Sotto

Interior

Exterior

Bread with garlic anchovy butter

Funghi pizza

*** (3 stars)

Excellent service here is the highlight, and the decor is intimate while at the same time being bustling. The food doesn’t quite live up to the resulting expectations.

Housemade bread was delicious, and worth the extra charge. The funghi pizza was flavorful, but the crust was more like naan bread, with no crispness at all. We ate the toppings off.

Rigatoni was nicely al dente, but this dish should only be ordered if you absolutely LOVE chicken livers, and they weren’t just the prime flavor component, they were the only flavor component.

I give them points for doing something different with the wine list, but it may not be what you’re looking for. ALL of the wines are from lesser known Italian appellations, so you’re not going to find any varietals you’ve likely heard of. This encourages exploration, but also invites disappointment.

Sotto
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sotto-los-angeles

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 Glass Knife

Egg salad sandwich

Curry chicken sandwich

Interior

Exterior

Mini Florida Citrus with White Chocolate Mousse

***** (5 stars)

Of course you would expect beautiful pastries at a place called The Glass Knife, and you’d get them. What you might not be expecting are:

– Beautiful and stylish interior decor.

– Delicious sandwiches and salads.

– Professional and friendly table service.

That last item is particularly noteworthy because of the restaurant’s odd policy of making you place your order at the counter. Not only is this confusing, it seems to serve no purpose, since you don’t pay at the counter, and you then immediately seat yourself and are waited on by a conventional server, who brings place settings, water, can take orders for additional items (dessert, anyone?) and accepts your payment.

Anyway, despite this oddity, it’s a delightful restaurant and an excellent choice for a treat, coffee (real pour overs) or a complete meal.

The Glass Knife
276 S Orlando Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 500-2253
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-glass-knife-winter-park

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

Hawkers Asian Street Fare

Interior

Interior

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

Even though open only a short time, this Hawkers is very well run, and during a packed lunch hour service and food were excellent, living up to the standards set by the original location.

Unfortunately, the beautiful interior design is an acoustic nightmare, with brick walls and tile walls everywhere, making it fairly unpleasant. It’s certainly not a place for a business discussion or intimate conversation.

Highlights of the menu include Roti Canai (Malaysian flatbread served with curry sauce), Lettuce Wraps (fill them yourself with wok-seared shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, carrots, bean curd, garlic, and ginger; the best version uses beef bulgogi), and Mee Goreng (egg noodles, tofu, shrimp, eggs, spring onions, napa, bean sprouts, onions, carrots, potatoes, roasted peanuts, and lime).

The beer list seems more limited than at the original Hawkers; maybe it’s just the way it’s printed.

Hawkers Asian Street Fare
9100 Conroy Windermere Rd
Ste 110
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 583-6334
https://www.yelp.com/biz/hawkers-asian-street-fare-windermere

Toasted Windermere

Interior

Exterior

Periodic table of cheese

**** (4 stars)

I need to return here to try the grilled cheese sandwichs, as they look good, but we tried the burgers, which are half their offerings.

In particular I wanted an Impossible Burger, the meatless patty that is–when correctly prepared–just as good or even better than meat. It’s best with a nice crust on the outside and a thin patty. Toasted’s version was actually a bit too thick and a bit too big, with pieces falling off around the edges, but it was nicely crusted.

I like my burgers fully dressed, with a slice of onion, pickles or relish, mayo, mustard, and so on. Not sure if they can do that, but the default isn’t the case.

At $12 including fries the Impossible Burger seemed a bit pricey, but I suppose it is because it is exclusive.

We also tried the Southern Burger, which is basically a BBQ bacon cheese burger plus mac and cheese on the burger. The meat in this burger was definitely inferior to the Impossible Burger, and I wouldn’t order it again. We also didn’t think the mac and cheese added anything.

Both burgers came on a nicely grilled bun.

I probably wouldn’t order burgers here again, but I would go back to try the grilled cheese. The employees were all great, very enthusiastic, and the place has a nice ambiance.

Toasted Windermere
6506 Old Brick Rd
Ste 100
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 217-5485
https://www.yelp.com/biz/toasted-windermere-windermere

Tortas El Rey

Menu

Exterior

Torta Al pastor

Chicken burrito

***** (5 stars)

This is a great place for real Mexican street food. I had the chicken burrito special which came with a drink for under 7 bucks. It was a huge tasty burrito; it came with peppers, lime wedges and two salsas, red and green, which both had a kick.

Even better was the Torta al Pastor, a giant sandwich filled with savory pork, peppers, and tomato. One of the best tortas in town.

The place is a former Checkers, so it’s efficient to drive through or to order at the window and eat at one of the umbrella-covered tables. It took a few minutes to make the food, but definitely worth it.

Tortas El Rey
6127 S Orange Blossom Trl
Orlando, FL 32809
(407) 850-6980
https://www.yelp.com/biz/tortas-el-rey-orlando

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

Carl’s Jr Restaurants

Interior

Exterior

Western bacon cheeseburgers and sides

*** (3 stars)

Carl’s junior offers a nice variety of pretty typical fast food. Unlike at most of the competitors you can get a BBQ bacon cheeseburger and onion rings, which are my favorites.

The food at this Carl’s is good, but it is quite slow, even when uncrowded, so don’t visit if you’re in a hurry.

The place is clean and the staff seems nice.

Carl’s Jr Restaurants
1611 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 731-0384
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carls-jr-restaurants-los-angeles-3