Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mamasan's Noodle Cafe

We are big Mamasan's fans.  It's close by, cute, and always delicious with a waitstaff that is unfailingly friendly and prompt.  I'd say that next to Chen's, it's one of our main go-tos.

So, I was curious to try Mamasan's Noodle Cafe on a cold, rainy night after work and before an evening ceremony.  I should first share that I have a phobia about parallel parking, so I had avoided the Noodle Cafe since it opened.  But, as I headed out down Mt. Hope looking for a quick place to catch a cold-soothing dinner, I noticed the lot was empty, so I braved it.

The Noodle Cafe is teeny with about 8 tables; it is brightly colored inside with citrus painted walls and sunflowers decorating the tables and windows.  The cafe offers a limited version of Mamasan's menu with an emphasis (as the name suggests) on noodles.  One of my favs at the big Mamasan's is the Vietnamese Noodle Salad, but that night, I wanted something warm and soothing.  The clerk suggested Vietnamese Curry Chicken Soup, which sounded just right.  I also ordered chicken summer rolls to get my vermicelli fix :)

The soup was delicious:  a rich, deep curry flavor captured in a light broth that was filled with yellow noodles, sweet potatoes (not a fan, but I worked around them), carrots, and chunks of chicken--with a good sized sprig of cilantro on top.  The bowl was huge--so big that I only ate half and brought home the rest.  I could feel my head clearing as I ate.  What is it about curry that makes one feel so safe and good and happy?  It's like a magical elixir!!  Yay, curry!

All hail Mamasan's--big and small, it's fantastic!

Chen Garden

We love everything about Chen Garden!  The cool doorway, the dark 60s interior with deep red naugahyde banquettes, the Chinese astrology placemats, the delicious food, the fact that we always run into someone we know, the proximity to home ... so much so that we're even willing to put up with the inevitably impossible parking in the teeny Chen's lot.

We went to Chen's a couple weeks ago for a quick after lessons dinner, and to no surprise ran into neighbors.  I love that it is such a Brighton go-to place :)  We seized the prime banquette by the entrance, which allowed us to people watch and see the tv in the small bar--and immediately set upon the fried noodles and sweet sauce!

For dinner, we had some of our usual favs:  hot and sour soup, paper chicken and pork fried dumplings for appetizers; chicken with broccoli and General Tso's chicken w/ white meat only for dinner.  And, we added a new dish, Sizzling Beef with Chinese Satay Sauce.  

The hot and sour soup is thick and tangy--great to warm one up the first week in December.  The paper chicken always arrives insanely hot, and we burn our fingers opening the tin papers to get at the deliciously moist chicken inside, which has a teriyaki-like flavor.  The dumplings are always yummy and prized by the kids, and the soy ginger sauce that comes with them is fantastic on anything at the table.  

Chen's chicken with broccoli is in a light clear gravy, which makes it a favorite with my kids.  I skip the chicken and go for the broccoli--always cooked just right.  The General Tso's is made fresh when you request white meat only, so it arrives crispy and light in a deep brown sauce with the right amount of heat.

The whole table rated the Sizzling Beef a bust.  It wasn't horrible, it just tasted a lot like chicken fried steak--not really what we were looking for.  We typically order Beef with Ginger and Scallions in a Clay Pot, which is a real winner every time!  

What can I say about Chen's?  Since we moved here, it's become a family staple: the kind of place where when my husband or I say, "What about Chen's?"; the kids immediate response is, "Yes!"  And, in the summer, you can head right over to Abbott's for dessert :)


It was a rainy fall in ROC, so to no great surprise, it was a cold, wet, very dark night when we went as a family to Mex.  As far as I could tell, most of the folks at Mex that evening filled their ever-popular bar, and we were one of a handful of guests in the upstairs dining room.  Thus, we had our pick of tables and chose the super-cool corner banquette.

We quickly filled our corner with lots of food!!  We started with chips and salsa and queso blanco.  Mex's queso is quite good and amazingly addictive:  we could not stop eating it, and then when we told ourselves to stop--we had a whole meal coming, after all--we started right in again.

My son ordered his usual at any Mexican restaurant, a cheese quesadilla.  It was good, but seriously, can one ever mess up a cheese quesadilla?  For the record, he dipped it in the queso (that kid has very strong bones!).

My daughter ordered the Baja Fajitas with steak and chicken, which arrived on a fully stocked platter big enough for her to sled on!  She loved it all (as did my husband and I ... it was BIG!!), and made special mention of the guacamole.  Both the steak (which was arrived medium rare, as ordered) and the chicken were wonderfully seasoned and moist, and the onions were deliciously caramelized.

My husband ordered the Tequila Lime Chicken, which he professed was quite good and very moist, but "boring."  Clearly, he wished he had ordered the fajitas--and in the end, he got both.

I ordered the Baja Burrito with shredded beef, and it was massive (probably weighing more than my daughter at birth).  It was smoky and rich, with tender beef, smooth beans, and an aromatic sauce with just the right amount of heat.  I took home half of it, even after some bites were stolen around the table.

One off note, Mex serves Diet Rite, not Diet Coke.  Seriously, who drinks that stuff??

Mex has a funky, hipster vibe that would not be out of place in Austin (they love Dios del los Muertos decorating) and great food in huge portions.  Why aren't you there right now?


I'd eaten breakfast at Jine's multiple times (always good!) but never dinner--until a cold, rainy night when the kids got their hair cut at the Hair Zoo down the block, and we opted to check it out.  Given how crazily busy it is at breakfast (truly a see and be seen destination in ROC), it was weird to see it so quiet at dinner ... but it was peaceful and lovely as well.  There's no better view of Park Ave than that through Jine's huge glass windows, and the streets were shining with light reflected by the rain.

That night, I knew what I wanted straight away:  grilled cheese sandwich with chips and a pickle.  Yum!! Truly one of the world's best meals--so comforting.  My son immediately found his dinner among the specials, a Cowboy Burger: a burger on sourdough Texas toast with bacon, cheese, onion rings and barbeque sauce.  My husband elected a lobster ravioli special, and my daughter went for pasta in red sauce.

While the ravioli was declared "delicious," from the minute the Cowboy Burger hit the table, it was all my son could do to keep in on his own plate.  My husband repeated offered to "help him" with it, and my daughter ate half her pasta and then waited her brother out as well.  Thank goodness the burger was ridiculously huge!  I was perfectly satisfied with my grilled cheese (complemented with a rich and warming beef & veggie soup of the day).  We left with some pasta, half the ravioli, and stomachs full of Cowboy Burger!

There were maybe four full tables that night beyond ours.  A lovely older couple behind us found the kids particularly charming (it was a good night!), and the gentleman made them little boats out of dollar bills.  To thank them, we sent them a dessert, and then did the same for a friend who came in with her son.

Jine's is, in many ways, a perfect neighborhood spot in a fantastic ROC neighborhood.  If you've only been for breakfast, check it out for dinner (and, it goes without saying, if the now legendary Cowboy Burger is on the menu ... go for it!)


Wow, I've been busy!  And, I've been eating out around town a lot, just not blogging about it. Bad, blogger :(

So, I'll use the holiday week to catch up, and I'll start with a place we grabbed lunch at this afternoon, D'Mangu.  D'Mangu offers cuisine from the Dominican Republic on a stretch of East Henrietta that seems to have become a veritable international row.  I'll admit right off that it was delicious!!

The restaurant offers both menu and buffet.  My husband and I went for the buffet: two large (read LARGE) plates with salad and two cans of soda set us back about $25.

The buffet line is served by D'Mangu staff.  You start with a huge mound of rice, with a choice of white (me), yellow w pigeon peas (him), yellow w pork.  Then, top with black (both of us) or red beans.  Add a side of either fried (him) or mashed plantains.  And, choose two meats from roasted pork (both), stewed beef (him), stewed chicken (me), or stewed pork.  Plus, you get a side salad.

The rice was delicious--not sticky and just right to soak up the fantastic black bean liquid, which was spiced with cumin, bay leaf, and garlic.  This alone would have been a meal, but it wasn't.  My husband's stewed beef was okay; I'd give it a C+.  My stewed chicken far superior--moister with a great, warming, aromatic flavor.  Yum!!  (He agreed.)  We both had the roast pork and opted for some skin thrown in.  OMG!  And, if this wasn't enough, D'Mangu makes its own hot sauce, which offered a vinegary kick to the whole plate.  It was about 30 degrees out today, and eating the combo of this roast pork, ridiculously crispy & salty skin, deeply seasoned stewed chicken and rich & warm beans and rice--slathered in hot sauce--was like heaven!  My plate could have served 4, but I would have knocked them out of their chairs rather than share.  I left my salad for last, and it offered a nice palate cleansing finish to the lunch, with a great house oil and vinegar dressing.

Our verdict ... how come we haven't been to D'Mangu before, and would it be possible to simply pull up to the buffet with a fork and a knife and dig in?