Zama – Another Birthday

Whenever my mom gets to pick a cuisine, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s going to be sushi. So for her birthday, we headed to Zama. If you’ve ever been to Zama, or even walked past it, you know how cool it looks on the inside. The main theme seems to be wooden slats. And there are light-colored wooden slats everywhere. It’s pretty sweet. We were actually seated all the way in the back in an adorable room, with lots of amazing japanese textiles depicting various creatures from the sea. I want them for my house!
photo (1)I’m in love with agedashih tofu, so of course, I ordered it. When it came out, we were all confused. Having it come out like this is pretty and all, but there was only a bit of sauce in a tiny bowl and it just wasn’t enough. And I feel like part of what makes agedashi tofu so good is having the tofu pieces kind of soaking in the sauce. It’s not a dipping sauce, it’s more like a bath, and I feel like it comes like that in all other restaurants for a purpose. A delicious purpose. If presented normally, I would have been able to enjoy it more.
photo (2)The fried eggplant with ground chicken sautéed in white miso. Ooh baby. This was clearly the best dish of the evening. Super savory chicken topped on soft scoopable eggplant, garnished with pickled cucumber. I should have gotten this as my entree! It would have been great with some steamed rice.
photo (4)My mom and M both got sushi combos, of course! Here’s where things start to go downhill. They both enjoyed their sushi, but they found some pieces of sushi were served on top of dried and crunchy rice, as if they had been refrigerated, or had been sitting around for a long time. Considering the price points at this restaurant, it was beyond disappointing. Going to Zama and expecting some of the best sushi in the city, and ending up with sushi rice akin to refrigerated supermarket sushi, was beyond sad. It was very early in the evening, but there was no excuse for it at all. Just none. 
photo (3)I got the Hamachi Tataki, which was seared hamachi over crispy a tempura battered avocado roll with a red yuzu pepper sauce. This was amazingly delicious, in every way, but so teeny tiny. I expected small portions here, but I didn’t necessarily expect this small.

Overall, the sushi as disappointing, but the rest of the food was good. The service was ok. We ordered a miso soup, but it never came out. And even when we asked about it again, it still didn’t come out. At that point, M didn’t want the soup anymore, so it didn’t matter. But still, it was a bad oversight. With the plethora of sushi options in the city, I doubt that we’ll ever be visiting Zama again. Rittenhouse setting, Rittenhouse prices, with supermarket sushi. 
Zama Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Barbuzzo – Birthday Dinner

When people ask me for restaurant recommendations, one place I regularly mention is Barbuzzo. It’s just great. And I can’t possibly imagine anyone not liking it. The food is superb, the place itself is adorable, and it’s just a lovely experience. My only reservation would be for large groups. Barbuzzo is just too small to be good for big groups. But it’d be perfect for a romantic date, girls night out, or dinner with the parents. Anyhoo, my last visit there was for my birthday. The cheese board! As a self-proclaimed cheese wuss, I’m sometimes reticent to go for cheese plates. But hey, it’s a new year, a new me, and I’m going to be more experimental, especially with cheese. With nothing overly of the blue variety on the plate, I enjoyed everything. I want more cheese boards!
I’m a sucker for octopus, so whenever I see it on a menu, there’s a good chance I’m getting it. This is the grilled mediterranean octopus salad with sopressata, fingerling potato, taggiasca olive, roasted peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and lemon. Whoo hoo! When cooked well, especially grilled, octopus is super tender. It gets a bad “rubbery” rap because of how many times it can be cooked poorly. This octopus was tender and smoky, slightly tart from the lemon, and rich with the roasted peppers and herbs. 
We thought it would be fun to try one of the pizzas, so we picked one of the very few that had meat! Here’s the prosciutto pizza with roasted grapes, gorgonzola, walnuts, arugula, and vin cotto. Perhaps the sound of grapes and walnuts and arugula on a pizza sounds odd, but to the tastebuds, it’s great.  
I don’t recall this exact dish, but it’s a strozzapretti pasta with duck, I think? This was my favorite dish of the night. It looks so simple… just some pasta with some shreads of meat in it. But dang, I could not stop eating it. The pasta was chewy and buttery and the duck was tender, fatty, and had a nice mild flavor. Oh it was so darn good!
And you have to end every Barbuzzo meal (heck, every meal!) with the salted caramel budino. It’s famous for a reason. So just be sure to order it. You’ll be glad you did!

Cheu Noodle Bar

I don’t often end up going to new and cool restaurants right after they open, but it just kinda happened that way with Cheu Noodle Bar. It was a last minute decision that ended up working out. On the Saturday night of their first week, we happened to be in the neighborhood so we thought we’d give it a shot. They said it would be about a 45 minute wait for a 2-top, but it actually ended up 30 minutes. It’s pretty small on the inside, with one long bar, behind which all the cooking is done, and a fairly small number of tables. The menu is also fairly small, which I like! 
Instead of complimentary bread or peanuts or shrimp chips or whatever, they crush a package of shin ramyun into a bowl so you can snack on the uncooked noodles that are now covered with the flavor packet powder. It’s delicious! But shin ramyun is spicy, so be careful! That big red piece almost killed me!
I’d read that the bbq rice cakes were a must order, so we definitely got those. Oh my word. I could eat these all day, every day! The term rice cakes may scare some people off, but they are the kind of chewy rice-based asian rice cakes, not the crunchy diet snack food. As a korean, I call these ddeok, and I freakin love ddeok, in all forms. And these were amazing! The rice cake pieces seemed a bit caramelized so they were crispity on the outside and chewy and hot on the inside. They’re sweet and savory and just amazing. I just wish that there were more in a portion! It seemed so tiny and they were gone so soon and it made me sad! :-(
M got the ramen which had a thick and porky broth with hunks of melty pork belly. 
I got the brisket noodle which came with a giant matzo ball and brussels sprouts in a spicy broth. This was so good! The broth is slightly spicy and a little bit sour, which is right up my alley. There were several thick pieces of brisket and oh boy, the matzo totally filled my belly! Cheu was so much fun. They just added some new items to the menu so we’ll definitely go back! Service was good and friendly and the food came out fairly fast!
Cheu Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

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