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A Taste of France in Birmingham!

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on February 28, 2011

There are not too many French restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama, but tonight a group of 13 friends and I were fortunate enough to eat at one of them, Cafe de Paris. The restaurant is located in the Lakeview District, near St. Vincents Hospital.

Cafe de Paris is a quaint and quiet restaurant that is the brainchild of two local French chefs. Their goal is to make us, Southerners, aware of the exquisite flavors of French cuisine. Upon entering the restaurant, I felt like I was in good hands with our two waiters and the host; they answered our every whim and they all worked well together. The staff embraces a typical European attitude, which is to not rush customers in any way. This means the food was brought out at a leisurely pace and the staff made sure that we savored every moment of our visit. For example, between each course we waited for approximately 30-45 minutes for the next one. We definitely weren’t rushed by any means!

However, while we waited for our food the waiters kept bringing us baskets of homemade bread chips. The bread chips were small pieces of bread that were slightly crunchy but still very soft; the bread had somewhat of a sweet taste. The bread was served warm and we spread butter on top of each piece, for an extra flavor. I couldn’t get enough of this bread, it was excellent!

Furthermore, our group ordered from a special menu, that consisted of the following:

Appetizers:

Tomato Salad with chopped cherry tomatoes, a spring lettuce mix, and a lite vinaigrette. The person who had this dish says that it was ok, but she wasn’t a fan of the vinaigrette.

French Onion Soup with a french onion broth, chopped onions, topped off with  a piece of toasted bread (same bread as I mentioned above) and shredded cheddar melted cheese. Many people, including myself, ordered this dish and it received rave reviews. I was very pleased with the taste because I’m normally not a fan of French Onion Soup, but I really enjoyed this version.

The Shrimp Cocktail wasn’t on our special menu. It consisted of a nice silver bowl of salad(lettuce, tomato, avocado) and it had five medium sized steamed shrimp on the rim of the bowl. This dish was served with a special dipping sauce for the shrimp and I guess you could also use it as a salad dressing. Those who sampled this dish all agreed that the sauce had a very familiar taste. Furthermore, the person that ordered this appetizer wasn’t too pleased with the taste of the shrimp or the special dressing.

Stuffed Grape Leaves consisted of cooked grape leaves stuffed with tuna fish salad, and tomatoes. The grape leaves were topped off with caramelized onions. Not many people liked the taste of this dish, but I must say that I really enjoyed it.

Chicken Salad Twist consisted of a pesto grilled chicken salad on top of a ritz cracker. This appetizer was a hit that everyone loved.

Entrees:

Grilled Chateau Tender Beef consisted of medium strips of  grilled steak, roasted potatoes, steamed cabbage, grilled onions, and a special gravy. Everyone who ordered this dish, only had positive things to say about it. The steak was tender and seasoned well.

Crusted Tilapia consisted of a large piece of pan seared tilapia encrusted in bread crumbs (some people say they didn’t get enough fish), roasted potatoes, steamed cabbage, chopped tomatoes, grilled onions, and a special white sauce. I ordered this dish, and I must say that I’m very particular about any fish that I order, and this fish had a few bones in it. Personally, I can’t stand fish with bones because I’m constantly trying not to swallow one. Despite the bones being in the fish, the fish had a good taste and everything else was good. Everyone who ordered this felt the same way, especially about the few bones in the fish.

Pan Seared Salmon consisted of  medium sized  pieces of seared salmon, roasted potatoes, steamed cabbage, tomatoes, and a special sauce. Everyone who had this dish seemed to have been satisfied.

Desserts:

Bread Pudding consisted of homemade bread pudding with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and chocolate & caramel swirls. I hate to say that none of us liked this dish, each person had their reasons, but my reasons were that it was hard, it didn’t have a good taste, and it wasn’t warm enough for my standards. Only one person ate it all, and that’s because he doesn’t like to waist food. In order to make up for this, our waiter, brought out another dessert for us to share. It was the Chocolate Truffle Cake and we all loved it! It was served hot and consisted of a chocolate cake filled with rich melting chocolate and topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Each person was able to get one bite of this dessert. I would definitely order this again!

Poached Pear in a Red Wine consisted of  a pear poached in red wine, topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzles of chocolate. Only one person ordered this dish because we all thought that the bread pudding was going to be amazing. The recipient of this dessert definitely enjoyed it, I sampled it, and I must say that it was rather tasty. I would also order this again.

Our visit to Cafe de Paris was filled with exciting new dishes and we enjoyed trying each one. Some of the food tasted wonderful and some of the food was not as good. It all boils down to personal taste! But I will say that the chefs at Cafe de Paris are passionate about making good food and they are willing to accommodate guests in any way that they can.

I really appreciated the wonderful customer service, and a highlight of the night was Serge (one of the chefs and owners of the restaurant) coming to visit our table after we ate, and he thanked us for visiting the restaurant in French, and then he translated what he said in English. The staff treated us like royalty and I had an exciting Parisian experience!

http://www.cafedeparis.us/

Café de Paris on Urbanspoon

Posted in Date Night, Downtown Eats, French | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The H Bar is Happening!

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on September 23, 2010

I went to another event at the Hotel Highland Conference Center this week, and after the meeting, my god-father and I were hungry and not sure where to eat. Then I remembered that the H Bar, which is located inside of the Hotel Highland, had a special menu for Birmingham Restaurant Week; so we decided to try it out.

The H-Bar reminds me of a small lounge. It has an ambiance that is appealing, with its relaxed setting of vibrant colored sofas and contemporary lighting, it is the hip place for the cool and sophisticated at heart. The bar is loaded with a variety of alcohol, everything from the ingredients needed to make their signature martinis, to the best imported brews. The H Bar has live music every day except for Sundays. The night we went, the Shaun Pezant Trio was the live act. They are a neo-soul band who performs jazz and r&B music.

The Birmingham Urban League was having a networking event at the same time we visited the H Bar. There were plenty of people in this small space; however, I didn’t feel cramped. Maurice and I were fortunate enough to get one of the few tables available, so that we could eat dinner. This was also great because we got to network and eat at the same time, how awesome!

I started off with the Mandarin Orange signature martini. (Sorry I didn’t get a pic because I was too busy talking and forgot) It was a bit tart but very good; one of the main flavors that I tasted was orange juice. Maurice just wanted a glass of water.

Eventually, we ordered our entrees. Maurice got the Grilled Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Salad. I got the Grilled Pork Chops with French Fries ( I substituted the mashed potatoes).

The H Bar doesn’t have a kitchen attached to it, so the food is prepared downstairs in the hotel kitchen. Furthermore, once a customer places an order, a kitchen rep brings the food to the bar on a rolling cart. I’m happy to say that the food is wrapped in plastic, so germs and bugs can’t touch it!

All of our food came out at the same time. I would have preferred to eat my salad before the entree came out, but that’s ok because I just ate everything together.

All I can say is that the H Bar takes pork chops to a whole new level, they were baked and well seasoned. The french fries were fresh and crispy. I thought they would have been soggy because of the plastic wrap, however, they weren’t.

Maurice enjoyed the pork chop and salad as well, but he commented that his mashed potatoes were kind of cold.

Despite the salad issue and the cold mashed potatoes, both of us had excellent words to say about the H Bar. Our waitress and the staff took excellent care of us. We enjoyed great music, delicious food, and favorable customer service. What more can I ask for?

http://www.thehbar.com/

http://bhamrestaurantweek.com/

Posted in Bars, Date Night, Five Points South Finds | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sol y Luna: A Tapas and Tequila Experience

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on September 18, 2010

“Sol y Luna” (Sun & Moon) serves gourmet Mexican cuisine, specializing in Mexican-style tapas and tequilas. It is located in the heart of the Lakeview District, and it was my dinner spot on Thursday night. I enjoyed the company of two friends, Chuck and Kathy. They are awesome people and we had a wonderful time together.

The ambiance of “Sol y Luna” is quaint, casual and reminds me a restaurant in Spain. In my opinion, there is nothing Mexican about this place. The theme, decorations, and the waiters all reflect the Spanish culture. Even the idea of “tapas” originated in Spain. “Tapas” are appetizers or small plates.

I didn’t discover the outdoor patio until later in the night; I thought it was just another dining room. The feel and decor, of the patio, allowed me to feel like I was inside, yet outside. It’s hard to describe, but I enjoyed the elegant and authentic Spanish feel.

I arrived at “Sol y Luna” and my friends were waiting for me at a small quaint table, which was in the front window of the restaurant. It was a nice table located near the bar, and allowed us to see everyone as they walked or drove by. While sitting here, we ordered drinks. Chuck and Kathy had Corona beers, and I had the “Tamarind Margarita”. Tamarind is a fruit that is native to Africa and Asia, but is currently grown throughout Mexico and South America; it is unlike any fruit in the United States. Most importantly, this drink was relaxing, tasty, sophisticated and had somewhat of an exotic flavor.

Eventually, we moved to a larger table, in the back, for dinner. Our waitress was a woman from Venezuela, who knew the menu well and offered her opinions on what we should order. I’m glad she did that, because I had no idea where to start! For an appetizer we had the “Sol y Luna Sampler” which was a combination of plantain chips, nachos, sweet potato fries and homemade fresh guacamole. Can I just say “delicious” and “simple”! One of the reasons I really enjoyed the guacamole was because of its consistency. All of the chips were made in-house, and each chip complimented the guacamole well.

After we finished the appetizer, we decided to order our entrees. Kathy got the “Salmon Roulage” seared with sesame seeds with julianne cucumber and poblano sauce.

However, she didn’t like the “fishy taste” of this dish. So she sent it back and got the “Shrimp Cocktail”. The presentation was the first thing we noticed, once it arrived; it was served in a tall martini glass. At the bottom of the glass was lettuce, in the middle was a homemade cocktail sauce (reminded me of cocktail sauce and salsa), and the shrimp were on top and on the side of the glass. On the plate, surrounding the martini glass was a colorful array of nachos. Kathy really enjoyed the shrimp cocktail. I sampled this dish, and couldn’t resist the taste of the homemade cocktail sauce; it was unique and had somewhat of a sweet flavor. It was unlike any cocktail sauce that I’ve ever had.

Chuck had the “Beef Tenderloin Medallions” served with Chimichurri sauce and Yucca strings. He also got a side of the refried beans. He enjoyed this entree, but he really kept talking about how good those beans were.

I had the Jumbo shrimp “diabla”, chipotle pepper and grand marniere sauteed over roasted garlic sweet mashed potatoes. My initial reaction was, “This is too spicy”; however, I got used to the taste and started to enjoy it. It tasted and seemed like everything had been prepared earlier in the night, and the cooks just put everything together when it was time for the food to go out. Furthermore, I wasn’t crazy about this particular entree; it was satisfactory. But I will commend the cooks on presentation.

For those of us who are price-conscious, the appetizers range from $8-$10; tapas range from $10-$17.

Our experience at “Sol y Luna” was festive and fun! I enjoyed the company, conversation, and most of the food. This is a wonderful place to relax and catch up with friends. Also, don’t forget to checkout “Sol y Luna’s” special menu for “Birmingham Restaurant Week”!

http://www.birminghammenus.com/solyluna/

One more thing, check this weeks Birmingham City Scene, for a special article about “Birmingham Restaurant Week”!

http://bhamrestaurantweek.com/

Sol Y Luna on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bars, Date Night, Downtown Eats, Mexican, Upscale | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Welcome to Thailand: “Surin West” Edition

Posted by bhamfoodscoop on June 23, 2010

“Surin West” is a staple in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. The restaurant is known for attracting diverse people under one roof and it’s also known for getting many people outside of their comfort zone, when it comes to food. This Thai restaurant specializes in making various types of sushi along with many other authentic Thai dishes. “Surin West” has two locations, one in Five Points South and the other on Highway 280.

Earlier this week, I went to the original location in Five Points South. This is my favorite location because it transports me to the exotic land of Thailand upon entering the front door. The design, decor, drinks, and food all scream Thailand! I went in the middle of the day when it was not busy. Basically, it was like my friend and I had the whole place to ourselves; VIP style, lol! I was very thirsty when I arrived, so I ordered water. However, I wanted something else to drink besides water, and I didn’t want the standard American beverage in such an exotic atmosphere, so I opted for the “Thai Tea”. Now let me be honest, this is a drink that I will have to get used to because it is very very sweet and it seemed like it was made with milk instead of water. Furthermore, it was ok; let’s just say I drunk more water than tea!

For my entrée I had the “Thai BBQ Chicken” and it came with a bowl of  “Coconut Soup”. Ya’ll, the food tasted great. I wish I could think of another adjective to describe it, but that’s all I can say; I was speechless! The “Thai BBQ Chicken” consisted of a half piece of chicken marinated over night in Surin’s BBQ sauce and slow roasted to perfection then char-grilled Thai style; served with shrimp fried rice. This dish also came with a sweet & sour dipping sauce and I used it for my chicken and rice. The sauce was so good that I ended up ordering one more! Since this was my first time having “Coconut Soup” it took me to a new level, meaning that I want more of it. The soup was white, garnished with two pieces of mushrooms and had a creamy texture; the taste was poignant and good. And at the bottom of the soup, were a few pieces of tofu.

I sat in the restaurant for almost two hours, just basking in the atmosphere and the food. My experience was wonderful! I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves Asian food and who wants to be whisked away to a foreign land without ever leaving the city.

http://www.surinwest.com/

Surin West on Urbanspoon

Posted in Asian, Business Friendly, Date Night, Five Points South Finds, My Favorite Lunch Spots, Upscale | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »