Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ted's Montana Grill (30 of 50)

Cuisine: American/burgers (eco-emphasis)
Price: Average
Score: 30
Would I eat there again? Not likely

As a general rule, I do not review restaurants that fall into the corporate/chain category. Not that you can't get a good meal at a chain (in fact many chains have innovative customer service initiatives, and often offer a very consistent dining experience), but my goal is to introduce diners to local, independent gems that might not be getting the attention they deserve. Most chains make sure they get plenty of advertising exposure already.

Ted's Montana Grill caught my attention due to the eco-friendly stance they are taking. It is nice to see that the market signals that localvores and organic producers have been sending for years now are starting to reach corporate america. I wanted to check out how Ted's (named after Ted Turner) lived up to its claims of eco-friendliness and most importantly, if the food was any good.

First the food: Not very good. Service was polite and waters were attended to, and the atmosphere is clean and comfortable, but the food was mediocre at best. They offer bison as an alternative to beef for most of their meat cuts, which was refreshing, but the taste was lacking. The Montana burger (ham, grilled onions, and cheddar) was cooked as requested, but the toppings were soggy, salty, and oily. The signature salad was far and away the low point of the meal. Yes there was some avocado, corn, tomato and a couple other potentially interesting items scattered in the salad, but the base was iceberg lettuce. Any restaurant that bases their signature salad on iceberg is sending a message, and it's normally not a good one. The salad came with pulled chicken, which also sounded promising. Imagine a slim jim shredded and coasted in a corn syrup based BBQ sauce, and you have a pretty good idea of the pulled chicken.

Ted's green efforts are more impressive, but still could stand for improvement.
The good:
-Offering bison as a meat alternative (offering a vegetarian/vegan alternative as well would be even cooler)
-Using straws made from paper
-recycled paper menus
-installing solar panels at one location
-recyclable/biodegradable to-go products for drinks and left-overs

the lame:
-serving drinks in reusable/recyclable glass containers (i.e. glasses)
-non-smoking restaurants (would have been a big deal 10 years ago, maybe)
-an excess of lights (and incandescent no less)

Ted's Montana Grill is trying to ride the eco-wave that is sweeping the country, and gets points for making an effort. Unfortunately they forgot about the quality of food along the way. Extremely mediocre food drags down what is on the surface a good idea, resulting in a completely unmemorable dining experience.

Ted's Montana Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Angkor (32 of 50)

Restaurant: Angkor
Cuisine: Cambodian
Price: Average
Score: 32
Would I eat there again? Occasionally

Angkor, just like Apsara Palace, has a neat backstory. A relative of the proprietor escapes from the homeland, brings recipes and memories with them, and introduces their family and national recipes to their new home. While the tale seems a little worn, it is compelling and provides a nice setting for the meal. The meal we had was good, with potential for greatness, but the execution was a little off the night we dined at Angkor.

We started off with the scallion pancakes. Angkor serves them deep fried, which was fine, if a somewhat heavy start to the meal and rather overpowering to the delicate flavor of the scallions. FYI- Angkor is BYOB, so plan ahead!

For our entrees we tried the Pad Thai (I tend to use Pad Thai as a bell-weather item as almost all southeast asian restaurants offer a version of it) and the combination Bee Boong. Both were a bit on the oily side, and the meat was rather dry, probably from overcooking. Angkor's version of Pad Thai is not particularly spicy and has an almost smoky full-bodied flavor (hoisin sauce?). Enjoyable if very average. The Bee Boong was fine- not particularly memorable, and not at all offensive. Service was polite and prompt, waters were attended, and the decor is ok.

My main critique of the evening was the chairs. They are extremely heavy and the seat cushions are so slippery you tend to find your chin slowly sliding down to table level by the end of the meal. A higher coefficient of friction is definitely requested.

Conclusion: Angkor is an intimate family run eatery in the middle of Wickenden street. The potential for great food is certainly there, but was a little lacking on the night of our visit. Hopefully others will have better luck.

Angkor on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 5, 2009

3 Steeple Street (41 of 50)

Restaurant: 3 Steeple Street
Cuisine: American Bistro
Price: Average
Score: 41
Would I eat there again? Yes

First of all, the restaurant 3 Street Street is actually located at 125 Canal Street (although to be fair, it is located on the corner of Steeple and Canal, the entrance just happens to be on the Canal St. side). The building happens to be the second oldest industrial building in the US still standing, and they have done a good job of highlighting the heritage. Old bricks and supports show through in many places, and entire space has a sense of age that you don't find often in Providence.

A brief census of reviews reveals that most diners have a love/hate relationship with 3 Steeple Street. Given the proximity to Waterfire and it's great location it is quite possible than some of the disgruntled reviews are due to evenings when it just became way overcrowded and the kitchen became overwhelmed. The dinner and service we had was excellent- not the best, but very enjoyable and well worth visiting.

We started off our evening with the IPA on tap (Long Hammer IPA), very citrusy with a nice floral touch, if a bit light on the hops for an IPA. Their house empanadas were excellent- crimini mushrooms, cheese, and a very impressive tomatillo salsa. Service was polite and professional, making themselves available when needed and not hovering.

For our entrees we shared the caesar salad and catfish. While I love restaurants that focus on local ingredients and give credit to the farm/source of their food, sometimes it goes a bit overboard (think "meadowlark farm spring baby spinach with fresh roasted georgia pecans, vermont marinated goat feta, and house oven cured heirloom tomatoes"). At 3 Steeple Street we were able to order "Catfish". And it was delicious. The caesar salad had hot croutons and was well dressed- not quite at Al Forno standards, but pretty darn good. The catfish had an amazing pecan and corn meal crust that was incredibly delicate and moist. The hot pepper aioli and sweet potato mash gave it an upscale fish and chips feel. Probably one of the best catfish dishes I have ever had, and it was just called Catfish.

3 Steeple Street offers a great selection of dishes at reasonable prices. Good service and food that was solidly prepared combined to make one of our best dinners yet. Well Done.

3 Steeple Street on Urbanspoon