Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Azar's



Azar's Natural Foods is located on Prescott Avenue in Virginia Beach. It is very unassuming and you probably wouldn't know it existed unless someone told you about it. That's why I'm here.

Azar's is a small diner style restaurant with an adjacent gourmet market. The dining area is filled with cute tables and the large glass door in the front of the room allows for plenty of natural light. The shelves in the market are filled with an impressive assortment of cheeses, pastries, fruits, nuts, meats and wine. I have only been to Azar's for lunch but I really want to go back for dinner so I can try the wine.

The menu is an array of Mediterranean specialties in the form of soups, salads, wraps, herbal pizzas among other things. Azar's provides both vegetarian and vegan choices. I ordered the half and half combination platter for $8.95. Which for me included the chicken taewook wrap and a bowl of tomato basil bisque.



The chicken taewook wrap is prepared with baked marinated chicken, cabbage, tomato, pickles, parsley and a touch of "Mama Lina's dressing" all rolled in a toasted pita.



The bisque was sweet, rich and creamy. It is prepared with a touch of hot pepper which gives it some kick. I was pleased with the portion size in the combo platter. I was expecting smaller but it was very filling and a great value at only $8.95.

Each meal is served with pita triangles and hummus. I'm not a fan of hummus but I'm told that Azar's is delicious. I tasted it and was not moved. I was also not moved by the fact that there was no silverware on the table and we had to spread the hummus with the spoon that came with the soup.

One menu item that is definitely worth trying are the rolled oat cookies. They are a mix of nuts, seeds and oats and sweetened with honey. These cookies taste so good you'll swear you're doing something wrong, but you're not.

Azar's also has a location in Ghent and their entire menu can be accessed on line here.


Azar's Natural Foods Market & Cafe (Lynnhaven) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jolly Roger

The Jolly Roger restaurant in Kill Devil Hills was an interesting breakfast experience. The exterior is decorated with oversized chairs, bejweled horses and statues of pirates and once we entered we were greeted by a young man dressed as a pirate (insert free.credit.report dot com jingle here). Like I said, interesting. The lobby was packed with people waiting to be seated. While we waited we browsed the collection of knick knacks and souvenirs that lined the lobby walls. It gave everyone something to do while they waited for a table.

Twenty minutes may have passed before we were finally seated. The sign outside the restaurant says, "home of the $2.99 breakfast" but when I opened the menu, I swear I didn't see any breakfast for $2.99. I did find out later that the $2.99 breakfast consists of two eggs served with homefries or grits or baked apples and toast. Not bad for three bucks.

Our server, a young woman dressed as a pirate chick (similar to biker chick I imagine) came over quickly to get our drink orders. There was so much activity in the restaurant and I believe that most of the people were vacationing as we were.

Even though my eyes couldn't find the $2.99 breakfast on the menu I did notice many different breakfast combinations to choose from. I settled on the Italian frittata with grits:


Can you see that pool of butter on top of the grits? Probably not the best way to start my day, but I don't make it a habit so I took my chances. The three-egg fritatta was loaded with onions, tomato, green pepper, mushrooms and romano cheese. Everything tasted good and definitely filled me up.

Bryan ordered an omelet with spinach and feta cheese but the thing that I found fascinating was the biscuit and gravy that he also ordered:





I have never seen a biscuit that covered an entire plate. I stay away from the B&G because it's just too heavy but I did taste this one. Awfully light and fluffy for a biscuit and the sausage gravy was just right ... I still wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing though.

I was surprised at how quickly the food hit the table based on how many people were being served. I noticed the owner, Carol Ann Angelos walking around in the midst of the breakfast rush. She too, was dressed in the pirate garb and she stopped at our table to see how everything was. She also gave us coupons to visit her other restaurant, Carolina Seafood which is a seafood buffet.

The Jolly Roger has been around since 1972 and is the oldest Italian restaurant on the beach. The friendliness of the staff is one of the reasons why I love going to the Outer Banks. It seems to represent easy living. And what is wrong with that?


Jolly Roger on Urbanspoon



Friday, September 18, 2009

Outer Banks Brewing Station

We arrived in the Outer Banks shortly after 5:00 pm and I was starving. All I had to eat that day was a breakfast drink and half a frozen Healthy Choice meal. My schedule got all screwed up and I just never ate. I was ready to start my final summer fling but I was running on fumes.

Bryan suggested that we stop at the Outer Banks Brewing Station at milepost 8.5 on the main road into Kill Devil Hills. “Brewing station?” I thought. I wanted to eat not drink beer. He assured me that it was a restaurant and I didn’t have to worry. The brewing station does serve handcrafted beer and there was plenty available. Apparently, the beer menu changes frequently because Scott Meyer, the brew master is constantly trying new things and coming up with great brews. I have to admit right here that I am not a beer drinker so I am far from qualified to review it. Bryan, on the other hand, is somewhat of a connoisseur and has reported that the Olsch and the Dog House Tripel were fantastic.

There was plenty of activity on the first floor of the restaurant, in the dining area and especially at the bar. We were seated immediately on the second level where it was much quieter. I didn’t particularly have an issue with this but I would have preferred to have been given a choice as to whether I wanted to sit upstairs or downstairs. I think Bryan wanted to be downstairs closer to the action. I, on the other hand, just wanted to eat.

We started our meal with the old school crab and artichoke dip. It was mild in flavor, topped with bread crumbs and served with the house bread. As I said earlier, I was starving so I don’t know if we finished it so quickly because of that or if it was just really good. Okay, it was really good.

I ordered the daily fresh catch which was red snapper. It was prepared with sautéed potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and capers. It was an interesting combination of vegetables that seemed to complement each other quite well. Nothing got lost in the mix. It was delicious.



Bryan ordered the pasta special which consisted of swordfish and shrimp over penne pasta and seasoned vegetables. I noticed that this dish wasn’t loaded with pasta which would force you to search for the fish and shrimp. It was nicely balanced.



For dessert, our server convinced us to order the Monkey Mousse. She explained that it was a take on Chunky Monkey ice cream and it is prepared fresh at the brewing station. This creation is layered with a graham cracker crust, banana cake and chocolate mousse and it’s drizzled with chocolate and banana sauces. Trust me, it looks heavier than it actually is.



It was ridiculously good.

I was not expecting to be so impressed with the food at a beer brewing station. I actually expected regular bar food: hot wings, onion rings and the like but not so at the Outer Banks Brewing Station. It also bears mentioning that the Outer Banks Brewing Station is America’s first wind powered brew pub.

The service at the Station was spot on. Friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. Elizabeth, our server was patient and understood completely when I stated how hungry I was and that we just came in from Virginia Beach … she was quick with the cocktails and everything hit the table in a reasonable amount of time.






Outer Banks Brewing Station on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Classic Diner



You ever just want really good food at some little joint? Classic Diner in the Providence Square shopping center is that joint. Some of the best food I have ever had has been served to me by real people at real places. No pretense, no flair ... just real good food.

One Saturday morning I took my daughter to the salon for her back-to-school 'do. While we waited, another customer walked in the door with a take out box which contained mozzarella sticks and she acted like she loved them. At the time, I had no idea where she had gotten them. While waiting for my daughter's appointment to finish I spoke to Bryan on the phone and I told him where I was and he mentioned that I should try Classic Diner which was just a few doors down from where we were. He goes there for breakfast quite often and could not say enough about the biscuits and gravy. I figured, what the heck? After three hours in a beauty salon I was starving!

You walk into Classic and it is what you expect from a diner. It's small, it's comfy, the furniture is worn and the carpet is stained. Despite all that, I was taken aback by the greeting I received from Rich, the owner when we walked in. He shook my hand, introduced himself and welcomed us like we were coming to his house. He told us we could sit anywhere and we chose a booth that was up front. He sat and chatted with us for a while about back to school and how he caters for special events that my daughter's school participates in. Classic serves breakfast and lunch and they have all the diner staples on the menu: steak and eggs, pigs in a blanket, reubens with your choice of pastrami, turkey or corned beef and all kinds of burgers.

My daughter ordered the chicken fingers and fries and I had a grilled chicken ceasar salad. Simple food that was simply delicious. Rich twisted my arm and got me to get a piece of chocolate cake for my daughter for dessert. She loved it, so thanks Rich.

Rich has owned Classic for almost two years now but the actual restaurant has been there for closer to thirty years. I'm glad I walked into his joint on that Saturday and I'm looking forward to many more visits.




Classic Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Yu-Mi Sushi Japanese Cuisine


I love sushi. I don't review it often because what can you really say about it? All I really want to know is if it's fresh or not. Some places are obviously better than others but I can't say that I've had a bad roll unless it was from the grocery store or one of those stands in the mall. And even those weren't horrible.


Yu-Mi Sushi on Kempsville Road in Chesapeake is a great place for fresh sushi. It's in the neighborhood which makes it perfect for me. I'm trying to stay closer to home these days because, let's face it ... the Oceanfront isn't the only place that can provide quality food at reasonable prices.


This trip to Yu-Mi was a quick one with the kids so convenience was key. Yu-Mi's menu is several pages long with many different varieties of sushi. The menu labels the items as either cooked or uncooked which is particularly helpful for those of us who are relatively new to the sushi scene. I ordered the spicy tuna roll, salmon roll and miso soup, while my son ordered the MacArthur roll:





I tried everything on the plate and loved it. I particularly appreciate the way the food is presented to me. I prefer this much more than the sushi buffets that I've visited.


My daughter, who is not a sushi fan ordered the chicken teriyaki box




This dish includes chicken teriyaki, rice, salad, miso soup and a California roll. It was more than enough for her and perfect for anyone who is invited to a sushi restaurant but doesn't want sushi. It looked good and it tasted better. There are other non-sushi boxes available on the menu.

If you are in Kempsville and you want good sushi, I'd recommend Yu-Mi. The restaurant itself is clean and nicely decorated. You have the option of sitting at a booth or the sushi bar. I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio and still got out for around $50. I think that's pretty good for three people.

Yu Mi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 4, 2009

Zoë’s



It all started with a reservation at the Chef’s Table at Zoë’s.

And that was the beginning of one of the better dining experiences that I have had at the beach. Zoë’s is located on 19th Street at the beach and I’m pleased to say that my expectations were greatly exceeded.

The restaurant is very cozy and comfortable. It contains a small bar area, main dining room and a private dining area for special events which would comfortably seat up to fifteen people. We were greeted at the door by the sommelier and co-owner and immediately seated at the Chef’s Table.

First of all, if you have the opportunity, reserve the Chef’s Table. This gives you a bird’s eye view of what is going on behind the velvet rope and you also get to take advantage of special tidbits, compliments of the chef:



These are Virginia figs, with maytag blue cheese and a lavender drizzle. Okay, I don’t know what all that means but aren’t they lovely? We had to just look at them for a while because we couldn’t get over the fact they were served on slate. Finally, curiosity was killing me so I tried one. The sharp flavor of the cheese combined with the sweetness of the fig was very good and like nothing I had ever experienced.

Secondly, since we visited Zoë’s on Tuesday night we were able to take advantage of their Tuesday special: half price wine night! We enjoyed the 2005 Franciscan Cabernet. Honestly, Cabernet isn’t usually my first red wine choice. I usually lean toward Shiraz, but after tasting the Cab it made me rethink that notion. It was big and full of flavor but the alcohol was not overpowering.

Zoë’s menu is filled with interesting kitchen creations and everything is a la carte but there is an option called the “Chef’s Tasting Menu” which allows you to choose three, four or seven items (appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert or any combination) for one price.

I began the meal with the spinach and tomato stack topped with fried goat cheese




colorful and delicious. The tomatoes were not refrigerated so I especially loved it. I also had the drunken mussels



Not sure what made them drunk but the taste was very good.

We also ordered the shrimp tempura



which was served with a sweet and spicy cocktail sauce.

Zoë’s offers a variety of steaks



this is the six ounce center cut filet mignon. The chef prepared a perfectly cooked medium steak that was incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful. A steak with so much flavor does not need anything else. But, Zoë’s serves a house sauce with the steaks which just brings out even more of the flavor.

For my entrée, I ordered the lemon tilefish served with stewed tomatoes and peppers and Sicilian potatoes



I had never had tilefish before and I wasn’t sure if I would like it. It has a strong texture, definitely not a wimpy fish, but the flavor was delicate and I loved it.

One of the signature dishes on the menu was the blue crab mac-n-cheese. We couldn’t leave without trying it



I didn’t know macaroni and cheese could taste so good.

We ended the evening with two desserts: the banana foster and the chocolate soufflé:



I know what you’re thinking, “She always says she’s not a dessert person, but she ends every review with a dessert, and this time there’s two!” First of all, those two desserts were split between four people and secondly … I guess I am a dessert person. But can you blame me? Look at these. I could not resist.

Zoë’s is a wonderful place for an elegant evening as long as you don’t mind paying for quality. Our server, Spencer was awesome. He was attentive and personable without being obnoxious. He made sure that we were well taken care of all evening. There is plenty of off-street parking, which is always a plus when going to the oceanfront. It was a great evening with good friends, good wine and good food. I’m looking forward to a second visit.

Zoes on Urbanspoon