Levain Bakery

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FACTS:  Located on the Upper West Side, NYC

WHAT I ORDERED:

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

MY ANALYSIS:  

For the best cookies in all of New York, if not the entire world (other than my Mom’s), head over to Levain Bakery.  As usual, I ordered the chocolate chip walnut cookie, which is packed full of soft and gooey chocolate chips, along with being baked to perfection.  More specifically, their cookie dough transforms into the most amazing crunchy/chewy combo you will find anywhere.  Furthermore, these enormous sized cookies are baked fresh daily and served warm.

I highly recommend going out of your way for visiting this magnificent bakery.  It’s worth every bite and then some!

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out all of their New York locations:  http://www.levainbakery.com/

Khyber Pass Pub

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FACTS:  Located in Old City, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Nachos:  Fresh Corn Tortilla Chips, Jack Cheese, Green Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream, BBQ Pulled Pork

Fried Green Tomato BLT:  Benton’s Bacon, Mayo, Tabasco Peppers Remoulade

Cheddar Fries and Debris Gravy

MY ANALYSIS:  

Not only does Khyber Pass Pub possess an extremely impressive menu, but the food itself is delicious.

Tonight, we started out with a large plate of nachos, topped with BBQ pulled pork.  Despite my initial skepticism about adding pork to this already savory dish, I ended up thoroughly enjoying each and every bite.  In addition, the cheese-to-pork ratio was evenly distributed and the portion size was beyond generous.

Fried green tomatoes!  Yes, you read that correctly, and the fried green tomato BLT was out of this world.  Allowing for one side dish, we selected the cheddar fries and gravy.  Drenched in equal parts gravy and melted cheese, this version is the best I’ve had anywhere.

In summary, our meal was outstanding, and it exceeded my expectations.  Furthermore, there’s a little something here for everyone since the menu ranges from fried okra (which we’d tried the week before) to various vegan dishes.  Did I say vegan dishes?  Yes, believe it!  Not surprisingly, I highly recommend this place and look forward to visiting again in the near future.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their vast menu:  http://www.khyberpasspub.com/

Sampan

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Edamame Dumpling:  Truffle, Pea Shoot, Sake Broth

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Sesame Udon:  Peanut, Mushroom, Grapefruit

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Korean BBQ Beef Satay:  Short Rib, Kim Chee, Ginger

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Crispy Spicy Shrimp:  Pickled Radish, Yuzu, Chili Aioli

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Soy Glazed Chilean Sea Bass:  Cauliflower Puree, Long Bean Salad

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Shrimp Pad Thai:  Tofu, Egg, Peanut

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Peking Chicken:  Kim Chee, Scallion Bun, Black Bean Hoisin

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Soft Serve Ice Cream:  Bananas Foster and Milk Dud

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FACTS:  Located in Center City, Philadelphia

MY ANALYSIS:  

Upon entering, I was immediately energized by the hip, cool, and modern ambience.  We ordered the seven-course tasting menu (plus dessert), and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite.  However, just as I often do when this many entrees are involved, I will mention the highlights only:

  1. I absolutely loved the Edamame Dumplings and found them to be nothing short of heavenly.  More specifically, it was like biting into a soft little pillow, packed full of green goodness, all the while hoping that this moment would never end.
  2. I am including the Crispy Spicy Shrimp and the Soy Glazed Chilean Sea Bass on the same line since they are both reminiscent of two of my favorite dishes at Nobu as well (see posting).  And yes, they were equally fabulous here!
  3. As for the Peking Chicken, this dish was served with a variety of different sides and sauces to choose from, and the chicken itself was extremely juicy and delicious.  I started out by making a lettuce wrap but then quickly moved on to the scallion buns.  FYI, this is a DIY process worth trying at least once.
  4. The mini ice cream cones were not only super cute, but they were also rich in flavor.  Yum!

Sampan is a fun and tasty place to dine and I highly recommend it.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out the Graffiti Bar located at the back of the restaurant, as well:  http://sampanphilly.com/graffiti-bar/

Estia

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FACTS:  Located in Center City, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Estia Chips:  Zucchini and eggplant fried crisp, served with tzatziki

Arni Paidakia:  Lamb chops marinated for three days in olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs served with potato tiganites and tzatziki

MY ANALYSIS: 

We came here for dinner one evening with friends, and, not surprisingly, this restaurant was terrific.  Exuding an Avra-like ambience and feel (see posting), it provided a thoroughly enjoyable time.

I began with the fried zucchini and eggplant chips, beautifully stacked, perfectly crisp, and served with a delicious tzatziki sauce.  I am, and will forever be, hooked on this savory little appetizer.

For my main course, I ordered the lamb chops.  After three days of being marinated in olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs, these chops were nothing but succulent, flavorful, and tasty.  In addition, I was more than happy to receive more tzatziki sauce with my meal, as well.

I highly recommend this place for any occasion.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their theater menu as well:  http://www.estiarestaurant.com/

Lore’s Chocolates

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FACTS:  Located in Old City, Philadelphia

WHAT I ORDERED:

Dark Vanilla Buttercream

Dark Butter Cream/Chocolate Center

Dark Small Marshmallows

Dark Pecan Jumbles

Dark Mini Molasses Paddle

Dark Honey Almond Nougat

MY ANALYSIS:

I recently came across this lovely little chocolate shop and am now hooked.  In fact, it has some of the best chocolate that I’ve ever tasted.

Lore’s has easily mastered the art of chocolate making and it’s no wonder this store’s longevity has sustained throughout the years in, of all places, Old City.  With a large selection of delicious handmade chocolates and different fillings/combinations to choose from, you cannot go wrong by ordering any of them.  Of course, I went straight for the dark chocolates and theirs are beyond amazing!  And, as far as the variety that I picked out on this occassion, each piece was equally magnificent, leaving no room whatsoever for favoritism.

I highly recommend this place and can assure you that you will not be disappointed with the quality, taste, or service.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their online store as well:  http://www.loreschocolates.com/

Ilili

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FACTS:  Located in the Flat Iron District, NYC

WHAT I ORDERED:

Riz:  Lebanese Rice, Toasted Vermicelli, Mixed Nuts

Lamb Dip Sandwich:  Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb, House Made Bun, Au Jus, Horseradish

Ilili Candy Bar:  Dark Chocolate Ganache, Fig Caramel, Dulce De Leche Ice Cream, Sponge Candy, Salted Pistachio

Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake:  Hibiscus Sauce, Strawberry Rose Sorbet, Candied Rhubarb, Semolina Streusel, Thai Basil Gelee

MY ANALYSIS:

Thanks to my sister, who continuously urged me to try this restaurant.  It was definitely worth the trip.  In fact, I was thoroughly impressed from beginning to end.

For starters, I really loved the open space and high ceilings, along with the modern and chic design.  Just Fabulous!

Ilili offers a two-course prix-fix lunch for only $25.  And, from all of its wonderful options, I ended up selecting the Lebanese rice and the lamb dip sandwich.  Not surprisingly, both were superb.  As for the Riz, the toasted vermicelli and mixed nuts made a brilliant addition to the rice dish itself, adding the most wonderful flavors and texture.  My main course, the lamb dip sandwich, was beyond outstanding.  It was tender, savory, and even somewhat spicy, because of the horseradish sauce.

Compliments of Ilili’s management, we were treated to two of their phenomenal desserts.  As for the “Candy Bar,” the sponge candy portion turned out to be a real treat since it brought me back to my childhood days.  As a matter of fact, my mom’s version is called “Angel Candy,” and it’s truly delightful.   As for the “Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake,” the cheesecake itself was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

I must acknowledge the superior customer service that we received on this day, as well.  It couldn’t have been any better, and for this reason alone, I will be back.

Clearly, I highly recommend this place and look forward to returning.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out the beautifully designed bathrooms as well!