Le Petit Nice, Marseille, 3/21/19

exterior
exterior

Le Petit Nice is the only restaurant in Marseille to receive a 3 Michelin star rating.   It is in a luxury hotel that overlooks the water with Gérald Passedat as the chef.  The dining room has windows on 3 sides of its hexagon shape that overlook the water and lights of the city.  It was a lovely view even in the dark when you could’t see as much.  It was a bit hard to find the entry as we were walking to it.  A taxi would know to call at the gate to the parking lot but in the meantime we got to look into the kitchen from the passage way alongside the building.  The well spaced cloth covered tables are good sized and set with comfortable swivel chairs.  No music plays in the background, candles are on the tables and lights are slightly dimmed.  It is old school enough that the ladies menus don’t have prices.  They offer several tasting menus and an a la carte menu which is mostly seafood and vegetables. Service was good as was portion control of the tasting menu. Continue reading

ASPIC, Paris, 11/30/16

ASPIC has 11 small rustic wood tables in one room with subdued lighting and the tiniest napkins ever. You can see the chef and kitchen through a door opening into the dining room where they prepare a surprise 7-course tasting menu everyone receives.  Heavenly aromas occasionally waft into the room from this opening. Reservations are staggered as it Chef Quentin Giroud is doing the cooking and he likes to have time to come out and present some of the courses. Continue reading

Restaurant Can Pineda, Barcelona, 11/10/16

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Entrance

Can Pineda is a small restaurant of 2 rooms with wine barrels overhead and photos decorating the walls.  The building started as a place to purchase wine and the barrels used to store the wines have long been empty but now serve as a decorative touch.  It has been a restaurant for over 100 years with the current owners in place for 45 years, a sister and brother team.  You enter into the smaller room that is mostly taken up with a bar/counter and pass through a short corridor filled with cases of iced down meats and seafood and cartons of fresh mushrooms and vegetables. It bodes well for the quality of the food to come.  There is a fairly large menu along with several specials of the day. Continue reading

Barbec’s Restaurant, Dallas, 9/27/16

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building

Barbec’s has been around as long as I can remember. Located in an old Howard Johnson’s building it serves large, cheap portions of southern style food.  The service is efficient but sometimes you’ll have to ask for something rather than a waitress noticing and asking. They seem to be best known for their beer biscuits which are better at breakfast than at lunch, when they’ve been out of the oven for awhile. They offer a large menu and well priced specials for breakfast and lunch, but it is a cash only business. With the lunch specials there is a huge choice of sides to go with your entree, of which you’ll see a preponderance of chicken fried steak. Continue reading

John’s Cafe, 9/16 & 10/8/16, Dallas,

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Exterior

John’s Cafe dates back to the early 1970’s when it was further north on Greenville. Various lease and sign issues forced them to move slightly northeast for a couple years but then they found a new location on lower Greenville.  It is the same breakfast and lunch place with slightly more seating.  There is a lunch special everyday but John Spyropoulos seems to be mostly popular for his breakfast special, $6.99 for your choice of 2 eggs, choice of bacon, ham or sausage and hash browns and toast or biscuits.  He makes a number of tasty omelets, the Gyro being a favorite. Continue reading

Il Ridotto, Venice, 10/21/16

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Exterior

Il Ridotto is a small place with just two rooms, one having just 4 tables.  Chef owner Gianni Bonaccorsi watches over all from the front counter and you will see the staff running across the walkway to another building where some of the supplies are kept. We were here before for lunch, several years ago, and while the interior feels unchanged chef doesn’t seem to be doing the cooking now.  At dinner he offers 2 tasting menus, one of meat and the other seafood. There also is an a la carte menu and this evening a truffle menu too.  The tables are set with lovely linens,  Venetian glassware and modern comfortable chairs. I heard more Italian than English on this visit. The staff are friendly and helpful, but not overly so. We had the 5 course tasting of the land for which the chef makes the selection of your dishes except for dessert, which you get to choose.  Continue reading

Vicolo Colombina, Bologna, 5/5/16

exterior
exterior

A  2-room place where I heard lots of English being spoken. A very casual atmosphere but still had nice linens and reasonable pricing. The staff warmed up nicely as the evening went on and were helpful in making selections. We only went wrong one way when we decided to split the rib plate rather than each have our own as the waitress thought it would be too much. The serving size was nicely moderate and we could have easily devoured 2 plates  but this left us room to have desserts.   Continue reading

Asturianos, Madrid, 3/27/15

Asturiano’s exterior
Asturiano’s exterior

Talk about a “hole in the wall” – this is it! There were 4 tables in the front room and a some bar seats. I later found they had another room down the hall that squeezed in another 8 tables and all were full. Not on the tourist path but you couldn’t have found a friendlier and helpful staff. Dona Julia started the place with her husband in the mid-sixties. Her sons run the wine and service part and she still cooks the food in a kitchen the size of a closet.

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La Tasquita de Enfrente, Madrid, 3/27/15

exterior
exterior

Another repeat place for us with good results. There are a couple seats out from but the main dining room is in the back and holds about 10 tables. They have tasting menus but seemed that you could also order by the dish. We talked with the waiter about what we had last time and then turned the chef loose to surprise us. While you’re making your selections they bring out a bowl of blood sausage with pumpkin to munch on with olive oil bread. The bread was excellent and the topping tasty. Continue reading

Lakasa, Madrid, 3/28/15

Exterior
Exterior

A very fun meal here! It’s like a tapas place as everything is offered in full or half portions but everything is prepared to order and very creative. It was hard to decide which of the wonderful sounding plates NOT to order, we wanted them all and by just getting half orders we were able to try a lot of them without getting overly done in. The two fried options we started with normally come 6 to a small order but the waitress (who turned out to be the chef’s wife) was concerned we’d never eat all the stuff we ordered so she offered to just bring 2 of each.

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Aleria, Athens, 4/18/15

front door
front door

A lovely dining room with several lesser rooms located through a hallway, with all dining on the second floor. They offer a degustation menu of 5 course and wine pairing of 4 or 5 glasses and an a la carte menu. Service is efficient, if a bit rushed and the dining room fills at later time than some of the others we visited. Could this be because more local folks eat there than tourists? Everyone has a bottle of water on ice waiting at the table which is a nice touch and after you’ve ordered you are presented the basket of housemate breads which are all quite good along with a traditional spread of fish eggs, although I couldn’t really find the fishy taste. Continue reading

Funky Gourmet, Athens, 4/16/15

Funky Gourmet exterior- lights upstairs is main dining area
Funky Gourmet exterior- lights upstairs is main dining area

The name is enough to put you off this restaurant but after eating there it does seem an appropriate label. They received their second Michelin star last year after 5 years in business. An average size dining room with lots of mirrors and windows to make it feel quite spacious. Diners are offered 3 different menu options, 2 degustation choices and a smaller option all trying to stress unique local products and seasonality. Wine pairings are offered but we chose to pick our own with the help of their sommelier. We ordered the larger of the degustation choices, which had 2 additional courses – the picnic and langoustine. Continue reading

Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, 5/20/15

Garden room windows
Garden room windows

This place continues to be on the “best of lists” for New Orleans but it really didn’t merit the accolades this evening. It is a beautiful dining room upstairs where the large windows in the garden room give it a treehouse affect. The other upstairs rooms are windowless and not nearly as pretty. Downstairs is the more conventional room (they still have a dress code that forbids jeans) and a much more serious vibe. We were surrounded by tables celebrating and thus adorned with balloons and hats. They offer a large menu and a large tasting menu but we chose a combo dinner after having had a large lunch. Continue reading

Ko, New York City, 5/7/15

Exterior of Ko
Exterior of Ko

Quite a change since a couple years ago when we visited. A new larger location and you can now take pictures! At least twice as many people can partake and the timing is thus more staggered. I missed the intimacy of the former location but still the staff are all extremely friendly and it is a long meal of a variety of tastes with an Asian overtone. Everyone gets the tasting but you have the options of wine pairings which we opted not to do. One other change is the addition of music, which I thought to be a tad loud with all the commotion already there. David Chang, founder and owner of Momofuku was in the house, which is unusual probably because Anthony Bourdain and friend were there (or did he just know we were coming?) Continue reading

Blanca, New York City, 5/9/15

Entrace to Roberta's, inside is Blanca
Entrace to Roberta’s, inside is Blanca

This is a hidden restaurant for 12 people hidden in the back of Roberta’s, a very popular pizza restaurant in Brooklyn. We’ve heard lots of good things about it but being small and only open Wed – Sat. it’s a hard reservation to come by. The kitchen is an open format with the guests sitting in a “U” shape on one side of the square room. You actually enter thru the pizza spot and after you get to the front of their line the staff will come and take you back to a spartan room whose main decoration is a fish head. Continue reading

Marea, New York City, 5/8/15

Marea exterior
Marea exterior

This is a large and elegant dining space. They have had a couple Michelin stars for years and it shows in the seamless service. At lunch they offer a 2 or 5 course fixed price menu, with the latter including some of the upcharge items and dessert. With the 5 course tasting they do scale down the portion sizes. They were willing to substitute the pasta course offered for another on the menu but do not offer any items on their dinner menu that are not on the lunch one. Continue reading

Contra, New York City, 5/8/15

Exterior
Exterior

A real hole in the wall place that serves a tasting menu to all, which changes daily. The kitchen is at the far end of the long room and it is a constant source of movement as the tables are turned over as soon as vacated. We started with a jicama sandwich that was light, sweet and tart. The salad was next with lots of really fresh tastes in a variety of greens not usually seen. Continue reading

Estela, New York City, 5/9/15

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What a little gem is this place! Fairly small with a limited menu at Sat. brunch it is worth the trip. Most plates are easy to share and the service people are most helpful in making selections. They seem to love hiding ingredients underneath the top items that enhance the already intense tastes of the dishes. We started with the endive salad and the walnuts were so nicely toasted they were almost sweet and added to the already wonderful crunch of the endive. I wasn’t sure about the dish but when you taste it the ‘wow’ factor is there. Continue reading

Tim Raue, Berlin, 5/15/15

Entrance
Entrance

An place full of beautiful food and some great tastes. Another modest entrance into a lovely setting with casually dressed waitstaff. Everyone starts with a 8 appetizers some of which made you long for larger bowls of them. The pork belly was one of them, full of complex tastes and melt in your mouth deliciousness. Also the radishes were a surprisingly tasty spicy taste with totally crisp texture. Continue reading

reinstoff, Berlin, 5/14/15

.Reinstoff entranceAnother building that looked industrial but contained a very elegantly appointed dining room. They offer 2 tasting menus – nearby and faraway – with the former supposedly highlighting local products and the latter involving some suppliers not quite so close. We chose the faraway but in hind sight have wondered if the chef favored and we should have ordered the nearby. No one from the kitchen ever made an appearance. Some service issues plagued us here with extremely long wait times between courses and many of the courses were difficult to eat with the utensils provided and/or plating. Continue reading

Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Berlin, 5/16/15

Locked entrance
Locked entrance

A very new restaurant on the Berlin dining scene. The door is locked and you ring the bell to gain entry – like going to a friend’s house for dinner. Sommelier Billy Wagner is said to have a very creative wine collection and he did come up with some interesting choices. HIs chef makes everything in house and uses only locally produced ingredients. Everyone sits around a very comfortable bar and eats the tasting menu of the night. Continue reading

Galatoire’s, New Orleans, 5/19 &20/15

Galatoire's exteriorAlways a favorite of ours and it’s in the Quarter so just a short walk from many hotels. It’s been there forever and does get a tourist crowd since it’s in the Quarter but also many locals go to celebrate occasions or enjoy the old style service and food. Nothing fancy but the waitstaff love to customize your order – change fish, add crabmeat, sauce or preparation. Go often and get a regular waiter and the experience is sublime. Continue reading

Azurmendi, Bizkaia, Spain, 8/7/15

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This place is about a 25 minute drive from Bilbao, Spain. A large place with gardens, huge reception area and massive kitchen, the tables are well spaced and service is typical Michelin. The main dining room is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows that offer a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside. The food is beautifully presented and it’s easy to see why they have such a huge kitchen and staff however, as a whole the food was very mildly flavored. The service was attentive but not personal and thus overall I would not be inclined to ever visit them again. Continue reading

Zuberoa, Oiartzun, Spain, 8/6/15

Zuberoa, San Sebastián, Spain           8/6/15

Zuberoa Exterior
Zuberoa Exterior
An absolutely charming and lovely spot for dinner with excellent food! A short ride from the main part of San Sebastian, it is a fairly casual room of about 10 tables with additional tables on a patio. They offer a tasting menu as well as a la carte selections and the waitstaff were quite agreeable to substituting a few items on the tasting menu. In fact the entire staff couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming without being invasive. Overall the food has lots of wonderfully intense tastes and fine gelatinous sauces. A total winner!

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Providence, Los Angeles, 7/27/15

A semi large place with a really dated interior that had some reviews of “too old school” but I found it excellent. The table set up was minimal but service was exceptionally nice. The acoustics allowed you to hear the buzz of the other patrons but still have a conversation with your table mate. They do offer a special 4 course tasting menu in the summer but we opted for the Chef’s menu tasting which is a 3+ hour experience. Continue reading