dressing that included kimchee. The beef was delicious, full of flavor and the kimchee was a perfect addition to add a good level of spiciness. The shoestrings added a salty crunch and the quail egg a decadent creaminess.

img_0284The other recommended dish is the American Wagyu slider. Each was served topped with onions, a “Tonkatsu” sauce and a fried quail egg. The flavors and textures of this combination worked marvelously with the rich meat offset by the sweet sauce and the pungency of the onions. The quail egg added a lovely layer of creaminess and the bun added just a touch of nuttiness to this combination. I could have ordered and enjoyed a few more of these min-burgers.

The others were very good, but there was just something missing from each that

The shaved kale & gala apple salad toasted walnut vinaigrette was very good. The kale offered a richer flavor than those up north and the texture was a little tougher than I am used to. The vinaigrette was delicious, and the apples were a great complement, but the portion of the apples was much too sparse, I would have really enjoyed the dish with the addition of a larger portion of apples.

img_0285The “Five spice & honey spare ribs” were four smallish baby back ribs that were lathered in a sweet sauce and finished with a touch of coriander & chilies. The ribs were fall off the bone tender, but the sauce was a little too sweet and it felt like they were not paired but forced together. I really loved the idea of Sugarcane’s take on a traditional southern favorite of fried chicken and waffles with its “Duck & waffle.” A half-waffle was topped with a crispy duck leg confit and a fried duck egg, served with a mustard maple syrup. The duck was perfectly cooked, with one of the crunchiest skins I have ever tasted but it lacked any seasoning. The egg was slightly over-fried and the underside traded creaminess for crunchiness and, again, lacked any seasoning. The waffle was a basic recipe. The dish had all of the components, but lacked that something special to make it great.

img_0286I was disappointed in two of the dishes. The “Pan seared scallops” were served with crispy pork belly, calabaza purée, and a green mojo. The scallops were very over-cooked, rubbery and lacked any flavor and the pork belly was likewise borderline flavorless. Again the kitchen failed to add any seasoning to this dish. The “Spicy tuna” roll was basic, at best. It lacked that fresh, vibrant tuna flavor and there was little additional flavor from the rice.

Overall, Sugarcane is on the precipice of serving a full complement of great dishes. The chef has assembled great combinations. If the kitchen can deliver the chef’s vision with consistent quality and proper seasoning this can be one great restaurant.

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#miami #sugarcane

Walrus & Carpenter (Bridgeport) – #5 on 2015 Best Burger List

rsz_dsc_4599 (2)Walrus + Carpenter is a new addition to my 2015 Best Burger list.

The “W+C Burger” included Cheddar cheese, smoked mayo, bacon, and a secret ingredient, bourbon onions. The meat was delicious, rich in flavor, topped with several strips of bacon, each mildly salty, to complement the beef and the “Bourbon Onions.” The melted Cheddar cheese was creamy and added a touch of nuttiness, and the mayo, which was smoked, a smidgen of smokiness plus more creamy delight. The toasted brioche bun was the perfect choice for this combination. The killer ingredient, and this may be the best topping I tasted, was the Bourbon onions. These were also some of the most delicious caramelized onions I have ever tasted. They were sweet, buttery and the slight crispiness from grilling was a bonus.

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The Whelk (Westport) – #6 on 2015 Best Burger List

Whelk 15 ctb_1
There was both a change in chef as well as a change in the toppings from last year’s first place finish. The 2015 “Dry Aged Beef Burger” at The Whelk was simpler than last year’s version and combined a rich blend of rich dry-aged beef topped with sweet pickles, belle bantam cheese, bacon and onion mayo on a brioche bun. The beef was perfectly seasoned and still delivered a rich flavor, which was complemented by the sweet pickles. The sauce added a wonderful sweet and creamy addition, while the nuttiness of the cheese and the smoky-saltiness of the bacon added additional flavors to the burger.

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Prime Restaurant (Huntington, NY) – Great Burger @Brunch

rsz_150614_burger-001Sandwiched between two fantastic crossings of the Long Island Sound from CT was a visit to Prime Restaurant in Huntington to enjoy their Sunday Jazz Brunch. The restaurant offers outside waterside tables in a relaxed environment plus more formal tables indoors. On this visit we were a little late for the first come first served tables on the deck and we were seated at a very quiet table next to the windows in the rear of the dining area where we could enjoy conversation with jazz in the background.

The Sunday Brunch menu consists of salads, maki rolls, eggs, and sandwiches, or dive into Prime’s famous and enormous steaks. I ordered the “Prime Burger” that includes a large 8 ounce patty, melted cheese, a slice of tomato, thinly sliced red onions, and lettuce on a brioche with a side of shoestring fries.

The burger was served on a wooden carving board, masquerading as a dinner plate, with the large order of fries assembled inside a wire basket. The burger was held together with a bamboo spear adorned with a cornichon.

I first grabbed few fries. The few on top were a little cool from sitting, but the next layer were hot, crispy, tasty and nicely salted. I next removed the onion slice (I am not a fan of raw onions) and cut the burger in half. It was perfectly prepared to my requested medium-rare. Likewise the kitchen prepared the bacon to crispy, but not overcooked. I pulled a little of the patty and tasted. The meat was deep in flavor, seasoned properly and excellent.

My first bite of the entire construction was delicious. The meat worked fantastically with the sweet tomato and the crispy lettuce was very refreshing. The bacon added just a touch of saltiness and a little smokiness. The roll was good, but it was not in the same league as the other ingredients, that would be my one suggestion, upgrade the bun, the meat deserves better.

We finished the meal with a single slice of cheesecake, topped with chocolate and caramel sauces. I was the only person at the table that was not fond of the cheesecake. I thought it was too gelatinous versus the creamy delightfulness of traditional NY Cheesecake.

Overall, it was a beautiful day on the Sound, a fantastic burger and a great time with friends.

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Bounty Food Truck – #7 on 2015 Best Burger List

15_bounty_2A lot of trucks sell burgers…Bounty Food Truck is the only one I found that sells one that is is great and should be included in my Best Burger List. Over the last year I enjoyed both the Bordelaise Burger and the Bounty Burger and each could make the list.

15_bounty_1The “Bordelaise Burger” was outstanding. The meat was full of deep rich flavor and juicy, and then it was grilled to a perfect medium-rare. It was next topped with melted Gruyere cheese, which added a touch of creamy nuttiness. The slight pepperiness of the arugula was a fantastic addition and also contributed a little crunch. The caramelized onions were sweet and added just a touch of sweet back-notes and then the Malbec butter kicked in with a bold earthiness and a little pungency.

15_bounty_4The “Bounty Burger” began with the same great meat, again prepared to a perfect medium-rare. This included traditional toppings of melted cheese, tomato, lettuce and onions in a sesame seed bun with a swath of Bounty sauce. The juicy meat and tomato slice was complemented by the slightly sweet sauce. It was a great burger.

I am glad Bounty will park at the New Canaan Farmer’s Market this summer where I can sneak down and grab a great burger every Saturday.

 

#burger  #newcanaanfarmersmarket #bounty

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