The Random Restaurant Tour (XIII)

Some restaurant locations just seem star-crossed.  A new place opens up at the spot, seems to do well for a time, then closes, the building stands vacant for an extended period, and after a few years you’re trying to remember how many restaurants have actually operated in the space.  So it is with a building at the corner of Spring and High in downtown Columbus, which once was a Wendy’s, and at one point was a nice tapas-type place with a bar and outdoor seating.  Hey, has it been anything else?

Well, now the building houses Haveli Bistro, an Indian restaurant.  Hope springs eternal!

JV and I visited the HB yesterday for lunch.  The place was jammed with a lot of people who were angling for the buffet, and we had to wait briefly to be seated.  It seems that diners have two options — a lunch buffet, upstairs, or ordering from a very limited lunch menu, downstairs.  Because of the wait for the buffet, we chose the downstairs option, which allows you to choose from a non-vegetarian platter, a vegetarian platter, and a biryani platter.  The specific items on your plate depend upon what’s being served that day, as disclosed on a typed sheet at the front counter, and it doesn’t appear that you can choose your spice level.  (At least, we weren’t offered that option.)

JV and I went for the non-vegetarian platter, which turned out to be two chicken dishes, a chicken “lollipop,” rice, and two pieces of naan, with a dessert.  The food was served on a kind of cafeteria platter that reminded us of the Swanson frozen dinners of days gone by, except that the platter was plastic instead of foil.  (No “TV trays” in sight, however!)  I’m not sure of the specific names of chicken dishes, but they were good and served at a moderate spice level, and the chicken lollipop was tasty and not overly breaded.  I finished them all.  The dessert was a kind of vermicelli disk soaked in a sweet liquid.  I’m not a dessert guy so I tried a bite and decided I’d pass on the rest.

Lunch at Haveli Bistro isn’t really comparable to lunch at Indian Oven, with its full menu and terrific service, and my allegiance to IO as the best Indian restaurant in town, and one of the best Columbus restaurants, period, is unyielding.  Nevertheless, the Haveli Bistro is a nice option for people downtown who have a taste for some ethnic food.  Will the HB be able to exorcise the ghosts of restaurants past?  Stay tuned.

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Coffee Roulette

Our hotel room here at Pelican Bay has a kind of coffee maker that I’ve never seen before. It’s called a Respresso. You pull a handle, a chamber opens, you load in one of these brightly colored pellets, the chamber closes, you push a button, and espresso is produced. It’s disturbingly like loading bullets into the chamber of a rifle — which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt analogy for guzzling a shot of espresso in the first place.

The brightly colored pellets aren’t really helping with the decision-making process, either. To be sure, the wheel on the inside of the box explains the color code, but all of the names are in Italian. How is “Roma” different from “Livanto” or “Fortissio Lungo”? Does the color of the pellet provide a clue? Is the jet black “Ristretto” the strongest option? I have no idea, but I’m wondering whether my blind selection process will cause me to inadvertently pick the most high-powered, heavily caffeinated option that will leave me jittery for the rest of the day.

Add the fact that the color chart looks like a roulette wheel to the gun chamber similarity, and you’ve got a classic case of coffee roulette.

Bahamian Breakfast

This morning we wandered around the Port Lucaya marketplace, getting our bearings, then stopped at a local joint for breakfast. I asked our server for a recommendation of a local favorite, and without hesitation she suggested the tuna and grits. How could I say no?

It was excellent. The tuna was mixed with onions and a spicy sauce and was bursting with eye-opening flavor, and the grits were creamy and spicy, all at the same time. Add in a delightful dining companion, a hot sun, sunglasses, reggae and steel drum music pumping from the sound system, and the sea tang heavy in the air, and it took all of my willpower to refrain from washing it down with an ice-cold bottle of Sands.

The Random Restaurant Tour (XII)

 

New buildings are going up all over downtown Columbus, and I’ve been hoping that we’ll be getting some new restaurants along with the new office and residential space. So when I saw that The Goat was open for business — even though the building it occupies is still seriously under construction — the Jersey Girl, the Origamist, and I decided to stroll down South High Street and pay it a visit.

Although the space surrounding the restaurant is a beehive of construction workers, scaffolding, and other equipment, the interior space at The Goat is finished and very pleasant, with high ceilings, an open, airy feeling, and lots of room between the tables and chairs. It’s reminiscent of a New York or LA bistro. The only downside we noted is that there were TVs everywhere, with the sound on, which was distracting while we were trying to carry on a conversation. I think there are too many TVs in America, period, but unless a restaurant intends to be a sports fan hangout — and the menu at The Goat doesn’t suggest that is the business model — it’s got to limit the idiot boxes to the immediate bar area. If I were running The Goat, I’d follow that approach and ditch a lot of the TVs. As it is, the place seems to be neither fish nor fowl.

As for the food, the menu is limited, but interesting.  I got the buffalo chicken wrap, which came with some very tasty fries.  The chicken was very tender and flavorful, and the wrap made for a substantial meal.  The only downside was that the wrap was chock full of iceberg lettuce, even though there was no mention of lettuce in the description of the dish on the menu.  This is another pet peeve of mine — a menu should disclose all ingredients in a dish, and diners should be entitled to rely on finding only what is listed when their order comes.  I hate iceberg lettuce, so I used the fork to shovel as much of it as possible out of the wrap.  Without the lettuce, the wrap was very good.  The Jersey Girl raved about her soup, and the Origamist liked her wrap, too.

I’ll go back to The Goat, which is a pretty nice setting for lunch, but I’d like it even better with fewer TVs and more information on the menu.

Seriously — Mayochup?

Heinz is encouraging Americans to vote on a question that could affect the tabletops of restaurants throughout the land.

The question is:  do Americans want Heinz to release a new condiment called “Mayochup” — a combination of Heinz Ketchup and Heinz Real Mayonnaise.  If 500,000 people vote yes, Heinz will roll out the new product and send it to stores.

mayochup-1Set aside the sad fact that some Americans have actually taken time from their days to cast their vote on what is clearly a marketing campaign ploy.  In modern, bot-ridden America, you could get 500,000 votes for just about anything.  Come hell or high water, Heinz obviously is going to bring their new condiment to market.

Set aside, too, the fact that the name “mayochup” sounds like some mythical creature that parents use to frighten their misbehaving children in southern Mexico, or the noise made by a barfing cow.  It is a truly awful name for a product.  Just having something called “Mayochup” on a table where food is being consumed is troubling.

And, finally, set aside the fact that “Mayochup” is made with mayonnaise, which is a disgusting, greasy, ugly substance that should never have been invented by the French back in the 1700s in the first place.

No, the worst thing about “Mayochup” is that it shows just how lazy Americans have become.  If some poor, benighted souls like the combination of ketchup and mayonnaise — which really says something disturbing about them, doesn’t it? — they can squirt some ketchup from the ketchup bottle, add some mayonnaise from the mayo jar, mix it up themselves, and go to town.  What’s next for Heinz?  An equally poorly named product called “Ketchtard”?

Stick To Your Ribs Fare

We’re up in Detroit for a visit with Russell. Since this is The Winter That Will Never End, we were treated yesterday to a hard, cold rain and temperatures in the upper 30s.

One time-honored approach to miserable weather outside is to go inside and fortify yourself against the elements. So, we stopped by the Krakus Restaurant & Bar in Hamtramck, which specializes in Polish and American cuisine, and I got the meat pierogies with bacon, onions, and sour cream, it came with a steaming bowl of spilt pea soup, and I topped it off with a bottle of Okocim beer. The food was excellent, the lager went down easy, and I relished a meal that Mom would have said would “stick to your ribs.”

Thus fueled, we ventured forth again into the never-ending chill.

The Great Grilled Cheese Debate

Yesterday was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.  It’s a day to celebrate the glories of the grilled cheese sandwich and to reflect anew on the delectable nature of melty, gooey, crunchy goodness.

wide_51094On such a day, you’d expect red-blooded Americans to engage in a vigorous debate on the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich — and, especially, what kind of cheese makes the best GCS.  The so-called experts will discuss at length the respective merits of different, high-end options like aged cheddar, fontina, gruyere, Monterey Jack, raclette, and havarti, but they also pooh-pooh the traditional choice that many of us grew up with — namely, American cheese.  One grilled cheese chef, who probably spoke with a grimace on her face, dismissed American cheese thusly:  “It’s not really cheese to me, it’s some kind of weird plastic-y substance that should be banned from the face of the earth.”

Well . . . lah de freakin’ dah!  I’m guessing that same expert would sneeringly dismiss the use of Wonder bread, too.

I beg to differ.  I love different cheeses, and I think those high-falutin’ grilled cheese sandwiches you can get at restaurants are just fine, but when I think of a truly succulent grilled cheese sandwich, I think of them the way Mom used to make them — with Kraft American cheese (or maybe Velveeta), on Wonder bread, with a little butter smeared on the outside, then grilled so there was a crunchy, buttery outer shell for the melty cheese inside.  And, of course, the resulting masterpiece of the culinary arts had to be sliced diagonally and served with Campbell’s tomato soup made with milk, so you could dip the edges of the sandwich into the soup and gobble the result up in perfect combination.

I’ll take Mom’s grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup over the fou fou offerings of the so-called “experts” any day of the week.  When National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day rolls around, that’s the one I’ll savor.