Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ken’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant- 10.16.08

Here is the latest installment of Nashville Eats It’s ABCs.  Coming right at you with no apologies and no regrets.  The straight talk express is chugging it’s way into the station and taking no prisoners.  All we can do is hope for change.  Spare change, that is. To feed our bellies.  So today we’ve arrived at the letter K.  
Friends, may we introduce you to Ken’s Sushi?  Thank you, we will.   

This is the true confession of a self-described “adventure eater”….  I have been a lazy eater of late and feel like I have lost my edge.  I used to keep notes of strange little restaurants that I’d drive past in hopes to drag Hank and Eddie off to some far away culinary land and taste the bounty of the unknown eatery.  But that seems likes like the distant past. These past few months I’ve been all about the quick, easy, painless and bland lunch.  Maybe I’ve had too much on my mind lately.  Or maybe it is that I still remember that mystery illness from that dad-blame Indian buffet in England …  (probably the later).  But surprisingly, Ken’s Sushi sounded like a fine idea for lunch today.    

I’ve been to Ken’s probably a dozen times before.  It is one of those places that you either love or vehemently don’t love.  The vibe and décor is less than appealing.  Cheap chairs, bad lighting, linoleum floor and not particularly inviting.  Some folks claim that is it inexpensive and a good bargain for great sushi.  Well, I don’t really agree or disagree.  Let’s just say that I’m a moderate as it pertains to Ken’s.    

Today I went “all-in’..  and going “all-in” at a sushi place means flaunting my love and ability to eat slabs of raw fish in front of people who shudder and wince at the thought.  Namely Eddie. (Hah!) I ordered the sashimi and received squid, tuna, salmon, yellowtail and some other thing that I’ve had multiple times but never remember the name of.  
The food was good.  However, the setting was less than good. So, if you want good, quick, dependable sushi for lunch, Ken’s might fit the bill.  If you’re looking for great sushi and a great vibe during lunch, there are better.  Ken’s = passable.    

Sidenote:  A few days ago when hanging out at my regular morning coffee haunt (Crema – Nashville’s BEST coffee shop), I was introduced to Jim Ridley of the illustrious Nashville Scene.  This is one good guy so I wanted to give a shout-out to Jim and say thanks for his fine work in the field of culinary journalism.  I can only hope to have his job one day... (hint hint)       

This was my first visit to Ken’s Sushi in the Vandy neighborhood.  This was my last visit to Ken’s Sushi in the Vandy neighborhood.  Ok...the only thing I could think about while sitting in the restaurant was how in the world this place got a health score of 89!?!  The floors were filthy...probably hadn’t been washed in months!  The back dining area, where we were seated, seemingly doubled as a storage area with clutter spilling out from behind a partition wall...and while walking out I couldn’t help but notice the dirty chest freezer behind the sushi bar.  I’m sure I could go on...but you get the picture.  I’m not asking for perfection when it comes to cleanliness...but please put forth a little effort.  It’s really not that hard!   I’ll get off my soapbox for a second and talk about the food.  

I got a California roll, a spicy tuna roll and water to drink.  It was fine...probably would have tasted much better if I wasn’t so hung up on the dirty floors!  With tax & tip...the total came to $11 and change.  Honestly...I would have rather saved $5 and picked up sushi at Kroger and ate it back at my office.   

Here’s a quote from me that Ken’s can use for their marketing...FREE OF CHARGE!    
“If you like eating at dirty’ll LOVE Ken’s!!!” -Hank   

I will proudly admit that I am not a fan of sushi; not that there's anything wrong with it; just not my thing.  Thankfully, Ken's menu has a decent variety of non-sushi options.  The Bento Box was tasty and very satisfying; and appropriately priced too.  Both the exterior and the interior were noticeably grimy; especially in the back dining/storage room.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jackson’s Bistro – 10.13.08

Today was a typical Monday - mostly cloudy out but no rain in sight.  Ho-hum, hooray.  We were all dragging our butts and really needed a shot in the arm to get our week off to a better start.  The lure of a mystery-letter lunch outing seemed ripe with possibilities, however, a quick glance at the phonebook and revealed too few options for the letter J.  Not many places to try that weren’t chains or too far to travel.  Yes, we were feeling lazy.  Add to that our recent, back-to-back, less-than-spectacular lunch outings and we really wanted a sure thing. That led us to an old faithful standby…  Jackson’s Bistro in Hillsboro Village.  Without further adieu, here’s our review.    

For as much as I like to think that I get around the Nashville restaurant scene, I think I’ve only been to Jackson’s once before. I don’t know why but I always overlook this place even though plenty of my friends are regulars.  
Today we opted to sit outside since the weather was decent enough and there’s nothing better than getting outdoors during lunch. Nice patio, but nothing too special.   The service at Jackson’s was spot on and our server was friendly but to the point - always on hand at the right moments.  I ordered the Ahi tuna sandwich with a side salad.  I requested the tuna medium rare but it came out more on the medium plus side and was a bit drier than I’d like.  However, the sandwich comes with a killer wasabi  sauce on the side so I slathered that on and was more than pleased with the overall result.  Next time I’ll order an extra cup of the sauce and dip any and everything in it.  Yes, it’s that good.  I also liked the little side salad which had diced tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and chick peas. Tasty.  
Overall, Jackson’s was a good experience.  The next time around if I remember to, I’ll probably be back.     

Good food, friendly staff, great location...this place has all the elements in place to maintain it's status as a Hillsboro Village hotspot.  It's also worth noting that Jackson's is one of the top spots to partake in a favorite pastime of mine...people watching.  The day we ate there...they were also offering a brunch menu...which when added to the usual lunch offerings...made for a menu that is pretty tough to beat.  Now...being 2 days into another health kick...I went against every rule in my book and went with the Caesar salad w/ grilled chicken - dressing on the side (I told you I was on a health kick!).  It tasted like...lettuce with grilled chicken...mmmmm!  No was a pretty good salad and I thought fairly priced at $9.  To finish off a great lunch experience...I recommend walking a few doors down and picking up a coffee at Fido afterwards...but that's another day and another letter.   

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been to Jackson's over the past several years, and every visit has been enjoyable.  The vibe is cool but not too trendy, the suspended fireplace is unique, and the menu has a nice variety of lunch options.  I went for the tuna & cheddar panini, which did not disappoint.  The prices certainly fit the menu/locale.  Service was attentive and friendly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Dream Of Weenie – 10.1.08

We’ll make this one quick, because you’re just dying to know our thoughts, nay, our dreams of I Dream Of Weenie.  This review might get us kicked off plenty of RSS feeds, but we’ll just have to take our chances.    

It was a beautiful day to eat outside. But not too much time to spare.  We decided to bust a move and tackle the letter I – which would be fairly easy since we had already agreed to try the much ballyhooed East Nashville haunt I Dream Of Weenie.    
When I stepped up to the window, there was no question what I had to order.  
My namesake, the Flamin’ Frank, is a wee little dog + bun that was covered with chili, cheese, mustard, onion, salsa and jalapeños.  It was fine, but didn’t warrant a high-five, satisfied grunt or any other such gastronomic celebration.  I did enjoy sitting on the curb in the 70 degree sunshine and watching the parade of satchel wearing scooter riders drive down Woodland Street.    
I Dream Of Weenie is a nice idea and they are sure friendly folks but I didn’t see much to brag about, food-wise. (Sorry Nashville Scene and Tennessean "Best Of" readers polls…) Hot Diggity, Zackies’ and Noshville all do a better dog.  In fact, I’ve had better at the Home Depot (Thompson Lane) hot dog stand.  But the East Nashville hipster crowd has crowned IDOW the queen of Nashville hotdogs.  Kitschy?  Yes.  The best dog in all of Nashville?  Not even close.   

Ok...they get points for being clever with the name...and for being creative with the conversion of an old VW van into a hotdog stand.  But aside from that...this place isn’t much to write home about.   Compared to the two other hotdog joints that I’ve been to in Nashville – Zackies’ and Hot Diggity Dog – this place comes in dead last.  And compared to other walkup-and-order establishments I’ve been also comes in last.  There was nothing about the experience made me feel like I NEED to go back.  I got the bratwurst w/ spicy mustard, chips and a can of diet coke for $6.50.  It was good...but can you really screw something like that up?!?   

I Dream Of Weenie...a lot cleaner than you would think...friendly service...the chili dog was okay...a little on the small side though...not really worth the price.  My suggestion?  Bun length dogs.

House of Pizza - 9.19.08

We’re not going to make excuses as to where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to because you know what happens when you do that.  A global financial crisis, that’s what.  And election promises.  Those too.  It all boils down to making lame excuses so we’re not going to do that.  Instead Nashville Eats It’s ABC’s is going to talk about the letter H and how that stands for downtown Nashville’s very own House of Pizza, located in the heart of The Arcade off Church Street. Today we were joined by our lovely friend Wendy Woodywood, who made the long trek all the way from downtown Franklin to lunch with the fellas and pitch in her 2 cents on what would be a memorable dinning experience.   

First, let me say that it was a honor to be invited as a guest of Eddie, Frank & Hank on the A-Z restaurant tour through Nashville. "H" led us to House Of Pizza, formerly known as Manny's House of Pizza, H O P, not to be confused with I H O P.  Entering H O P took me back to my years living in N Y C, the smells, the dirty grime that covered every surface and then the surprisingly tasty meat lovers stromboli with a delicious side of tomato dipping sauce on the side.  While waiting to place our order, we got to observe the staff of H O P.  One employee coughed several times while removing the stromboli from the tray with his bare hands - I was thankful that it was headed to the hot over to remove any germs. Another employee remarked that he had been working at the H O P for 23 years - he did know how to make a tasty pizza dough.  Would I return to the H O P?  Mmmm, I just don't have a peace about it...  But thank you  Eddie Hank and Frank for allowing me an insiders look at the A-Z Restaurant Tour de Nashville.    

In general, I like these kind of places.  Small and cramped with those big old pizza ovens giving off enough aromatic heat to fill the Sahara desert.  
Surveying the menu board and being pushed along by the longish line, I had to act quick.  Dang it.  No spinach calzone … so I opted for the next best thing - a meatball calzone and root beer.  Root beer is, by the way, the perfect compliment for calzone.  The pizza pie man behind the counter, aside from the aforementioned coughing fit, was flinging dough around the room like the seasoned pro.  Someone in line asked the pie man how long he’d been at the pizza trade and I think he said that he’d been doing it for 23 years.  That’s pretty dang long… and probably the same length of time since they scrubbed this place down.   The back dining room could’ve doubled as a dirty and dimly lit rural juke joint from a bygone era, sans pool table or juke box.  Virtually all of the cloth seats had disgusting stains on the seats and I had to find a plastic chain instead..  I’m all for dingy hole-in-the-walls, but I couldn’t bring myself to plant my butt in those seats.    As for my food, the calzone ranked a 7.5 out of 10, somewhere just south of Joey’s HOP and Pizza Perfect.   This thing was oozing ricotta cheese and the meatball was tasty.  It sat in my gut all afternoon like an iron fist.  An iron fist wrapped in cheese.  But I’m not complaining.  Solid.   

Dirty.  That’s the best way to describe this place.  From the moment I walked in I was hit with a stale mildew scent that doesn’t especially get me excited to eat.  Then...while ordering my food...the guy behind the counter was coughing and touching the food with his bare hands...nasty!  I went with the meat stromboli and it was just ok.  It was a bit dried out and hard...but tasted ok.  I’m not going to waste more words on this...I don’t see myself going back to this place.   

Eddie: House Of Pizza has certainly earned it's rightful spot on my worst of the worst list.  The whole place smelled like a dank basement and all the wobbly mismatched chairs had nasty food stains.  The food selection was surprisingly minimal.  At peak lunch time, all they had behind the glass were 2 calzones, 4 pizza rolls, and a few pizza slices.  I ended up with a calzone, which I managed to long as I forced myself to block out the images of the grumpy dude handling my food with his bare hands after coughing all over himself.  Also, the layout was not very ergonomic; the narrow entrance where you place your order is also the only exit, and would create a bit of a traffic jam if they ever became a busy lunch spot.  Which is unlikely considering the nasty.