Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What do you want for your birthday? Nada

My team asked about my birthday lunch and the only restaurant I wanted to try was Nada. It opened in late 2007 and has been on everyone’s charts since opening day. From my knowledge Nada took Bella’s place. A coworker called to make reservations for 10 and before she hung up she was told we would get a private room for the birthday party. A private room for me? oooooh, that’s exciting.

On Friday, I was so excited to go to lunch I almost didn’t get any work done. Yes I am that bad when it comes to food. The restaurant is conveniently located in the heart of town so street parking’s hard to find; if you find a spot, you’re lucky. We parked in one of the underground garages which set us back 7 dollars for 1.5 hours. Not bad.

After being greeted, we were told our party would sit upstairs in the back room. We walked up the funky, curvy stairs and headed to the private room. As we walked pass long and curvy red couches I was in awe of Nada’s contemporary chic interior. It plays up the bright color theme with reds, yellows and oranges. For a Mexican restaurant, they’ve transformed the space to resemble a hot spot for hip happy hour goers and diners.

The lunch menu is limited compared to the dinner menu, obviously, and consists mostly of tacos and sandwiches. I got Mahi Mahi tacos and my companions ordered grilled chicken tacos or Nada sliders. If any of you are familiar with White Castle, you know sliders are infamous with the fast-food joint. I won’t disgust you with the origins of the name. Tacos are served with a side of beans and rice and sliders are served with sweet potato fries. I read reviews about the Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese so I ordered an extra side along with rice and beans. Gluttonous, I know.

My Mahi Mahi tacos had bright flavors. The fish was dipped in a batter, fried and stuffed in flour tortillas between guacamole and pico de gallo. With a sprinkling of lime juice the tacos came alive. As a lover of Mexican food, I would have preferred corn tortillas for my tacos as opposed to the flour tortillas. I am glad I ordered a side of macaroni and cheese. The top was crunchy from the broiler and the pasta was not overcooked. Additionally, the cheese and jalapenos added a spicy creamy kick to the traditional favorite. I didn’t care for the rice and beans because they weren’t flavored properly. There wasn’t enough of anything- cumin, coriander, chili powder or salt. Others that got sliders raved about the meat, they said it was tender and juicy. I stole couple sweet potato fries, for good reason. They were flavorful, not overcooked or greasy which is easy to do with shoestring fries. After stuffing ourselves, dessert wasn't an option for anyone.

Our server did an excellent job serving and staying on top of everything, especially with the 10 of us. And we're a colorful bunch. We were all a little surprised with the bill; we thought the portions were small for the price. However, combination of good food, service, food presentation and ambiance give Nada a prominent place in the mix. If you’re in search of an upscale modern Mexican restaurant, Nada fits the bill. I certainly plan to go back for happy hour, a formal sit down dinner, or even the macaroni and cheese. While it is a great restaurant to visit once in a while, I prefer the holes in the wall, mostly Spanish speaking joints that serve authentic food- the no frills spots that satisfy my Mexican food fix, inexpensively.

Monday, March 31, 2008

It’s Soba time

Sundays are either eventful when I am cooking up a storm or lethargic as I am glued to the TV or web surfing. Yesterday was a busy Sunday. I started the day with my breakfast of champions, homemade granola (recipe coming soon) and milk, revised my shopping list and headed out on a shopping spree. I started at Trader Joe’s, which was busy but still manageable. Sometimes it's so crammed I get fed up and leave half way into my grocery shopping. I used to love going in there to browse and I am sad they found my little gem. Damn the TJ’s PR people! After getting most things, I headed to another grocer. There I bought pineapple, avocado, Cape Cod chips (the kettle cooked kind)- for Tuna Noodle casserole, carrots and soba noodles.

An odd combination of things, right? I used Soba and carrots for dinner that night. I love carbohydrates and when they come in a form of Japanese noodles, I love them even more. I usually make soba noodles one way, stir fried with vegetables, the only way I like them. When I recently visited a friend, she served soba noodles in a soup; it was gingery and tasty. After that meal I decided I like the noodles as a main dish, with vegetables better than in a soup.

Last night’s dinner was quick and simple. Protein can be added for a heartier version.

Soba Noodles with your favorite vegetables and protein, optional

6 ounce dried Soba Noodles
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 inch ginger, minced
2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tbsp Rice wine, Mirin
1 tsp Sesame oil
Red chili flakes
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 ounce fresh spinach or 4 ounce frozen spinach, defrosted
Sesame seeds, toasted

Cook noodles according to package directions. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add noodles and let the water come to rolling boil. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, turn down heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Reserve some cooked noodle liquid, drain and rinse with cold water.

While waiting for water to boil, sauté onions in vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes in a medium pan, until onions have a brownish color on them. Add garlic and ginger and cook 30 – 60 seconds. (If using, this is the time to add extra-firm tofu or chicken breast. For chicken, add to the pan, and add enough broth to cover half of the chicken in liquid. Cover and cook until chicken is almost done.) Add soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and red chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and spinach to the pan and mix. Finally, add cooked noodles and stir everything together. If it’s too dry, add the reserved liquid. Season with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm. Contrary to popular belief, soba noodles can be served warm.

Other vegetables that make a great apperance in this dish are eggplant, bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and broccoli.