Thursday, December 2, 2010

Short Order Reviews

Peter - Pho Tau BayIt had been quite a long time since I had dined at what was my first exposure to Vietnamese cuisine, but on this return visit the food did not live up to my memories. Because it was a cold and rainy Friday after Thanksgiving, I ordered a bowl of bo kho, the hearty stew of beef and carrots.  The gravy was thin and not nearly as flavorful as Tan Dinh's, and the temperature was luke warm.  On the bright side though, the beef was very tender and the carrots cooked to perfection.  Banh mi was skimpy on the chargrilled pork, but the flavor was spot on. In fact, I would say that portion sizes in general have been reduced, but at these prices it's tough to complain.  Pho Tau Bay - Par, sometimes the food is never as good as you remembered.  113 Westbank Expressway.

ReneBrooklyn Pizza. Crust was structurally perfect; thin, crispy but not waifish. However, there was too much uncooked flour on the bottom of crust, which created a choking sensation as I did the "whooo whoooo this pizza is hot, must breath in rapid gasps of air" dance. (That dance is a hallmark of any good pizza.) Next the sauce - good, zippy and played the role of a background singer. Toppings - Lindsay went with a small vegetarian thing and I chose pepperoni and olives. Both seemed bland, but the cheese had that toothy, yet stringy quality. Best part of the meal was the Italian salad with mozzarella, a nice light vinaigrette, salami and black olives. Brooklyn Pizza - Par, but want another crack at it. 4301 Veterans Blvd.

Peter - Babylon Cafe.  First, you have to give major props to Babylon for baking their own bread.  Thick with a buttery crust, it feels strange at first to be eating hummus with the house bread instead of pita, but you quickly grow accustom to it.  All of the dips - hummus, baba ganoush, and lebna - are pureed smooth, almost whipped. The $10.99 combination salad is mountanious with crisp slices of gyro meat and chicken shawarma that tends to be dry when it is cut too thin, but nice and juicy when it's thicker.  A sleeper on the menu is the shrimp sauteed in a spicy tomato-based sauce with squash, zucchini, and peppers.  Everything is cheap, cheap, cheap, even with the fancy new laminated menus. Babylon Cafe - Birdie.  7724 Maple Street.

ReneJung's Golden Dragon. Chinese food has admittedly taken a backseat to other Asian cuisines in our culinary adventures. What more is there to say about General Tso's and fried rice. You know what it tastes like. Granted, this is not "real" Chinese food, but there is also no such thing as Italian food either. Enter Jung's Golden Dragon, which recently opened on Magazine St. in the same block as La Divina and Sucre. (Insert Great Wall of China joke here.) The draw to Jung's - previously it was located in Metairie - was always the "Yellow Menu" which features more authentic Chinese dishes than you may be used to finding. We started with the waiter's recommendation of Glass Shrimp Dumplings. What came forth was a beautiful and intricate bundle of shrimp encased in a cellophane clear wrapper. A fiery chili oil and ginger flavored soy sauce were all the accompaniments these little bundles of joy needed. 

Next, came an order of pan fried pork dumplings, which are easily the best dumplings in the city. Crunchy but bursting forth with the unctuousness of pork. After I devoured three of them, Lindsay balanced one more on the end of her chopsticks before saying, "I can see you like those, you can have the rest."

That is love.

For Lindsay, eggplant Szechuan style, which came as a big pile of stir fried, crisp on the outside, molten on inside strips of eggplant. The eggplant was coated in a fiery brown sauce. Nothing gloppy or sweet here, just pure flavors and exquisite technique. I kept things in the same line of thinking but went with shredded pork in lieu of a vegetable. Both our dishes came extra spicy as required and that provided all the fortification against what was a cold day. We got take out a few days later, which was equally as good. Can you tell I really like this place? Jung's - Birdie, another few visits, could be Eagle for Chinese Restaurant in New Orleans.


Shelly said...

I do think that the lack of "real" Chinese food is one of the city's weak points, but for a couple other more authentic menus, you can ask to see the Chinese Menu at China Rose on North Arnaoult in Metairie (it was a favorite among my Chinese grad student friends when it was on Robert E. Lee prior to Katrina), and Imperial Garden on Williams in Kenner. I also think that you can eat really well at Royal China on vets if you eat off the Dim Sum menu. Not everything is tiny- they list some soups on that menu (shrimp and pork dumpling springs to mind) that are a meal in themselves.

Kevin said...

A second for China Rose's Chinese menu, and Imperial Garden has some good specials.

It's heresy around these parts, but I'd say Pho Tau Bay is to Vietnamese food what FIve Happiness is to Chinese: perhaps the most popular and appealing in town to non-Asian people, but long eclipsed by far better options. The last time I went to PTB everything seemed way past its peak, particularly the meat, and the broth was like mop water. Even the fast-food pho at the food court in Place St. Charles is better.

katie said...

wow- that is love. I cannot wait to eat those dumplings....they sound incredible!

Pontchartrain Pete said...

Rene, please report to detention and write on the blackboard 100 times: "I will never use the word 'unctuousness' in a review again.'"

It's so

Rene said...


You know we are just an cover band.

Megan said...

The New China Rose grinds the pork in the egg roll now and it is a little disturbing. Oh how I long for the Original CR. Also, brooklyn pizza needs to start using fresh mushrooms as opposed to jarred.

Shelly said...

I just love China Rose's beef with rice noodle casserole (on the chinese menu). So good! But I do agree that the original China Rose was better.

robert said...

a) Don't make me cross the causeway and kick your ass, Pete.

b) Try the hunan crispy fish fillet at Jung's. Just make sure you have more than one person eating it. Fucking thing puts me in a coma for hours when I order it by myself.

Sheldon Schmidt said...

Rene, I love Jung's. You have to try the Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings) They were my favorite when we lived over there and this is the only restaurant that will make them. Not the best I have ever had but good flavor and good concept. It takes a little longer and I think they are off the menu. I made Joel order them in an effort to try and get him to make some one night!! I hope all is well, Sheldon