Hugo’s Restaurant, Portland, ME., 11/30/19


Hugo’s opened in 1988 and had a major rennovation in 2012.  There are booths along a brick wall, a couple tables by the windows to the street and lots of seats at a curved counter that wraps around the open kitchen.  The lights are quite low (spots highlight each table and the bar) with lots of wood and dark leather upholstery make up the interior.  The tin ceiling, music in the background and decorations made of local organic material finish out the stylish and striking design of the interior.  In fact they strived to make all the interior from materials found in Maine.   The red bricks are from Moose Head Lake, the slate plates from Monson, and a huge painting at the end of the room is by local artist Eric Hopkins. They offer an a la carte menu and also a chef’s tasting of about 10 courses.  The tasting offers items not on the menu and the whole table must participate.  For the tasting they have wine pairings available.  We chose the tasting but ordered our own wine after a cocktail and they did give me a list of what we had after the meal. Continue reading

Geronimo, Santa Fe, 11/1/19


Geronimo is a large place in an old building spread over several rooms.  The tables are fairly close and set with white cloths and napkins.  The lighting is lowered, music is in the background, candles are on the tables and in the old fireplaces, art and mirrors decorate the walls and bench seating is on some walls.  There is a room with a bar at the front of the place with a couple tables and bar seating, but it was quite crowded when we got there.  They offer an a la carte menu or a vegetarian tasting, that has optional wine pairings.   They also had some nightly specials.  Service was helpful, extremely friendly and well paced. Continue reading

Canlis, Seattle, 11/9/19


Canlis is a large place on a hill overlooking Seattle.  The interior and view from the windows is spectacular.  The interior is filled with stone and wood with windows along many sides to enjoy the view.  The tables are on different levels so all can look out.  The well spaced good sized tables are covered with white clothes and matching napkins.  Lighting is lowered and live piano music is in the background.  The piano is in the bar which is the first part of the building and short barriers provide privacy as well as good sound dampening, but the lovely sounds surrounds all.  The menu is a fixed price for 4 course with a 20% service charge added to all bills.  Each of the 4 courses has 5 choices.  Service was excellent, attentive without being intrusive and the meal pacing was good – not too fast or too slow.  Portion control was also good. Continue reading

Matt’s in the Market (update), Seattle, 11/9/19


It’s been 2 years since we visited Matt’s in the Market across form Pike Place Market.  The nice sized bare wood tables are set with paper napkins and fairly well spaced considering that the place is not that large.  At lunch they did have a couple specials to supplement the a la carte menu as well as wine specials (but they couldn’t locate any of the bottles).  Music is in the background, 2 sides of the place are windows and an open kitchen is in one corner of the space.  They have been there 24 years and prior to they were in a smaller space.  The food is wonderful and the service friendly and efficient.

sign on the stairs

Continue reading

Willows Inn (update), Lummi Island, 11/8/19

dining room

It’s been about 2 years since we visited Willows Inn and this time it was late fall as opposed to summer.  The physical place hasn’t changed but the fall means shorter days and disrupts the view from the dining room.  It also means you can’t have the starter courses outside on the porch and instead everyone piled into the area by a large fireplace with seating being very varied.   Some were on benches, some sat at the bar on stools and there were a couple of sets of chairs by small tables, which I preferred.  The lighting was much darker as the room only was lit by candles and the fire – and that also made it quite warm.  Otherwise the system is pretty much the same.  You start with a series of snacks and then move into seafood and then protein to dessert.  It seemed like a lighter menu this time.   The dining room had just 12 tables with a painted wood  ceiling, narrow planked wood floor, music in the background with a sliding door to the kitchen at one end of the room.  In an adjacent room was a larger table for 6. Continue reading

Kate’s Greek & American, Everett, WA./ 11/8/19


Kate’s Greek & American restaurant is a medium sized colorful place on a busy street near lots of shops.  Booths are on two long sides of the space with tables in the middle.  The chairs are mostly different as are the table cloths.  Windows to the street are on one end and the kitchen and prep area are opposite that.  Above there were 2 large boards with the specials on them.  Lots of art is on the walls and much of it was for sale.  They serve only breakfast and lunch, both all day.  The server was really friendly and offered good advice when ordering. Continue reading

The Compound, Santa Fe, 11/3/19


The Compound is a large old building with the sign on Canyon Road, but you have to walk/drive down a little ways.  The adobe structure is made up of several rooms with one room having a wavy plaster ceiling and another having squares of different colors.  (One of the fun features is the painted snake that runs over the waves of plaster.)  The walls hold lots of art and press coverage for this long running restaurant that opened over 50 years ago.  Chef/Owner Mark Kiffin has run the place almost 20 years and won the James Beard Best Chef in the Southwest award in 2005.  Music is in the background, the lighting is lowered and the white clothed tables are widely spaced.  Bench seating is around some of the walls which is opposite the comfortable chairs on the other side of the table.  Service was excellent with good pacing.  The menu is all a la carte. Continue reading

Cafe Pasqual, Santa Fe, 11/3/19


Cafe Pasqual is almost an institution in Santa Fe.  They don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait an hour for a table.  They have a list that you get on at the door and they call your name when it’s your turn to enter the medium sized place.  The tile walls add to the colorful interior that is decorated with lace things hanging from the ceiling and t-shirts and calendars.  There is a large communal table in the center of the downstairs and a few tables are up a couple steps at the front of the place.  At the front counter they have desserts to go but also sell many souvenirs.  Tables are of unvarnished wood, there is music in the background and the floor is wood and tile.  Tables are closely set and relatively small and set with paper napkins.  Service is efficient but it takes a while as the crowd is pretty much non-stop.  When we ate there years ago the food seemed worth the wait but now I’m not sure I’d wait again for it.  It was good, it just didn’t have the soul that some of the other New Mexican spots we visited. Continue reading

Market Steer Steakhouse, Santa Fe, 11/2/19


Market Steer Steakhouse is in the St. Francis Hotel in downtown Santa Fe.  It is a good sized room and has an additional entrance if you don’t want to cut through the hotel. The bare wood square tables are set with room to get between the large chairs and there are a couple booths along one wall.  At the end of the room is a stone wall with a large mantle and fireplace.  Windows to the street occupy 2 other sides of the room.  The floor is a wide plank wood one and the noise level was fairly high.  They had been open just over a year when we visited.  They serve all prime beef that has been age 24 days and it looked to be a success, as it was busy.  It’s interesting that 2 women run the place,  Executive Chef and co-owner if Kathleen Crook and General Manage and co-owner is Kristina Goode.   Everything is a la carte, so with your steak you can order separate sauces and all vegetables are by separate order.  Service was helpful and friendly. Continue reading

Palacio Cafe, Santa Fe, 11/2/19


Palacio Cafe is a small family run place.  Windows to the street bring in lots of light to the colorful room.  Art is on the walls and a counter is opposite the street windows for service and pass through to the kitchen.  Some tables were also out front if weather cooperates.  Music was in the background, plants were hanging from the ceiling that had wood logs crossing it – the room had a good feel.  Service was efficient, friendly and the portions generous.  The food was well seasoned, not fancy but really good. Continue reading

La Choza, Santa Fe, 11/1/19


La Choza is the sister restaurant of the ever popular The Shed, located in the old town square.  La Choza is out of town but not a bad distance and way less crowded, but plenty of people still are there.  They have their own parking lot behind the adobe building.  The dining areas take up several rooms and there is also a large bar area.  Beams of wood line the ceilings and colorful art adorns the walls.   The tables are bare wood, there are lots of windows to the outside and a large variety of tequila, margaritas and mezcales to chose from as well as draft beers.  Service is friendly, efficient and helpful.  Portions are large and the food is wonderful, with a good amount of flavor and texture in every bite. Continue reading

Restaurant Bel Etage, Basel, 10/26/19

exterior of hotel

Bel Etage is the one Michelin Star restaurant on the second floor of the Der Teufelhof Hotel.   It is made up of several rooms of well spaced tables covered with ecru cloths and coordinating striped napkins.  Windows to the street were in the room which had a lovely old wood floor and crystal chandeliers.  No music is in the background and the rooms are mostly quiet except for the creaking of the old floors.  Lots of art adorns the walls.  Service was not polished but mostly friendly and English was limited.  They never re-offered the bread tray and didn’t pick up some dropped flatware that was on the floor. They offered 3 different tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu.  Wine pairings are available as well a a liquor of the month.  We thought the smallest tasting sounded best and so chose it and our own bottle of wine. Continue reading

Restaurant Hasenburg, Basel, 10/26/19


Hasenburg was in a small old building with lots of wood on the walls with art above and a newish brick floor.  The bare wood tables were spaced closely and set with paper placemats and napkins.  Windows to the busy street were on one wall and no music was in the background.  Service was friendly and efficient.  They offered a lunch menu, even on Saturday, or offer their regular menu items.  We ordered off their regular menu and the food was simple but delicious.  It was really busy and they do have a couple outdoor tables. Each entree came with a house salad and sliced bread. Continue reading

Restaurant Stucki – Tanja Grandits, Basel, 10/25/19


Tanja Grandits or as it was called Stucki is spread over several rooms in a large mansion in a residential neighborhood of Basel.  The restaurant was named for Hans Stuki who opened it in the 1960s and ran it until passing away in 1998.  Chef Tanja Grandits took over in 2008 and has since obtained a 2 Michelin Star rating.  It is a modern looking place inside with gray walls and carpet.  The good sized tables are well spaced and set with white clothes and napkins.  There were votive candles and small flowers on the table but both had broken blooms included.  The lighting was slightly softened and the windows to the outside were covered with drapes.  There was no music in the background and the room had a small center service table.  They serve only a tasting menu of 8 or 12 courses and offer wine pairings as well as non-alcoholic pairings.   We got the longer tasting and ordered our own wines.  Pacing was awful, starting really slow, speeding up and then moving to painfully slow but portion control was good. Continue reading

Roots, Basel, 10/25/19


Roots is a large place located down by the waterfront.  The fairly well spaced pedestal tables were covered by white cloths and appointed with bench seating opposite chairs.  The room is filled with art and signs with funny statements about food and beverage.  Music was in the background and the room was well lit but there were 3 sides full of windows.  You can watch the boats and joggers go by.  There is a patio but no one was out there the day we went.  They have been in this location for 2 years and already have one Michelin Star.  At lunch the offered a business lunch of 2 or 3 courses offering options from the dinner menu and a ‘rootilicious lunch’ of 3 to 4 courses.  They had specials on wines by the glass to go with the menus.   We chose the business lunch and some of their wine by the glass.  The pours were small.   Service was effecient and friendly and the chef did come out but he did not visit with every table. Continue reading

St. Alban Stübli, Basel, 10/24/19


St. Alban Stübli is a small place that has been in business for 2 years and is very popular.  It is in a building that is more than 100 years old with bench seating along 2 of the wood walls.  The double cloth covered tables were of various sizes and set with medium starched matching napkins.  The painted white wood ceiling added to the light in the room as well as windows to the street on one wall.  No music is in the background but with the number of people there was a low hum, however conversation was very easy.  We were lucky to get a server that spoke good English.  At lunch they offered a special meal or menu of 2 or 3 courses, with 2 choices for each course.  We chose the 3 course menu but picked different options.  The food here is simple but very good and the staff was exceptionally friendly.  I would recommend it. Continue reading

Restaurant Les Quatre Saisons, Basel, 10/23/19

outside entrance

Les Quatre Saisons is a one Michelin star restaurant in the Pullman Hotel.  The hotel is lovely as is the restaurant dining room.  The large room is filled with well spaced, good sized tables that are covered with nice cloths and large well starched matching napkins and set with comfortable stuffed chairs.  Brown wood cabinets are along some of the perimeter and from the ceiling hang many large chandeliers covered with concentric circles of strung beads that provide a nice amount of light.  There are less than 15 tables, faint music is in the background (in fact it was really quiet), some of the floor has carpet but tile is around the edge and the walls are decorated with mirrors.   The menu offers a la carte options and vegetarian and degustation tastings.  The staff spoke great English.  We chose the degustation menu and the pacing was very slow but portion was control good, that tended toward large.   Continue reading

Brasserie Les Trois, Basel, 10/23/19

hotel exterior

Brasserie is the casual restaurant in the Les Trois Rois Hotel.  It is a good sized L-shaped place with one wall made up of windows overlooking the Rhine River. Another wall has murals painted on it to back up a long bench seat.  Music is in the background and the nicely spaced tables are covered in a double ecru cloth and matching napkins.  The room was lovely and peaceful to watch the various sizes of boats go by.  At lunch they offered an a la carte menu as well as a 2-3 course menu with glasses of wine to go with the plates.  We chose the lunch 3 plate menu and got glasses of their featured wine.  Each course had several options to chose from.  Service was friendly, helpful and the server spoke great English. Continue reading

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, New York City, 10/17/19


We went for dim sum to Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a no frills place with plastic coated menus.  It has a long history, first opening in 1920 and moving to the present location in 1968.  It has had several movies and TV shows film segments there.  A paper ticket is given to each table where you mark off the dishes you want to receive and they bring them out as they’re ready. The large tables are formica and set with good space between and there a few booth tables.  One side of the room is a service area and the kitchen is in another room.  Windows to the street form one wall of the room.  It is an old looking place but clean with an old tin ceiling , an old tile floor  and there are lots of coat hooks on the interior columns and booth dividers.  Photos and framed reviews decorate the walls.  No music is in the background but you can hear the sound of an exhaust fan.  They do offer wine and beer as well as a selection of teas.  Tables are set with some condiments but interestingly enough there didn’t seem to be any pepper in oil sauce. Continue reading

Rezdôra, New York City, 10/16/19


Rezdôra is a small, really crowded place with bare wood closely set small tables.  Music is in the background, lighting is really low and the noise level is high.  Walls are brick and the wood cross-hatched ceiling is lowered.  A few dried flowers make up the decorations.  Even with a reservation we had to wait 45 minutes for our table and there were no seats at the bar.  They did give us a glass of Lambrusco but it was a long time to wait, standing with little space to be in.  They are a hot ticket right now but if they don’t manage it better, they won’t be for long.  There is one dining room on the entry level that has the bar counter on one side and bench seating on the opposite wall fitted with lots of small tables.  Up a few stairs there was another really small room with tables in it.  The menu offers Italian food and a regional pasta tasting (5 pastas) with optional wine pairings and a couple nightly specials.  While that was a tempting option we chose to order our own choices and bottles of wine.  Portions are small and the pacing of the meal was really rushed (so why the long wait?). Continue reading

Gramercy Tavern (update), New York City, 10/16/19


It’s been 5 years since we ate at Gramercy Tavern Dining Room, a large 2 room place fronted by the Gramercy Bar.  The dining room offers a tasting menu as well as a la carte and takes reservations whereas the bar is snacks and no reservations.  It is far more relaxed in the one Michelin star elegant dining room with lots of seasonal flowers decorating the white cloth covered tables set with large white napkins, lowered lighting and soft jazz music in the background.  Lots of art is in the room as well as nicely padded seating and wide plank wood floors.  Excellent friendly service attends the customers and they were willing to make some changes to the tasting menu which was our choice for the lunch.  Pacing of the tasting was spot on and portion control was great.  The food is wonderful as was the total experience there.  Don’t know why I waited so long to go back.  I recommend it. Continue reading

Atomix, New York City 10/15/19


Atomix is a tasting menu only for 14 people at a lower level u-shaped counter.  It has only been open one year and was recently elevated to a 2 Michelin star rating.  The lighting is lowered in the room and small spots shine on the granite counter and light wood ceiling and walls.  The bar is upstairs where you enter and then down the stairs is a small lounge area.  Modern music plays in the background.  Each course is presented with a corresponding card that talks about the dish and has an illustration associated with it.  The dishes have a Korean influence and wine pairings are available.  The menu changes 4 times a year.  Without knowing what was to be served we opted to try the pairings for the meal.  The service was pleasant (there seemed to be more staff than guests), portioning light and pacing moved along nicely but I never got a commrodery at the counter.  Explanations are more from the cards than the staff and while I found the dishes artistic, precise and thoughtful they were mostly on the bland side of things but with very clean tastes. Continue reading

Via Carota, New York, 10/15/19


Via Carota is a good sized place that takes no reservations so be prepared to wait.  When you arrive check in with the front person to get on the list.  They have some outdoor seating but that was surrounded by scaffolding while we were there. There are a lot of seats at the long inside bar/counter as well as a couple other rooms off the main one which can also accommodate larger groups.  Inside are brick walls, steel columns, wood flooring, tin ceiling and bare wood tables set with paper runners and cloth napkins.  The wood chairs at the closely set small tables have an opening on the back where the menus are stored.  Some interesting light fixtures add light to the well lit room which has one wall of windows to the street.   Wine bottles serve as decorations and a long center table shows off dessert options.  Despite the room being packed and many hard surfaces the noise level was not a big problem.   They have 2 uni-sex bathrooms.  The menu was supplemented by a couple daily specials presented by the server.  The name comes from the name of the street where one of the chefs was born.  Don’t be deterred by the wait – the food it well worth it! Continue reading

Petra and the Beast (update), Dallas, 9/28/19

Frankie checked the herb in the cocktail

It’s been a year since we tried the tasting menu offered only on Saturday nights. The rest of the week they serve off a chalkboard menu.  Reservations for the tasting are hard to come by, there is a waiting list for most every one of them, since the little restaurant and Chef Misti Norris have been getting lots of critical acclaim and notice in national publications.  The interior has added more tables and seats.  The little alcove that was the cocktail stand now contains tables too.  This is good for the public but it does create a lot more noise in the interior that makes conversation difficult and hard to hear any presentation by the server.  Water is still provided but if you want wine or other flavored beverage with your meal you need to bring your own.  They have opened up a few more parking spaces in an adjacent lot but a lot of guests appeared to be dropped off by a car service.  In general my impression was that the food had less intense flavor than the last visit but everything was good it just didn’t cross over to the great that I had first sensed.  I got more of that intensity when visiting other nights but the service is far less refined with most dishes being presented in plastic coated cardboard boxes. Continue reading

Restaurant Haerlin, Hamburg, 9/21/19


entrance from hotel

Haerlin is one large dining room right off the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in Hamburg. Ecru floor length cloths drape the good sized tables that are set with matching napkins and stuffed armchairs.  Music is in the background of this elegant room.  Windows overlook the street outside on one end of the room.  While the setting was nice the service was stiff and cold.  (They were most upset when we poured our own wine but they continually passed the table and left our glasses empty.  They actually took away one of the empty glasses with the bottle still half full.)  Even with a 2 star Michelin rating it was not a particularly comfortable atmosphere unless you wanted to pose.  They offered 2 tasting menus and wine pairings are available for each, but do not pair wine with each course.  We chose the “Big Palate Party” and ordered out own wines.  Pacing was on the slower side but portion control was good.  Overall the food was on the bland side even with a lot of ingredients on the plate and the dishes chosen often proved to be distracting/clashing to the food presented.  On the table was a card holder where they would place a written description of what you are having.  It was a nice touch. Continue reading

Tschebull Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/21/19


Tschebull spans several rooms and is upstairs in a building of small shops.  It has a large bar area with bare wood tables where you can eat.  The main restaurant in in one of the rooms and has white tablecloths and monogrammed red tone cloth napkins.  Lots of antlers, animal heads and horse pictures serve as decorations and there are windows overlooking the busy street below.  The dining room has bench seating around the edges and facing them are padded armless chairs.  Some faint music was in the background and the wood floor was made from narrow short pieces of wood.   They offered a menu of mostly traditional Austrian food.   Continue reading

Louis C. Jacob Restaurant, Hamburg, 9/20/19


Louis C. Jacob Restaurant is in the hotel of the same name.  It is an elegant large room overlooking the water in the small boutique hotel and has a rating of 2 Michelin stars.  The building dates to the 1700’s with the last major renovation in 1990’s.  The restaurant had one star by 1995 and its second in 1997.  The building has always been a restaurant or bar.  The beautiful hard wood floor is set off by two massive crystal chandeliers overhead.  Sage green velvet arm chairs are at the white cloth covered tables and gray plush velvet chairs are at the bare polished wood tables.  All the large tables are nicely spaced and set with well starched large cloth napkins. Service was excellent and most of the staff were very conversant in English.  Music is in the background.  They offer two tasting menus, 4 or 6 courses, with pairings offered and a la carte. Most of the a la carte dishes were available to substitute on the tasting but there could be a surcharge.  We chose the longer tasting and ordered our own wines. Continue reading

Restaurant Cox, Hamburg, 9/20/19


Cox is a long place with many rooms on different levels.  The white cloth covered tables are additionally covered with paper tops and large paper napkins.  Nice bench seating lines various walls for the closely set tables to pair with wood chairs.  Jazz music plays in the background and empty dark wine bottles are used as wall decorations.  Windows to the street are on one end of the room and wall sconces provide plenty of light for the tables set further back in the restaurant.  They serve traditional German food and at lunch have a changing daily special and an a la carte menu.  Portions were generous but not to the point they stuffed you.   Continue reading

The Table Kevin Fehling, Hamburg, 9/19/19


The Table Kevin Fehling can accomodate a couple dozen people whose arrival times are slightly staggered.  Inside the non-descript brick building is a modern interior with a serpentine bar for seating and high ceilings.  There is a small balcony that overlooks the dining room where guests can have cocktails prior to being seated.  Shades of gray dominate the room with colored pieces curling off the ceiling that are not only striking but also provide sound dampening. Spot lighting keeps each seat well lit while the room lights are dimmed.  The walls are concrete and the open kitchen is the focal point.  Art and flowers provide some softness for the interior.  They serve only a tasting menu and all guests have the same thing, except where allergies don’t permit.  The menu changes one course every 3 months.  Wine pairings (pours looked generous) are available.  The pacing of the meal was great as was the portion control.   They present you with a copy of the menu at the end to take with you.  The staff all spoke great English and were quite friendly.  The restaurant has been awarded a 3 Michelin star rating. Continue reading

Fischereihafen, Hamburg, 9/19/19


Fischereihafen has been in business for 60 years.  It overlooks the port and feels very ‘old school’.  The food is simple yet tasty and satisfying.  The service was friendly and efficient with limited English.   The large place spans many rooms, most of it on the second level of the waterfront building.  The walls are painted dark red and lots of windows capture the view.  Many paintings are on the walls along with old photos of people who had been there.  The good sized tables were closely set and covered with a double white cloths and set with well starched napkins.  They offer a large menu and at lunch a special 3 course meal (which was only on the German menu), which we chose.  Otherwise, it is all a la carte.   Continue reading