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Rocco is very busy but you can always find spot at the bar.

Do they leave the bar seats for walk-ins? If so, the guy on the phone should have said so! I would have taken a chance on bar seats, but I was told the restaurant was completely booked.

They don't save any seats but during the week - you'll sit within 30 mins as people migrate to tables. Fri/Sat may be longer but after 8:30, you'll be fine.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 months later...
Has anyone tried Henry B's since it moved to Rochester's East End from Seneca Falls or the more casual Sagamore Grille adjacent to it?

I haven't and won't. Rochester is full of mom & pop sauce joints, the prices they're charging for food and wines are laughable.

Gordon:

What about Pier 45? I don't know anyone who has tried it yet. Menu on the web is not very adventurous, but if well prepared... and there is always the lake (while it's still summer).

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Has anyone tried Henry B's since it moved to Rochester's East End from Seneca Falls or the more casual Sagamore Grille adjacent to it?

I haven't and won't. Rochester is full of mom & pop sauce joints, the prices they're charging for food and wines are laughable.

Gordon:

What about Pier 45? I don't know anyone who has tried it yet. Menu on the web is not very adventurous, but if well prepared... and there is always the lake (while it's still summer).

The space is just plain gorgeous. Stick to safe things, my girl and I like to have a bottle and some fruit de mer as apps then head back downtown to eat. The only bad thing is that most of the time, you have this idyllic cabana style atmosphere punctuated by families with their kids sprawled all over everything playing with their toys. A little too Carnival Cruise lines for me personally (and I love kids, just not in a fine dining context)

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Wow, those Henry B's prices are pretty surprising. I'm guessing portions are ridiculously large, the shtick is that everything's for sharing, but still, that's looking like a pretty high tariff for homey Italian food.

I had some slightly more affordable red sauce over the weekend, and while it might not have been a huge bargain, I thought it was certainly worth it.

I finally made it to Rocco, and was overall very pleased. I'm sorry that I didn't have my camera with me, as some of the dishes were quite lovely.

We started with the Arancini, three good-sized balls of risotto, coated in panko, and expertly fried to a perfect crisp. There were no treasures hidden inside, save for the luxuriously creamy rice, but they were seated in a very tasty red sauce. I liked them with and without that accompaniment, but overall I was happy to have it.

We also had a salad of pears, gorgonzola and grilled radicchio, along with a few other fresh greens. It was huge, very nicely balanced, and an ideal thing to eat a warm summer evening.

I'd been debating which pizza to get, but when a Margherita was delivered to some diners near us the decision became easier. It looked so appealing that I decided to go with that one, and I was not disappointed. The crust was quite good, thin and crispy and flavorful, and both sauce and cheese were well-proportioned and very tasty. There's no place to hide poor ingredients or technique with a simple pizza like this, and each element was able to shine.

If I had one quibble, it's with the cutting, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Hey Rocco folks: I'd be perfectly happy if you want to get all Neapolitan on us and serve it uncut, to be eaten with a fork and knife but the crust is a little too crispy for that. And you seem to realize that people aren't going to play along with that and want it cut, because you serve the pizza along with some heavy-duty kitchen shears. All I can do with kitchen shears is, somewhat clumsily, cut it into slices. If it's going to end up in slices, the kitchen can do that better than I can, I really don't see any advantage, or appeal, to doing it myself. So, Rocco, ditch the scissors, it's silly. Cut the freaking pizza in the kitchen. It doesn't matter what they do in Naples, people are not going to eat this pizza with a knife and fork, so slice it already.

We also got the pasta Cacio e Pepe, which, at least this evening, was made with Cavatelli. This was yet another dish with no margin for error, and thankfully, there weren't any: the pasta had a wonderfully firm, yet yielding texture, and there was just enough cheese and black pepper to make it interesting, but still allowing the basic nature of the pasta to shine through. Very subtle, very simple, we thought it was delicious.

I regret not sampling any of the mains, but in retrospect, I'm glad we didn't order any, between two of us, we couldn't even finish an app, a salad a pizza and a pasta. Portions were generally pretty large, except perhaps the pizza, which was appropriately-sized, probably 10 inches in diameter.

We sat at the bar, and the bartender was a very helpful, informed server.

So overall, we liked the place quite a lot, with only one significant complaint. I'm really not sure exactly what happened, I suspect there was a misunderstanding between the host and myself, although I don't know what could have been ambiguous. We walked-in without a reservation at about 8, and asked if there was a table. The host replied that he didn't know, and it would be a few minutes until he'd know. He suggested that we wait at the bar, he'd let us know, or we could simply eat at the bar. We found seats at the bar, which is a perfectly comfortable place to eat, except that it was a little loud, a little warm, and it would have been nice for my dining partner and I to sit facing one another. We got a glass of wine and started perusing the menu, which perhaps the host interpreted as us deciding to settle-in there, but it would have been nice if he'd asked. We in fact would have preferred a table, and had not said that we'd just eat at the bar.

A short time after we sat at the bar, another party arrived and sat next to us there. We heard them ask if there was a table, so we know they didn't have a reservation. Oddly, they were seated in the dining room fairly promptly. This happened with yet another party a few minutes later. We hadn't ordered any food yet. I would have said something, but I was actually morbidly curious about what was going to happen. The bar had actually gotten a bit quieter, and it was fairly comfortable, so we didn't really mind just staying there, but it would have been nice to have been offered a table, given that we'd asked for one, and especially because it was a lovely evening, and they had tables outside, which would have been especially pleasant.

But, honestly, we had a good time, I'm willing to write-off the seating thing as a misunderstanding, rather than an overt diss. We had gone in prepared to just eat at the bar, thinking that the place might have been fully-booked, so it was not a tragedy by any means, but it was a little annoying to watch two parties that arrived after us get tables.

I certainly can't complain about the food or the service from our server/bartender, so I'm looking forward to going back. Unfortunately, my schedule is usually so much in flux that it's hard to make reservations, but next time I'll be sure to double-check that it's understood that I'd prefer a table should one become available. But there definitely will be a next time.

Rocco

165 Monroe Ave., Rochester, NY 14607

(585)454-3510

www.roccorochester.com

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night, my wife and I had our usual fine time at Good Luck. All of the seasonal dishes and cocktails were expertly made (I'm a fan of their concoction, the Kentucky East India Company). I just felt compelled to write about one of the summer specials offered that night amongst the squash blossoms, marlin with citrus, watermelon and cucumber salads: Pork Belly. Pork belly is like bacon- hard for anyone except for a vegan to dislike. The pork belly was roasted such that the crackling was like that of Chinese or Cuban roast pork, the fat rendered from the seasoned skin such that it was perfectly crisp without being greasy. The meat below the skin was both unctuous and silky with a flavor that can only be called "porky" goodness that you don't find from lean supermarket pork. The two portions were served in a sizzling hot pan over creamy garlicky white beans and greens that had a subtle kick of red pepper heat. This "seasonal" special might seem to heavy and more suited to fall or winter, but for me as the Rochester summer heats up, I loved it, but hell I love pork belly. Below is a poor quality iPhone picture after one portion was already devoured.

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Yo Rochesterians! Your Public Market is amazing!

With some 300 vendors, it simply blows away anything I've seen. It way outpaces Philly's Italian Market and Reading Terminal together, as well as the famed Union Square (NYC) and Ferry Plaza (SFO) markets. I recently shopped at the heavily romanticized market in Florence, and it as well can't hold a torch to the Public Market. The outdoor sheds are beautiful, the produce fantastic. Cabbages the size of beach balls! Turnips the size of canon balls! Cauliflower the size of my head!

While the produce offerings may not be as diverse as at, say, the Union Square Greenmarket or Iovine's in the Reading Terminal, the quality is outstanding. That said, (mostly) everything's very local, burning far fewer miles than produce appearing in the aforementioned markets. I've read in other contexts here (e.g., the Alice Waters thread) that northern dwellers (MN, VT, etc.) bewail the lack of variety between growing seasons, but I'd be happy to live on the local parsnips and squash in the winter. If I ever move back to the U.S., I'd seriously consider Rochester – for the Market, as well as the dining options (a few visits noted below).

Thanks to introductions made by my tour guide Ann-Marie, I got a chance to chat with the amiable Ray Vercruysse, a stalwart at the Market who's been farming for 60-some years and is widely known for his radishes (his license plate reads RADISH). He attributes the harvest wealth to the "muck" – the rich topsoil found in the counties bordering Lake Ontario. Ray also said that fewer and fewer vendors are actually true farmers, so you need to pick your spots. The vendors I spoke with were all friendly and helpful: I wanted to try a Honey Crisp – "Here, just take one." I have trouble getting pepper seed in Italy, and a vendor with a mind-boggling assortment of peppers suggested I try importing them within the EU from Germany – "they have everything we have."

With the associated dining options (Mexican, Polish-Ukranian), bakery, butcher, cafes, and on and on, the Public Market is the finest public (food) space I've encountered. Y'all are lucky!

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Meals included:

2 Vine, a bustling spot behind the beautifully restored Little Theater. We shared squash ravioli, nicely prepared sautéed calamari, a tasty duck confit salad, and lamb chops on steroids. Plus a B-list sighting of Rochester's own Robert Forster.

Rocco, which was superb as advertised upthread. Like philadining, we didn't get beyond a wide assortment of antipasti and a pizza, particularly having seen the ginormous plated portions of steak and pork. Wine pours were extremely generous. The lone negroni I had was light on the Campari yet proved to be quite, well, intoxicating as the evening wore on. Very pleasant staff, impeccable service.

Highland Park Diner, where I had some of the best corned beef hash I've eaten in recent memory.

The Gate House (Village Gate), with a wide variety of burgers named after Rochester venues. We opted for pizza, preceded by, inter alia, a Rochester version of pigs-in-blankets, using Zweigle whitehots. Awesome.

I always try to check out a local burger joint when I'm visiting a city for the first time. I found myself at the end of Lake Avenue at Charlotte Beach and, based on the signage alone, couldn't resist trying the LDR Char Pit.

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Having at that point never heard of Zweigle's dogs (if Holly likes 'em, they're bound to be good...), I ordered me up a combo.

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The burger was good, but the white hot was the closest thing you'll find to a Weisswurst outside of Germany (scratch that: it's a Weisswurst as good as it gets). Simply grilled, it was outstanding.

Greater Rochester has lots to offer in food and wine. I'm certain all you locals couldn't be happier.

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I think you might have hit the Rochester Public Market at the absolute peak of autumn bounty, because, although I certainly do enjoy it, on most visits I've made, it doesn't hold a candle to the other markets you compared it to. But yes, there is some pretty amazing produce at certain times of the year, and most from fairly near-by.

But overall, I heartily agree with your post, especially the awesomeness of Zweigles White hots. And Corned Beef hash (breakfast in general) at the Highland Park Diner.

I've never been there, but isn't the LDR Char Pit famous for some quirky kind of steak sandwich?

Oh, and Robert Forster counts as A-list in RaChaCha.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 5 weeks later...

A friend who is the girlfriend of someone of Greek descent asked me if I knew of any good Greek restaurants in Rochester (or drivable from Rochester) for a surprise birthday. I personally don't know of anything great. Does anyone have any suggestions?

The old Olive Tree is now Rocco's. I do like Olive's in Schoen Place in Pittsford but I am not sure how it would rate for someone Greek. I think this is the same for a lot of ethnic food restaurants in Rochester for people of that ethnic group. For someone of Chinese descent, I find that there really is no great Chinese restaurant in Rochester because you have Toronto or NYC to compare with. From Gordon's posts in the past, I guess the same holds true for Korean food. That said, is there any truly good Greek place that the Greek locals go to? It doesn't have to be fancy- just good food.

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I didn't have time to do as much eating around Rochester over the holidays as I'd hoped, but I did manage to squeeze in a few old favorites and find some new ones too.

I had some very good Chinese at Chen Garden and Thai at King and I. These are regular destinations for me when I visit, and while there's been some small variation in quality over the years, both places did a great job during these recent visits.

I also returned to Good Luck, which was not quite as thrilling as it was on my last visit, but was still solidly good. I ate there on New Year's Day, so I wouldn't be too surprised if the staff was a little blurry from the night before, although I don't even know if any of that was an issue... Service was very good, and the food was well-executed, it just seemed somehow a little less vibrant than I remembered. We started with a "snack" of a roasted beet tart with goat cheese and candied walnuts. That was pretty straightforward, but also quite delicious. We also had "cardoon cutlets" which we'd loved at our last visit, and this preparation was similar, but missing a little spark: the vegetable portion wasn't quite as light and crisp, the tomato sauce not quite as fresh, and this version didn't have some of the little touches, like bitter greens, that really elevated the earlier incarnation we'd had. We also got a very nice roasted wild sea bass with red cabbage and potatoes. There was nothing to complain about, we enjoyed it, but it's not something I've been dreaming about going back for.

Maybe I was just cranky that they had taken the "Pitchfork" cocktail off the menu. I was really looking forward to trying this combination of Finger Lakes Distilling Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, Drambuie, Schutt's Apple Cider and Bacon Syrup. I guess I'll just have to try to replicate it back home... I ended up ordering whatever replaced it, a warm whiskey somethingorother that was tasty, but unmemorable.

Despite missing out on that drink at the Good Luck bar, I did manage to stock up on Finger Lakes Distilling's McKenzie Rye and Seneca Drums Gin, so I'll be working on some of my own cocktails...

I made quick stops at some new places too. I picked up samosas and pakoras and chaat papri and breads at Bombay Chaat House. It's a tiny little place set up mostly for take-out, but there are a couple of small tables if you wanted to eat-in. As the name suggests, it's primarily the little snacks called "chaat" such as Pani Poori, Bhel Poori, Chaat Papri, etc. But they usually have a more substantial curry dish or two, and a Biryani, etc, if you want more than a light lunch or snacks. It's a small selection compared to your average Indian restaurant, but it's just right for a quick bite. I thought the food was very good, in a homey, personal sort of way. They don't have a tandoor, so the breads are done in a pan on a stove, which is fine, just different from those made in a hot clay oven! Thali of India offers a few chaat items, but this place has a few unique items that you'd have trouble finding elsewhere around town. Worth checking out for its home-made charm.

Bombay Chaat House

1475 East Henrietta Road

Rochester, NY 14623-3169

(585) 292-0099

Dropped by Vinh-Hao on South Clinton to grab a Banh Mi. It was pretty good, actually large-ish in the Banh Mi spectrum, and only $3.50, but I didn't love the roll. It was over the holidays, so perhaps I hit them on a day that they didn't get a bread delivery, so I should probably try them again to make sure.

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The whole thing was a little drier and blander than the ones at Pho Duong Dong, so I actually might prefer the ones at the Pho place, even if they're a little smaller (and cheaper.) But then again, Vinh-Hao is open a lot more, and easier to get to for most of us. Perhaps one day there will be a place that serves more than one kind of Banh Mi!

But the highlight of my visit might have been an accidental snack. I'd stopped by The French Quarter Café intending to just look at the menu and check on their hours. They're open, but still ramping-up, the official grand opening isn't until February, so they don't have everything they're hoping to eventually serve, but it's still a decent menu. As it turns out, they were not going to be open at any time that was convenient for me to drop in for dinner, so I decided to try a couple of things while I was there. I started with a "cup" of gumbo, which was a pretty substantial serving of very tasty soup of chicken and sausage. It was more of a soup than some gumbos I've had, but I've learned that gumbo takes many, many forms, and none of them is abstractly "correct." This version has nice flavor, and I could taste a fullness from a traditional roux. Personally, I like the thicker, stewy consistency that comes from a bit more roux, but I enjoyed this style just fine. My only real complaint is that the sausage was pretty tame, I think a spicier andouille would be really nice in that gumbo. But still, I'm ordering it again next time I go.

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I couldn't resist ordering a Natchitoches Meat Pie. This had a nice flaky crust, and a mild, but pleasant filling of ground pork and beef.

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But what really grabbed me was the menu's description of the Roast Beef Po Boy. It promised that they cook down the beef until it's falling apart into what they call "debris" down in New Orleans. That tender beef, in a thick gravy, is then served on a roll dressed with lettuce, mayo (and usually pickles at the Po Boy shops I've been to.) There weren't any pickles on this version, and the mayo was spiked with horseradish, but despite those differences, the overwhelming sensation I got when eating it was that it was almost perfectly authentic. Authenticity can be overrated, but in this case, I was thrilled to discover a very close approximation of a sandwich that I have come to love after some visits to New Orleans. It's not quite as huge (or messy) as the ones you'd get at Parkway or Parasol, but it's plenty big, and plenty messy! It actually looked a little slight to me when it arrived, but there was in fact a good amount of beef on there. And most importantly, it tasted great. The combination of hot beef and gravy with lettuce and mayo always sounds bizarre to me, but it works.

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The magic ingredient in any po boy is the bread - there's a very specific texture to a po boy roll - it's light and airy, yet crusty, not as dense as the average submarine roll, with a crisp, thin outer crust. This roll was perfect! When I mentioned how great the bread was, I was told that they have those rolls shipped-in from Louisiana. This is a new development: if you'd tried their po boys when they were located on Arnett Blvd, you haven't tried these rolls. And it makes a huge difference. So I certainly hope they can continue to do this, or find a local baker than can duplicate that texture. They also have shrimp, catfish or smoked chicken as fillings for po boys, which are probably quite good, but I highly recommend checking out the roast beef, it's the real thing.

Of course it's hard to extrapolate about a restaurant from three dishes, but there are some very promising indicators. The flavors of the gumbo are very true to what I've tasted in New Orleans. And the roast beef Po Boy gave me a real flashback to the versions available there.

The husband and wife that own the place, and cook the food, have roots down south, in Louisiana and Alabama if I remember correctly, and still visit family there. So they're interested in presenting the true flavors that they remember, whihc in many cases may be more subtle than the popular clichés of Cajun and Creole food. In fact, most of that food is not especially loaded with chili peppers, so don't expect everything to set your tongue in fire. But you can expect full flavors, and some real effort toward authenticity, if what I sampled was any indication. It certainly bears some further investigation! I look forward to seeing what the menu will finally offer when they reach the official grand opening in a few weeks. I heard something about beignets... but in the interim, be ready for the menu to change a bit.

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French Quarter Café

176 South Goodman (at Park Ave - across from Parkleigh)

585-413-1151

Oh, and one last thing: I was fortunate enough to receive some chocolates from Hedonist as a gift. These happened to be some pretty highly-spiced peppery truffles, which I've found quite interesting. The flavor combinations are unusual, and quite good. I'd like to try some more of their offerings. Next visit!

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Hedonist Artisan Chocolates

674 South Ave

Rochester

585-461-2815

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Also, this is a second-hand report, but there's another interesting development out on Jefferson Road in Henrietta. Back around Thanksgiving time, I think I laughed out load when I drove by this location which used to be a Hooters, then Cheerleaders, and noticed it was now sporting a Japanese-style Torii gate motif on its facade. That's a bit of a transformation...

But it is now Sunrise Japanese Steakhouse, and advertises (on a sign out front) Yakitori, Korean Barbecue, sushi and more. I didn't have a chance to stop in there when I was up there over the holidays, but I've gotten some positive reports from trusted associates... They're apparently not quite set-up for the Korean BBQ in-table grilling yet, but they will have several booths that are set-up for that, and a few others with hibachi-style flattops for the Japanese steakhouse thing. But they do already offer yakitori, shumai, some sushi, etc. I'm not sure that it's quite an Izakaya, but it does sound like a good place to grab some drinks and snacks. Apparently they're running some good bargain specials right now as they get going, so it could be worth checking out sooner than later.

It's the same owners as Shogun on Ridge Road, and Sakura Home out on Monroe Ave near the Brighton/Pittsford border, but I haven't been to any of those places, so I can't say... I'm not personally all that attracted to the hibachi/teppanyaki scene, or the whacky-roll sushi thing, so again, I can't vouch for it personally, but I've heard good things. And the prospect of grabbing some yakitori and a beer, is kind of appealing, especially since they're open late. Almost makes it worth hanging around Henrietta...

http://sunrisesteakhouse.com/

945 Jefferson Road

Rochester, NY 14623

I grew up in Henrietta, so I feel entitled to whine about it being a wasteland. But then, when I step back for a minute, I realize that it has the King and I, Thali and Tandoor, Bombay Chaat house, three decent Korean restaurants, El Dorado tacos, and there might even be a couple more good places to eat that I'm forgetting. So maybe I should be admitting my heritage more proudly!

I wanted to take credit for Brandani's Pizza too, but I think that's over the border in Brighton. But hey, it's on West Henrietta road, so maybe we can claim it. The business has apparently been operating for 35 years, about 25 in that spot, but I'd never noticed them. According to their website, the Brandani family sold it about 5 years ago, but to a long-time employee, so it's apparently carrying-on a tradition. I don't know how it used to be, but we got a pizza recently and I was quite impressed. It's nothing especially unusual, but the toppings were very good quality, especially the Italian sausage, and I quite liked the crust. They're using regular commercial steel-deck pizza ovens, but the crust had a very nice texture and was actually cooked properly, to a very pleasing browned level that exhibited a great combination of chew and crunch. I just got the sense that the pizza was made with some care and attention, which improves anything, really!

http://brandanispizza.com/

2595 West Henrietta Road

Rochester, NY 14623-2325

(585) 272-7180

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Brandani's makes what I call classic Rochester pizza. Crusty, chewy, lots of sauce and mozz. I remember Brandani's when they were on East Ridge rd in Irondequoit when I was a kid. There and maybe the original Pontillo's accross the street.

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  • 1 month later...

I was quite entertained by a local website called Rochester Food Net about all things food around Rochester by Adam Wilcox formerly of City newspaper and now a contributor to Rochester Magazine. It's actually a collection of blogs. He has also enlisted the contributions of locally well known radio host, Michael Warren Thomas, or as he calls him, "The Man with Three First Names" and our own GordonCooks. Check it out for insights beyond the conventional media.

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Made another quick visit to Rochester recently, not enough time to really do the kind of surveying I prefer, so I just stuck to what the circumstances dictated. Some visiting friends with kids were craving Korean, so we hit Seoul Garden one evening, and everyone enjoyed it. One of the dining party was Korean, and all of them eat at Korean restaurants in Manhattan frequently, and they were pleased. Our (gas-powered) in-table grill didn't get quite as hot as we'd have liked, but it sufficed for some very good Kalbi and Bulgogi. I'm spoiled, we still have several places in Philly that still use charcoal, so I'm never completely satisfied with gas...

We also had a very good Hae Mul Pajun, although the seafood was more finely-chopped than I prefer. Still, if the pancake is crisp and not too greasy, I'll live with that. Nakji Bokum was very tasty, not as spicy as it looked, but the octopus was tender and tasty. The kids inhaled a Bi Bim Bap before any adults could get near it, so I can't say for sure what it was like, but they enjoyed it. We also had a couple of very good soups. I wish I'd been paying closer attention when the ordering was going on, because I'd like the get those soups again, but I've learned to just let the native-speakers do their thing and stay out of the way...

Afterward, a stop at Abbotts Frozen Custard was required. Thankfully, there was not only one a very short distance from Seoul Garden on West Henrietta Road, but also one right near their hotel too. I suspect there might have been additional visits after I left them... That chocolate almond is crazy.

Later on that night, one friend and I dropped by Good Luck for a quick cocktail. It was pleasantly bustling, but not so packed that we couldn't find seats at the bar. We sampled a Black Cat Tea (Johnny Walker Black, Cointreau, Iced Earl Grey Tea, lemon, orange bitters) which tasted like...well...tea. Also had a Brass Tacks (Mezcal, Rittenhouse Rye, Fernet Branca, Blood Orange, Lemon Bitters, Ginseng Cola) which was complex and weird, in an appealing way. My kind of drink. Their Sazerac was a little heavy on the Peychaud's, but still worked, perhaps because they make them with a mix of cognac and bourbon and serve them on the rocks. We were also happy to see the local McKenzie Rye on the list and enjoyed sipping a bit of that straight. It's a little pricey, but hey, there's not that much of it around, and it's tasty...

The next night, a birthday honoree requested dinner at Next Door Bar and Grill. I'd normally be skeptical about eating at a place run by Wegmans supermarkets, but the menu looked interesting, so I was curious. We got there a little early, and were directed to the bar area to wait. We got some decent cocktails, and encountered the only significant service glitch: for some reason they claimed to be unable to transfer the bar tab to our dinner check. This isn't a huge deal, I usually prefer to settle-up at the bar anyway, but in this case, just as they alerted us that our table was ready (with one of those cheesey blinking - buzzing pager things) our server made herself scarce, so it was kind of a pain to flag her down, get a check and pay, while acknowledging to the impatient gang of hostesses that we were on our way...

The bar area is schizophrenic: part slick, modern and sleek, part romantic casbah, part disco lounge, complete with mirror ball. The bar itself was full, so we slipped into one of the draped areas with low couches and deep chairs. It felt like there ought to be a hookah on the table, and the couches seemed designed more for napping than sitting, but I suppose this could be a good thing in certain circumstances - I'm just having a hard time picturing the demographic that seemed to be populating the place getting THAT chill. I was also having a hard time getting up off of the couch, and jeeze, I'm not so old and creaky!

The look of the main restaurant space is similarly jumbled. It's a combination of arty modern design touches, rustic wood and fixtures, curvy glass and chrome, and oversized, old-fashioned stodgy paintings. It's not bad looking, well, except for the paintings, it's just an odd juxtaposition of styles. Even the menu layout is a weird mix of sleek design and corny clip-art graphics. And I suppose you could say the same thing about food on that menu: there are two whole pages of sushi and sashimi, and a long list of skewered things cooked on a Robata grill, but also burgers, pizza and relatively conventional entrées like a roasted chicken, or a steak, or a grilled salmon.

Both the decor and the food work better than you'd think they would. Although it's a massive space, it's broken-up into smaller rooms in a way that makes each section feel relatively intimate. And while the menu seems all-over-the-place, it's actually artfully compartmentalized as well, and it's nice to have all these options. It just so happens that the various folks at our table wanted a burger, a pizza, some robata-grilled items, some braised veal cheeks and a pan-seared bass.

OK, none of what we ordered was so earth-shakingly awesome that we're racing back there immediately, but in fact everything was quite good, and interesting enough that I'd return for another dinner, and perhaps even order some of the same things again.

NextDoor-Fries.JPGA few things were spot-on. The Tuscan Fries were perfect: crisp, just enough garlic and rosemary and coarse sea salt to enhance, not overwhelm. The mayo-based dipping sauce was a strong compliment. The robata-grilled items were uniformly impressive as well. We sampled Asparagus, Kurobuta Pork (Belly), Scallop, Beef, and Chicken. Each was dressed with a different condiment, which were all at least good, some outstanding, like the rosemary-apple purée that lurked under the bacon-y pork. The scallops were on the small side, but perfectly cooked, subtly enhanced by the ginger, shiso and ponzu. I could see a chef setting-up the grill at the beginning of service, and there's no mistaking those glowing branches of Binchotan charcoal as he transferred them from a huge iron pot into the grilling area, and that super-hot wood imparts a distinctive flavor.

NextDoor-RobataPork.JPG

The pizzas here are odd. Our server stressed several times that they are built on a VERY thin, crackery crust, but even those admonitions didn't prepare me for how paper-thin that crust would be. And that's not inherently a bad thing, one might argue about whether it's really even pizza, but for what it is, a crackery flatbread thing with toppings, it's pretty tasty. We tried a basic Margherita, with appropriately sparse toppings of good-quality chunky roasted tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil. It seems like a perfect bar snack, or a shared appetizer, probably not so great if you're hungry for pizza...

The "Bouley Burger," served on an English Muffin, with cucumber, lettuce, etc, in the fashion of Bouley in Manhattan, was well-liked, and looked good.

Braised veal cheeks were accompanied by spaetzle and red cabbage, in a concentrated, tangy sauce. These tasted very good, even though the sweet-and-sour notes of the sauce and of the red cabbage amplified one another and could get a little intense... The cheeks were still fairly firm, not quite as falling-apart as I've had, but that struck me as a cooking-style choice rather than a mistake. I couldn't see any circulators in the huge open kitchen, but there was something about the texture that made me wonder if they were actually cooked sous-vide rather than classically braised (not that one is better than the other.) Whatever the method, I might have let them go a little further, but that's really nitpicking.

A seared filet of sea bass was presented over gnocchi and a kind of stew of vegetables. The fish itself was decent, competently cooked, but a little bland. But the dish as a whole was rather good, the gnocchi was light and tender, the vegetable sauce flavorful.

Service was good overall. Food came out at a reasonable pace, there was a dedicated water and bread person, ready with refills. We flagged a random server a couple of times for small requests, and those requests were promptly handled by that person, not handed back to "our" server. The opening recitation of specials was a little weird, in that it included so many minute details that I was half expecting the ZIP codes for all of the ingredients and the names of each line cook who would be preparing them. The description of a crab cake special was followed by a recommended wine pairing, which included a review of the wine, right down to its relative oakiness and vanilla notes on the nose, as well as the price by glass or bottle. OK, how about if you wait and see if we order a crab cake before we worry about a wine pairing? Anyway, that was just about the only scripted sales-pitch we received, other than a helpful tip that the bread we were served is available at the store across the street. Admittedly we HAD mentioned liking it, and that was actually helpful to know, but she didn't really need to remind us that we were eating food from the supermarket!

Sitting in the main room, I could see close to 20 cooks in the open kitchen, all looking feverishly busy, which seemed almost comical until we were able to absorb how many seats this restaurant really has. To the credit of the designers, it's much larger than it seems. There were at least 4 or 5 dedicated sushi chefs, preparing platters. There is plentiful counter seating around what looks like a traditional sushi bar, but there didn't seem to be any way to interact directly with the chefs. Ordering and delivery were all done via servers, which can be fine, but there seemed to be no chance for the delicate give-and-take between a sushi chef and the diner that can make the experience so much better. The fish looked to be of high quality, but the selection was not especially exotic, and populated by too many gimmicky rolls, but I suppose that's what most people want.

Prices were in-line with what you'd see at most places of this style, which is to say, a semi-upscale, serious restaurant. But it is ironic that the very fact that it's right across the street from the mothership supermarket made us keep thinking about the prices of ingredients versus the final cost for the menu item. Really, $19 for just a duck leg?!? $22 for just the breast?! You really can't give me a half a duck for that? $5-7 seems about right for a grilled skewer of something until you start thinking of how much product is really on those sticks... But then as you look around at the well-appointed dining rooms, the large shiny kitchen, and the swarms of employees, it's not hard to see where restaurant markup goes, that's the reality of the restaurant business. And heck, I don't want to have to buy expensive binchotan charcoal, and get it lit, it's a pain...

Overall, I'd say that the restaurant is better than one might expect from something run by a supermarket, even Wegmans. But at the same time, it's worth keeping in mind that for better and for worse, it's a large, modern corporate enterprise, not the personal vision of a driven chef, or a cultural expression of some ethnic heritage, as so many fine restaurants are. That said, one can probably safely expect consistent quality and execution, along with good service, and that's not bad.

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 2 months later...

Give it to Gordon for pointing out the opening of another fine dining establishment in the Rochester vicinity. On the Eastside in Victor, NY, opposite the large Eastview shopping mall is Warfield's, a new sister establishment to Warfield's in Clifton Springs. The soft opening was 3 weeks ago and apparently formal advertising will begin after July 4th. The chef Brent Williams's resume apparently includes Max at Eastman Place and the Monroe Country Club. All in all, my wife and I had a nice evening. I will let Gordons's review describe the type of food in more detail. His mini review is on his blog here.

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Give it to Gordon for pointing out the opening of another fine dining establishment in the Rochester vicinity. On the Eastside in Victor, NY, opposite the large Eastview shopping mall is Warfield's, a new sister establishment to Warfield's in Clifton Springs. The soft opening was 3 weeks ago and apparently formal advertising will begin after July 4th. The chef Brent Williams's resume apparently includes Max at Eastman Place and the Monroe Country Club. All in all, my wife and I had a nice evening. I will let Gordons's review describe the type of food in more detail. His mini review is on his blog here.

What did you have? And how was it?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Have not signed in for a while. I took iphone quality pics of our meal.

Our meal:

Amuse Bouche/ Chef starter:

Parmigiano tuile and Fava bean mousse accented with crispy guanciale

warfields3.jpg

Apps:

Heirloom Tomato Soup. Lobster salad, avocado, and yellow gazpacho sorbet

warfields4.jpg

Crispy Pork Belly. Doubled egg (a runny soft boiled egg that has a light fried coating), English pea, Mustard jus

warfields5.jpg

Salads:

Beets etc. Arugula, Frisee, Almond cristed goat cheese, Orange Confit, Port Vinaigrette

warfields7.jpg

Green Leaf-Red Leaf. Bacon sheets, Stilton, Cucumber Tomato Relish, Sherry & Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

warfields6.jpg

Entrees:

Grouper Persillade. Tempura Squash Blossom, Summer Vegetables, Calamari, Olive Wine Sauce

warfields8.jpg

Butter Poached Lobster. Littleneck Clams, Lobster Agnolotti, Braised Cipollini, Sweet Pea Fumet

warfields9.jpg

Desserts:

Meyer Lemon Tart. Fresh Lichee Sorbet

warfields10.jpg

Selection of NY State Cheeses. Triple Aged Mcadam, Cayuga Blue, Aged Goat Cheese, Strawberry compote.

warfields11.jpg

Overall, a nice evening. There were some execution misses for me. The amuse bouche texturally and flavor profile did not work for me. The pork belly meat was done nicely, but the skin was not crisp. That said, I think it is a great addition that we need for a quiet fine dining eperience, especially nice if you live on the east side of town. They do need to bulk up their wine list. This seems odd as they are located in the Constellation Wines headquarters and have the contract with the Constellation Wines dining room. Wife and my regular haunt remains Good Luck. We like (some don't) the boisterous environment, good selection of wines and great cocktails, and sharing of seasonal foods.

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The wine list is a work in progress as it's more a matter of getting in what they need and not cannibalizing the list at the Warfield's Clifton Springs location. The place is in it's infancy still but shows a lot of creative promise.

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Have not been for a while to Max at Eastman Place. Tony Gullace was not in the kitchen but his staff did an incredible job from app to dessert. For me, steak tartare, roasted beet salad, and then superb lamb chops, followed by a rhubarb crisp. Outstanding service. In my opinion, one of the best and may hold the crown for fine dining in Rochester.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Only had time for one quick bite on my way out of Rochester, and Mexican sounded right, so I dropped back in to Eldorado, out on East Henrietta Road in Henrietta. I realized it had been some time since I'd been in, because I barely recognized the place! I recall they had "closed for renovations" a while ago, which is always scary, because it's so often code for - never coming back, just don't want anybody to know!

Turns out that in this case, they were actually closed for renovations, and they did a nice job, the place looks much nicer, and it's more functional. It's still a small, casual space, but it's buffed-up a bit.

We were too late for the lunch buffet, which they have most days. I didn't get to see what's offered, but for $7, it sounds like it would be worth a try.

So, off the menu, I tried the Torta Bravada, a kitchen-sink kind of sandwich with chorizo, carnitas, beef, and chicken piled on a long roll which had been spread with refried beans and guacamole, and drizzled with mayo and crema, and hit with a showering of queso.

Eldorado-TortaBravada.jpg

As you can seem it was a big mess. But a delicious mess! I was expecting a big round roll, but I was surprised that the long roll was just right for this.

We also tried a bacon quesadilla.. Probably not traditional, but delicious... and a couple of Al Pastor tacos too...

Eldorado-BaconQuesadilla.jpg

Really tasty stuff. Nothing fancy, not gourmet cooking, but satisfying homey Mexican flavors.

2513 E. Henrietta Rd, Henrietta, NY 14623

585-486-4170

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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