Can you believe it? MUFFULETTA restaurant is 40 years old!
What better occasion, then, to take a look at the sandwich that inspired Parasole’s first property?
Can you believe it? MUFFULETTA restaurant is 40 years old!
London may be my favorite walking city in the world. Every morning Joanne and I start out from our hotel in Mayfair and head off in a new direction.
From my first trip to London in the ‘70s, I fell in love with the city – the hustle and bustle and the vitality really connected with this Minnesota boy. The pomp and pageantry of it all…the Changing of the Guard…the jet-black horses and their mounts wearing brass breast plates shiny as trumpets…the Tower of London….Westminster Abbey…….so, so different from Minnesota and the farm town where I grew up.
First a bit of background……
HARRODS, at one time the largest department store in the world with over a million square feet spread over 7 floors, opened in 1849 and suffered a fire in 1883 that destroyed the building. When it reopened a few years later, the building boasted a new palatial style – with cherub-adorned terracotta tiles out front, swirling Art Nouveau windows, and a huge Baroque-style dome.
The food halls are on the ground floor, and they are immense. I don’t know exactly how big, but I would suspect that they occupy close to 100,000 square feet – about the size of a Target store.
Mohamed al Fayed, a wealthy Egyptian, bought HARRODS in 1985. If you recall, his son, Dodi, and Princess Diana were later killed in a violent car crash in Paris. He dedicated a shrine – more than that, a grotto – to them in the store. Check out the picture. I don’t know if it’s still there.
Following the death of Dodi and Princess Di, Fayed observed that neither Prince Charles nor the Queen were shopping at HARRODS any longer (the closing of the flip-flop department might have been the last straw for them). In retaliation, he removed the Royal Crest.
I’ll get over it.
And I’ll go back time and again and again…because Harrods’ food halls remain as arresting and impressive, as huge and beautiful, as ever….more than anything you’ve ever experienced.
Sometimes when Joanne and I are in Paris, we just don’t want to be culinarily challenged. By the 5th or 6th day of seeking out very special restaurants that somehow could have a culinary relationship with our PARASOLE restaurants, we simply want a DAY OFF…a time to just chill.
But Paris being Paris, even the places you expect to be predictable have the capacity to surprise. Consider PAVILLON ÉLYSÉES LENÔTRE…..or simply LENÔTRE, a little gem of a restaurant southeast of the Arc de Triomphe toward Place de Concorde, right on the Champs. You’ll see it nestled perfectly in a park across the street from the Palais Royale amongst the trees.
More often than not, I come away with a kitchen gadget or two as well, because the space is made up of three components – the restaurant, a cooking school, and a very well-curated culinary boutique with appliances, books, dishware and the like, as well as an assortment of small electronics and appliances for the kitchen.
Our appetizers have included smoked salmon with blini and horseradish cream and a crunchy salad, foie gras encased in cranberry “fruit leather”, and a quail breast with pumpkin in Jerusalem artichoke foam. But this is also the place for a simple, deliciously creamy quiche Lorraine. And our granddaughter was in hog heaven with her spaghetti tossed in butter and sprinkled with a little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
As one who heads to the Mayo Clinic for his yearly physicals, I’ve discovered something about dining in Rochester: You can treat yourself to a nice dinner, or you can treat your doc to a nice clean prep for your colonoscopy the next morning. You can’t do both (I’ve tried, but my efforts were poo-poo’d by the gastroenterology team).
By the way, you’ve got to love any restaurant with “Room” in its name. Remember THE ORION ROOM at the IDS Center? THE PUMP ROOM at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago? And of course THE OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM. So retro classy! I think if I do another fish restaurant, it’ll be PHIL ROBERTS’ NEPTUNE ROOM.
But I digress.
Today The Elizabethan Room serves as banquet space. And although I can’t be sure, I suspect that the menu at the Lord Essex’s predecessor was probably centered around meatloaf and walleye for many of those years before becoming a steakhouse.
Oh, and I also learned that rock star chef Stewart Woodman opened the restaurant. But he has departed, and now the culinary team is in the capable hands of Tommie Tran and Duc Le.
So how were the steaks?
I couldn’t tell you. We got the Grilled Salmon and the Roasted Chicken.
One thing I CAN tell you about their meats, however: They’re advertised as “the finest available hand-selected USDA Prime…served to your exact preferences, seasoned with sea salt and resh, cracked black pepper,” then “broiled at 1,8000 F and finished with herb butter.”
We liked it and would definitely go back. Our dishes were tasty, and I can only assume the steaks would be just as good. Service was smart and attentive, too. Dinner at The Lord Essex won’t break the bank, either. Expect to pay about $40-75 per person depending on wine; not bad for a first-class steakhouse.
I’m not certain I understand the Rochester market. On a Thursday night, the restaurant wasn’t very busy. You’d think, with thousands of people coming to the Mayo every week, it would have drawn a larger crowd. Then again, I’m told that the clinic “front loads” patients on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week, leaving Thursday and Friday open for follow-up tests, so maybe that impacts the number of diners at the Kahler.
WTF – give ‘em a try. I think you’ll like The Lord Essex – especially if your dining companion doesn’t shame you into ordering the chicken.
It was probably 20 years ago that I visited ROY’S Hawaiian restaurant in Waikiki. And being my first trip to Hawaii, it was my first experience with real – and really great – Pacific Rim cuisine. Prior to that, my “Hawaiian” dining had been limited to TRADER VIC’S, DON THE BEACH COMBER and our own WAIKIKI ROOM at the Nicollet Hotel – frequently pre-made and “scooped and plopped” on the plate.
So when I discovered dishes freshly made to order from pristine local ingredients (before that was fashionable), beautifully plated and often witty, I had entered an entirely new Hawaiian culinary world. So every time I returned to Hawaii, I didn’t miss a chance to visit Roy’s.
I never gave the mainland restaurants a try and as time went by, the publicity and trade rags seemed to mention them less and less, and it appeared to me that they were fading into restaurant limbo.
Time passes and two years ago we were in Maui and our daughter and her husband decided to give ROY’S a try at Kanapali in Maui. They returned with RAVE REVIEWS. So the next night Joanne and I decided to give ‘em a try as well, probably after a ten year hiatus. And as jaded as we probably were at that time, we came home thoroughly impressed. Roy’s still had all of the attributes that we so fondly remembered – polite, professional artful plating and flavor profiles…and that touch of whimsy that I love.
Let’s return to the sale of the company several years ago.
When I complimented the manager at Kanapali on our dinner, he informed me that Roy retained control of all the restaurants in Hawaii. It made sense, not only because the food was great, but the whole operation had a feel of being very well-tended and loved.
Fast forward to three weeks ago when we were in Naples, Florida. Mainland ROY’S was not our first choice, but all of the “GEEZER TABLES” at our preferred restaurants were fully booked by 6:00 PM and Roy’s had a table available on the patio for the six of us. Now I suspect that you are thinking I’m going to trash the place. I’m not. It was actually pretty good – which was something of a surprise since by this time the restaurant was an additional step removed from Roy Yamaguchi. Bloomin’ Brands off-loaded its franchises to an Applebee’s operator from Texas. I can only imagine how much money it ultimately lost on the deal.
Still, many of the signature dishes from Roy’s Hawaiian outpost were featured on the Naples menu. Szechuan Spiced Baby Back Ribs were there as well as the Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi and a $44 Seafood Sampler with salmon, swordfish, mahi mahi and tuna (I often worry about “samplers” – wondering if they’re just leftovers or scraps, but this was good). Our grandson had a great burger, and the desserts were all tasty, especially the Banana Crisp and the Molten Chocolate Cake.
Finally we shared a traditional Hawaiian dish that we should have avoided…just because it’s famous: THE LOCO MOCO. It gives new meaning to the term GUTBUSTER, starting with a bowl of white rice….topped with two half pound burger patties (sometimes SPAM or MEATLOAF )…..heavily napped with brown gravy and garnished with two fried eggs. The weight? I’d say about three pounds.
Would you eat a dish called CRAZY BOOGER? We did, so you don’t have to.
Oh, and here’s a goofy thing. A few weeks ago I touted another restaurant in Honolulu called MORIMOTO, only to discover that it suddenly closed at the end of the year.
I’m on a streak: Roy’s in Naples closed up a week after we were there!!!!
On a recent visit to Miami, Joanne and I went to one of our favorite places, a Korean barbecue called THE DRUNKEN DRAGON, located behind an anonymous storefront in a strip mall, next door to a Subway sandwich shop. Read more
A recent posting on Travel Market posed the question: “What happens when you put Studio 54 impresario Ian Schraeger and hotel founder Bill Marriott in the same room?”
I love chicken…LOVE IT!!!
And I’ve been fortunate enough to eat it all over the world – from street food stalls in Bangkok…to Kansas City for STROUD’S cast iron skillet chicken deep fried in lard ……or the Central American sensation, POLLO CAMPERO’s grilled chicken, so coveted by Los Angelenos that prior to its U.S. opening they smuggled it in their suitcases on planes arriving from Guatemala City.
As many of you know, I am roundly criticized for posting so much about Miami restaurants.
“Minnesota doesn’t give a shit about the Atlantic coast,” I’m told. “Minnesotans go to Naples.”