the cellar at the stained glass

4:38 PM sians 0 Comments

the stained glass bistro has a reputable standing in the dining scene in evanston as a fancy dining restaurant. however, the cellar at the stained glass, an offshoot of the sister restaurant offers more affordable tapas-style dining. i also read that both restaurants share the same kitchen so my guess is you can expect the same quality of culinary expertise from chef victor hernandez at the cellar.

one friday evening after work, christina and i planned for a sleepover at her coach house since her bf's away on a conference. dinner at the cellar was all part of our weekend hangout plan and she wanted to share with me one of her go-to spots to dine in evanston. in fact, the reason why i wanted to try the food there ia because she's been raving about her favorite dishes.

the decor is simple but cozy in a petite space. fitting to its name, there are some wine barrels as you enter the restaurant and wine racks lining the left wall. the bar is sitting at the back right corner of the room.

a glance at their menu and i wanted to order it all. there were cuisines from different regions of the world and they all sounded delicious but with some will power (and the realizationwe were both on a budget.. hehe), we decided to keep it to three dishes to share.

a hint of europe :: ceasar salad | romaine lettuce . garlic croutons . creamy ceasar dressing . anchovy ($3.50)

yes i know.. of all salads to get..

but i have to say that simple made right isn't easy. i love ceaser salad when it's tossed in homemade dressing. the crisp freshness of the romaine lettuce and the crunchy garlicky croutons, tossed with the creamy, flavorful dressing weaved with shavings of fresh parmesan cheese. a tad over generous with the cheese and a lil too much dressing actually made me crave for a lil more of the romaine lettuce. the dressing is yummy and i could taste the great quality of the ingredients. i love the touch of the extra slices of anchovy which is optional that give that extra salty brininess.  lovely.

all american :: micro burgers | black angus sirloin . brioche bun . lettuce . onion . tomato . shoe string fries . truffle mayo ($3.50 each)

this is the simplest most basic burger sliders but dang it's great. at first glance, i thought that these sophisticated sliders might be dry but when i bit into it, i was mistaken. the meat was really juicy (done medium) which was all absorbed by the soft toasted brioche. i, for one, usually take the onion out but they were sliced thinly enough that it didn't leave a lingering onion bite at the end. the truffle mayo was on the lighter side and i wished there was more of that earthy flavor. you have the option to add applewood smoked bacon and cheese for additional 50 cents each but i say you don't even need it. burgers like these that are seasoned and cooked right with fresh ingredients don't need additional stuff on it.

some of the shoe string fries were not crispy enough but they were seasoned well! it always seems that whenever i order fries with christina it ends up being lackluster. :( burger awesome, fries just alright.

worldwide :: ale-steamed mussels | ginger . shiitake mushroom . grilled garlic toasts ($10.50)

me. a mussels lover. is it any surprise that i had to order these?

and i loved, loved this mussels dish which were bathing in a flavorful broth with an undertone of asian flavors. the addition of brocollini and the fresh oysters mushroom with the mussels would make such great toppings atop the buttery and crispy garlic toasts. or you know just dip those toasts in the broth. well on top of that,  i also took spoonfuls of the broth once we finished the mussels - so good! think i literally drank it all like soup till there was no more. haha. in terms of freshness, there were maybe one or two morsels that were still shut tight but overall fresh mussels :)

i really liked the food at the cellar at the stained glass. the most pleasant surprise for me is probably the micro burgers cos i didn't expect myself to enjoy it as much as i did and without bacon at that! haha. easy going atmosphere and friendly service with not too expensive of a price tag.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

The Cellar Beer and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


nostalgia at the rice table

8:01 PM sians 0 Comments

pop-up restaurants? whaatttt?? 

this is a fairly new term to me and i've never come across it until recently when i was browsing through timeout chicago website and found this new concept of "pop-up restaurants". a pop-up restaurant refers to a dining establishment that is open one or some nights of the week, usually in an existing restaurant or a commercial food establishment.

one of these pop-up restaurants i found was the rice table that serves authentic indonesian cuisine usually at the sip coffee house around the west loop area. the mastermind behind this is a mother&son team who share their family recipes and culture through their food every other friday. the events are usually found on either their facebook page or website where you can also find the prix fixe menu for the week. oh, did i mention it's byob? and it's cash only so make sure you have some cash before you head over there.

xy and i decided to give it a shot a few weeks ago and i figured since indonesia is close enough to malaysia, their food should have some similarities. and i was craving for spicy malaysian food.

sip coffee house is a very cute coffee place with a vintage style to boot. i am a sucker for the comfy, familiar and cozy type of ambience.

i didn't bring any drinks of my own (they offer water, no worries) so i thought i might just order a refreshing italian soda which was very good. upon the recommendation of the staff, i tried the blackberry mojito drink which i thought was very delicious. 

while we were waiting for the ppl to set up the dining area at the back, i spotted the rice table crew doing last minute prep for the dinner service.

the dining area was minimalist with its own personality. interesting features were the beautiful art pieces on the wall that you can purchase and the chairs were not all consistently the same. i remembered that distinctly because another customer was trying out to see which chair was most comfortable. lol. since we were one of the first people there, we could pick wherever we would like to sit. there was also outdoor seating if you prefer to enjoy the evening outside.

we knew what the prix fixe menu was for that evening but i failed to connect that the menu was leaning more towards the chinese style of food until i tried the food.

they started us out with some crispy and yummy shrimp crackers. either we were really hungry or the chips were really very tasty or both, we found ourselves quickly munching it away until it was all gone and was sad that there was none left but our friendly server came around asked us if we wanted more to which we enthusiastically said yes. 

the dinner was served family style with a serving bowl of rice and if we wanted more food we could have requested extra (without extra cost to us if i am not mistaken)

i wouldn't go too much in detail about each dish they serve but i think our favorite was probably the omelette because of the different ingredients that combined in the omelette and to top it off with the sweet ginger tomato sauce was really different. i really liked the tofu too because it had a slight kick from the serrano peppers (probably the only spicy dish that was present). in general, the food was pretty tasty including the roast pork (be scarce with the sauce though cos it is really salty). the owner/mom (is my guess) came by and asked us if we enjoyed the food which we did. 

the biggest pull to us from this dining experience was not the food but what the memory the food served evoked. the food itself was the essence of what homemade food is - it didn't taste anything at all like restaurant food. when we had the first taste of the dishes, we were transported back to our home and to our moms' cooking. very nostalgic.

while the food wasn't amazing (it was good, don't get me wrong), the nostalgia and the homemade aspect of the food made the experience worth the cost. we both agreed that we would like to return when they offer the spicier options on their prix fixe.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others


thai feast at bangkok garden

2:00 PM sians 0 Comments

i love trying food from different cultures but often times whenever i crave for something, it's more often for asian food. and thai food is usually pretty high up on the list because that's the first thing that comes to mind (other than malaysian) when i try to get my fill for spicy dishes. i promised ryan we'd explore more sacramento restaurants whenever i visit so i found bangkok garden which is about 30 minutes drive from folsom. it has received favorable reviews on yelp and it made me all the more excited to try the place. 

we went there on a thursday evening for dinner hoping that there wasn't a huge crowd but the restaurant was filled. the wait was about a 15 minute and they told us we could either wait outside or in starbucks just next door and they would call for us when our table was ready. starbucks was our pick since the weather was really hot that evening.

the decor of the restaurant was a lot thai influenced which was fitting and the walls were clad in wooden panels. 

there were so many things i wanted to try out on their menu. but most importantly, when they asked us what degree of spicy we wanted, we were torn between extra spicy and thai spicy. a lot of times i've been disappointed by "extra" spicy at countless restaurants which really doesn't feel like they've added anything extra but we were a lil apprehensive that the thai spicy at bangkok garden might be overwhelming (i only know of one thai place that if i asked for extra spicy to the highest degree.. it burned my stomach.. but it hurts soo good.. lol). they said that their thai spicy is pretty authentically thai standards so we went with extra spicy just to be safe.

soup :: shrimp tom yum soup | spicy & sour soup with lemon grass, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, galangal, kaffir lime leaves ($3.50)

i love soup and i somewhat take tom yum soups very seriously at thai restaurants. sometimes i even judge how much i like a thai restaurant based on their success with tom yum soup. well, i have to say bangkok garden did a fantastic job with it. there was a good balance of sweetness and sourness with a hint of lemongrass flavor in the soup. to top it off, the shrimp was fresh and cooked beautifully. what i don't get is the undercooked white mushroom in the soup that kinda brings the soup down a notch but still a favorite and i would get it again the next time.

house specialties :: angel wings | deep fried chicken wings, stuffed with ground pork, chicken, noodles and mushrooms, served with home made sweet and sour sauce ($7.95)

first thing's first.. chicken stuffed with noodles?! that's an interesting concept. they fried the chicken wings to crispy perfection without being greasy and was piping hot when it was served at the table. there is a play of textural difference from the cripsy crust, to the juicy tender meat it encased and the other stuffing it had. a lil more salt would have gone a long way but was made up by the sauce that it was served with.

house specialties :: spicy catfish | sauteed deep fried fillet catfish with bell pepper and basil in spicy chilli sauce ($8.50)

this was the test of the level of spiciness their food ranked... which was almost non existent. i could barely get a spicy kick with the extra spicy request which was disappointing. however, the flavors of this dish reminded me of a local malaysian dish called sambal. it was savory with a sweet undertone flavor that goes awesome with rice and perfect to also dip the chicken wings in. some of the fresh fillets had that nice crispy crunch while a few others didn't. however, i loved the familiar flavors and thought it was a great tasty dish and would totally get it again.

house specialties :: duck curry | sliced roasted duck in coconut milk, red curry, bamboo shoot, pineapple, tomato and basil ($8.95)

so we have this favorite duck curry that we used to order all the time at our favorite thai restaurant in chicago. and the duck curry here was reminiscent of that delicious dish which was a creamy thick curry with satisfying flavors of slight luscious sweetness melded with the gaminess of the duck. a bit iffy with the pineapple though. satisfying and the gravy is really good with rice and it was hard to stop munching away even though we were stuffed.

dessert :: f.b.i | fried banana ice cream ($3.75)

similar to the chicken wings, the bananas were fried to awesome crispiness. i suppose it is good that the banana was not very sweet which was compensated by the taro ice cream (you get to choose your flavor of ice cream) which tasted coconut-y and creamy.  the banana was soft and hot contrasted with its crispy exterior and the cold ice cream. however, the coloring of the ice cream was a tad too much to the point my tongue had a light purple tinge at the end of the meal.

we enjoyed our first meal so much, we went for a second visit for lunch just before i flew back to chicago. i think we were the first customers to get there. after our last visit and realizing that extra spicy wasn't enough, we opted for thai spicy instead.

appetizer :: prawn egg rolls | deep fried marinated prawn in egg wrapper, served with plum sauce ($7.50)

as its name suggested, it was literally a shrimp wrapped in egg wrapper and deep fried and it was piping hot that we had to give several minutes before biting into one. the shrimp was fresh and cooked well but i didn't really notice any flavors from the marinade.. mostly shrimp flavor. crispy, not greasy and hot and loved the plum sauce that came with it.

fried rice and noodle :: crab fried rice | pan fried rice with crab meat, eggs, onion and tomatoes ($8.95)

generous portion of serving with visible pieces of real crab meat which i loved. this was a basic fried rice which seasoned well but mild in flavor to the point that the flavors became one note after a while. the slices of tomatoes were served as a garnish instead of incorporated into the fried rice itself. i was searching for like a vegetable crunch or something. a huge downer was that it was too oily for my liking.

seafood :: smoked eggplant | steamed peeled eggplant, topped with sauteed chopped chicken, calamari, prawns and chili paste ($9.95)

i love eggplant and the use of chinese eggplant made it even better. there was a generous amount of meat and seafood which went well with the savory chili paste but compared to the fish dish we ordered the last time, this paled slightly in comparison. it was a good dish overall but wasn't great. the flavors of the chili paste wasn't really spicy except for the bites with slices of bird's eye chillies which isn't my type of spicy that i like. i prefer a spiciness infused into the sauce instead.

beverages :: thai iced tea ($2)

just like any other thai places, i've come to accept that thai iced teas are too sweet and i find myself diluting it with iced water. however, the flavors are there. the addition of milk and condensed milk makes the tea smooth, sweet and creamy.

bangkok garden displayed an array of wonderful, delicious thai dishes that keeps us wanting to go back for more. i have to admit, our food choices from our first visit were a lot better than the second. in terms of service, the staff were very friendly and nice. one complaint was that as the night progressed and the restaurant became busier, the service was also affected. towards the end, there was a considerable wait time before our dessert was served and it was hard to get the attention of the servers.

although i've only tried three thai restaurants so far in sacramento area, this is definitely the best one to date in the sacramento area. i'm heading to california sometime in september and this would probably my first stop for dinner when i get there :)

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

Bangkok Garden on Urbanspoon