Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revolution Rotisserie:

A few weeks ago, some of my co-workers stopped by my desk. “We’re going to Revolution Rotisserie for lunch. Want to join us?”

Though I usually go home for lunch, I was tempted. However, I still hadn’t been to the restaurant with David, so I had to follow the rules: David and I would have to check it out together before I went without him. After David broke the pact and went to Taste of Belgium without me a few years ago (and then was busted red handed on Twitter), I’ve been careful to not commit the same transgression.

So I politely declined and mentally penciled the restaurant in on one of our free weekends. This past weekend, David and I stopped by for Sunday brunch.

Brunch features a variety of the pita sandwiches that they have on the regular menu, along with several more brunch-y themed items.

After much debate, we elected to go with splitting the chorizo poutine. I chose the Nelson Mandela pita sandwich, which is Mexican inspired, while David went with the Harriet Tubman, featuring chicken, muffaletta olive salsa, tzatziki sauce, and hummus.

While deciding, we briefly pondered the titles of the pita sandwiches. Named after revolutionaries, I suppose, but one has to wonder how Gandhi would feel about being associated with a chicken wrap (he was a strict vegetarian). Was Nelson Mandela a big fan of chipotle ranch dressing? Have they finally discovered Ben Franklin’s famous asian slaw recipe? These are questions we may never have answered.

I couldn’t decide between a cheekily named punch and bottomless mimosas, so why not both? I thought the punch was a little on the sweeter side, but it was delicious and refreshing after the walk up on a warm morning.

William Wallace Bravebooze

The tater tot poutine with chorizo had a nice spicy kick, which was managed by the fluffy, crispy tots. I wished the egg on top was not over hard and was a little more “oozy” though, that would have knocked the dish out of the park.

us fork-dueling over who gets which tater tot

David enjoyed his pita and ate the whole thing, prompting him to come straight home and take a big nap. In the end we liked my pita better, with chicken, nicely seasoned black beans, tomato, chipotle ranch, crunchy Frito-style corn chips (great idea), and just the right amount of cilantro.

Harriet Tubman
Nelson Mandela

The staff were friendly and the inside of the restaurant is bright and welcoming. The draft selection is on the smaller side but solid. Prices are very reasonable for the portions.

I have a feeling once word gets out, this place won’t be quiet for long. Also, the restaurant is right next to Washington park, making it perfect for take-out and a picnic.

I’ll be back soon. I’m especially curious about the half rotisserie chicken and their mashed potato bowl.

Revolution Rotisserie & Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Quan Hapa:

“Don’t look directly at the Sriracha. Don’t look directly at the Sriracha.” I silently chanted to myself while I sat at our table at Quan Hapa and carefully twisted the top of the bottle open.

This post is part review, part PSA. When opening Sriracha, don’t look at it. And for the love of all that is holy, point it away from your face.

Of course, there is a story behind my statement; a few years ago, when I was really enamored with Sriracha and was putting it on everything like a madwoman, I was in the kitchen turning the nozzle to “open.” I looked down as I was opening it and the bottle gave a little ‘splurt,’ which catapulted Sriracha upward. DIRECTLY INTO MY OPEN EYES.

The searing pain was immediate and my brain abruptly shut off. David heard my whimpering and discovered me clutching my eyes and spinning around in a circle in the kitchen like a short-circuited Roomba. He led me to the bathroom where we flushed my eyes out.

Happily, there was no such incident at Quan Hapa because that would have seriously derailed our review. We’ve been meaning to go there for quite some time, but it never seemed to pan out. This past weekend, we decided that we were going to make it happen.

David started with a beer he had never had before, which reminded us of a cream ale. It was rainy and cold outside, so I opted for some hot sake, which was served in a fun little can. We were too early for happy hour, but Quan Hapa’s looks solid.

I was curious about the wings and David wanted a salad. The wings were hot and juicy--though a little messy with the sweet nuac mam (fish sauce) and honey glaze. The nuac mam added a little funkiness which I enjoyed.

David’s hapa salad (I appreciated that the server did not try to set it in front of me for once) had some crispy sweet potatoes, some kick from watercress, and a nice coconut milk curry dressing.

For entrees, David selected the modern pork belly banh mi. On the menu it lists pickled papaya, but we didn’t really taste it in the sandwich. The pork belly was excellent, but we missed the usual addition of fresh jalapeno or paté. Le’s still wins for best banh mi for now.

If you want spice, try the sambal, but beware, it will destroy you

I’ve been wanting to try the ramen, so getting something else was out of the question. I chose the Hapa ramen, but I also added fried tofu, which I highly recommend. You can also build your own ramen if you’d like.

roll that beautiful broth footage
fish cakes!
The ramen broth was very flavorful but not too salty, and I enjoyed the little white and pink fish cakes. The noodles were springy, and the egg was expertly poached. The pork belly was crispy and the flavors reminded me of red-cooked pork. It was a little large to try and eat with chopsticks, though.

About those chopsticks: Quan Hapa uses plastic chopsticks, which I can understand the reason for, but when eating ramen, take it from say... playing Bayonetta on ‘very easy automatic’ vs. ‘normal.’

harder to beat than Grace and Glory in Chapter 6

I will definitely be back for the ramen and to try happy hour. Quan Hapa has a nice draft list and sake selection. Also of note: They take reservations, which is rare for smaller restaurant, and even rarer for a smaller restaurant in OTR.

Quan Hapa on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pontiac Bourbon and BBQ:

Dan and Lana Wright’s newest restaurant venture, Pontiac, opened up last week.

David and I have been excited for Pontiac since the news first went public (especially when I learned that there would be tiki drinks on the menu).

The restaurant space is a little roomier than Senate, but fills up just as fast. David and I went between 3:00 and 4:30, but there was a only few minutes wait, and seats at the bar opened up very quickly.

We started with a few of the items on the “Snacks” side of the menu. I ordered the pulled pork nacho cheese poutine and David ordered the $4 iceberg wedge. I later tried the fried pickles, which are a great bar snack.

We also ordered the biggest tiki drink on the menu, the Rumspringa Punch. Definitely a drink for sharing, it has champagne, cucumber infused rum, hibiscus and pineapple. And 151. Which they light on fire. Order one of these and be prepared for some extra attention at the bar from curious onlookers. Worth the $30 price tag? I think so, especially when you consider what a bottle of wine costs in a restaurant.

Light my bottle of wine on fire and then we'll talk

Our food came out very quickly, and it amused me to no end that David’s lettuce wedge was placed squarely in front of me. Typically when we go out, David orders a salad while I order some sort of fried cheese cholesterol-laden monstrosity. Servers almost always try to give me the salad.

Perhaps not.

Me, at Pontiac

I did try David’s salad and I thought the green goddess dressing was a nice complement to the crunchy iceberg, shredded carrot and cheese.

The poutine was everything I hoped it would be. Smoked and shredded pulled pork placed throughout, melty salty cheese, crispy crinkle cut fries and lightly pickled jalapenos that had a little bite. Do not skip this snack.

I tried two other tiki drinks, the Hawaiian punch, and the Bahama-Lana. Of the two, the Hawaiian punch is my favorite. The Bahama-Lana, though pleasant, is a little on the sweeter side.

Hawaiian Punch

We ordered the brisket, both the fatty and lean cuts, which were perfect. Anyone who’s attempted to make a good brisket knows how hard it is, and as far as menu items go, this is one of the shining stars on Pontiac’s.

I'm taking that home to momma

Oh no, my brother, you have got you get your own

The ribs were a little spicier than we expected—challengingly so—and in my opinion, needed a little longer in the smoker to reach their full potential. While people that know good barbecue know that Montgomery Inn’s “fall-off-the-bone” ribs are way overcooked and true barbecue ribs have a bit of pull to them, the ribs we got went a little too far in the firmness direction.

The potato salad balanced out the heat from the rib rub nicely. With big chunks of potato, creamy dressing and bacon, this is another thing not to skip at Pontiac. It was David's favorite side of the ones we tried.

The bacon fat grits were also a nice side—we could taste the bacon fat but it wasn’t overpowering. It’s nice when the side dishes can step out of the way and let the main dishes be the highlights.

The baked beans are similarly understated (in a good way), and not overly sweet. The beans themselves are firm, and some onion and pork add just a little extra flavor.

We also tried the brisket burrito (which we managed to get a shot of right before the camera gave up). David liked the unpretentious combo of iceberg lettuce and yellow cheese. I predict this being a favorite of the late night crowd.

On the weekends, Pontiac serves smoked prime rib at market price. We were fortunate enough to be able to sample some and it was our favorite cut we tried next to the brisket.

Overall, when it comes to Cincinnati barbecue, you’ve got your heavy hitters. There’s Eli’s, Velvet Smoke, SmoQ and now Pontiac. Happily there’s more than enough room in Cincinnati’s culinary sandbox for all of them. As for which is better? That’s hard to say. They each have their specialties and I’d be happy to visit any of them on any given day.

Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ on Urbanspoon