Saturday, June 2, 2012


Tonight, we stopped by DogTown on the way home from a fundraiser for an amazing local dance company, at which we ate almost nothing.  Why?

Well, we got there late to begin with and then went to the wrong building.  So, we stood in a line for about 15 minutes trying to figure out why we needed to sign in to a fundraiser ... and why we didn't recognize anyone.  Then, I stepped slightly out of line and noticed a sign, "Celebrating the union of Pam and Jim" (not their real names).  I looked at my husband and whispered, "We're going."  "We're bailing because we have to stand in a line?" he responded confusedly. "Just walk!" I yell/whispered.  Outside, I pointed at a second building, and all became clear.  Anyway ... when we finally got to the right place, the speaking portion of the program was in full effect, and noisily grabbing plates to pile with food to then gobble down while pretending to listen seemed a bit rude.  So, we just actually listened.  Then, we chatted with lots of people we did recognize.  Then, the eating window of the program suddenly slammed shut.  Ah, well. About three hours later, nothing sounded better than a hot dog!

DogTown has a college-town, hipster vibe, with lots of pictures of customers' dogs on the wall, lots of tattoos, multicolored hair, and hats on the staff, and lots of dogs named after dogs.  While there, I heard one young man say to his friend incredulously, "You have ketchup in your house!?" much as I might say, "You have a pony in your bathroom!?"  A group of young men at another table were pooling their change to buy a beer.  Ah, college life.

I ordered a Cincinnati Red Dogs with fries; it came with a giant pickle, too, and was served on a French roll.  The dog was yummy, just what I needed.  Nicely grilled with a mild chili sauce paired with crispy fries.  My husband ordered the cheddar ale soup (he's not a big night eater anymore, that fell away in college; not for me!).  It was tasty, though thin, with homemade toasted croutons on top.  Nicely warming.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Amaya Bar and Grill

Tonight, it was just three of us; my son was at a friend's house.  So, we decided on Indian.  I remembered a review a while back of Amaya Bar and Grill, and off we went.

My daughter and I arrived first.  Amaya is in a Tops anchored strip mall, which I'll is not a promising sign.  If you're not from ROC, Topp's is our Winn-Dixie.  Enough said.  So, it was a delightful surprise to walk into a sophisticated restaurant with a design reminiscent of West Elm.  We ordered sodas and two appetizers straight off: garlic naan (bread of life!!) and sesame tandoori wings.  It was clear from a look at the restaurant and the menu that Amaya was more an Indian fusion restaurant, but as more folks filtered in, it was clear we may be onto something.

My husband arrived a bit later, just as the wings and naan hit the table.  We ordered:  soup of the day (curried butternut squash), hyderabadi baingan (eggplant in poppyseed sauce) for him; chicken tikka paprikash for me; chicken makhani for her; raita and more naan!

The soup seemed thin but was very tasty.  He thickened it up with some of the delicious rice that accompanied our meals:  yellow, perfectly cooked and aromatic.  The dinners were served in off-center white bowls surrounded by plates of this rice (which was refilled liberally upon request, as was the raita).

My husband and I shared our dishes.  The eggplant was cooked with some unadvertised chiles, which added a deep heat to the rich, brown, rustic sauce.  It gained an earthy hue from the poppyseeds and the roasted baby eggplants, which had turned almost nutty in flavor.  So good!  The paprikash sauce was bright and tomato-y with a similar deep heat but one balanced by a wonderful acidity from the tomatoes and a layered taste from the roasted peppers.  The sauce was thin, like a soup, which made it easy to finish the chicken and then pour more rice into the bowl to eat the soup/sauce.  I topped it all with the cool raita, which had a hint of anise and chunks of tomatoes and cucumbers.

My daughter's makhani was aromatic, sweet and rich.  She loved it and the rice (this is a girl who could live on yellow rice, whether Indian or Goya).  She left just the sauce and one piece of chicken for us to try.  Her sauce became another rice-filled soup!  Pure comfort in a bowl.

Somehow, without planning, we had selected three dishes that perfectly balanced the table: deep and nutty, bright and acidic, aromatic and creamy.

We tried the chocolate samosas for dessert; they sounded better than they tasted.  Not bad, just nothing special.

Amaya's portions are not huge; we finished each dish and brought home only rice (which holds it own!).  Our service was wonderful--friendly, responsive, not intrusive.  Refills appeared without request and a lovely brown glass bottle of cold water materialized just when we needed it.  I'd recommend Amaya as an alternative to the standard Indian--sophisticated and delicious without losing any of the classic taste profile.  Yum!


I'll start this entry by saying that we almost never go out for dinner without the kids unless it's a work-related event (i.e., lots of convention center chicken).  So, when some friends proposed getting together for dinner, I was stumped about where to go.  Luckily, one pair of the three has no children, works crazy-mad hours, and eats out all the time.  They suggested Nikko--a place so hip that I had to sit at the intersection reading and re-reading my GPS to figure out how to get to the one way side street it was on.

According to our dining companions, on weekends, Nikko's SoHo-worthy bar is packed with almost a hundred people, which is saying something because it is very small, maybe 15 tables.  The weeknight we went, only about five of the tables (including ours) were full.  Plus, one of our party seemed to know half the waitstaff.  So, our service was fantastic, and we kind of felt the place was ours.

We started out with appetizers.  I went with the organic field green salad; my husband chose the spring onion bisque.  The salad was wonderfully crisp, with a nicely acidic ramp vinaigrette. A great starter.  His soup was thick, rich and topped with a poached duck egg (that's really what sold him).  It disappeared.  He also sampled the cheese flight ordered by another in our party and raved about the taste combination of cheese and wild honey.

When it came time to order dinner, the problems began.  Everyone wanted something that someone else was ordering.  I agreed to split the chicken "cacciatore" with another diner in return for some of his Nikko burger.  My husband got a special: veal chop.  Both the chicken and the veal were accompanied by the most deliciously creamy farro I've ever had.  It made me love farro!!

The chicken was not the thigh as advertised but a French cut chicken breast with sublimely crisp skin, perfectly moist flesh served with a delicate tomato-based sauce.  I stole a bread plate from an empty nearby table to swap a portion for some of the Nikko burger and crispy/salty/golden picture-ready fries.  Because the burger was slightly overcooked in the eyes of the kitchen, the server offered to take it back, but once it hit the table, it was all over but the shouting.  The burger is the size of a large soup bowl, with rich, creamy cheeses dripping down its sides.  Truly one of the best burgers I've ever eaten, and since everyone at the table was able to have some, I can attest that 6/6 felt that way.

My husband's veal chop was similarly delicious (his verdict): covered in caramelized onions and falling off the bone.  He augmented it with some sushi from another plate, both the 7th Level and T-T Flares.  (It's worth noting that he chose to walk back to his parking garage rather than take a ride because he had partaken of too much scrummy food!)

We were having too much fun to end the meal, so rather than do the sensible thing and declare victory, we ordered three desserts (one free because of the hamburger).  I opted for the lemon sorbet with berries (which no one wanted to share ... it was a chocolate table).  He shared a tray (literally) of three peanut butter ice cream profiteroles topped with chocolate sauce.  They looked like caloric snowmen!  And, the last dessert was a rich, flourless chocolate torte that was almost solid black.

By the end of our 3 hour plus dinner, all plates were empty, all stomachs were full, all faces were smiling, and we were planning our next dining adventure.

Nikko really does ROC, combining hip and inviting, cool and casual, exclusive and friendly, with inventive, tasty dishes.  Yay, Nikko!