restaurant review: taj mahal

Keith and I are pretty adventerous eaters, him a bit moreso than I, he will try anything once. I might try most things, but I  am not going to claim I will try anything. Our favorite cuisine is Mexican, but we don’t discriminate too much. (Though I am not huge on spaghetti…burnt out after 20+ years of Sunday dinners.)

A while back, we were talking about Indian food and how we are unfamiliar with it. Somehow he discovered that Taj Mahal on McKnight Road has a dinner buffet on Monday/Thursday/Saturday so a few weeks ago we hit it up. We both agreed that a buffet was the way to go since neither one of us had any idea what anything was.

I had gone for Indian food once, in…2007…in Toronto and remember nothing about it except that naan = good. Keith and I went for Pakistani food once in 2009 in Monroeville, I am not even sure the place exists. We couldn’t understand anything on the menu so we just pointed at things. I ended up with Chana Masala and Keith got something with chicken. It was good but again…couldn’t remember too much about it.

So…Taj Mahal. We’ve since gone to the buffet twice and the selection wasn’t exactly the same both times but it was large. At one end was naan and rice and then various meats/veggies in sauces and curries. They also note when things are vegan, so that’s a plus for any of you who roll that way.

taj1

Yes, I realize that all looks like orange slop, but it was all very good!

Almost everything has a little tag above it telling you what you are eating, but some were missing or unclear. But that’s the plus of a buffet, you can take a little bit and if you hate it, no big loss. My favorites from the first time we went were the goat and the chana masala and the second time there was some kind of chicken with onions and bell peppers and it was super spicy and delicious.

I’ve got my method down now and I put a pile of rice in the middle of my plate and surround it with various meats. Keith takes the opposite approach and just piles his plate with meat.

It’s a great deal at only $11.99 a person. Keith definitely ate more than that…I probably came close.

taj2

mango pudding! looks like cheez whiz, tastes like heaven. although my friend Rachel later told me it tastes like butter, so I’m sure my next experience won’t be so enjoyable, haha.

I’m not sure where it ranks on the authenticity scale and the place is not very fancy (it’s actually a little rundown looking, if we are being completely honest), but the food is delicious, the people who bus the tables/fill the waters and very pleasant and we will definitely be back.

Taj Mahal on Urbanspoon

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restaurant review: hibachi j sushi grill

Keith and I go out to eat pretty often. Once a week or so. That’s probably not “often” in relation to some, but we never went out to eat growing up*, so once a week is often to me!

We were on a streak of getting sushi on Saturdays but haven’t gone in a while, so last Friday Keith suggested we try a new(er) place near us – Hibachi J Sushi Grill.

We have lived in Gibsonia for ~4 years now and this place has been at least 3 different things…all Chinese/Japanese. I’m not sure if they keep changing owners or if they are just trying different things, but this latest iteration opened a few months back. I was actually sitting in a parking lot taping up a box for UPS when a lady tucked a flyer under my windshield wiper. We’re not huge into buffets and already have a go-to sushi place, so it never piqued my interest until Keith brought it up.

When we walked in, there was a sign stating that they no longer served sushi. Okaaay, hibachi it is.

Now it’s not your normal hibachi set-up with grills in the middle…it’s the suburban strip-mall hibachi where they just make it and bring it out to you and you have to trust that they made the onion volcano and the flying shrimp for their own amusement.

What sets this place apart from others is it’s all you can eat. All you can eat appetizers and hibachi, I think it was $8.50 for lunch and $10.50 for dinner.

When you are seated, you are presented with a small paper menu. It lists the appetizers (crab rangoon, fried oysters, gyoza, salad, miso soup, clear soup, spring rolls) as well as the starch options for the hibachi (white rice, brown rice, fried rice, hibachi noodles, udon noodles).

The cool part about the appetizers were that you could order as few or as many as you wanted and our waitress kept reminding us if we decided we wanted more, we just had to ask. Which was pretty great. I LOVE crab rangoon, but Keith hates it, so I can never order it because I can’t eat 6 pieces of it. Here I can order 2 for myself and go to town. We also got fried oysters, which I don’t care for…but since it’s included in the cost, Keith can have as many as he wants.

For your hibachi, you pick your rice/noodle and circle it on your paper. Then you head up to what used to be a buffet. There are all your meat options. They had chicken, shrimp, scallops (I think), calamari, (fake) crab, maybe some sort of beef/steak I can’t remember.

You grab a bowl and fill her up. Then you head over to the veggies, fill up on whatever you want (they had quite a selection, much more than the standard onion/zucchini/mushroom of most hibachi places). Then you add a sauce in a little ramekin (again, great selection from spicy to plain). Then you hand your bowl off, go sit down and less than 5 minutes later they bring you your plate!

photo

And again, this is all you can eat, so you can go up as many times as you want. Keith and I only ate one plate, but Keith is very excited to go back once he is gaining weight again because he knows he could do some real damage. For 10 bucks!

When we were there it was only us and another table, but the food was great, service was great, it was a super fast and super cheap meal! I get why they ditched the sushi…if business is slow, it wouldn’t be cost effective..but like I said, we’ve got a sushi joint, it’s nice to have a hibachi joint.

And I can forgo the theatrics if it means I get my meal in 5 minutes as opposed to 25.

A+ Hibachi J. I will be back.

Hibachi J Sushi Grill on Urbanspoon

*Minus the occasional trip to Hoss’s with my grandparents.

restaurant review: grit & grace

Two Fridays ago, Keith and I headed downtown for dinner at Grit & Grace. A relatively new restaurant, it is a sister restaurant to BRGR and Spoon, (neither of which I have actually been to).

I actually hadn’t really looked at the menu, the planning of this one was all Keith. We arrived for our 7:30 reservation and the place was pretty packed. (And pretty loud.) It’s an extremely narrow restaurant but goes back deceivingly far. We were seated at a nice booth and left to puruse the menu. They offer small plates (and some larger plates) and also have American dimsum. If you don’t know what dimsum is, I liked our waiter’s explanation of “an already made appetizer.” Someone walks around, presents several offerings to your table and you choose then and there if you want something. The dim sum plates were $5 and we split the carpacchio. They were all rather small servings, so we didn’t go for anything else and instead focused on the regular menu.

Keith and I eat a lot of meat so all our choices were very meat heavy. Sorry vegetarians, this review will mean nothing to you.

We started with the braised goat (appams, garlic + ginger smashed potatoes, curry).

goat

Appams are the pancake-y sort of thing. It was really good. The goat was very tender and full of flavor, I really liked the lime to brighten it up. This was a pretty large plate. There were 4 of those pancakes and enough meat to fill them all.

Next up we had crispy pig face roulade (sunny side up egg, Napa cabbage slaw, chicharrons, egg yolk hot sauce, toasted sourdough, miso apple butter). I was most worried about this one (pig face?!), but the waiter described the pig face as bacon, but better. Now I don’t like bacon, but I was willing to give it a go.

pigface

It was so good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It was like an open-faced breakfast sandwich.

On each table there are also three house made sauces, something soy saucy, something sweet and sour saucy and a hot sauce. I could have eaten the hot sauce on a spoon, but it was so good on this.

It was about this point that we decided to skip more dim sum and just get food. We got the short ribs, and at only $1 more than the dim sum, it was probably twice the food.

Short ribs, cream cheese biscuits, aged white cheddar cheese, hollandaise.

shortribs

These were good. The cream cheese biscuits were a tad strange, they were very very soft. There were two of them here each with a piece of meat. I love when food is already pre-portioned out to share.

And we finished with the brisket.

Smoked brisket, kohlrabi kraut, thousand island sabayon, pickled red onions, corned beef tongue, horseradish cream, baguette.

brisket

This was just my half. I got a little too eager and dug in before snapping a picture. This was also really good. Except…this might be an unpopular opinion but can we stop pickling everything? I can go for some sweet gherkins or a dill pickle here and again, but I don’t want pickled carrots or onions or cabbage or turnips.

The top right corner was the plate the sandwich came on and had pickled things on it. There were also some on the sandwich and I could just do without them. Just not into it.

Keith and I were pleasantly full by the time we finished. Grit & Grace also has a full bar, but we are not big drinkers and I am cheap when it comes to alcohol. I would have ordered some Arsenal Cider but I’m not paying $10 for a glass when I can get a growler for a bit more.

We were discussing the bill before it came. Keith guessed it would be around $100, I thought $60. We were both pleasantly surprised that it was just a bit over $50. Not bad for 5 plates that left us full. (My 2nd biggest pet peeve (after pickled everything) is fancy restaurants that cost $50 a person and leave you hungry. Not an issue here. I’d definitely go back. I actually would like to go back now. Mmm pig face.

Grit & Grace on Urbanspoon