Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Sapphire Grill – Savannah, GA

The Sapphire GrillThe Sapphire Grill

The Sapphire Grill has received some very high reviews from quite a few prestigious sources, so my curiosity has been peaked to find out first hand how this restaurant stands up against many of the other fine restaurants in
Savannah.   

I went last night and had a couple of appetizers so I could get a feel for the restaurant in general and taste a few items on the menu.    My first appetizer was the Benne Encrusted Calamari & Ginger Coriander Pesto, Ponzu, Spicy Peanuts & Fresh Lime Juice which was wonderful.  The Calamari was crispy but not over cooked, the Ginger Coriander Pesto was full of flavor and a beautiful color of green and the dipping sauce was spectacular – If I had a spoon, I would have eaten it like a soup!   I also had the Sapphire Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes & Ultra Bowtie Greens with Caper Coral Aioli & Lobster Oil.  Crab Cakes in Savannah have so many variations depending where you go and everyone has a slightly different take on what makes a good crab cake so I was intrigued to find out “The Sapphire Grill” spin on these.  The appetizer consisted of 2 good sized crab cakes consisting of nice jumbo lump crab, which is sometimes hard to find in a crab cake, most restaurants just use lump meat or claw meat due to the high price of jumbo lump crab meat.  The crab cakes had a very nice texture & taste to them which was accented beautifully by the caper coral aioli & lobster oil which added a depth to the overall flavor. 

The atmosphere of The Sapphire Grill had a sleek, trendy feel about it that is set off with the exposed brick walls, nice artwork and the subtle lighting.  The staff was very friendly, attentive, attractive and knowledgeable.  The prices are on the high end of the scale but for the quality of the food that is offered, the culinary skills that are necessary to create such wonderful dishes and the great atmosphere, you are getting a first class dining experience. The Chef/Owner, Christopher Nason has done a spectacular job of blending all of the components of his restaurant to create an overall master theme of fresh, regional and local ingredients set in a modern, classy, upscale atmosphere.  

I believe Chris and The Sapphire Grill have been ahead of the trend curve in dining for along time now.  With the “organic” movement that is about to burst out on the scene in a major way, The Sapphire Grill is one step ahead. 

The Sapphire Grill110 West Congress Street – Savannah, GA 31401 (912)-443-9962

 www.sapphiregrill.com

Advertisements

Consentino’s vs. Fernando’s of Martha’s Vineyard-Savannah, GA

I have a little war within myself as to doing a review for Fernando’s of Martha’s Vineyard and Consentino’s – both Italian, both on the same street basically.  

Here are some of my likes and dislikes for both.  Keep in mind that I am not a ‘frequent’ diner at either one, but I have been to both a couple of times.  Fernando’s – The dish that I had while I was there was the Chicken Valdostana – a breast of chicken stuffed with fontina cheese and prosciutto in a sherry wine mushroom sauce – and it was sinfully good.  Seriously, not just good, and much better than great, it was to die for.  I had the tiramisu for dessert and wine as my beverage of choice.  All was wonderful.  The service was nice and friendly.  The atmosphere…well, I would change some things if it were mine, but it is not….ok, ok, if you really want to know what I would change I will tell you.  I would definatly change the table cloths, or at least the ones in the window, I really don’t like the red & white checker look, unless you are at a Pizza Hut or a picnic, this should never be used.  I do not like the fake trees in the dining room that are visible from the external also, not a good look.  They have a wonderful upstairs – they should use it (FYI – it is available for private parties).  Overall, I liked it, I would return in a heartbeat. 

Consentino’s – I have tried to go to dinner at Consentino’s a couple of times but they were so busy I could not get in the door (this should have been a sign, right), so I have only been able to visit for lunch, now that they are open for lunch.  For my lunch I had the Milano – a toasted ciabatta with proscuitto, fresh mozzarella, pesto, tomato & balsamic vinaigrette! Yummy, it was fabulous! Everything about this wonderful ‘jewel’ of a sandwich was spectacular! My dining partner had the Philly Cheese Steak – he did not think it was a winner, but I thought it was pretty tasty.  The atmosphere is wonderful – it reminds me of an Italian restaurant in
New York City, which I heard that is where the owner is from (if I am wrong, I apologize).  But really, the atmosphere is decorated and lit in a way that makes you feel like you have traveled far away – it is always nice when a restaurant can ‘transport’ you like that.  The music was nice, kind of loud for those just wishing to dine and have conversation, ok for those at the bar, this could be adjusted I would think.  The service was fine, I liked the black shirts, even though they were t-shirts, they were ‘classy’ t-shirts and it worked with the restaurant.  Overall – defiantly a winner in my book.
 
So, to recap my review:  I would say that both are good, in their own ways.  I think Fernando’s is a great restaurant for the older generation to dine, maybe with their families, and Consentino’s is more for the young, hip crowd.  I think that if Fernando’s wants to try to compete with Consentino’s, it needs to ‘vamp’ up their look a bit and try to appeal to the younger diners, not bar crowd – don’t get me wrong – younger diners 

In Savannah, face it, there is a younger generation that is willing to spend their hard earned cash on some really good food, but they crave atmosphere as well.  There must be a balance with the two, and that is one thing that Consentino’s has done very, very well.   

Fernando’s of Martha’s Vineyard-423 West Congress Street-Savannah, GA-912-236-1903 Consentino’s Trattoria-44 Martin Luther King Blvd-Savannah, GA.-912-232-2720

Wasabi’s – Savannah, GA

I visited Wasabi’s on MLK Blvd for lunch today. First let me say that Sushi is probably my most favorite foods. To me, the enjoyment from having sushi not only lies in the taste, preparation, display and environment, but it is a combination of all of these that truly makes having sushi more than just a meal, but an experience. If I could have sushi every day, I would be at peace within myself – that is what the ‘experience’ of having sushi is for me…OF COURSE, not all times do these things fall into place, therefore making your ‘experience’…well…just a meal, and sometimes not a very pleasant one.

At Wasabi’s, I very much enjoyed the ‘experience’. The service was great, the food is excellent, the atmosphere is ok. I would recommend a few changes in the layout of the restaurant. I know they have Karaoke there on Thursday – Saturday night, so I am assuming they have a good ‘bar’ crowd on these days at least. I only wish that the restaurant layout were reversed. I don’t like walking in and having no one greet you at the door, basically you are on your own to sit and sometimes that is uncomfortable, especially if you have never been there before. I would rather the sushi bar and dining area be upfront, this would allow for them to put tables in the window, which is always nice, and the restaurant would appear to busier than it really is, which can never ‘hurt’ your business. The bar and Karaoke station should be to the rear.

Being that that is the only real ‘suggestion’, I would say, Nice Job Wasabi’s – but do think about my suggestion. You have a great thing going, don’t base all of your design elements on the ‘bar’ crowd when downtown is in need of some great Japanese food/sushi!!

I’ll be back – to enjoy my ‘sushi experience’

 

Kao Thai Cuisine – Savannah GA

My love for Thai food goes back about 10 years when I first tasted Thai food at a restaurant that I worked.  The restaurant was not a Thai restaurant but the chef was and our restaurant had Thai Night once a week, and on these nights I was introduced to new flavors, new textures and names that I could not pronounce!  What I like about Thai food is the mixture of flavors and textures – it kind of takes your taste buds on a journey and that, I love.  I have had Thai food at other restaurants in Savannah that “claim” to be authentic, but to me, the “authenticity” is not exactly accurate.   

The food at Kao is what Thai food should be – flavorful, fresh, beautiful, interesting and exciting.  The décor of Kao is soothing, relaxing and beautiful.  The service style is upscale dining with a semi-casual edge, which is perfectly matched for the restaurant itself. 

In my opinion, Kao is one of the best places to take a date, entertain family and friends or hold a business lunch/dinner in
Savannah.  I believe that Kao is one of Savannah’s “Best Kept Secrets” or “Hidden Gems”.  If you have not tried Kao (by the way, it is pronounced “cow”, means Rice in Thailand), you should really make an effort, it is well worth it – your taste buds, eyes, ears and all of your other senses will thank you!
 

Kao Thai Cuisine3017 E. Victory Drive – Savannah, GA 31404 – 912- 961-2080 

**Keep in mind – do not let the location of a restaurant dictate your dining habits.  In other words, look for those “Gems” and give them a try – be a leader, not a follower – just because the “crowd” is going in one direction does not mean that is the “only” choice you have – take the road less taken… 

Some of my favorite dishes: Starter – Num Tok; Soup – Tom Kha Chicken soup; Salad – Thai Beef Salad (it’s not on the menu but you can ask for it); Main course – Green Curry, Kao Pad, Flounder, Grouper, Lobster or Soft Shell Crab w/Green curry or Whole Snapper; Dessert – Fried Ice Cream – I like the Coconut Ice Cream; Drinks – Thai Tea and Thai Coffee!  The whole menu is wonderful, and the chef will customize your selection how you would like, don’t be afraid to ask! 

Remember –  Try new foods often and broaden your horizons, you might come across a flavor you never expected to love! Don’t deny yourself of that!

Create Menu Magic!!

In the past, I haven’t cared much for the overuse of descriptive terms on menus that has become quite the trend now days – at least that is what I thought.  Lately, I have noticed that I do gravitate toward items on menus that are described in a certain matter that suggest freshness and other healthy descriptors.  Read on and I will explain.  It looks like I am not the only one.  Check this out… 

In a 2006 Technomic survey, nearly twice as many people wanted local foods as wanted organic foods on a menu.  About half (47%) said their impression of a restaurant would improve if it menued local foods; another 37% would go out of their way to visit such a restaurant. 

In other words, think about your menu.  Use earthly terms on your menu to show customers that you put flavor, freshness and quality first.  Do some research into what you are purchasing, support your local fisherman and farmers and don’t be afraid to list the farm or grower that your produce is from or the fact that your vegetables are ‘seasonal’, ‘Garden Fresh’ and your cheese is ‘Naturally aged’.   Of course these are just examples, but here are some key words to think about: 

Farm freshLocalArtisanSeasonalOrganicGarden FreshRipeFarm RaisedFreshly HarvestedNaturally AgedHeirloomVarietalFree-RangeGrass-Fed 

It is not just fine dining where this is ‘trendy’, quick service chains are also hopping on the ‘fresh’ bus!  Look at Arby’s Market Fresh Sandwich and Wendy’s Sandwiches on Artisan Bread. 

Customers appreciate seeing local and regional items on the menu! 

Wonderful example of an Entrée item – This is from The Sapphire Grill: 

Benne Encrusted Local Black Grouper & Vinegar Spiked Jasmine Rice
melted leek & heirloom tomato broil, housemade sweet soy & preserved lemon
 

Wonderful Chris!  I will be reviewing your restaurant soon!

Il Pasticcio’s – Savannah GA

The restaurant business is a very tricky monster as I am sure anyone that has dabbled in that business would agree.  There are so many moving parts that are all responsible in one way or another for the success of a restaurant.  Depending how successful you want your establishment to be will determine the amount of time you spend into researching the details that backup those moving parts.  That is not to say there is a guarantee of success by any means, but I believe there is a better chance of success if you do your homework prior to even making the decision to open a restaurant and also be willing to take chances in some areas.  That homework part of the equation and the fear to take some risks is where I believe some people make mistakes.   
In Savannah, we have some great restaurants and I believe we have the ability to have many more.  Some ‘Greats’ are Elizabeth’s on 37th, The Olde Pink House, Garibaldi’s – really…is there anything wrong with these restaurants?? In my mind – absolutely not!  These are established, long time respected, admired and loved by just about everyone and anyone who goes there.  They have ‘earned’ their spot on top with the consistency of excellent service, great atmosphere and outstanding food. 

  

I went to Il Pasticcio this week and in my mind should be grouped with the Savannah ‘Greats’ but for some different reasons.  Il Pasticcio has the same qualities such as excellent service, great atmosphere and outstanding food that the Top 3 have, but I believe they did their homework well and they took risks where needed.  When Il Pasticcio came to Savannah it stood out in the crowd, I was not sure Savannah was ready for it.  It had sort of a ‘cutting edge’ design to it – a little more of a modern style in a city based on Historical features and it was located on Broughton Street – where, at that time, there were not a lot of upscale businesses to mirror the atmosphere Il Pasticcio was creating.  As you can see, these were risky business decisions that have paid off tremendously.  

Thankfully, it has survived the transition of Broughton Streetand has been embraced by locals and tourist looking for an excellent dining experience.  Il Pasticcio has filled a void for diners that was needed in Savannah.  This is not to say it has hurt the other great restaurants in Savannah, if anything, I believe it has made ‘dining out’ in Savannah even more pleasurable knowing you have several fantastic restaurants to choose from ranging from historical to modern, classic to contemporary – whatever your style may be, the dining experience will not only satisfy, but impress you.


Thanks for homework well done and risks being taken!! You have earned your spot in the top!

IL Pasticcio
2 East Broughton Street



Savannah, Georgia 31410
912-231-8888

 

Paula Deen/The Lady & Sons – Savannah GA

Let me start by saying hard work, persistence, dedication, good taste, talent and timing has a lot to do with success in the restaurant business.  Paula Deen has shown, not just Savannah this, but she is on the verge of showing the rest of the world this as well.  

I have put a lot of thought into the success of Paula Deen with her restaurant, TV shows, cook books, magazine, etc. and sometimes, for the life of me, I just can’t understand it.  I can’t understand the hordes of people that gather around the entrance of The Lady and Sons or why her magazine is #1 at Barnes and Nobel – it IS just Southern cooked food, right… 

Well, not really.  It really is MUCH more than that.  I now understand…

I went to The Lady and Sons for lunch today to see what the hype is all about.  Now, first off, I would not say this is a restaurant that locals would visit on a regular basis, but I would say this is a place everyone should visit at least once and then the next time, bring someone that has never been there before.  

Why – because, you just have to…what else can I say.  It is everything you would expect and much, much more.   

After you are seated you are brought their famous Cheddar Biscuits and Hoe Cakes to munch on while you are waiting – is there really a better way to start a meal – the Cheddar Biscuits are addictive, but do save room, you will be thankful!!  We had the Fried Green Tomatoes for an appetizer – they were perfect – light, crispy, tart and very flavorful, excellent.  For lunch and dinner there is the Southern Buffet that will satisfy anyone craving really good fried chicken, collard greens, lima beans and the best smelling sweet potatoes in the world (in my opinion…I almost got the buffet just for these) and the menu which you can order off of.  I opted for the menu.   I ordered the Tilapia Sandwich that was blackened to perfection and slathered with a homemade peach glaze….I would go back any day of the week for this sandwich, it blew me away.  The sweetness of the peach glaze with the spiciness of the blackened spices – it was perfect.  I am stuffed right now, but I could not put the sandwich down…it was THAT good. I also was able to partake in the Asparagus Sandwich that was served on toasted pumpernickel bread topped with jack cheese, purple onion and Thousand Island dressing which is a wonderful sandwich with a great flavor and texture – excellent choice for vegetarians or those wanting a lighter fare. 

Bottom line, the food was great.  The atmosphere was comfortable and inviting.  She has done a wonderful job at pulling together a large restaurant and making it feel like “home”.  The staff was perfect – friendly, charming and attentive.  Keep in mind that you will have to wait to be seated and served, but if you go into it knowing this and expecting it, it should not bother you. 

**I might add that Harry Connick Jr. was there having lunch as well.   

Now, there is no doubt that Paula Deen has worked hard alongside her 2 sons for quite some time and her story tells of this journey.   At times, I might not have understood the attraction, but I do respect it completely. Paula Deen has proven that if you work hard enough, if you have the love and passion in your heart for something, if you keep your dream alive and do not lose sight of your goal (and a bit of luck comes your way) you will, one day, be rewarded in life by seeing your dreams come true in one way or another.  The Lady & Sons 102 West Congress St.
Savannah, GA
31401
912-233-2600
www.ladyandsons.com