Saturday, September 25, 2010

Top 5 Sushi Restaurants

I think I could eat sushi for every meal of the day if I had to (or if I had the money). I love, love, love sushi!!! My sushi cravings may be my strongest cravings, next to my chocolate cravings of course. Here is a list of the places that I think deserve to be ranked in the top 5 restaurants to get sushi in Memphis, being the landlocked city it is (well, except for the mighty Mississippi, but we're not going to go there). Now, I will say the first three could pretty much all tie for first, but I had to rank them somehow.

1. DO : Owned by the same peeps who own Mollie Fontaine's and the Beauty Shop, this small sushi establishment sits comfortably in the heart of Cooper Young. I'm a HUGE fan!! Love the artsy Cooper Young feel, great front patio so you can watch people walk the streets of Cooper Young, and delicious, fresh, and funky sushi creations. I highly recommend this place. But, call to make reservations because they are usually packed on the weekends. Great date place if you're for sure that your date is a sushi lover. When you go, you must try the Kona Strawberry (white fish and strawberry with other yummy goodness) and the Surf & Turf roll. These are my two favorites! Also, the Beauty Shop sits right next door and I hear you can order their desserts while dining at DO....yummy strawberry cake and many others.

2. Edo : Talk about authenticity! This place makes you feel like you just walked into Japan. I love how authentic the atmosphere, experience, and sushi is. The sushi is fresh and sooooo good! And, the prices can't be beat for sushi. Now, it is located on Summer Avenue, but don't let that stop you. Sushi on Summer sounds shady, but is actually wonderful! Click here for our review on Edo.

3. Sekisui : Well known among Memphians, Sekisui always has fresh, authentic sushi. There are multiple locations in Memphis - Humphrey's Center, Midtown, Bartlett, Cordova, Collierville, and the gas station at Poplar and Ridgeway. And, yes I have had their sushi there. Though it sounds dangerous and appalling to order sushi at a gas station, it is quite delightful and lives up to the Sekisui standards. My favorite Sekisui establishment would have to be the Midtown location on 25 S. Belvedere. Great midtown feel, good for big groups, and fresh, delicious sushi! Click here for our review on Sekisui Midtown.

4. Sakura : If you are absolutely STARVING and you want sushi, go to Sakura. I don't think I've ever seen sushi this big. I'm not so sure about Sakura's authentic sushi method, but I can reassure you that you'll leave that place with your taste buds singing and your belly stuffed. Lots of deep frying and rich sushi rolls, but you can also choose from a wide selection of simpler rolls. I have liked every roll I've ordered. They have a ton to choose from and a long menu of various sushi concoctions. Mmmmm.

5. Bluefin : This is a great place to eat sushi if you want a downtown kind of night. It's downtown on Main street and has a techno feel if you know what I mean....lots of blue lights, random geometric videos, clean lines, loud techno music. The sushi is fresh, delicious, and funky in a good way. It's perfect for sushi and cocktails!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mollie Fontaine Lounge (Take 2)

Click here and you'll find our first review of Mollie Fontaine's. You'll notice that I never rated it. I've only been to Mollie Fontaine's for drinks and at that point had never tasted their scrumptious tapas. Now, I can say I have indulged in a few of their yummy small plates and am ready to rate :) This past Thursday, I went with three other good friends for a fun de-stressing girls night. Though we did not go until 9pm, I purposefully postponed my dinner so I could order some of their famous tapas I've been hearing about. First of all, I ordered the Key Lime Pie Martini and took on another one due to it's yummy candy-like experience....Mmmm. You must get one of these or one of their superb cosmos. In case you forgot, it is quite the girly place as you can see from the drink choices ;) Between the four of us, we split 3 tapas (Everyone but me already ate dinner so it might be wise to order more if everyone in your group is hungry). We ordered the parmesan french fries with truffle oil; warm ricotta with organic honey, urfa chile, and grilled bread; and the fontaine sliders (three mini hamburgers with gruyere cheese, arugula, bacon, pickles, onion, mustard, and mollie sauce all on warm buns). All three dishes were WONDERFUL, but the sliders and fries were definitely my favorites! This place is one-of-a-kind with delicious tapas. You must go! Fabulous girls night! For more info on the lounge, you can also check it out here. I give Mollie Fontaine Lounge 3.5 stars.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cafe Eclectic

Life is a lot like a video game. Think about the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo. True, in life we don't often jump on moving mushrooms threatening to kill us or dodge turtle shells or have a super cool soundtrack spurring us on, but the metaphor works because, just as in video games, there are numerous levels in life. Things change in both life or video games, whether moving from adolescents to college to post college, or moving from the above ground Mario level with bricks overhead to the level with the clouds in the sky or the dangerous castle level with the ominous music going on. Of course, this gives me a great excuse to post the following:

And like in Mario Brothers, in life it's all about managing to get to the next level. You've got to get to the next level. You can't just stay on one level. That's pointless. It's like living with your parents until your 50 years old or staying in college for 15 years or sitting on that first level in Mario killing all those mushroom creatures. Ahh, but when you move to the next level, what a great feeling! You feel like you've accomplished something and grown up. Of course, some people hate moving to the next level (having kids or hitting middle age for example), but you've got to do it, and you might as well do it with skill and grace. To those wishing to just hang around, my only advice is from Chamillionaire: Get on My Level!!!!!

Ok, so here's the transition. Sometimes, you visit a restaurant and you're dining and everything is pretty standard and expected, then you get to a new course and boom!! The restaurant just takes it to a new level --- to the next level. This can happen in a good or bad way, and when it does, you're blown away. When this happens in a good way, it's exactly like getting to that next level in the video game: you feel excited, relieved, encouraged to keep going, and you want more. Well, I think this pretty well describes my experiences at Cafe Eclectic.

Cafe Eclectic is pretty true to its name: a cafe with a pretty random assortment of choices ranging from omelettes for breakfast, to cupcakes for dessert, and almost everything in between. There are two locations, one in midtown near Rhodes and one downtown in Harbortown. The one in midtown is much bigger with a much larger selection and is in fact the only one I've actually eaten at. Yes, I know I just ended a sentence with "at", but I'm guessing that is allowable since this is a blog.

Though Cafe Eclectic has breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options, Neel and I often go for lunch/brunch after church. And that's what we did on our most recent trip, along with my parents and one of my nephews. The midtown location seems to have been undergoing some renovations, so there was some mild construction in the restaurant. But the construction didn't ruin the cafe feel and that classic, laid back midtown vibe that stems from the employees and the bevy of Rhodes students eating there. (hopefully my use of "bevy" compensates for my use of "at" earlier). Cafe Eclectic is always pretty busy, but never too busy where you have to wait for a table too long.

As for the food, all of us ordered some type of breakfast/brunch dish. Neel and I split the Breakfast wrap and the smoked salmon and bagel + cream cheese course. The wrap was pretty good and quite large, with a wide variety of things in it: cheese, eggs, veggies etc. It tasted pretty fresh and homemade, and so I was completely satisfied with it, as was Neel.

The smoked salmon was good too, but the bagel and cream cheese left something to be desired. It seemed like they just took the bagel and cream cheese from a package and slapped in on the plate. Not that it was bad. It just wasn't that special and not something that I would pay $7.50 for, when I could make it at home for a lot cheaper. That of course is a general rule for me: If I can make a dish at home given my combination of laziness and (lacking) skill set, then I know it takes absolutely no time, skill, or effort for anyone else to make, much less a cook whose job it is to cook food.

Anyways, overall, everyone enjoyed their food. My Mom probably got the best looking dish, the French Omelette, stuffed with spinach and a little creme fraiche. She said it was really good, quite fresh, and one of the better omelettes she's had. It definitely looked very good and oozed out with spinach. I think that's what I will get next time I go. My Dad is a rather picky eater, but he was satisfied with his waffle and bacon. Note that he demands to have his bacon burnt to a crisp or he won't eat it. But the Cafe Eclectic staff was up to the challenge, and they sufficiently charred the bacon until it was almost unrecognizable. My Nephew got the Breakfast Croissant with Bacon, Egg, and cheese --- basically a breakfast sandwich. The most amazing thing about it was that it was absolutely huge. What was also amazing was that my nephew (age 6) scarfed the whole thing down. He seemed to like it, but I couldn't get too much out of him in terms of an in depth analysis. He was distracted by his Nintendo PSP. (quite the Ninentdo theme for this post). So in terms of brunch, it was pretty solid. Everyone enjoyed their food, and I would happily go again, but it didn't absolutely blow me away. The prices are very reasonable too, which is also a plus. Pretty much everything is below $10. So you can get out of there without losing your wallet.

But Cafe Eclectic steps up its game and goes to the next level when we're talking about desserts. It's like Mario jumping on that flag at the end of each level with the fireworks and the thrilling music. It's time to step it up and Cafe Eclectic does that with its desserts. Put simply, they have the best milkshake I've had in Memphis. I usually get the Strawberry Malted Cow Milkshake, and it is awesome. It has that perfect combination of real ice cream and malt. Neel doesn't even like Strawberry milkshakes and she loves the one at Cafe Eclectic. My only complaint is that it isn't larger because I usually chug it in about a minute since it's so good. Ice cream is my probably favorite dessert, and so I feel like I can judge a good shake, and this one is one of the better shakes I've had ever, anywhere. Period.

Now, their dessert menu isn't just limited to shakes either. They've got a wide variety of other ice cream desserts, gelato, and non-ice cream desserts too. Neel and I have tried the Charlie Brown in the past, basically vanilla and chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate fudge and peanut butter morsels. It's also amazing. I've also heard that their cupcakes are very good and made there fresh, but I've yet to try them. Trust me, it's on my to-do list. Some of the ice cream desserts are a tad pricy for the quantity you get, but you are paying for quality, and it's truely worth every penny.

So my analysis of Cafe Eclectic really has two parts. The food is solid and enjoyable. If just for food, I would probably give them 3 stars. Ahhh, but the desserts are amazing and take Cafe Eclectic to a higher plane, to that next level. Cafe Eclectic is a perfect place to go for just dessert or to take a date there post-dinner for dessert or even for kids who need to have their sweet tooth satisfied. But the food is pretty decent too and it's someplace I always enjoy going. Thus, in light of their excellent dessert execution and in honor of their ability to take it to the next level, Cafe Eclectic gets a slight bump for me, and so we give Cafe Eclectic 3.5 stars.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Top 5 Breakfast Places

Ok, now remember this is my list. You, like my husband, may have some differing opinions regarding this list, which is totally fine. But, it's my turn to list my top 5 favorite breakfast places in Memphis :) I will say, unfortunately, when I was thinking of my top 5 breakfast places, I could practically count all the Memphis breakfast places on two hands. :( Why are there so few breakfast joints in Memphis? Anyone have an answer? It is the most important meal of the day and I must admit my favorite meal of the day. So, why are we neglecting it so ??!!

Now, before I go on to my list I would like to explain to you what I think is a good breakfast place. A quality breakfast menu must offer salty (e.g., eggs, biscuits, home fries, bacon, sausage, etc) and sweet (e.g., pancakes, waffles, french toasts, fruit, etc) options. I do not like it when they offer only salty or only sweet. I also love it when breakfast places try to set themselves apart from the eggs and bacon you can make at home....e.g., when they decide to put brie in your omelet instead of boring cheddar cheese or when they add smoked salmon to your eggs benedict. Mmmmm :) Innovation is the key to a delicious and satisfying first meal of the day. On to my list.....

1. Arcade : Three words for you.....SWEET. POTATO. PANCAKES. Um, can we say YUUMMMM?!! My mouth is watering just thinking about these delicately fluffy pieces of heaven. Ok, that may be stretching it, but seriously, these are some of the best pancakes I have ever put in my mouth. Also, I love their make your own omelets and the endless's one you should try - brie, spinach, and artichoke hearts. I got that last time and it was divine! Arcade is the oldest restaurant in Memphis - they're obviously doing something right here. Check out my post and love for this place here.

2. Cafe Eclectic : Another one of my faves. If you haven't discovered this jewel....vwallah, you've discovered it now! Jon and I have been here a few times and have never been disappointed. I do love how this place likes to focus on local and healthy ingredients. That's always a major plus for me. Some of the dishes we've gotten and highly suggest are....Rachel's Breakfast Wrap, Eggs Florentine, chicken sausage, biscuits, and any of their desserts or soda fountain options. I've also heard their buckwheat pancakes and french omelet are delicious as well. [Check out our post/review of Cafe Eclectic here].

3. Cockadoos : Jon and I discovered this place not too long ago. It's relatively new in the Memphis area. It occupies the space that formerly housed Cafe 61 on Second Street. Check out our post. The atmosphere is WONDERFUL! It's very quaint and cozy....makes you want to grab a hot cup of coffee with your favorite balance of cream and sugar, a fresh out of the oven scone of your choice, and a newspaper, book, kindle, or laptop. We need more places like this. I loved their pancakes and scones. Their omelet left much to be desired, but the place is still relatively new and will improve over time.

4. Brother Juniper's : I like the local, homey feel of this place. You almost feel like you're having breakfast and coffee in your own home. It's one of those "regulars" places - it has its regular customers. The food is good, but definitely not worthy of qualifying for the top 3. I'm a fan of the mission and story behind the whole joint. Check out my post on it.

5. Bryant's : Talk about regulars. This place definitely has its regulars. It has that truckers stop feel. I've only been to Bryant's once. I know that's crazy especially since I'm a born and raised Memphian. I went with my dad a few years ago. Biscuits and gravy are delicious! The servings are huge so be hungry when you go! My husband says their chicken biscuit is wonderful - possibly even better than Chick-fil-A's.....hmmm....I'm skeptical of that statement, but will try someday.

Others worth trying...Pancake Shop on Summer, Blue Plate Cafe, Bagel Company of Memphis, Beignet Cafe, Bosco's.