Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicago | Lawry's The Prime Rib

As my spring getaway, I flew to Chicago to visit some of my best friends in the area. Although it seemed as if I was there to explore the windy city and catch up with friends, Jon and I, both know that it's for the tender and juicy cut of prime ribs at the Lawry's.

Lawry's The Prime Rib is my ultimate favorite steakhouse. Period. Writing this review even makes my mouth water and crave for a generous and thick slice of their famous roast beef. Unlike many chained steakhouses, such as Ruth's Chris, Outback, and Morton's, the classic and elegant restaurant operates in very few locations (only 4 in the US). As loyal as a customer can be, I have been to Lawry's in Beverley Hills (where it all started), Las Vegas, Chicago, and Taipei. Known for its top notch service, the restaurant prepares the prime ribs and side dishes to the highest quality across all locations.

Situated on the glamourous Magnificent Miles, the Chicago outpost occupies the historic light opera house, which made it the finest and most lavish branch of the Lawry's. When you enter this "magnificent" building, you will immediately be captured by the old English decor with beautiful chandeliers and aesthetic wood frames. Our host kindly led us to the dining room, which is further inside the building. Along with the shiny silverwares and antique high-back chairs, the high ceiling in the dining room elegantly established the superior and high class atmosphere at Lawry's.

Lawry's The Prime Rib

the dining room

The menu at Lawry's is simple. The only things I needed to decide were the portion of my steak and how I liked it prepared. There were also other options available. For example, a popular side order is two Australian lobster tails for just $21.

My meal started with the Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad, which was accompanied by an elaborate presentation. First, the server gave us icy "chilled forks", so that we could enjoy the salad at its cold temperature. Immediately, he brought out a cart filled with the freshest ingredients and tools to perform a salad mixing show! Most people found it amusing, but I felt really awkward when I saw the server "spin the bowl."

waiter preparing our spinning bowl salad

As seen from the picture, a big steel pot was placed on top of a bowl of ice. The server filled the silver bowl with chopped romaine, beets, hard boiled eggs, croutons, and other ingredients. Then, he gave a forceful spin to the pot. As the bowl furiously spun, he drizzled the pink house made dressing and mix it with a spatula. Voila! The famous spinning bowl salad was made! The salad was amazing and a great starter for my dinner. I really liked the beets and the lightly sour dressing. Remember to season the salad with Lawry's famous pepper!

Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad

Now came the moment I had been waiting for all night - The Prime Rib. The certified chef rolled out a spaceship looking "silver" cart, which is ridiculously expensive. The cart is used to not only preserve the temperature and juice of the meat but also allow the chef to hand carve the prime rib in front of us. The chef cordially greeted us and proceeded to prepare our prime ribs. It was really fun to interact with the chef and actually see the racks of prime ribs in the cart. I wished I could have a whole rack to myself...

"Silver" Cart

I ordered the thick 16 oz. bone-in Diamond Jim Brady Cut. I used to always get the largest Beef Bowl Cut (24 oz.), named in honor of Lawry's tradition to serve super thick slices of prime rib to the football players in the annual Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Sadly, I can't finish it anymore. I guess I'm getting old!

Seasoned with Lawry's famous pepper and other spices, the mouth watering prime rib was divinely roasted to perfection. The temperature was perfect, the texture was excellent, and the smell of the roast beef would make you go crazy. A bite of the tender and juicy steak with its natural beef au jus literally made me the happiest person on Earth. The prime rib at Lawry's was truly addicting.

The "Diamond Jim Brady" Cut
with mashed potatoes

In addition to the salad, the roast beef came with mashed potatoes and Yorkshire pudding. The Yorkshire pudding is a special savory dish at Lawry's. I didn't like it at first, but I actually quite enjoy it now. The soft and puffy pastry dipped in prime rib au jus brought out an interesting texture with the full flavor of the prime rib.

Yorkshire Pudding

Lawry's also have a selection of tasty sides, including creamed corn, creamed spinach, sauteed mushroom, and etc. Their creamed corn was absolutely to die for. I couldn't stop munching on the fragrant extra creamy and buttery sweat corn. I even tried to make it myself; everyone loved it! You can find the recipe here.

Creamed Corn

The Best!

Lawry's The Prime Rib in Chicago

I simply adore Lawry's The Prime Rib. The restaurant has elaborate presentations for its famous spinning bowl salad as well as the roast beef, which is hand-carved in front of you from an expensive silver cart. Without a doubt in my mind, Lawry's perfect roast beef is unquestionably the best I have ever tasted. The service was attentive and excellent. More importantly, the server always kept a smile on his face; it definitely added to the already awesome dining experience. To all the meat lovers, Lawry's is a must try!!

Lawry's The Prime Rib
100 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611

Price: $$$$
Recommendation: 4.5 Stars
The number one roast beef in the world.
The tender and juicy cut of prime rib will definitely keep you coming back for more!

also in various international locations: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Taipei, Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, and Singapore

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York | M Bar at the Mansfield Hotel

I love recruiting season. Not because I look forward to joining the workforce, but it is all about the perks that come along when interviewing. To me, on-site interviews are like free trips to New York City or wherever the company is. Typically, the firm will provide you with airfare, hotel accommodation, taxi, as well as reasonable food expenses. Seriously, what do you want more? Last January, I think I expensed as much as $2,000 in the span of a few days when I was interviewing with banks.

For my interview with Morgan Stanley, I was put into the Mansfield Hotel, a boutique hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The hotel is situated in the historic and prestigious Club Row, where many ivy leagues' alumni clubs reside in New York, and it is just blocks away from the touristy Time Square. Instead of having a stipend for my breakfast, Morgan Stanley paid for a nice morning meal at the hotel's lounge - the M Bar.

I woke up a bit early on the day of my interview and went to breakfast with my casual clothes. The M Bar is a small and intimate room on the lobby level of the hotel. The grand dark wood finishing at the bar brings out the sophisticated and classy vibe of this historic site. I sat at the table next to the window, which overlooked the 44th street.

The M Bar from

The waiter approached me with a smile and greeted me immediately. The breakfast selection on the menu all seemed very tasty and appealing. I decided to order the poached egg brioche with truffle oil, which came with applewood smoked bacon and a side salad. Coffee or tea was also included with the order.

I absolutely loved the truffle essence that instantly transformed the simple egg dish to something exquisite and more appetizing. The smokey bacon was fried to the perfect crispy state. Not to mention, the soft texture of the brioche bread was my favorite. A bite of the half cooked egg and toasty brioche with bacon brought a complex divine taste that would literally bring you to heaven.

Poached Egg Brioche with Truffle Oil, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Side Salad

As I enjoyed my dark and robust English breakfast tea, I casually read through the Wall Street Journal and checked out recent exciting IPO and M&A deals on my iPad to prepare for my coming interview. When I asked the waiter for more hot water, he also brought me extra tea bags, which was really nice of him. I am never a morning person; however, I actually really enjoyed this early meal at the M Bar.

Though known for its classy and high end night lounge, the breakfast at the M Bar is deliciously prepared, and the waiting staff is very attentive and made me felt very cozy and relaxed as I enjoyed my meal. It was definitely a very special breakfast experience in New York City. Thanks to Morgan Stanley!

M Bar at the Mansfield Hotel
12 West 44th Street
New York, NY10036

Recommendation: 4 Stars
Very classy and cozy hotel lounge in Midtown Manhattan, which offers delicate meals and a great selection of cocktails and wines.

The hotel room at the Mansfield is tiny though......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Miami | BOND ST Lounge

We all know that South Beach, Miami is not known for its affordable food and restaurants. Not only does fancy restaurants cost a fortune, some plain cafes can be pretty pricey as well. Anyways, because of an incredibly terrible food experience the day before (don't even want to think about it...sigh), we wanted to spoil ourselves to ease the painful encounter. Nobu and BOND ST came up to my mind, but since I've been to Nobu twice in LA and New York, I decided to try something new!

BOND ST Lounge, the Miami outpost of the famous Mahanttan sushi restaurant, occupies the lower level of the Town House Hotel in South Beach. Instead of traditional dining tables, BOND ST uses high tables and chairs to create a hip lounge setting. The minimal and simple decor made me feel relaxed and cozy, while I enjoy my green tea martini and have a good time with my friends.

The chef designs dishes that serve traditional Japanese cuisine with a classical French twist. One thing I absolutely love about Japanese fusion restaurants is their to-die-for appetizers - sashimi tartare, carpaccio, beef tataki, asian salads, tempura, grilled small bites......and the list goes on.

I don't know why, but many Japanese chefs seem to like their glasses hanging near the tip of their noses. Looks so pro!


Cold Appetizers: I normally like seaweed salad, but the one we had was very dry and grassy, even though they used both green and pink seaweeds, which is quite unique in the U.S. The mouth-watering blue fin toro tartare was prepared from very high quality fatty tuna and gave a strong umami and creamy taste.

Seaweed Salad with Ginger Dressing

Blue Fin Toro Tartare Seasoned with Sansho Pepper

Hot Appetizers & Skewers: In addition to hot appetizers, the BOND ST dedicates a section for skewers on their menu. One of their specialties is the Chilean sea bass skewers, which was lightly grilled with sweet miso sauce. When I had a bite of this diced delicacy, it literally melted in my mouth, and a savory aroma followed immediately. I would say the sea bass was the best dish of the night, and I am pretty sure my friends will agree, too! The skewers also came with a side salad, which was great for balancing off the strong and heavy aftertaste of the sauce.

Chilean Sea Bass Skewers with Sweet Miso

Shrimp Skewers with Teriyaki & Grilled Squid with Ginger Soy and Yuzu Mayonnaise

The goat cheese crab cakes tasted nothing like the traditional crab cakes I had before. The crispy crust of the surface layer was chunky and contrasted with the smooth and rich fillings. The chef mixed the right amount of goat cheese with crab meat, which allowed the scents of both to co-exist. Even Jennifer, who hated the smell of goat cheese, had some of the crab cakes. It was a fun and tasty dish to try.

Goat Cheese Crab Cakes with Carrot Lemon Coulis

The last but not least, we ordered the lobster tempura for our hot appetizers. As lavish as it sounded, the golden tempura actually had a pretty humble taste. The lobster meat, as usual, was divine and delicious, but it came with the very American mustard mayonnaise. I personally would call this plate "Popcorn Lobster."

Lobster Tempura with Mustard Mayonnaise

Sushi & Rolls

Growing up in Taiwan, I have a very high standard for sashimi, especially for the freshness of the fish. I haven't been to a Japanese restaurant in the States that is on par with those in Taiwan and Japan. However, the creative rolls and sushi, such as the popular rainbow roll, caterpillar roll, and the spider roll, are simply unheard of in Taiwan. It is always fun to order some crazy and interesting rolls.

We ordered 5 different rolls to share (Sorry I can't remember the names of them!). The aesthetic presentation made the rolls looked so tantalizing and appetizing; the tuna sushi was even decorated with real gold leaves. We finished the plate almost immediately!

6 Bond Nigiri: 6 Pieces of Exotic Nigiri Sushi
Hot Eel Dice with Sansho Pepper and Sliced Almond

Chocolate Lava Cake

Banana Crepes

I really enjoyed the atmosphere, lounge music, and the service at BOND ST. The chefs of the restaurant prepared many playful and mouth-watering appetizers, skewers, as well as rolls. The exquisite fusion dishes, along with some great friends, made an awesome night.

The dinner reached its height when Pat decided to pay all amount in excess of $250. I should've ordered more...

BOND ST Lounge
150 20th Street
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Recommendation: 4 Star
Great lounge restaurant for eclectic fusion bites and cocktails.

The South Beach location of BOND ST also offers some Miami specialities that you can't find in Manhattan!

also in other location: New York City

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Boston | The Blue Room

How awkward is it when your table in a restaurant is right next to your college advisor's? Even better, if he is with half of the department, including a TA from the class that you almost failed. Yeah, it happened to me last week.

I was totally shocked when I was getting seated at The Blue Room, a celebrated Mediterranean inspired restaurant in Cambridge. As awkward as it got, I managed to have a good time with my friend and tried not to peak at that corner.

The Blue Room is situated in the energetic business district in Kendall square. Dating back to 1991, the trendy and cozy restaurant has been a local favorite. Many people dine here for business as well as for a relaxing after work meal. Everyday the Portuguese executive chef creates delicate dishes from the freshest available local ingredients. You can also see him in action in the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant.

Neon Lights and the Open Kitchen

The appetizers were disappointing. Though served in beef broth, the bland pork and veal meatballs were dry and rough. And the squid came in cold, which tasted quite weird.

Pork + Veal Meatballs
beef broth, orzo

Sauteed Squid
borlotti beans, mustard greens

The hangar steak, oooh, was made to perfection. I can still remember every bite and every taste of the tender and juicy steak. Carved into generous slices, the heavenly prepared steak gave off a delightful flavor from its natural beef au jus. Both Justina and I loved it! Not to mention, the gorgonzola polenta, seasoned with exotic spices, was the perfect side dish for the steak.

Hangar Steak
gorgonzola polenta, mushrooms, rapini

The baked apple streusel kept the apple's skin, which added to the texture of the dessert and brought a pleasant sour taste. It would have been better if it was actually hot! The chocolate campari pots de creme was topped with fresh whipped cream and a mint leaf for decoration; it was a pretty average chocolate mousse.

Baked Apple Streusel
calvados raisin anglaise

Chocolate Campari Pots de Creme

The Blue Room is very busy at night, and the place can be really cramped. Besides the somewhat disappointing appetizers, the service at the restaurant was annoyingly slow. We finished two rounds of bread before our entrees came and had to ask the waiter to bring us water. However, one thing I thought was pretty neat about The Blue Room. On their menu, they recommend a wine pairing for every dish from appetizers, main courses, to desserts. Despite all of these, I might go back again for that amazing steak...

The Blue Room
1 Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

Recommendation: 3 Stars
Fantastic main courses and good collection of wines.
The restaurant can be really packed and busy, expect the service to be really slow.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Boston | Clink. at the Liberty Hotel

Typically when people say they're going to visit you from another city, they don't actually mean it, or they're just trying to be nice, i.e. it will never happen. However, it is not true for Caroline! A good friend from LA visited me for her spring break. For someone adventurous (or crazy) like her, she wanted to dine at the relatively new restaurant, Clink. at the Liberty Hotel. The now luxury hotel was the former Charles Street Jail, a historic jail built in 1851.

Clink., situated on the lobby level of the hotel, kept the original jail cells in this new American restaurant. Rather than having a creepy prison feeling, the restaurant sends a comfortable and modern vibe. I really like the warm hard wood furnitures and the open kitchen that showcases the preparation of the dishes.

Photo from Hospitalityonline

The Appetizers were perfectly prepared and gave a great start to our meal! The light salad was served with very fresh fatty salmon, torched and lightly glazed with miso sauce. I think I could've eaten another plate of those. The soft scrambled duck egg was delicious, too! The creamy scrambled duck egg (tasted exactly like chicken egg) topped with sauteed savory mushrooms complemented the soft and buttery brioche toast.

Torched Salmon Salad
cucumbers, miso, and shiso

Soft Scrambled Duck Egg
mushrooms and brioche toast

The fully cooked mahi mahi was accompanied by savoy cabbage, fingerling potatoes, smoked bacon, and sweet Maine shrimps.

Mahi Mahi

The green apple and rhubarb crisp differed with typical apple cobblers. The smooth sour taste of green apples added to the flavor of the dessert, and the rum raisin gelato on top just made it even better. I didn't like the butterscotch pots de creme at first, but the more I ate, the more I liked it.

Green Apple and Rhubarb Crisp

Butterscotch Pots De Creme

The dinner was very pleasant, and the staffs took good care of our needs. Caroline and I both had a great time catching up and enjoying the food. The architecture and interior design of this historic landmark hotel is definitely worth checking out!

The Liberty Hotel
215 Charles Street
Boston, MA 02114

Recommendation: 3.5 Stars
Experience the prison life and enjoy fine dining food!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boston | Meritage at the Boston Harbor Hotel

Meritage has always been on the top of my list of new restaurants to try. Not only does it have great reviews, but many of my friends also recommended me to try it out. To kick off 2011 Boston restaurant week, I decided to visit Meritage right away and figure out why people love it so much.

Located in the 5-star Boston Harbor Hotel, this new American restaurant offers an elegant atmosphere as well as some of the most beautiful waterfront views in Boston. Although we arrived Meritage a bit late, we were quickly seated and greeted by our server. Famous for its extensive collection of fine wines, I ordered additional wine pairing with my restaurant week menu. All three wines were excellent, especially the cabernet sauvignon - even for a white wine lover like me, I cannot put down the glass!

3 Course Wine Pairing

The portion at Meritage was quite generous, considering it was restaurant week menu. For my first course, I had the steamed lobster tail. The strong tangerine fragrance and refreshing citrus taste really whetted my appetite and prepared me for the following courses; however, the lobster itself was a bit over cooked. It could have been divine!

Steamed Maine Lobster Tail on the Half Shell
Buttered Snap Peas and Satsuma Tangerine Essence

Wood Grilled Fillet Mignon with Soft Whipped Potatoes, Horseraddish onion cream
Meritage Syrup

The tasting plate featured three small and playful desserts. The green apple was very tasty, but others were just okay.

White Fruit Tasting Plate of Bread Pudding, Green Apple Sorbet, Lychee Cream Eclair

For some reason, I wasn't exceptionally impressed by Meritage. It was probably because I had too much expectation for this restaurant. Meritage does have great food and attentive service, but it is just like any other fine dining restaurant, noting too special. Oh well, the wine pairing was awesome though!

Meritage, The Restaurant
70 Rowes Wharf
Boston, MA 02110

Recommendation: 4 Stars
Great fine dining restaurant with good food and service, but nothing too special.
Get their wine pairing!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Boston | The Oak Room at The Fairmont Copley Plaza

I'm sure we all have read The Great Gatsby some point in our lives. Ever wonder what life is like during the roaring 20s? The Oak Room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza takes you back to that glamorous era. Since the hotel's grand opening in 1912, it has represented Boston's rich history and refined taste. The restaurant prides itself as a traditional steak house but offers some of the best Bostonian flairs, such as lobster bisque, raw platters, and Boston cream pie.

The food experience at the Dining Room was absolutely surreal. I felt as if I was in an old movie set in the earlier days of America. The high ceiling is decorated with gold and delicate designs, framed by dark wood and grand windows. The atmosphere of the Oak Room is simply fabulous!

The Dining Room

Our waiter delightfully introduced us to the wide collection of champagnes as well as great red and white wines. I was really tempted to have a glass, but I had a lot of work to do later that night - we all know that nothing will be accomplished after drinking......

Champagnes and Wines

Bread Basket

In addition to the typical butter, the restaurant brought us olives and hummus spreads. They complemented so well with the flavorful selection of warm breads.

Three Spreads: Olives, Butter, Hummus

The lobster bisque was definitely the best I have had for a very long time. The creamy bisque gave a strong and tasty lobster aroma - which I absolutely loved!

Oak Room Lobster Bisque

Grilled 7oz Tenderloin
Au Poivre Sauce, Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Root Vegetables

As recommended by my friend, I ordered an additional side of truffle mac and cheese; it was light and tasty with a strong scent of black truffle - an interesting dish to try.

Truffle Mac and Cheese

Oak Room Boston Cream Pie & Cappuccino 

Rice Pudding, Poached Pears and Passion Fruit Jelly

Complementary Cotton Candy!

The Oak Bar is such a classy spot to drink. Just look at the room! I think they are famous for their excellent martinis.

As part of my restaurant week adventure, the check ended up $33.11 plus tax and tips. The service was excellent and on par with the food. The place can be pricey without the restaurant menu, but I think it's definitely worth it just for the special experience.

Well, now I know I can also live the life of the old money.

The Oak Room at The Fairmont Copley Plaza
138 St. James Avenue
Fairmont Copley Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Recommendation: 4.5 Stars
For the decor and atmosphere, the restaurant is definitely a Boston top choice!
The lobster bisque is simply awesome. I still think about the soup!
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