Blue Fin

Interior

Salmon Burger

Chef Boo’s Chirashi Bowl

**** (4 stars)

Restaurants near Times Square don’t need to be particularly good to have a steady stream of customers, so I was pleasantly surprised by Blue Fin.

The narrow first floor space is pleasant and airy, and a broad staircase leads up almost two floors to an expansive and lovely upstairs dining room.

The restaurant offers a combination of cooked food and sushi, and we liked everything we tried. The standout was actually the Bang Bang Edamame, which had been tossed in a wonderful kung pao sauce. Chiriashi was also good, with a nice assortment of fish, although definitely Times Square priced at $33.

Service was friendly and profewssional.

Blue Fin
1567 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
(212) 918-1400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/blue-fin-new-york

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

Gibsons Italia

View

Interior

Exterior

Chef’s Crudo Selection

Lettuce and herb salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette (off menu item)

New York Strip Bone-In

Grilled Romanesco

Grilled asparagus

Affogato

Good view, rain or shine

***** (5 stars)

The original Gibson’s is a good restaurant, but this one is a great restaurant. Every element of my meal was about as close to perfection as I can expect from a steakhouse. Of the dozens of steakhouses I’ve tried in Chicago, it was clearly the best.

Of course, there is the view, perhaps the best in the city, looking out at the junction of the Chicago River. And the room itself is also gorgeous. It’s on the third floor, with a bar on the floor below.

The service was also impressive. Not only were the waiters professional and friendly, but they were genuine hosts, with several of them stopping by to chat.

The menu includes the full range of Gibson’s branded prime steaks, and they are just as good as you would expect. But it’s the other dishes that impressed me most. The chef’s selection crudo was a wonderful starter: three sashimi preparations of tuna, kanpachi and fluke, with amazing and surprising accompaniments.

An off-menu salad of lettuce and herbs dressed in Meyer Lime vinaigrette was a perfect break before tackling the steak. For sides I couldn’t decide between the grilled romanesco and grilled asparagus, finally ordering the asparagus. To my surprise, my waiter also brought the romanesco so I could try it. Both were excellent.

I finished off with the affogato, which was served deconstructed, so you could add your own coffee to the ice cream. The coffee was laced with Averna, which imparted a delightful bitterness to offset the sweet ice cream. The homemade cookies that came with it were also amazing.

The wine list is also top notch. There’s a great variety, and some reasonable prices. The Morey Saint Denis I had was a gem.

I can’t ask for much more than the meal I had at Gibson’s, and it’s perhaps the first Chicago steakhouse I’ve been to that will keep drawing me back rather than always trying new ones. Highly recommended.

Gibsons Italia
233 N Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 414-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gibsons-italia-chicago-2

The Big Easy – Windermere

Interior

Seafood sampler

Cajun crab dip

Cajun shrimp salad

Shrimp etoufee

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

I’ve always enjoyed the original Big Easy near Stoneybrook, so I was looking forward to this new location. It occupies the spot that was previously several failed Italian restaurants, and so far it seems much more successful. I was pleased to see they’ve fixed many of the lighting and layout problems of the previous occupants.

The food seems pretty much the same as at the other location. We enjoyed everything we tried, including the crab dip, seafood sampler appetizer, etoufee and cajun shrimp salad.

For non-Cajun enthusiasts there are also plenty of other choices.

We were originally seated next to an obnoxious woman and her bratty kids, so we moved outside to the delightful, large patio.

There’s a nice cocktail list.

Service was very good.

The Big Easy – Windermere
7782 Winter Garden Vineland Rd
Ste 140
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 347-3688
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-big-easy-windermere-windermere

Gator’s Dockside

Interior

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

I always enjoy Gator’s Dockside, and this newest location is no exception. It has a bit less of a sports bar feel than a few of the others, but there are still a lot of TVs, and the menus are the same.

My favorite item is the grilled wings. Grilling removes a lot of the fat, and lets the sauce shine through. My choice is hot garlic. There’s a lunch special weekdays until 4pm that includes fries. On my visit I thought both the fries and wings could have been cooked a bit longer, to crisp the fries and char the wings; I’ll request that next time.

The place must be well-managed, because even though it had only been open a few days and was very busy, service was running smoothly.

Gator’s Dockside
6516 Old Brick Rd
Windermere, FL 34786

https://www.yelp.com/biz/gators-dockside-windermere

Sea Dog Brewing Company – Orlando

Beer sampler

Interior

Exterior

Nachos

Pretzy

Happy hour winds

**** (4 stars)

This place has a nice open feel with a large bar in the center and lots of TVs. The menu is basic sports bar food, but well prepared.

The best feature, of course, is the list of beers made on-site. I like porters and stouts, and most microbreweries only make one or two, so I was pleased to see four on the list. A sampler of all four was only $8, and I really enjoyed several of them. There were some pretty wild flavors!

It’s worth noting that there is a nice list of happy hour appetizers, and beers are half price. Since happy hour runs all Sunday afternoon, that’s a great time to go.

Sea Dog Brewing Company – Orlando
8496 Palm Pkwy
Orlando, FL 32836
(321) 329-5306
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sea-dog-brewing-company-orlando-orlando

Coral Reef

Interior

Chargrilled octopus

Scampi

Bailey’s and Jack Daniel’s Mousse

*** (3 stars)

When it first opened this was one of the best restaurants at Epcot. They offered a true upscale dining experience and a spectacular view of the fish tank at the Seas Pavilion.

The view of the tank is still there, but the upscale dining experience is long gone. The reason, as with most of the other restaurants at Walt Disney World, is the advent of dining packages. Because guests can now get the food as part of their lodging and admissions packet, it has had a leveling effect on all of the restaurants, where everything is somewhat uniform. It’s not that the food is bad, it’s just very similar, and none of it stands out.

This is particularly apparent at the Coral Reef, which despite its theming isn’t really even a seafood restaurant anymore. Chicken and meat dishes outnumber the few fish dishes on the menu.

I had the chargrilled octopus, which was good, and the scampi, which included a skewer of decent shrimp and scallops over a completely flavorless pile of unsauced spaghetti.

Dinner for four, with a bottle of wine and tip, was over $300. Service was friendly and helpful, and the view is great.

Coral Reef
Walt Disney World Resort
Epcot’s Living Seas Pavilion
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32856
(407) 824-4321
https://www.yelp.com/biz/coral-reef-lake-buena-vista

The Grill On The Alley

Crab shrimp and lobster louie

Tuna sashimi

Caesar salad

Exterior

Interior

*** (3 stars)

If you like old-school places, you’ll probably like The Grill on the Alley. It’s pretty much unchanged since it opened in the 80s, and it was designed to be retro even back then. It’s a bit like more recent retro steakhouse concepts such as the Palm or Mortons, but somehow lacks the upscale feeling of those.

I didn’t find much that was remarkable on our visit. The best thing I had was a shrimp, crab and lobster Louie salad, which was very generous in its seafood portion, as it should have been for almost $50.

The service was–and I’m being charitable here-uneven, to say the least. We seemed to be handed off through a succession of at least four servers, and the people delivering the plates and bussing the table were all in rotation, too, so it wasn’t exactly conducive to feeling like a guest–more like part of an assembly line.

The clientele here is even older than the restaurant — by about forty years, I’d guess, and seems to be devoted, so perhaps they see something in it that I didn’t.

The Grill On The Alley
9560 Dayton Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 276-0615
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-grill-on-the-alley-beverly-hills

Quay Restaurant

Dulcey

Strawberry

Duck

Lamb

Smoked pig jowl and razor clam

Uni

Smoked wagyu

Carrots

View

**** (4 stars)

Usually restaurants with great views are on the top of tall buildings, but Quay is in the middle of its view of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. And usually restaurants with great views don’t strive to provide particularly great food. Quay does try hard, though, and sometimes succeeds.

Every course is certainly beautiful, but not everything tastes quite as good as it looks. The tasting menu is the way to go, because its many courses offer the best shot at finding something delicious. Our favorites were the smoked pork jowl, the lamb, and an amazing strawberry snow egg.

The wine list is extensive, and although the markups are pretty high, it’s a brilliantly constructed list, divided up by wine styles, varietals and regions in the most organized fashion I’ve ever encountered. The Champagne section even has two-page spreads that lists winemakers, grape percentages, and other vital statistics. I wish all wine lists were like this.

Quay Restaurant
Overseas Passenger Terminal
Level 4
Sydney, New South Wales 2000
+61 2 9251 5600
https://www.yelp.com/biz/quay-restaurant-sydney-4

Mo-Chica Ceviche Peruvian Grill

Chaufa and 1/4 chicken lunch

Causa (shrimp)

Tuna

Disco sour

Bar

Interior

***** (5 stars)

So far this is the best Peruvian food I’ve found in Orlando.

Of course I had to have a Pisco Sour. It was nicely made, with lots of frothy egg white on top, although it was a bit sweeter than I like.

Our server was nice, but there was definitely a language barrier. However we managed to mostly convey our order, although she didn’t understand the concept of appetizer, even though there is a section of the menu labeled that.

The Causa is extremely good, three small towers of the yellow pepper mash topped with fresh shrimp and a delicious sauce.

The Tiradito de Tuna Mikey was a very interesting preparation of sashimi style tuna slices in an Asian sauce and topped with chunks of sweet potato and avocado. The tuna was very good quality, and the sauce was excellent.

On the back of the menu is a small lunch section, with items for $9. Unlike the rest of the menu, there is no translation, so it requires a bit of research. I tried the Chaufa con 1/4 de Pollo a la Brisa. It was rotisserie chicken over fried rice. It was good, but not as good as the other items we had.

Because the tuna and shrimp were so good, on my next visit I will definitely try one of their many ceviches.

Prices seem a bit high, but not unreasonable for a tourist area. The place had only been open a couple of weeks when we went, but there wasn’t much lunch business. I’m rather surprised they opened here, because this shopping center is getting a bit tired, and I thought they were planning to bulldoze it to make room for a luxury hotel. But as long as it lasts I will be a regular visitor, because this is an excellent Peruvian restaurant.

Mo-Chica Ceviche Peruvian Grill
5700 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 723-8416
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mo-chica-ceviche-peruvian-grill-orlando-2