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Friday, June 25, 2010

Artisans Cafe, Clayton

  This morning, we decided to visit Artisans Cafe in Clayton.  Billed as a healthy place to eat, with vegan and vegetarian meals, I really wondered if I would find a lot to enjoy there, or if the meal would be filling.  We arrived just before 9:30 in the morning, and were the only folks there at the time.

  Here's the fellow who prepares the food, Chef Jim Shipley.  You can also see some of the artwork on the wall behind him.  Yes, that's why it is called Artisans Cafe - you can purchase any of the featured artwork on the walls.  Click to read a bit of history about the restaurant, why it was started, and what makes it different from other places to eat.  In a nutshell, if you don't want the details, they moved to their current, larger location just under two years ago.  The owners serve tasty and healthy food because they grew a lot of fruit and vegetables, and realized people were not healthy in part due to poor diets.  Nothing in the restaurant is fried.

  Here is what you'll see inside the restaurant - the layout and tables.  In the back, there is a piano that is available to anyone who can play.  Live music is provided on many Friday and Saturday evenings (check the website's event calendar) and there are also occasional art gallery receptions.

  My wife and I both ordered the Quiche breakfast special, which is a slice of quiche, fresh fruit cup, bread or muffin, and coffee, tea or pop.  I got the bacon quiche and a carrot muffin, while my wife got spinach quiche and a lemon ginger scone.  The quiche was very good, cheesy with a thin and light crust - appropriately cheesy, eggs uniform, and light to medium salty.  My muffin had pieces of carrot and raisin, was very moist and sweet.  My wife said the scone was excellent, and the coffee very good.  They also let us have a taste of what they called "strawberry, cantaloupe & melon soup", which I have to say tasted just like a fruit smoothie to me - good, but not what I'd call a soup.  The only slight negative that I could point to was the fruit cup - one of my pieces of pineapple was obviously the core, and very hard to chew.  I also think the meal might have benefited from some soft classical background music.

  If you like finer dining, you might also be interested in their Tuesday night suppers.  During the month of June, for example, on different nights they featured Native American, Korean, Puerto Rican, Sicilian and Norwegian meals - some prepared by Chef Jim, and others by visiting chefs.  Adults are $20.

address: 8351 N. Main St.  Clayton (on the West side of Main Street, (48)
              in the South side of Randolph Plaza)
hours: Sunday 10AM - 2PM, Mon. - Sat. 8AM - 8:30PM
telephone: 937-890-5250

half price gift certificates (limited number) :
(note: if you have an Entertainment Book 2010, there is a buy 1 get 1 free offer)

Dayton Dining

Update August 15:
  We enjoyed another nice breakfast at this place this weekend.  I found out that next month they are going to be featuring food from Monty Python during one of their nicer evening meals.  Also, check out their "Passport" program.  If you go to one of the special evening dinners, you can get a punch for the continent that meal was from.  Get all the continents punched, and you can go for free to one of the $40 meals they feature every 6 months.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

La Michoacana Restaurant, Dayton

Today for lunch a friend and I tried out La Michoacana restaurant, at 748 Troy Street in Dayton. The main focus of the place is actually a Mexican market - you can get all sorts of items imported from Mexico, such as pop with no corn syrup, miscellaneous snacks, fresh fruits and other items. A couple of months back I had noticed what looked like a renovated Rite Aid or other block store on the East side of Troy street. I'd looked over the menu, but this was the first time since then that I had a chance to stop by.

The inside of the place is bright and colorful, with what appears to be a number of hand painted decorations. After seating ourselves, I found myself looking over at the store racks. My eye was greeted with row upon row of Mexican spices and other items. It sort of made me feel like I was in an old "dry goods store", or something like what you might have found in a frontier town. However, the TV showing the world cup soccer game didn't let that illusion last long. I could hear a bit of Mexican music ever so faintly in the background, but once again - it was overpowered by the soccer match.

It would have taken us longer to pick our meals, but my friend was on his way to a job, and only had about 20 minutes to spare. Therefore, we focused on the "fast food" section of the menu. Meals there ranged from the $1.50 soft tortilla tacos up to the $6.99 tostadas. They also have some mariscos, or seafood items such as shrimp sauteed in garlic butter for $10.99.

My friend ended up ordering the burrito, and I got the Sopes. Both were $5.99. There was a single burrito, but it was huge - probably at least a couple of pounds. My friend got to take a couple of bites, but had to leave soon after. He later called and told me that he ended up eating half of the burrito later, when it was cold, but still gave it an 8 out of 10. He said that half of it filled him up, the ingredients were well mixed, and it was well worth the price. His son gave the other half of the burrito a 10 out of 10.

The sopes were new to me, with 3 on the plate. Imagine, if you will, a thick "tortilla" about about 4" wide, with a concave top, and perhaps 1" thick. I was instantly reminded of those prepackaged strawberry shortcake packs you can buy at the store, at least in shape and color, but not texture and taste. These were salty, not sweet, and had a bit of fiber. (less refined, I believe) Each one was topped with generous amounts of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and a dollop of sour cream. The amounts were so generous that I ended up spilling my food on my clothes twice before taking my own advice and making sure I was leaning over the plate!

Ah, I also forgot to mention that customers have a choice of meat. Choices are steak, beef tongue, dried beef, marinated pork, grilled chicken, beef intestin(e), soft pork, Mexican sausage, beef brain, sking pork, and suadero. My friend chose the steak for his burrito, while I chose beef tongue for my sopes. Tongue and heart have long been some of my favorite meats. You know a Mexican place is more authentic when they have tongue and beef brain as choices. I resolve to try the beef brain the next time I visit, simply because I've never had it before.

Service was good, taking about 9 or 10 minutes from when we ordered until our food arrived. The tortilla chips were not quite as crisp as I expected. Table salsa seemed exceptionally mild at first, surprising me, until after about 8 dips some sort of spiciness finally snuck up on me. On the downside, the server forgot to bring me my drink, and I had to remind her almost halfway through my meal. I did get a couple of small bites of gristle in my meat, which was a first for me while eating beef tongue. It wasn't pervasive, but it was noticeable, so they might need to increase the quality control slightly. Or, it could have just been present in that day's shipment of meat.

If you check the place out, I highly recommend allowing enough time to browse the market aferwards. I love to browse and at least look at new things, if not try them. I ended up getting a bag of 10 limes for $1 - nothing "new", but certainly a good deal. I think I would give my overall experience an 8.5 out of 10. It would have been higher, except for the drink oversight, and the gristle in the meat, so there is a little room for improvement. Overall, it was a satisfactory experience, and I'd go back to try other items if I was in the neighborhood. I'm especially interested in the breakfast menu, which they serve until 1 PM.

La Michoacana Restuarant
748 Troy Street
Telephone: 937-220-9600
please call for hours (I forgot to jot them down)

Here is a coupon I found in a Columbus online coupon website, for 15% off. It specifically mentions the Troy Street Dayton location, so it should be good there,
but no guarantees: (14th from the top - click on it)

If you have an Entertainment Book 2010 membership, there is also a 20% off your entire order coupon online that you can print out and use.

Dayton Dining

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Golden Kitchen (Chinese) Englewood - NW Dayton

The Dayton area has a new Chinese restaurant! I had seen a "coming soon" sign up for several months, and it turns out that Golden Kitchen opened for business just over a month ago, on May 4. At least for now, that likely qualifies The restaurant as the newest Chinese place in town. It is located on the east side of Union Boulevard/Road, right across from Kroger's in Englewood.

If memory serves, I believe that at one time - perhaps 12 years ago - there was a Chinese buffet in the same location that I had enjoyed. However, the last few times I had driven by the area, it had been vacant. It is nice to see a business there again.

Here is a photo of owner and chef Zheng Feng Cai, who I saw busy at work in the kitchen during my visit. He owns another restaurant in Cincinnati, but this is his first in the Dayton area.

I stopped by during the lunch hour, at which point it had been 7 hours since I ate breakfast. Saying I had worked up an appetite would have been an understatement - I was famished. I decided to get takeout for 2, and got the triple delight. This turned out to be a very generous portion of broccoli, snow peas, carrots, bamboo shoots, baby corn, water chestnuts and mushrooms all topped with a salty mild brown sauce. Plus, the dish also had shrimp, beef and chicken. It came with a huge portion of rice on the side, which lets you have the choice between mixing it in with the vegetables, or eating it on its own. It also came with choice of sides, so I got 1 egg roll and 2 crab rangoon. Lunch specials also come with free can of pop. 2 complete meals for under $11!

The inside of the restaurant is a bit spartan, though neat and tidy. There were some oriental decorations along the north wall, and the inside walls had been painted a sort of pastel blue color. There are a total of about 5 or 6 tables inside. The place is certainly not huge, but should be adequate in seating most families.

The vegetables were very firm, but not too crunchy, so I'd say they were done just about right. I did find myself wishing a couple of times that the sauce was slightly thicker, so that it would stick to the vegetables a bit more. However, it was great with the rice after the vegetables were finished. As for the meat, they included a good amount of it, and the shrimp were of a nice size. Beef could have perhaps used a tiny bit more spice, but the chicken was succulent. I think it would have been difficult to spice the different meats different ways without causing some sort of clash in flavors. As it is, this was a healthy, balanced and tasty dish, and a good choice if you find some of the others too hot or spicy for your tastes. Despite the fact that I was truly hungry, I don't think there is any way a person could order this and go away hungry.

The egg roll was very crisp without being burned, and the stuffing was excellent. However, I'm saving my best praise for last - the crab rangoon. I think the crab rangoon were among the best I have ever tasted. Even though I was completely full at that point, I found myself craving a couple more. At far too many Chinese places I've tried, I've found the crab rangoon to be underwhelming - sometimes with a too salty, or even a slightly sour taste to the filling. Another problem is a lack of crab flavor - it is called a "crab" rangoon, after all. The filling in these had a wonderful sweetness that did not overpower, yet still brought to mind the fantastic feeling of wealth that you feel as a child, on halloween, when you get home after trick or treating, and settle down to look over all your goodies. Yes, they're THAT good.

Location: 852 Union Boulevard Englewood, OH 45322
(AKA Union Road, east side across from Kroger, just north of Wenger)
telephone: (937) 836-7020 fax: (937) 836-7280
hours: Sun 11:30-9:30, Mon-Thur 11-9:30, Fri & Sat 11-10:30

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Kohinoor Palace (by Dayton Mall)

For lunch it was a tossup between Greek and Indian food, and we decided to go the Indian route, selecting a place near the Dayton Mall called Kohinoor Palace. It is a small place, but well located.

We decided to try out the lunch buffet for about $9 each. The place was very neat and tidy, but for some reason our shoes were sticking to the floor tiles over near the buffet line. I wasn't sure if this was due to some spilled sauce, or if the floor had been cleaned recently, and that was just some sort of wax or residue.

Service was very good, with the wait staff coming by to keep our water filled up often, though this was not so often as to be intrusive. Water was pretty close to room temperature, so I would have enjoyed it a bit colder. I give them bonus points for having some Indian music playing lightly in the background.

I'll say up front that whenever I eat Indian food, I'm a bit worried that the spices are going to be far too hot for me. I've had a few bad experiences in the past, even when I asked for places to only add half as much spice as normal, and almost couldn't eat the meal. This turned out not to be one of those times, but I probably would have partaken of more if the dips had not been as spicy as they were. What can I say - I can take horseradish hot, but can't seem to stand pepper or a lot of curry heat.

I tried the vegetable pakora, which was a bit dry, spicy and rather like a fried zucchini ball. I did not go back for seconds on that.

My favorite turned out to be the butter chicken sauce, which I thought had almost no spice at first, but then it slowly sneaks up on you. That was very good on the naan. (oven baked flatbread)

The saag paneer (cheesy spinach) was VERY spicy, but yummy. I could tell right up front that this one was hot. Although this was my absolute favorite at another Indian restaurant, this place had probably 3x as much spice in theirs, and I was unable to do more than sample it.

The tandoori chicken (yogurt marinated and spiced chicken roasted at a very high heat) was good, a bit dry, and again - spicy enough that I don't think I could have eaten more than the single piece that I tried.

The chana masala (a sort of garbanzo bean 'gravy', with spices) was tasty on top of the rice, with a very, very slow, building heat. I love just about anything that uses chick peas or garbanzos, but had to set this one aside after the second helping.

Final Thoughts: Kohinoor Palace offers vegetarian and Halal meals. If you like a more authentic, spicy Indian food, this would probably be a good place for you. If you need the spices toned down a bit, you should probably avoid the buffet, and order from the menu with a request to go easy on the spices.

Kohinoor Palace
Location: 39 S. Springboro Pike (International Village, SW corner of 741 & 725 intersection
near the Dayton Mall)
Telephone: (937) 723-9014
hours: Lunch M-F 11:30 to 2:30, Sat. & Sun. Noon to 3
Supper Sun.-Thur. 5pm to 10pm, Fri. & Sat. 5-10:30