Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Magnificent Meal At M.A.K.E.

On a gorgeous summery afternoon, I met up with one of my friends to dine at M.A.K.E. in Santa Monica, a completely raw Vegan restaurant. The calming breeze starkly contrasted with my excitement to finally dine at this establishment. Ever since I heard rave reviews from various friends, I imagined myself stuffing my face with their delicacies. My dream of dining there came true when I noticed that they were participating in Dine LA's Restaurant Week, offering a more "affordable" menu. For lunch, they had a two course menu for $25 with the optional addition of a juice for just $6 more. Considering that the entrees normally cost close to $20, this is a fantastic deal.

I scanned the menu closely, faced with the ever so difficult decision of what to order. Everything on the pre-fix menu made my mouth water and I wanted it all. Trying to stay on a budget, I opted to restrict myself to only ordering a salad and entree. I ultimately ended up ordering the kale salad and lasagna. My friend decided to stick with the regular menu and ordered the Baja + Ceviche King Trumpets.

The California Kale salad came out first and I dug in immediately.

The kale did not resemble kale in the slightest and had a softer texture. It seemed way closer to spinach and lacked the bitter taste that kale normally has. The salad was well dressed and had a lovely succulent tomato flavor.  The pickled peppers added a nice crunchiness. The wasabi pine nuts took the dish over the top and added a lovely spice and a subtle smoky flavor.

Next, I had the main course: the Market Tomato Lasagna.

I loved the presentation of the lasagna just as much as I loved the dish. It looked so beautiful, I found it difficult to cut into (but of course that didn't stop me!). The dish had so much flavors going on and it was so hard to fathom that it was completely raw! M.A.K.E. did an exquisite job at getting the zucchini slices to perfectly mimic noodles and I never would have believed there was no gluten in this dish. The tomato sauce had a wonderful sweetness with just a slight tartness to balance it out. The cashew cheese truly made the dish and was so rich and creamy, with a fabulous nutty flavor. There was also a lovely pesto that added even more depth to the lasagna.

My wonderful friend let me try some of her dish, since I was curious what it tasted like.

The vegetables utilized in the lettuce tacos were very fresh and crisp. The homemade ceviche was a standout and seemed to resemble fish very well. It had a light flavor and a fantastic texture. I also loved the creaminess of the perfectly ripe avocado.

Lastly, we had a lovely tart for dessert. It was so rich and decadent and had a smooth, creamy texture. The taste of lemon was dominant, but the bitterness was balanced out with a slight sweetness.

Overall, the meal was fabulous and I enjoyed every bite. I didn't find the food to be very filling, however, and I wish I had ordered the optional juice. This restaurant is great for an occasional indulgence, but not very practical to eat at too often with the hefty prices. Still, I am hoping for an opportunity to dine there again soon, so I can try more of their mouthwatering dishes!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Darling Evening At Darbster

On my recent trip to Florida to visit my grandma, we dined at one of my favorite restaurants: Darbster. The restaurant has two locations and we opted to go to the West Palm Beach one, since we were nearby shopping at City Place. It just so happened that night that they posted a fantastic deal on their Facebook page to reward their loyal fans. The deal was a complimentary order of the palm cakes with an entree order. I was excited because not only are the palm cakes valued at $8, but they are one of my favorite dishes at Darbster.

The palm cakes were brought out fairly quickly, which was great, since my grandma and I were both famished.

The palm cakes were just as scrumptious as I remembered. The outside was crispy and fried to perfection, which the inside was nice and crumbly. The hearts of palm had a slightly fishy flavor that enabled it to mimic crab cakes very well. The palm cakes were coated in a creamy aioli taste that had tasted of harissa and bell peppers. It added a great depth to the dish and took it over the top.

Next, my dish came out: the Quinoa Loaf.

This is a very innovative dish, since the quinoa and vegetables have been combined to simulate a meat loaf. The end result was a very crispy, savory dish, which did not resemble quinoa at all. My favorite aspect of the dish is the crunchy fried onions on top, adding a nice bitterness to the dish. The gravy provided the loaf with even more flavor and even had a slightly sweet taste. The steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes were nice accompaniments and made the dish even more of a comfort food.

Lastly, my grandma had the Barley Filet Au Poirve w/ Cognac Creme, Asparagus, and Caramelized Shallot & Rosemary Fingerling Mash. This was a special Entree, since it was French week. 

This dish was spectacular. Thankfully, the dish was too much for my grandma and I was able to finish it for her. The filet had a great texture and a fantastic crispiness and savoriness that was reminiscent of its meat counterpart. I enjoyed the cognac creme, which had a slight tartness and enhanced the flavor of the barley filet very well. The caramelized shallot and rosemary fingerling mash had a unique blend of spices and seasonings. The balsamic reduction was a nice touch and added an extra tartness and slight sweetness to the dish. 

Darbster is a must go to when in the South Florida area. The West Palm location overlooks a picturesque river and the patio provides a lovely, relaxing view of the wildlife. On top of that, the restaurant is always full of adorable dogs that provide an extra level of entertainment. While Darbster is quite pricey, the restaurant constantly offers deals to email and Facebook subscribers, as well as donates its proceeds to its own animal rescue organization. I cannot wait to dine there again on my next visit to Florida. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Fantastic Dinner At Franchia

During my visit to the Big Apple to see my big sister, I ventured to Franchia, a cute Korean restaurant that is very decorative. The menu is vast and not only includes Korean specialties, but also Japanese and Chinese specialties. We had quite the feast since we were famished.

We began the meal with some appetizers. First, we had the Crispy Scallion Pancakes ($9).

These pancakes were indeed crispy and fried to perfection. The scallion flavor was very prominent and gave the pancakes a bitter flavor. The dipping sauce accompanied the dish very well, adding even more saltiness. 

Next, we had the Assorted Dumplings ($13).

These were very interesting. The dumplings were lightly fried and filled with a variety of flavors. The first ones I tried were a variety of vegetables, which were delectable and airy. The next ones were more healthy tasting, being that they were composed of kale and were more chewy. Next, I had the spicy kimchi dumplings, which had a stronger flavor but could have been even spicier. Lastly, I had the "meat" dumplings, which were very savory and the tastiest.

Next, we had the Spicy Vegan Buffalo Wings ($9).

These were decent although pretty forgettable. The texture was a bit off and they were overly chewy. I did like the sauce, however, which gave the dish a meaty flavor and had a nice kick to it. They were also quite filling, despite there only being a few of them.

Next, we had the Spicy Tuna Roll with brown rice ($6.50).

I was never much of a sushi fan, ironically, until I turned vegan. So I always get excited when a restaurant offers a vegan version. Franchia's version was spectacular. The tuna was so realistic. It had a strong fishy flavor and even embodied the mushy consistency of the real thing. The mayo on top was very creamy and had a spicy flavor. 

Lastly, for our entree we got the Vegetarian 'Duck' Stone bowl ($18).  

This dish was superb. The mock dock was very meaty and had a perfect consistency of the right amount of chewiness. The vegetables were well cooked and coated in a lovely seasoning. The Korean spices were savory with a subtle sweet flavor.

Overall, the meal was very good. Everything was tasty and still pretty light and healthy. The vegetables were very fresh tasting and the ingredients were high quality. The only negative part of the dining experience was that they were all out of dessert! I was bummed out about that, since I had raving reviews about their cheesecake. The food was pricy, but considering the restaurant's location, it's not very surprising. Luckily, I was able to use my Green Menu card for a 10% discount, which reduced the price. I cannot wait to dine there again on my next visit to NYC.