Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mangos Mexican Restaurant and Sports Grill

Every few weeks a few of my co-workers and I like to venture away from our desks and eat out at lunch time. Recently, we decided to check out Mangos Mexican Restaurant and Sports Grill on Newtown Road in Virginia Beach.

Upon entering Mangos I was surprised at the size of the restaurant. I noticed dozens of large flat screen televisions, a pool area, two bars and a special VIP section which includes overstuffed furniture and tables. I also noticed many chandeliers which seemed out of place in a Mexican/Sports bar, but to each his own.

We were the first lunch time customers and had the option to either sit at the bar or at a table and we chose a table. Shortly after we placed our orders two more parties of three entered the restaurant. Mangos menu is extensive and includes standard Mexican favorites as well as many items “from the grill” such as pork chops and tilapia. Mangos offers a $5 lunch menu which includes enchiladas, tacos and chimichangas each served with your choice of rice or beans.

My co-workers both ordered the chicken enchiladas, one with rice

And one with beans

I ordered the chicken fajitas

They were good but I was surprised when I received only two tortillas. As you can see, the amount of filling was enough to fill at least four. I asked for more tortillas and was brought an additional three (not sure why they didn’t give me three to begin with) and then was charged extra for them. I was not thrilled with this at all. So, if you order the fajitas be prepared to pay extra for the tortillas.

Other than that it was a positive experience. Mangos was a short trip from the job and they provide plenty of parking. Overall it was a good spot for lunch. A quick perusal of their website shows that they provide weekly specials which include Wednesday night salsa with half off appetizers and free salsa lessons; and on Tuesdays kids eat for a $1.00 when ordering from the kid’s menu.

Mangos appears to be a pretty cool place. I think the size of it alone would make it a great place for private functions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Waterfront, New London, CT

While visiting my parents in New London, my mother suggested that we eat on the waterfront. “Is that the name or the location?” I asked. “Both,” she replied.

My kind of place.

I lived in Connecticut for the better part of twenty-eight years and I never fully appreciated my proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, it’s only now that I’m living in Virginia Beach that I really try to take advantage of the beauty of the ocean. So, when I went home to Connecticut for the weekend I was thrilled with the idea of dining on the waterfront.

On the Waterfront appears to be a locals favorite. It was very busy when we entered and there was a bit of a wait to get a table. In fact, at some point the hostess completely disappeared and when she returned there was quite a line of hungry patrons behind us. On the Waterfront caters to all size parties. I noticed larger parties of more than ten people as well as cozy dinners for two. They provide indoor and outdoor seating, all facing the water. There seemed to be a lot of activity around us when we were seated. The hostess neglected to provide us with menus when she sat us at our table so we just kind of sat and looked at each other until the server showed up … which took a while. When she did show up, the first thing she said was, “What do you have to do to get some service around here?” and she began filling our water glasses. I’m telling you, she really broke the ice with that statement and immediately put me in a better frame of mind. The hostess hurried over with our menus and apologized for not getting them to us sooner.

My mother had ordered carry out from On the Waterfront and she said that the food was always good. The menu was more diverse than I expected. I expected tons of seafood and not much else. Surprisingly, the menu also included salads, sandwiches, steaks and pasta. To start I ordered the Mediterranean seafood soup

This soup was filled with large chunks of fish, calamari, mussels, pasta and vegetables. If you like spice than you’ll love this. I thought it was terrific. Just enough of a kick to give it flavor but it wasn’t so hot that I couldn’t enjoy it.

As an entrée I ordered the Waterfront Chicken Salad

Have you ever seen a chicken salad in a taco shell? This was a first for me. The salad contained healthy portions of grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, tomato and cheese. I ate much more than I thought I would because as you can see, it is a huge salad but it was so good, I couldn’t help myself and besides, it's a salad ... so no harm done, right?

My mother ordered the Montauk Jumbo Stuffed Shrimp

Honestly, that was my first choice but she ordered it first. The shrimp was stuffed with crabmeat and it looked good. According to Mom, it tasted good too.

The kids ordered the Waterfront Cheeseburger

And the fish and chips

The cheeseburger was served with homemade potato chips that were fresh and crispy. Serving sizes are definitely not an issue On the Waterfront. Additionally, Dad ordered the shrimp scampi but I was unable to get a shot of it. He liked it but he said that he had had better. Oh well, can’t please everybody.

I loved this restaurant. It was pleasant and our server was just as nice as she could be. They advertise ample parking but I had to park about two blocks away and walk to the restaurant. I thought the prices were very reasonable. We paid the exact same amount for five people that we did for four people at the Italian place that we visited the night before. I would highly recommend visiting On the Waterfront and I hope to get back there again when I’m in town.

On The Waterfront on Urbanspoon

Tony D's, New London, CT

Since I am from New London, Connecticut when the opportunity to review their restaurants presented itself, I couldn’t resist. I recently went home to visit my parents and in addition to visiting my old favorite, D’Angelo’s, we also decided to try some authentic Italian food at Tony D’s on Huntington Street.

Tony D’s provides plenty of parking but getting to the actual restaurant can be a little challenging. The front entrance is down a hill and around the corner. They recently provided access through the back door and down a flight of stairs. Once entering the restaurant we were greeted by the hostess and seated immediately. The restaurant has quite a bit of seating but it still had the personal, intimate feel of a smaller restaurant.

The menu was small but contained all the expected traditional Italian fare with a few specialty items as well. It also included an extensive wine list. We ordered a variety of dishes, which included the spaghetti and meatballs

Great portion size. When I asked my son how it tasted his response was, “It tastes like spaghetti and meatballs.” Okay.

The Cajun shrimp with polenta, which was actually an appetizer that was ordered as an entree

My daughter expected the dish to be spicier since it was Cajun.

Mom ordered the chicken marsella

Looks good but she wasn’t really that impressed.

I had the scallops Martinerri (sp?) which was named for one of the bartenders.

The scallops were prepared with spinach, onions and sun-dried tomatoes and served over linguine. The scallops were nice and tender and I liked the combination of vegetables. I would have been happy with less pasta and a little more seasoning.

All the portion sizes were more than adequate and the service was very good. The prices were slightly higher than I would have expected. The decor and intimate feel of the restaurant suggests romantic outings or special occasions.

Tony D's on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 17, 2009

Isle of Capri

Date Night found Bryan and me at the Oceanfront once again. It must be the season … I hear the ocean actually calling to me. Anyway, our destination was a place called EAT on Atlantic Avenue. We heard the food was amazing but after driving around for more than twenty minutes trying to find parking we gave up. That’s how we ended up at Isle of Capri on the sixth floor of the Holiday Inn at 39th and Atlantic.

Isle of Capri was established in the early 1950s in Virginia Beach and it is my understanding that it was initially a night club and then eventually changed locations and themes and is now one of the many fine Italian dining establishments at the Oceanfront. One of the best qualities of Isle of Capri is the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. Our view was slightly obstructed by the table of people in front of us, but no doubt their view was spectacular.

The menu had all the items that I come to expect from an Italian restaurant. The typical veal, chicken, seafood dishes with pasta. No real surprises. A Caesar salad prepared tableside is offered for $9 a person which I thought was a nice offering but a little expensive for a salad.

We started our meal with an appetizer of Mediterranean shrimp

I really enjoyed the combination of warm shrimp ad cool veggies. And because I forgot to charge my camera battery this is the only dish that I was able to shoot.

Bryan chose to have the she-crab soup which I tasted and I thought it was pretty good. It was very rich and delicious.

The entrees included an order of lobster ravioli with a tomato cream sauce ($19) which I ordered and there were no surprises. It was okay but a little bland for my tastes. Bryan ordered the Chicken Toscana ($19). This chicken dish was simmered in a brandy cream sauce with sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms. This dish was fantastic. I loved the brandy sauce and I had to stop myself from finishing his meal.

For dessert we shared a delicious flourless chocolate torte.

Isle of Capri was a nice place. It didn’t blow me away but it was nice and the setting was intimate and romantic. The prices were reasonable and they provided valet parking. Which is a lot more than I can say for EAT. Hopefully, we’ll get to that place one day.

Isle of Capri on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pacifica Little Bar Bistro

Friends suggested that we try Pacifica Little Bar Bistro on 40th Street in Virginia Beach. And since we’re always looking for new places to eat, we gave it a shot. Pacifica is one of four bistros owned by father and son, Bob and Chris Glover. They also own Crackers and Empire, both on Granby Street in Norfolk, and Six in Hampon

Pacifica’s furnishings of traditional tables and comfy sofas make for a cozy and casual atmosphere. Pacifica specializes in tapas dishes. Tapas can best be defined as a wide variety of small plates or snacks which encourage intimacy through sharing. If you go to the right place, tapas can be a wonderful experience. If you don’t choose wisely, you end up spending a lot of money for a lot of tidbits that don’t encourage much of anything. Tapas is tricky because the plates are larger than regular appetizers but smaller than regular meals and you never know how they should be priced.

For me, Pacifica was a wise choice. The menu includes hot and cold tapas dishes and specials are posted on the huge chalk board and we also relied on Jeff’s (our server) recommendations. We started out with the tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella stack:

I have said in previous reviews that I prefer this dish warm. I know now that what I prefer is for the tomato not to be refrigerated. The tomatoes in this dish are locally grown and never refrigerated and they totally make the dish. You may be thinking, “Come on, how can anyone mess up tomatoes and cheese?” Well, I’ve had it in several places and while no one really “messes it up” everyone prepares it differently. Pacifica prepares it perfectly.

Next we tried the fennel poached lobster tail with asparagus with béarnaise sauce:

Simple and delicious. The lobster tail was tiny, as expected for a tapas dish. The preparation and presentation were lovely, I just wanted it to be bigger.

Next up were the crab and sweet corn fritters with a Spanish remoulade:

These fritters had the look of hush puppies but they weren’t as heavy. In fact, they were so light they melted in my mouth.

The last dish we sampled were the Morrocan spiced black lentils with kobe beef meatballs and local figs:

Another beautifully presented dish. The combination of the figs with the meatballs was interesting. The sweetness of the figs really complemented the spiciness of the lentils and there was a hint of sweetness to the meatballs. I thought I tasted cinnamon … Very good.

For dessert, we treated ourselves to the peach pie and a glass of Bailey’s Irish Crème.

Pacifica is a nice place to unwind. It’s a great place to get together with friends to share a few small plates. The patio seating is great during the summer season and they provide plenty of parking. While we were there, we listened to the Blues being played on the satellite radio and that just added to an already comfortable atmosphere. We visited Pacifica on a Tuesday night and it got surprisingly busy. Reservations are not taken so I would suggest going early.

Pacifica on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Passion, the Restaurant

When I think of elegant dining I don’t automatically think of Chesapeake. I generally head to Great Neck, the Oceanfront, even Downtown Norfolk, but not ten minutes from my house at the Shoppes at Greenbrier. Clearly, I don’t know what I have been missing. Passion, the restaurant, is a restaurant that is a stone’s throw from my door step and I didn’t even know it existed. It is an elegant little place that has been open for a little over a year and I wish I had known about it sooner. Or maybe not. Sometimes newer places need time to work out the kinks. I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

Passion is nicely decorated and dimly lit and I got a pretty good feeling when I walked through the front door. The bar is at the entrance and just behind that is an open kitchen. Each table in the dining area is intimately lit with a single candle.

Passion’s menu is an interesting combination of appetizers, small plates, entrees and desserts. The wine list is varied but I didn’t think there were enough by-the-glass choices for those of us who don’t order bottles of wine with dinner. We chose the Candor Zinfindel from Paso Robles, California.

We began the meal with soup. I had the Passion she-crab. It seems I order she-crab soup at every restaurant but I can’t help it. I like to compare them and I have to admit that the Passion she-crab stands up against the very best

It’s thick and rich with tons of crabmeat. It was delicious.

We also ordered a Panamanian vegetable pear soup with shrimp and applewood bacon

Sound intriguing? I had never heard of anything like this and was anxious to taste it. It was awesome. The combination of the bacon and shrimp just made the soup. I definitely recommend trying it.

I ordered a salad and a small plate as my entrée. I started out with the caprese salad.

I always enjoy caprese and I’ve enjoyed it served both cold and warm. Passion serves it cold, which is fine, but I prefer it warm. Something about the molten mozzarella over warm tomatoes just does it for me. However, for those that prefer it cold I would definitely order it. The tomatoes, mozzarella and basil taste fresh and delicious.

I also ordered an interesting dish called “Not Your Grandma’s” Spaghetti and Meatballs

This dish blew me away. It consists of blackened sea scallops with oven roasted spaghetti squash and Fra Diablo. It’s topped with an asiago cheese crisp. It was so unique and the taste was amazing.

The second entrée was the carmelized leek encrusted salmon

The salmon was cooked to order and served with a marinated Portobello mushroom, sautéed spinach and chive mashed potatoes. The fish was cooked perfectly and it made for a very tasty meal.

We finished the evening with a lovely bread pudding

topped with fresh whipped cream and a strawberry. I always say that I’m not a dessert person but it seems I am slowly turning into one. This was worth forgetting about the diet.

Overall, our experience at Passion was a pleasant one. The service was a little slow as there was a thirty minute wait between the soup and the entrée. The dining room was not that busy so it was sort of surprising that the owners did not make an attempt to engage the customers. Also, it was interesting that our server did not suggest a second glass of wine. These are relatively small things that will not stop me from coming back a second time. Perhaps these are some of the kinks that they are still working out. It still has a nice feel to it.

There is plenty of outdoor seating as well as seating at the bar. There is a special five dollar bar menu which you can take advantage of between 4:00 - 7:00. Passion also offers wine tastings, wine dinners, cooking classes and weekly cigar events. You can check their website for details.

Passion the Restaurant on Urbanspoon