Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Superwok Reviewed!

Gentle Readers, though Chinese restaurants are ubiquitous, finding the gems is not easy. Too often they dummy the food down or use packaged sauces. The equivalent of Chinese fast food. Enter Superwok. Every time I walk in, some family member is making dumplings at a table in the back of the restaurant. I call this winning.

Garlicky pea shoot tips are amazing at Superwok.

Garlicky pea shoot tips are amazing at Superwok.

Introduced to Superwok by people within the service industry, it is the breakfast of champions. I’ve ordered noodles, dumplings, meats dishes (pork and beef mainly), pea shoots in garlic sauce, and everything in between. Order it all.

Twice cooked pork at Superwok. Yes, those are roasted peppers. Yes, they are hot.

Twice cooked pork at Superwok. Yes, those are roasted peppers. Yes, they are hot.

The noodles in chili sauce are exceptionally good. A little heat, a little sweet. The sauce is insanely compelling. I sort of want to swim in it. Beware, there are whole chilis in some dishes, and you probably don’t want to bite down on them.

Tofu is a little bit naughty when you deep fry it.

Tofu is a little bit naughty when you deep fry it.

Superwok is Schezuan in style, so there is the potential for heat as you want it, but the heat scale listed on the menu is accurate.

The atmosphere is generic strip mall, but you are not there for fine dining, you are there for good food. So file this under run don’t walk, but don’t blame me when you need to go back for more.

What’s your favorite local Chinese restaurant? Have chopsticks, will travel. Post a comment below!

Send questions, unicorn chopsticks, and good ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

 

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Chicken and Waffles Debate, Techie Style! (with bonus Peeps!)

Gentle Readers, lean in close, it’s confession time. The Practical Cook isn’t even going to pretend to go to the grocery store this week. Life and business have conspired to make eating on the road a necessity this week. It’s a holiday weekend for many, and I’m going to take a break as well.

Peep Show

Peep Show

However, in the spirit of rebirth and renewal, I’m leaving you with two videos. I am going to try to get back in the habit of video blogging. First up, my day job sometimes crosses over  into my hobby. Watch as technology and waffles clash forks in this hotly contentious chicken and waffles episode of my video podcast, EngineersUnplugged.com

Second, an oldie but goodie, for all you Peep haters out there:

Enjoy your weekend! Questions or comments, drop them in the comments section or on Twitter!

Send your syrup, hot sauce, and fancy fork work to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, Peeps Revised!

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Why I Don’t Go Negative: Some Thoughts on Restaurant Reviews

Gentle Readers, lean in, it’s confessional time. Sometimes I go out to review a restaurant, take the requisite pictures, and then throw it all away. It’s true, there is food that I’ve eaten that you’ve not seen in photographic form.

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

Shocking as it may be, I decided early on that my taste was my own, and I would happily sing the praises of things I found to be wonderful, and occasionally curse a well-established flavor (eyes on you Nutella). No real damage done there. But unless I am actively abused or sickened by a place, I don’t mention it if I don’t love the food.

Chocolate hazelnut (blech) bacon sea salt dessert. The bacon made me do it.

Chocolate hazelnut (blech) bacon sea salt dessert. The bacon made me do it.

Would I be doing the world a favor by warning you off certain places? Perhaps, but you might truly like them and then that would be an opportunity missed. Every restaurant has bad days, and I’m not a paid critic with time to go back several times in disguise with large parties of varying palates.

Google's take on the best restaurants: Good research fodder!

Google’s take on the best restaurants: Good research fodder!

Three times in recent history I’ve run into this problem. Each time with Waldorf (coincidence?). Ironically, the only time we truly agree is when we both violently hate something. Which wouldn’t make for that interesting of a review, though one place had bread so bad even it was inedible.

La Farm Bread: I <3 You!

La Farm Bread: I ❤ You! (Highly edible bread!)

If you ask me privately about a particular place, I’ll be candid in my answer. If you see a restaurant listed in my reviews section, you can assume I’ve eaten there enough to want to go back. Why bother going negative, when there are so many place to be positive about? In my private life, I vote with my wallet.  I’ll let Yelp and UrbanSpoon cover the masses.

The Practical Cooks Junior at Work: Shake Shack Reviewing

The Practical Cooks Junior at Work: Shake Shack Reviewing

How do you feel about negative restaurant reviews? Have you ever posted one? Post your comment (negative or positive) below!

Kitchen confessions, questions, and spare coffees can be sent to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up on Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus!

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Bachi Burger, I Think I Love You: Las Vegas Field Resarch

Gentle Readers, there are friends, and then there are friends who show up with pork bahn mi and coordinates for pork belly buns. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, my friend, whom we shall call BaconNBourbon, took me on a food adventure worthy of Thelma and Louise, minus the negative outcome.

Barbecued pork bahn mi on homemade bread. Wow. Just wow.

Barbecued pork bahn mi on homemade bread. Wow. Just wow.

First, there were these two types of bahn mi, straight from some small shop in Chinatown. They were amazing.

The urge to make dam jokes is irresistible: Hoover Dam

The urge to make dam jokes is irresistible: Hoover Dam

Next, Hoover Dam. If you haven’t been, go, it is truly remarkable engineering.

Pork Belly Buns from Bachi Burger in Las Vegas. To die for.

Pork Belly Buns from Bachi Burger in Las Vegas. To die for.

Then, pork belly buns with parmesan truffle fries and a salted caramel shake with a toasted marshmallow top from Bachi Burger. OMG. No really. If you are anywhere in the Pacific Standard Timezone, this is not a drill. Drop what you’re doing and go.

Hello my pretties: parmesan truffle fries from Bachi Burger

Hello my pretties: parmesan truffle fries from Bachi Burger

The buns come with a sauce that reminds me somewhat of tamarind, but with a Chinese five spice kick. Skip it, and just eat. It’s fine, but they aren’t improved by the dipping. The fries were salty and balanced, not overly truffled (which in truth makes me gag, though BaconNBourbon argues there is no such thing as overtruffling), and crisp. A true delight.

Salted Caramel Shake with Toasted Marshmallow on top from Bachi Burger. Dreamy.

Salted Caramel Shake with Toasted Marshmallow on top from Bachi Burger. Dreamy.

And then, the shake. Just admire it for a minute. Wow. Just wow. Our only regret was not staying longer to eat more, as the burgers (they have sliders on the appetizers menu) looked amazing.

So special thanks to my foodie friend for redeeming my faith in the power of the food adventure, and for giving me a day of fresh air and pork in the midst of a smoke-filled business trip! Have you been to Bachi Burger? What’s your opinion?

Send your truffles, trials, and triumphs to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus!

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The Halal Guys! NYC Food Cart Review

Gentle Readers, is any food review worth a 30 block walk in bitterly cold wind? Yes, yes it is. The Practical Cook is here braving the elements so you don’t have to. Well, except for my partners in crime, whom we shall call MobileFoodie and Warlord. However, good news, The Halal Guys Food Cart on 53rd and 6th is completely worth it.

Chicken over rice with hot sauce and tzatziki from The Halal Guys, for the win.

Chicken over rice with hot sauce and tzatziki from The Halal Guys, for the win.

As some of you may have noticed, I will in fact walk a mile for food. Even if I have just eaten. This past weekend, after a long and leisurely brunch amongst friends, new and old, it was time to eat again. There was not a good reason other than I had never been to this food cart, and it came highly recommended (special thanks to the CHO for that).

Like a beacon of warmth in the distance, The Halal Guys keep the fires burning.

Like a beacon of warmth in the distance, The Halal Guys keep the fires burning.

So we walked. The food itself is very straightforward, but you have some choices to make, so use your transit time wisely: chicken or lamb; gyro or over rice; hot sauce, tzatziki or both. Served with lettuce and tomato no matter what, I went for chicken over rice with both sauces. The meat was fresh and flavorful, that mysterious combination of outdoor cooking and unnamed spices. The hot sauce was in fact hot, nicely balanced for me by the tzatziki, and the portion was outrageously large for the price.

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

I tried a bite of the lamb as well, and I’m definitely getting it next time. Or perhaps a combination platter? I can’t decide. The Halal Guys claim to be different, and they’re right. Lines can be long, but they run two stands and move fast. Have your order ready and step to the side. Or no meat for you!

Ohhhh, we're halfway there . . .

Ohhhh, we’re halfway there . . .

Thanks to my companions for braving the cold, though I do hope we can stop for wigs and necklaces next time. The next time you’re in Manhattan, stop by The Halal Cart and take a break from the dirty water dog and the pretzel. It’s a NY institution, and well worth the trip.

I became an ice zombie en route.

I became an ice zombie en route.

Send your extras scarves, your actual suggestions, and food related questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus: The Juniors Are Cooking!

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Restaurant Review: Tonali in Durham!

Gentle Readers, there are few things Team Practical Cook enjoys more than discovering a new favorite restaurant. But when it’s a Mexican restaurant, it is in fact even more bueno. Tonali in Durham won my heart with authentic and interesting offerings, plenty of vegetarian choices, and posole that made me weep from both spice and joy.

Posole from Tonali in Durham. Dreamy.

Posole from Tonali in Durham. Dreamy.

A bit off the beaten path, Tonali is worth the trip and does not require a passport. With my argumentative friend Waldorf joining us, we tried a number of dishes, including:

chile relleno: OMG. That’s really all I can say. Don’t order it at your own peril.

Chile relleno: a stuffed poblano that was lightly battered, fried, smothered and covered.

Chile relleno: a stuffed poblano that was lightly battered, fried, smothered and covered.

vegetarian quesadilla: Not your mama’s spinach quesadilla, this was stuffed with a variety of vegetables and the perfect amount of cheese

Check out the vegetable action on this quesadilla!!

Check out the vegetable action on this quesadilla!!

cheese empanada: I’ve been eating a lot of empanadas lately, and this was a fine entry. The Youngest TPC Jr tore through it like it was her job.

Cheese empanada with nicely rolled crust.

Cheese empanada with nicely rolled crust.

tacos al pastor: These were good, but I thought the vegetarian dishes were a bit stronger. I want to try another of the meat dishes when I return to compare.

posole: If this is on the specials menu, do not hesitate. Order it. It is larger than your head, so share it or be prepared to take it home. You will not want to waste a drop. Spicy, balanced, and interesting, it made me remember why I love hominy so much.

Huge props for the service as well, our water cups stayed full and TPCs Jr were treated like very short royalty. I’m going to rate this one as run don’t walk. Get there soon and try it, let me know what you think. The comments section awaits your wit and candor.

Send your warm tortilla chips, recommendations, and free-flowing compliments to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Friday, Soy Chicken: Friend or Foul?

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Rise Review: Biscuits and Doughnuts, Oh My

Gentle Reader, sometimes the only answer is to order one of each. Such is the case in two recent field research missions to the fairly new Rise in Durham. (Follow them @risedurham for specials etc.) First, mad props for the name. Well done. Second, great customer service. They actually care what you think.

The happy crossroads of sweet and savory: Rise

The happy crossroads of sweet and savory: Rise

But with a number of strong biscuit contenders and my love for Krispy Kreme, how does Rise fare? Thanks to my able assistants, The Practical Cooks Junior, for sacrificing and helping try a boatload of things. As you can see, I am here for you, always willing to try new things.

TPCs Jr, Labeled Vegetarians

TPCs Jr, Labeled Vegetarians

Biscuits:

1. Country Fried Steak Biscuit: Served with lettuce and Duke’s mayo (props for naming names), this was a good but not great entry. A note on the Facebook page later indicated that some of the portions were not cut well with an offer to make it right. Mine was one of them. Very impressive admission and customer service. I found the seasonings a little light as well, but it was very fresh.

Country Fried Steak Biscuit from Rise

Country Fried Steak Biscuit from Rise

2. Cauliflower, Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese Biscuit: The vegetarian surprise hit, this was tangy and interesting. The Jrs enjoyed it, as did I. Not a neat biscuit to eat.

Cauliflower Biscuit from Rise: Delicious!

Cauliflower Biscuit from Rise: Delicious!

3. Egg and Cheese Biscuit: This was the unanimous favorite. You could taste the biscuit more, and the scrambled egg and white cheddar were head and shoulders above the typical offering. We will go back for this one. (It was so good, I failed to shoot a picture, a rare and telling occurrence.)

4. Fried Chicken Biscuit: Good Fried, but again, not quite salty enough for my taste. Very high-quality chicken, just needed a little more oomph in comparison to others I’ve tried.

Fried Chicken Biscuit from Rise

Fried Chicken Biscuit from Rise

Doughnuts:

1. Glazed: A very good offering. Bigger than a Krispy Kreme, and slightly less fluffy, it has a homey quality that I could easily love. And the vanilla glaze tastes like vanilla. Nice job.

Vanilla Glazed Doughnut from Rise

Vanilla Glazed Doughnut from Rise

2. Sprinkled: This was a surprise hit for me. It was sprinkles with a strawberry glaze. First, it was pink-ish, which is delightful, and second, strawberry. I’m not a huge sprinkles fan, but this was a great one. A favorite of the Eldest as well.

3. Bacon Maple: Yes, I ate the whole thing. The bacon there is top-notch, and the maple glaze was obscene and delightful at the same time. I saw some glycemic stars in the sky after, but worth it.

Hello Bacon Maple Doughnut. I missed you too. (Rise)

Hello Bacon Maple Doughnut. I missed you too. (Rise)

4. Apple Fritter: This was another huge win in my book. They are BIG, and they are crunchy sweet with real fruit. You will never face a lesser apple pie with anything less than disdain after one of these. They kicked the Fair Fritter’s proverbial buns. This is not a one-person mission. Share, share alike. It took three of us more than one day to complete.

Ginormous Apple Fritter from Rise

Ginormous Apple Fritter from Rise

5. Crushed Oreo: This was the favorite pick of the Youngest. An excellent entry, I’m not a huge crushed Oreos fan, but the doughnut itself was quality, and with good topping adherence.

Random: The Hash Cake. Do not miss this. I will be adding one to the order as a standard upgrade. It’s shredded potatoes, onions, and cheese, and it is unicorn good.

The Humble Hash Cake is full of flavor and sprinkled with salt. (Rise)

The Humble Hash Cake is full of flavor and sprinkled with salt. (Rise)

Overall, I give Rise a big thumbs up. It can get busy, but the ticket system works fairly well, and it smells like doughnuts. Great alternative to sitting down to breakfast or brunch with the kids.

What’s your favorite doughnut flavor? And do you venture on the wild side for biscuits? Post a comment or Tweet my way.

Send your glazed, sprinkled, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Friday, Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup Review (and Recipe).

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