Thursday, January 23, 2014


Michelle Wang seems to be unstoppable.  And I'm not complaining.  I've been a fan of her restaurants dating way back to the original Miyo's on S. Main St. Her newest restaurant, M.Grille, is open in the Vista.  Funny thing is that it's about one block from M.Vista. I knew before walking in there that this was a continuation of her fresh, healthy, "now" concept that is found at M.Fresh. As you enter, you're greeted with the similar clean, hip, sharp interior as M.Fresh.  The tables are all attractively set and busy chefs are working away behind the sushi bar. I love the look of the place, all the way down to the square plates on the tables.

I went with my mom and dad for lunch.  My dad opted for a salad topped with a grilled flounder filet.  It was very attractive and he was quite pleased with his choice. Mom went with the "Cobb" salad. She's a fan of any Cobb salad and is always eager to try new variations of the classic. Again, she was happy with her selection.  I chose the grilled sweet and sour chicken with pineapple. It was actually two thin chicken cutlets (which I prefer over big, thick chicken breasts) in a light sauce with diced pineapple over the top.  It was served with brown rice and steamed broccoli.  The chicken was awesome, but my broccoli was undercooked and completely unseasoned.  Personally, I think brown rice sucks. I know we all make ourselves eat it because it's good for us, but it's just a flavorless scoop of mush. I am a huge broccoli fan, but I like it cooked.  This was practically raw. And, as I've said before and am continually backed up here by the "Chopped" judges, food needs to be seasoned. With something. So, I pretty much just ate my chicken.

Complimentary Asian slaw for the table to share.  Nice touch.
Dad's salad with flounder

Mom's Asian cobb salad
My sweet and sour pineapple chicken

Overall, I like this place.  But, I have to tell you one thing that's been bugging the crud out of me ever since we went there last week. We had a very pleasant and accommodating waitress.  She was knowledgeable about the menu and asked if we'd ever been here before, any questions, etc.  We all ordered unsweet tea, as usual.  My mom asked her for some sweetener.  Her response was "Oh, all we have is natural sugar."  This prompted me to say "You don't have Splenda?" and she replied "We try to stay on the healthy side." 

First, sugar is natural.  Always.  It's like saying natural cotton.  All cotton is natural.  Second, when I was pregnant, I was told I could only use sugar (but in super moderation because pregnant women are at risk of gestational diabetes) or Splenda.  No Sweet 'n Low, no Equal, just Splenda.  Third, to what planet did these people go to have someone tell them that sugar is "healthy?" Sugar may be natural but that doesn't make it healthy.  For instance, for a diabetic person, sugar is most assuredly NOT healthy.  Not healthy for a Type 2 diabetic like the man sitting across the table from me (Dad).  

I love the concept of fresh and natural but I hate it whan any business that I'm patronizing trying to B.S. me.  For years my mom has ordered her food with no onions.  Countless times, it's arrived with onions, like the cook is trying to convince her that she's going to like them.  Well, what if onions cause her to break out in a rash?  If a person with a peanut allergy orders fried chicken, you can't deliberately cook it in peanut oil because you think they're exaggerating.  Same thing here.  I have a friend whose 2nd child is a juvenile diabetic.  If the kid wants to come your restaurant and drink tea, have some damn sweetener available that won't kill her.  It would be a shame for someone to go into a coma because you served them something "natural." And, maybe, just maybe there are people like me who just can't stand the sappy, syrupy nature of sugar and just prefer something else.  All I can say to the M.Group on this subject is go buy some stevia and quit telling people you only have sugar because you "tend to lean toward the healthy side."


M Grille on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 9, 2014

étouffée, s'il vous plaît

I drive by Rockaway's (officially the Rockaway Athletic Club) every day.  While I still love "The Rock" I really miss the old one.  It was dark, run down, the bathroom situation sucked, the labyrinth of rooms was insane and finding a place to park was quite a feat. However, they had the original crawfish festival of their own, my best friend met her husband there, the doormen always walked ladies to their cars and the food was awesome.  

The Rock is well known for their Rockaway burger (pimento burger) throughout the South and beyond.  The burgers have been featured in Southern Living magazine and George W. went there for a burger, took his check to the cashier only to realize that the President of the United States doesn't actually carry a wallet.  So, yes, they have pretty good hamburgers.  But, what the old Rock had was REALLY good FOOD.

I don't remember, or maybe I never even knew, who the cook was "back in the day."  But, whoever he was, he was awesome.  The fried green tomatoes were the best I've ever had. Ever. There was a prime rib dinner that was not at all what you would expect from a bar.  It was perfectly cooked, well-seasoned and an incredible price. But, one of my all-time favorites was the étouffée. I really miss that dish.  I don't know why they didn't revive the old menu when they rebuilt and I still reminisce about the old days.

The fact that they served étouffé in the first place was pretty amazing.  Of course, theirs was the traditional crawfish étouffé.  I've been wanting to make my own forever.  I don't know if you noticed, but crawdads are awfully expensive these days.  You'd think "mudbugs" would be rather affordable.  Not so much.  Anyway, I could survive off shrimp alone, so no worries for me. I have finally gotten around to making this dish at home and I am happy to report great results!

It all starts off, as so many great dishes do, with a roux.  This one needs a roux cooked to about the color of peanut butter.  I've never understood some people's intimidation by roux.  It's remarkably easy; in fact, Vivian made this one by herself.  She's 7.  There you have it.  Roux isn't hard to do.  Add in some yellow bell pepper, onion, celery, garlic (of course!), bay leaves, thyme, chili powder and water.  Cook for awhile then add shrimp.  Serve it over rice and enjoy the heck out of it.

As most of you know, I gauge a lot of my successes not only by what Neil and I think of the dish, but really what the Vivver thinks. This child ate her entire bowl with no complaints.  That makes it a do-again dish Chez Akre!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fujiya Funbox

One of Vivi's favorite cuisines is Japanese.  Unfortunately, the Japanese steakhouse closest to our house is, IMO, a dump. It's about 100 years old and the decor has clearly never been updated nor has the place been cleaned.  We can go to Assembly Street, or St. Andrews or the Northeast to find good Japanese food.  But, there's something even closer.

Fujiya on Rosewood Drive is just a couple minutes from our neighborhood.  I've driven by it a zillion times but never ventured in.  I noticed on Facebook one day that my friend Eugenie was there, so I asked her about it.  Turns out she & her family go there pretty often.  So, I decided to give it a try.  I took Vivi to lunch one day a couple of months ago.  Since then, we've been back two more times.  

Is this the best Japanese restaurant in town?  No.  But it's a good one and it's so convenient for us to get there whenever the craving hits.  It's a small place, the hibachi chef is actually Japanese (the dump's chefs are Hispanics...I mean, that's just odd) and the wait staff is attentive.  So far, we've only been there for lunch and what I want to share with you is what a good deal they are for lunch.  They call it the "Lunchbox."  

Viv's beloved teriyaki chicken Bento
My shrimp Lunchbox
It's a Bento box with your choice of shrimp, chicken or NY strip teriyaki, tempura, gyoza, salad with ginger dressing and either steamed or fried rice. Vivi loves the chicken so much, that she always plows right through that before trying anything else in her box.  The chef cooks at a hibachi table that you can see, but it's not at your table.  

We were excited to see that they offer red bean ice cream, but disappointed to learn that they didn't have any today.  If you have never eaten red bean ice cream or red bean seed pastries, do yourself a favor and order it whenever you see it show up on a menu.  Fujiya, Inakaya and the Blue Cactus are the only places I know of in Columbia who carry the ice cream. In the absense of the ice cream, we opted instead for strawberry ice cream mochi.  Good, but not red bean!  :-)

Like I said, this isn't the best in town, but it's pretty darn good.  What I mean is that this isn't high gourmet, but good, typical offerings of Japanese fare. I like the fact that it's a small, neighborhood place where we can eat lunch that consists of real food for the same price that someone else pays to feed their kids McStuff. The wait staff is always pleasant and they keep a close eye on you and take care of you.  It's a good experience and I especially enjoy my lunch dates with my little girl! 

Fujiya Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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