Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kaze:

If you hadn’t noticed, last year we got into a bit of a blogging rut. With the winter we’ve had, you can hardly blame us for hibernating.


That said, the situation was getting pretty sad. We were still going out a lot, visiting some of our favorite, regular spots, but we were neglecting to try any of the new restaurants, and subsequently, write about them.



“We’ll try them later.” We reasoned. “We’ll save that one for a special occasion.” We promised. “It’s too cold to walk up there right now.” The excuses kept coming.

No, we didn't. Honest... we ran out of gas. we... we had a flat tire. We didn't have enough money for cab fare. David's tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole our car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts!


It got to a point where it was almost embarrassing. We’re supposed to be foodies, dammit. And yet we hadn’t been to places like Kaze, which had been open for over a year. A few weeks ago, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided to do something about it. The walk up was cold. It was rainy.

And holy-hell was it worth it.




David’s a big sushi fan, whereas I’m still holding out on that front. Luckily there are plenty of things that appealed to both of us on Kaze’s menu. We’ve been back twice now, and from what we’ve had, Kaze’s more than secured a regular spot in our rotation.

The pork buns are a thing of beauty. Glazed pork belly, spicy frisee lettuce, crunchy fuji apples and a zingy mustard vinaigrette are amazing together, surrounded by a fluffy steamed bun that has a bit of sweetness to it. I liked them so much I ordered them twice. During the same dinner.

these buns are the bomb

The kobe sliders with cheese pickles and crispy onions were also very tasty, with a strong beefy flavor. Plus, I’m a sucker for “mini” foods of all kinds. I did wish the patties had a little seasoning in them, though. We ended up using some of the soy sauce on the table for our burgers.


Kobe slider with aforementioned second order of pork buns

Other than the pork buns, the skewers are a showstopper. I practically squealed with delight when I saw they were cooked over flames, the way I’d seen them made on shows about traditional Japanese cuisine. We’ve tried the beef, and chicken and the mushroom, and they are all exceptional. The beef and chicken are probably some of the best we’ve had anywhere, and are incredibly tender.

chicken
Mushroom Skewer

And of course we have to try the ramen. Made with bok choy, pork belly, and containing a poached egg, the soup was perfect for a chilly day. I especially enjoyed it because we’ve been watching David Chang’s “Mind of a Chef”, which induces what you can only call “ramen envy”.

It’s a known fact that in every episode of "Mind of a Chef" David Chang will mention ramen at least twice and eat it at least once.

David tried a variety of sushi, including a special that day. We sat at the sushi bar, which is fun to do if you want to watch the staff work. Plus, they’re happy to answer any questions about the menu, what they’re working on, or the restaurant.

One of David's pet peeves at sushi places is what we've been calling the "wasabi test". Traditionally, a small bit of wasabi is supposed to be placed under the sashimi. Sadly, many places neglect to do that. When we noticed the staff carefully placing a smidge underneath each piece, I knew we'd arrived at a place that does sushi exceptionally well. 


Special of the day
Uni
King Salmon, goldeneye, and uni (sea urchin)


In an attempt to balance out the amount of pork belly we’d consumed, we also ordered the Kaze salad, with avocado, cucumber, radish, shishito, and shiso vinaigrette. The addition of a fried lotus root gave the salad a fun exotic touch.



We have yet to try the happy hour, which is in the bar in the back, but are going to remedy that soon, as sushi is half price and cocktails are $5. Rumor has it that they are working on a tiki themed drink menu for spring, as well, which I can’t wait to try.

Beer selection at Kaze is also pretty stellar. Not only do they have the usual Sapporo, their  draft list includes local brews and rotates often.

The Riki Tea-ki
We’re not huge dessert people, but with how great the rest of our meal was, we were curious. We ordered this chocolate ganache dessert with puffed rice, hazelnuts, malt and raspberries. Despite being full of pork belly and sushi, we polished it off too.


Throughout the entire meal, we were kicking ourselves for not getting to Kaze sooner. If you never try new things, you may be missing something awesome. Following that line of reason, we decided to give Uber, which had just arrived in Cincinnati, a spin for a ride home.

We'll definitely be using Uber again, we had a great and easy ride home. They are running a promotion right now where your first few rides are free, too!


Kaze on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Slice of Life:

Recently I’ve had an abundance of time at home, as the result of a shake-up at my agency and a subsequent layoff. Interviewing has kept me busy and I'm eager to get back to work, but I’m taking full advantage of my impromptu vacation until I find out what's next for me. That means you’ll probably find me in the kitchen.


On this particular morning I woke up wanting to make cheesesteaks and some sort of duck fat potato dish. I almost abandoned my plans for the potato dish when I realized what I would need to do.

I do just so happen to have a gallon of duck fat in the fridge, that's convenient
We meet again, nemesis

I would need to use the mandoline. When we moved, I considered getting rid of the thing. To understand why I felt the inclination, I’m going to have to tell you about what we refer to as The Great Mandoline Incident of 2013.

Last year in July, David and I planned to make pork belly banh mi for dinner. We’d been out for a bit at City Cellars and had played a few rounds of Mario Kart. David beats me every damn time, and he claimed I needed to learn the “art of the drift”. We decided we simply had to watch the quality Fast and Furious franchise film Tokyo Drift when we returned home.

Once we were back, David set about renting the movie while I used the mandoline to slice some cucumbers for sandwiches. Because I had gotten cocky, I decided to use neither the steel cut-resistant glove we have, or the mandoline’s plastic guard. I turned to ask David a question, and that’s when it happened.

Fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: Not using the guard on your mandoline.

I slammed my fingers into the mandoline’s blade while slicing the cucumber. I immediately knew on a deep level I had done some major damage. I must have involuntarily made some sort of uh-oh sound, because David called suspiciously from the other room. “Did you just cut yourself?”

“Nooooo.” I said unconvincingly. Maybe it’s not that bad.

David, grumbling under his breath, went to get the bandages and neosporin while I ran my hand under cold water. “Um...I don’t think those are going to work this time. I did a really good job.” I said meekly.

“What? Christ. Let me see!” Once David took a look at my fingers, he got really quiet, which was particularly alarming. The shock had worn off and my fingers were starting to really hurt. Yep, it’s that bad.

“I’m trying to figure out if we need to take you to the hospital. I think you need stitches.”

So off we went after wrapping my hand in a paper towel and shoving it in a bag of ice. I did indeed need stitches in my pinky, but there was no helping my ring finger. I had lopped the top right off.

Four hours later, I was out of the hospital and we were on our way home. We never did get to make the banh mi. We went to McDonalds for dinner, and I clumsily tried to eat a Big Mac one-handed.

It took a good two months before I didn’t have to wear any bandages, my ring finger is still shaped funny, and I’ve avoided the mandoline ever since. I’ve even been skittish about using the Global chef and paring knives. But you can’t run scared forever, and the onions and potatoes I wanted to prep would be much easier if I used the tool. Still I debated with myself.

David’s not home. Who would drive you to the hospital?
Do you really, really want the potatoes? You could just make mashed potatoes, you know.
Just putting this out there: You don’t have health insurance right now.

Putting on the cut-resistant glove and grabbing the guard (I wasn’t making that mistake again), I approached the mandoline like you would some sort of poisonous viper. Half an hour later I had some nicely sliced vegetables--and some unsliced, intact fingers.


Sometimes you just have to get back out there, whether it’s using the kitchen equipment that maimed you previously, looking for a new job after getting let go, or getting rejected for a position you really want. 

It’s uncomfortable and scary to try again when you’re feeling bruised and broken, but once it’s over, you can look back and be proud of yourself for how far you’ve come...even if in this case it was simply a bowl of sliced potatoes.

small victories are still victories


So how were the cheesesteaks? Amazing in the ways that cheesesteaks usually are, especially when you use the traditional Cheez Whiz. We decided to be efficient and use the large cast iron pizza pan as a flat top grill with the power plus burner, and we made duck fat and butter Pommes Anna derived from this recipe, which we will surely be experimenting with again.





Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up. And then enjoy a cheesesteak sandwich.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Al Amir:

Polly at the Enquirer recently posted a selection of the best local wings, based on reader input. While we agree with their recommendation of Knockback Nat’s (go, and don’t skip the Hanky Panks), once I read the post I noticed that there was something missing.

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Cincinnati, let me hit you with some knowledge. Some of the best fried wings downtown are somewhere most of us would never look. A Mediterranean restaurant. Yeah, you heard me. I don’t get it either.

David and I like Al Amir. It’s cheap, it’s fast, the hummus is well-made, and during the summer, makes a great takeout meal to eat on the square in the sunshine. Each time we were in, we kept noticing something odd. First, chicken wings were on the menu. Second, people kept ordering them.

Finally curiosity got the best of us and we ordered some as well.
Holy crap.


I must add some disclaimers here--these are not fancy, confit wings you can get across the street at Local 127. These come frozen out of a bag, which makes why they are so amazing all the more mysterious. These wings are fried to order in front of you, and the breading on them is exceptionally thick and crispy, leaving the chicken inside incredibly juicy.

So, Why does a Mediterranean restaurant serve wings?
Where do they come from?
Why are they so delicious?

Sometimes it’s best to not ask questions and eat your amazing chicken wings from the unlikeliest of places, which is our recommendation.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Eagle OTR:






Momentum can be a tricky thing. Sometimes a frenzy of work is going on behind the scenes, invisible to passersby, very similar to a store or restaurant preparing to open with paper on the windows preventing you from peeking.

And then, BAM! All the sudden there’s a flurry of activity, a grand opening, a successful restaurant, then another, then shops, then condos, and apartments, and pizza and donuts and fried chicken and tacos and hey when did Rookwood Pottery open up? At least that’s how we feel about Vine Street North of the Gateway Quarter.

The development of Mercer Commons has sparked another step North for the revival of Vine St, and it’s clear by this point that the momentum—while small at first, has picked up speed and isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Which brings us to the fried chicken. The Eagle, opened in an Old Post Office by the folks that run Bakersfield and Currito, is a welcome addition to Vine St.


We recently stopped by to try a variety of things on the menu and take some photos—you’ll see some here and some out and about on The Eagle’s social feeds. We’ve been in for lunch twice now.

Prices are all very reasonable, and the beer selection features a variety of Belgian beers amid local selections and usual suspects, which we appreciate. A bourbon barrel ale—one of my favorites and a benchmark for beer prices in restaurants in my book—is a fair $6. If you’re feeling especially classy, you can get a glass chalice filled with High Life for $2. They also offer growler fills (according to the menu) which I think is pretty awesome. The OTR iced tea is very tasty and packs a punch, as does the Moscow mule, served in a giant glass mug.

One of my favorites from Weyerbacher
The Mule
OTR Iced Tea will kick your ass

If you look for it, the Bakersfield influence is definitely there—the chips, the hot skillets for the dishes, the signature cocktail in the large pitcher format, the inexpensive beer in the quirky glass. The menu is small, which allows for fine tuning, and so is the space—it can get rather loud when it’s busy. Which is often. The Eagle is open Sunday, which is the day we recommend if you don’t want a long wait. If you’re looking for more of a kid friendly restaurant on Vine that still has a killer adult beverage selection, the Eagle is your place—they even have high chairs.


We’ve tried everything on the menu except the pork sandwich, the collards and one of the salads. The cheesy dip gets a twist with the addition of kale, so you can at least feel somewhat redeemed from indulging in it.


New Years Resolution to eat more kale? Problem solved.

We’ve tried 2 of the 3 salads, which are nicely composed. I appreciated the cornbread croutons on the kale salad, which are fun. Vegetarian options at the Eagle include two of the salads, some of the appetizers and sides, and the grilled cheese sandwich, which is made with crunchy apples.




Oddly enough, the things we like the most are not their flagship chicken. Both times we’ve visited, we’ve gotten the French dip, which David enjoys for the simplicity and giant cup of au jus, and the mac and cheese, which comes with crunchy bread crumbs and spiral noodles. The chicken sandwich is also a solid bet, and is a very hefty portion for the price.



 
 I dip you dip we dip



Chicky chicky sandwich

The pickles are made in house and make a nice snack with the hominy, which reminded us of BBQ popcorn.


Hominy
The sweet potatoes come with toasted marshmallows on top, as all sweet potatoes should. 
There will be marshmallows and don't argue with me on this, you won't win

The fried chicken is pretty solid, but we think they are still nailing down some of the details—salt and black pepper levels have been all over the place.

The breading itself clings to the chicken very well, and I like that you can get white or dark meat pieces. It's served with some spicy, warm honey, which complements the chicken nicely.

And boom goes the dynamite




Juicy white meat chicken ehn-*hance*!

There’s really no question about whether The Eagle is going to do well—they’ve only been open a little while and already have nailed many of the key elements of a good restaurant. We’ll be back!

We do have one question, however:

Seriously, why.

The Eagle Food and Beer Hall on Urbanspoon