Lion’s Tap (Eden Prairie) – Excellent Burgers in Relaxed Setting

The Lion’s Tap is a straight forward concept, choose a couple of menu items, do it well and people will enjoy and return. It is a perfect place to grab a burger at the spur of the moment, or bring the family for an inexpensive dinner. It is a very relaxed, family-style atmosphere mixed with a bar and maintains the history of the location, that began as vegetable stand turned bar turned hamburger and beer joint.

Since 1958 when Ma Schaefer sold the bar to her niece Irene Lyons and husband Sears Lyons the restaurant has been selling hamburgers. Originally the hamburgers were made in an electric frying pan (four at a time) and sold for $.25 each. The business was sold to Lloyd Berg in 1974 and began serving French fries. Ownership was sold to his brother, Vern Berg, shortly thereafter, the kitchen was expanded and sold again three years later to Don and June Gilbert. A few months later the restaurant was again sold to Bert and Bonnie Notermann in 1977, and the name was changed to Lions Tap.

The Notermanns added their own brought in their own “secret seasoning” to the daily made individual patties plus the buns were slightly toasted on the grill. Toppings then included fresh produce, cheese, bacon and onions. With so many owners over the years, Lion’s Tap still maintains its singular focus of great burgers, fries and beer.

The menu includes basic hamburgers, fries, sodas and a full selection of craft beers. Toppings appeal to the traditional burger lover with both American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, fried onions and sautéed mushrooms. Both single and double patties are available. On my visits I normally order a single bacon cheeseburger with fried onions and a side of fries. The meat has always arrived to my requested medium-rare, the strips of bacon crispy without being overcooked and the fried onions, well fried onion, and not burnt. And Lion’s Tap does deserve a special call-out for the slightly toasted bun that opens the flavor. This special seasoning adds just a tang of spice to the meat and the other ingredients are also very good. This is a simply made, delicious bacon cheeseburger. The best way to describe the crinkle cut fries is they are perfectly cooked and it is rare, if ever, that any remain on my plate.

Whether you are looking for a quick lunch with a friend or colleague or a family burger night, Lion’s Tap is my go-to burger haven in Eden Prairie.

16180 Flying Cloud Drive – Eden Prairie – MN – 952.934.5299

Open seven days per week – 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

Lions Tap on Urbanspoon

Chops Lobster Bar (Boca Raton) – Bad Night Personified

It was an interesting visit to Chops Lobster House in Boca Raton, and it was not because everything was perfect and delicious, quite the opposite. Other than the General Manager who finally handled the situation in a brilliantly professional manner, each of the other stops in our visit were more sink-holes than successes.

Atmosphere – Oustanding. Almost a clone of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in NYC. Soft lighting, and a beautifully designed interior gave the impression that you were about to experience a wonderful dining experience. Each of the staff was dressed in ties and it was a delightful throwback to the NY Steak House era. I give major points to the designer of the space and the entire decor.

Food – Basically inedible. This is one of the most expensive menus you will find with entrées hovering from $25-60 in the a la carte section, but they offer a very well-priced fixed price $49 three course menu during the week. The choices on this menu are excellent and a great option if you would like a more reasonably priced dinner with smaller portions. I ordered the fixed price with French Onion Soup, the 12-oz lamb chop with a side of Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, plus the NY Cheesecake with fresh local strawberries. The soup was presented in a tureen, topped with melted cheese and the presentation was very nice. The rendition was not. The cheese was not a nutty Gruyere that I expected but was a milder combination of other cheeses and the broth lacked any depth of flavor. It was a bland interpretation. The lamb chop was plopped on the dish. Cutting this mound of meat was next to impossible and I asked if they could assist and they returned the chop to the kitchen where it separated the meat from the bone. When it returned there was a total of 2-3 ounces of meat plus an enormous bone. I then understood why my knife was struggling, it was not designed to cut bone. The meat on the filet side was excellent but a meagerly two bites and the strip side was so tough and I could not cut it with my steak knife. The Brussels sprouts were inedible, overly salted and way too much garlic. For others at the table the news was not much better. Almost all of the steaks were overcooked and I will withhold comments on a fried lobster tail. The Cheesecake was delicious (better than the chocolate cake) and was the best part of the evening.

Services – Abysmal. As much as the server was pleasant at the beginning of the meal in taking drink orders and explaining the specials, he failed miserably thereafter. The runners delivered most of the dishes to the wrong guest and we did a carousel to place the correct dish in front of the correct guest. One order of Petite Filet (requested pink inside) was delivered as a Surf and Turf. When we mentioned this to he server he argued with us that we ordered the S&T, not once, but three times. Then he told us to move the lobster tail aside and just eat the steak. Really? He finally acquiesced and re-fired the dish. Round 2 of that order arrived well-well, but everyone else was almost finished and we wanted to salvage some form of group dinner. Two of the other filets were also overcooked and one was sent back. It was a very staggered dining experience for the table. The runners constantly rushed around our table bumping my chair, I spoke to the MOD and asked him to tell the servers to stop, they continued to bump my chair and I need to tell each of them to please stop. One on them was incredibly unprofessional after this and aggressively grabbed plates from the table and gave me “that look” and then he slammed the dirty dishes into the dirty dish bin. When the server finally returned for coffee / tea orders, he only asked the people who did not send food back for their orders, neglecting the rest of the table. I struggle remembering a worse group of servers.

Management – Other than the General Manager, they were unhelpful. The people at the hostess station and the Manger on Duty nodded a lot and did nothing. Finally the General Manager stepped in (on my third visit) and she was fantastic, finally someone who cared and understood the hospitality business. She saw how badly her staff treated us, how horribly the kitchen prepared the meals and did the appropriate course of action, removed the meals from the bill. The top of the pyramid was the sole bright spot in the staff and she was fantastic.

Overall it was a horrible visit to what is supposed to be a great restaurant. Restaurants can have off nights, I understand, and how they handle the situation is important. The serving and kitchen staffs failed miserable on numerous occasions, and the only saving grace was the General Manager who I believe was truly flabbergasted in the horrific actions of so many of her staff.

Chops Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon

Primary Food & Drink (Greenwich) – Outstanding & Creative Cuisine

Primary

Primary Food & Drink, the newest member of Master Chef Graham Elliot’s expanding restaurant group, opened in Greenwich this past December under the direction of Executive Chef and Managing Partner Merlin Verrier. The restaurant is serving some of the most innovative and imaginative interpretations of traditional recipes using unique combinations and ingredients.

BL Bar AreaWith six Michelin stars in his portfolio, Chef Verrier worked under several of the great chefs in America. His culinary experience included stops in his native California, Oregon and Colorado where he was eventually noticed by James Beard Award winner Chef Jennifer Jasinski and promoted to Sous Chef at her Rioja Restaurant. His travels brought him to Chicago in 2008 where his business relationship with Chef Elliot commenced. One month after joining Chef Elliot, he was promoted to Sous Chef and a year later he was overseeing the kitchen as Chef du Cuisine where he received his first Michelin star. Chef Verrier now brings his magical cuisine to Fairfield County.

BL Dining RoomTo fully appreciate Primary’s cuisine, it is important to understand the philosophy of Chefs Elliot and Verrier, who told CTbites, “We both like people thinking outside the box, a way to add something to this dish. So it’s this non-stop progression of keeping these people on their toes and not being a robot.” This mantra guides the development of the menu and in the construction of each of the dishes. They are not a repetitive series of harmonious bites, each presents a different experience in flavors and textures. Guests need to leave their preconceived notions at the door and vacate their culinary comfort zone to enjoy the complexity of Chef Verrier’s interpretations.

BL Foie LollipopThe “Foielipops” are a pre-cursor to the creativity of the food. These are not listed on the menu but ask your server so you can enjoy these delicacies while you look through the menu. Circles of rich and creamy foie gras mousse are trimmed with salmon colored “pop rocks.” Some will burst in your mouth and others add a sugary complement to the richness of the foie gras; this is a fun way to start the meal.

BL CaesarThe “Deconstructed Caesar” included three mounds of gem lettuce, topped with a small Spanish anchovy filet, the middle mound sat atop the oft-mentioned “crouton Twinkie.” The crispy lettuce was complemented by a delightfully light and lemony anchioade. The Twinkie offered crunchiness plus a mild creaminess from the interior’s Parmesan cheese “cream” while the Spanish anchovies delivered just a hint of saltiness. There was the slightest accent of garlic and pepper to complete the dish. This was a very light-handed Caesar salad.

BL TartareThe next dish was the “Beef Tartare” and it delivered a very different profile. The flavors were accentuated by cornichons, horseradish potatoes, Dijon mustard, roasted garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and sat atop a house-made baguette. The richness of the meat was augmented by creamy sous vided egg yolks and then the chef playfully added a sour component with finely diced pickled egg whites. This was a delightful interpretation.

BL GnocchiThe “Toasted Gnocchi” were delicious. The potato gnocchi were lightened with the addition of ricotta and then crisped. They were the perfect canvas for the flavors and textures of the accompanying ingredients. Sautéed foraged mushrooms added a deep earthiness and the Parmesan Reggiano brought a mild saltiness to the dish. All of these items were nestled in a pool of brown butter that delivered a nutty component and increased the overall richness of this presentation.

BL SalmonWe next enjoyed a wonderful “Scottish Salmon.” A flawlessly prepared filet sat atop a mélange of grains, vegetables and fruits including wild rice, puffed rice, organic freekah, Brussels sprouts, crisped salmon skin, d’anjou pear, Brussels sprout leaves and greens; finished with whole grain mustard seed caviar and mustard vinaigrette. This was one of the best salmons I have ever tasted. The fish was crispy and perfectly seasoned on the exterior, and moist and soft on the interior with a deep flavor. The sweetness of the compressed d’Anjou pear, the nuttiness of the freekah, the crunchiness of the wild rice, and the sour and spiciness of the two mustard preparations were a perfect balance to brighten this presentation.

BL TunaThe “Ahi Tuna” was the only dish that I was not fond of. The large filet was coated with a spice rub that included smoked paprika and chili, seared to rare and was accompanied by Plantain chips, plus a combination of hominy, mango salsa and served with whipped avocado and lime crema. The spiciness of the rub overwhelmed the tuna and the other ingredients did not complement each other.

BL StroganoffThe “Beef Stroganoff” was fantastic with a unique twist to a familiar recipe. Chef Verrier deconstructed each of the major components and then created a delicious rendition of each of the elements. The plating began with rich truffled mushroom purée, topped with crisped spätzle and a few black trumpet mushrooms, topped with a large beef filet and finished with additional black trumpet mushrooms, crème fraiche and thinly sliced pickled shallots. The filet was incredibly rich and tender and when combined with the lushness of the mushroom purée and the earthiness of the mushrooms created a delightful decadence. The spätzle lightened the dish and the pickled shallots added sour notes to balance the other ingredients.

BL LambChef Verrier’s interpretation of “Moroccan Lamb” was outstanding and flawless in its construction and presentation. This was the best dish of the evening, and one of the best I have ever tasted. A mound of shredded lamb sat atop sweet garbanzo beans and topped with a slightly-spiced Harissa accented red cabbage slaw and a few deep-fried eggplant spears. The dish was finished with a sprinkling of orange gremolata. The lamb was marinated in yogurt and then slow roasted for hours resulting in a mild flavored, succulent, fall-off-the-bone, braised lamb. Prepared similar to “baked beans,” the sweet garbanzo beans were enriched with Merguez sausage and accompanied with a few pipings of curry yogurt to complete this North African inspired dish. This interpretation was brilliant.

BL DessertFor dessert we ordered a chocolate-cacophony. Included in this dish were dehydrated microwaved sponge cake, white chocolate pound cake, milk chocolate ice cream, coconut crisp, toasted peanut pound cake, peanut semi-freddo, salted caramel syrup, chocolate nougatine, and honey comb crumble. The various flavors and textures that each of the elements brought to this dish were creative and incredibly delicious.

Primary Food and Drink is an outstanding restaurant serving delicious, creative cuisine. I look forward to numerous return visits to enjoy more of Chef Verrier’s inventive presentations.

Primary Food & Drink

409 Greenwich Ave · Greenwich · CT

(203) 861-2400

Really Liked

  • Deconstructed Caesar
  • Beef Tartare
  • Toasted Gnocchi
  • Scottish Salmon
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Moroccan Lamb
  • Chocolate Dessert

Liked

  • Foielipops

Not Fond of

  • Ahi Tuna

This review was originally posted on CTBites at: http://www.ctbites.com/home/2014/3/2/graham-elliots-primary-food-drink-opens-in-greenwich-outstan.html