Saturday, January 22, 2005

Home Cooking - Christmas Candy

I have ohana in Hawai'i, and I've viewed Hawai'i as my second home ever since I was a child. Although I'm a mainlander, I love the taste of the islands, especially its native macadamia nut. I purchased the 'Mauna Loa Macadamia Cooking Treasury', a book devoted solely to this plump, creamy nut, and was delighted with the following recipe from it.

Macadamia Toffee

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 T water
1 T light corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped macadamias
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped macadamias

Lightly oil a baking sheet (for the gadget-collecting cook, a Silpat works beautifully here; no need to oil it).

In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 280 degrees F (I let it reach the 285-290 temp. range because I like the slightly-deeper beige color, but don't let it get higher than that.). Remove from heat and stir in chopped macadamias.

Pour onto prepared baking sheet and spread thinly (you have to work quickly here, especially if you're working on a heat-sink granite surface). Let cool about 10 minutes then sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. When the chocolate has softened, spread evenly over toffee and sprinkle with the finely chopped macadamias. When completely cool (the chocolate has resolidified and lost its glossy melted look), break into pieces.

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds of toffee.

My Christmas toffee packages :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Home Cooking - Scallops and Bread Baking

As soon as my parents step into my place, my 'nesting' Asian instincts kick in. It's got to be instinctual from centuries ago because as 'Americanized' as I am, I still get the urge to stuff my guests with food and drink as soon as they have their shoes off. (No shoes on the white carpet!) I spent an entire day with my parents recently, and after we spent the day talking, shopping for food, and enjoying the sunshine, we came back to my place for dinner.

My move into my place has been gradual, and therefore, so has the slowly-increasing quality of my meals. The christening meal was a Korean bbq heavily reliant on banchan (side dishes) from a nearby Korean grocery store. I added dessert crepes, sushi, ginger crab, and Irish Cream-laced hot chocolate to that list as time went by, but I don't think I ever came out with a multi-course dinner. I've never been too good with the multi-tasking, especially when it comes to getting everything out at the same time, and hot.

Last Sunday night, however, I can say that I tried my best to expand my cooking repertoire. Most of it was done on the fly, which meant that it wasn't exactly the restaurant-quality I was hoping for, unfortunately.

I started out the evening with some goregously plump, meat-juice oozing pot stickers (guo-teh, pardon my Romanization) straight from the freezer, into the frying pan. First browned with oil, and then steamed/simmered in water until all of it evaporated, they were hot and juicy, with crispy-chewy skins that were liberally coated with flavoring that seeped out from the dumplings while they were cooking. Sorry, no pictures because they tumbled into our hungry tummies before the camera could document them.

At Ranch 99, I came across a newcomer in the sauce aisle. Asian food manufacturers have quickly latched onto the idea of food efficiency (customer laziness and lack of time) and are continuously releasing new foods that mean shortcuts in the kitchen. A bottle that looked like unagi sauce caught my eye; turns out that it was vegetable stock concentrate! It ironically boasts a 'hearty, meaty' flavor although it's made from all vegetables, which highly amused me. It worked as a marketing technique, however; I clung to the bottle to show my parents, and shortly after that, it mysteriously found its way into my shopping basket. I haven't had a lot of time to cook recently, so I'm willing to try shortcuts.

And this shortcut was a (rare) winner! A few teaspoons of the dark brown liquid concentrate went into 4-5 cups of water, and after it came to a boil, I added in five large Napa cabbage leaves (roughly chopped), diamond slices of pan-fried fishcake, a few shreds of ginger, and a fistful of separated enoki mushrooms. The vegetable broth had a surprisingly good flavor and I couldn't tell it was vegetable-based at all, but I think the fishcake lent a welcome hint of seafood flavor to it. Light yet flavorful, this was the simplest soup I've ever made AND enjoyed.

Remember I mentioned pan-fried fishcake? Well, here's its sibling of pan-fried fish balls. Don't wrinkle your nose, they really are delicious, with the oil enhancing the mild, meaty flavor and springy texture. Addictive, really. These come browned, by the way, and are much better for pan re-heating than the white, raw-looking ones that make their best appearances in soups.

Lo bok go (turnip cake) consists of a few humble ingredients (the basics being turnip, rice flour, salt, and water) that transform magically into a filling, savory treat of smooth mouthfuls with a subtle resiliance, and surrounded with a uniformly crispy crust. Lightly dipped into a sweet hoisin sauce, this dim sum restaurant-regular tastes simply gorgeous.

I'm a scallop newbie. I couldn't tell you much about how to cook scallops except that any more than ten minutes of cooking for the large variety (these are the size of golfballs) will result in almost-inedible rubber balls. A friend gifted me with a Fukien (Chinese) cookbook from Taiwan, which I roughly used for the creation of this dish. I don't blame my failure on the book, however, because I think I would have had better results if I followed the recipe more closely. I rinsed the raw scallops and placed them on a bed of Napa cabbage leaves. A mixture of rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce (I should have added much more, but I was afraid I would end up with scallops that were browned instead of pristine white.), and sugar was dribbled on top of each scallop, and green scallion and ginger shreds were sprinkled lightly over.

Into the boiling-water steamer they went, and eight minutes they came out as pictured above. They looked like the dish I was envisioning, but when it came to eating them, they had far too heavy of a wine flavor, and so bland that I would have never known that salt/sauce had even been added to them. Alas, an expensive experiment with mediocre results... I'll try again another time, but if anyone has any tips, I'd gladly welcome them!

So, all in all, dinner was acceptable; not amazing, but not abysmal. However, the cooking experiments weren't over yet!

I have many toys that have never been used, including a bread maker. Now don't go thinking, "Oh, she's one of those lazy people who fell into the fad of easy-to-make but not fantastic-tasting breads". After all, a bread maker can't even make an alluring golden-brown crust, but instead produces an anemic-looking soft-ish loaf. However, the sole redeeming quality of a bread maker is that it has multiple functions. Including a 'dough' function!

I've kneaded bread. Some say it's therapeutic. I agree, but sometimes you just want instant-gratification bread without the arm work! And this is where the bread maker comes in.

In goes the flour, milk/water, butter, salt, sugar, and yeast.... and out comes a beautifully-risen, gluten-elastic, downy dough! Then you can play with your dough (the grown-up substitute to Play-Doh) so that you don't feel guilty for not having any part in its creation. Don't worry, you'll feel more delight than guilt, after a few minutes. Punch it, roll it, pull it apart. Just don't drop it~ At this point, you can pat it into a loaf pan and bake it the traditional way in the oven, braid it into a loaf and bake on a cookie sheet (let the dough rise from your meddling, before baking)... or do a 360 degree turn to satisfy the spontaneous craving of your mother.

She's not the type that enjoys to cook, so most of my kitchen toys are first-time marvels for her. I loved seeing her child-like enthusiasm as she cranked my near-frictionless flour sifter, and poked happily at the Pillsbury doughboy-like dough. As she poked and marveled aloud, she was reminded of steaming, thick cinnamon rolls for $.40 from her childhood. And so the white bread dough became an impromptu cinnamon roll stand-in, with the addition of some melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Thirty-five minutes and a quickly-whipped-up frosting of milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract later, we had our lightly sweetened cinnamon rolls. They turned out to be more glorified cinnamon bread than sinful cinnamon stickiness, and considering that we made nine rolls instead of a loaf of bread, I think we ingested at least two servings of bread per roll... But at least it was a lot healthier than Cinnabon's artery-cloggers! (which I also enjoy, but are too sugar and fat-saturated for my mom's taste)

It made for a lovely, relaxing evening of cooking, but next time I think I'll focus on recipes a little more closely, and keep my intuition in the background. I'm still in the learning stage of cooking, working my way to mastery(!)

And... the vegetable broth that I acquired from Ranch 99. The bottle says something like a 1:80 concentrate dilution ratio, but I just like pouring it straight (cautiously) into water and tasting until it's the right saltiness. :) It's not a complete broth on its own, but makes a wonderful base for anything else. Sure beats making vegetable stock from scratch! (not that I've ever tried)

Home Cooking - Crepe Comfort

Pancakes, tortillas, shao bing, I love them all. And there's one that's especially dear to my spoiled tastebuds and sophisticated-minded sense: the french crepe. It's the perfect foil to almost anything you could dream up of, it's unobtrusive in looks and flavor, and when done correctly, it has an ethereal delicacy, fairly floating upon the palate. What's more is that it's almost unfair how well it keeps its complexion and poise in the freezer, when almost everything else is prone to less-graceful thawing.

I've been known to cram everything inside from 1) chicken and cream of mushroom soup, 2) ham, american cheese, sauteed onions, and spinach, and 3) sliced mango, kiwi, strawberries, and mandarin oranges with condensed milk. This particular instance, I sauteed frozen raspberries with sugar and white wine until they formed a thick jam consistency, rolled it inside the crepes, and dribbled chocolate streaks liberally over the top. Perhaps a little sweet for breakfast, but entirely stomach-soothing and heart-warming.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Santa Clara, CA - Pho Thanh Long

Pho in a strip mall. Been there, done that, right? Well, this one stands out; in 1997, it was ranked one of the top three pho places in the South Bay. Since pho places here are as prolific as Starbucks in the city, that's not an insignificant achievement. On one hand, eight years is plenty of time for a restaurant to slide into mediocrity, but in this area of quickly-shifting restaurants (I've seen one dim sum place change ownership no less than five times in the past two years), the fact that it's been around for at least that long is a testament to its success.

Given the dense clusters of unimpressive-looking restaurants in my area, I didn't give this one a second look until I read about it in someone else's food blog. Yet, I didn't get around to trying this place until a few months later when my classmates and I were looking for a quick dinner. I had an enormous bowl of pho that night, followed up by a Vietnamese-style wonton and assorted seafood egg noodle soup two days later with my parents. A mere six days later, I returned yet again, this time at the weekend-early time of 10:00 AM, a little while after sleepily climbing out of my pjs.

Pho Thanh Long offers a morning special between 8:30 and 10:30. For $5.50, you get any regular-sized noodle soup (which happens to be more generous than most places' "large" bowls), along with Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk or soda. For any food bargain-hunter, this is as good as it gets. Quality, check; quantity, check; price, check!

On the left is the caffeine overdose that is strong Vietnamese coffee mellowed out with thick, sweet condensed milk and either 1) hot water or 2) a tall glass full of ice cubes. Whether it's from the sugar or full-bodied coffee, you'll be wide-awake after drinking this. I love it's versatility, offering comfort in the winter and refreshment in the summer. The right-hand picture is one of countless coconut-milk drink permutations. I've developed a soft spot for any of these sweet icy drinks that take the overly-heavy richness of coconut milk and thin it out with a sugar-water syrup so that it becomes a delightfully light, cool treat that goes down as easily as juice. Juice would pale in comparison to this multi-hued treat, however. This drink, sold as a 'combination drink', 'jelly drink', or some other similarly-ambiguous name, is as much fun for your tongue as it is for your eyes. Ranging in color from pale green, goldenrod yellow, rose pink, and vibrant oranges, it can be any combination of textures including fresh or canned fruits, crispy strips of gelatin, soft mung bean, hair-thin crunchy seaweed, clear tapioca pearls, corn kernels, and jewel-like jicama (a sweet member of the tuber family, not unlike a mild water chestnut) dyed red, resembling pomegranate seeds.

And the main course! This is almost exactly like their 'wonton noodle soup' that I ordered last time, sans three beef-stuffed wontons, which I didn't miss at all in the crowd of food bobbing gently in front of me. I'm a fan of both egg and rice noodles (which they cook well here, not being overcooked and soft, like some places), so I asked if I could get the soup with half egg noodles and half rice noodles. They were agreeable to that, and I think that I actually ended up with more than a single serving between the two! I happily lost myself in the circus of flavors created by two large shrimp, a cluster of beef meatballs (they are quite firm and dense, nothing like Italian meatballs, for the uninitiated), curls of squid, tender chicken chunks, steamed pork slices, and artificial crab. My own personalized fragrant potpourri stemmed from a scattering of cilantro, green onions, roasted shallots, and my additions of bean sprouts, Thai basil, and a splash of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. It was perfection, from the smooth seafood and chicken broth, firm, flavor-soaked noodles, and toothy bits of meat that I happily dipped into a hoisin-chili sauce that I mixed in a small saucer.

I've never had pho for breakfast before, but after this contentment-inducing experience, I could see it easily becoming a tradition. Plus, if you consider the typical (small) asian serving size, there's plenty offered here that you could eat an invigorating breakfast and save half for a mid-afternoon snack. You want to eat just enough to leave feeling energized, not stuffed into food-coma lethary. Just make sure you don't save the rice noodles for leftovers, otherwise they'll greedily soak up all the broth, leaving you will an overly-swollen mass of noodles!

Pho Thanh Long
2450 El Camino Real

Santa Clara, CA

Monday, January 10, 2005

LA, CA - Lawry's The Prime Rib

Some restaurants have been around for so long, their names are synonymous with 'tradition'. Lawry's The Prime Rib is one of those: a major cornerstone in the restaurant industry, with a long-lined heritage that's a rarity amongst the short-lived affairs of other restaurant's lifespans.

Old-world grandeur is inspired by the formal, royal-like atmosphere, staff uniforms of white chef coats complete with tall hats and brown dresses with lacy white aprons, plush decoration and upholstry, and dim lighting. However, it doesn't have a romantic atmosphere. Rather, it's intimidating trying to compete against numerous conversations intertwining and echoing through the large, high-ceiling rooms. Dominating the scene are huge domed stainless steel carts wheeled about by rotund carving staff members, making me wonder how frequently they partake of the contents of their carving stations and cream-heavy side dishes.

Meat, anyone? I've never seen 18" high slabs of cooked beef before. I was a bit shocked and awed by the carnivorous sights all around me at Lawry's; I couldn't quite get used to it. I've never been a heavy meat eater, and my travels to Asian countries calibrated my senses to conservative portions of meat. Therefore, the in-your-face wall of meat here left me wide-eyed, speechless, and a bit overwhelmed. We had just started our meal when paramedics rushed in and carted off an unmoving, middle-aged, heavy male on a stretcher. Then I felt a twinge of nausea about what I was going to eat. Heart attack on a plate...?

The menu couldn't be more straightforward: there are five cuts of meat to choose from, ranging from $26 to $40. The California cut is the smallest, the English cut is three thinly-cut slices, the Lawry cut is the traditional cut, the Diamond Jim Brady cut is thicker and includes the rib bone, and the Beef Bowl cut is a double-sized cut with the rib bone. The prime rib dinner includes salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, yorkshire pudding, and whipped cream horseradish.

Pictured above is the salad, your typical romain and iceberg lettuce presentation with baby spinach leaves, julienned beet, chopped eggs, and deep-fried, oil-saturated croutons, all tossed with Lawry's 'Vintage Dressing'. The salad was good, if a little heavy on the dressing for my tastes, but the real guilty pleasure was indulging in the buttery croutons. I could see popping these little guys like tater tots.

The proportions of this picture is deceiving on the small side; you're looking at a massive 2-3 inch thick slab o' meat above. As a child, I used to share meals with my mother, sometimes for a $2-5 dish splitting fee at the more expensive French or seafood restaurants. After encountering the meat and the dauntingly long list of courses on the menu, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to do justice to the meat, so I asked a suited personnel member if dinner entrees could be shared.

I was tickled pink when he said replied affirmatively that they could, and that there was no sharing/splitting fee! I reported back to my eating companions, and each pair of us decided to order a Diamond Cut. Two pairs also decided to order a duo of lobster tails, each. Sharing turned out to be quite convenient. Each person got their own plate with a massive pile of mashed potatos and a lake of au jus, so splitting a dish is like getting a free side of mashed potatos, salad, and Yorkshire pudding. The meal was massive; we still had a significant amount of leftovers to bring home.

The fluffy lobster tails looked elegant, puffed out of their shells like popcorn. They were served simply, with the traditional side of drawn butter. The texture was a bit disappointing, however, dissolving into mushiness in my mouth instead of having a tender springiness and meaty crunch against my teeth. Lawry's, as you can guess, is not known for its seafood.

This was my first time eating Yorkshire pudding. My parents, having eaten here when they were in their 20's, had previously told me of their disappointment to find out that Yorkshire pudding was not a sweet custard, but rather, a hollow eggy bread of sorts. So I knew what to expect, both from them and from reading my cookbooks. It looks impressive, much like a Dutch baby pancake, whose dough expands dramatically up the sides of the pan when baked in the oven. The flavor is like an intensely eggy popover or overcooked choux pastry. I was a bit disenchanted with the dark brown bottom and undersides, and couldn't find a suitable accompaniment to the bread. After sopping up some of the delicious au jus with it, and scooping mashed potato onto it, I gave up and went back to focusing on the other dishes.

Creamed spinach has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I was a young baby. I couldn't be happier with chopped spinach mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Here, then, is the grown-up sophisticated version of my childhood love. The spinach is mixed with a generous amount of heavy cream, mushrooms, bacon, and onions. Somehow though, it wasn't quite what I expected it to be. I think I would have added garlic salt, or maybe I should have enhanced it with the bottle of Lawry's Seasoning Salt that was perched on each table.

Pure bliss! We struck gold with these warm-hued and sweetly rich kernels. It's a simple combination of corn, butter, whipped cream, and sugar. And I could have been happy with an entire meal of just this. The juicy bits of corn popped in my mouth in little explosions of flavor, and it was sweet enough (almost too sweet, but it still worked) to be eaten as a dessert. I found the recipe online and posted it below.

Creamed Corn Recipe

1½ tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups fresh, frozen or canned whole kernel corn

Melt butter in heavy saucepan; add flour and salt, stirring to blend. Slowly add whipping cream, stirring constantly until thickened. Add sugar and corn, heat. For Au Gratin, place corn in a 9 or 10 inch shallow casserole dish; sprinkle with ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and brown under broiler.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

LA, CA - Palm Thai

Los Angeles is the only US city I've been to that has a Thaitown. Located on Hollywood and Hobart, this cluster of restaurants and grocery stores is more of a sneeze of a strip mall than a 'town', but the ambience, authenticity, and flavors are all there. And that's all I could really ask for.

One of the anchoring restaurants is
Palms Thai Restaurant. The long, parallel rows of tables stretching across the rectangular room reminds me of a cafeteria, but it's the most sensible layout to accomodate the maximum number of customers. And they get the customers. At one end of the room is a small stage, where a Thai Elvis impersonator performs some evenings. I have yet to see it, but if it's as entertaining and impressive as the transvestite shows in Thailand, I think it would be worth seeing.

The restaurant is more about food than ambience, but once your food is in front of you, nothing else really matters anyway. The wait staff wears ear bud/microphone headgear that makes them look like they're perpetually talking on unseen cell phones, but I presume that it's an efficient means of notifying them of orders/customer serving status.

Larp (pronouced 'lah(p)') in its authentic form is an extra-spirited (spicy) dish of ground meat (most commonly chicken, but pork or beef can also be used) seasoned with fish sauce, lime sauce, cilantro, green scallions, red onions, roasted rice powder, and a dash of sugar. Its fiery personality is toned down with accompanying raw cabbage wedges (and other vegetables) and generous amounts of rice. Palm Thai's rendition was nicely spicy, with balanced salty and zesty flavors, and crisped granules of rice (lightly crushed grains, rather than a pulverized powder) surprised me with its satisfyingly crunchy texture. It was the best rendition of the dish that I've found in the US.

I happen to love duck, so I couldn't resist the boneless duck with red curry. The dish was a deep bowl filled with duck shreds (skin included), pineapple cubes, tomato wedges, basil leaves, and of course, plenty of rich, mildly sweet coconut-milk curry. Compared to other places, their serving size is quite generous.

Lastly, one of our dining companions expressed a desire for pineapple fried rice, which was an excellent choice. The moist, tumeric yellow rice was saturated with a clean, simple flavor, and beautifully enhanced with tender chunks of chicken, roasted cashews, pineapple cubes, and plump raisins.

Hopefully after you've eaten your way through the menu, you still have room in your second stomach for desserts, because you absolutely have to wander into the next-door jewel of a Thai bakery,

This must-visit spot is stocked with a seasonally-rotated spread of diverse desserts that I'd previously only found in Thailand. Most desserts feature rice and coconut in some form, and have both sweet and salty tones; an acquired taste that can quickly metamorphose into an obsessed craving.

Crispy fried egg thread-covered balls that look like they're glazed with honey/palm sugar

Dessert heaven! Festive pastel-colored steamed cakes and coconut-covered rice flour balls

These come in both a handheld size, and cheesecube miniature size. They feature all flavors and textures: feather-light crispy cookie, sweet marshmallow-like paste, and crunchy/chewy salty-sweet coconut shreds with lemongrass(?) and other seasonings.

Yum. I'm hungry.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

LA, CA - Mein Nghia

I've been eating here for decades. Well, two decades or so, anyway.
Mein Nghia is an unassuming hole in the wall Vietnamese-Chinese noodle shop in the old Chinatown of Los Angeles; the Chinatown that's since been replaced by entire Chinese communities such as San Gabriel, San Marino, Diamond Bar, etc.

Admittedly I haven't tried every single thing on the menu, but I've tried enough to know what is good. Recommended: any of the seafood noodle soups, the satay beef dishes, the beef stew dishes and the chicken/fish noodle soups. I used to come here once a week and rotate through my favorites but now that I come only several times a year, I always get the same thing: No. 1. No, it's not the superbowl sized pho here, it's the seafood rice noodle soup. To say it's tasty is an understatement. I've never had noodles this good anywhere else in the world, and I've had noodles in nearly 30 countries now.

No. 1 comes with fish cake, fresh shrimp, fish balls, pork bits, fried shallots, bean sprouts (available on the side) pork kidney (optional for an additional charge). The noodles are always perfectly cooked. Not too hard, not too soft, and seasoned just right. The food comes out in mere minutes at the perfect temperature. You can dig straight in without scalding your tongue, yet its comforting warmth soothes your stomach after the flavors and textures have captured the full attention of your tastebuds.

The service is standard Chinatown hole-in-the-wall service. They slam the tea down, and get impatient if you take too long to order.

She ordered something against my advice, the black bean rib noodle soup, And well, it wasn't very good. She immediately noticed a distinct lack of meat, and the meat that was crouched in one corner of the bowl didn't look very black bean-ish. The cut-up ribs were on the dry side and had very little flavor; a meager showing of black bean bits left the pork woefully naked and fairly disappointing in taste.

Wanting to try both the egg and rice noodles, she opted for a combination of both, and for the soup to be served on the side. Again, another ordering mistake, but luckily the noodles were soon redeemed by submerging the bowl of noodles with the soup. The broth was a light, almost sweet seafood base with a delightful splash of roasted shallots and oil that provided a delicious coating for both the rice and egg noodles. Usually, noodles and broth were too much food for her to finish, but the addictive flavor of both kept her going until the entire bowl was empty. She also got to try nibbles of his seafood, and immediately wished that she had his dish. The shrimp was plump and crispy, and the unadulterated seafood broth a suiting complement to the other ingredients.

Both he and she agree: Mein Nghia knows their noodles.

LA, CA - Tung Lai Shun

An Islamic Restaurant featuring Chinese cuisine, Tung Lai Shun has always commanded long lines, even when it first opened several years ago. It is located in an award winning shopping complex designed by the talented Simon Lee, who still maintains an office there. However, some things stay the same and some things change. The lines are still long, but something about the food is different. We had the following (and Lamb with Pickled Cabbage Soup, which is not pictured):

Spicy Ox Tendon Slices

Lamb with Green Onions

Small Pea Sprout with Garlic Sauce

Chinese Squash with Bamboo Fungus

And of course, their must-have Sesame Bread with Green Onion.

Sure, the food was tasty; we devoured it. But 'tasty' and 'magnificent' are worlds apart and all the dishes (save the lamb) just didn't conjure up the taste we remembered the restaurant having in years past. Perhaps they changed chefs, or maybe we just went on the wrong night.

As usual, the service was questionable. They have a tendency to forget to bring out your complete order, and when you ask the about missing dishes, the wait staff would invariably say that the dish was on its way out. So you wait. And then when you finally got your final dish, the check would be plopped in front of you minutes later and they'd try to unsubtly usher you out. Slow on the food, fast on the check; not the best combination. In the past, the food was worth the service quirks, but this time, I don't know if/when we'll be back again.