Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates

Interior

Scallops

Truffle tuna tar tar

Crab cake

Mussels

Brussels sprouts

Squid ink pasta

Shrimp bombs

Red curry elotes

Tiramisu

Mango mousse

**** (4 stars)

This is a charming small restaurant in a quiet section of Andersonville. It focuses on seafood, with a touch of Thai.

Appetizers are a good way to explore the menu here, and we tried most of them.

By far the best thing we had was the Truffle tuna tar tar. The scent of truffle was certainly there, but the thing that made it outstanding was the complex combination of spicy and citrus flavors and interesting tender and crunchy textures.

Seared scallops in curry were also good, and the crab cake was one of the best I’ve had, with a spicy kick and crusty outside.

Mussels were a disappointment. They seemed fishy, and we didn’t finish them.

Shrimp bombs were probably the most typically Thai dish, with a bite of minced shrimp mixture in a deep fried wanton purse. They were okay, but probably not worth the price for what was essentially three bites.

Squid ink pasta was a very substantial plate of dense, black pasta with rings of calamari. You will look like a goth after eating this dish!

Brussels sprouts was an okay side dish, nothing remarkable about them, and not much of the promised maple syrup flavoring.

Red curry elotes was definitely a Thai-spice-level take on this traditional street corn.

For dessert we finished with the mango mousse and tiramisu. The tiramisu was the better of the two, but wasn’t like what you’re picturing. Instead it is a dome with a chocolate crust encasing Thai iced tea flavored mousse.

Service was good, particularly considering that our server and her trainee were handling the entire restaurant.

Note that it is BYOB, and the liquor store across the street has incredibly poor taste in wine. Best to bring your own.

Blu 57 Seafood & Small Plates
5701 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 944-0575
https://www.yelp.com/biz/blu-57-seafood-and-small-plates-chicago

Sealegs Wine Bar

Interior

Chilequilles

Ceviche

***** (5 stars)

This is a pretty darn good place, especially for an airport lounge. There’s a nice selection of wines by the glass and bottle, at fairly reasonable prices for an airport. There’s also a great menu off well thought-out, atypical food. Service was a bit slow, but when you’re trying to kill time during a layover and have a nice bottle of wine, that’s fine.

Sealegs Wine Bar
200 World Way
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(424) 227-8295
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sealegs-wine-bar-los-angeles

The Stinking Rose

Interior

Combo mussels shrimp crab

40 clove chicken

Prime rib

Garlic ice cream with caramel mole sauce

**** (4 stars)

I’ve been wanting to go to a Stinking Rose since I first saw one many, many years ago in San Francisco. I was expecting it to smell of garlic and for every dish to have an overwhelming taste of garlic, but that was far from the case. Garlic was very judiciously used to enhance each dish without being the focus.

By far the best thing we had was the seafood skillet, particularly the mussels. This was the best mussel preparation I’ve ever had.

Prime rib and the 40 clove chicken were good but not remarkable.

Garlic cream is an interesting experience you probably will only want to try once!

The Stinking Rose
55 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-7673
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-stinking-rose-beverly-hills-4

The Ivy

Interior

Patio

Interior

Complimentary garlic toast

The Ivy Sundae

*** (3 stars)

This is a really charming restaurant, from its lovely outdoor patio to the beautifully decorated and intimate dining rooms. Each table is adorned with a vase bursting with fresh roses.

Your experience begins with complimentary glasses of Champagne, and your meal begins with complimentary garlic cheese toast. Both were wonderful, and were actually the two best things we had.

Ceasar salad and tuna tartare were very good starters. The entrees were less impressive. There was nothing noteworthy about the grilled swordfish, and my companion’s steak, ordered medium rare, was cooked far beyond well done, to medium cremated. We never send anything back to the kitchen, but we had to send this back. To their credit, it was swiftly whisked away and removed from the bill.

The sundae was a very nice dessert, served deconstructed, with two excellent sauces.

The service was pleasant and responsive, but not necessarily attentive.

There are some decent wines by the glass and a few lesser wines with reasonable prices, but the good wines on the list are steeply marked up, which is opposite the usual strategy. As a result we settled for one that was only adequate.

The Ivy
113 N Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 274-8303
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-ivy-los-angeles

The Little Door

Door

Exterior

Mussels

Sesame Seared Day Boat Scallops, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Chermoula Marinated Grilled Octopus, Preserved Lemon Sauce

Spicy Ahi Tuna Tartare and Shaved Fennel Salad

Patio at night

***** (5 stars)

The extraordinarily romantic ambiance of The Little Door makes it almost a magical dining experience. Divided into many intimate spaces, it feels like you’re dining in a patio, or a forest, or a cottage, depending upon where you sit.

Tuna tartare was a nice starter, but the grilled octopus was even better, extremely tender and flavorful.

The mussels appetizer which my companion had as an entree was huge; she could only eat half!

My grilled scallops were perfectly cooked and accompanied by carrots seasoned with interesting Morrocan spices.

The extensive wine list is extremely reasonably priced.

Service was professional, attentive, and friendly.

The Little Door
8164 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 951-1210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-little-door-los-angeles

Topgolf

Third floor

**** (4 stars)

This is a fun spot whether you’ve ever held a golf club or not. Three floors of driving bays are set up sort of like a bowling alley, and you can just hit balls, or aim for the giant lighted holes while playing a variety of games.

The food and drink are quite good. In addition to small plates, they catered an entire dinner buffet for our office group, and everyone really liked it.

There are also several bars if you just want to sit and relax and enjoy a game on TV, or watch people hitting balls out onto the field.

Topgolf
9295 Universal Blvd
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 218-7714
https://www.yelp.com/biz/topgolf-orlando-2

Bellemore

Exterior

Interior

Shaved Foie Gras

A Winter Salad

Hawaiian Rolls

Guitara pasta

Snapper

Duck

Lemongrass Semifreddo

Chocolate pudding

Chocolate pudding and amaro daiquiri

***** (5 stars)

I was excited to try this latest offering by Boka, and it did not disappoint. The decor is beautiful, and it has a high energy vibe without being deafening. There is a smaller side room that overlooks the kitchen which is a bit quieter.

We tried the eight-course tasting menu, which is a collection of dishes offered on the regular menu, but in smaller sizes. It’s a perfect way to sample many of the menu highlights, and is very reasonably priced compared to other tasting menus around town.

We enjoyed all of the courses, but the stunner was the salad, of all things. It was an intensely complex combination of almost innumerable tastes and textures that came together with a different experience in almost every bite. Sadly, since it’s called the Winter Salad, it probably will be off menu when you read this.

The other highlight of the meal was the accompanying wine pairing. It was priced freakishly low compared to the extensive wines by the glass, and every single wine was a superb match with its course. I always worry about wine pairings, because so often, even in high-end restaurants they seem like really weird finds from a bored sommelier. Not so here! Although the selections are indeed mostly obscure, that was part of the fun discovery process, and every one was a superbly balanced old world gem. And the final selection, an amaro daiquiri, perfectly matched a complex dessert.

Each of the wine selections was presented by the sommelier, Jamel Freeman, who carefully explained the background of the wine and why it had been selected to accompany that course. His encyclopedic knowledge and engaging manner was a real treat.

The rest of the service is provided by a well-orchestrated tag team of servers, runners and bussers. It’s an impressive organization, but I couldn’t help wishing we’d had a bit more interaction with a dedicated waiter who would play host as well as Jamel did with the wine.

Bellemore is definitely another winner, and I look forward to future visits.

Bellemore
564 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 667-0104
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bellemore-chicago-2

Chroma

Shishito peppers

Exterior

Buffalo chicken wanton

**** (4 stars)

Chroma combines a nice assortment of small plates with an interesting and varied wine list. The place is divided into several spaces, and it’s quieter in the rooms away from the central bar. There’s also outside dining. You might not think an outside dining area under an airport’s approach is a good idea, but somehow it works, particularly on a nice balmy evening.

It’s one of those places where things come out from the kitchen whenever they’re ready, which can lead to pacing problems, so I suggest going when you’re not in a hurry, and not ordering everything at once.

Chroma
6967 Lake Nona Blvd
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 955-4340
https://www.yelp.com/biz/chroma-orlando

The Goblin Market Restaurant

Exterior

***** (5 stars)

I’ve been going here for over twenty years, and it just keeps getting better.

First off, there isn’t a restaurant in Central Florida with better atmosphere. The place is divided up into a collection of amazingly cute and cozy rooms, each with the feel of a private library.

The food is great, too. I’ve only been at lunchtime, when you can’t go wrong with any of the sandwich choices. I’m not much of a wrap fan, but I love the ones here. And for something less healthful try the grilled cheese. Their fries are good, but the homemade potato chips are even better.

Service is friendly and attentive.

In case you’re wondering about the name Goblin Market, do a Google search for the poem by Christina Rossetti.

The Goblin Market Restaurant
330 Dora Drawdy Way
Mount Dora, FL 32757
(352) 735-0059
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-goblin-market-restaurant-mount-dora

Badmaash

Interior

Samosa

Chili Cheese Naan

Yoghurt puffs

**** (4 stars)

Badmaash is REALLY popular, and therein lies the problem for me. We really enjoyed the food, but it was so packed and loud it was hard to enjoy the experience.

I highly recommend the butter chicken, whether as an entree, or in the samosa appetizers, which were the best item we had.

The place has probably the worst offering of wines I’ve ever encountered, and I’m including coffee shops; not sure what’s up there. Beer is a better bet, but also limited.

Service was friendly and attentive.

Badmaash
108 W 2nd St
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 221-7466
https://www.yelp.com/biz/badmaash-los-angeles-2