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Rice, and Dinner

Saturday 18 February 2012

So I wound up eating some rice this week, and we’ve added a dinner restaurant to the mix. Fortunately, they have a short menu so we can try everything without breaking the bank (just bending it quite a bit).


Sweet Potato Tempura:

I like tempura, but it’s often served in huge portions, such that one must share, or, if one is solo or one’s dining companions don’t want to share, that’s all one gets to eat. Taroko has scaled the portions down to a more manageable size.     I really like the quality of the tempura batter; for the portion size, it’s a little spendy. I’d probably try it again when I have a taste for tempura.


Seaweed Salad:

I really love seaweed salad–the vinegary dressing, the sweetness of the seaweed, and the cold, crisp texture of it all. Often, it’s like a serving of rice–a big ball of seaweed in a bowl or on a plate. This version is on a bed of greens, which is interesting, but it’s the eye-candy of the garnishes that really adds to this dish. I’d definitely order this again.


Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura:

It looks like something out of a Godzilla movie, but it tastes a dream, thanks again to Taroko’s excellent use of a very light tempura batter, and the unusual use of panko crumbs for the shrimp. The presentation is something I’d expect to see in Osaka, not Ashland, and it makes the presentation pop.



Burger and Fries:

I’m a big fan of a good burger and fries. It’s one of those basic food combinations that satisfies a deep-seated desire for meat, fat, fried, salt, and sweet (cheese and ketchup).

Larks’ version is a basic patty, on a really nice cornmeal bun. The cheese and fresh red onions (I skip the lettuce and tomato so far out of season) melt into the top and add both crunch and sweetness and a little more bite. The patty is that sort that is a fairly uniform 1/4″ thick, very tender at my preferred medium-rare. It’s the sort that is just a bit larger than the bun, so one never gets a bite of naked bun. The fries are pretty good, which I think is more about the skill of the cooks than the raw materials.

This is one of my regular dishes at Larks. It won’t win awards, but it is very satisfying comfort food.



“The Smithfields”:

Their signature breakfast, it’s a very British serving of two eggs, sausage patty, potato cake fried in duck fat,bacon, toast, and baked beans. I’m not normally one for baked beans at breakfast, but this could sway me. Make sure to get the house made orange marmalade with the toast; it’s amazingly good, with a bit of ginger. This is a very hearty breakfast, enough to fill one up and going until well into the afternoon.

The duck fat-fried potato cake, by the way, is a lot lighter tasting than one might suspect. It’s a pan-fried dish, not deep-fired, so the fat really only gets into the outer bits of the cake.


Morning Glory:

Alaska Red Crab Omelet:

This is one of my go-to dishes at Morning Glory; what I order when I am tired, or cranky, or both, and don’t want to be challenged outside of my comfort zone. It’s a huge dish; this is a half order, which is usually more than enough for me (and I am not a light eater!) There’s a huge amount of crab in this, and the hash browns are the usual excellent work by the grill cook.



Pesto Pollo:

I’m generally not a fan of chicken on pizza–even with a sauce under it, it tends to get dry. Martolli’s makes a good effort with this pie. I like the addition again here of the sun-dried tomatoes, to add a little zing to an otherwise standard offering. If you like pesto and don’t eat beef or pork, this might be a good choice.

Strega Nona:

I have no idea why this pizza is named after a fictional children’s story character. Maybe this is the pizza for what ails you, as Strega Nona’s magical pasta did. Certainly, the mix of bacon, roasted potatoes, and ricotta cheese might make a good hangover cure (I would know nothing about this). The thinly sliced roasted potatoes is an unusual texture, and I might prefer to whole thing on pesto instead of tomato sauce. Might need to try that later.


Sesame Asian Kitchen:

Fried Rice:

I love good fried rice. My concept of “good fried rice” includes enough oil to carry the other flavors and enough variety in the extras to make it interesting. This is an interesting version, including edamame, Chinese sausage chunks, lots of fresh green onions, and a choice of meat or tofu skewers.

This is definitely on the heavier side, with a good dose of oil coating the rice. There isn’t a pool or even a slick of oil in the bottom, so they’ve achieved that just-enough amount to carry the maximum amount of flavor. The sausage was an interesting change from the more typical chunks of char siu pork. The chicken on the skewers was quite moist and somewhat salty, so I suspect a heavy brine. The saltiness was fine with the rice.

This is good fried rice.


Thai Pepper:

Thai Fried Rice:

A quite different rendition of fried rice, with chunks of pineapple, shrimp, grilled chicken, and tomatoes. Less oil coating the rice than I prefer, but adequate to the task. The pineapple surprised and intrigued me; I generally love pineapple, but not in savory dishes, but it worked really well in this, adding sweetness and a little tartness to the dish. It’s a good dish, and I might put it into the rotation in the future.



As I said at the start of this, part of the point is to try everything at restaurants where I fundamentally trust the chef to make good food, even if the dishes are outside (sometimes way out) of my usual range. Coquina is definitely in this category; we’ve been eating there on-and-off since they opened last year, and they definitely know their stuff.

Buttermilk Fried Quail:

Quail is an appetizer that Coquina has featured on and off since they opened. This version, fried in a buttermilk batter and served with mushrooms and a maple-tamarind glaze, was an exceptional appetizer. I didn’t take an “after” photo, but rest assured that all the sauce was wiped off the plate with some of the excellent bread that they serve.


Wild Sturgeon:

Oh, this is such a fabulous dish.

I really loved this dish, with its mix of strong sauce, firm but moist fish flesh, and accompaniment of sauteed spinach. Please sir, may I have another?


That’s it for this week. Post your own stories about eating outside your own comfort zones!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve Rowles permalink
    Saturday 18 February 2012 7:58 AM

    It just dawned on me that you should not go to your doctor to have your cholesterol checked. If you do by accident, do not ask for the results. If you get the results anyway, don’t believe them. And for goodness sake, don’t stop eating and reporting so I, for one, can continue to live vicariously through your blog.

    • Saturday 18 February 2012 10:11 AM

      Thanks (I think…) for the concern. I might actually be eating healthier than I used to, as I’ve cut out a lot of snacks at home–no chips have passed through the front door in I-can’t-remember-how-long. But as an engineer, I try to optimize everything, and a long life devoid of good food seems not to be a good trade-off. Still, I’m not trying to imitate John Larroquette’s guest role on Kitchen Confidential (highly recommended, BTW), so I’ll not be not taking your un-advice (maybe, if I can get someone to parse what I just wrote!)


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