Sunday, September 30, 2007

Restaurant Review - Chipotle, 10149 West Colonial Drive, Ocoee, FL

Chipotle in OcoeeI decided to try Chipotle again, despite having a bad experience about 2 years ago at the Florida Mall location. Why was it bad? I found that most of Chipotle's food was very spicy and that there was no children's menu even though Chipotle was started by McDonald's and was a fast-casual restaurant. However, a new Chipotle opened in Ocoee and, they sent me a free burrito coupon in the mail.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed at Chipotle since my previous experience. I knew I was in trouble when I looked up at the menu board upon entering and still saw no children's menu. As I waited in line to get to the counter, I quickly scanned the menu for something my kids could eat. BB announced that he wanted a beef taco while LB said he just wanted beef and cheese. The menu is very simple at CGuacamole with salty chipshipotle. All pricing is calculated by what kind of meat you want: chicken $5.70, steak $5.80, carnitas (pork) $5.85, barbacoa (shredded beef) $5.85, and vegetarian (guacamole and black beans) $5.25. Then, you choose how you want it: burrito with rice, beans, your chosen meat, salsa, cheese or sour cream; fajita burrito which is the same as the regular burrito except you substitute sauteed peppers and onions for the beans; burrito bol which is everything in a bowl instead of a tortilla; tacos - three soft or four crispy; or salad which is like the bol but on lettuce.

When I got to the front of the line, I asked if they had a children's menu. The server handed me a card that said "Parent's Menu" which was not a good sign. Here is what it said, "We don't really have a kids' menu, but we'll put together anything your child will eat. Just gaze down our serving line, look at the ideas below, and then get creative." Listed below were ideas such as quesadillas, single tacos, bols, and chips & guacamole. By the way, none of these items had prices by them and most of them are not on the menu. It also had a "heat index" that showed that the ONLY items on the menu that were not at all spicy were the pork, rice, beans, and chips. Wow, so most of the menu items are spicy. Next up on the heat scale was the chicken, shredded beef, and, get this, mild salsa (!). So I guess the mild salsa isn't that mild! I asked how much a single taco was and the cashier said they were $1.95. BB came over to me at this point and reminded me he wanted a beef taco. I told him he couldn't because the steak was one of the spiciest things on the menu. This started an argument between me and my 8-year-old and I finally told him we were getting this all to gChicken Burritoo and that he would be happy with a chicken taco (they had run out of the mild pork and were making more but it wasn't done yet). Next, I had to figure out what to get my youngest one. I decided to get him a children's bol as it had suggested on the "Parent's Menu". I asked the cashier how much those were. She replied that they didn't really have children's bols - she would just ring up everything I chose as a side dish. This was getting more and more complicated and I could tell the crowd behind me was giving me looks so I just said, "Fine, we'll just have a side order of rice and black beans." As the server opened up the rice coSingle chicken tacover, I knew I was in trouble. The rice is actually cilantro rice and has strips of shredded cilantro all throughout. I knew my picky eater would never eat that and asked if I could get plain rice without the cilantro. The server called over to the cook in the back to make the plain rice. I quickly decided on a chicken burrito for me with rice, black beans, cheese, mild salsa, and sour cream.

As the server was packaging up our order to go, I asked the cashier some other prices for all of you readers. A side order of rice or beans is 65 cents. A small cheese quesadilla is 85 cents (I assume on a taco tortilla) while a large quesadilla is $2.25. I also decided to get an order of guacamole and chips ($2.25) with our order. Heading out of the restaurant, I noticed that the decor looks the same as the Florida Mall location with corrugated steel and light woods everywhere. However, there were also quite a lot of the very high tables with high stools that had no foot rests - another thing that wasn't very kid-friendly, I thought.

When we got home and unpacked the food, I discovered that they had forgot to add the beans to the serving of plain white rice for LB. Luckily, he decided he wasn't that hungry when we got home so I just made him mac-n-cheese. BB attempted to eat his chicken taco and finally had to ask for milk to cool down his mouth. I tried my chicken burrito and I couldn't even finish it since it was so spicy hot. I can't imagine how hot the other meats are if the chicken was this hot and it was supposed to be one of the least spicy. Also, we found out that guacamole was very spicy as well and the chips were over-salted. I looked closely and saw that they had used sea salt flakes on the chips, that's probably why they tasted so salty.

All in all, I had a very bad family food experience at Chipotle. If you take your kids there on a regular basis, please let me know what you order for them because I can't figure out anything that my kids will like there. I'm probably not going back.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Restaurant Review - P.F. Chang's China Bistro, 4200 Conroy Road, Mall of Millenia, Orlando, FL

P.F. Chang's at Mall of MilleniaP.F. Chang's China Bistro is a "nouveau" Chinese restaurant, typically located near malls. While they do have some traditional Chinese dishes on their menu, they usually put a unique twist on each one. The decor inside the Mall of Millenia location is dark with dark wood on floors and tables, burgundy and brown walls, large golden moon-like lights in the ceiling with a spot light on each table - the feeling is very muted and subdued. In fact, there is not much natural light in the Mall at Millenia location; if you visit the Winter Park Village location, it is much brighter inside due to the large windows.

There is also usually a wait for a table at P.F. Chang's although you can call ahead to be put on a virtual waiting list. So, if you are going during normal eating hours, be sure to have some games and toys for your kids to play with while you are waiting for a table.

'Hello' kitty!There is no children's menu at P.F. Chang's but there is enough on the menu that you should be able to share with your kids or get them an appetizer. My kids have eaten just one of the appetizers as their meal before such as steamed dumplings or spring rolls or even just an order of fried rice. What is nice is that even though they don't have a children's menu, they do have children's cups with lids and straws with a "good luck waving cat" on it.

As soon as the server arrives, they will bring a condiment Nice sauces to complement your mealtray with soy sauce, hot mustard, chili sauce, vinegar, and chili oil. They will also prepare a special sauce for you using the condiments on a tray based on whether you request a mild, medium, or hot sauce. We usually request the medium sauce -- you can add heat with more chili sauce or chili oil, or take some away with the vinegar. This is great to use on your own food to make it a little hotter while still leaving the main dish mild for the kids.

My Tropical Green teaI also like to order the hot teas at P.F. Chang's ($2.50). There are several to choose from including green teas, oolongs and flavored herbal teas. On my last trip, I tried the Tropical Green which comes out as a nice honey golden color and had some citrus and orange hints in the light green tea. My favorite part is how it is presented - in a cast iron tea pot on a circular pot holder.

We always order the wonton soup to start at P.F. Chang's because everyone in the family likes it and it feeds everyone in theHUGE bowl of wonton soup for all family. For $6, you get a HUGE bowl of wonton soup that includes water chestnuts, spinach, big chunks of chicken, shrimp, green onions, mushrooms, and pork wontons. It can easily feed four people with almost two bowls of soup a piece. The broth is a very light chicken stock which is nice for the kids but I like to add the special soy sauce mixture prepared by our server to add some kick to it. I always know to make sure LB's bowl only contains the wontons and chicken because he doesn't like anything else - especially the green stuff.

Beef Lo MeinPortions at P.F. Chang's are big enough that we usually order one less dish than the number of people. So, for a party of six, we'd order five dishes and share. We order the chicken or beef Ginger Chicken with Broccolilo mein ($8 at lunch) for the boys to share. My favorite dish is the Ginger Chicken with Broccoli ($11.50). Big chunks of white meat chicken are covered in a delicious brown ginger sauce and are served with crisp, green broccoli stalks that taste very fresh and crunchy.

On our most recent trip, we tried dessert. Two of the desserts sounded very intriguing - the Banana Spring Rolls ($6) with pineapple-coconut ice cream and vanilla caramel sauce, and the Lucky Eight ($8) which is eight chocolate creme filled sticks with The Lucky Eight dessertpeanut butter caramel dipping sauce and toffee bits. The boys outvoted me and chose the Lucky Eight - I'll have to try the Banana Spring Rolls another time (I'm a sucker for anything with coconut in it). The Lucky Eight ended up being a lot bigger than I expected. It could easily be shared by four adults and because of the individual sticks is an easy dessert to share as well. Chocolate creme, which tasted like chocolate fondue (yeah, that rich), was rolled, stick-like, inside a long wonton wrapper and then fried. Those were scooped into a mug and were set next to a small bowl with the warm peanut butter caramel sauce. On the plate were the bits of toffee that we were supposed to roll the dipped sticks into. My only complaint - I wish the toffee pieces were much smaller. Some were pretty big and they didn't stick since they were so heavy. Man, this is a rich dessert... and very good! Both boys loved it although they got to the point where they were only eating the chocolate rolls and ignoring the sauce and toffee.

Since P.F. Chang's isn't a traditional Chinese restaurant, there are lots of options for those that don't like Chinese food and lots of options for kids as well.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Other Blog - Musings from a Restaurant Maven

I think I might be crazy. I started another blog. Not because I had extra time on my hands - far from it. I got the idea from Scott Hume, editor-in-chief for Restaurants & Institutions magazine, who wanted to know if I could do a restaurant blog that didn't have reviews but had thoughts and experiences about restaurants. So, I started Musings from a Restaurant Maven. I got the "maven" from the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. Several people I knew read the book and then came to me and said I was a "maven". Apparently, according to Mr. Gladwell, a maven is a person who likes to learn and then is motivated to educate others. So, I can see that - I like to find new restaurants, try them out, and then tell others about them. Let me know what you think of my new site. Again, there are no reviews, it is just thoughts (and sometimes rants) of whatever pops into my head as I am eating out or thinking about restaurants. Enjoy!

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