Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Royal India

We've already established the supremacy of Indian cuisine, so I'm going to spare you my dissertation on why curry will set you free.

Royal India is, as is the tradition in Milwaukee for great food, located in a strip-mall in a less than chic part of town. Overlooking what has to be the largest Wal-Mart in the Midwest, and the ruins of Southgate, Royal India isn't particularly pretty.

The parking is dodgy, and traffic on 27th Street is a nightmare. But often with great struggle comes great rewards, and this is most certainly the case with Royal India.

Enter, and you're greeted by an ample dining room, softly lit and relatively clean. The usual smells of garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin immediate storm your sniffer.

Dinner starts with the traditional Papadum,

Accompanied by the equally traditional trifecta of chutneys:

Bright red onion, dark thin tamarind, and paste-like mint.

Now, we've always been fans of Tandoor's home-made chutneys, but never really big cheerleaders for their Papadum. They always seem too salty, and the (ajwain?) seed throughout just give it an odd flavor.

Thankfully, Royal India's Papadum are much less salty, and spare us the odd seed-age. Combined with the tasty mint, sweet and sour tamarind, or absolutely sublime onion chutney, they serve as a delicious warm-up for the rest of the meal.

Did I mention that the onion chutney was superb? Our friendly server pointed out that most of the non-Indian patrons tend to perfer the tamarind, as the sweet-sour combo is familiar to us. However, we gobbled down almost the entire dish of the onion chutney, and were left wondering what, exactly, made it so cotton-pickin' tasty?

First, the onions are crunchy. Score one for texture. Second, the nuclear red marinade they're in is a bit sweet, but intensely sour, a little hot, but also a bit spicy... it's the most odd, fantastic combination. Try the onion chutney on just about anything... it'll make the meal.

We splurged a little on the highly affordable appetizers, ordering Chicken Pakora:


Veggie Pakora:

And Paneer Pakora:

Our helpful friendly server also brought us out each a cup of Masala Tea, aka Chai.

The chicken pakoras were, as would be expected, quite delicious. The meat was well seasoned if a bit chewy in places, and the chickpea batter crunchy and substantial.

The cheese pakoras were more of the same, with firm paneer and a spicy batter.

Not wanting to break with tradition, the veggie pakoras were very fine, with hunks of every vegetable in the garden. Surprise! Was that a battered, deep-fried leaf of spinach? I'm pretty sure it was.

While the samosas were tasty, they lacked the rich pastry texture of Tandoor's, and there was no mistaking the filling for anything else except mashed potatoes. I'll say the various pakoras probably scored either as good or better (in the case of the veggie pakoras) than the Tandoori equivalent, however, the samosas at Tandoor are by far and away the winners.

The Masala Chai was a nice surprise, with a mild sweetness, smoky spice, and rich creaminess. The tea served as an effective palate cleanser between appetizers, and the fat of the milk helped keep the spice of the meal under control.

Well, full yet? Excellent. Because it's time for the entrees!

Andy ordered Chicken Vindaloo:

While Lauren ordered Chicken Makhani (aka Butter Chicken) 

And I ordered Lamb Saag:

It should be noted that, despite having a (relatively) complicated order, involving multiple appetizers, breads, drinks, and entrées, the timing on all of our food was nearly perfect, neither cluttering up the table nor leaving us wondering when the next course was going to arrive.

Andy ordered his Vindaloo a Medium+ spice level, which our server told us was probably the upper limit for, er, pale Western European types. In retrospect, Andy says, he probably could have handled a full-fledged HOT, but was satisfied with a Medium+ nonetheless. Andy is kind of a man's man when it comes to spicing, through, so you kids at home don't feel bad about sticking to the mild stuff.

His Vindaloo was true to it's Portuguese/Goan roots: ultra-spicy, tomato, garlic and vinegar based gravy with chicken. This was in no way, shape or form just a manipulation of the house red curry; this was as true a Vindaloo as I've ever tasted. If spicy/sour is your thing, then Vindaloo is your dish.

However, if the intricacies and romance of Indian spicing are your true calling, then the Chicken Makhani might just be up your alley. The gravy is thick and rich, smacking of cream and butter, bright red with tomato, fragrant with garlic and spiced with a harmonious blend that never lets you forget it's Indian you're eating. The chicken tikka were tender and tasty and plentiful, and came together like a symphony with the curry.

My Lamb Saag was heaven. The creamed spinach was thick, thick, and even thicker yet. Realizing, of course, that creamed spinach curry isn't very photogenic, understand that the flavor belies the slightly unsavory sight of the dish.

India's love and respect for the dairy cow becomes readily apparent here: the Saag is a textbook outing of cream and butter, garlic, a little cumin, a little cardamom. Bits of red chili dot it, and my mild+ heat gave me just enough tongue-tingle to keep my interest. The lamb was beautifully cooked, tender and juicy, never tough, and never particularly lamb-y, if you catch my drift.

Combined with the fresh garlic naan (no picture, use your imagination), my Saag was a decadent treat, like licking the spoon after mixing a batch of brownies... something I'm keenly aware isn't healthy nor wise, but the sort of food-indulgence that one needs to engage in once in a while to keep from going completely off the deep end and eating an entire box of petit-fours. Which I did not do this Christmas. You can keep your accusatory stares and your tongue-clucking, thank you.

It bears repeating that our server was genuinely warm and helpful, talking and joking with us the entire time, even recommending better camera angles for the curry! He was quite proud of the food he was serving to us, taking the time to explain how everything in the kitchen, save the papadum, was home-made from scratch, and how he couldn't imagine using canned or pre-made anything.

I like it when my server is excited about the food I'm eating as I am.

We closed the meal with a little bowl of Gulab Jamun, lovely spheres of fresh cheese, deep fried and soaked in a rosewater syrup. Two of these sugary little suckers is plenty much, just a pleasant finish to a heavy and spicy meal.


I will always have a soft spot for Tandoor, but, as the old adage goes, you can never go home again. With Tandoor's new ownership comes a new menu and new flavors. We've been assured over and over that classic recipes haven't changed, yet on our last visit, it was all too obvious there are some subtle differences -- good, bad, or otherwise. As a break from tradition, Royal India satisfies with down-home Desi treats, the heavy curry comfort food that makes you want to take a long nap followed by an even longer night's sleep. 

I've heard some folks complain that the service is slow at Royal India, or that things aren't kept as clean as they ought to. Honestly, we didn't see any of that on any of our visits (admission: this wasn't our first rodeo). Despite the dining room being a bit quiet on our visit (it being the day after Thanksgiving, and all), there was a lot of carry-out traffic, so the kitchen was still busy enough to show potential slow-downs to us dining-room folks. 

We really enjoy Royal India, and we think it offers a nice change of pace from some of our other Indian standbys in the city. It's always good to have options, and we believe Royal India should be at the top of the list when you get the hankerin' for some curry...

Report Card:
Atmosphere: B-
It's quiet, intimate, and generic enough to be pretty much any kind of restaurant except German. Don't let the chairs stolen from a Greek family restaurant fool you, there is some Asha Bhosle playing from the overhead speakers. I'd say the only thing I really could dock the place for was the faulty dimmer which controlled the pendant lamps over the tables -- they'd blink high-low every couple of seconds, and pretty soon, I developed a pretty wicked eye-twitch.

Prices: B+
We're firmly in the $10-$15 range for entrées, but the portions are fair, and the food quality is peerless. Appetizers are inexpensive and the options are plentiful 

Service: A
Quick and gabby, and not the least bit shy about recommendations. It's a pleasant change to have a server who is actively engaged with customers. 

The Food: A-
Curries, executed essentially flawlessly, and consistently to boot. A few minor missteps in the samosas can be easily forgiven, I imagine samosa recipes are a lot like chili recipes: everyone thinks theirs is the best. 

The Details:

Royal India Restaurant
3400 S. 27th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53215
(414) 647-9600

Royal India on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tam's Chop Suey

If you've ever driven past Tam's (and, chances are, if you live on the South Side, you have), you probably thought it was for sale. Maybe even abandoned for at least a few years. The building's paint is faded in places, peeling in others, the neon signs hang precariously, and the lot has, in the summer months, weeds spewing forth from every imaginable crack.

No, Tam's Chop Suey doesn't look like much. But that's okay. Because if you've learned anything from Eating Milwaukee, dear reader, it's that looks can be deceiving.

First, let's get something straight: Tam's is not a gourmet Chinese restaurant. Don't expect any baroque ingredients, any preparations with XO sauce, or intricately carved radishes shaped like roses. Tam's is an old-school Chinese restaurant, the sort of place your grandparents would go to when they felt like eating something really exotic. Like shrimp egg foo young.

Tam's interior is simple. Walk in, and you're immediately at a take-out counter, complete with a large, mostly impertinent visual directory of some of the items on the menu. Behind the counter, a tiny Chinese sparkplug paces back and forth, waiting for her favorite customers to come in and pick up their take out. Open the door on any given evening, and you'll hear her distinct shout, "Helllloooooo!" with the tone and cadence of greeting a long lost friend.

Tam's does a very brisk take-out business. In fact, you'll see more folks sitting on the benches by the counter waiting for their take-out order than you'll see sitting in the dining room. I'll be the first to admit, I usually order take-out from Tam's, too. They offer a huge assortment of lunch specials, and due to their proximity to my workplace, my co-workers and I have been known to order lunch two, three, or even four times a week.

But this is about the dinners, dear readers, and I thought, for a change, we should dine in. So, on a cold and blustery December evening, we took the trip to Milwaukee's most haunted looking Chinese joint.

Inside, Tam's is a blast from the past. You can tell, in decades past, couples would pull up in monstrous Detroit Landyachts with Opera Lights lit, step out onto a weed-free parking lot, and tuck into a night on the town, starting with some of that mystical and wonderfully foreign "Oriental" food. Now, things are a little on the run-down side. I'll forgive that, providing that the kitchen stays clean and the food stays tasty.

The dining room is nothing to write home about, dimly lit and with a few typical Chinese décor touches. The bathrooms, well, er, just go before you go out to dinner. And tell Timmy to sip his soda. Slamming Pepsi after Pepsi is only going to get him a very uncomfortable ride home. And we all remember how that ended last time

The menu is lush, but easy to navigate. True to the old-school Chinese restaurant roots, Tam's menu is divided by meats, with sections for poultry, beef, seafood, and vegetarian choices. The owners are happy to accommodate, and will gladly cook off-menu for you, if they have the ingredients, and will add/subtract anything to suit tastes.

We started out with the usual appetizers for a traditional old-school Chinese feast.

Tam's fantastic peanut-butter and Chinese five-spice infused egg rolls:

Deep-fried (but also available as steamed and pan-fried) potstickers:

and Cantonese shrimp:

I think everyone I know adores Tam's egg rolls. Filled with a flavorful balance of cabbage and meat, with the wrappers at the perfect nexus of crispy and chewy, Tam's doesn't try anything avant-garde here. These are the egg rolls that I remember from the long-gone dining rooms of China Town and Peach Garden (okay, I know these places are still in business, but nothing like they used to be...). Egg rolls seem to be a barometer for Chinese/American restaurants these days: bite into one and find crunchy, uncooked cabbage and red-dyed "meat," your meal will probably leave you disappointed. Luckily, Tam's egg rolls are fantastic, and doused in their bizarre thin, watery hot mustard, and they're sublime.

I have strong feelings about deep-fried dumplings. It's kind of like deep-fried Oreos or deep-fried carrots... just things that have no business being crispy. But, Tam's makes it work. The dumplings are filled with a tasty meat mixture, and the size of the dumplings makes them manageable, but still in danger of becoming mouth-shrapnel. My advice: if you like dumplings the way I like dumplings, order them steamed. You'll be happier.

The Cantonese fried shrimp are HUGE. Freakin' gargantuan. Served with a nuclear-orange sweet and sour sauce, they're tasty, but a bit on the greasy side. Maybe I'd be more excited about them with a different dipping sauce. Maybe chili sauce?

Andy ordered General Tso's Chicken (which normally features baby corn as well, but since the great Mielke versus Baby Corn War of 1857, Andy has sworn off the tiny ears)

While Lauren ordered the multiple-mushroom chicken:

And I ordered the Hot Braised Chicken:

Andy, in keeping with EM tradition, ordered his General Tso's chicken a fiery hot. Despite this, the sauce was pleasantly sweet and sour, rich and flavorful, without being overly sugary or vinegar-y, which can be a downfall of most chain-like Chinese.

Lauren's Chicken with Three Mushrooms (not three physical mushrooms, but three kinds of mushrooms) was outstanding. I might go so far as to say it was the star dish of the evening. The chicken was tender but never jelly-like, the mushrooms (and I'm not entirely sure the varieties used) were fresh and flavorful, but the sauce... oh, the sauce! Deep, rich, and mushroom-y, salty, a little sweet, full of mouth-watering umami and the occasional crunch of fresh green onion. I would, despite not being the mushroom-fiend that Lauren is, order this again in a heartbeat.

My Hot Braised Chicken was a nice change of pace. Battered and fried chunks of chicken in a sweet and sour sauce which, strangely enough, tasted nothing like the General Tso's sauce. A little tangy, nice and sweet, with some red chili punch, not at all flavored like ketchup or duck sauce. Sliced water chestnuts, carrots and bamboo shoots rounded out the Necessary Veggie Quotient. A Hmong friend at work had ordered Hot Braised Pork at work in the past, and gave it a passing grade, so I figured the chicken wouldn't be far behind, and in that, I was mostly right. 

I think my biggest misgiving about my entrée was that the chicken was battered and fried. I'm not entirely sure where the whole "braised" part comes in, since it would appear that, save the garlic in the sauce, nothing in the dish endured a braise. Pair the battered chicken bits with a hot sauce, and suddenly the batter is slipping off faster than a soccer mom's blazer at a Justin Bieber concert. Just savor that image for a while. Lost your appetite yet?

Well, that's too bad, I guess I'll just have to eat your portion of Triple Lobster Sauce. Pictured here, with our old nemesis, Egg Roll, Photo Bombing the poor thing. 

I really like Tam's Triple Lobster Sauce. I actually kind of love it. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm addicted to the stuff. I'll order it weekly for dinner, to be sure, and every time I call, the owner knows it's me, and chuckles to herself as I order the exact same thing.

But this is fantastic. Better than fantastic. This is a rare breed: a cross of actually authentic Chinese cooking and saucemaking with the American need for More. Lobster Sauce has no lobster in it, but rather it was served with lobster. While there may be a lobster in every pot in China, we're not quite so fortunate here in snowy Wisconsin, so the more typical American preparation is shimp in lobster sauce. 

Lobster sauce is a harmony of strong, potent flavors: black fermented soybeans, garlic, pork, wine, egg, and green onion. Sure, it sounds like a nightmare. Actually, it sort of looks like one, too. But the flavor is immense and unmistakable. Dark, murky, rich, and chock full of funky rotten bean and garlic flavor. You have to be a fan of the ferment to get down with this one, but close your eyes and tell yourself it's just soy sauce you taste... you'll be in Lobster Sauce Oblivion and you'll never know those beans started life lily-white. 

Tam's lobster sauce is dead-on, probably one of the better ones I've tasted in the city (excepting my own, of course). The liquid has the right mouth feel, thick and unctuous with a little bit of fat supplied by the ground pork. The black beans give their all, making a flavor that is completely unique but instantly recognizable, even by someone who has never had the dish before. 

Of course, you can get just shrimp in your lobster sauce. But Triple Lobster Sauce makes things a little more interesting, adding chicken and beef to the mix. The shrimp are on the, well, shrimpy side, both in size and flavor, with a little more iodine than I'm fond of, but I gladly put up with it for the rest of the dish. Chicken and beef fall in line, with the chicken being tender and the beef being a bit more chewing, giving you all sorts of awesome textural contrast in each bite. 

Please, do me a favor, though... don't put any soy sauce on any of Tam's food. The owners season everything perfectly, and add soy (which, oddly, was Kikkoman, which is a Japanese product...) and you've got a veritable salt-lick on your plate. No, nothing we ordered really needed any seasoning at all.


I know there are faster, cheaper, and more authentic Chinese restaurants in Milwaukee. I know this. But Tam's is a pleasant throwback, a nostalgic gastronomic time capsule, a way to re-connect with some of the food that made me love food in the first place. I can remember the smells as the server at Peach Garden would, with a little bit of theatre, lift the cover off the stainless steel serving dish of my Hong Sue chicken, watch as platters of noodles and mu shu pancakes came out of the kitchen. On another day, my dad and I would walk to the Washington Park Lagoon, maybe fish for a while, and Asian families would gather on the shores with camp stoves and woks, cooking their catch only minutes after cleaning them, and those same luscious smells would waft over. 

At Tam's, I smell those same smells. I delight as my dinner is brought out in those same stainless steel serving dishes, now a little careworn with the years. I can see the same family passion for food as I saw at Washington Park when I was six, and I feel a little vindicated. Tam's is a little frayed, a little long in the tooth. But the food is what matters here, and it is an exercise in reminiscing. I'll keep going back, as long as the Lobster Sauce is still funky, and the owner still greets me as her favorite customer who works at a funeral home...

Report Card:
Atmosphere: C+
With so few people eating in the dining room these days, it sort of feels like a ghost town. Nothing is particularly pretty, but you're not there to eat the décor. Still, it would be nice if there were a few other diners around...

Prices: A-
Portion sizes are absolute huge. Food quality is good. And if you'd like, when you order carry out, you can get a "single" portion, which is enough for a large lunch or comfortable dinner with no leftovers. Most "single" portions are in the $6-8 range.

Service: A
The service in the dining room was fantastic, but carry-out is equally wonderful. I always tip when I do carry out, and the owner always blushes, thanks me, then scolds me for tipping. Everyone is always pleasant, smiling, and ready to talk your ear off. I don't think I've ever seen her frown.

The Food: B
Tam's doesn't break any new Chinese/American food ground. But it is damn tasty, and brings back a lot of memories for me. For a step above the New Super A-Number-1 China Wall restaurants that are popping up faster than Walgreens', this is a nice option.

The Details:

Tams Chop Suey
6725 W. Layton Ave. 
Greenfield, WI 53220
(414) 281-8877

Hellaciously laid out but nevertheless informative website available here

Tam's Chop Suey on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pancake Smackdown 2010: The Real Deal

All warm and fluffy, they're the ultimate winter comfort food. Drizzled in entirely synthetic Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, a pad of butter sliding lazily across the top of the stack, the common flapjack is one of the most innocuous things I can think of. Until SIX POUNDS of them are set in front of you...

Such was the scene at the Eatery on Farwell's Pancake Smackdown for Charity, where our own Andy competed against seven other valiant eaters for the coveted Butterworth Belt.

The full roster of competitive eaters is as follows:
  • Pat Nettesheim - Guitars for Vets
  • Andy *****  - BESTD Clinic
  • Tim Cigelske - Crohn's and Colitis Foundation
  • Dan Augustine - Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center
  • Mike Beyers - Independence First
  • Tim Panicucci - Celebrating Brad: A Tribute to Art and Life
  • Phil Gerb - Brew City HDI
  • Paul Fredrich - Transition Milwaukee
Andy and I had an awesome time, and got to hang out with a ton of our friends in the Food Blogosphere... something we don't get to do half as often as we like. A big shout out to our friends Paul and Lori from Burp! blog... it's always a blast, and we can't wait for the next Milwaukee Foodie Tweetup!

The full gallery of pictures from the even is available after the jump:

Pancake Smackdown

Also, a big shout-out to the Eatery's owner, Ryan and Social Media Guru David for putting this whole flapjack-stuffing fiasco together!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering... Eating Milwaukee came in Second Place which, as luck would have it, only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and eating competitions!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mo's A Place For Steaks: An Evening with Chef Ken Arnone

Maybe some day I'll stop being surprised when we're invited to special events, because, ahem, we have a semi-credible website. Maybe someday I'll become jaded with local and undeserved fame, blinded by half-lit rustbelt stars in my eyes, complacent in my cockneyed celebrity. But, that day, thankfully, has not come, and I still blush a little when those e-mails arrive in my inbox, beckoning me to some of Milwaukee's finest eateries.

The staff of Eating Milwaukee was recently invited to a special dinner at Mo's, a Place For Steaks, celebrating Certified Master Chef Ken Arnone. Because it says so in my contract with the Association for Certified Chef's Certification Certificates Corporation, here's a few facts about Certified Global Master Chef Ken Arnone:

  • Chef Arnone became a Certified Master Chef in 2003, one of only 65 in the country.
  • Chef Arnone served as CHef Professor at the Culinary Institute of America from 1999-2005
  • Became a Global Master Chef in 2008
  • Worked for the CIA at Ristorante Caterina de Medici.
  • Thinks Milwaukee is by far the most fun city on the Western shore of Lake Michigan.

Our invitation allowed us a plus-one, and I thought, since my mom has consistently thought this blog to be a slightly silly venture whose sole purpose is to spend money on domain registration and restaurant cheques, I would bring her to help show her the fabulous, glamorous side of being a restaurant blogger. 

Look! There's the joyful staff of Eating Milwaukee, and my mom, faking a smile for what I promised would be the first and last picture I'd take of her that night. 

Because Mo's invited us to this shindig, I'll gladly share with you all of the tasty details, and the tasty pics, but I'm going to abstain on our usual "report card" section, as I believe that's the slightly stand-up thing to do in this situations.

Mo's is a steakhouse with class and panache, this isn't the Texas Roadhouse, and it most certainly isn't the Ponderosa

We started the evening with butlered hors d'oeuvres.

Lobster Ceviche:

Veggie Sushi:

And an Amuse Bouche of the regular menu item, "The Big Shorty," which is bleu crusted braised short ribs with asparagus and horseradish risotto. Mmmm... little spoons of heaven...

Lobster Ceviche! How elegant! How Chic! But the citrus kind of trampled the delicateness of the lobster to death. Still tasty, just... I'm poor, and if I'm going to eat lobster, I want to make sure I can taste every sweet, succulent morsel. Because sweet and succulent lobster costs extra (Eating Milwaukee Staff In-Joke Alert!).

I'm an all-out lunatic when it comes to sushi, so the veggie maki we were treated to were just fine. Nothing too daring, but still well-executed.

The snack-size Big Shorty was fantastic, and was a great way to whet our palettes for the rest of the meal. Imagine, if this little china spoon of food was so incredible, what were the other six (six!) courses going to be like?

Carbs ahoy! 

Well, hold on to your hats, because here comes course number one!

Oh, good golly. It's Nueske's bacon, about two inches thick, and MEATY, braised for something like eight hours, served with a microgreen salad, sweet potato purée, and seared shrimp. Pork Candy is one of those things that should be an automatic invention for a Wisconsin business, and I hope to see it released in time for grilling season next year. Pork Candy. Between Bacchus' pork belly, and Chef Arnone's braised bacon, I'm sold. The bacon literally melted in your mouth, was both meaty and fabulously fatty at the same time, and just wallowed in the sauce made from the braising liquid. Were you the kid that loved the chunk of bacon at the top of the can of Bush's Best Baked Beans? Well, then this will make you pop a few fuses. Why the shrimp? Well, I guess because the bacon needed to stand next to something, to make you realize exactly how kick-butt it really was. 

"Hey, Shrimp."
"Yeah, Bacon?"
"Uh, who has no thumbs, sits around in a low braise for eight hours, and blows you out of the water?"
"Gee, Bacon, I don't know... maybe La Merenda's Osso Buco?"
"THIS GUY, shrimp! Aww, snap! Burned you!"
"Wow, bacon, you really are amazing. If Chuck Norris were a meat, he'd be you..."

Well, that was fun. Stoked yet? Well, cool your jets, 'cause the second course is a salad. I know, I know.

Luckily, this Endive and Radicchio salad had caramelized honey crisp apples, candied pecans, and Montechevré Goat's Milk Brie, just so I didn't feel too emasculated. Because nothing says limp-wristed sally like salad. No, real men eat meat. Meat, meat, meat, meat. There's nothing more manly than meat

Heeeeyyy... that's not meat! Well, I guess it is, kinda. No, silly me. It's a tasty delicious blackened salmon filet. Served with tomato basil risotto and a spicy Creole sauce. The third course was not accompanied by a wine selection, but rather a mixed drink, a Ketel One Serrano:

This was absolutely delightful, with the texture of the fish at the perfect and almost nearly unattainable point of delicate flakiness with ideal moisture and tenderness. Wonderful, and if I were a man who came to a place like Mo's looking for awesome salmon, I would be impressed. But as I'm a man who would go to Mo's looking for a steak, I yearned for a bovine banquet to bedeck my bowl. I was getting a little nervous...

Victory is mine!

Here's a thing of beauty: a gorgeous, select cut of Snake River Kobe beef tenderloin, cooked just long enough so the Moo isn't so loud as to drown out the dinner conversation, with simple adornments of wilted spinach, caramelized pearl onions, and almond potato croquettes. Yes folks, from the people who brought you the roasted-corn Kit Kat comes the most delicious beef on the planet. I love the Japanese. 

It should be noted, if you're a stickler for details (and you are, otherwise you'd be reading someone else's blog right now), that Snake River Kobe should, for all legal purposes, be called Snake River Wagyu/ Angus Proprietary Domestic Cross. But I don't think that has as much marketing sheen to it as just calling it Kobe. Either way, actual Kobe beef is prohibitively expensive, and would probably be a bigger let down than the time we tried Dippin' Dots. 

Chef Arnone handles the beef masterfully, and attains such a deep, beefy flavor, it makes even the richest of store-bought steaks seem like pin-the-tail-on-the-cattle. THIS is why you come to Mo's. To have the finest, most exceptionally prepared piece of beast you will ever have the pleasure of cutting with a butter knife. 

Okay, so, everyone with me so far? I probably shouldn't have said the word MEAT so many times and with such vigor, because now it just seems like that's all that's on the table, and I sort of feel like my head is spinning and my plaque is going to start flowing... but on with the meat, shall we?

I'm really, really sorry. This was the "surprise treat" fifth course presented to us by Johnny V and Chef Arnone themselves, and I can't remember for the life of me what cut it was. I don't even think it matters at this point. Did you ever, when you were a kid, ride your bike down a drastic hill, paved perfectly smooth with no bumps or cracks? Remember that feeling as your own inertia took you down the hill, rolling faster and faster, until it felt as though the bike tires were lifting off the road, and you were becoming gracefully and effortlessly airborne? Well, this steak was better than that.

Not to be outdone, a member of the waterfowl family decided to make an appearance, thus marking my first ever encounter with Foie Gras.

Seared and buttery, with the most rich flavor, I can't say the entire experience was unpleasant. I do, however, eat with a conscience, and I can only hope that the fowl whose liver I was consuming wasn't force-fed through gavage in an inhumane manner. Any folks out there who want to are free to Google foie gras and research the process themselves -- I'm not going to start a flame war by linking to anything.

I was ready to pass out, Andy was draped across the piano singing showtunes and doing his best Isabella Rossellini impression, Lauren was rambling about the Squeesophone again, and my mom was chatting with the energetic little waiter who kept inexplicably refilling her wine glass, when Chef Arnone wheeled out the portable butane ranges...

Along with that came about ten pounds of butter

Another six pounds of brown sugar

And all of the strawberries in the Western Hemisphere. Yes folks, it was time for the sixth and final course, Strawberries Foster, with Mo's Signature chocolate cake.

Of course half the fun of a Foster dessert is the flambé, and this was no exception:

The finished dish: a wedge of decadent rich chocolate cake a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, and hot strawberries, brown sugar, butter, and rum all over the top. Holy mackerel. 

Here's a run down of exactly everything we had, for those of you with limited short-term memory faculties:

First Course
Fennel Spiced Shrimp and 8 Hour Braised Nueske's Bacon
Sweet Potato Purée

Paired with Far Niente Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2008
Artesa Chardonnay, Carneros 2009

Second Course
Endive & Radicchio Salad
Caramelized Honey Crisp Apples, Candied Pecans, Cider Vinaigrette and Motechevré Goat's Milk Brie

Third Course
Blackened Salmon
Tomato Basil Risotto and Spicy Creole Sauce

Paired with Ketel One Serrano
Ketel One Vodka, Limoncello, Campari, Orange Juice

Fourth Course
Snake River Kobe Tenderloin
Caramelized Pearl Onions, Wilted Spinach and Almond Croquette

Paired with Rubicon Estate "Cask" Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2006

Fifth Course
Select Beef with Seared Foie Gras 

Sixth Course
Strawberries Foster
with Mo's Signature Chocolate Cake

Paired with Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny Porto


Dining with the fine folks at Mo's, Chef Arnone, and Johnny V was an absolute dream. No matter what kind of wacky food adventures we find ourselves in, it is a rare treat to sit down to a meal so impeccably executed, so complete in every detail, and so doggone delicious. Despite my rambling and playful prose here, we were truly honored to be included on the guest list, and how fortune everyone is that we play host to such an establishment in our own backyard!

We would also like to share our deepest gratitude with Andrew Stockel, Operating Partner at Mo's, who invited us to this edible extravaganza. 

We have an old saying in our family when someone treats us to a meal the likes of which Chef Arnone was responsible for, 

"Bed's going to feel good tonight..."

What a meal!

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