Tag Archives: gnocchi

Working My Way Through the Albert Hall Tavern Menu- UPDATED 7/4/11

4 Jul

UPDATE:  Chef Bill is no longer steering the stove at Albert Hall Tavern.  It was a big loss!

 

Having a restaurant I like that has good beer and good people around the corner is a JOY.  And I’m not going to lie… FourSquare tells me I have been there 8 times.  That’s pretty impressive for only having been open for a month now! (UPDATE: I am now far past the 20 visits mark, and it has been open since January 2011.  UPDATE TWO: 36 visits as of 7/4/11)

They now have a full menu (slightly different from what is posted on MenuPages, but close) and I have had the luxury of trying many things on it.  So here is a run-down of my hits and misses:

Spinach Artichoke Dip: I really like this dip.  It has great flavor without being too greasy or heavy.   I kind of enjoyed the little sprinkle of crunch that the homemade potato chips added to this the first time we had it (it has since come without).  Had I not tried it that way originally, I probably wouldn’t think anything were missing.

Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (would be 7.5 with the chips)

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Roasted Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: The cauliflower soup alone would be delicious, but the stilton cheese brings it to a whole new level.

Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New England Clam Chowder: It looks so unassuming…

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But look at that clam!  This was delicious and there was no skimping on the good stuff.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Bibb Lettuce: This comes with braised artichokes, duck prosciutto and lemon vinaigrette with duck cracklings.

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Those cracklings are worth every bite and every penny.   I do wish it had some sort of soft cheese to compliment all that duck.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 ouf of 10

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Pork Belly Tonnato: I LOVE pork belly.  I do wish, however, that our waitress had forewarned us that this was cold.  It turns out that I DO NOT like cold pork belly.  I couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating cold pork.  I wanted this to be melty fat and crispy skin, but it fell flat for me.  Not a fan.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

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As for the entrees…

Macaroni and Cheese: Plain ol’ mac and cheese with lots of cheesy goodness… like your momma makes it.   If you like it classic (which I do) and packed with cheese flavor (which I also do), this is WORTH IT.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Gnocchi: This comes with raisins, fennel, and crisp lamb sweetbreads in a smoked leek fondue.  Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say I’m a fan, but once in a while they are delicious.  In this dish they worked, but I’m not sure if this is what I’d be running back for.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Skillet Burger:  I liked this burger.  It came with a Jack Daniels (I think) dipping sauce which was awesome on the fries (which I’m pretty sure are made with duck fat and truffel).  I would have preferred if the bun was a little more delicious, but the meat had nice char and was cooked well.  I always find it hard to judge a burger, but this was above average.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (for the burger) and 8.5 out of 10 (for the fries)

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Fish and Chips: I would say that serving fish and chips on brown paper is dangerous because it shows grease, however, this fish was lightly fried and not at all greasy.  I wish the fries were a bit crisper, but I thought this was pretty enjoyable.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Branzino: This came with lemon and garlic sauce.  It didn’t mention that it was a whole fish on the menu.  It was tasty, though the sauce was a bit strong for my tastes.  I LOVE Branzino and this was simple and delicious and let those great flavors show.

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But it did come with a head (much to the dismay of my eating companion that evening).

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And then the big problem…. WAY too many bones.  Every single bite left me carefully chewing and reaching into my mouth to take bones out.  I don’t mind a little work, but this was WAY too excessive and left me enjoying my fish a lot less than I should have. (UPDATE: Chef Bill tells me he now serves this with many less bones.  Will have to try the new version soon.)

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (this probably would have been a 7 or 7.5 if not for the bone problem)

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Citrus and Thyme Roasted Half Chicken:  This was VERY citrusy, and the blood orange was a lovely touch.  It was quite moist but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding.  I wish the skin were crispier, but the sauce was interesting and delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Shank Special:  Why this isn’t on the regular menu… I do not know.  HANDS DOWN the best entree we had here (though the steak the first time around was REALLY good).  It was so tender, great sauce, hearty portion, and the mashed potatoes were FANTASTIC.   This should be a menu staple.  It’s just too good to risk not being there.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Now onto dessert!

Hard Cider and Fig Baked Custard: This was yummy but very mild in flavor.  I don’t know if I’d go back to this, but I’m glad I tried it.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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Black Walnut Brownie: Classic style brownie.  Crispy on the outside, dense on the inside.  Tasty, especially with strawberries.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Cherry Pie: This was everyone’s favorite dessert.  The crust was well flaked, inside well balanced between sweet and tart, and I would go back for more of this in a heartbeat!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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I had previous blogged about the tuna tartare, mussels, duck & fig rillette, the ribeye steak, and the roasted veggies.  Here is a quick recap so it’s all in one place.

Tuna Tartare:  Delicious but WAY too peppery (and a little heavy on the capers).  Distracted from the delicate flavors of the tuna and quail egg.  A narrow miss of what would have been a great dish. Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Steamed Mussels: AMAZING.  This is the #1 dish to order when you are there.  The black garlic and charred rosemary in the sauce means that if anyone tries to take that bowl away before you get a chance to soak it all up with crusty bread, cut off their hand.  Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Duck & Fig Rillette: I appreciated how good this was, but I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of favorites.  The fig and duck were perfect compliments, but the more I eat it, the more I realized I’m just not a rillette/pate kinda gal.  Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Ribeye Steak: The steak itself had great char and was delicious, however, what really made this dish stand out was the 3 sauces you could dip into.  The au poivre sauce was especially delicious. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Barrel Roasted Winter Vegetables: I’m not sure what magic barrel they used, but it brought out all the great flavors of these veggies. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I have also tried the bone marrow, which is really delicious served with beets and deviled beef.  Highly recommended.  Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

So what would my perfect meal be at Albert Hall Tavern from the items I have tried?  Mussels, Cauliflower Soup, Bibb Salad, and the Lamb Shank.

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UPDATE:

I have since tried many more dishes on the menu.  Here are some highlights:

Suckling Pig: This was cooked to perfection.  Crispy skin, fantastic mashed potatoes, and those vegetables were something special!  Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Shepherd’s Pie: This was packed with flavor and the mashed potatoes on the top were very well crisped and flavored.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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The inside was a treat that was certainly based in tradition but with bumped up flavor.  Delicious! And very filling.

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Scallops:  These came with braised endive celery root puree and tomato citrus vinaigrette.  I LOVED the puree and was very glad to have a semi-healthy side where most people would normally have served buttery potatoes.  The scallops were juicy, flavorful, and seared very well.  I’ve had this dish 2 times since.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Bangers and Mash: This is a very new item on the menu and we actually had the first plate served.  (Go us!)  It was sensational.  The caramelized shallots on top and the sauce were fantastic.  And the bangers (English Sausage) were so filled with flavor and so fresh that we couldn’t stop talking about them.  The potatoes were great (and I don’t even like mashed potatoes!)  I would add this to the ideal menu here.  One of my faves!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Potato and Leek Tart: This wound up being much BIGGER than we anticipated.  The flavors were great and the greens on top made it taste fresh.  A very nice vegetarian option.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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And Chef Bill informed me that he had been making tweaks to the dessert menu.  His tweaks have all put dessert in the right direction.  Everything I have tasted recently has been a huge improvement over the desserts prior (which were fine, but average).  In fact, we enjoyed the new tiramisu so much, that this is all that was left of it… 

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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(Hopefully I’ll have a new picture to replace that with soon)

Upon discussing desserts, Chef Bill very kindly brought out a brand new dessert for us to try, on the house, that wasn’t on the menu. Passion Fruit Custard.  This was sensational.  The custard itself was great, but both my dinner guest and I RAVED about how the whipped cream was perfect.   Yum!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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7/4/11 UPDATE:
Brunch- French Toast with Lemon Marscapone: This was very well cooked and the fresh fruit on the side was a great touch.  I like when my french toast has a bit of crips on the outside and then a fully saturated, but not soggy, inside.  This was exactly that.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Brunch- Full English Breakfast:  This was a FULL plate with fried eggs, bacon, blood sausage, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and toast.  The grilled tomato was shockingly good, and it’s hard to beat blood sausage.  This is a hearty, good meal.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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“David’s” Chicken Liver Mousse: This came with cornichons and country bread and whole grain mustard.  I’m sure this scared a lot of people off, but live mousse topped with salty fat, spread on crunchy bread… yeah, in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.  And it doesn’t get much better than this version.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Golden Watermelon: This was a pickled, yellow watermelon with goat cheese and bin the summer.  asil oil.  This was so light and refreshing.  Very nice if you want a small bite for summer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Roast:  This came with a mint basil sauce over asparagus.  It was bursting with flavor and the sauce on top was a perfect compliment for the lamb.  I can’t say it’s what I expected from a “roast” but it was delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Scallop Crudo: New to the menu for summer, the scallop crudo with meyer lemon and herbs is refreshing, delicious, and as fresh as can be.  Yum.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Hamachi Crudo: One day they were out of scallop crudo, but they had hamachi crudo.  This was even more summary, topped with beautiful, edible flowers and the perfect amount of citrus.  Double Yum!

Total Nom Points: 7 .5 out of 10

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Soft Shell Crab: These very lightly fried softshell crabs are on top of jicama and carrot salad (shredded and mixed with a mild sauce of mustard, ketchup, and vinegar… which tasted MUCH better than it sounded) and wrapped in fresh cucumber.  This mixed so well together, with the bite of the salad (and slight spice) nicely complimenting the rich textures of the soft shell crab and then slightly cooled and refreshed by the cucumber.  Fantastic.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Oysters:  I would be remiss if I never mentioned the oysters.  We get these often and they are always fresh with great flavor.  One of my alltime favorite summer bites.

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Roasted Peaches: A new dessert on the menu. these peaches are perfectly roasted with an amarreto sauce and marscapone.  Delicately sweet and the roasting perfectly pulled out the flavor in the peaches.  We really enjoyed this.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Casa Nonna

29 Jun

I had no idea what to expect when the retail space on the ground floor of my building finally got a tenant.  They advertised that “Casa Nonna” and “GoBurger” were coming.  Imagine my surprise when I did some Googling and realized that Casa Nonna was part of the BLT Restaurant Group.

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I have been a fan of the BLTs for some time, and especially love the popovers at BLT Steak.  There has been a lot of press recently about Laurent Tourondel leaving the BLT chain amidst much drama, so it’s getting quite confusing about who is affiliated with what. But nonetheless, Casa Nonna was opening in my building. Score! There is one already in DC, and I hear it compared mostly to Carmine’s.

I was surprised at how big this place is. I couldn’t even get the sprawling rooms in one photo.

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The actual bar area is smaller than I anticipated (midtown usually fills bars long before it fills eateries).

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There is a private room with a large TV.

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Some awesome pasta jars.

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A cheese case (where a waiter cleverly stood behind me and said “CHEESE!” just as I snapped this shot)

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And some very cool tables.

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But what about the food?

The first time we went, we started with garlic bread.  This was INSANELY good.  (Strangely, this wasn’t served when we came back for dinner… so not sure what went on there)

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We tried a few apps, including these beautiful meatballs (which had chili in the sauce, dammit)

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Saffron Parmesan Risotto Balls (creamy inside, crispy outside, delicious tomato sauce)

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And Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Truffled Saba, which was awesome.  I loved the truffle sauce and the ricotta spread so nicely.

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For entrees, one order was Tuna and Tuscan Tomato-Bread Salad, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  When this came out, the person that ordered this immediately said “I made the right choice!”  I look forward to trying this because it looked great.

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Since it was lunchtime the first time we went, there were some paninis and piadinis on the table.

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The branzino came out and both looked and smelled sensational.  It was head-on but deboned.  Nice.

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One person we were with ordered the tortellini, which was described as Little Hats of Ricotta, Tomato Basil Sauce, Parmesan. In the words of the orderer, “they had me at little hats.”

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There was also a pollo paillard salad, which was Grilled Herb Chicken Paillard, Arugula Salad, with Lemon Dressing.

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My first order was the squash blossom pizza.  I had tasted squash blossoms for the first time at Mozza, Mario Batali’s fantastic restaurant in LA.  The pesto on it was good and I really like the fried egg (though I wished there were a bit more.  The crust was crispy without being a cracker, but I can’t say the flavor was popping.

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These blossoms were tasty, but I’m not sure how much they added to the pizza.  I wanted more out of this, though it was very good.

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As for dinner entrees, we tried the Chicken parm, which was good and cheesy and with brocoli rabe.  It was a large serving and was juicy inside. The rabe was a bit spicy, and there was a bit of disappointment that it wasn’t served with a side of pasta.

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For dinner, I chose to have the gnocchi, which came with Lobster, Chanterelles, Pancetta, and Garlic Greens. It was very tasty. The gnocchi had the right amount of give and flavor, while the lobster, chanterelles, and pancetta really added a great series of flavors to the meal.

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For dessert, we had a trio of sorbetti (their flavor selections are Orange Hibiscus ~ Grapefruit ~ Watermelon ~ Red Grape ~ Cantalope ~ Lime Fresh Mint).  I really liked the red grape.

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And a trio of gelatti (flavors: Amaretto Crunch ~ Pistachio ~ Sweet Cream ~ Olive Oil ~ White Chocolate ~ Chocolate Hazelnut ~ Blackberry ~ Vanilla).  The olive oil was good, but nowhere near Otto good (you need the salt!) and the pistachio was missing some flavor. It was hard to tell the difference between the Amaretto Crunch and the Pistachio, for instance.

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I went with the panna cotta, which came with plums and a darling spiral of sugar.  It was tasty and the right texture, but the panna cotta was a wee bit bland.  I’d say the desserts overall were a bit disappointing.

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It was a nice touch that they served a nice ending of chocolate covered meringues.  They were pretty good.

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Overall, I think my opinion of Casa Nonna is swayed simply because I was expecting a BLT experience.  Compared to the BLTs, it isn’t nearly as refined nor filled with flavor, but it was good.  Bordering on very good.  It does share some resemblance to Carmine’s (though you can’t count on the portions to be gargantuan in the same way) with that big restaurant, Italian feel.

One thing I do need to say, however, is that the service was impeccable.  I think this had a lot to do with the fact that there were WAY too many waiters on staff for the nearly empty large space, so they had the time to quickly replace every fork and clear every dish.  But it was nice to see such friendly wait staff.

I look forward to seeing how this place develops.  It has definite potential, but I’m not sure if it has reached it yet.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Florida Noms: Chardonnay (Palm Beach Gardens)

6 Jun

 

 

Our Florida trip was going to end with taking in a pre-season Mets game in Port Saint Lucie.  As we drove up in torrential down-pouring rain, I had a feeling the game wasn’t going to happen.  Sure enough, just as we were passing the Palm Beach area, the game was cancelled.  Since we were flying out of the West Palm Beach area airport, we decided to kill some time at the movies and the mall.  What else are you supposed to do in a Florida beach town in the pouring rain?  After a lovely indoor day, we had about 3 hours before our flight and found ourselves in search of a nice place to have dinner.  A few cross-checks via Yelp and OpenTable sent us to Cafe Chardonnay in Palm Beach Gardens.

Here is a peak at the menu:

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This place was having a bit of an identiy crisis.  It was called a cafe, had a cheesy graphic logo that looked like it was made in MS Paint, was decorated sort of high end French and sort of street cafe, and had an elegant sounding menu.

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We started with Warm Almond Crusted Goat Cheese to share.  It came with figs and a raisin bread.

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And it was fantastic.  The goat cheese was perfect, the figs were a great sweet compliment, and I liked that they crisped up the raisin bread so everything spread well on it.

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Mike had a wedge salad.  The blue cheese was chunky and very good.

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Then he had the Prawn “Scampi” over fresh linguine.

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We both agreed that it was just okay.

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I made a combination of specials (to avoid peppers) with the Sea Bass over the side dishes that were originally to come with the crab crusted flounder.

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Braised artichokes, mushrooms, gnocchi…  all the makings of a great dish.  But it just wasn’t.  It was okay, but also lacking.  (Is there a lack of flavor problem in Florida?)

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I was kind of surprised that the entrees were just bland, but dessert looked promising.

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We chose the pecan pie.

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AND the cheesecake (hush… it was “vacation”)

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Both were totally “ehh.”

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I think the best description for this place was “ehh.”  Everything was just “ehh.”  Which basically described most of our “high-end” Florida dining experiences on this trip… “EHHH”

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10