Thursday, October 27, 2011

Distinctive Cork - Closed

It is sad to see what I thought was a good independent restaurant not make it. Distinctive Cork was in Naperville in what has never been a good location, but had some much more going for it. First Scott the owner and chef knew what people wanted. And as a nod to him, he was a damn good cook. His wines were out of this world. The service was very good (for Naperville) and he tried to coax people in with music. He tried to give back to the community by giving up his space to causes.

Sadly, he suffered not from great food, good atmosphere (I hate that space) or great wines, he lost to the economy. When you are independent, it is tough. Those big chains in downtown Naperville can suffer through a bad month by going to their corporate masters and begging or cheapening the food or cutting an assistant assistant manager. Scott couldn't.

As a side note, we hadn't been for a while. Partly because of the economy and frankly the location. I think my wife found the prices a little high for a quick bite and a little underwhelming for a good meal. Also, we aren't eating as much for dinner these days, because well, I need to not eat as much these days. However, I think if he could have survived, we would have went things picked up for everyone.

So I salute you for trying. You were a success. I hope you will want to do this again in some form. You have the chops to run a great place. I have ideas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How a restaurant sours you

My wife and I were in New York recently. She has been a few times without me and just raved about "The Harrison" in TriBeCa. So as part of our anniversary, we decided to go. And it was a disaster.

This is supposed to be a well done restaurant. Not overly famous, not overly fussy. The menu sounded good online. So we got there and were seated. I've complained before about loud restaurants and this was a little loud. It is in a quaint older building and in order to keep some of that old New York charm, I can sacrifice some noise for charm.

We ordered a heart of palm salad to split. The salad was nice and they split it (as any restaurant should do). It was a fine salad, but that isn't saying much.

And then they presented our dinners.

We had ordered the skate wing and trout. The skate was presented on a normal sized oval plate. About 1/2 the plate was covered in a salad (didn't I just have a salad?), the skate took up about 1/4 of the plate and the rest of it was a fancy tartar sauce, a gribiche, which is a tartar sauce with egg, except I didn't see or taste and egg. The poor skate was sort of semi hiding under the salad. My wife had the trout. Now I've never seen trout or any other fish served skin side up. There were three portions of dark skinned fish with a dark sauce (they say it was a sauce perigourdine). This is over a bed of tough and tasteless escarole. Allegedly there was salsify somewhere in the dish, but I don't remember where. And two halves of a cippollini onion. Well cooked, but not the most pleasant to look at.

We ate it and just didn't care for either dish. The trout was cooked (underneath the skin) and the skate was done very well. But the rest of the meal was well boring. It had no appeal to me. My wife was apologizing to me about the meal, saying this isn't what she ever had.

We complained enough that the server came over and we said, this is not good enough for this restaurant. Now we did finish the food (we were hungry! since this was to be our big deal). He did take the entrees off the tab, but we didn't want dessert or coffee, so we left.

We were still hungry, so we went to a place near our hotel and had dessert and a cheese plate.

This is a failure of the executive chef and the owner. One peek at these plates (they still serve the trout) should have told them this is a poorly designed, poorly managed plate. The plate was not visually appealing nor was it satisfying to eat.

Sadly, my wife will probably never go back. It's New York, there are tons of places to eat. But she is now disappointed because it should have been much better than that. And I'm disappointed because it looked like it was a good place, but didn't pull two plates off and we wasted a good meal.

So the morale of this story to eaters and restaurants. We as patrons have a right to a satisfying meal visually, taste-wise and quantity. And the restaurant has a responsibility to try a lot harder than they did. Yes, they comped our meals, but in the end they lost two seats, probably $50 and all they got was this bad review.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Globe Cafe - Evanston

This is a little far afield, but there are moments when a restaurant hits you as something different. On Memorial Day, we took the in-laws up to the north shore area and on our way back found ourselves in Evanston and needing to eat. Checking in with the IPad Oracle on food, we sort of ran across a place next to the Hotel Orrington called the Globe Cafe and Bar. It was a slow time (3ish), but we thought we would take a chance. We were pleasantly surprised.

First reaction is the Globe is a casual dining restaurant. Very open and airy with an outside seating area. Our server was very nice and we knew it was a slow time and therefore restaurant time moves at a different rate. We ordered soft drinks and tea and found the menu has a number of choices that really appealed. My wife and I decided to try three appetizers and split them. We had the fried calamari and shrimp, a spinach and mushroom quesadilla and the fish tacos. First, they were a lot larger than most appetizers. We could not finish them. The fried calamari and shrimp were very good (sorry guys, but the Ram Restaurant in Schaumburg beats everyones). The quesadilla was again very good with a good portobella mushroom and spinach inside. The fish tacos were two small taco salad type cups with grilled tilapia and all the fixing. I love fish tacos and these were handled with a little difference and still felt like it was a fish taco. My in-laws decided to share a 1/2 lb burger. And here is where this place stands out.

Since they wanted to share, they were trying to figure out what to order. The server says, what ever you want how ever you want it. Basically, they made the burger and cut it in half, cut the bun in half and then proceeded to make two different sandwiches.

When we left, we asked to have the apps wrapped. There was a little cocktail sauce left (very little) and the server put it in a to go cup for us. He didn't have to, but most of the meal was based on they didn't have to do what they did.

We won't get to Evanston that often. However, if I needed a casual meal and I was there, I would want to go back. I wish more restaurants near me had this menu and this level of service. I would go about every week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cafe Buonaro's revisited again

I think I have posted about Buonaro's before, but I want to give a heads up to a recent trip we had. I think the restaurant is as good, if not better than before. I also think that people there know what it takes to be a good restaurant and channel Ron's spirit through each dish. It is a great indie restaurant.

The family is still there with Regina working behind the register and the daughters working the room. I think when we were there Tina stopped by and chatted us up. Ron would be proud of herjavascript:void(0) schmoozing. And I say that with a warm spot for Ron. The staff remembers us and chats with is like we are family. And I feel like I'm a part of the family there.

The food is as good (or a little better) than when Ron was alive. The kitchen as did the staff when Ron was sick, but it came back with a great chef and he has found his niche.

I still miss Ron. When I think of restaurateurs, I will always think of him. But go there and enjoy.

Bypass the chain 'Italian' restaurants in downtown Naperville. Take a short drive to 5th Ave and try it again. I think this is one of Naperville's hidden gems.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blue Ginger Sushi - Woodridge, IL

I love sushi. I really do. My wife is indifferent to it, but my oldest son loves it as well. When he comes into town, we gang up on my wife and go for sushi. Recently we went to Blue Ginger which is on 53 near the Seven Bridges Golf Course. Frankly this is a A+ place. And why? Because when we left, my wife says, we should try this again.

The restaurant is very hip and very modern looking, but not so fussy that it makes you feel out of place. They have some crafted drinks that are very good and worth it. But the food. This is a fusion style sushi which means that they have traditional sushi, but they also have sushi for non-sushi eaters. Since I think every dining group has a sushi lover and a sushi disliker, Blue Ginger offers enough of a difference to make it worth a trip. I figure if one of you hates hates hates sushi, you wouldn't be reading this anyway.

This is worth a try. Like most sushi places, it isn't cheap, but frankly, it wasn't that overly priced. My fear in a sushi place is I'll drop a hundred bucks and want to stop for a burger on the way home. This isn't like that.

Blue Ginger is at 6320 South Route 53, Woodridge, IL. It is in the Seven Bridges Golf Course area (north of Hobson). Their web site is here.