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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Portland, OR: On Again, Off Again ... C'est La Vie (That's Life)

Petite Provence
1824 NE Alberta Street
Portland, OR 97211
Phone number (503) 284-6564
Website: provencepdx.com
Prices: $$$$

Yay! I love French food and am not easily impressed, but I was impressed, at least on my first visit. That visit was for their Happy Hour, so I will reserve a couple of stars for future visits, one way or the other, depending on how dinner, lunch and breakfast pan out. Based on that single experience, I did not think things would digress, but time did tell and I was not nearly as impressed on my second visit.
Visit #1 - I had an IPA ($4) to start things off, then we ordered from the Happy Hour Menu (3-6PM - M-F), all about $5 each. In order to sample as many things as possible, my wife and I shared four Happy Hour plates, a Mushroom and Gruyere Crepe, Macaroni and Cheese Au Gratin with toast, Mussels in a Coconut Red Curry sauce with pom frites (French fries), and a Kobe Beef Slider also with pom frites.

The slider was good, but being only one small burger with aioli sauce on a bun and a paltry amount of fries, it was not the best value on the menu. The Mac and Cheese was plentiful and delicious with sauteed onion inside and baked with cheese and breadcrumbs on top, served with three pieces of grilled baguette toast. The crepes were small, a half each for a total of one full crepe, but savory with a nice white cheese sauce and sauteed mushrooms. Finally, my favorite, were the red curry mussels with 10-12 fresh mussels in a creamy, spicy, yummy red curry sauce with a decent portion of seasoned fries on the side.


Being one of four parties inside, the service was attentive, friendly and excellent. The place is quaint with lots of wood and a European feel and they even have tables on the sidewalk Parisian-style. They also have an array of baked goods (pastries, breads) and a huge display case full of delightful, sweet cakes, pies, tarts and other delectable morsels that dazzle the eye as well as the nose and tongue. My single complaint was the absence of paper towels in both (unisex) bathrooms, having had to dry my hands on toilet paper or toilet seat covers ... YUK.
For $28 and change plus tip ($35), we ate quite well and were stuffed by the time we left. No room for dessert, even though my wife has a sweet tooth the size of Manhattan and rarely passes on the final course. 
Visit #2 - I visited PP for the second time on Father's Day, arriving around 9PM after a round of golf (they close at 10PM). The sign said "please wait to be seated", so I stood there like a gidrulo (Italian dialect slang for "dumb ass", but literally meaning "cucumber") for a good five minutes while employees walked back and forth, ignoring me as if I were not there and not even saying "welcome, we'll be with you in a minute". I was finally approached by a server with a man-bun, taking me to a table outside on the sidewalk on the beautiful, mild late spring evening. 
Everything was going fine. Knowing they were closing in less than an hour and not wanting to waste time, I ordered an IPA and then asked my server for a bowl of French onion soup ($6.95) and the Chicken Cordon Bleu ($16) for my entree. Less than 10 minutes later, man-bun arrived with my soup AND entree ... at the same time! 

For those of you who know me, you know all too well that if you really want to piss me off, bring my entree while I am still eating my appetizer, soup, and/or salad. It is my ultimate pet peeve, so when the soup and entree arrived together, I was far less than pleased, asking the server to please take the entree away until I was done with my soup. Anybody who has been a server for a week or more knows that you never bring different courses together unless specifically asked to do so which I had not.
The soup was very average and I would not order it again at $6.95. Nuff said. The chicken was good, but a tad burnt, a little dry, and extremely hot (likely having sat under the warmer for 15-20 minutes while I ate my very hot soup). Sitting atop a very small portion of runny mashed potatoes with some green beans in between, the tarragon beurre blanc (tarragon, butter and white wine) sauce was tasty, but there was not nearly enough of it either. A little more sauce would have made the dry chicken a bit more palatable.
What a dilemma! Such a good experience on visit #1 only to be followed by a very mediocre experience on visit #2. I thought I had found our new Portland go-to spot on Alberta, but now I am not so sure. 

I look forward to returning at least one more time for happy hour, breakfast, lunch and/or dinner and hope all will be as delightful as it was on our initial experience. If not, we may not be back and may head down the street to Swiss Hibiscus or across town the Chez Machin where I know I will get a good, consistent meal and service.
CombatCritic Downgrades Petite Provence (Alberta) From 8 Bombs Out Of 10 To 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... A Very Modest And Generous Deduction For Such Inexcusable Faux Pas ... More Bombs Are Better!
Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Title: Portland, OR: On Again, Off Again ... C'est La Vie (That's Life)

Key Words: Petite Provence, French, cafe, bakery, boulangerie, Alameda, outdoor, seating, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, Portland, Oregon, business, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lawrence, Kansas: A Pleasant Surprise - Good Indian, Decent Prices

Bayleaf Indian Restaurant & Bar
947 New Hampshire Street, Ste 120
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone number: (785) 840-0855
Prices: $$$$

We have been wanting to try Bayleaf since they opened, but had not until tonight. The food was ready as promised, 20 minutes exactly after I ordered on Eat Street. The place was empty at 5:35 on a Saturday, a bit odd, but the friendly server gathered our order post haste, listing the contents by memory exactly as we ordered them ... meat samosas - check, beef vindaloo - check, palak paneer - check, plain and garlic naan - check. She handed me my bag and I left.



With the $7 Eat Street discount, the tab came to just a tad under $32, not bad. But $39 for one appetizer, two entrees and some bread - no soup or salad, no drinks, no dessert - without the coupon it would not be a great value.


The Meat Samosas ($4.95), savory pastries with a chicken and vegetable filling and two dipping sauces (a red sweet and sour and a mild green) were big and good. The Naan (Plain - $2 and Garlic $3) were large and as fresh and good as any I have eaten.

My wife's Palak Paneer ($10.95) with fresh spinach and homemade curd cheese in a mildly spicy sauce was also as good as any we had during my four months in India. The Beef Vindaloo ($14.95) had plenty of beef and a few potatoes in a tomato and onion curry that was delicious. Both the palak paneer and beef vindaloo came with basmati rice, but $14.95 for a medium size curry and rice is a bit on the pricey side. At $8.95 and $11.95, they would have been a much better value, but the Indian restaurants in Lawrence seem to think they can get away with charging $15 for a curry and rice, so they do. That is why we do not eat at the two Indian restaurants (across the street from each other) in town all that often.

OK, maybe I am spoiled, but having eaten similar, but much better, meals for two in India for $10-$12 max, I find it difficult to shell out nearly 4 times as much stateside. If it were not for the $7 Eat Street discount, we probably would not have bothered, but I am glad we did because the food at Bayleaf was very good. Having lived in England for three years and traveled India for four months, I am used to good Indian food at reasonable prices. The Indian restaurants in Lawrence need to drop their dinner prices if they hope to fill their tables, which they are not doing currently.

I am basing my rating on a dinner for two for $31.50 (7 rating  - with coupon), not $38.50 (5 rating  - without coupon) ...

CombatCritic Gives Bayleaf Indian Restaurant 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!



Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Read Chris S.'s review of Bayleaf Indian Restaurant & Bar on Yelp


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Bayleaf Indian Restaurant and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Title: Lawrence, Kansas: A Pleasant Surprise - Good Indian, Decent Prices

Key Words: Bayleaf Restaurant, Bayleaf, bay, leaf, bar, Indian, India, curry, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lawrence, KS: You Can Get Anything You Want At "Alces" Restaurant ... "Moooooooose"

Blue Moose Bar And Grill
525 Wakarusa Drive. Suite D
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone number: (785) 727-4999
Prices: $$$$

My friends, yes I actually have friends, had told me wonderful things about Blue Moose, but when I read the reviews on yelp*, I had my doubts. Lawrence is not all that big, but we rarely get over to West Lawrence, so having dropped off a UHaul in the area, we decided to give the Moose a shot (pun intended).
We were told there was a 30-minute wait, but there were a slew of empty tables, at least seven or eight on the side of the restaurant we could see alone. How can there be 25 people waiting in the lobby and a 30-minute wait with so many empty tables?
The menu is eclectic - "American New - in metrosexual speak, with choices from Mexico (empanadas, fish/carne asada tacos, quesadillas), Italy (pasta, flat bread pizza), Asia (wontons, curry, and America (burgers, steaks, chicken). The decor is modern and tasteful, but cold with the stone and wood surfaces that have become so cliché these days.

We decided to sit at the bar to speed things up, but the bartender pretty much ignored us for 15-20 minutes after serving us our drinks and giving us menus. Now I have seen firsthand why they have only garnered 2.5 stars so far. Our order was finally taken by his assistant and our starter, the Beef Empanadas ($7.99), arrived shortly thereafter. They (3) were actually quite good with a deep fried cornmeal exterior and a beef, cheese and poblano pepper interior, accompanied by an avocado salsa and sour cream. They were crispy, not greasy, and the flavors quite pleasing to the pallet ... Olé!

My wife's Build Your Own "Mac N Cheese" ($9.99) with sauteed mushrooms and steamed broccoli (99¢/ea) were topped with garlic butter breadcrumbs and came with a ciabatta in an interesting bowl that presented the dish rather nicely. I thought it was a bit bland, but my pasta loving Italian thought it was quite good ... Mama Mia!
Like most restaurants I visit for the first time, I like to see if they get the basics right, so I ordered their Blue Moose Burger ($10.99), medium-well, with sauteed onions and bacon. You can "add a house salad" to an entree for $1.99, but the sandwich menu states: "Sub a 'small' house salad" for $1.99. I found it hard to believe that you could get a "whole" house salad with an entree for $1.99, but you had to substitute your fries (etc.) for a "small" one for the same price, so I asked the beertender. He confirmed my disbelief, telling me that you in-fct have to give up your side in order to get a salad ... and you have to pay an extra $1.99 ... Good Grief!
The burger arrived with fries, sans small salad, but also missing were the sauteed onions I ordered. I do not like bloody meat and medium is about as raw as I will go, but this burger was well done and dry. The flavor was not bad and the patty big enough, but the sauteed onions would have added some much needed moisture had they been where they were supposed to be. The highlight of my meal were the fries, hot and crunchy, not crispy, with a spicy zing that was a pleasant surprise ... Holy Cow!
I was torn ... bad reviews, only a few weeks in business (bugs to work out), 30-minute wait, empty tables, inattentive bartender, decent service, great empanadas, overcooked meat, incomplete order ... Oh My! 
In the end, feeling overly liberal - with our pending move to the Left Coast - I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt , adding an additional BOMB or two (1-star on a 5-star scale - rounding up). Normally, a somewhat lackluster performance such as this would result in 4-5 Bombs, but I decided to increase their "middle of the road" yelp* average by just a tad because I see some potential ... You're Welcome!

CombatCritic Gives Blue Moose Bar And Grill 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Ore Bombs Are Better ... SHAZAAM!
Six Bombs Equates To:

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Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

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Read Chris S.'s review of Blue Moose Bar And Grill on Yelp

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Lawrence, KS: You Can Get Anything You Want At "Alces" Restaurant ... "Moooooooose"

Key Words: Blue Moose Bar and Grill, Blue Moose, blue, moose, bar, grill, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, American, new, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lawrence, KS: As Roseanne Roseannadanna Used To Say ... It's Always Something, If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Mi Ranchito
707 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number (785) 749-5600
Website: miranchitokc.com
Prices: $$$$

OK, maybe I was a little too harsh last time, giving them one BOMB out of ten, but their attention to detail is severely lacking, margaritas weak, chips way too thin, and service spotty at best. Having nearly killed my wife by serving her tomatoes after telling them that "she's allergic to tomatoes" last time we were there, I swore we would never return, but alas, the other Mexican restaurants in town are shit, so there you have it.

For example, last night we were greeted, if you want to call it that, by a redheaded, ponytailed hostess who was extremely rude. She took us to a table, without a word, in the bar, so we asked for a booth in the restaurant instead. If I wanted to sit in the bar, I would have walked into the bar and grabbed a stool, but their drinks suck and I would never have done that. She snatched the menus off of the table, grunted, walked to a booth in the restaurant, tossed the menus down on the table, turned around and walked away talking into her wireless mic. No "welcome", "I'm sorry", "of course", "enjoy your meal" ... nothing. Maybe she was having a bad night, but this young woman has no business being in the hospitality business and does Mi Ranchito a great disservice by being the first and last face that people see when they enter and leave the restaurant. The manager standing beside her must either be blind or clueless because he watched it all happen without appearing to give a shit less.
The food is "OK" by Midwestern standards (very low standards), but the service, chips, and margaritas all leave a great deal to be desired. We are going to Texas soon and I cannot wait for some "real" Tex-Mex, not the crap they serve in Lawrence and the rest of the Midwest that many "self-proclaimed" food critics refer to as "Tex-Mex" ... what a joke ... get a clue folks ... there is not a single Tex-Mex in Lawrence, Mi Ranchito included.
CombatCritic Gives Mi Ranchito (Lawrence) 4 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Four Bombs Equates To:
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Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


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View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Read Chris S.'s review of Mi Ranchito on Yelp


Title: Lawrence, KS: As Roseanne Roseannadanna Used To Say ... It's Always Something, If It's Not One Thing It's Another

Key Words: Mi Ranchito, mi, ranchito, lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, Mexican, taco, tacos, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: BOHICA = "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lawrence, KS: No "Tie" Here, Thai Diner Is The Clear Winner As Best Value In Town

Thai Diner
2223 Louisiana Street, Suite E
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number: (785) 551-7528
Website: thaidinerks.com
Prices: $$$$

On this, our second visit, the food was just as good and the prices fair, but the service left something to be desired.
We were not greeted when we arrived, only told to find our own table. It took quite a while for our server to welcome us and bring our water even though the place was virtually empty on a Sunday night with two servers working. We ordered the Mini Steamed Buns ($5.95) with sweet pork sausage and dried shredded pork on wheat flour buns and the Crispy Spring Rolls ($4.25 - Regular/chicken). The server asked me if we wanted the chicken spring rolls even though I ordered the "regular" variety which, according to the menu, come with chicken. I said. "yes, of course".

After taking our order, our server indicated that "everything" would be out shortly, but if you know me, you know I detest entrees arriving before the appetisers have been finished. I asked her to please hold the entrees until we had finished our starters, to which she readily agreed. The steamed buns (3) were OK even though the steamed whole wheat buns were not even baked. They had an odd look and texture (like eating raw bread dough) and were too big for the tiny dipping cups, but the flavor was decent. Not something we would order again. The spring rolls were good and a decent value at $4.25. The dipping sauces came in teeny weeny cups, too small even for the fried spring rolls which were not that big to begin with.

As I mentioned, the entrees did not arrive until we had finished our appetisers, so once we were done with the starters we waited and waited and waited, and more than 10 minutes later our entrees were finally in front of us. 
My wife had the Yum-Tum Phad Thai ($9.95) which she raved about, a stir fry of rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, cabbage and lemon grass with tofu. She cleaned her plate and would have likely licked it clean (I'm joking of course) if we were not in public, stating "that was absolutely delicious". I decided to try the Yellow Curry with beef ($9.25), a good size portion of potato pieces, yellow onion, sliced carrots and thinly sliced beef in a deliciously sweet, savory and spicy curry that dazzled the senses. It was an excellent curry.


The decor is simple and basic, but tasteful, but I would recommend not sitting anywhere near the double front doors on a cold and/or windy night because our napkins flew and the chill was breathtaking every time someone entered or left, some several times, including one couple who did not know the difference between Thai and sushi, having missed their mark by several hundred feet and leaving as quickly as they had entered.
Even though the service was suspect on this occasion, a plus was that I found out that you can "BYOB" (meaning wine I believe), because they advertise "no cork (corkage) fee". The minuses, they insist on "tipping your server appropriately" (better left unsaid as common sense tells you that if they provide the glasses and uncork the wine, then you should tip accordingly) and that you must leave any unconsumed alcohol behind (which is likely state law).

CombatCritic Gives Thai Diner 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!



Eight Bombs Equates To:
MENUS





Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!

Thai Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


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View my food journey on Zomato!



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Read Chris S.'s review of Thai Diner on Yelp

Title: Lawrence, KS: No "Tie" Here, Thai Diner Is The Clear Winner As Best Value In Town

Key Words: Thai Diner, Thai, diner, Lawrence, Kansas, KS, 23rd, curry, Phad, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: WTFO! = "What-The-Fuck ... Over!"