Tuesday, January 19, 2010

P.F. Chang's China Bistro - Virginia Beach Town Center

P.F. Chang's exterior
"Bistro" may be one of the most inaccurately overused terms used in the restaurant business today. As most know, the term itself is French in origin. According to Merriam Webster it is "a small or unpretentious restaurant" or even better is the Wikipedia definition of "a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting". Everyone thinks they are a "bistro" today. It's the new cool. Have you ever been to Todd Jurich's Bistro? Fabulous fine dining, no doubt about it. A bistro? Well....not really. P.F. Chang's combination of "China" and "Bistro" in their name takes this stretching of the definition to new heights!
P.F. Chang's interior
Sunday night was accompanied by a torrential downpour, not my favorite going out weather. The Town Center has tons of free parking, but in garages, which require you to walk some distance to your selected venue. Lucky for me, I married a gent, and was dropped off at the front door. It was standing room only. Even the front vestibule was crowded. After hearing some rain drenched people being told the wait times, I thanked my lucky stars that I made reservations, and wondered if they would be able to deliver on them. After checking in I headed to the crowded bar.
P.F. Chang's drinks
I had perused the menu online before coming and knew exactly what I wanted to drink; the Orange Peel Manhattan. Just as my husband arrived, more luck shined on me and the only two people leaving the bar were seated directly in front of where I was standing. We sat down and I placed my order. After hearing my order, the bartender asked me if I really "love, love, love bourbon?". I said I do. I am after all, a girl born and raised in the south. Apparently quiet a few people order that beverage having no idea that it is basically straight bourbon with a splash of flavor. It ends up being sent right back to the bar. Sissies! I am a fairly devoted Jack Daniel's Manhattan drinker, of the standard variety with sweet vermouth. I was looking forward to a designer version. It was outstanding. Orange citrus flavor goes well with bourbon. Try a classic Old Fashioned if you like this combo. On a funny note (to me anyway) my husband was invisible to the bartender. He took my order, made the drink, served it and walked away. Hey buddy, the guy who will be tipping you would like a beverage too! Chang's also offers 40+ wines by the glass, categorizing the wines on their wine list by flavor category , varietals and intensity. Nice. They also maintain a 7oz. pour for all wines and claim their wines are served at the ideal temperatures of 62 degrees for reds and degrees for most whites. Not that I can measure the temperature for accuracy, but the fact that they make the claim is impressive to me.
P.F. Chang's Calamari
We were called for our table promptly at 7pm. I was impressed. So many places take reservations and are unable to manage table flow in order to fulfill them. This scored high points with me. We were meeting another couple who was running late and decided to order an appetizer while waiting. We started with Salt & Pepper Calamari, which is calamari tossed with scallions and the house salt and pepper mix. It also had a dipping sauce that was similar to a sweet and sour sauce. These were also very good. Light on the breading, lightly fried, cooked just right.

Shortly everyone arrived and we began to order our entrees. Chang's has jumped on the bandwagon of restaurants adding nutritional values to their menus. I really like this, especially for chains whose menu's and entrée preparations don't vary to the degree a private restaurant might. Unfortunately, the corresponding information was an eye opener. At first glance, the data wasn't too alarming, but as I looked closer I realized that every entrée had a serving size of at least 2, and some were up to 4! Please note that there are their regular entrées, not those off their P.F. Chang's for two menu. For example, a 5 oz serving of Orange Peel chicken has 333 calories, 15 grams of fat, 770 mg. of sodium and is a serving size for 3. That's 5 ounces people! So, a single serving size is 1.67 ounces? Seriously? And what if you eat the entire thing? 999 calories, 45 grams of fat and 2310 mg of sodium. No wonder you're thirsty the rest of the night! This is one of their lighter dishes too. I played it safe and ordered Asian Grilled Salmon, which was completely disappointing and overcooked. The server didn't ask how I wanted it cooked and I was too busy socializing to think of it. Everyone else ordered their entrées and raved about how great they were. I had too much information! Ignorance would have been bliss!

Our server did a nice job and the food service was very quick. No waiting for the appetizer or entrées. We were kind of a slow table with people arriving late and at different times, but he never made me feel rushed. I appreciate that.

Overall, P.F. Chang's was a pleasant "chain" surprise. Nice atmosphere, great service, good cocktail and wine options, tasty meals. Well worth a visit!


P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

4551 Virginia Beach Blvd
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
(757) 473-9028

P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Street Cook - Virginia Beach

The Street Cook exterior sign
I finally made it to The Street Cook (hereinafter SC)Saturday night. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Maninno's a couple of weeks ago, I still had a craving for The Street Cook which had not been satisfied. The SC is an unassuming restaurant located in an older strip shopping center. It is not a fancy place, and has not changed a bit in the 8 or so years that I have going there. It is long and narrow, comprised entirely of booths.Parties larger that 4 will sit either in the rear where tables along the wall can be combined, or to a smaller alcove to the left of the entrance where the same is done. The interior is not modern or trendy, but is rather cozy. We met another couple there and were quickly snuggled in our booth.

The Street Cook dish Clams
The SC is primarily Mediterranean fare with some heavy Italian influences. No diet food at SC. Preparation of most entrees includes a lot of butter, a lot of sauces, pasta and, of course, cheese. Their traditional Greek meals are superb. They used to serve a traditional family style salad with meals, but that has changed and is no longer an option. I am sad to see that go. We started our meal with the Clam appetizer which features little neck clams in either white wine or marinara sauce with a side of garlic bread. I always choose the white wine sauce. It is great for dipping the garlic bread. These clams are always good, and I was not let down BUT...I think I like the ones at Mannino's better now. Clam wars! Mannino's was a little lighter on the garlic which made the sauce more palatable and had that hint of pepper as well.

The Street Cook dish Veal Francesca
For my entree I ordered Veal Francesca, which appeared to be the Veal Meal (I had to write that!) with the lightest preparation. The last time I was there I ordered Veal Sorrento and it was just too much, way to heavy for me. It was breaded and loaded with cheese. I completely lost the flavor of the veal in it. I was hoping this would become my go to Veal Meal, as I really love veal. Alas, it was not. I was underwhelmed. The veal was tough, perhaps from being overcooked? My friend ordered a veal dish and found hers on the tough side as well.

I was out ordered by my husband. He stuck to Greek and got the Pastitsio. I sampled a few bites. It was scrumptious! All portions are very hardy at SC, as you can see from these photos. The Street Cook dish PastitsioOur friends pointed out some funny typos in the menu, which he was told he was the first to notice. A funny one is that the house wine was "Carlos" Rossi, not Carlo. This gave me a good giggle! If I could choose one area for improvement with The SC, it would be to get a wine menu. Not improve it. Get one. They have a full bar, extensive menu and should be serious about having some wine options to complement meals. I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio, as did my friend and when we ordered a second the server suggested we get a bottle. You just get whatever they bring out. No options provided. The other funny menu typo was what is traditionally spelled "Hummus" was spelled Hoomas. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, because I am a terrible speller, I checked Wikipedia. According to Wiki "Hummus (a transliteration of the Arabic: حمّص‎; also spelled hamos, houmous, hommos, hommus, hummos, hummous or humus;". Wow. So many options! Not one HOOMAS in there!

No one had room for dessert, but they have a nice dessert menu. I have had the Baklava before and it is good. Our friend told us they have something called the Bomb, that you have to call in and order in advance. Occasionally they have some on hand, but I'm sure it does not last long. He says if you can get it, do not pass up the option to do so.

We had a great time at dinner. Good friends, good food. I am sticking with the Greek menu from here on out, but highly recommend their seafood pasta dishes too. They're just a little heavy for me. The service was okay, with only a couple of glitches. First, it took about an hour and 15 minutes to get our meal. I didn't really notice because conversation was lively, but that is a fairly long haul. The same thing occurred on my previous visit. Second, the server set us up with Parmesan cheese and crushed pepper minutes before the main course was served. Within minutes one server came by and asked if she could "borrow" the pepper. Right behind her another server did the same with the cheese. The pepper returned, the cheese did not. Come on. Get some more condiment set ups guys!

It is a good idea to make reservations on weekends. They fill up fast. The SC used to be a cash only place (can you believe it!) but recently changed that and now accept credit cards. Fantastic! This made me very happy. I see they are open for lunch and brunch, but not being a bruncher like Alex, I can't speak to it. Let me know if you are a fan or have tried it out.

The Street Cook
1949 Lynnhaven Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23453-1618
For Reservations call 757.471.7810


Sunday Brunch - 9-2
Dinner - 4-8
Tuesday - 11:30 - 8:00
Wednesday - 11:30 - 8:00
Thursday - 11:30 - 8:00
Friday - 11:30 - 9:00
Saturday - 4:00 - 9:00

Street Cook on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Ten Top- Norfolk, VA

The Ten Top Exterior
Alex and I originally reviewed The Ten Top back in 2008, and the review still holds water. Customer flow was steady today and it was standing room only as we dined. Me, Ms. Predictable, ordered a Greek Salad with Salmon. It was wonderful. Alex tried out their newest salad, Roasted Curried Veggie Salad, which costs a meager 6.95! The salad includes "A WARM MIX OF CAULIFLOWER, BROCCOLI, CARROT, SUNDRIED TOMATOES, SPINACH, RAISIN, APRICOT, CURRY SPICE". Alex said it was very good. Roasted Curried Veggie Salad

Since the temperature has been hanging out in the high 20's to low 30's recently a lot of their customers were ordering from their selection of 5 soups, which were all served in good sized bowls. No sissy cups of soup here. And guess what? A big bowl of soup and a big piece of bread only costs $3.50. That is a deal.

Stop by The Ten Top. It is an Alex and Laine staple. They are now open on Sundays' for brunch.


The Ten Top
748 shirley avenue
~ off colley avenue in ghent ~
norfolk, virginia 23517
757.622.5422 fax 757.622.7834
Monday - Saturday 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
*NOW OPEN FOR BRUNCH! SUNDAY FROM 11:00 am - 3:00 pm*
The Ten Top on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mannino's Italian Bistro - Virginia Beach

Mannino's Italian Bistro exterior sign
This really should be a review of The Street Cook, but they aren't open on Mondays. Monday night, two weeks ago, my husband and I sat in the parking lot looking forlornly at the hours on their front door. We had just left the Town Center area to come here and did not feel like fighting the insanity of holiday traffic on Independence to go back there again to eat. I remembered a friend of ours telling me about this great little Italian place near The Street Cook, so we called him up and asked for the name and directions. He had the directions and his wife provided the name. (They are a great team!)We headed off in search of Mannino's.

We drove right past it on the first go around. I can't blame the directions either, they were perfect. It's just that you would not expect any place of merit to be in such a haggard looking shopping strip. Pulling into the lot we had our doubts, but these guys highly recommended it, so we were game.

My initial feeling upon entering was one of pleasant surprise. I didn't expect the interior to appear contemporary or new. It was both. We were asked if we had reservations, which we did not. The place was 75% empty, and we were taken to the back room and seated along the wall among the row of tables. Take note, the seating is tight. You are very close to your neighboring diners. It didn't bother me, in fact we conversed with both tables on either side of us, however it would feel a bit intrusive if a romantic dinner was planned. Save classified conversations for elsewhere.

The person seating us or bringing us water, I cannot recall which, apologized in advance by telling us he had just double seated our server and it may take her a minute to get to us. Okay, I appreciate the heads up, but I'm not sure I agree with the presentation. Is that really how you want to start your relationship with a new customer? Hi, thanks for coming in and choosing to spend your hard earned dollars here, we already screwed up. Just saying....

We ordered cocktails and watched the restaurant rapidly fill. All the food was top notch. The Street Cook has a great clam appetizer that I had really wanted so we started with their Clams Posillipo with white wine sauce. It was excellent. There is just a hint of crushed red pepper which really ads to the dish. We were both in the mood for fish, and ordered evening specials of Flounder and Tilapia. The Flounder was ever so lightly battered and sautéed. The Tilapia was encrusted with homemade breadcrumbs. Typically, I steer away from "encursted" because usually that means a thick crust that overwhelms the fish. Not so here. This melted in your mouth. The side of the night was some sort of special broccoli, which I am sorry to say I really despise. We both opted for the sautéed baby spinach. It was a bit on the oily side, but very flavorful, and not at all overcooked. Since everything was so good, I went for the slam dunk and ordered their house made Tiramisu. I barely let my husband get a bite or two out of it. It was delicious. I had pondered the Cannoli, which a neighboring diner ordered. Apparently he had pondered the Tiramisu. We were both happy with our choices. The Cannoli looked good!

Merlot wine bottle at Mannino's Italian BistroManinno's runs a 10 for $10 wine special. They offer a variety of 10 wines for $10 and will cork what you don't drink so you can take it home. Wow, why doesn't every place do this? I'm sure it costs extra on their ABC license, but I would have to think more people would order bottles of wine if they knew they could go home with whatever wasn't consumed. And not just $10 wines either, but perhaps there is more to this legally than meets the eye. Regardless, we selected a Italian (of course) Merlot. We ordered this at the same time we placed our appetizer, and entree orders. We finished our appetizer and cocktails, had some down time, watched everyone around us get their wines, tried to get our server's attention, got our entrees from another server, watched more people get their wine, tried to get our server's attention, ate about half our meal and then I just could not stand it any more. Everyone in the place was toasting their meals. People who didn't even have FOOD yet had their wine. I mean, we just could not get anyone to SEE us. I saw someone shoot behind the bar and I made my move. I pleaded with him to have someone bring me our wine before I was finished eating. I am serious. I actually said, "I am begging you." I know the girl was busy, I can relate, but one of my rules back in the table waiting days was KEEP THEIR GLASSES FULL, especially if they contain alcohol. Not only does it raise your sale (and tip), but alcohol makes most people I know happy.

Yes, we finally got our wine, drank some there and took the rest home to finish later. The server never apologized, and I honestly don't think she was even aware of the issue. It wasn't a huge deal, and it didn't ruin the meal, but when I go there again, and I definitely will, I will be curious to see if the service misses were a one time glitch or a business trend.

Mannino's Italian Bistro
4402 Princess Anne Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Monday - Thursday from 5 pm-10 pm
Friday & Saturday from 5 pm-11 pm

Watch out...they are closed on Sundays!!!
Mannino's Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kelly's Tavern-Kempsville

Do Not Enter Sign
We found ourselves out in Chesapeake on a Sunday night, not a usual night to eat out for us. We were looking for:
1. An open restaurant
2. Not Sushi
3. Not Mexican

Someone said Kelly's, I think it was my daughter. We didn't really care, were not motivated for much else, and ended up at the Kelly's Tavern in Kempsville. A week after this event my husband summed it up succinctly by saying "probably the worst ever". Sure, I can laugh now but....
Steak at Kelly's Tavern
1. Our medium rare steaks were purple. Sent back.
2. Decided to eat the baked potato while waiting. It would not melt butter it was so cold. Didn't bother to send back.
3. Server's comments when I said the potato was cold? "Yeah I know! The kitchen can't seem to get them right."

This is Kelly's number two that has been horrible. (See our review of the Granby Street location)Only under severe duress will I step foot in any Kelly's location again. EVER! Could it be that I have already come upon a "worst of" 2010?!

Kelly's Tavern
1830 Kempsville Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23464

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m. Daily, Kitchen Closes at 1:00 (It should close COMPLETELY)

Kelly's Tavern on Urbanspoon