Friday, April 19, 2013

Hokkaido Sushi Bar - Granby Street, Downtown Norfolk

Last time I dined at Sakura in Old Dominion University's Monarch Village, I noticed their chopstick wrappers advertised another restaurant's name, Hokkaido in downtown Norfolk. There is a current sushi battle in downtown right now with at least four open. Laine noticed Hokkaido's hard work on the nice, large outdoor patio. Today's nice weather drew us there to enjoy lunch. We ended up having it to ourselves, even better! The menu mimics Sakura's, so I was pretty certain I would be happy. The lunch special made me even more enthusiastic. The two rolls I typically order at Sakura turned into my lunch special for $7.75. Of course, Laine and I have to upgrade in some way, and like my best friend, I substituted the salad for the Miso soup for $1, not a bad up-charge. We started with the edamame, a healthy appetizer that will not ruin your meal. The salad was standard and I do love the accompanying ginger dressing. The Sweet Potato Roll is one of my favorite rolls. The potato is fried and slightly warm, which is unique for a vegetarian roll. My other mainstay is the Peanut Avocado Roll and I always add cream cheese to this for good measure. Hokkaido charged fifty cents to add cream cheese which is reasonable. Related, the iced tea was $1.75 and that is a great price compared to some restaurants who want to charge $3 or more for tea and soda. That always amazes us. My bill came to just over $12...for two rolls, a salad and tea. Quality food, fast service, nice atmosphere (inside and out) and good prices...Hokkaido will be seeing us again very soon.

I watched Hokkaido on Granby evolve over the winter months. I witnessed a lot of work being done inside and out of the building. Instead of tearing down the dilapidated woodwork on the exterior, they invested in the historic character of the building and worked to repair and update it. The building is nicely renovated inside as well, updated from the former Brazilian meat on a stick restaurant. (I was never a fan.)

A warm day prompted us to venture down Granby for a patio seat to check out the food as well. I have heard great reviews from co-workers. As Alex mentions, Sushi restaurants are popping up on every corner. They are NOT all created equal. I consider myself a bit of a sushi snob and wanted to see for myself if Hokkaido measured up to the hype. It did. Here's why:
1. Very reasonable pricing
2. Good quality fish (I had tuna, salmon, yellowtail sashimi)
3. Interesting and creative Rolls
4. Great service. Friendly, timely, accurate.
5. Nice decor
6. No issues, no drama, no errors



Hokkaido Sushi Bar Lunch Specials
Lunch Special

Hokkaido Sushi Bar Lunch Menu
Lunch Menu

Hokkaido Sushi Bar patio seating
Patio View

Hokkaido Sushi Bar dish: Sushi Salad
Nothing exceptional, just a regular sushi salad

Hokkaido Sushi Bar dish: Edamame

Hokkaido Sushi Bar dish: Sweet Potato Roll
Sweet Potato Roll

Hokkaido Sushi Bar dish: Peanut Avocado Roll
Peanut Avocado Roll

Hokkaido Sushi Bar dish: Yellow Tail Sashimi
Yellow Tail Sashimi...nicely sized portion

Hokkaido Sushi Bar wooden patio sculpture
Wooden sculpture on Patio. Who will win? The Tiger or the Eagle?

Hokkaido Sushi Bar bill
Good Value. $7.75 for 3 pieces of sushi or sashimi and one roll (from list provided)

Hokkaido Sushi Bar receipt
Another Lunch Special - Any 2 Rolls, $7.75

Hokkaido Sushi Bar
233 Granby Street
Norfolk, VA 23510

Hokkaido on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pelon's Baja Grill - (Ghent), Norfolk, Virginia

Pelon's Baja Grill Logo
Pelon's in Ghent is a relaxed, no frills spot for fresh Baja style Mexican food . I have been once before and last night had the pleasure of going again. I prefer it for outside dining or take-out. There are quite a few inside tables, but the patio is much more enjoyable.

Pelon's has counter service, whereby you order and pay at the register and you are handed your beverages. The Pelon's staff will bring the food to your table or pack up your take-out while you wait.  There are domestic and imported beers, wine and Margaritas. We have only had beers, but a Margarita is on the docket for our next visit. We will report back with a rating. Pacifico beer has been the choice thus far.

The Trio Dip and Chips is a must to start. A single serving and a size that serve 2-4 people are available. Trust me, get the 2-4 unless it really is only you. All homemade, the guacamole is available in chunky or smooth, the queso is mild and the salsa has a sweet side to it to balance out the spices. Anyone who likes Mexican will like the trio, even those who live in great fear of anything spicy. I am not one of these people, but I know a few of them quite well and try to remember a little heat can go a long way with their palettes.

Thus far, we have tried the soft tacos and a couple of the burritos and have been extremely pleased. The Grass Hut burrito ($7.75) is my favorite thus far and with so many ingredients, you experience a slightly different taste with every bite. This vegan entree has sauteed red, green and yellow bell peppers, green onions, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, cheddar and jack cheese, shredded green cabbage, Baja rice, black beans, salsa fresca and guacamole. I have never had a burrito with so many elements. For someone who loves cheese, I did not even miss it in the Grass Hut. If you order the Trio, you always have some queso to add to your Grass Hut. The Hawaiian Pipeline, another vegan item, looks appealing and while it will be hard to forgo the Grass Hut, I will do so for the sake of diners everywhere. The Dude burrito, with marinated grilled steak, Baja rice, refried beans, cilantro, onions, guacamole and salsa fresca, was a hit for the carnivore. The burritos are a good size and with the Trio, I have had leftovers both times. Last but not least, let's talk about the soft tacos. The Carne Asada and Chicken were on our menu last night and were well received. Our only mishap was not seeing the special, two tacos with rice and beans for $7.25, but the other Wednesday deal is $2 tacos, so we still made out well. Apparently, our hunger was blinding and next time we will pay attention to the sign that was right in front of us. Pelon's has a different daily special and all are listed on their website if you, like us, often experience eyes wide shut.

For your next casual meal, try Pelon's. We could not have been happier with both of our visits. There is also a Virginia Beach location near the oceanfront. The Ghent location is open Monday-Saturday 9am-9pm and the oceanfront location is open Monday-Sunday 9am-9pm.

[As mentioned, we were famished last night and therefore, I forgot to take photos. Those will be added after the next visit.]



738 W. 22nd St. Suite 15
Norfolk, VA 23517

Pelon's Baja Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bella Monte, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Bella Monte, located on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach is a restaurant I certainly should have visited in the past and consider myself fortunate to have gone recently with a good friend. We snagged one of the last reservations on a Saturday evening, so I do suggest making one.

We walked in to an energetic restaurant filled to capacity and I was instantly excited. The restaurant's slightly busier decor makes you feel at home but not claustrophobic because it was designed with good taste. Tables are closer together and I do like this style. You can focus on your own party's conversation but appreciate the good chatter of your neighbors. Who does not enjoy some interesting information gathered unintentionally! In all seriousness, it is nice to see others laughing and having fun over a good meal.

It took more than a few minutes for the server to bring our drinks, but after that initial delay, she was very attentive. We started our meal with the focaccia appetizer. There is no better way to start a meal than with hearty bread dipped in a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. For my entree, I was torn between the gnocchi and the tortellini and the latter won due to its accompanying sun-dried tomato pesto cream sauce. If you like rich cream sauce, which I certainly do, this entree is for you.  Nice additions, the sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes made it much more than your average cream sauce. My partner in crime ordered the penne alla vodka, minus the pancetta. She and I are both vegetarians and the server has no qualms in meeting her request.

Bella Monte dish: Cheese tortellini
Cheese tortellini, artichokes, fresh basil, sundried tomato pesto cream sauce

Bella Monte dish: Penne alla Vodka
Penne alla Vodka

Our entrees arrived just as we finished our focaccia and we were both thrilled with our choices. The quantity was adequate and we polished off every last bite. I look forward to trying to gnocchi next time but it will be really difficult not to order the tortellini again. The trials and tribulations of eating at a nice restaurant. Last but certainly not least, dessert menus arrived. Apparently, our server is also a bread pudding fanatic, as I am, and when I said we were torn between a few of the choices, she revealed her loyalty to my favorite dessert and her love for Bella Monte's take on this popular dessert. That was an easy decision and we threw in the white chocolate cherry cheesecake for good measure. The bread pudding is made with Panettone and a rum sauce. As our server said, it was delicious but piping hot so watch your first couple bites. The cheesecake was rich and creamy and the cherries that sat atop the dish were perfect with the white chocolate. We managed to also finish these before finally resigning ourselves to asking for the check, but neither of us really wanted to leave.

Bella Monte dish: Panettone Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce
Panettone Bread Pudding w/Rum Sauce

Bella Monte dish: White Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
White Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

I also ordered a take-out while we dined for a hungry boyfriend at home and he was thrilled with the chicken Parmesan. The only small blemish of the night was the side of meatballs I had ordered for him to go with the entree. I asked for a side of the Italian sausage and a side of the large meatballs in the prepared food case I spied in the back of the restaurant. I was explicit in describing them, even quoting the price. When I got home, there were much, much smaller meatballs in the box, so there was some mix-up between my order and the take-out box. Immediately upon discovering this mishap, I phoned the restaurant and the staff said to come by the following week and pick up the 'real' meatballs. We do not live close and while one of us will try to make it by the restaurant to obtain the bigger and better meatballs, I had hoped for some easier remedy. Something is better than nothing though, and as we know there are restaurants out there that would have simply done that...nothing.

There is a cute market attached to the restaurant. They have wonderful provisions for the cook, food lover or anyone who appreciates a nice gift for their home. I will definitely use them in the future for host/hostess gifts and will be able to find something unique, a little change from the typical bottle of wine. Bella Monte is also open for lunch, another meal there in my future.

Bella Monte Gourmet Market and Italian Marketplace
1201 Laskin Rd #100 Virginia Beach, VA 23451
(757) 425-6290

Bella Monte on Urbanspoon