Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: The Trophy Room brunch

 Chef Evan Campbell serving up brunch at The Trophy Room

Chef Evan Campbell serving up brunch at The Trophy Room

My favorite meal to have out of the house is breakfast or on the weekend, brunch, so I was more than happy to give The Trophy Room at the Chandler Inn a try this past weekend.

Although the space has been open and serving brunch for a couple of months, I avoid trying new restaurants initially – allowing them to work out their ‘kinks’ – before I visit.  When we arrived on Sunday just prior to 11, The Trophy Room was half full and easy to get a seat at the bar or at one of the tables.  Their doors on Berkeley Street were wide open letting in the sun and a nice breeze.  The restaurant was half gay with a few hotel guests mingling with neighbors.

The brunch menu is evenly divided between breakfast and lunch items – all quite affordable $8-$14.  Our entire breakfast for two with tax and tip came to less than $30 (this was an alcohol-free brunch).

Trophy Room Boston BrunchOur coffee was delicious and promptly refilled by our friendly and attentive bartender (we opted to sit at the bar – a personal preference probably born out of habit).  I ordered The Trophy Omelette which is a “build your own”; I chose onions, mushroom and Swiss cheese for $8.75. The overstuffed omelette was served warm with salty breakfast potatoes that were delicious to eat with the Swiss cheese that oozed out and over my plate once I cut into my omelette.

Trophy Room Boston BrunchSergio selected The Trophy Trifecta that comes with two eggs, sausage or bacon (he chose the former) and two buttermilk pancakes for $8.75.  He devoured his plate but not before I was able to try the pancakes which were good enough to make me think on a future visit we might want to order the Grandma’s Pancakes for $7.75 to share as an extra plate.

The Trophy Room’s ease and availability, combined with its affordable menu and friendly staff make it worth checking out.  If you go during the warmer months when the doors are open on to Berkeley Street – so much the better to enjoy your coffee and to read the copy of the NY Times at the bar.

The Trophy Room is open daily and serves brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm in the South End at 26 Chandler Street in the South End of Boston.

Trophy Room on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: El Presidente

Cafe El Presidente opened earlier this year in the Flat Iron District on 24th Street.  The place is spacious and has an open and casual, beach vibe with vintage looking painted signs and a large open kitchen in the back of the restaurant that looks out on to the dining room floor.El Presidente Flat Iron District NYCCafe El Presidente Flat Iron District

El Presidente serves up some delicious cocktails to try alongside their Mexican menu. The two most popular drinks made with fresh juice include the Paloma; a grapefruit and tequila cocktail served with a salted rim.  As well as the Spiked Sandia; a sweeter alternative made with agua fresca – watermelon and tequila. restaurant review el presidente in flat iron districtBoth proved to be so tempting when we initially tried them at the bar we opted to get them by the pitcher for dinner. That may have proven to be a mistake because while the food was delicious the portions of our main plates were smaller than anticipated and we probably should have had more solids to compensate for the amount of tequila we were enjoying.

Cafe El Presidente guacamoleI would highly recommend trying the Guacamole Con Totopos. The guacamole was creamy and offset the very light and salty chips.  The chips and guac also come with a plate of pickled veggies, salsas and lime and radishes. It was delicious and a good portion for a party of four to share.

I opted for the Pescado a la Plancha Oaxaca – Fish Tacos – which were made with mahi mahi on the night I was there. El Presidente Flat Iron District Fish TacosThe plate comes with four tacos.  The soft taco shell seemed to absorb too much of the salsa, making them difficult to eat; the taco would tear / rip when we picked them up.  However, they still tasted very fresh and my only real complaint was that I was left wanting more.

I liked the vibe and enjoyed the casual atmosphere and would recommend giving it a try.  Located just around the corner from Eataly at 30 West 24th Street, El Presidente is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cafe El Presidente on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: HK Cafe Restaurant and Lounge

HK Cafe Hells Kitchen NYCThe HK Cafe is located in the heart of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood on the corner of 9th Avenue and 39th Street.  The long, narrow layout  has modern decor with large windows that look out on to the street.  I sat at the 12-seat bar to the side of the main dining room floor.  The menu is reasonably priced with soups and salads ($8-$12); appetizers ($10-$16); sandwiches ($11-$14); and entrees ($16-$24).

Unfortunately, HK Cafe’s first impressions was as good as it got. After I placed my order a rowdy party of about eight in the dining room started screaming at the top of their lungs; acting as if some pop star had just walked in from the street.  This continued intermittently through the entire evening – some people seated in the dining room left because they were so disruptive so I assume this is what one should expect since the staff did nothing to settle the raucous table.

Hell's Kitchen HK Cafe Fig Salad

HK Cafe Fig Salad $12.00

The experience didn’t get much better after my competent and handsome bartender brought over my fig salad.  Some of the figs were a bit too dry / hard and the cheese promised in the description seemed more of an after thought since it was barely there.

HK Cafe Hell's Kitchen NYC

HK Cafe Burger & Fries $12

For dinner I ordered the HK Burger and Fries.  While the portion was large this too was fairly bland. If I wasn’t developing a nervous twitch from all the shouting in the dining room or if the salad had been better I might not have felt the burger was quite so bad, but by the time it arrived all I wanted to do was leave so my impressions of the flavorless burger may be a bit harsh, but I won’t be going back to give it another try.

HK Cafe at 523 9th Avenue / (212) 947-4208

HK on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Beantown Pho & Grill

Recently Sergio and I tried a new Vietnamese / Thai restaurant that opened in mid-May on Newbury Street in the Back Bay.  Despite my aversion to all businesses that use the term “beantown”, I have not eaten Vietnamese before and was open to giving it a try.

The waitstaff was very patient explaining all the options on their 2-sided menu (one side reserved for Thai inspired plates and one side reserved for Vietnamese inspired meals). Dinner options remain very affordable with the entire menu under $15.00.  Why can’t the South End have more restaurants with this price point?

Back Bay Cheap EatsWe started our dinner with the Vietnamese starter, Muc Rang Muoi,  ($7.95) I’d describe it as a spicy version of calamari with peppers, onions, garlic and jalapenos. I enjoyed the plate but it proved too spicy for Sergio who immediately downed his glass of water.

Service was prompt, clearing plates and refilling glasses but we never felt rushed and I enjoyed eating outside on their Newbury Street patio even though it was so late that people-watching was kept to a minimum.

Back Bay Cheap EatsFor dinner Sergio ordered the Thai Red Curry with chicken.  The meal was served in a pool of red curry and an impressive amount of chicken and vegetables ($11.95).  Sergio enjoyed his meal, but I thought it wasn’t particularly memorable. His only critique was he thought it too spicy – I think his mouth was still recovering from the calamari we had shared at the start of our meal.

Back Bay cheap eatsI’m not familiar with Vietnamese food but every time I’ve ordered south Asian cuisine I’ve enjoyed how fresh and light the meals taste. I opted to try the Vietnamese plate, Kho To, a spicy white fish plate cooked in pot with a slightly spicy / sweet brown sauce; served with steamed vegetables and white rice ($13.95).  I spooned the rice and vegetables into the pot and stirred the ingredients together. While it wasn’t particularly pretty to look at, the food was flavorful.

I’m not an expert on Vietnamese cuisine and can’t speak to its authenticity but both Sergio and I enjoyed our dinners.

Beantown Pho Grill — 272 Newbury Street — (857) 263-8440
Beantown Pho on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Cafe Jaffa

Middle Eastern restaurant BostonCafe Jaffa is a great cheap eats alternative in the Back Bay on Gloucester Street between Boylston and Newbury Street that has been serving authentic Middle Eastern food since 1991.  When I lived in the Back Bay, I regularly came here for a quick lunch or dinner.

Middle Eastern Restaurant BostonCafe Jaffa’s menu is fairly large with plenty of options under $15.  Keep it simple and stick to the many options in the sandwiches, salads and kabobs section of the menu and I promise you will enjoy your meal. On this visit I opted to have the chicken kabob salad for $9.75 with a tall glass of Lemonana for $2.50 (homemade lemonade with mint).

Middle Eastern Boston RestaurantThe kabob salad is served over a packed Greek Salad and a warmed pita that is briefly grilled prior to serving. As you can see from the photo above, the chicken is piled high and the bowl full of delicious feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.  While beer and wine is available at Cafe Jaffa, I’ve always opted for the Lemonana because the minty lemonade is so good. If you’ve never had it and you like lemonade, give this a try – it is rather addictive. You can also get it by the pitcher for $4.75.

Cafe Jaffa is open Monday thru Thursday 11AM – 10:30PM; from Friday thru Saturday 11AM – 11PM; and Sunday from 12PM – 10PM.  Cafe Jaffa on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Bond at Langham Hotel

Photo Source: Langham Hotel Boston

Photo Source: Langham Hotel Boston

Bond Restaurant and Bar at the Langham Hotel in Boston is an elegant space that once was the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Bond Restaurant Lounge Boston First impressions count and Bond clearly took this into account when they designed the restaurant and bar.  We found the staff and service first rate from start to finish and enjoyed spending the evening at the bar. The menu at Bond is divided into three sections: “Start” range from $6-$15 and include items like Marinated Artichokes and Black Angus Sliders; “Share” plates range from $12-$16 and include things like Spring Arancini and Semolina Fried Oysters; and dinner plates called “Main” range from $25-$34 and include Swordfish and Steak Frites.

We started by ordering a bottle of 2013 Rose Belleruche.  This turned out to be our most satisfying order, because while the menu is interesting, nothing lived up to its tempting description. We first ordered the special, Fried Crab Sliders $18. They had a lovely presentation but it didn’t have much flavor.  Unfair as it might be to say, I couldn’t help but think how much better the Row 34 $4 Fried Shrimp Slider tasted.

Crab Sliders at Bond RestaurantWe continued with another seafood option ordering the Tuna Tataki $16. This proved more interesting. I liked using the puffed sesame rice cakes to scoop up the tuna and seaweed, but nearly every restaurant in Boston has something similar to this plate and Bond’s version of this staple menu item was not particularly memorable or inventive – albeit pretty.Bond Restaurant Lounge BostonLastly we ordered the duck flatbread $15. This proved so disappointing that we actually left about a third of it untouched. The flatbread would have been far better if the chef had left off the sweet hoison sauce that gave a funky aftertaste and took away from the flavor of the duck, pickled onions and cheese.  Bond Bar and Restaurant BostonThe lesson I took from this visit was it is better to stick with a good bottle of wine.  If you’ve not been to Bond, it is worth visiting; just skip the solids and focus on their very stocked bar. The space is beautiful and the staff very capable.  Bond is located in the Langham Hotel in Boston’s Post Office Square.
Bond on Urbanspoon

Restaurant review: Adolfo’s Laguna Beach

Adolfo's Laguna BeachBoston has frightfully few very good, cheap Mexican restaurants, but Southern California seems to have one on every corner so the fact that Adolfo’s has been around serving the Laguna Beach community since 1985 has to be a testament of some kind.

This tiny little restaurant has parking around back which is good since it is on PCH in Laguna Beach between Thalia and Anita Street and street parking is scarce. There is no table service so walk up, place your order and take a seat in one of the booths or outside on their sunny patio to enjoy the meal.  My fish tostada, tortilla chips, side of fresh guacamole and beer was less than $15 and was as filling as it was delicious. Laguna AdolfosThis isn’t fine dining and this isn’t the cleanest place I’ve ever walked into but it was the perfect place to grab a bite after spending some time at West Beach in Laguna and one of the best cheap eats I’ve had in a while. I wouldn’t go out of my way to grab a meal at Adolfo’s but I’d be hard pressed to walk by it and look forward to returning on our next trip to Laguna Beach. I’ll leave the more fancy options for others to try.

Adolfo’s is open from 10:00 am – 11:00 pm daily and can be found at 998 S. Coast Highway or you can call (949) 497-2023.