LFM: Balkan Restaurant

 

Cold Appetizer Platter

Cold Appetizer Platter

 

I’ve kept to the West End for the past year or two and usually ate at home. Whenever hubby and I do go out, Balkan Restaurant, is often suggested. Most of the time though, we’ve just come off a meat fest at home of steaks or kebabs, so we’re guilty of having not gone here for a while. I’m so glad the place seems to be doing well — there was a steady stream of customers when we went there on a Friday night. They even recently renovated their interior.

Their charcuterie platter above is unpretentious, and there’s no other word except it’s damn tasty. I would be happy to have this as a meal with a loaf their lepinja bread.

However, it’ll be a sin not to order any of their grilled meats because they’re seasoned and grilled to perfection. The chicken has a hint of lemon, their ground beef is juicy, and all of them have that fire taste that probably come from a charcoal grill (I’m not certain of this).

grilledplatter

Grilled meat platter

 

For the winter months when grilling is not possible and you crave this kind of food, Balkan is a good option. They specialize in Bosnian fare. Of course if you prefer hearty stews, they always have their Hungarian goulash.

Hubby ordered the sausage and bean special and he absolutely loved it. Simple and satisfying.

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Sausage and Beans plate

 

Balkan Restaurant

8905 Patterson Avenue

Richmond, VA 23239

Closed Mondays

 

previous review here: http://kitchenmusings.com/2010/12/29/lfm-balkan-restaurant/

 

 

 

 

Ramen!

Totto Ramen

Totto Ramen NYC: Fully loaded ramen with fresh and dried seaweed, bamboo shoot, shredded pork etc.

I know, I haven’t posted in a while because nothing interested me for the longest time. I was tired of the RVA food scene because it’s always about the next new restaurant and then the ones I really liked started closing. Case in point, Rocoto Chicken. I realized I’m more of a purist rather than a fusion type cuisine eater. I know I probably need to go to a larger city or maybe keep to the Near West End where most of the Asian restaurants don’t give a damn about Americanizing their cuisine.

On a recent trip to NY, I made it my mission to find the best ramen place. I’ve already been to Momofuku. I’ve tried Ippudo  in HK and didn’t like it too much so I was hesitant to try their NYC branch. Then I find out my favorite yakitori place, Yakitori Totto opened Totto Ramen. I didn’t waste time hauling ass over there at the first chance I got. Fifteen minutes before opening for their lunch hour there was a already a very long line. You sign yourself up on their clipboard and it is a cash-only place. I could quite possibly say, the ramen was life-altering. I finally understood the hype of an awesome ramen. The broth, the noodles, the egg . . . everything came together to deliver that piece of Nirvana. I left the cramped restaurant sated and fulfilled in more ways than one.

Totto ramen bowl 1

Totto ramen bowl 1

I returned with the hubby on another evening and this time I was prepared and we were the first customers to be seated.

totoramenbroth

totoramensignage

Returning to Richmond, I see on my Facebook feed that a ramen pop-up has come to RVA. These were from people I trusted to know good ramen, so I was very excited. I tried to keep my expectations level after coming from a ramen high in NYC, but I am happy to report that Shoryuken Ramen delivered a satisfying bowl of goodness. The broth was fantastic, the pork that came with it was better than Totto Ramen, the noodles were cooked right … although I detected a floury taste.

Shoryuken ramen bowl

Shoryuken ramen bowl

From my own ramen experiments, I’ve noticed this when I had coated the noodles with too much flour because the dough was damn sticky.

Edited 12-30-2014 – returned on 12/30, the flour taste was gone. Clean tasty al-dente noodles!

I would love to have more options like additional: seaweed, egg, meat and noodles. But I understand that being a pop-up, this can prove to be a challenge. I would love to see a brick and mortar location, hopefully with easy parking please and I don’t care if it’s in a strip mall.

Shoryuken Ramen pop-up

Monday and Tuesday, 5pm to 11pm

1213 Summit Avenue (@ Lunch and Supper space)

Ever wondered why Peter Chang opened in Walmart shopping center and Pho So 1 opened their second location where it was? I, for one, don’t want to worry about where to park when I want a quick bowl of ramen. Just some consideration when thinking of location and target clientele. 😉

RVA Fried Chicken Crawl

Dixie Chicken

Dixie Chicken

If there is a type of food I take seriously, I would say it would have to be fried chicken. Therefore, when it comes to fried chicken, I’m very hard to please. Most folks scrunch their noses up when you say your favorite thing to eat is fried chicken because they think it’s greasy and disgusting. But the truth is fried chicken, done right, is anything but disgusting.

L and I met a couple, who I shall call A and R, at a Kimchi dinner last year and for some reason we started talking about fried chicken and not just fried chicken but really good fried chicken. It is quite lamentable that this is hard to find in Richmond which is ironic because Southern Fried chicken is one of the best. I say one of the best because I still believe that Asian-style fried chicken is the BEST (deep fried whole and chopped, garlicky soy taste). The idea of a Fried chicken crawl is born.

We all become friends on FB and for nine months nothing happens until A says that it looks like Dixie Donuts is never gonna do fried chicken so we might as well go ahead and plan the crawl.

Our initial line up was: Lee’s Famous Recipe, Dixie Chicken, Croaker’s Spot and Korean Garden

“Hungry Hubby” thought we were crazy. How could we eat so much fried chicken, right? Anyway, I lasso him to participate anyway. So our group of four become five.

Then a week or so before the crawl, A FB messages us and tells us that their friends, Keith and J, are coming into town and joining our crawl. And Keith is going to cook us fried chicken (apparently the man’s specialty) the night before to kick off the crawl. Fantastic, right?

I’ll say straight out, Keith’s fried chicken kicked ass and was the best, so I’ll leave that discussion for last and head to the fried chicken we had on the Sunday crawl.

Score Card

Score Card

We even had a score card handy, courtesy of A. We agree to both try white and dark meat.

Our first stop was Lee’s Famous Recipe

Lee's Famous Recipe

Lee’s Famous Recipe

When you ask Richmonders where to get the best fried chicken, everyone says Lee’s. So you all can understand how excited we were. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. The crispness was there but it was slightly greasy and the flavor was all on the skin. The chicken itself was moist but it was tasteless, thus tasting ordinary.

2nd stop: Dixie Chicken

The Intrepid Fried Chicken Crawlers

The Intrepid Fried Chicken Crawlers

This stop was rather bittersweet, because the owner told us that they were closing for good that Friday. 😦 I don’t know if that news just hit us in a way that set off emotional eating because the fried chicken tasted freaking delicious. It was crisp and the spices used in the chicken were tasty and complementary, there was flavor clear through the moist meat. Some of the crew thought that the flavoring was a tad salty but hubby and I thought it was perfect.

Dixie Chicken had no tables  so we decided to tailgate it and it was fun!

Fried chicken tailgate

Fried chicken tailgate

Our next stop was supposed to be Croaker’s spot out on Hull Street. It turns out they do not always make fried chicken, but the man at the door gladly told us where our disappointed crew could find some.

3rd stop: Mama J’s

Mama J's Fried Chicken

Mama J’s Fried Chicken

I would say Mama J’s fried chicken was middle of the line. It was crisp, tasty and moist but could use more flavor. They had this barbecue sauce you could top on it that was the perfect mix of spicy, sweet and sour. Too bad they don’t bottle that stuff. What impressed us more than the fried chicken was the fried cat fish nuggets below.

Cat fish nuggets

Catfish nuggets

Cornmeal coated, crisp and moist. Perfect.

We never made it to Korean Garden. Our crew got sidetracked by the sight of cake.

mama j's cakes

mama j’s cakes

We all shared slices of lemon pound cake, pineapple coconut cake, german chocolate cake and rum cake which was my favorite. We also tried their peach cobbler.

And by the end of that meal, it would be irrational to go to Korean Garden. And the guys were satisfied because they finally got their beer. 😉

* I noted earlier that Dixie Chicken was proclaimed the winner, but it turns out some in the group preferred Mama J’s! 

When I used to work downtown, the secretary always got fried chicken from this place called Chicken Box and I remembered it being quite tasty too.

So let’s talk about the Keith’s homemade fried chicken. The man set bar quite high.

Carolina Fried Chicken

Carolina Fried Chicken

The secret to Southern fried chicken is: cast-iron pan and crisco. What impressed me with Keith’s—it was not greasy at all. Now, I have not learned all his fried chicken secrets, I think cooking the perfect fried chicken warrants another post, but getting the oil to the right temperature is very important. Keith held his hand above the screen covering the pan, so I guess it’s experience also. When I asked him how he knew the chicken was done, he said he “heard” it … whatever that meant.;) So I guess I really need to try it out myself although Keith has promised the crew that he will return and give us fried chicken lessons.

Keith's Carolina Fried Chicken

Keith’s Carolina Fried Chicken

Man, I can’t tell you how good this was. If you look closely at the chicken you will notice that the breading was very light , actually almost non-existent. What the seasoned flour did for the chicken was give it flavor and crispness. I hate having to peel off thick breading from fried chicken. Even if the chicken was not marinated or salted ahead of time, the taste of the chicken you get is the “chickeny” flavor of the chicken.

When I bit into the chicken, I thought: This tastes like the chicken I get from Whole Foods. I found out the next day that the chicken was from Whole Foods! Whole foods sell this air-chilled chicken which is far superior to most other chicken because air-chiling preserves the integrity of the flavor rather than the more common ice-water chilling which accounts for why most commercial fried chicken is only tasty on the skin.

Anyway, I’m off to buy my 12-inch cast-iron pan!

A simple roast turkey for Thanksgiving

turkey2012
Roast Turkey 2012

My eldest brother came to visit with his family a couple of weeks ago. His wife and daughter were supposed to go up to New York but then Hurricane Sandy hit and so they had to stay in Richmond. Fine with me. Actually, it was perfect so now I can plan an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner.

Whole Foods had a fresh whole Turkey when I went to pick one up so I didn’t have to deal with thawing it out. As for a recipe, I didn’t want to deal with brining either and the November 2012 issue of Bon Appetit had all the recipes I needed to throw a feast!

Important to take the Turkey out an hour before roasting. With the size of the bird, there is no doubt that when it’s too cold, it’s going to drop the temperature of the oven significantly which is why I think the oven temp is first set to 450F.

A Simple Roast Turkey

from Bon Appetit November 2012

1           12-14 lb. turkey, giblets and neck removed, at room temperature for              1 hour

3           tbsp. kosher salt (I used Maldon, so had to use a little bit more)

1.5        tbsp. freshly ground pepper

1           medium onion, quartered

2           celery stalks, coarsely chopped

6           tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

3           tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce

1           tbsp. mirin

3          sprigs of rosemary

Preheat oven to 450F. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Pour 4 cups of water into the pan. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Tuck tips of wings under bird. If turkey is not brined, rub bird inside and out with salt. Season inside and out with pepper and place on rack in pan. Place onion and celery in cavity. Rub 3 Tbsp. butter over turkey. Roast turkey uncovered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir remaining 3 tbsp. butter, soy sauce, and mirin (or substitute store-bought teriyaki sauce for soy and mirin) in a small sauce pan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Add rosemary. Cover; keep glaze warm over lowest heat.

Reduce oven to 325F. Baste turkey with pan juices; add more water if needed to maintain at least 1/4″ liquid in pan. Roast for 30 minutes; baste with pan juices. Brush lightly with glaze.

Continue roasting turkey, basting with pan juices and brushing glaze every 30 minutes, tenting with foil if turning too dark, until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone registers 165F (juices should run clear when thermometer is removed), about 2.75 hours total.

Transfer turkey to a platter. Tent with foil; let rest for an hour before carving.

Cooking Notes:

I like getting a turkey that has a button that pops out when it is done, still I do like to double-check using a thermometer. Here are the guidelines for cooking.

15 minutes/lb in an oven set to 325F.

165F registers at thigh when done.

For a 12-14 lb. bird, roughly 4 hours

For a 16-25 lb. bird, roughly 5 hours

For a 20-26 lb. bird, roughly 6 hours

I take the bird out everytime I baste and brush with glaze. This is so the oven doesn’t lose heat. Anyway, when returning the bird to the oven, I always like to rotate the pan for more even cooking. I only rested the bird for 30 minutes before carving.

What about the gravy?

I didn’t want to mess with making a roux when cornstarch will work in a pinch. Dissolve 3 tbsp cornstarch in 3 tbsp. cold water. Anyway, while the turkey was resting I poured all the pan juices through a sieve. I had a pan of chicken stock sitting on the stove top (this was made with Knorr homestyle stock) and added a little to the strained pan juices until I had enough liquid for the turkey. Add 1-2 tbsp. of soy sauce, 1 tbsp. of brown sugar (I think I also added a squeeze of lemon). Taste the gravy base before thickening. If it lacks a savory taste, add some chicken bouillon – trust me on this – I love to use knorr. Once satisfied with flavor, bring pan juices to a boil and  thicken with the cornstarch-water mixture (you may not need to use all of it). 

Dessert for Dinner at Amour Wine Bistro

 Yay, so excited to post this! Press release of our collaboration with Amour Wine Bistro! 

Veronica of Petites Bouchées and Paul of Amour Wine Bistro invite you to treat yourself to Richmond’s most unique dinner experience at Amour Wine Bistro in Carytown. Enjoy a series of savory and classic French desserts topped off with a dark chocolate surprise. Veronica and Paul came up with this exclusive dinner to share their passion about French desserts. To enhance your experience, this memorable meal can be paired with wine.
www.amourwinebistro.com/dessertsdinner.html
Wednesday, September 12th at 7:00pm $44, additional $29 with wine pairing

Amour Wine Bistro
3129 West Cary Street
Richmond, Va 23221
Phone 804-353-4020
reserve@amourwb.com

Richmond Restaurant Dining

Slowly getting back into blogging again. Soon, I will have more time to write about food (and eating) – more about that later.
Anyway, my brother and sister-in-law came for a 10-day visit and I was excited to show them how the Richmond dining scene has evolved since 2008.

Hubby and I did our best not to eat out in the weeks preceding their visit because I know if it’s anything like my vacations to the Philippines, it’s going to be non-stop “see food” diet.

First place we whisked our guests to:

BurgerWorks

Our favorite burger joint in town, besides what says “Welcome to the USA” than a great American burger. Ordering can be confusing with so many options but I always go for the bison, bacon and mushrooms. Hubby loves the S.O.B. 

burgerworks
The S.O.B at Burgerworks

CineBistro

One place we couldn’t wait to take my brother M and his wife M – I’ll just call them 2Ms – was Cinebistro. My family are movie buffs and we were sure they’d get a kick out of watching a movie in style. The food at this theatre is actually good considering that orders needed to be placed and served within a 30-minute window. They are also dinner-sized portions. Hubby and I always had leftovers before, so now we share an appetizer and an entree. My favorite is the popcorn trio which is popcorn shrimp, chicken and calamari with some popcorn at the bottom to soak up the grease. 🙂

cinebistro3
Theatre entrance
cinebistro1
The bar area to order drinks while you wait
cinebistro2
comfortable seating

Lehja

Mall shopping is a pre-requisite of my out-of-town guests and I’m glad that we have a great Indian restaurant right smacked in there. 2Ms loved Lehja and we went there twice, once for brunch and the second time when a cousin and his family drove through from Chicago and was able to join us for lunch.

lehja01
  Lehja

Stella’s
We were so thankful Stella’s was open on a Monday. All our dishes were fantastic. They have truly the best moussaka. Brother was ecstatic over the braised lamb shank although he kept on hinting that he wanted the hubby’s grilled lamb chops. The standout that night was the pan-seared branzino which tasted so fresh.

stellas01
lamb shank
stellas02
Branzino – european sea bass

Pho Saigon

I am always hesitant to take my family to Asian restaurants because everything appears sweetened up for the American palate. Brother made a comment about the pho broth being too sweet and having too much cinnamon – well there you go.
However, this special of pork belly in clay pot blew our mind away. So good!

phosaigon01
Clay-pot pork belly

Williamsburg Cheese Shop (Merchant’s Square)

After spending most of the morning shopping at the outlets we were all ready and hungry for lunch. My brother and I gobbled up our prosciutto and provolone sandwich from The Cheese Shop – the roasted peppers and house dressing were a great complement. This sandwich, as simple as it sounds, remains to be one of my brother’s most memorable meal of his visit. We actually bought a half-pint of the house dressing to bring home so we could replicate the sandwich.

cheeseshop01
The Cheese Shop

My brother, a professional photographer, loved Williamsburg and wanted to shoot some photographs while I took my sis-in-law to the little shops.

The weather was stifling hot and by the time our photographer was done, his shirt was soaked. I told 2Ms they should try come visit during cooler weather.

williamsburg01
One of my favorite photos from the trip, it’s like he waited for the shadows and light to be perfect

Portico

12506 River Road Richmond, VA 23238
(804) 784-4800
This gem on River road is a showplace to take out-of-town guests. Tucked away in an affluent neighborhood, we felt out of place with the perfectly-coiffed crowd, after all we were grungy from a day of shopping. But hey, we’re here for the food.

portico01
Gorgeous patio
portico02
seared tuna appetizer
portico03
Lamb and risotto

Umi
So I tentatively asked if the 2Ms were ready for Japanese food. Their face actually lit up. My family is not big on sushi. Nope, we prefer straight-up sashimi. Why bother with all that blob of rice?

umi02
Sashimi platter – the escarol, salmon and yellow fin were outstanding

On a side note: We watched the documentary “Jiro dreams of Sushi”. The preparation of the rice is an integral part of sushi-making. A lot of establishments get this wrong. The rice needs to be served at room temperature and not cold.

Though I prefer sashimi, Umi’s maki is a dish not to pass up and the first thing I noticed is how their rice is at the right temperature for serving. We loved the Richmond roll.

umi01
Umi’s richmond roll

Okay, we’re at the home stretch. We’re actually almost reaching eating-out saturation. In fact, 2Ms were just begging to eat at home and we did on several occasions but that would be a separate post.

The Roosevelt
For a taste of inventive Southern cuisine.

roosevelt01
 
roosevelt02
perfectly-seared scallops

Amour Wine Bistro
Rounding up our dining-out experience we headed to Carytown for a cozy evening at Amour Wine Bistro. By this time the 2Ms and I were having trouble feeling hungry (after days of eating – who could blame us?), luckily the hubby was starving.
It was also “educate with taste” week, so three of us ordered the $25.12 three-course menu and my sis-in-law had the tarte flambée. 

amour01
refreshing watermelon and tuna tartare
amour02
Chocolate sea salt caramel creme brûlée – always a winner at Amour

I ordered the pear tarte tatin for my dessert which was absolutely delicious. It’s a perfect example of a well executed simple dessert. 

My one regret was not taking the 2Ms to Peter Chang’s. Brother was stuck in the HK airport for a few days (luckily sis-in-law was already in the U.S. visiting a relative) – maybe if they stayed a few days longer they would have started missing Chinese food. 😉

Most pictures taken by my brother on his Leica D-Lux except the clay-pot pork belly which was an iPhone pic. The leaf picture was taken with a Nikon camera.

Champagne dinner at Amour Wine Bistro, June 20th

Petites Bouchees is excited to be making Choux Au Café as part of a dessert trio for Amour Wine Bistro 4-course dinner on June 20th, Wednesday. Check out the menu below:

June 20th, 2012 at 7:00pm
Champagne and Va Bubbles
by Thibaut Janisson

Thibaut-Jannisson French Champagne and VA Maker
is presenting the divine Drinks
Executive Chef Rob Hamlin is preparing an exceptional dinner
of 4 courses with tempting cheese and dessert options

– $ 75 with 4 glasses of Champagne/Sparkling –
– $ 49 without Wine available –
Reservations recommended – let us know about allergies when you make your reservation

Amuse Bouche
La Mousse de Saumon fumé sur Blinis
Smoked Salmon Mousse on Blinis
Appetizer from Provence

Rouleau de Printemps
Vegetable Spring Roll
Brut, Thibaut Janisson, Va

Amuse Bouche

Gougere au Comte

First Main Course

Filet de Sole ou Turbot accompagne
d’une sauce au Champagne et Asperges fraiches
Sole or Turbot Fillet with a Champagne Sauce and fresh Asparagus
Rose, Champagne, France

Second Main Course

Caille aux Raisins
Raisin stuffed Quail
Brut, Champagne, France

Cheese

Croustillant au Brie de Meaux
Cheese Brie in a Crusty Shell

Dessert

Trio: Choux au Café, Clafoutis aux Cerises,
Gratin de Fuits Rouges
Trio: Coffee Choux, Cherry Cafoutis, Red Berries Gratin
Fizz, VA