Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Luna Maya

Stuck in the middle of a strip mall on 21st Street in Ghent, Luna Maya is the best offering of Mexican food I've had yet in Hampton Roads. The location could be better, but it never hurts for business so clearly they have no motive to move. However, once inside you don't realize that you're next to a paint store and cheap hair salon and you become immersed in the nouveau Mexican experience.

The menu is a bit pricier than your average La Tolteca or the like, but the food, drinks and options of each make up for it. To start with, the drink list is awesome. They make their own sour mix, so the margaritas are simply delicious with no trace of frozen "fresh" margarita stuff within a block radius.

So, onto the food...since no Mexican meal is complete without some guacamole, we started with that. The guacamole is awesome...fresh made and always amazing. The platter comes with salsa too, which is a nice addition but nothing compared to the guacamole.

For entrees there are several that I usually tend towards, including the pastel de choclo con chorizo (a delicious chorizo and corn casserole), the spicy shrimp tacos or burrito, and the tamales. This time I decided to try a special: a shrimp and avocado salad. I hate to say it but my salad was decent, while certainly nothing amazing which disappointed me a bit. The shrimp was tossed with some sort of chipotle ranch dressing, while it would have been better if it had had the spicy shrimp on top instead. I love avocado on a salad, but not when the salad is mostly made of shredded cabbage. So, sadly my meal was not as good as had hoped. My husband stuck with one of the classic dishes though: the tamales. He described them as a little sweet from the masa with perfectly seasoned pork. It is served in the corn husk with a sour cream sauce on top and beans on the side. Friends of ours had the spicy shrimp tacos and the vegetarian tamales. I didn't hear any complaints, but sadly didn't inquire to get their full opinion.

So, overall here's my rating for this visit
Food: 3.5 forks (I wish it could be higher, but my salad just wasn't that great)
Price: $$ ($7-$10 for margaritas/mojitos, $10-18 for entrees)
Atmosphere: 1.5 thumbs up (love the inside, but hate having to park in a strip mall)

Luna Maya on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 28, 2008

Voila! - Restuarant Week #2

For dining experience number 2 of restaurant week I headed to Voila! with my husband and in-laws. Somehow we had yet to experience this wonderful little French bistro-esque place, but luckily Restaurant week remedied that! The atmosphere inside the restaurant is really quaint yet hip at the same time. The decor varies from a Korean robe to impressionist art work, showing the varied international fusion to which the restaurant claims its name.

Before our meal came out the chef had prepared an amuse bouche, which is always a nice little treat. This time it was cucumber topped with smoked salmon and some type of creme based sauce. It was just enough to tempt my palate.

For my appetizer I had the Fromage de Chevre en Croute, or chevre cheese wrapped in puff pastry drizzled with strawberry sauce. It was delicious, but as my husband pointed out, more of a dessert than an appetizer due to its rich creaminess. My husband had the ceviche which was amazing though. The lime juices cooked the tuna and scallops just the right amount and the scallops and the cilantro paired with it brought a fresh taste.

For the entree I had seabass en papillote, or seabass on top of julienne vegetables baked in parchment paper. The seabass was wonderful and extremely moist, partially due to its being cooked in the parchment paper. My husband had the veal, which though I am not typically a veal eater, it was well done (not temperature of course) and extremely well paired with the forest mushrooms and sauce.

For dessert I had the creme brulee, perhaps my favorite dessert, that was excellent. It can't be a French inspired restaurant without amazing creme brulee in my personal opinion! The cheesecake and apple tart were also delicious.

Overall, well worth a visit outside of restaurant week to see the full menu!

Food: 4 forks
Cost: $$$ (for restaurant week)
Atmosphere: 2 thumbs up

456 Fish - Restaurant Week dinner #1

One of my two favorite weeks of the summer restaurant week. So obviously I had to go out at least once, this time I was lucky enough to go out twice! My first dining experience was at 456 Fish with some girlfriends.

Located at 456 Granby Street in downtown Norfolk, 456 Fish is where modern fusion cuisine meets decor of the early 1900's Norfolk. It's got a really cool vibe to it, complete with an amazing menu and wine/bar list. For restaurant week you are allowed to choose 1 each from 3 courses for $30. My critique of restaurants during restaurant week is what the menu looks like. First, do they have a good selection that is truly representative of the normal menu? And two, are they really trying to tempt your palate to bring you back to spend the full amount. 456 answered yes to both of these.

To start I had the sesame seared tuna sashimi. Delicious. I love fresh tuna and this was just awesome. Friends had the calamari, which was a huge portion for an appetizer (especially for restaurant week) and absolutely amazing. Again, great tastings from the full menu and great portions as well.

For the entree I had the grouper. This is on the regular menu and again, a huge portion for restaurant week. The grouper is cooked in a spicy tomato based sauce with spinach over fried plantains (the kicker for me). I really love grouper and I think it really held up to these strong flavors without being overpowered. Friends had the crab cakes and the sesame seared rare tuna. I did not try the tuna since I had already had the appetizer version of it, but it looked excellent they raved about the tuna and the wasabi mashed potatoes. I did try the crab cake and they were quite good. I'm pretty picky about my crab cakes, usually complaining about there being too much filler; the ones at 456 definitely had the normal filler but was at the edge of having just the right amount.

For dessert I was a bit disappointed the creme brulee ran out before I got some, so I had the guava cheesecake instead. The cheesecake was excellent and was clearly a classic Italian cheesecake made with ricotta (my preferred version of the delicious dessert). Guava sauce was poured on top and it was excellent giving just enough of a sweet taste to balance the creamy cheesecake. Friends had the chocolate sin cake which was very tasty, but also very rich. The portion looked the right size though luckily so it wasn't overkill on the pure chocolate.

So, here's the wrap up...

Food: 4 (out of 5)
Cost: $$$ (out of 5, restaurant week menu only)
Atmosphere: 2 thumbs up

Friday, July 11, 2008

Krush - Old Town Portsmouth

So a girlfriend and I decided to go to Krush, mainly because they have an amazing martini list, but also because the food is great. The restaurant itself is a little hidden, but well worth finding. It's hidden off of High Street in Old Town Portsmouth at 515 Washington St. The theme of the restaurant is falling in love....a crush. So the whole menu is set up along this theme. It sounds cheesy but it's really cute. The decor is very playful with modern colors, couch benches, throw pillows, and swinging chairs.

So the first reason to go to Krush is the martini list. They must have about 50 different combinations on there, with everything from your more classic vodka or gin martinis, to whiskey based, to fruity vodka based, to more dessert like concoctions. The best part is, in case you are 1. overwhelmed by all the delicious choices or 2. indecisive, you can do a Krush 'tini trio - 3 mini martinis for $10. My friend and I enjoyed a trio each with our meal, and then had a trio of dessert martinis for dessert. Delicious :) Not on the menu, but by far my favorite combo was the Pear Martini. The bartender told us about it and it was delicious! For dessert martinis I especially liked the French Kiss and the Chocolate Kiss. Delish!

For our meals my friend and I each got an entree: me the mahi mahi ($24.50) and her the Atlantic salmon ($22). My mahi was amazing. 4 large pieces of mahi, grilled, topped with a type of onion and fruit chutney, served over smashed yukon potatoes and topped with snow peas. It was awesome. the mahi was cooked perfect and the flavors on top really completed the fish. The snow peas were perhaps the best snow peas I've ever eaten...I know that sounds silly but they really tasted great! My friend said that her salmon was delicious as well. It was served with a seaweed salad and polenta cakes and looked awesome. It seems a bit odd to put those flavors (seaweed salad and polenta) together on a plate, but if it works it works.

In short, I will definitely try to make it back to Krush soon. Though I have a feeling that the Ladies night on Wednesdays (half price on select martinis, wines and appetizers) may be the best bet. The food was awesome, but to be honest, I'll go back for the drinks and company.

I'll give it 4 forks, $$$$ (figure around $50/person), and 1.5 thumbs on the atmosphere (decor is a little cheesy...)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


After the Green Onion my favorite place in all of Norfolk is Cogan's. It's in Ghent on Colonial Avenue near 20th Street. It has the best pizza of anywhere...mainly because of the spicy sauce, which is a must on every pie. The atmosphere is laid back and very casual and all the servers and bartenders have a great personality. There is often a huge wait if you go on Sundays ($5 off all pies plus $5 cheese pizzas), so be prepared. There is a lunch buffet of all you can for $8, but none of the pizza have spicy sauce...a travesty indeed. Happy hour is great too and they have great specials every day of the week. Oh and did I mention they have over 30 beers on tap? They always swap a few out for different seasonals, but they have a great selection of both your favorite domestic pilsner to microbrews and more obscure but delicious European types.

I've been to Cogan's many a time and most of the specialty pizzas, but tonight I had the Mediterranean pizza...with spicy sauce of course. This combination of flavors (spinach, artichoke, kalamata olives, feta and roasted garlic) was awesome. The spicy sauce only complemented each item. In fact, it may even be my new favorite specialty flavor....after the New Yorker of course which is a great classic combo of pepperoni and cheese. Other great specialty pizzas include the margherita, big kahuna, five cheese, and wild mushroom. Not saying the others aren't delicious, these are just my favorites.

So, if you're looking for the best pizza in Hampton Roads...go to Cogan's in Ghent. No question.

FYI - there is a Cogan's location at HarborView East in Suffolk. I've been to both, but remain partial to the original Ghent.

Food - 5 forks
Cost - $ (a pizza and a pitcher is around $25)
Atmostphere - 2 thumbs up for a chill place to drink beer

Cogan's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Green Onion - Brunch

Just a heads up, the Green Onion is my favorite restaurant in Hampton Roads, and probably the whole world. Every time I go it is absolutely amazing, and it is the standard by which I compare all other eating establishments at this point in my life. So, I'm just giving you fair warning when you read this post. Let me also say that some friends who used to live in Norfolk came down and visited, and they special requested Green Onion...clearly I am not alone in in thinking the Green Onion is amazing!

I will do a separate post another day for dinner, but this weekend I went for brunch, so I start with it...

The Green Onion is located on Colley Avenue, right in the middle of Ghent. It is in the space where a place called The Wild Monkey used to be if you know that. The chef at Green Onion is amazing, and one of my favorite things is the fact that it is run by almost all women! Also, all the ingredients are either local and/or organic which is also amazing. The dishes are always so fresh and delicious.

For brunch they have quite an extensive menu, with classic brunch options like pancakes & bacon and steak & eggs, but also regional options like fritatas and shrimp & grits, in addition to lots of great sandwiches and soups for lunch. They also have an amazing cheese selection, though we did not order a cheese plate this visit.

So, after getting a mimosa for me and bloody Mary's for the rest we ordered. I'm not a bloody Mary fan, I have been told these are the best blood Mary's around. I had the chorizo and red pepper fritata, my husband the soft shell crab sandwich, one friend ordered the applewood smoked bacon, apple, and cheddar sandwich on country bread, and the other friend the "lobstah" roll. My fritata was awesome...the chorizo gives a great bit of flavor and the red pepper complemented wonderfully. However, I think the winner of the day was my friend's bacon, apple and cheddar sandwich that was grilled like a classic grilled cheese. It was phenomenal. The three flavors combine so well together into an delightfully rich combination. I think I'll try to recreate this one at home as a panini... the soft shell crab sandwich and lobstah roll were supposedly excellent as well. I'm not one for soft shell crab, so I didn't try it. And, I didn't have any room left for the lobstah roll, but it looked awesome. The friend who had that is originally from Boston, and he thought it was amazing, so I feel like carries some weight since he should know his lobstah rolls! I believe all our plates were $13 each, but the range of the brunch menu is from $8 - $13.

Like I said at the begining, the Green Onion is the best restaurant in Hampton Roads...if you haven't been there, you need to go now, either for brunch, lunch or dinner! Four stars without question!

Brunch rating:
Food - 5 forks!
Cost - $$ ($15/person)
Atmosphere - 2 thumbs up for this funky place with local artists featured each month/season

Green Onion on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Enrico's Ristorante

So the other day I went to Enrico's for lunch in a group of about 20. Though somewhat off the normal path, it's on Colley so near to Ghent, but also near to ODU at 40th Street. This place was quite good all around, and I heard this from multiple people. It's kind of Italian and Mediterranean but also American food.

I had a Mediterranean Pita ($6.99). Excellent. Chicken, lettuce, feta, and tzatziki sauce wrapped in flatbread. The wrap was awesome, mostly by the combo of the feta and tzatziki sauce. Nice and creamy with lots of great flavors. You get one side (option fries, pasta salad, or veggie of the day). I got the pasta salad (pasta, tomatoes, herbs, feta, and olive oil) which was very good and not too oily like patsa salad tends to be at most restaurants. Two coworkers of mine also raved about their meals. One had a hamburger and commented, that "it was best hamburger I've had in all my 51 years!" at $6. The other had a crab cake sandwich which he said was excellent; I think was a special that day and cost around $9. They also agreed the pasta salad was unexpectedly good for a side.

The service was also very good. I've been to enough restaurants with large groups to see how they can screw it up (such as last week's visit to Ruby Tuesday with 35 people for a retirement). But the service for this was good, quick and courteous.

Food - 3.5 forks
Cost - $$ ($12 for lunch, $20 for dinner)
Atmosphere - 1 thumb up