Monthly Archives: July 2010

Takashi—The Place to Find My Favorite Dish

There is one food item that I can safely say is probably the best things I have ever eaten. Nothing has been as memorable or created more memories for me, than a small, simple, dish which people refer to with pride as “sex on rice”. The name is more than suiting.

As in introduction, Takashi, in my opinion, is hands down, the best and most high-end sushi restaurant in Salt Lake City. When I want sushi, Takashi is what I most always have in mind. However, there is something special about this restaurant, so I tend to make sure I don’t overdo it or that when I go, there is some kind of appropriate reason. This is one place that I would never want to overdo. In fact, each of my Takashi experiences I can name, who I was with, and what the occasion was. I would like to keep it that way.

Having said that, let us get back to the “sex on rice”. This is not something you will find on the menu. If there is one tip you get from Nosh Maven, let it be this: if you ever find yourself at Takashi, you really must request this special dish—and your server WILL know what “sex on rice” is. “Sex on rice” comes with two pieces, so I recommend ordering two—because you will want more than one. So, what is this sushi dish in a nutshell? Simple: seared Sable fish over a small amount of rice, garnished with what seems to me to be some kind of marinated shredded green onion. To be honest? I am not entirely sure—and since it isn’t on the menu, this is only my best guess. But really, who cares? Once you put this mouth watering, melts-like-butter, smoky yet savory piece of sushi in your mouth, I promise it won’t matter.

You won’t want to speak and you sure won’t want anyone else to speak to you until chewing and swallowing is done. Get ready to hold up your “just one minute” finger until you have really experienced this dish. Tell your date, your friend, your mom, whoever (!) to just simply be quiet for a few seconds. I don’t use the term “life changing” very often. But this is flavor that will certainly change your life. And if it doesn’t, then I wonder about your pallet!

Okay, so Takashi also has other amazing items. I have never had anything from their menu that I wasn’t a fan of. The freshness of their fish is very noticeable and the quality of their sushi chefs shines in each roll. They are true pieces of art and are always presented with perfection. On this occasion, my date and I also ordered a few other things besides “sex on rice”. Tuna Nigiri, The Crunchy Ebi, and also the Sunshine Roll (I have to keep up with my lemon craving). All of them were pretty great.

My recommendation? Get the the ‘sex on rice’ with any nigiri of your preference, then the Sunshine Roll, and save the Crunchy Ebi for last. This has a little bit of a sweet flavor to it and will finish off any of your sushi rolls or nigiri fabulously.

It has been mentioned to me that the service at Takashi has been spotty for a few people, but I have to say that has never been the case in my experience. The servers have been knowledgeable about not only sushi, but sake and wine. They have been attentive and nice. I will say that Takashi gets busy quickly, so either get there early, make a reservation, or be prepared to wait. I enjoy hitting Kristauf’s next door for a Saketini called the Lotus Blossom before dinner–so waiting has never been a problem for me.

Now I need some kind of special occasion to get me there again! Anyone have a birthday coming up? Or, I can tag along on a anniversary dinner…just let me know!

Also, if anyone has had any other good or bad experiences with the food or service at Takashi, I would love to hear about it!

Find Takashi at 18 West Market Street in Salt Lake City.

Takashi on Urbanspoon

The Firefly–My Kind Of Vegas

This last weekend, I went to Las Vegas with a large group of my friends for a wedding. One of my goals was to eat somewhere fun and different in order to get a good review. I mean, let’s be honest–the buffet at the Excalibur wasn’t going to cut it–and neither was the bag of white cheddar popcorn that I ate on the way down. Las Vegas is known for its amazing chefs and restaurants, but at the same time, I didn’t necessarily want to throw down a lot of money. This was a budget conscious trip and I hadn’t set up a review anywhere specific in advance.

While dodging the 100 degree weather at 10:00 AM in the hotel pool, a few friends of mine mentioned The Firefly, which has two locations–one in the Plaza Hotel near the old part of the strip and one actually in a strip mall on Paradise Road.

My first thought: “strip mall? really? how good could this be?”.

The second we walked through the door, the strip mall exterior vanished from my memory. This place was super hip. The front half was a lounge, which oversized couches and chairs and the back half was the bar with more restaurant type tables. We chose to sit in the lounge and make ourselves comfy. The ambiance was very art nouveau with almost a Spanish dancer flair; blacks and reds with brightly colored paintings of women dancers. It was quite eclectic and warm.

The Firefly is a tapas restaurant. So, we had several different things to choose from and we were all able to order several items. However, the first item of business was a tasty beverage after being in the 113 degree heat.

Welcome, pitcher of Sangria. How nice of you to join us.

Don’t let the fruit fool you. This was a fairly strong beverage–and the flavor was very refreshing. I think I would have chosen more berries to adorn this beautiful beverage rather than pears and apples. The pears and apples didn’t really soak up the juice of the sangria and stayed rather hard. But, I wouldn’t say this was a point of complaint.

I ordered three different dishes: Artichoke Toasts ($3.50), Ceviche of Shrimp ($8.50), and Roasted Eggplant Cannelloni ($5.00).

The Artichoke Toasts were quite the hit. There were enough on the plate to share with a larger crowd, and at $3.50 for the plate, this is one of those items you can’t go wrong with. The pepper, aioli and pesto were a good mix of flavors and added some complex notes to a very simple dish. The artichokes were large and tender and the toasts weren’t too crisp.

The Eggplant Cannelloni was superb. The goat cheese was rich and creamy and melted in your mouth. The eggplant was thinly sliced with the skin left on, but there was no bitterness from doing so. Sometimes too much of the skin can leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but this was not the case. The plate was topped with tomato sauce, and a little fresh basil. This dish = most of Nosh Maven’s favorite things.

The highlight of my tapas choices, however, was the incredible Ceviche of Shrimp. Ceviche can be made many ways, but it always includes seafood of some kind and is served cold. This was some of the best ceviche I have had. The broth was very intense and tangy and there were plenty of tiger shrimp to go around. The ceviche was garnished with a perfectly ripe avocado and came with three crisps corn tortillas for dipping. This was a light, refreshing, simple but intense dish and perfect for 113 degree Las Vegas weather. If you are looking for some bang for your buck, then this Shrimp Ceviche is for you.

A few of the other items that were ordered to the table that must be noted are the Manchego mac ‘n’ cheese backed with baby shells ($8.00), The Stuffed Piquillo Peppers red peppers, fresh mozzarella, garlic cream cheese, tomato sauce ($6.50), Veggie empanadas with spinach, mushroom, artichoke, herbed cream cheese in pastry, red pepper aioli ($4.00), and the Warm spinach salad with artichoke, red pepper, pine nuts, feta ($5.00). All very reasonably priced items and mighty tasty.

Also, don’t forget about dessert! The Firefly had one of the best dessert items I have ever tried: Banana-Nutella sandwiches w/Nutella cream dipping sauce. We ordered one and then promptly ordered two more. These were little slices of heaven in the dessert. And the dipping sauce–wow.

Overall, this place was great. It was away from the casinos and away from the processed, greasy, over-sized food of Las Vegas. Next time you are in the city of sin, take a short drive and check this place out for dinner or even an evening out for drinks.

Blue Lemon–Try it Twice, at Least!

The Blue Lemon is one of the first new restaurants to make its appearance in the Downtown Rising project of City Creek. It is only a block and a half up the street from where I work, so naturally, I was anxious to get in and try the new fare. Additionally, The Blue Lemon sounded like a place I could identify with because of their very well marketed campaign to use only recyclable material and be conscious of their impact on the environment. They also use local and organic ingredients, which is really rare for a chain restaurant to do. So, before I even ate a bite of Blue Lemon’s food, I was already impressed.

Then, walking into the restaurant and noting the pretty great decor and fun fresh colors, I figured that the food was going to be just as fun and eclectic.

The first time I went to Blue Lemon, I left with this thought: “For just eating healthy food, I feel like that sandwich was a little heavy and perhaps a bit greasy”. Although, it did taste good. I ordered the Lemon Grilled Chicken BLT–because I love anything “lemon grilled”. And my friend ordered the Grilled Balsamic Chicken Panini.

Can you tell the difference between my grilled sandwich and the panini? Yeah, we couldn’t either. The panini was just a grilled sandwich–which I guess is fine, but my friend was a bit confused. Both sandwiches tasted pretty good, but we really liked the side dishes more. My friend got the Panini with a side of sweet potato fries, which were awesome and accompanied by a sauce that was based in BBQ flavors with a bit of a tang. They were a nice surprise. With my sandwich, I ordered the side Butternut Squash Soup–and that was divine. The flavor was very intense, but not too rich and came with a nice piece of bread for dipping.

We definitely didn’t dislike our food, but it wasn’t everything we were hoping for to be honest. And I certainly didn’t walk away with the feeling that I had done something good for my health by eating my grilled sandwich.

However, I always give things a second try–and Blue Lemon does have quite a large menu to choose from. So, with the help of two wonderful ladies that I work with, we decided to give it another shot. This time, I was going to order something different…something lighter…and something that just sounded mouthwatering!

We decided that a few side dishes would be a great start…so we ordered the sweet potato fries (again!) and the hummus. The hummus had lemon in it, which sold me on it from the start and the fries were just as good as the last time I ordered them. Both dishes get two thumbs up–from all three of us:

So far so good.

Then came some wonderful main dishes. I decided to go with a salad–to keep it light and see what kind of flavor they could offer me. I ordered the Oriental Salad and it was not only beautiful and well-presented, but the flavor was great and surprisingly light, but bold.

My friend ordered the Roasted Turkey Avocado Sandwich–which was not grilled, but came out on a wonderful soft ciabatta bread. The avocado spread was fresh, and the color of green that avocados should be (this is hard to find any any avocado spread) and the sandwich overall looked healthy and delicious.

These were all wonderful dishes. However, the real gem of the Blue Lemon the second time around was the Fresh Black Bean Ravioli. This dish made my taste buds really happy about the fusion of Italian and Mexican. The ravoil were cooked perfectly–not too hard or too soggy, and the red pepper sauce was a little spicy and well-rounded. Please note: I do NOT like bell peppers of any color–and the idea of a “red pepper sauce” was not something I was excited about. But this sauce rocks and I have been craving this dish for the past 3 days. No joke. Even the corn succotash was flavorful. Go to Blue Lemon right now and eat these Black Bean Raviolis. Go. Quit reading and get in your car. Or ride your bike. Just get there!!

So. What did I learn from reviewing this restaurant? First impressions aren’t always lasting. Every restaurant deserves a second chance. Try different menu items if you didn’t like the first ones. And lastly, take a few people and share. Am I happy that Blue Lemon is up the street from me on a daily basis? I certainly am.

Now I am going to go eat Raviolis.

Blue Lemon on Urbanspoon

Chicken Caprese w/ Capellini & Pepperoncinis

This may be one of my favorite things that I have cooked in a very long time. It is sooo easy, but the flavors are amazing and so fresh. Yes, you have to turn on your oven–I know it is summertime, but believe me, it is worth it.

You can cook this for one or for as many people as you would like. It would be a really easy, inexpensive and fast thing to cook for a dinner party. Tonight, however, I was just cooking for myself. I used two organic, free range, chicken breasts to start with. Spray a little bit of olive oil (spray–or use a paper towel to lightly coat the bottom of the glass cooking dish). You don’t need a lot.

Then, brush the chicken with olive oil on the top.

Add a little sea salt and cracked black pepper, and that is all of the seasoning you need!

Then, slice one or two (depending on the size) Roma tomatoes into slices and layer the top of the chicken with them.

After the tomatoes, choose 4 – 6 whole fresh organic basil leaves and place them on top of the tomatoes.

Set your oven to about 400 degrees and then cook the chicken for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until it reaches 170 degrees inside. I simply sliced the side of one of the chicken breasts to make sure that there wasn’t any pink to make sure they were done. After the chicken had been in for about 20 minutes, I put the capellini over boiling water. It is a good rule of thumb that for each person you need about a nickle size of pasta. I let this boil for the last 10 minutes or so that the chicken was cooking.

When the chicken is nearly done, take it out and add the fresh mozzarella (did I mention that I have been craving tomatoes and mozzarella all summer??). After adding it to the top of the chicken, cook it for about another 3 – 5 minutes while your pasta is cooking.

I didn’t want to use a sauce for the pasta, but I knew it would need some flavor. This artichoke petso is one of my favorite items to buy from the organic section. It is great on crackers or bread…and also awesome to toss in pasta. It runs about $7, and doesn’t last long, but it is one of the best things that you will ever eat. I can’t get enough of it. The good news is, that when you use it on pasta, you don’t need a lot of it.

I also added about 2 tablespoons of sour cream into the pasta and then tossed that with the artichoke pesto. It made for a perfect and very light pasta sauce. And, when the chicken comes out of the oven, it looks and smells wonderful!

Add the chicken to the pasta…and that is about it. I had some pepperoncinis, and I have been craving them since a friend mentioned them a few weeks ago. I thought that the flavors would compliment each other well, so I added a few to the mix. They were the most amazing bit of flavor and spice and a perfect addition to this dish. I nibbled on them as I was eating the chicken and pasta, and it was pretty much an explosion of perfect flavor fireworks. I am pretty sure, even alone, I was “yumming” out loud.

This is a MUST try!

Other things to try? I think cooking the chicken with stewed tomatoes would make for a good sauce for the pasta. You wouldn’t need to add anything to the capellini if that was the case. Also, a cream sauce would have been rich, but amazing with the chicken and mozzarella. Try a few different things and give it your own spin…but TRY this one at home soon!

Easy Brushetta

If it has mozzarella and tomatoes, then I will probably love it. This summer I have been craving brushetta and I have made it a few different ways. It is such a great snack and/or meal that also has my most favorite ingredients ever. And I promise, if you buy the cheese and produce from an organic market, you will taste the difference.

Here is what you start with:
6 Roma Tomatoes
Organic Mozzarella Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Organic Basil
Cracked Pepper, Sea Salt and Garlic
Multi-Grain or Sourdough Banquette (fresh)

First, dice the Roma Tomatoes and toss with a bit of sea salt. Then use the entire bit of mozzarella cheese, cut into smaller squares. And please, eat a few while you are doing it. It is hard to beat the amazing flavor of fresh mozzarella. You don’t want to keep this cheese in your fridge for more than a week, so it is best to use it all at once. I also like a lot of fresh basil (dried can also be used, but you lose a lot of flavor that way). Cut the sections of leaves into thin ribbons and add to the mixture. Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil (please try to find a really good organic olive oil, as this enhances the flavor; a cheap olive oil can really be tasted over the flavors of the tomatoes and cheese). Then, salt and pepper to taste, adding some garlic and even a bit of onion salt or powder if you so desire.

On this occasion, I used a sourdough baguette, which was perfect. However, I really like using multi-grain fresh baguette as well when I make brushetta. Add a little balsamic vinager to the bread before filling it up with the yummy stuff, and you will be in heaven. You can toast the bread and brush will olive oil as well, and here I have also added some salt and pepper to the bread. Use a whole basil leaf for garnish, and this is a great and easy dish for yourself or to take to a party. It is also healthy!

Also, try this recipe with an avocado! The flavors work really well together and it is delicious with warm corn tortillas.

Eva–My Current Favorite SLC Restaurant

Right now, for me, it doesn’t get better than Eva in Salt Lake City. After several dinner and brunch trips to this small, quaint, intimate Mediterranean tapas restaurant, I can safely say, that it doesn’t get much better for the price and atmosphere. There also seems to be an endless selection of amazing dishes and specials that rotate enough, but not so often that you can’t ever get the same dish if you had it on special.

On this particular evening, I tried a few dishes that I had previously had and a few new ones. The service at Eva has always been fantastic and they are great at recommending things and answering questions. I would highly recommend asking your server to give you some highlights for that evening. Remember, if the staff is eating a certain dish, you can almost guarantee that it is one of the best things on the menu. And usually, a server won’t lie about not particularly enjoying a certain item. Never feel strange about aking your server questions. After 10 years waiting tables, I will tell you that being able to talk about the food being served was a highlight.

First off, the Brussel Sprouts are a must at Eva. They are shredded and then cooked with toasted hazelnuts and cider vinegar. They have a marvelous and surprising flavor. The vinegar creates just enough zing to notice and the hazelnuts really round off the full flavor. Don’t forget to order this dish.

After the Brussel Sprouts, another one of my favorite dishes made its way to the table; the Butter Lettuce Salad and Goat Cheese Crustini. Anything with goat cheese is my dear friend. This creamy and potent cheese is one of my favorite things to eat. The dish comes with two crustini topped with goat cheese and a beautiful butter leaf lettuce salad in the center with a wine reduction for dressing. Usually this dish comes with a tasty and fresh pear relish on the side, but this evening, it came out with a cranberry relish that was good–but not as awesome as the pears. I could eat this dish every day–no joke.

Along with the Crustini, the Calamari also came out. Calamari can be difficult to do well, I think. Actually, I think that most fried food can get messed up pretty fast. It is a balance between not enough and too much batter–or if the batter is too light or still soaking in oil. The calamri at Eva is near perfection. The breading isn’t overwhelming so you can really taste the squid and also enjoy the texture. I figure for those readers who actually like calamari, they really do enjoy the texture–which is why I mention it. The aioli is made with sherry and cayanne and is pretty intense, so you don’t need much of it. I also like this, because with such fresh calamari, you don’t want to drown it in sauce. This also is presented with greens and topped with sea salt. Such a great dish.

Next on the list was something I had not tried before, the Spanakopita with spicy feta and balsamic. This was my favorite of the evening. First off, look at it. Have you ever seen Spanakopita presented this way? It was beautiful. The spicy feta was a great asset to the spinach filled filo dough and the balsamic was a nice sweet afterthought. This dish truely wowed me.

In fact, all of these dishes wowed me. This is why I really enjoy eating at a tapas restaurant; you can order several different dishes and taste so many flavors at one time. And you can’t forget dessert. Eva is famous for these delectable donut holes that come with strawberries and whip cream, but instead we got the chocolate cake. This was the only thing I didn’t love. It looked pretty and tasted ok, but we should have gone with the donut holes for sure. Always go with the house specialty!

And, what kind of meal would this have been without wine? I normally don’t order $60 bottles of wine, but my date on this night lived near the Adelsheim winery in Willamette Valley Oregon and wanted to order this amazing bottle of Pinot Noir. It was, hands down, the best wine I have had in months. If you can spring for it, you must enjoy this bottle of cherry accented Pinot Noir. This wine is rich with fruit flavors, but mild at the same time. It went with our menu choices perfectly and I wish I could afford to drink bottles of this caliber regularly. The difference between this $60 bottle and the $15 or $20 I usually buy was very appreciated.

If you live in Utah, even if you don’t live in the city, I recommend you get to main street as soon as possible and check out this divine restaurant. Make a reservation if it is weekend, as this is a small restaurant and can not accommodate many tables at once. Oh, and if you are a big bruncher, like I am–don’t miss their Eva’s Eggs Benedict with the chicken sausage. Wow. I have yet to taste anything at Eva that didn’t sit pretty well on my taste buds!

Check out Eva on 317 South Main in Downtown Salt Lake City. Brunch, Lunch and Dinner. GOOOO!!!!

Eva on Urbanspoon

Juicy Berry–A Wall of Heaven

The first time I went to one of these amazing frozen yogurt places was in Ventura, California and it was called Tuti Fruti. The concept was one I hadn’t seen in a while, and I fell in love. Let me say this, my favorite dessert in the world is ice cream. I crave it daily. No really–daily. And there is nothing better, in my opinion, than ice cream filled with my personal favorite candies and fruit. Juicy Berry, the newest frozen yogurt spot in Salt Lake, is my personal mecca of sweetness.

Juicy Berry is located at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City and is my new favorite stop off on a hot day or evening. And not only does it taste amazing, it is also all natural! My Favorite! Juicy Berry has 12 flavors at any given time, and these rotate. They have everything from fruit flavors, to peanut butter, cheesecake, and coffee. AND AND AND, it is self-serve! I am in charge!! (I love being in charge).

In addition to being a self-serve wonderland, Juicy Berry has amazing toppings. If a frozen yogurt shop doesn’t offer me things like Fruity Pebbles Cereal, then I am not super happy. Also, white chocolate chips are of the utmost importance! Juicy Berry has a great range of fresh beautiful fruit and a hearty selection of nuts, chocolate, and candy. The options are pretty much endless.

Juicy Berry also has a pretty comfy patio. I sort of wanted to steal the lounge chairs and cute table tops. But alas, I didn’t. I just sat in the nice summer air enjoying all natural frozen yogurt from the Gods! Check this place out!