Friday, August 7, 2009
Recently, I have wondered about the consistency of high quality restaurants and their Chef's. Does a great Chef and restaurant owner automatically equal a fabulous dining experience? That's the question I posed to myself this week. And the response was what I thought it would be. No.
For example, take Azie. This "Refreshingly Global" offspring of the incredibly tasty Newtown Square restaurant, Teikoku, reviewed last month, was not in the same league as its big brother. Not even a little. This is surprising to me considering its Executive Chef is the famous Takao Linuma, the courageous Iron Chef, that has appeared in more than 4o episodes of the show.
It was busy for a Wednesday evening, which fooled us. We were seated upstairs where the light was really nice. Hanging from the ceiling was a blown glass decoration that reminded me of thousands of Salmon eggs. In a nice way though. The menu is very similar to Teikoku. They have the usual Sushi Rolls, the same Beers and even the outstanding Avocado Salad. However, there are some differences and we decided to explore the variations in the menu.
After spilling our Chimay all over the table, the waitress quickly took our orders and a few minutes later our starters arrived. The table was graced with an assortment of Asian Gastronomic delights. My Seaweed Salad was tender, light and very flavorful. But the highlight of the starters was Lou's, aka "Simple Foodie's", Salmon and Yellow Tail Ceviche with Hot Yellow Peppers, Fresh Orange and Red Onion. Not only was it delicately tart, with just a hint of savory Salmon, but the dish was aesthetically pleasing and made for a nice photo. A small bowl of Truffle French Fries sat to my left and I quickly grabbed several while still chewing Salmon. Truffle Butter was a good choice to baste these in, but I think a dash of Truffle Salt would have been much better. They were kind of sickly and sadly, underperformed. The other diners enjoyed a less expensive and much smaller version of Teikoku's Avocado Salad. I had no interest in it though. I was on a mission and I didn't want any of those familiar tastes to interfere with my palate.
The main course arrived without any food being spilled, which was a highlight of the evening. Although, my Nikon was still spotted with the golden, delicious drops of Chimay, at least our food was entirely on our plate. My Jumbo Lump Crab Pad Thai was well cooked, but lacked what I like to call, flavor. The dish was incredibly muted and toned down. I finished it, but that's only because I hadn't eaten all day. The Tempura Cheese Fondue that my wife was eating was, how can I put this? Terrible. The Chicken tasted like it had been boiled and then battered in a half-assed attempt to create something Asian, but it tasted more like KFC.
One of our diners was eating a beautifully put together Chicken Teriyaki and I was confident no one could mess up something so simple. It was not so. Clearly the same person boiling the Tempura Chicken was boiling the Chicken used in the Chicken Teriyaki. What was happening? I had such high hopes for Azie. Lastly, was Lou's Jumbo Shrimp Tempura with Wasabi Aioli Sauce and a Romaine and Mango Salad. Once again, Lou chose the dish of the evening. This dish has two components to it. The front end is light, fragrant and delicate, with the Mango coming through ever so softly. The back end is big, bold and nose tingling. The Wasabi going to work after the Mango has dissolved. Wonderful.
In the end, Lou had the only dishes I would eat again at Azie. For $164 without tip, but including 4 $11 glasses of Chimay, this was an expensive lesson for us all. This has taught me to respect those restaurant owners and Chef's who can organize and control more than one restaurant and do it well. Bravo to you all.
My professional photography website: Taylor Young Photography