Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lawry's The Prime Rib ~ Dallas, Texas

Barring any surprise discovery, this should be the final restaurant post for 2013. I plan on doing a summary of the year tomorrow or Tuesday if possible.

For those who've been following the RJG, you'll know that Lawry's is not our typical fare (witness yesterday's My Lan entry). But my parents had some history with this restaurant, and because of that, here we are dining elegantly. So what is that history? For a brief time, from 1966 to 1967, when the RJG was just a toddler, we lived in the Los Angeles area, before relocating to Dallas. My father, who was in sales, had been transferred from New York City to LA. For their 5th wedding anniversary in 1966, they had a splurge meal at the Five Crowns, which I believe had only been open a year at that point. While they were enjoying themselves immensely, most assuredly I was eating Gerbers or some such crap and spitting it up on the babysitter. Anyway... My old man loved prime rib more than anything else, and he had fond memories of that night for years to come. I would usually hear about the experience when we had one of their dressings on the kitchen table (remember Canadian Bacon dressing?), or when we pulled out the Seasoned Salt or Seasoned Pepper to bury the cottage cheese (it is the only way to make it palatable - that stuff is gross). To this day, the RJG household uses those seasonings on a regular basis. I love them.

That's the ancient history. The more recent history is, of course, when they opened their location on Maple Avenue in 1982. My parents were hell bent on a revisit, and since I was in high school then, I got to join them (after eating the Gerber's. Oh wait...). It was indeed excellent, as they had said. Formal (jeez, I even had to wear a tie), but very nice. In 1986, I sent them off in a limo (paid for on my paltry college budget no less) as they went there to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. And in 1988 I took them there, again for their anniversary, as the RJG actually had a paying job and could afford the dinner! My folks loved that place. I enjoyed it of course, but I'm not a fine dining nut. And I'm not sure the food is worth the premium. But, hey, whatever... if they liked it, why not indulge them? That was the RJG's last visit to Lawry's. Until...

...until December, 2013 - 25 years later. Now it's the official RJG's Mom's 75th birthday. Dad is sadly gone over a decade now, and we were discussing where she would like to have her celebratory dinner. She wanted one last visit to Lawry's. They've since moved to Far North Dallas off the Tollway, which makes sense, since Lawry's remains a "power lunch" kind of destination. The place is a time warp, and it's like stepping back in time to a formal dining establishment 40 years ago. It's very British in that aristocratic sort of way. Even though Mom was celebrating her 75th, she might as well have been in the Youth Group this night. It's actually nice to see folks in their 80s and 90s get out like this, without needing much help (or any). Hopefully I'll be so fit at that point. Mrs. RJG and the official Mother-in-Law Chula were in attendance as well to celebrate. Mom had one of her traditional "call drink" martini's, and Mrs. RJG and I settled on a couple of craft beers. After having a couple of salads, it was only Mom that went for the signature prime rib (Queen's cut of course), while the rest of us went for variations of fish. Chula and I had the Sea Bass, while Mrs. RJG had the fried red snapper. The Sea Bass was truly excellent, as were the potatoes. I seemed to enjoy the red snapper more than the wife, but she said it was pretty good. They also had a side of mushrooms, which all agreed to be excellent.

During the Christmas season, they have Victorian era Carolers wandering about - though unfortunately they were singing whatever people wanted to hear. Such as those Darwinian era classics "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" (ugh, really?). Mom picked out something more appropriate. Good thing, as I wouldn't have a clue what to ask for.

Well, anyway, Lawry's is a snapshot in time. I doubt we'll ever go back, unless one of my business partners insists on it. It's very good. It's very expensive. And on both points, they always have been.


Lawry's the Prime Rib on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Lan ~ Haltom City, Texas

You may have noticed that we haven't featured any Vietnamese restaurants in the RJG yet (though Mr. Music did one a few months ago). We rarely eat Vietnamese is the obvious reason. And to be honest, we haven't been motivated to do such, and tend to spend our Asian food dollars on the excellent local Thai restaurants almost exclusively, with an occasional Chinese take-out meal. Strange then when you realize that Mrs. RJG and I, when we were dating love birds in 1996, spent most of our dinner time at one Vietnamese restaurant in Denver. That would be Kim Ba, and it remains, perhaps not surprisingly, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the country. We were regular visitors until 2003 when we relocated to NE Tarrant. (And I hope to write about it on the RJG at some point). So when we arrived here, we asked about local Vietnamese food, and were promptly pointed to Haltom City. We tried a couple of the noodle houses from there, and they were definitely good, and perhaps one day we will revisit those places (that are remaining nameless for now) and do a quick writeup. But for whatever reason, we just stopped. We couldn't see ourselves going any further south in Haltom City than Bangkok Cuisine - and we are regulars at that fine Thai restaurant to this day. We've had a couple of Vietnamese restaurants up here in Southlake and Keller, but they either went out of business or they're just not that good.

Earlier this year we had an excellent bowl of pho while in Santa Fe, New Mexico - and that prompted Mrs. RJG to suggest that perhaps we get back down to Haltom City and soon. And finally that moment arrived on a recent Sunday. Mrs. RJG suggested I put away NFL Red Zone for the final half of the second games (sacrilege!) and go for some Vietnamese food. And shoot, the Cowboys had the game in hand. I mean it was 26-3 over Green Bay at home. Surely even they won't screw this up. Ah, the memories.... Anyway I agreed to it. So I went over to Urbanspoon to see what they said was the highest rated Vietnamese restaurant in Haltom City. And up popped My Lan. That wasn't one we'd been to before, and so we pointed the cattle mobile south and off we went. 121 to Beach, head west past Belknap, right turn in the first shopping center, and we're there. We recognize this center for Thai Belknap (an OK Thai place, but there's much better) and Pho Bella, the latter which might be closed now.

Like many Vietnamese restaurants, the inside decor is non-existent. It's like eating inside a gas station convenience store with poor lighting and old booths. Service is just there - meaning when they have time to get to you, they will. Otherwise you wait, and don't complain. My Lan serves the local Vietnamese immigrant community, and they are all about great food and reasonable prices. The Dining Experience is not high on their list of priorities. OK with us! Mrs. RJG and I were joined by my official Mother-in-Law known in these pages as Chula. I had a bowl of Meatball soup, Mrs RJG had the grilled beef on vermicelli, and Chula had the Lemongrass chicken. My bowl was huge, with an excellent broth filled with cilantro and chives. The meatballs were firm and tasty. Mrs. RJG's grilled beef was superb, with wonderful charbroiled tastes. And I quite liked the lemongrass chicken sample I tried, which had a nice zip to it.

Maybe we'll try another Vietnamese restaurant in Haltom City, but we don't need to. My Lan is excellent, and truly all we could want for the style (beyond perhaps a nicer restaurant recalling our beloved Kim Ba in Denver). Need a suggestion for Vietnamese? Give My Lan a shot. Just come with an appetite and no expectations of fine dining.

Note: Closed on Wednesday's.

My Lan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 27, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Apeizza e Vino ~ Southlake, Texas

For the second new restaurant that the RJG tried, after a lengthy cold spell, I had awaited a visit from Mr. Music - a true connoisseur of the Napoletana pizza tradition - to try NE Tarrant's latest coal oven venture. With Campania (Southlake) going completely down the tubes (our last visit was not good, and it seemed to be on its last legs), and INZO (Roanoke) starting to mail it in, there is definitely room for a new pizza place in Northeast Tarrant with a 900 degree oven. Grimaldi's (Grapevine) pretty much owns this market as far as the RJG is concerned (and Coal Vines (Southlake) which is slightly different in my mind). But there's a new sheriff in town! Let me introduce to you all Apeizza e Vino, the second location for the burgeoning Denver based chain. Lafayette is east of Boulder, and it's quite ironic that one of our favorite coal oven pizza places in the Denver area is a small chain called Proto's. And the location we tried was in Lafayette! But I never knew about Apeizza e Vino (with only two votes on Urbanspoon, I have to think it's new there too).

The name is literal, and the restaurant primarily focuses on their pizza and a healthy wine list. A limited scope is always a welcome idea to the RJG, as we know then that they are focused (or should be anyway) on their core product. Beers are fairly basic, and they also have salads and appetizers.  We split a salad, and each went with a pizza. The salad was excellent (and quite large, similar to Grimaldi's in that way). I tried the basic Margherita pizza with added homemade Italian sausage and Mr. Music had the Salsiccia e Funghi (Sausage and Mushroom). We were both more than pleased with the pizza texture and sauce. The Italian sausage is truly divine, and not the "off the truck" variety. In speaking with the owner's wife, she stated that if you want it crispier (the way Mrs. RJG likes it) - then it's just a matter of oven placement. The pizzas are bigger than individual size (except for teenagers on the football team of course), so be prepared to take some home. We thought the prices were reasonable, so the overall value is quite good. As an aside, the oven was handmade in Italy and shipped here, and it has the owner's named spelled out in the tile (Debastiani).

Apeizza e Vino sits in an older Southlake strip center on the south side of Southlake Blvd (a couple of minutes west from 114), next to Duff's Wings that we covered here earlier in the year. This spot has not done well in the past (it's a bit hidden), but definitely give it at least one opportunity. We think you'll want to go back. We definitely plan on adding it to the rotation!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

TruFire Kitchen and Bar ~ Southlake, Texas

OK, let's see if I can get a few posts out before the end of the year. Obviously I have been absent these last few months (though I did faithfully update older entries as we went). The main reason for that was, as indicated in some earlier posts, my real paying job became all consuming. As such, from the time we went to Burrito Jimmy in late August until the 3rd week of November, we didn't try a single new restaurant in DFW. Mostly we ate at home, or when we did go out, only to our tried and true favorites. We have 4 restaurants we dined at that are new to the RJG (or new to the blog in one case), and I'd like to wrap up the year with those entries, and then I'll conclude with a year-end summary.

So the dry spell ended with a visit from the Tampa Pound, one of my business partners who has graced these pages in the past. I tend to note places like this to try on "expense account" money first, and then if proven to be good, I'll return. Yea, the RJG can be cheap at times... TruFire sits in the SW corner of the Southlake Town Square, near the new Del Frisco Grill. I believe there were a couple of sports bars here prior, which is the wrong location for that kind of venture. TruFire is the modern kind of American restaurant that is chef driven, but not necessarily expensive or overly fru-fru. The menu is definitely Mediterranean focused, with a specific Italian flair. After ordering a bottle of wine, we decided to try the "Paddle Board" appetizer which is a sampler of high quality meats, cheeses, spreads, and breads. Probably they went across the street to Central Market to get the ingredients, but that's not a complaint. It was quite good. The TP went for the Spicy Garlic Noodles, which I would describe as an Asian/Italian fusion with shrimp, chicken, arugula, prosciutto, romano cheese, mushrooms, and crushed red pepper. He loved it (more on that in a bit). I tried the chicken parm. Since none of the official Italian restaurants in NE Tarrant know how to make it, I figured I had nothing to lose. They have a "small" portion and a large. I went with the small. Fortunately. My goodness, it was a full serving by itself and I could not imagine devouring a large. Large, small, makes no difference if it isn't any good. Ah... but it is. Fantastic in fact! Easily the best chicken parm I've had in the area. No longer do we have to venture to Dallas for this dish. A nicely seasoned and breaded mix and then it's baked to perfection. It's actually crispy like it's supposed to be! It's served with linguini. I tend to be a traditionalist, and want something similar to spaghetti, but I was willing to go with the flat noodle. The other issue I have with linguini, is most places don't know how to cook it, and leave it mushy. Not TruFire! It was al dente. And the pomodoro sauce is delicious, very similar to what you would actually get in Italy rather than New York.We passed on dessert and decided to head over to the RJG household for some beers and music (yes, The Tampa Pound is another music head like the RJG and Mr. Music). It was here that The TP starts weaving his tale about dinner to Mrs. RJG, who starts salivating. She looks at me, points her finger and declares "You're taking me there... ... and soon!"

And so it came to pass, about a week later on a Saturday afternoon, Mrs. RJG and I ventured over to the Town Square for some Christmas shopping and a lunch at TruFire. We skipped the appetizer and each had a Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale (a good brewery from Maryland). She had exactly what she came for: The Spicy Garlic Noodles - and "add a little more spice" she said. She absolutely loved it! It was everything the TP described to her. I had to try the Chicken Parm one more time just to see if the dinner the other night wasn't an anomaly. Nope - exact same. Perfect. As we were chatterboxing with a couple of other patrons of the restaurant, as well as the waiters, it turns out the two dishes we each ordered are perennial favorites of many.

With great food and reasonable prices, consider TruFire a regular stop on the RJG tour.


Trufire Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon