Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pollo Amigo - Towson, MD

Great Peruvian chicken places are littered all over the D.C area, but here in Baltimore, the offerings are much more sparse. In fact, the only one that I am aware of, is Pollo Amigo in Towson. There isn't much in the way of ambiance that this small strip mall eatery offers, but we are here for the food, dining room be damned.

The menu offers an interesting selection of authentic Mexican and Peruvian offerings. The Peruvian rotisserie chicken is without a doubt, the head attraction for most first time visitors, and it does not let down.

I ordered the half chicken platter ($6.95,) which came along with two sides. I went for beans and fried yucca (I wrote plantains before, what was I thinking?!?!). The chicken was moist and delicate - delicious in every way possible. Then there is the skin. My god the skin! Covered with a mixture of spices and seasonings that compliment the crispy, fatty texture of the surface in the best way.
Kim opted for the Carnitas Tacos($7.95). Actually, this is a lie. I ordered everything that I thought sounded good under the agreement that we would share. I was very happy to see the tacos were double wrapped and served with a side of pico de gallo in the traditional style. Very simple, very traditional, very tasty.

For the price of this amazing food and the portions delivered; I cannot fathom why anyone would ever eat generic chain-made, frozen, bland, sub par Latin food.

Pollo Amigo
714 York Road
Towson,MD 21204

Pollo Amigo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jasmine Asian Bistro - Timonium, MD

We received a gift certificate to this newly opened restaurant in Timonium for Xmas and thought it was time to give it a whirl. Jasmine was previously open in Towson where my beloved Pho Dat Thanh now resides. Seeing as they had failed in the previous location, my expectations were not incredibly high. My impressions at the end of the meal were somewhat of a mixed bag.

Walking in to the new space, it is clear that the owners have invested a great deal to make sure the area is aesthetically pleasing. There is a great deal of intricate woodwork throughout the restaurant with simple details that create a warm environment. Outside of the normal booth and table seating, Jasmine also offers tatami rooms. These are the small private Japanese style rooms with shoeless floor seating. This alone will undoubtedly attract a curious crowd.

Generally it does not speak well of a place that tries to do too many things at once. The menu at Jasmine is advertised as a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai offerings. I admire the aspiration to do a little bit of everything, but I think doing one thing well makes you just as special.

We started the meal with a Spicy Korean Soup and Thai Beef Salad. The soup was spicy as promised, and had a whole assortment of meats, seafood, and veggies. The only thing that tasted traditionally Korean was the broth, but it was still a nice start to the meal. The Thai beef salad consisted of a pleasantly med-rare sliced steak over some assorted vegetables. It was about as westernized as Asian food can get, but the steak was nice.

For entrees we chose the Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Crispy Sesame Tofu. I requested the curry to be as spicy as possible, but as often happens, I was given the white boy heat. Flavors in the curry were mostly spot on accurate to what I was expecting. The use of spice and seasoning could have lifted the dish to the next level, and yet I feel as though the kitchen purposely holds back. The tofu dish was actually something I would order again. It was not overly sweet and was properly fried. The portions of both dishes were more than either of us could finish and one dish probably could have fed both of us.

Just to make sure we had hit every major region of Asia during the meal, we ordered a bottle of Sake to accompany the food. The waitress was very supportive of our decision, and the sake was quite nice. Jasmine boasts a full bar and a very respectable selection of different Sake. What really perplexed me was the inclusion of a variety of Tiki drinks on the alcohol menu. I can only picture the conversation that led to that one. "Americans love drinks with umbrellas served in huge heads! Remember the sixties?!?"

I had a difficult time being my normal judgmental and embittered self when it came to Jasmine. The staff and service were incredibly pleasant and accommodating. The owner even stopped by our table to ask how everything was and inquired as to how we had learned of their opening. It's quite clear that they are making a very heartfelt attempt at putting their best foot forward with every aspect of the restaurant and I applaud the effort.

If you're an admitted snob when it comes to Asian food like me; and demand authenticity, then this place may not be for you. For the more casual diner, I think Jasmine will find a loyal following. With the exertion they seem to be putting forward thus far, they deserve to find one.

Jasmine Asian Bistro
(410) 252-5672
2141 York Rd
Timonium, MD 21093

Jasmine Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bubble Express - Rockville, MD

After a full dumpling excursion in Rockville, it was decided that an after dinner beverage was in order, and what better than bubble tea. We chose Bubble Express on Rockville Pike.

Bubble Tea has been slowly making its way into every local shopping mall and asian eatery around. This iced beverage can be made from any number of teas and fruit flavorings and is filled with little tapioca "pearls." The cup comes with an over-sized straw. So with each little sip you not only get some liquid, but some chewy tapioca goodness as well. I went with the classic green tea flavor and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The liquid/solid combo in a beverage can be somewhat of a turn off for many westerners, but it is really quite refreshing.

After a full meal one would think that bubble tea would be sufficient to calm my hunger, but no. Bubble Express also has a great little apps menu to enjoy your tea with. A great array of small eats to munch on while talking with friends. We chose the house specialty of Taiwanese Fried Chicken. This stuff was so good I ended up getting a second order to take home with me, never wanting to be separated from these little bites of goodness again. Think Asian seasoned popcorn chicken and you have pretty much got the idea. Little leaves of fried basil really help lift the dish to the next level.

If I were to be in the general area again, I would certainly have to stop for some tea at Bubble Express. They also have two other locations where I can get my chicken fix!

765 E. Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 545-1708
(301) 545-1709

*Pics courtesy of jumbojumbocafe.com

Monday, January 4, 2010

China Bistro (Mama's Dumplings) - Rockville

It's a rarity that I get to make it down to Rockville, an area of MD about 45 minutes south of where I live. This area is chocked to the hills with amazing Asian restaurants. If you have the chance, spend a day eating everywhere in the area. It really is worth it if you enjoy authentic lovingly-made food!

This venture down south was to check out a place a friend recommended that makes their own handmade dumplings. Had I not been told about this place I would have assumed it was just a random Chinese carryout, no different than a million others. The name China Bistro doesn't exactly leap out as the place to get great dumplings, but if you can read Mandarin then that is exactly what it says! The name in Chinese translates into 'Mama's Dumplings.' I am a total dumpling whore and will happily travel for good ones.

What really made this unassuming little strip mall location interesting was the ability to look right into the kitchen and watch these artfully created morsels be made right in front of your eyes! We ordered a large assortment from the Mama's Special, Beef and Celery, to Pork and Dill. It was hard to pick a favorite because I was so busy trying to stop my dining companions from eating them all. You have the ability to choose any of the dumplings on the menu to be fried or steamed, I prefer the latter, but both were deliriously good. The total cost of the meal was about 52 dollars for five diners including tip, which is insanely reasonable considering the vast amount of food we were given (each order of dumplings is around $7.00 and is an order of 12).

Get down to Rockville and give this place a try!

China Bistro
755 Hungerford Dr
Rockville, MD 20847
(301) 294-0808