Archive for ‘Restaurant Review’

July 16, 2014

Bennachin Restaurant, a taste of Africa in New Orleans

by ashley
Akara - Black Eyed Pea Fritters

Akara – Black Eyed Pea Fritters

I’ve been so busy these last six months and it was left up to Jessica to keep up the blog (she did a great job, thanks Jess!!). Finally I am back in town and ready to share all of my experiences with our readers. Since I last posted I’ve been to Orlando, Denver, New Orleans, Lisbon (Portugal), Vaduz (Liechtenstein), Munich (Germany), Baden Baden (Germany), Innsbruck (Austria), Chur (Switzerland), Fussen (Germany), Frankfurt (Germany), Strasbourg (France) and several other cities in Europe that would make this list way too long. I won’t have updates from all of these places individually, but I plan to post as much information as I can on vegetarian eating in these regions.

A while ago I posted some pictures on the Facebook page (if you don’t follow us on Facebook, please click here!) of a meal I had in New Orleans that was amazing. Away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy side of Bourbon street lies Bennachin Restaurant, an African restaurant with amazing food and prices. If you are looking for a unique experience while visiting New Orleans, you should definitely give them a visit. I have been wanting to try Ethiopian food, but could never find an African restaurant from any country in South Florida. Bennachin focuses on cuisine from Gambia and Cameroon, catering heavily to vegan and vegetarian diners as well as meat eaters.

Kone ni Makondo - Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains

Kone ni Makondo – Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains

The interior has an intimate, homey and inviting atmosphere that put us at ease immediately. The staff were so friendly and all of the guests were also helpful when it came time to order. The menu was foreign to us, but we asked guests around us what they were eating and chose items that looked good. I ordered Akara (black-eyed pea fritters, $4.50 VEGAN), Kone ni Makondo (Black-eyed peas in onion and tomato stew served with coconut rice and fried ripe plantains, $13.95 VEGAN) and Makondo Yogurt (fried plantains with yogurt sauce, $5.00 VEG/DAIRY). The portion sizes are enormous here and I really didn’t need any appetizer or dessert, but I was so intrigued by everything I wanted to try as much as I could. Unfortunately we only learned of their famous Jama-Jama (sautéed spinach, $4.50 VEGAN) after ordering, which is a hit at the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. When I am in New Orleans again, I will definitely go back and order it.

Makondo Yogurt - fried plantains with yogurt sauce

Makondo Yogurt – fried plantains with yogurt sauce

The restaurant has been a staple of New Orleans since 1992 yet many tourists don’t get to experience it, even though it is well within walking distance of the tourist area. Located at 1212 Royal Street, it is only one block off of Bourbon Street and less than a mile from Canal Street. Their full menu and more information about the restaurant can be found on their website at http://www.bennachinrestaurant.com/.

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March 22, 2013

Napa comes to Stamford, Ct

by jem614

Napa PrettyI recently traveled to Stamford for a business conference and was able to try out a couple of new restaurants in the area.  My colleague and I found this beautiful little restaurant, Napa, within the Marriott hotel on Broad Street.  The inside is dimly lit with candles and an entire wall is covered in wines.  The waiters sport jeans though the restaurant feels more elegant.  It brings a “relatable” aspect to the place so it doesn’t feel stuffy.

As you sit down, you are given your menus and an IPad that has their wine menu on it as well as some more information on the restaurant.

We ordered an appetizer of Spaghetti Squash (yes, it’s really an appetizer and it tastes delicious with a hint of basil) as well as a cheese plate that you can choose the type of cheeses.  For $18 you can choose three little squares of cheeses that is served with some jams and bread.  We tried (from their menu):

3. MIDNIGHT MOON, Goat, Holland, (Pinot Noir) Aged goat cheese, the flavor is nutty and
brown-buttery, with prominent caramel notes.
4. MIMOLETTE, Cow, France, (Tempranillo)Firm and oily, vivid orange, nutty with smooth fudgy finish
6. GORGONZOLA (not on their online menu)

I was not a fan of the Gorgonzola as a cheese for bread, I feel it’s better suited for salads but the Midnight Moon and Mimolette was tasty on the bread.

They do have some vegetarian pasta but their actual entrees are completely carnivore.  Thankfully, their appetizers and salads make up for what they lack in entrees.

For more information on your trip to Napa, go to http://www.napaandcompany.com.

January 7, 2013

The Big Tomato Market, Not To Be Confused With Sweet Tomatoes **UPDATE

by jem614

**Update: My husband has informed me that this cute little restaurant has shut down.  Although the food was a bit greasy and overcooked, it was still good and had great atmosphere.  I’m sorry to hear that this has happened.

My husband decided to be spontaneous and take me to a new restaurant this past weekend.  I love that about him!  It wasn’t anything fancy and the food wasn’t amazing but it was different and had a great atmosphere.

BTMG1BTMG4

The Big Tomato Market in Pembroke Pines is right off of University and Pines next to Cafe Iguana (by the way, I had a peak inside and that place looks funky, I might have to check it out).  The inside of Big Tomato is old world Italian slash classic pub and the food is about the same.  I ordered the eggplant parmesan which was a little too greasy and didn’t feel overly fresh but it was tasty all the same.  They serve dinner with garlic rolls that are literally soaked in an inch of oil but OH MY GOSH are they delicious.  In fact, don’t order an appetizer because you’ll probably eat all of them and won’t be able to eat your dinner.BTMG2

For a side dish I ordered the tomato bruschetta, a very simple toasted bread with tomato and basil and not much else but it was best that way because the garlic rolls had enough taste to go around.

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The server was very sweet, did a great job until the very end when she kind of disappeared and we had to ask someone to go get her.  The place was not packed at all for a Friday night but there were some people at the bar that were making a lot of noise- I wasn’t sure but it almost sounded like it was a DJ or Karaoke.

If you want a chill atmosphere and some fattening Italian food, check this place out!

http://www.bigtomatomarket.com/

October 9, 2012

A Vegan Celebration for the New Mom: Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin

by ashley

Jessica officially has a beautiful baby boy! He was born last Sunday and I’m the proudest auntie ever – he is absolutely adorable, and more importantly, both baby and mother are healthy. The week of Jessica’s due date I wanted to take her out for a pre-maternity leave celebration lunch, and what better way to celebrate than with a new vegan restaurant. I had originally found Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin when searching for a birthday lunch location in February, but we just hadn’t had the opportunity to visit. It is located in North Miami Beach, just off I-95 on 167th Street, so not too far from Miami Lakes.

The restaurant itself is very homey, with sparse furnishings and plastic/paper serving plates. There are only a couple tables and even fewer menus, so be prepared to cozy up and share while here. I dragged along one of our latin, meat-eating co-workers here for one of his first vegan experiences, which to his surprise he found the food more than edible. I couldn’t get any higher praises out of him, but he’s a good sport for trying. The menu is varied, ranging from breakfast items and sandwiches to full meals. Their full meals come as daily specials, which can also be purchased as a weekly meal plan (cantina for us Miamians). Prices are also extremely reasonable, at around $8-12 per person. I loved how they offered samples to all diners of the daily special, it’s a great touch. You can also ask for samples of many of the menu items, so just ask and they will oblige the best they can.

We visited on a Monday, so I was lucky enough to try their Stewed Vegan Fish. It was delicious, and a huge portion of food for $9.95. It was my first time trying a vegan fish substitute, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste much different than other meat substitutes I’ve tried. More like turkey consistency, but still delicious in the sauce they made along with it. Served on the side was a delicious split pea soup, basmati spinach brown rice, a seitan stew and a salad. I absolutely recommend ordering the daily special if you have a big appetite.

Jessica had the Vegan Philly Steak Sandwich ($9.95), which looked and tasted amazing. Sprinkled with just a bit of shredded cheese (looked a lot like daiya, although didn’t confirm with them), the seitan was cooked perfectly along with sautéed onions and peppers. It was served on a crispy wheat baguette. Our co-worker tried a Vietnamese-style sandwich (essentially a Banh Mi) they had on special that day (it isn’t on the regular menu), which was made with seitan, cucumbers, carrots and other various vegetables. The Banh Mi was also served on a wheat baguette, both sandwiches had a small salad on the side.

To end our lovely vegan celebration, Jessica opted for their red velvet cake. Rich, sweet and decadent, it is a great end to a meal. I’d like to try some of the other options they have next time.

Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin

http://www.vegetarianrestaurantbyhakin.com/

73 Northeast 167th Street  North Miami Beach, FL 33162
(305) 405-6346

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September 11, 2012

The Village Mediterranean Restaurant & Pastries in Pembroke Pines

by jem614

Want to indulge in a little “Middle East” decadence?  Check out The Village in Pembroke Pines for some delectable baklava and spicy Mediterranean fair.

The great benefit to Middle Eastern or “Mediterranean” food is that there are so many vegetarian options.  I love falafel sandwiches but have been going without because the place I normally get them from  makes them a little too greasy or maybe the oil they cook them in just doesn’t agree with me (I don’t really expect Gyroville to be perfect though, it is a fast food restaurant chain).  The Village makes them just perfect: fresh crunchy veggies, ungreasy falafel balls and tzatziki sauce.  My husband was in love with their b**f schwarma (for those of you who have meat-eating spouses or friends).

They also have opened up a new restaurant on University Drive that has a mini-store inside.  I will be going soon so we can make some fava bean and baba ghanouj dishes.

And…. of course, you can’t leave the restaurant without buying one or TEN baklava’s.  I literally could eat a hundred of them but unfortunately with Gestational Diabetes, I’m going to have to wait on that.  One little triangle of the chocolate baklava satisfied the craving for now!

Please go out to visit them and keep them in business because they are a little piece of food heaven!

12502 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33027


August 30, 2012

Ethos Vegan Kitchen: An Affordable Vegan Gem in Central Florida

by ashley

There is hope for Central Florida’s dining scene after all – a late night vegan option on a Sunday! We were driving through the streets of Winter Park at 10:00 PM on a Sunday, scouring Yelp for something yummy, healthy and OPEN. When finally I stumbled upon Ethos Vegan Kitchen, I knew instantly that we had to try it. Ethos Vegan Kitchen has been in Central Florida since 2007, although recently moving to Winter Park from Downtown Orlando. They have a large, welcoming dining area and are open seven days a week until 11:00 PM. They also serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays – which I’m excited to try the next time I’m in Orlando.

If you are vegan, you must try this restaurant. If you are not vegan, you must try this restaurant. If you are a beer drinking, steak devouring man, you must try this restaurant. Ethos Vegan Kitchen is the epitome of vegan-conversion restaurants. Bring your whole family here, they will be amazed that there are absolutely no animal products in the dishes. Ethos has a great FAQ section on their website, where they explain that they aren’t interested in converting you. Believe me, you won’t need to be persuaded with food this delicious.

According to the reviews online, and Ethos’ menu, the most popular menu items are their “What’s the Dilly, Philly?”, a philly cheese-seitan sandwich, and the Pecan Encrusted Eggplant, which we tried cheerfully. We opted for the garlic knots as an appetizer and a vegan beer to drink. The biggest compliment my longtime boyfriend gave was that he couldn’t even tell the food was vegan. Coming from a big meat-rice-and-beans guy, that is a huge accomplishment for Ethos.


Oh, the garlic knots ($3.95) – I will be dreaming of you. Who cares if I had to down a pack of Altoids after, every bite was worth it. A great opening dish, the garlic knots are fluffy, garlicky rolls served with a simple butter sauce.

The “What’s the Dilly, Philly?” ($8.75), a crusty roll filled with grilled onions, red and green peppers, mozzarella cheese, veganaise and succulent marinated seitan. Absolutely, deliciously addictive. We took half home and it was even better the next morning for breakfast. Just pop it in the toaster oven, it gets gooey all over again.

Skip the Tofurky next Thanksgiving and go to Ethos – the Pecan Encrusted Eggplant ($12.95) tasted like Thanksgiving on a plate. Crispy eggplant drizzled with a sweet red wine reduction, served with the daily vegetable (I got asparagus) and mashed potatoes. I’ll ask for a bit more red wine sauce next time, which was my only complaint.  The sauce was so good, I wanted every bite of eggplant to have some.

I’m really excited to come back for brunch – and a few more times for lunch/dinner to try some of the other menu items. You just cannot beat the price compared to the quality of the food, coupled with the amazing ambience and location. I also loved reading Ethos’ website, seeing how dedicated the owners Laina and Kelly are to their business and their employees. Please, Laina and Kelly, bring your amazing food to Miami – we need an affordable vegan restaurant down here!

Ethos Vegan Kitchen

601-B New York Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789

http://www.ethosvegankitchen.com/

June 12, 2012

Discovering Indian Cuisine at Mint Indian Brasserie

by ashley

Everything seems to be more vibrant and intense in India, dizzyingly colorful and filled with rich scents and spices. My interest was initially piqued by their beautiful clothing, especially their tunics and accessories, which were things I could easily wear. Despite years of searching for exotic clothing and décor, I had never actually set foot in an Indian restaurant. Maybe it was my aversion to spicy food, maybe it is just the fact that there extremely few Indian restaurants in Miami, but before this weekend, the extent of my experience with Indian food was limited to frozen foods. Jessica loves Indian food and we had been planning to have an Indian-themed lunch for quite some time, so when a coupon on LivingSocial popped in my inbox for a new upscale Indian restaurant in Brickell, I knew we had to try it.

Mint Leaf Brasserie in Brickell (Financial District, Downtown Miami, FL) is relatively new to the downtown scene, although their original restaurant in Coral Gables has been established since 2008. It is definitely an upscale version of Indian food, and quite possibly not the best choice for an introduction to the cuisine, but all the same we enjoyed it tremendously. While there was some haggling to be done to actually use the coupon they had advertised with LivingSocial, the food itself was wonderful. We visited the restaurant at noon on a quiet Sunday, we were the only patrons in the entire establishment for most of our meal. Being that all the items on the menu were foreign to me, we opted for their vegetarian thali, meaning plate in Hindi. A thali is an array of traditional dishes served as a platter, typically consisting of rice, vegetables, curd, chutney, dhal (pureed lentils, chickpeas or other starchy vegetable), a sweet dish and bread.

A vegetarian thali at Mint Leaf Brasserie costs $35 per person and includes vegetable bhajjia, tandoori paneer, sooki sabsi, dal makhani, channa masala, Bombay aloo, pillau rice, naan and a choice of either kofta or makhani mattar paneer for your main entrée. If you are anything like me, most of this sounds like gibberish, but fear not as it is all wonderfully delicious. My favorite was most definitely the kofta, which is vegetables and grains made into a paste, and then formed into balls. They are then simmered in a spicy sauce, absorbing the flavors and becoming very soft. They are excellent when scooped with a thick piece of naan (grilled flatbread).

While the prices may be a bit higher than you would pay on average for a Sunday lunch, the experience is priceless. In one afternoon I feel I have learned a tremendous amount about Indian cuisine, the tastes that I favor and feel much more confident venturing out to another Indian restaurant. If you are in the Brickell or Coral Gables area during the weekdays for lunch, they also have a smaller portion thali for only $14.50.

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March 29, 2012

Veggie Jamaican Patties at Jamaica Kitchen in South Miami, FL

by ashley

by Ashley Morgan

The spicy scents of Jamaica hang in the air of the cramped dining area, outfitted with barstools and counters fixed to the perimeter walls. There is no white space on the walls as coolers filled with Jamaican specialty sodas, shelves of spices, imported canned goods and colorful posters fill every available space. A friendly face welcomes you from behind a small counter in the back. Curried pumpkin soup and veggie patties await you from behind the kitchen wall. This is Jamaica Kitchen, located in an unassuming shopping plaza in South Miami, FL. Had it not been for the Food Network, I doubt we would have ever found it.

A few years ago Jamaica Kitchen was visited by Guy Fieri on the Food Network, my boyfriend saw the episode and had to drive there the same day, about a 30 minute drive from our house. Ever since he has been making special trips for their specialty: patties. While their most popular are of the meat variety, I have had several of their vegetable and tofu patties and can attest they are delicious. Rich, flaky baked pastry shells filled with curry tofu or salty vegetables.
Of all patties tried in South Florida (believe me, we’ve been on a mission to try them all), Jamaica Kitchen has been the most delicious, most consistent of them all. If you are anywhere in the South Florida area, you need to make the drive to South Miami to try them for yourself. You will not be disappointed!
March 26, 2012

Friedmans Chelsea Marketplace, NYC (Farmhouse Brunch)

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

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I am in love with Chelsea Marketplace in Manhattan!  This past Friday, I was able to walk from Union Square (which has a cute little farmer’s market on Friday’s apparently) to Chelsea – in heels!  Not easy to do when you’re pregnant and feel really off balance.

Initially my plan was to go to One Lucky Duck to have breakfast but then found out it has mostly just smoothies and juices so I opted to just buy a glass straw and move on.  I am so happy I did because my breakfast at Friendmans was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.

I believe the french toast was made with Challa bread because it was thick and soft and scrumptious.  I think my stomach just growled again ;).  On top was a warm berry compote that was just perfect on the sweetness.  Delicious!

The seating in Friedmans is picnic style and you will most likely be sitting with other people at the table.  It’s great if you don’t mind your space being invaded (let’s face it, you’re in New York, there is no such thing as personal space).

Please check out Chelsea Marketplace in Manhattan and stop by Friendmans for breakfast or lunch!

*** This place is veggie friendly but may be hard to find anything vegan.

March 13, 2012

Smith & Wollensky for Beachside Lunch

by jem614

By Jessica Michael

I haven’t been back to S&W since my second wedding anniversary when my husband and I spent a whopping $150 on dinner (we were broke at the time, both of us in school and that was a big deal for us).  We enjoyed it enough to treasure the experience but not enough to go back and spend the money again.

However, we discovered that their lunch menu isn’t all that bad.  If you’re careful, for about $30 each, you can eat a very nice meal and split a desert because they are huge!

They don’t have many veggie options but they have an amazing flat bread that tastes like a very light pizza.

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The crusty truffle Macaroni & Cheese was absolutely divine (in fact, I had to pack the rest and take it home so I could share the experience with my husband.

I am so stuffed I am falling asleep at my desk and feeling slightly sick at the same time.  If you’re a food lover like me though, it’s all worth a little discomfort once in a while.

We topped it all off with a little creme brulee trio though I was eyeing this amazingly huge piece of Carrot Cake instead.  Don’t let the camera angle fool you, that is a full size plate and the cake enough to feed an army:

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