Cosmo’s Bar and Restaurant, Dallas, 9/29/20 and 10/10/20

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Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar (1212 Skillman St., Dallas, 75206, <cosomosbar.net>) is a medium sized neighborhood lounge that has been in business for years.  My understanding is that it started as a bar with a small pizza kitchen and several years ago the manager/chef Jackson Tran (now part owner) wanted to expand the menu with Vietnamese specialties from his family, to see how that would impact business.  It was a terrific idea that has really caught on with more than just the locals.  It’s a small kitchen so food may take a bit of time but while you wait there is a full bar with well made drinks.   The interior has lots of vintage furniture and decorations.  They were ready for Halloween the evening we went.  The heavily tinted windows to the street along one wall keep it dark inside even before sunset.  Tables are well spaced and there is hanging plexiglass between seating areas.  A large u-shaped bar has spaced stools for eating and/or drinking.  Music was in the background and there was a patio.  Besides the tasty Vietnamese items the menu features pizzas.  Unfortunately the night we were there they were out of the Beef Pho, but I will definitely go back to try it and some of the other things on the menu.  Service was friendly, helpful and well masked. Continue reading

Snake River Grill, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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Snake River Grill was founded in 1993 and is a large place that offers spaced indoor seating (recently opened) and a couple of options for outdoor dining (as long as weather permits).  All the seating is on the second level with one patio directly adjacent to the indoor area and the other on a large rooftop across some stairs, but it’s covered by a tent and has heaters.  Inside you get the full ambiance of the place’s Western decor with the log walls, the candles hanging from antlers, skin wrapped light fixtures and a ceiling defined by logs and held up with log columns.  The lighting is lowered and carpet is on the floor.  The tables are well distanced and covered with white clothes and diners are given a matching cloth napkin once they’re seated.   Some of the tables have bench seating to match the un-cushioned wood chairs.   A bar is immediately in front of the entry, no music is in the background but there is lots of conversational hum and there are many windows on the walls of the various rooms. Service was slow to start but then was nicely paced and very friendly with helpful opinions.  Reservations are needed and to get a good time you need to do that at least a month ahead. Continue reading

Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar opened in 1937 and is a landmark in Jackson, WY.  Everything I read about the place suggested you just have a drink and see the interior.  It is famous for the seats at the bar which are real horse saddles, complete with under blanket.  Our server said they were cute but she couldn’t sit and drink on them.  There are no reservations and often a line, but we went off hour and there was still a wait to get a saddle stool but you could have a table right away.  We opted for a table.  The place has lots of live music which thankfully wasn’t playing when we were there but recorded music filled the room.  There are Western decorations everywhere including stuffed animals, a huge round moving scene light, horns, and pictures.  The tables are divided by large wood pieces and tables are distanced now as well as some saddles are covered.  The pool tables were covered.  It is a place to see if you’re in town but not a peaceful place to drink and talk. Continue reading

Persephone Bakery, Jackson, WY., 9/11/20

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Persephone was a really popular place, that served excellent baked goods, coffee and sandwiches.  You line up to make your order and then can take it with you or eat at one of the tables on the outside patio.  There were tables inside but no one sat there.  We wanted to get stuff to take with us during our drive through the national park and so placed our order online and they gave us a time when we could pick it up at a separate window around the side.    They serve only breakfast foods until 10:30 after which they do offer lunch salads and sandwiches.  They also offer pre-packaged cookies, teas and other foods.  We scoped out the order counter one day and ordered from them the next day.  Later we got some cinnamon brioche to eat in the hotel the next morning but they did not work out as well as our other orders.  I don’t know if they came dry or just turned that way being held overnight.  Either way they found their way to the trash rather than our stomachs. Continue reading

Trio An American Bistro, Jackson, WY., 9/10/20

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Trio opened in 2005 by the two chefs that also operate Local.  They serve a seasonal menu with nightly specials in a relaxed atmosphere.  They have a number of specialty cocktails and cook primarily in a wood-fired oven.  It is a good sized place with the blond wood bare tables well spaced by taking the 2-top tables, setting them with candles and using them as spacers.  Therefore everyone gets a nice size table which are set with lovely large linen napkins.  One end of the very modern room is an open kitchen, with plexiglas in front of it.  There are seats at the bar in front and some tables outside.  Bench seats run along the walls with very comfy seating.  No-arm blond wood chairs are on the other side.  Art is on the wall and it’s for sale.  Music is in the background.  Eating outside is preferable regarding the virus but the inside here is very lovely and very well done, so I would chose sitting inside.  Service was really friendly, opinionated and timing was very nice. Continue reading

Glorietta, Jackson, WY., 9/9/20

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Glorietta is an Italian Trattoria with a focus on housemade pasta and wood-fired cooking.  Located in the Anvil Hotel they offer both indoor and patio seating.  Inside the medium room the tables have a lot of space between them, which is good for slowing the spread of virus but leaves the room feeling empty.  The focal point of the room is the large bar with the kitchen and wood burning fire behind it and another seating bar in front of it.  They finally seated someone at the front bar but without much overhang it looked pretty uncomfortable.  The floor is tiled, the ceiling is painted wood and bench seating is on many walls to match up with chairs on the other side of the good sized tables.  The bare wood tables are set with a large cloth napkin and lighting is lowered, but there are a number of windows in the room so that is only an issue after the sun sets.  Service was friendly but rushed.  We wanted to try a number of things and I specifically asked that it not be served on top of the last one but it was.  In fact the main plates came out before all the appetizer plates were cleared.  I realized with limited seating they want to turn the tables quickly but in these times we must find a way to make the experience pleasurable for the diner and profitable for the restaurant. Continue reading

Irene’s, New Orleans, 2/22/20

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Irene’s opened in 1993 and gradually expanded to 3 rooms over time.  Owner Irene DiPietro from Noto, Sicily is still active with the place but now her son Nicholas Scalco does most of the cooking.  In 2018 it moved to a new, much larger location on Bienville because of a problem with the lease on the original location.  It had been a hard table to get because of its size but delicious food made you try.  Going now to this location was a different feel.  There are about 5 eating areas, depending if you call the large bar area one.  Music is in the background, mostly old rock and despite the small rooms the noise level can be loud.  The small tables are set with white clothes and napkins and the lighting is lowered.    Walls, some of which are red, have lots of decorative items.  Our room had red paint on the top and wood below, an open beam ceiling, a fireplace and tile floor.  The service was very friendly but it was a little slow in getting our meal started and then moved quite rapidly, bringing the main plates out before appetizers were finished.  It didn’t lend itself to a relaxed fine dining feel.  The menu had a special entree and appetizer as well as a changing soup.  All is a la carte. Continue reading

Brennan’s (update), New Orleans, 2/22/20

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We had lunch at Brennan’s in Dec. 2016 in their garden room but this time we were in one of the front dining rooms for brunch.   It feels more formal in this room where the walls are decorated with oyster plates and audubon prints.  The cloth covered tables are set fairly close and some of the seating is banquette style.  It is a huge place and located across from the police station in the French Quarter.  Service was friendly but not particularly efficient.  The menu  is a la carte but they do offer a 2 course special with 2 choices for each of the courses.  We chose that option with a couple side dishes for our meal.  For drinks they had a special drink of the day that was strawberries, sparkler and something as well as several wines by the glass and half bottles.  They also had some good prices on what they called “breakfast bubbles” and we chose a bottle of that to go with out meal.

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Sylvain, New Orleans, 2/21/20

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Sylvain is named after the first opera done in New Orleans which was a raucous comedy and they wanted to emulate that in their atmosphere.  Located just off Jackson Square it is  in a late 1700’s carriage house in the French Quarter.  It has one long dining room that ends in windows to the street out front and some patio seating in the back.  Inside there is a long bar where guests can eat and/or drink.  Small bare wood tables are set with a variety of chairs and the distressed concrete walls are decorated with art.  The lighting is lowered, there is music in the background and the floor is very old wood.  They specialize in southern style food and lots of cocktails.  It was a lively crowd but service was a bit slow.  We started with Sazeracs which were well made but took a while to get to the table.  In fact they didn’t get to the table before we started to order including wine and almost cancelled their order because the timing was off for the meal but they did arrive and everything moved forward at a leisurely pace. Continue reading

Doris Metropolitan, New Orleans, 2/20/20

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Doris Metropolitan has two other locations, Houston and Costa Rica, besides this location in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  The climate controlled meat aging room can be seen from the street through some windows.  It also is adjacent to the reception area that is on the end of the room which has the kitchen on the other end.  In between is a curved bar that is as much about eating as drinking.  At the front of the kitchen is a counter with cuts of meat for sale by the pound.  Lights are on but not overly so and music plays in the background.  The fairly large polished wood  tables are closely spaced and set with striped cloth napkins and a large paper napkin.  The server said the paper napkin was so your flatware would never have to be on the bare table.  Some of the tables use bench seating and others are set with armless chairs.  Wine bottles and art cover the walls, the floor is concrete, there is exposed ductwork all of which does not provide much sound dampening.  Service was friendly and helpful in making choices.  A starter menu included a choice of caviar and champagne.  The regular menu has a number of starters but for main dishes there were lamb and fish options but otherwise everything was cuts of beef.  They do offer A-5 Japanese Wagyu as well as there regular steak options aged either 21 or 31 days.  They also had some nightly specials. Continue reading

Taberna Malvasía, Granada, 1/25/20

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Taberna Malvasía is a small place with a “L” shaped bar counter and a couple of small high top tables and wall counters.   Opening in September 2016, it is a very stylish place with sound board on the ceiling mounted in various shapes, a distressed wood floor, some stone walls and one wall featuring bottles of wine.  Beer is on tap but this seemed to cater much more to wine drinkers.  The kitchen was tiny but turned out some really fine food.  We enjoyed several free tapas with our glasses of wine but also bought a couple plates that sounded too good to pass up and I’m really glad we did.  Everything was really well done and the atmosphere is relaxing and sophisticated.  The owner, Miguel Vázquez,  was at the bar and spoke great English.  He was super friendly and glad to talk about the qualities of the different wines he had by the glass. Continue reading

Rosario Varela, Granada, 1/25/20

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Rosario Varela was a large tapa bar.  There were some outdoor tables as well as a ton of spaces inside to enjoy drink and food.  There were a few seats at the long bar but lots of little alcoves and assorted tables to accommodate people.  The walls were covered with decorations of interest and the staff was pretty friendly.  We got there when they first opened and so weren’t too busy yet, but our destination around the corner wasn’t open yet.  We didn’t stay long but it was a comfortable place to enjoy a glass and a snack.  It seemed to cater mostly to a younger  crowd and it was packed when we walked back by later.  With our glass of wine they served a little chicken salad sandwich on a soft roll with some lettuce as a garnish.  It was tasty and well seasoned. Continue reading

Restaurante La Farala, Granada, 1/24/20

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Restaurante La Farala is on the second story of a building that has a Flamenco club on the first floor.   They have been open one and a half years.  Music is in the background and the lighting has a yellow tint to it.  The polished bare wood tables are set with a gray or black stone placemats and a contrasting white or black napkin. Bench seats are along the walls for some of the closely set tables and others are free standing with just chairs.  Several large square columns divide the room and one wall had some heavily draped windows overlooking the street.  The floor is a nice wood plank and the ceiling had some recessed portions.  The show downstairs was over so there was no noise from there but seating is available when the shows are on and in that case there is another way to enter the restaurant.  The menu offers a la carte items and 3 tastings of different sizes.  Optional wine pairings are available.  We ordered the middle size menu and our own wine.  The waiter said the longer menu would take over 3 hours and you should be really hungry with it. Continue reading

Bar Los Diamantes, Granada, 1/24/20

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This Bar Los Diamantes was just as busy as the other we visited but had a different vibe.  The people were packed around the bar and at the shelves across from there.  Near the entrance were a couple high top tables and the people at the bar would just pass the drinks and food over to the guests that were further than the arm at the bar could reach.  It was a symphony of service from the bartenders who kept the small beer glasses floating in an ice water bath and pulled them from there to fill your beer from the tap.  They were filling and passing as fast as they could move.  It was lively and friendly and really fun.  Also the tapas were all really good.  This place like the other Diamantes, specializes in seafood and it was all remarkably fresh and perfectly cooked.   Continue reading

Bodegas Castañeda, Granada, 1/24/20

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Bodegas Castañeda is an old school tapa bar that serves mostly Manzanilla sherry or Spanish vermouth.  Upon arrival you immediately notice the large barrels stacked behind the bar that have taps to partake of their fortified wines.  We sampled from one of casks and it came served on ice.  The  long place is dominated by a matching wood bar set with stools.  There are a couple small tables next to the windows and lots of standing room at the bar and around the room.  The other end of the bar features a number of hanging hams.  It was a less frantic atmosphere with people drinking, eating and visiting with one another.   With our glass came a free tapa of Spanish rice and meat  mixed with vegetables.  It was topped with a slice of light but crusty bread.  The well cooked risotto style rice dish was nicely seasoned and studded with small bits of meat and well cooked vegetables melded into the mix.  It was a  fun stop. Continue reading

la Fábula, Granada, 1/23/20

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La Fábula was in the Hotel Villa Oniria and has had the same chef for 10 years.  The 10 large tables were widely spaced and draped with white clothes and set with napkins embroidered with the restaurant name.  There were lots of banquet seats opposite the well stuffed armless chairs.  Carpet and sound panels in the ceiling assured that conversations would be private and noise level would remain low, even with music in the background.  Cute decorations were on each table instead of the standard flower or candle.  Lighting was lowered but it was not dark.  Staff were super friendly, spoke great English and could easily talk about each dish.  The menu offered a la carte options as well as a tasting menu that had an optional addition of 4 more courses.  Wine pairings were available for both sizes of tasting.   We chose the smaller tasting and ordered our own wines.  The meal had good pacing and portion control. Continue reading

La Botillería Granada, Granada, 1/23/20

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La Botilleria was a larger place with a long counter, tables and tables outside.  They obviously serve lots of wine as there were corks everywhere – in tables, in old register – but they also served beer and mixed drinks.  It was a much more laid back atmosphere with out the bustle.  We only had one drink here and with it got a chicken on cous cous dish.  It was covered with a lovely curry sauce.  The chicken was not dry and the fish filled with flavor.  A good experience and nice atmosphere.  With the chicken they also brought a dish of olives.

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Bar Los Diamantes II, Granada, 1/23/20

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There are several locations of the Los Diamantes tapas bar, but they all specialize in seafood and have different atmospheres.  This one was a little larger and brightly lit. As with most of the tapa bars in Granada, the place serves you food with each round of drinks.  It had different age groups but most all were drinking beer.  They had the small glasses lined up on the counter filled with ice water.  When you order a beer they pour that ice water in another glass and run the beer into the chilled glass.  The beers come in 2 sizes but you’re best to order small ones because you get the same food whether you have a large or small pour.  This place didn’t have a lot of decorations it mostly was decorated with tons of people at the long counter.  There were a few high top tables in the large part of the room and people gathered about them.  Along the narrow hall to the bathroom were a few wall shelves and people were there too.  The crowd came and went constantly but the pace was always busy and fast. Continue reading

Taberna La Tana, Granada, 1/23/20

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Taberna La Tana is a small wine centered tapa bar.  It serves beer but is obviously about the wine when one wall is covered in bottles.  There were a few seats at the counter and some seats to go with little wall ledges. It was packed and seemed to draw an older crowd.  The staff were friendly and willing to talk about the wines by the glass that they served.  Besides the wine there were lots of things hanging on the walls.  A small service area was behind the bar and the kitchen was off to the side.  As with most tapa bars in Granada, they had a menu but people just wait to see what they get with each round of drinks. Continue reading

damasqueros Restaurante, Granada, Spain, 1/22/20

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Damasqueros has been open about 12 years and serves only a tasting menu.  They do offer wine pairings with 2 levels of choice.  We bought our own bottles of wine but I did see the pours for other tables and they looked fairly slight.  The 10 small tables in the room are draped with a shorter brown cloths over a longer ecru one with beige embossed napkins.  The light leather benches that are set along one wall are interesting in that they are individual for each table instead of being one long bench.  The wood walls go with the partial wood ceiling  and one wall that has wood cubes to store wine.  One wall is glass with a door to the street however that is not how you enter or exit.  The entrance brings you first into a long light bar.  A variety of music played in the background.  Pacing was good and portion control was on the generous side.  Service was friendly and helpful with fairly good English.   Continue reading

Taverna Santa Chiara, Naples, Italy, 12/21/19

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Taverna Santa Chiara is in small rooms on 2 floors. It is set off a pedestrian walkway.  We sat on the bottom floor which had about 5 bare wood tables set with paper placemats and napkins.  Music was in the background and the place had lots of decorations.  The kitchen was right off the dining room but separated by a glass partition.  The menu was translated on itself and a couple of nightly specials were presented by the server.  They sold a house wine that was available in various quantities.  Chef was in the kitchen and came out to talk with friends but did not visit with all guests.   Continue reading

Taverna dell’ Arte, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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Taverna dell’ Arte was a small place that opened in 1990.  The small tables were closely positioned and covered in beige cloths on top of black ones and set with beige napkins.  Outside there was a porch area with lots of candles.  Inside the lighting was lowered and music was in the background.  There are several rooms divided by half walls and some full partitions.  There was lots of dark wood and various decorations were on top of things and hung on walls.   The windows were covered.  The staff was friendly and spoke fairly good English, as I heard several tables speaking English.   There was a large menu in both English and Italian and everything was a la carte.  There were a lot of drink options.  The chef came out and visited with some but not all of the tables.  Overall this place was okay, not great. Continue reading

Gran Caffe Gambrinus, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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Gran Caffe Gambrinus is a huge ornate place that is mostly a coffee and pastry restaurant.  They do serve heavier food but most people seemed to be enjoying a pastry, coffee and the surroundings.  The place has been around for 150 years and was restored in 1890 when they brought in many of the paintings and statues. It has been visited by many celebrities over the years, like Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Angela Merkel, and Luciano Pavarotti.  They are ready for lots of tourists as the menu is in about 6 languages.  The tables are small but there were a lot of them and a good sized bakery at one entrance where you could come and get pastries to go.  We tried coffee and a Sfogliatella riccia which is a shell shaped Neapolitian classic pastry that has tons of layers of buttery pastry.  It was fabulous but looking around the place was just as good.  It is eye candy. Continue reading

Mangi & Bevi, Naples, Italy, 12/20/19

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Frattoria Mangi & Bevi is a small place of 2 rooms with the third room being the kitchen.  It is a bright place with no music in the background and the tables are covered with plastic.  It seemed to be mostly populated with local, regular patrons.  The floor is tile, the walls are brick and lots of old photos decorate the walls.  Not much English is spoken by the staff.   It serves good, home style comfort food.  The menu is passed out with a small card.  You write on the card what you want and turn it into the waiter.  He brings stuff out as it is ready.  Service was efficient, fairly fast and portions good sized but not huge.  Wine is available by liter or fraction of and served in pitchers with plastic cups or they have beer.   Continue reading

Essencia Restaurant, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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Essencia Restaurant just opened last May.  The building has a bar and kitchen downstairs and upstairs are a couple rooms for dining.  Window doors open to the outside and music is in the background.  The small tables are set with beige or white cloths on top of a contrasting floor length cloth.  Coordinated napkins and different colors of fabric on the chairs complete the stylish set up.  Bench seating was on one wall and the seats were pretty comfortable although the small tables are fairly close.  The walls are decorated with various pieces of art.  The menu offers a la carte selections and tastings of 4 or 5 courses.  I didn’t notice wine pairings being offered but the wine list was fairly reasonable.  Staff were very friendly, welcoming and spoke great English.  We chose the 5 course tasting.  Pacing and portion control were both wonderful. Continue reading

L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, Naples, Italy, 12/19/19

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L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele is made up of two rooms.  They serve beer, water or soft drinks, no wine and serve only Margherita or Marinara pizzas.   There is no menu. The entry room is slightly larger and houses the pizza oven, prep area and check out register.  The bare marble tables are large enough for multiple parties to be seated at.  Not sure they really liked having tourists in the place and I noticed they sat all the Asian people at one table, whether they were in the same party or not.  They let the folks in early as it was raining that day and when it was formal opening time one of the men came round to the tables and asked how many of each type you wanted and took drink orders.  Plastic cups, a pile of napkins and some flatware are then unceremoniously dumped on your table. Continue reading

Osteria “La Chitarra”, Naples, Italy, 12/18/19

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Osteria La Chitarra is a small place with about 9 tables.  Wood beams cross the ceiling and were topped with Christmas or non-seasonal decorative items.  Music was in the background and lighting was lowered.  The bare wood pedestal tables were set with placemats and large paper napkins.  The menu is all a la carte and wine is available in bottles and also by liter or portion thereof.  We bought a pitcher of the house wine and it was very drinkable.  Service was provided by the wife of the chef/owner and she was friendly and efficient.  The chef, Giuseppe Maiorano did come out and visit with a few friends but did not make the rounds of the room, perhaps he only spoke Italian.  This is a place of home cooking at its best. Continue reading

Pizzeria Da Attilio, Naples, Italy, 12/18 & 12/21/19

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Naples is the home of pizza and Da Attilio served the best pizza I’ve ever had.  It’s a medium sized place in a touristy area but packed with people speaking Italian.  The red cloth covered tables are topped with plastic and set with paper napkins.  A large pizza oven is at the entrance to the restaurant where there is room for a few people to wait for a seat.  The wait was not bad.  The counter keeps a list and calls outside when it is your turn.  Inside there are a couple rooms with fairly close tables and lots of decorations on the walls.  No music is in the background just the hum of people happily eating pizza with friends.  When you get to your table there is a large menu and sometimes a special pizza of the day.  After you finish there is a counter up front where you can pay.  They serve wine and beer but I didn’t see hard liquor.  The staff were very friendly but pretty much in a rush as they have lots of people to attend to.  It was so good that we came back for a second visit.  Chef Attilio is the third generation of ownership of this business, named for his grandfather who started the restaurant.  He started helping his mother at the age of 6. Continue reading

La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec, Paris, 12/7/19

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La Scene par Stephanie Le Quellec opened on October 9.  You enter on the street level and there is a stunning bar counter and a few tables.  To go to dinner you head down the stairs to the totally stylish dining room.  Banquette seating is along both of the long walls in the rectangular room.  One end of the room is the open kitchen  and opposite that are a couple free standing tables.  The tables are marble topped  and appointed with lovely linen napkins.  The walls of the room have curved wood pieces and lighted opaque glass between them. It is truly striking but very difficult to describe, so look at the pictures below.  The tables are on the small side and fairly closely set but each had lovely flowers in an unusual vase on them.  Music is in the background and the room is softly lit.  There are a couple seats at the kitchen counter and carpet is on the floor, so noise was not an issue.  Chef Le Quellec was in the kitchen and did come out to the room to visit with all the guests.  They offer several tasting menus (3, 4 or 7 courses and a truffle menu) and a la carte selections.  Since we were there they have been awarded 2 Michelin stars. Continue reading