Resident Foodies: Review of Simply It–Vietnamese restaurant

Clay pot chicken

Vietnamese steamed pork ravioli

Resident Foodies say:
We made it out to Simply It, a neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant near DePaul. It’s a cute little place on Lincoln Ave.

We tried the Clay Pot chicken (simmered with ginger and caramelized sauce in clay pot) as well as the Vietnamese steamed pork ravioli, a specialty of Northern Vietnam. Both were tasty dishes. The ravioli is reminiscent of the dim sum rice noodle rolls, given the use of the same style noodle. The flavor of the Vietnamese dish is more mild, but it has a nice combination of textures and flavors. The claypot chicken was tasty, but lacked the caramel sweetness of Slanted Door’s famous claypot chicken in San Francisco. The red peppers provided a nice contrast, but our dish could have use a few more peppers. For a neighborhood restaurant, though, Simply It is a pretty solid option, especially for lunch. Street parking was decent, too.

Is Corey Lee’s Benu better than Thomas Keller’s French Laundry?

Resident Foodies say: It’s the two year anniversary of our first pilgrimage to Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in Yountville, California, currently one of only two 3-Michelin starred restaurants in the Bay Area. To our chagrin, we found the food to be mediocre that weekend and the service even worse–after waiting for 1 hour after being seated to receiving one morsel of food or bread. C’mon, kitchen, it’s not that difficult. Click here for our 2010 review of French Laundry.

Later, someone on the inside advised us that the reason The French Laundry may have been so bad on that July 4th weekend was that Chef Corey Lee had left to start his new restaurant Benu. Lee was the former Chef de Cuisine at French Laundry, and his departure left the kitchen at The French Laundry in transition–read: utter disarray-at the time.

Well, this past weekend we decided to try out Chef Lee’s Benu in San Francisco on the 2 year anniversary of our dismal food weekend at French Laundry. Happily, the experience we had at Benu was fantastic. We all were blown away by the creativity and taste of the 18 plates in the food tasting. There’s no surprise that Food and Wine Magazine named Lee (35 years old) one of the best new chefs of the year.

Each plating was visually beautiful. And the flavors were amazing, with an unbelievable crescendo building up all the way through the dessert. After several wonderful dishes, we did not think Chef Lee could top the last dish, but Lee kept proving us wrong. Each dish in the 18 courses kept amazing us with the creativity and distinctive flavors. Based on a head to head comparison, we believe that the young upstart Benu is already better–in terms of plating, creativity, and taste–than the old vanguard The French Laundry. It will only be a matter of time before Benu claims its third Michelin star, and The French Laundry quite possibly loses one. Benu is on the cutting edge of culinary creativity. Chef Lee deserves all the accolades he is now receiving. Bravo, Benu!

18 Course Tasting at Benu

thousand year old quail egg, potage, ginger

oyster, pork belly, kimchi

potato salad with anchovy

monkfish liver, peach, daikon, brioche

brioche for dish above

wild salmon 2 ways: fillet, cherry, hot mustard, roe, eggplant chip, perilla

salmon second way

eel, feuille de brick, creme fraiche, lime

tofu, basil, xo sauce

mozzarella, basil, xo sauce

hearts of palm, shrimp, yellow chive, lovage

salt and pepper squid

foie gras ciao long bao

chicken velvet, abalone, abalone mushroom, chrysanthemum

sablefish, lobster, black bean, corn

duck, celery, scallion, Shaoxing wine, black truffle bun

beef rib, wood ear mushroom, lettuce, pine nut, fermented pepper

“shark’s fin” soup, dungeness crab, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard

raspberry, tonic, lavender, olive oil

spice cake, blueberry, yogurt, oatmeal ice cream

chocolates

Pazzo! Italian cafe has great Italian fare in Naples, FL

Pollo gusto

Resident Foodies say: We tried out Pazzo! Italian Cafe in Naples, Florida (Facebook page), right in the heart of downtown Naples, Florida. The place has an extensive wine list, and a great selection of authentic Italian dishes. We were impressed.

The prices, which are not listed on the website menu, are fairly expensive, probably deserving of 3 dollar signs ($$$) on Yelp, not the 2 currently listed. But, if you go during happy hour (5 to 6), you can get 2 entrees for the price of $29 and a glass of wine is 50%. That’s a decent deal. We had the grilled chicken (pollo gusto, photo above), spaghetti with meatballs, and chicken parmagiano. All were tasty. The homemade bread was fantastic, too. We had two baskets-full!

Spaghetti with meatballs

Chicken parmigiano

Thomas Keller’s fried chicken at Ad Hoc (Addendum) in Yountville

Thomas Keller’s famous buttermilk fried chicken at Addendum

Resident Foodies say: Thomas Keller is known for his 3 Michelin-star restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se. But his buttermilk fried chicken (click here for the recipe) is just as famous. One of the highlights of our year was making a trip to Addendum in the parking lot of Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville. The buttermilk fried chicken is so tender and juicy, our mouths water just thinking of it. The coating has just the right crisp, which gives way to the tender white meat when you sink your teeth into it. The taste is perfection.

Almond croissant at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco

Resident Foodies say: Tartine Bakery in the Mission (600 Guerrero Street) in San Francisco is touted as one of the best bakeries in the U.S. Lines of people form outside Tartine on a daily basis, just to partake of Tartine’s breads and pastries. Chef Chad Robertson is pushing the standards of baking upwards!

Our favorite so far is the almond croissant. The dark crust is baked to perfection. The almond filling inside is so comforting it should be criminal.