Acacia House by Chris Cosentino

Brunch salmon
Brunch chilaquiles

**** (4 stars)

Nice modern space inside a venerable old house. Friendly and accommodating staff. We went for Saturday brunch. The smoked salmon was served with all the possible accompaniments, including a nice dill cream cheese. Chilaquiles were also very good. The highlight was the best margarita I’ve ever had, served chilled, with a salty foam.

Acacia House by Chris Cosentino
1915 Main St
Saint Helena, CA
(707) 963-9004

Petrossian Bar

Caviar sampler


**** (4 stars)

This is a delightful piano bar just off the Bellagio lobby, and next to the casino. Despite its location, it is neither noisy nor smoky.

Many creative cocktails are one offer. One of the most interesting items is the caviar sampler, which includes a taste of three grades of caviar, and a glass of Champagne. I suggest ordering it with the creme fraiche on the side, though, as the way it’s served it’s almost impossible to keep it from getting mixed into the caviar, which makes them all taste the same.

Petrossian Bar
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 693-7111

Taix French Restaurant


Ceasar salad


***** (5 stars)

It’s sad that so few of the old school restaurants are left in Los Angeles. Taix is one of those great holdouts that harken back to the days of traditional French recipes in comfortably posh surroundings.

The restaurant is divided into a number of rooms, from a dark, clubby bar to an elegant high-ceilinged dining room.

Recipes are traditional and represent excellent examples of classic French cuisine: country style pate, escargot, tarragon cream sauce on your fish.

The highlight for me is the wine list, which offers a nice selection of domestic and international wines at the lowest prices in town. Most are at or near retail. What other restaurant offers a half bottle for $14? That’s less than the price of a glass at most places. If for nothing else this is a great reason to visit Taix!

Taix French Restaurant
1911 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-1265



Steak frites

Provencal plate

***** (5 stars)

This is a delightful spot to sit outside downtown, with no noise and a great view. There are heaters and a fireplace to keep warm in winter, and clear glass windbreaks all around.

The menu offers a nice combination of small plates and main dishes. We really liked both the tuna tartare and mussel starters, and my Provencal vegetable plate was excellent.

There is a medium sized list of wines, with about a fourth available by the glass. There is also an extensive spirits list.

Service is friendly and efficient, and pricing is reasonable.

448 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 802-1770

Pyrmont Bridge Hotel

Caesar salad


*** (3 stars)

This is a classic pub with good food located conveniently to the Lyric Theatre. If you don’t want to get into the mad crush in the food court before the show, eat hear and then walk two blocks to the theatre.

The salads we had were fresh, with tasty ingredients and excellent dressing. Service was friendly and efficient.

Pyrmont Bridge Hotel
96 Union St
Pyrmont, New South Wales 2009
+61 2 9660 6996

Boca Kitchen Bar Market



**** (4 stars)

I used to think this space was cursed, because of the long succession of unsuccessful restaurants that occupied it. But it turns out it wasn’t the space, it was the restaurants that were the problem. Boca is packed every day, and with good reason.

The food and service are both top notch. We had the day’s lunch special, a blackened amberjack sandwich. The amberjack was a thick piece, perfectly cooked. The accompanying mango slaw was a bit sweet for my taste, but with just a little on the sandwich it was perfect.

Rather than fries we asked for the mixed vegetables which had been sauteed and had a delightful smokey flavor.

Boca is one of the best bets for lunch on Park Avenue.

Boca Kitchen Bar Market
358 North Park Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 636-7022

Nona Blue Modern Tavern

Smoked salmon dip

Chicken tenders

House made salsa


**** (4 stars)

Nona Blue is a particularly nice sports bar. It has lower lighting levels and nicer decor than most, and the menu, while offering familiar dishes, adds a unique twist to most.

For example, the salsa is house made, filled with interesting herbs and onions, and served in a large dish that would easily service four people. (If you like it spicy you’ll need to ask for some tabasco to add some zip, as it’s quite mild). The accompanying chips were fresh and plentiful.

Smoked salmon dip was fresh tasting and flavorful. It contains quite a bit of egg white, so be aware if that’s not your thing.

The chicken tenders were exceptional. They aren’t the usual chopped up chicken, but were tender strips of white meat in a spectacularly crunchy, crisp, yet oil-free crust. We had them tossed in buffalo sauce rather than the standard BBQ or honey. Our waiter brought the other sauces to try, but the buffalo sauce was a great call. They were delicious.

Speaking of our waiter, he was very friendly and helpful. Service was definitely beyond expectations.

Nona Blue Modern Tavern
9685 Lake Nona Village Pl
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 313-0027

Maple & Ash

**** (4 stars)

You enter the upstairs dining room of Maple & Ash quite dramatically, from an elevator at the rear of the building that opens out into a dramatic two-story space that is quite dazzling. Although it is a steakhouse in a city of steakhouses, the experience here is quite different. Servers are much more engaged with their guests, and there are many freebies and extras involved in each meal.

For example, before you’ve even started, there are chips and dip, watermelon radishes with salt, parmesan crisps, and even an “amuse booze” cocktail of vermouth and grapefruit. Crusty bread and butter come next. We were starting to worry we’d be full before the first course arrived.

An extensive wine list has a range of offerings at moderate prices but includes a page of under $50 bargains.

We opted for the “I don’t give a f*@k” tasting menu because it let us sample much of the menu. It’s a bargain at $145. These were the courses:

Seafood platter, not chilled, but rather roasted, featuring lobster, shrimp, scallops, and clams. The was served in a pool of butter which was later used for a tableside preparation of pasta.

Beet and watercress salad.

Rosemary fries with Hollandaise and aioli.

Meatballs with garlic cheese toast.

Bone in ribeye steak served with ricotta agnolotti, roasted squash, and mashed potatoes.

Ice cream sundae tower with three kinds of ice cream and 12 toppings to choose from.

We enjoyed the experience, and particularly our server. I can’t say there were really any home runs, and the steak was definitely not the highlight, as it wasn’t particularly tender. Overall it was a very rich menu, with little respite from heavily buttered dishes. The best items were the dip, the mashed potatoes, and the sundae.

Despite the large size of the room, noise levels were surprisingly pleasant (until a large drunk party was seated next to us) and the background music track is particularly chill.

If you are looking for a steakhouse-type experience that is a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out.

Maple & Ash
8 W Maple
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 944-8888

The Berkshire Room


**** (4 stars)

This is a chill bar for craft cocktails, but they could up the food quality. The main draw is the “dealer’s  choice” selection of cocktails where you pick the spirit, the style and the glass and leave the rest to the mixologists. They are obviously really into it (just look at the extensive list of spirits), and it’s likely you’ll get something you really like.

I instead opted for a couple of the cocktail menu selections. The Continuous Negroni was one of the better Negronis I’ve had, intensely bitter, and quite complex.

The highly touted Weston was an interesting mix of bourbon, coffee essence and tobacco. I found it boring, but maybe it was because I had just had the negroni.

I tried all three of the dips on the menu, which were part of the “pick three” bar snack menu, and cost a very reasonable $8. The smoked whitefish was good, the onion was just okay, and the bean was not that great.

I also had the Reuben sandwich, which was nicely prepared, but contained huge hunks of very fatty “bacon” in quarter inch thick slabs. It wasn’t very good. The accompanying slaw was very bland, but the potato chips were excellent, super thin and very crispy.

In all, this is a great place for craft cocktails, but I’d skip the food entirely.

The Berkshire Room
15 E Ohio St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 894-0945

Untitled Supper Club

**** (4 stars)

Untitled isn’t exactly a supper club or a speakeasy, but it does have some elements of those. You enter down a broad staircase into a foyer off of which large rooms extend in all directions. One room is a large lounge that serves over 500 whiskeys, another has a stage for live performances (there was a very good Jazz quintet playing the night we visited) and a third room is strictly for dining, and features private alcoves for six all around the edges. This last room was most to our taste, as the live band was audible but conversation was still possible. Decor throughout is romantic and 1920s inspired.

The menu contains a nice variety of shareable plates, and a selection of full-size entrees. We loved the Mussels, which were served in a green curry broth that tasted like Tom Yum Goong. There were a LOT of mussels in the bowl for a very reasonable $16.

We also vaporized two other small plates, deviled eggs, and bacon fat fries. Yes, you read that right–write, BACON FAT FRIES! They were as good as you would imagine.

Well after all that, we could only share a salad as our main dish, and our server’s recommendation of the asparagus salad was a great one. Raw, pickled and grilled asparagus were combined with mixed greens and an excellent green goddess dressing.

An interesting cocktail list includes smokey, bitter and other exotic flavors. A nice variety of wines by the glass is on offer, along with a limited bottle list that seemed a bit pricey.

Service was amazing (as was our server’s dress). Her recommendations were spot on. Note that many of the hostesses and servers were scantily clad, and apparently things get bawdy as the evening progresses.

It’s a bit hard to describe the concept here, because they are trying to be several things at once, and are doing so pretty successfully. I can see it as a place for business over whiskey, for cocktails, for a romantic dinner, or a late night show. And by moving from room to room, you could actually do several on the same visit.

Untitled Supper Club
111 W Kinzie St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 880-1511