Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Novita - Garden City

Looking for the ideal place to grab a delicious glass of wine with friends? Then Novita is a MUST! It's my "go-to" spot for every girls night, those "let's grab a quick drink after work" dates and the Saturday nights when you want to doll yourself up and meet someone cute at a trendy bar with a glass of sauvignon blanc in hand, but you don't feel like trekking into the City on the LIRR. You know what I mean? Of course you do, if you're a Long Islander!

Though a bit pricey, Novita's wine list is to DIE FOR! Even my non-wino friends leave wanting to venture back to sample another type of wine. Plus, you cannot beat the Thursday Ladies Night deal! $3.00 champagne, pinot and cosmos, a DJ AND a FREE pasta and thin crust pizza buffet... all while dining in a trendy, NYC style atmosphere right in Garden City. It's a STEAL! Sundays are 50% off bottles... also a worthwhile deal to take advantage of.

Looking to nosh on something while sipping your wine? The appetizers are FAB! From the Meat and Cheese Platter to the Polenta Crusted Calamari to the Zucchini and Artichoke Fritti served with a horseradish ailoi, you cannot go wrong! Did I mention that you will be addicted to their Spinach Dip? You will. It's inevitable.
Obviously, I'm obsessed with Novita's wine bar experience. However, I unfortunately cannot say the same for it's dinner experience. As Long Islanders, we are accustomed to delicious, authentic Italian food which Novita simply does not provide. From their chicken dishes to their pasta dishes and soups, I've now had it all. Unfortunately, I have never left satisfied or craving more (God, it pains me to say this! But alas, you must know the truth.) I think the next time a friend or date mentions Novita for dinner, I am going to have to refrain.

This is a tough rating. However, since Novita IS indeed an Italian restaurant with the mission of providing delicious wine AND Italian cuisine, I will have to give it 3 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint scale for less than satisfactory entrees. Nevertheless, PLEASE venture to Novita for the wine bar experience, you will not regret it... especially the ladies! Novita Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Brooks and Porter - Merrick

Brooks and Porter American Grill is a casual, yet charming little steakhouse on Merrick Avenue. Dark wood and dim lighting makes for a warm and inviting dining experience and a cozy spot to grab drinks on a chilly evening. It was the PERFECT Long Island Restaurant Week pick!

Upon walking in, Alex and I felt right at home. The sounds of Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble complimented the classic all American grill menu. I started with the Carrot Soup which was delectable! Served piping hot, the soup was creamy, but not too heavy and well seasoned. Alex selected the Mixed Greens Salad with pecans and craisins in a red wine vinaigrette dressing. He said it was delicious. I must say, I'm not a red wine vinaigrette fan, but this salad was truly tasty. The vinegar flavoring was not overwhelming as I often find.

For our entree, we both selected the Hanger Steak. The steak was juicy with a nice warm pink center. Topped with thin crispy onion straws, a delicious au jus and asparagus, we both agreed that the Hanger Steak at Brooks and Porter was a fabulous dish. Of course, as a Steakhouse junkie, have I indulged in a finer cut meat before? Yes. Nevertheless, I was very satisfied.

For dessert, Alex and I both selected Raspberry Sorbet which was refreshing, light, sweet, and served in a simple, yet fun presentation. It was a home run!

Overall, Brooks and Porter gets 4 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint Scale. Brooks & Porter on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jake's Steakhouse - East Meadow

Jake's Steakhouse on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow calls itself a "Traditional American Steakhouse."
Lauren and I found it to be just that - traditional.

The place really doesn't try to be anything more than a simple, classy dining venue with a rather limited number of menu choices.
The decor features dark wood with light seat covers and a traditional table setting.
You'll start first with some traditional bread, which Lauren and I found to be a bit hard, accompanied by some regular butter.
If you're a person that will pay anything for the right atmosphere, your money would be better spent elsewhere.
Our overly attentive waiter seemed all too eager to take our dinner orders.
In fact the staff seems to like standing around waiting for someone to need them, which is great if you require a lot of service. In our case, we found it to be a bit annoying.
We started with a traditional Caesar salad, which they nicely split on two plates for us. It was good, but a bit heavy for my taste on the cheese and anchovy flavor.

For our main dishes, Lauren ordered Jumbo shrimp from the daily specials, and I ordered the Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon with mixed vegetables,mushrooms and broccoli rabe. Lauren's shrimp were certainly plump and she commented on the nice size portion, although it tasted "okay", she said it wasn't the best value for the price. Lauren was clearly disappointed.

My salmon came served on a wood "plank" type plate and Lauren and I both commented on the nice presentation. The salmon was seasoned and cooked well. I found it enjoyable. However, the mushrooms were salty for my liking and the vegetables tasted as if they had been soaked in butter.

Side Note: If you're a regular reader, you may wonder why we don't always sample each others food. We usually will, except when I order Salmon and Lauren orders shrimp.
We're both actually allergic to those specific fish!

We also wanted to comment on the valet parking situation at the East Meadow location.
It seems like a nice service, but when you see the size of the parking lot - you may be asking if it's really necessary to have someone parking the car for you. The lot is so close to the door. It was also a Thursday night, and not overly crowded.

All in all, we found ourselves wondering after the meal why the restaurant tried to be anything other than what it used to be - a pub. The conversion seemed minimal and as a steakhouse, left something to be desired. It was clearly WAY overpriced.

We give Jake's a 2 out of 5 mints on the dinner mint scale. Jake's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Garden Grill - Smithtown

Garden Grill
in Smithtown is the perfect place for a wholesome, relaxing, fine dining experience.
This hidden gem will give you the look and feel of dining in someone's home. The quaint and carefully designed decor offers a romantic atmosphere even during the day. It makes the place the perfect venue for a date or impressive family gathering.
Lauren and I came in our usual Thursday night dinner slot and really enjoyed our entire experience.

We were greeted by a friendly waitress who introduced herself and placed warm bread and sundried tomato spread on the table.
While the tomato spread was tasty the same can't be said about the bread. Lauren and I both found it to be dry with a grainy texture and we didn't enjoy the taste.

To drink we each started with a tasteful glass of white wine (Sauvignon Blanc)which was delicious.
I started with a crisp garden salad appetizer with creamy garlic dressing which I really enjoyed.

After that it was time to dig in to the main courses.
Lauren had the prime rib with mashed potatoes, which she said was good.
I ordered the Sausage Cavatelli pasta, which I found to be delicious and unique.(It was also incredibly filling!)

For dessert, Lauren and I split a tartuffo. (Vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a hardened chocolate shell with raspberry in the middle) They presented this very nicely with whipped cream and chocolate sauce on the plate.

Lauren and I left feeling full and satisfied.
We also made sure we took a peek at the awesome "attic" type party room upstairs on our way out.

In short, The food was good, the service was good and the place is incredibly cozy.
That's why we gave Garden Grill 3.5 mints out of 5 on the dinner mint scale.

I must add that I have been here on Valentine's Day in years past and they really do a great job. Although more expensive, with a special menu, it's completely worth it for how special and memorable the experience is. Garden Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hurricane Grill & Wings - Levittown

Wings fan? Then venturing to Hurricane Grill and Wings in Levittown is a MUST! From jumbo wings to boneless wings, from Garlic Parmesan to Honey Glazed, Hurricane Grill has every kind of wing you could dream of to satisfy your craving. You may want to do yourself a favor and check out the menu in advance because there are THAT many wonderful (calorie filled) options... you could possibly spend an hour just reviewing the menu.

The theme is a tropical beach paradise. You truly are transported to a cool island bar scene on a sunny day. It's a super casual, "get a beer and watch the game" type of joint. Both the dining room and bar area are quite small so make sure you go during off-peak dining hours. It's becoming a local hot spot!Alex and I started with "on the bone" Mango BBQ Sauce Wings which consisted of a tropical barbecue glaze with mango, ginger, pineapple and lime flavorings. They were delectable and all white meat. I have also sampled the nachos during a subsequent visit to Hurricane Grill. The nachos were tasty, but only if you enjoy Mexican style. I would recommend another appetizer such as the fried pickles - yum!

For my main course, I decided on a mixture of boneless Teriyaki Wings and BBQ Wings. The Teriyaki was a blend of soy sauce, ginger, and exotic spices, topped with sesame seeds. The BBQ was a southern smokehouse taste and I experienced a light crunch and burst of flavor with each bite... perfection! The sauces were plentiful, but not too much where it's sloppy and dripping all over the place. Alex had the Cajun Rub Wings on the bone as well as the Jamaican Jerk Salad, both of which he thoroughly enjoyed. A fan of spicy foods, Alex noted that the salad left him with a "delightful burn" after every bite. I have also sampled the traditional Hurricane Wings (Buffalo sauce) which "blew" it's competition, Buffalo Wild Wings, out of the water!

Hurricane Grill's more than 30 wing flavors are put into numbered categories based on their level of spiciness, which is appropriate for their Hurricane theme! The categories range from a Category 1 (calm before the storm) to a Category 5 (seek shelter!). It's safe to say if you are not looking for Alex's "delightful burn," stick with Category 3 or below.

Hurricane Grill and Wings is definitely worthy of 5 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint Scale. Well done! Hurricane Grill and Wings on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cafe Havana - Smithtown

Cafe Havana Bar and Grill is a fun place to go if you're looking for something different.

From the second you pull into the parking lot - you'll feel like you've traveled to the tropics for a meal.
The menu features Cuban food with Puerto-Rican influences and an atmosphere to match.

Lauren and I were seated in one of 3 large rooms. The place had a pretty decent crowd for a Thursday night and was especially loud because of a big party going on in the next room.

Our friendly waitress took drink orders first.
Lauren started with a Sangria, which I of course sampled. It had fruit floating in it and was delicious.
I ordered the Mango Mojito, which was also wonderful.

For the main course, Lauren ordered Arroz con Pollo (Boneless chicken and savory rice.) The rice was served in the center of the dish with more chicken mixed in seasoned with cilantro and surrounded by moist chicken in a gravy sauce.

I ordered the Chorizo a la Havana (Sauteed Sausage with Savory Saffron Yellow Rice.
The dish was well flavored but I found it to be a bit too salty.
Interestingly enough, nothing had any kind of spicy kick to it.
It's definitely the place to go - if you like your food well seasoned but mild in terms of spiciness.

Lauren and I actually ended up switching dishes because we liked what the other one ordered better. I enjoyed the Cilantro rice and chicken, which Lauren found a little dry.
And she loved my sausage dish, which I found too salty. Worked out perfectly for us.
We did both comment on how full we felt after the meal. We ended up having some leftover too. I think it was the rice that did it.
We also filled up on bread before the meal. It came with a mango butter, which we both found to be a nice touch.

So you think we would be too full for dessert. Wrong. All we had to do was look at the menu and we instantly became hooked.
We opted for the "Havana's Bananas" dessert. It is fried banana pieces with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and served with vanilla ice cream.
It was REALLY good.

All in all - I wouldn't completely agree with what the menu boasts. It calls itself "The Most exquisite meals this Island has to offer." While it was good and a fun atmosphere - It's not the best Lauren and I have ever had.

We give Cafe Havana a 3 out of 5 mints on the dinner mint scale. Cafe Havana on Urbanspoon

Thom Thom - Wantagh

Thom Thom is a steak and seafood restaurant providing classic favorites with a modern twist, including a unique sushi bar menu. The casual atmosphere of the NYC themed dining room is inviting and comfortable. For an even MORE low-key experience, you can opt to sit in the enclosed bar section.

Instead of the traditional bread, warm pita is served at the beginning of each meal along with humus and a scrumptious yogurt based dipping sauce. For my entree, I decided to order the "Surf and Turf Roll," which consists of shrimp tempura and asparagus topped with grilled filet mignon, scallions and a drizzle of steak sauce. The filet was cooked medium rare and the flavors were a powerful (but not overpowering) combination. I loved it!

One of my guests selected Thom Thom Paella which included jumbo wild shrimps, diver scallops, calamari, chicken, mussels and chorizo. I sampled the dish. It was tasty, but served lukewarm rather than piping hot. The presentation was a bit of a mess. However, I could tell the fish and chicken was fine quality. My guest was disappointed in the flavoring of the dish overall and would probably not order it again.
We also sampled the Clay Oven Roasted All Natural Chicken served with asparagus, scallion potato cake and a chicken demi glaze. It was satisfying, but the chicken was a bit bland for my taste and there was nothing terribly unique about the dish... highly forgettable.

What the entrees lack in flavor and pizazz, the sushi menu and small plates menu make up for. The Flatbread Goat Cheese Pizza is DELISH! Thom Thom receives 3.5 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint scale. Thom Thom Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blackwells - Wading River

Located at the gateway to Long Island's Wine Country, Blackwells is an inviting steak and seafood restaurant with stellar service and quality cuisine to match.

Enjoying the beautiful views of the Great Rock Golf Course, the inside of the restaurant is elegant, and yet encompasses a homey feel. I started off with the Mesclun House Salad which included tomatoes, goat cheese, toasted almonds and dried cherries. I opted for a creamy blue cheese dressing on the side over their house vinaigrette. A restaurant of this caliber could have served warm goat cheese in a light flaky crust to give the salad a bit more pizazz. Nevertheless, is was quite tasty.

For my entree, I selected the special, a toasted almond crusted flounder served with roasted potatoes and broccoli. The fish was deliciously seasoned and cooked very well. The slightly healthier sides paired nicley with the flounder.
One of my guests chose the strip steak. A self-proclaimed steakhouse lover, he deemed the juiciness of the steak and quality of the cut to be merely a small notch below the fine steakhouses of New York City.

During previous visits to Blackwells, I have ordered the filet mignon. I must say, the filet came close to just "melting in my mouth"! I've had the homemade fries and frizzled onions as sides as well... tasty, but nothing unique. Blackwell's Four Cheese Macoroni and Cheese is definitely on my "to do" list!

For dessert, we opted for the rice pudding.
The consistency seemed balanced, it was a beautiful presentation in a margarita glass with sliced strawberries on top and I enjoyed the cinnamon (although one of my guests noted that it was a bit TOO much cinnamon for her liking). The flavor overall was... "eh." Bottom line, everyone agreed that Blackwell's will not be winning an award for their rice pudding anytime soon.

Blackwells receives 4 out of 5 Mints on the Dinner Mint Scale. Blackwell's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 5, 2011

Besito - Roslyn

If you are looking for a fine dining Mexican experience, Besito is a solid pick. A tranquil and romantic ambiance, candles and warm colors leave guests feeling welcomed and relaxed. Looking to dine outside during a beautiful evening? Besito offers outdoor seating as well!

Besito was quick to pick up points early on with a complimentary Ceviche Del Dia appetizer served with crisp plantains and corn tortilla chips. We ordered the freshly prepared guacamole as an appetizer as well. Though the guacamole had a bit too much cilantro for my group's liking, we had no problem devouring it.

For my main course, I stuck with a simple grilled shrimp, with a mild chile salsa and house rice. While the shrimps were a bit smaller than expected for the price, they were cooked well and quite tasty. However, I must admit that the homemade rice (which was DELICIOUS) stood out more in my mind than my shrimp entree (which is never an ideal situation). I enjoyed my shrimp entree at H20 in Smithtown (see Alex's review!) MUCH more... no comparison.

For dessert, I had the opportunity to sample my friend Nicole's Mexican Chocolate Pudding. I appreciated it's light, fluffy texture and not TOO rich chocolatey (yes, I am making up my own words now) taste. Best part about the meal for me? EASY! - Complimentary, piping hot Churros to end the meal! WOW! Talk about saving the best for last, Besito! Also, each guest walks away with a complimentary traditional Mexican "worry person doll." Very memorable. GREAT touch!

Here's Nicole's review of her meal in her own words: "I had one of the specials... chicken, steak and chorizo enchalata with a chipolte cream sauce. The sauce was to die for... not too heavy but just the right consistency. Gave the dish the right amount of smokiness without overpowering the meats. The meats were soaked in a red sauce which gave them a good flavor, again not over powering. The only thing that I didn't like about this dish (or more like would change if I was being picky) would be that the actual corn toritta was a little thick. I enjoy my enchiladas when you can use your fork to cut it apart -- this corn tortilla was more of a "wrap" consistency.

Even though I was stuffed, I ordered the Mexican Chocolate Pudding. This was great with homemade whipped cream and the pudding was in between a pudding and a mousse consistency. There were some crunchy things on top... didn't really go for that. Also, though obviously homemade pudding, there seemed to be "patches" of ingredients that didn't mix in all the way (think when you mix brownie batter and there are "patches" of dry mix in there)." -- Nicole R.

Lauren, again here! Thanks for your review, Nicole! As for Besito's rating? We're going with 4 out of 5 Mints on the CRUCIAL Dinner Mint Scale. Besito on Urbanspoon