I was just reading the corriere della sera and they were reporting that Forbes published the list of the top 12 most expensive restaurants in the world.

The list looks very impressing and unfortunately I have not been to any of them :(.  So, I added them to my wishpot wishlist!

  • La Pergola – This is an Italian joint in Rome 
  • Tetsuya – a Japanese restaurant in Sydney
  • The French Laundry – The Napa Valley Destination (note the capital N!).  I tried to go to this one, but we could not get a table
  • Masa – THE sushi place in NYC
  • Joel Robuchon – In Vegas.  I actually went to the “cafe” version.  That was one of the the most “upscale” cafe I have been, so the real thing must be really good.
  • Alinea – in Chicago.  I’d never heard of it.  I guess it’s in my todo list for when I go to Chicago.
  • Toque – in Montreal
  • El Bulli – I really want to go to this place.  It’s a the top of my restaurant wishlist! Ferran Adrià has achieved a god-status chef level and I really want to check it out.  Hope that it’s worth the $300/person (without wine!).
  • l’Arpege – in Paris
  • Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – In London.  After seeing Gordon Ramsey on kitchen nightmare (not the Fox version…the BBC one is much better) he has really become one of my favorite chefs.  Too bad it’s almost impossible to get a reservation.
  • Aragawa – In Tokyo.  The rumor has it that they have one of those nice $400 steaks.
  • Bukhara – in Delhi.   

The one thing that seems to be clear is that (1) wine is not included in any of the prices mentioned in the Forbes article.  Anyone should know that makes or break both the meal and the bank! (2) It seems that the rank is based solely on the “standard preset meal” – of course you could spend lots more if you ordered off the menu or you went for special menu.    There was also a good post about this sometime ago on the vinography blog and they recommended to triple the prices. 

Anyway…it seems there is some good place to go, regardless from where you are.

If you like food and you are in my region (Abruzzo) then there is one restaurant you MUST visit: L’Angolo da Filippo (also known as “Angolino” – “the little corner”).

The restaurant is one of my town institutions. It was founded in 1891 and it’s rocks! Wow!

Over the course of the years the menu has changed, the restaurant was extensively remodelled, but it always carries a great of “tradition” forward.

I went there with friends a few days before I left and I took pix of what we ate.

We started off with a round of cold appetizers (mostly carpaccios):

appetizer one  appetizer two

followed by a round of warm appetizer:

appetizer warm warm appetizer two clams 

It’s easy to spot the prawns and clams in the pix.  The middle one is a lot more interesting, aside from the prawn there is a fantastic fried zucchini with shrimp paste, baccala’ with bell peppers\onions and one of my favorites – cuttlefish with potatoes.

We moved to the pastas:

pasta pasta 2

The first pasta is “spaghettoni with bottarga e pannocchie” (pannocchie is typical in my region and close to prawns).  It was just amazing…  but the next pasta was even better “gnocchetti with pesto and shrimp”… holy $%$% it was soo good! The pesto was very light, the gnocchetti would just melt in your mounth.  Wow…

After the pasta we decided to also order the “secondi” (second dish).  The good news is that since we ordered late we got about 20-30mins to rest :).  We were ready for what was coming next:

arrosto misto dentice

Some of us ordered the “arrosto misto” (left).  I was one of the lucky ones to go for the “dentice in crosta di pistacchio”.    The dentice (still trying to find the english name) was just amazing.  I was extremelly impressed.

We closed the meal with a mix of “semifreddi” and coffee.

Overall the meal was impeccable.  Loved it.  Service was also great.  If you ever go there tell Carlo that Max sent you! 

Support my company! Get your super-charged wishlist and find a great gifts ideas at http://www.wishpot.com

Wishpot Link

I had never been to Oceanaire and it was not in my list of “to go places”. But, last night a friend of mine reserved a table and I had the chance to go. I had actually heard good things about this restaurant, so I was looking forward to try it.

Let’s put it this way. I strongly discourage anyone from going there for the 25 for $25 and based on what I saw last night I will definitely not go back anytime soon.

You would expect that these special deals are to get you to try something nice that would make you go back for more.  This was not the case.

For 25$ (+ tip + tax + plus glass of wine = 40$) this is what I got:

  • Appetizer – three mini oysters with corn and a sauce. The sauce was overpowering and you could not taste the oysters much.
  • Main – sole cooked in butter with capers. Come on…I can make this at home and it does have some taste!  The alternative was a gnocchi with crab meat and broccolini.  Two of my friend tried it and they thought it was an “interesting” dish.
  • Dessert – a small very blend keylime pie.

Couple of other considerations:

  • 25$ menu is visible right away.  Although in a little corner of the main menu.
  • Plating was very underwhelming.  I felt there was no love put there.

At the end of the meal we agreed that the overall dinner was at most a 4 out 10.  Not recommended.

Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Support my company! Get your super-charged wishlist and find a great gifts ideas at http://www.wishpot.com

Wishpot Link

Friday night I was having drinks with my Italian friends and the topic came up.  We talked about it for a good chunk of time and it seems that by the end there was good agreement on the ranking.

Before I started writing this post I checked the pizzeria rankings on citysearch.  wow…in the audience top five there is none of the pizzerias that we have in our top 5.  It seems we are more in sync with the editors.  We both have the Tutta Bella Pizzeria in Columbia City as our #1.

There is another important point to make.  This entry ranks the best pizzeria and not the best pizza.  I will post about the best pizza later, for today let’s focus on the pizzeria.

#1  – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Columbia City
what we like:  everything – atmosphere, pizza, staff/service, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like:  it’s a little out of the way

#2 – Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Wallingford
what we like:  the space, the pizza, waiting line management, price
what we don’t like: nothing really.  This is where we go the most, but the atmosphere is not quite the same as #1

#3 – Pizzeria da Guido in Crossroad
what we like:  pizza is great, place is reminiscent of some off-beat Italian pizzerias, no line
what we don’t like:  a little out of the way, crossroad mall it’s pretty sad at night

#4 – Via Tribunali in Capitol Hill
what we like: pizza can be very good, atmosphere
what we don’t like: waiting line, you cannot customize pizza (unbelievable!), unfriendly

#5 – La Vita e’ Bella in Belltown

Have fun at your next pizzeria trip!

What others think?

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (Wallingford) on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Guido on Urbanspoon

Via Tribunali on Urbanspoon

La Vita E' Bella Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Support my company! Get your super-charged wishlist and find a great gifts ideas at http://www.wishpot.com

Wishpot Link

Seattle 25 for $25

March 1, 2007

It’s that time of the year where in Seattle you can pay a visit to some nice restaurants and benefit from a special $25 dinner menu.  You can usually get an appetizer, main and dessert.

You can find the list here: http://www.nwsource.com/contests/restaurants/25for25_0307/

Few personal considerations. 

  • Be aware that many restaurants in the list will have a special menu, which is not as good as the usual things they have.  I seem to recall that Brasa does something like this. 
  • Many restaurants don’t advertise the special menu in the restaurant.  You must ask for it.
  • Also consider that if you order wine and you include tax+ tip you are still looking at a $40/person type of deal.  This is something to keep in mind.   Often if you share one appetizer and one desert you end up paying the same thing, but you have access to the official/real menu.  Think about it…you don’t eat as much, but you eat better and for the same price.  The tradeoff is for you to make.
  • Some of the restaurant offer a similar deal anyway.  The 3rd Floor Fish cafe’ has a $30 menu from Sun-Th all-year-around.  The special menu is a subset of the main one, but it’s still excellent. 

I will probably only try a few of them.  In my personal to-go list:

  • Zoe
  • Barking Frog
  • Champagne
  • Serafina

Have fun!  Let us know what you think! 

Review: La Spiga (Seattle)

January 28, 2007

[Note: this review applies to the “new” La Spiga – after they moved to the new location on 12th and Union]

I had dinner three times at La Spiga in the past couple of months.  I wanted to post a review earlier, but I felt I needed to visit the restaurant a few times before writing it.  I usually don’t do that, but given the circumstances I made an exception.

Before I go too much into the details.  Here’s my short scorecard (scores 1-10):

– Service: 5.5
– Food: 7
– Ambiance: 9
– Value: 7.5

Final take:  La Spiga new location is just awesome. The place is great and I like the modern industrial yet not-too cold feel.  But a restaurant (especially a great one) should be more about the content than the container. In other words service and food should be the main characters and this does not seem to be the case at La Spiga.  The food still tastes fairly authentic and fresh. Some dishes are better than others, but they consistently lack of “personality” – to me it seems like that there is not much love being put in the cooking.  The service is average at best, again there does not seem to be much passion in the air.  The value is still pretty good, the food is still fairly authentic and prices are good (especially when compared to other rip-off Italian restaurants in Seattle).  Now if they stopped being stingy with some of the dishes the value would be even better.

My main recommendation would be to cut back the number of choices on the menu and focus more on the execution.  From the service side it seems that there is not a consistent oversight of what’s going on.  With such a big place and so many waiters there needs to be a better system in place to guarantee an higher level of service…I have not seen this in place.  The good news is that it should be easy to fix. 

Short recap about the three times we went.
visit #1:  I went with some of my friends (and respective wifes).  It was a week after they opened in the new location.  The service was somewhat slow and the food was a hit or miss.  The good news is that we got a good break on the price, so overall it ended up being a positive experience…although without the price break I would not have been an happy customer.
visit #2:  Wow…this was a disaster.  I think it was the worse experience ever (ok…maybe second all time after a domican restaurant in the Carribeans a few years ago).  We were there for three hours, courses got lost, food was cold, waiter disappearing…I mean everything was a mess.  It was such a failure that I could not write a review at that point.  I needed to go again after a few weeks.  I had to give it a second third chance.
visit #3:  We went back last week.  It seemed that things had settled a bit and the experience was decisively better than the previous time.  It is about time to write a review. 

Service
In all of our visits the services has been average at best.  We had 5 waiters in the past three visits and none have been too good.  Many times you have to ask things a few times (not acceptable), but my main concern is that it seems that waiters don’t honestly care about the customers and they lack passion.  I saw the owner still attending the table.  With such large staff that should not be the case.  The owner should be supervising what’s going on and make sure that everyone is up to standards.  It seems that motivation and discipline are not where they should be.

Food
The good news: the overall quality of the food is still good.  Dishes feel fresh and authentic.  The not so good news is that I did not feel the “love” in the dishes, they lack “personality”.  This is a little difficult to explain and definitely an intangible, but it’s something that a few people I went with shared.  The piadina is still very authentic and the classic italian meats are a must.  The pasta are a hit or miss.  The gnocchi are plain but good (especially if you spice up the sauce), the risotto definitely need a kick.  The passatelli are pretty good soup/appetizer.

Ambiance
I love the new place.  They did a great job.  I was concerned that it would lose the cozy feeling that the previous location had, but I think they were able to keep the place faily cozy, although it’s ten times bigger.  I like the modern industrial feel mixed with the dark wood tables.  Very nice!

Value
The value is still very good.  Generally speaking Italian restaurants in Seattle are very overpriced and with average quality (aside from Machiavelli) and La Spiga distinguishes itself by balancing authentic quality food with good prices. The other thing is that – like in the previous location – the dishes are sometimes a little stingy.  Come on guys… there is a difference between good size portion and being just stingy! (example:  one of my friend ordered the “passatelli in brodo”…it was supposed to be a main entree…it turned to be less than a cup and she had to order another entree)

All in all you should pay a visit.  It is a place I would go with a group of friends.

Osteria la Spiga on Urbanspoon

Support my company! Get your super-charged wishlist and find a great gifts ideas at http://www.wishpot.com

Wishpot Link

We are here in New York for a long weekend. Last night we got lucky and were able to get a table at Mario Batali’s Babbo. WOW! What a fantastic experience! I would recommend any restaurateur to go for a visit and take lots of notes!

Here’s my short scorecard:

– Service: 9.9
– Food: 9.5
– Ambiance: 10
– Value: 10
Service:
Service was extremely good. I am taking .1 off because they did not clean the bread crumbs from the table after the appetizer. it’s, of course, a very minor point. From when you step in the door until you get out everything is run perfectly. Perfectly meaning that any time you are about to need something a waiter is there they leave you alone otherwise.

Food:
We shared one appetizer: grilled octopus. Tender but with a bit of a crunch…wow. Hellai got the “spaghettini with Lobster” and I got the “Pappardelle with Wild Boar”. She loved the spaghettini. The wild boar sauce was very good…but I would have let it cook for a few extra mins (that’s the .5 points off the 10). The dishes were very fresh and the quantity not stingy…there was 1/2 pound of lobster and I had lots of wild boar. That’s the way should be done!

Ambiance:
Not too much to say here…it’s a great place. It is a fine dining experience, yet it is fairly relaxed and informal. Plus…you can’t beat a place that has Bono dining there (yes, he was seating at the table across from ours) and Mario Batali walking around.

Value:
The final bill was around 110USD. We had one appetizer, two main entrees, 1/2 bottle of wine (two quartini) and the “amari sampling” (15usd). OK…it’s not a “cheap” place, but it is definitely worth it.

Bottom line… if you are headed to NYC make sure that you make a reservation. You need to book more than a month in advance. they do leave a few tables to walkin, but if you decide to go down this path you need to go either very early or very late.

Babbo on Urbanspoon

Support my company! Get your super-charged wishlist and find a great gifts ideas at http://www.wishpot.com

Wishpot Link