Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bonefish Grill

4889 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 355-1784

I was recently asked to check out the new menu at Bonefish Grill (on the house), so I decided to oblige. They have a seasonal rotation of menus and this one was well worth the trip. I will start off by saying that while they probably deserve 4 cheesesteaks, I have a hard time assigning that rating to a national chain...

I started with a Moscow Mule that was served with crystallized ginger. It had the ginger bite, and the candied ginger was an interesting touch.

They then brought out their house bread with herbed oil. This one hit the mark. I am usually not a chain restaurant person, but sometimes you have to love knowing just what you will get. I ate all of this bread, and then asked for more.

The most famous (arguably) appetizer is the "bang bang" shrimp. When I told friends I was going here, this was the unanimous "must try", They are lightly battered, fried, and served in a creamy spicy sauce. I found these quite addictive.

The creamy sauce did not make the crust into mush, maybe it was because I ate them in about four minutes. But I could see coming here to get a beer and at the same time CRUSH some of their bang bang shrimp.

Just enough sweet and spicy chili sauce to keep it interesting and they hide some romaine under there too, which makes me feel like I'm really just eating a salad. A healthy bowl of smothered and covered fried shrimp over ribbons of lettuce drenched in that incredible sauce.

Even though I had already eaten quite a bit of food, the entrees were now on their way.

Next up were the Blackened Baja Fish Tacos- Alaskan Cod with three warm tortillas, mango salsa, lime crema and shredded lettuce.

The cod itself was nicely blackened, I liked the sweet mango salasa and the lime crema. It was a lot of food but obviously I powered through. The tacos were pretty well balanced and had a good combination of flavor.

Fries were good but nothing out of the ordinary. Like I needed fries anyway...

The Chilean seabass topped with lump crab, truffle mac and cheese, and crab fried rice were my next victims. The fish was again, nicely cooked, with a crunchy crust, and the lemon and herb sauce went well with the flaky white meat.

The fish was cooked exceptionally well and despite the look of it, the lemon butter drizzle was quite light and rather delicious.

Crab fried rice was an interesting approach, and for an extra $4.50 it totally was worth the upgrade.

The truffle mac was another up-sale that I couldn't deny and you could probably get a day's worth of calories out of one order. I still ate the whole thing. Creamy and rich, this had just the right smack of truffle essence. It's definitely not for anyone watching their waistline. But I'm not watching mine.

I was pleasantly surprised at the food, as I didn't have any expectations coming in. Everything worked well, and was hot an timely. For a chain experience at this price point, I don't think I have had better and if my parents want to take me back, I would not argue. At all.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Pic-A-Lilli Inn

866 US-206
Shamong, NJ 08088
(609) 268-2066

South Jersey has some of the best food around. They make great cheesesteaks and hoagies, and their wings are only rivaled by the Philly 'burbs. The Pic-A-Lilli Inn is sister restaurant to the Pic-A-Lilli Pub in Atlantic City. Cheap beer and great wings can be had at both. The Inn is located smack dab in the middle of the Pine Barrens. So you can go ride bikes/motorcycles or kayaks, and then grab some cold ones and some wings after.

The cheesesteak at the Pic-A-Lilli is no slouch either. Served on a Liscio's roll, the meat is finely chopped, well seasoned, and came with a hearty ratio of American. The onions were fried well, sweet and caramelized without becoming mush.

Curly fries with a side of wiz rounded out this low calorie, low carb lunch. It was basically diet food.

The wings are actually counted in half wing. So an order of ten works out to be about fifteen to twenty wings. An order of six is shown below. The sauce can get hot quick, so if you skip "spicy" and go to "hot" be warned, they have the burn.

The meat is tender, and the skin well rendered. These are not the crispiest wings you will eat, but they just work. A combination of the deep flavor of the sauce, and the little morsels of deliciousness is enough to satisfy anyone from a biker (you will see lots here) to a chubby food writer (likely to find me here as well).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tom's Dim Sum

13 E State Street
Media, PA 19063
(610) 566-6688

Media PA, also known as "Everybody's Hometown" is a sleeper of a town for the food scene. There are always new openings and closings, and a variety of choices not seen in most Main Line area towns. For instance, you can eat some of the best Isreali food around at Desert Rose and get some killer hoagies and cheesesteaks at low key Wayside Market , not to mention a number of other places where you'll find French/Thai and (delicious) White Guy's Mexican. It also has one of the best walkable main streets in the area, and lots of shops. It is a hidden gem of Delco. When I heard they were getting Dim Sum, it meant another option for soup dumplings without having to drive all the way to Chinatown.

This is Tom's second location, the first one is under the convention center where the original Dim Sum Garden used to be. Confusing, I know. They offer the standard sauce options (dumpling, soy, vinegar, chili oil). It's a BYOB and they take cards. All things to like so far.

One of my staples is cold cucumbers. Although I prefer the cukes to be seeded, these had a better sauce than usual (though I suspect it is either a variation of the dumpling sauce or the actual sauce itself). I love bites of cilantro in with my cucumbers.

Sweet, tangy and salty, just missing a little heat.

I always add a couple spoons of chili oil to the mix and it plays very well together.

Another go-to is the scallion pancake. A flaky dipping vessel for leftover cucumber liquid, these slices generally get a nice bath while I eat a soup dumpling and then when they're fully saturated and sopping with sauce, they get scarfed down.

The flaky layers have just enough glutenous chew, coupled with a crispy, browned outside. They are simple and delicious. They can be a bit greasy at times, but when you do the aforementioned ginger soy bath, you'll tend not to notice.

Now to the star. If you have never had soup dumplings, I can't recommend them enough. Forget everything else on the menu. Steamed wrappers filled with a delectable pork meatball that is swimming in fatty broth. Take the dumpling by the balloon knot on top, put it into a soup spoon, and slightly tear the top open. The lets the HOT liquid inside cool slightly and allows you to add in any additional sauces you may want. I generally do a little dumpling sauce and chili oil right into the top to add the unctuousness of the broth inside. Be careful not to spill it out.

At this point you have two choices – bite through the skin and take half of the meatball inside, slurp the broth, or take the whole shebang (make sure its cool enough) in one go. I go with route number two because I am both fat, and I want the full flavor experience. Plus this means that while the suckers you are eating with are trying to save droppings of broth and juggle the spoon, you are reaching for your next victim.

I was here when they first opened, and they RAN OUT of soup dumplings. This was a tragedy. I only got one order, and was then informed of the misstep. Out of my mind, I ordered some Shanghai dumplings (at the waiter's request) but knew they would not be the same. Or even close. I forgive them this error, only because I have revisited several times, and on each of those consecutive trips the service and food has been great.

These sweet and sticky dumplings were good, but lacked the soupy goodness of my favorites. A couple of dips in dumpling sauce made for a salty contrast to the sweet porky rice inside.

When you go, skip the soups and Americanized entrees, and just order the hell out of the soup dumplings. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nixon's General Store

540 Chatsworth Rd.
Tabernacle, NJ 08088
(609) 268-9800

Deep in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the Pineys know a few things. One is where to catch the Jersey Devil and another is how to make some amazing cheesesteaks. Nixon's is a step back in time, like a gift shop mixed with a local WAWA, and crossed with a high end deli.

You walk in and make your way to the back. The barrels are set up with made-to-order screens that let you pick about any option you can think of. Want your cheesesteak meat in slices? No problem. Finely chopped, there is an option for that too. Add salt and pepper? Copper sharp instead of American (god yes)? They have you covered. You can even get wiz and another cheese. Simply amazing.

I got here at breakfast, so I decided to branch out and go with the bacon cheesesteak hoagie. It had bacon, steak (finely chopped/salt/pepper), lettuce, tomato, fried onions (well done option), and Cooper sharp. You can literally customize these things about any way you can imagine. I have never seen anything to this level of detail off of an ordering screen. Click the link to their sandwiches above and build your own. It's amazing. So one thing, this place is NOT cheap. My cheesesteak as pictured below was $15 and change. But it was worth every penny. The quality was outstanding. Look at these tomatoes.

These ripe beauties (assisted by the seasonality of my visit) we the best looking (and tasting) tomatoes I remember having on a hoagie in quite a while.

As I had just come back from a camping trip in the Pines, I put down the gate on the truck, pulled out the camping cutting board and knife, and sliced up breakfast.

The bread (courtesy of nearby Aversa's Bakery) was outstanding, with perfectly seasoned meat, and the perfect amount of sharp and melty cheese.

Did this sandwich need bacon? No. Was it like a cheesesteak BLT? Yes. Would I do it over again? Without a doubt.

Being the glutton I am, I couldn't JUST get a foot and half long bacon cheesesteak for breakfast, so I gave a nod to the age old Jersey dispute and got a pork roll, egg and cheese. Now one of the best food songs aside, this is a staple of breakfast on the east side of the Delaware. And we love it in Pennsylvania as well. Also - it's pork roll here, not Taylor ham. To quote  "In 1910 it was described as 'a food article made of pork, packed in a cylindrical cotton sack or bag in such form that it could be quickly prepared for cooking by slicing without removal from the bag.'"

Nixon's fries the pork roll, tops it with a fried egg and cheese (more Cooper sharp), and then since the sky's the limit here, I added some banana peppers, mayo and hotsauce (the last three due to my computer ordering frenzy).

A simple, perfect breakfast sandwich. This is the food of the working class. And you could do no better.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Billy Murphy's Irish Saloon

3335 Conrad Street
Philadelphia (East Falls), PA 19129
(215) 844-9683

Billy Murphy's Irish Saloon is an East Falls staple. It's the quintessential corner bar, low key, no frills, but a great place to get a couple of beers and some delicious food.

Anytime there are pig wings on the menu, I have to order them. This was one of those times. Braised pork shanks, cooked until extremely tender, then fried to crisp up the exterior and tossed in wing sauce. Hiding under the discard boat, they peaked out like a seductive, sticky temptress.

As usual, these were incredible. It's a pork lollipop, with nothing but tender meat perched on a shank. The sauce was spicy and sticky, and had enough body to stay put.

The "Von Hayes" sandwich seemed remarkably similar to another famous Philadelphia athlete-inspired cheesesteak variation. Steak meat, cheese, fried onions, tomatoes, special sauce. It was an exercise in gluttony. Keep in mind, its pretty dark in here, so I struggled with photos a bit.

The famous "turf burger" is $5 on Tuesdays. This one has special sauce, American cheese, jalapenos, fried onions, lots of bacon, and more special sauce. A steal at $5, this is the kind of burger that makes for a great corner bar. Just bring cash (they don't take cards).