Friday, November 23, 2012

Weekly Update: November 22, 2012

Again, no weight gain despite the recent, massive, pigging-out.  I’ll post about four recent and exceptional meals.
First, my late birthday dinner at Pastime in Nagamachi.  I again went with the beef boiled in red wine and, again, it was amazing.  Unfortunately, again, it was the petite serving and not a super-sized version.  
The large, fifteen different vegetables, green salad (700 yen) tasted fresh and, compared to the size of the beef platter, was quite generous.  The dressing was tangy and tasty.


But back to the beef:  The mouthwatering, microscopic meat morsels.  Delicious but dainty.  The accompanying veggies were cooked to perfection and with the red wine sauce this was truly magnificent.  If this had been a satisfactory sized serving, Pastime would make my Favorites list in a heartbeat.  On flavor alone, it does deserve this recognition, but due to its proportions I just can’t upgrade it.

Beef Boiled in Red Wine

My wife ordered a fish platter and kept saying 「おいしいいいいいいいい!」after almost every bite.  

Fish of the Day

After easily devouring the beef, I ordered a Margherita pizza to satisfy my hunger.  But to my disappointment I discovered that pizza is not Pastime’s strong point.  Though edible and quite enjoyable, it does not compare to the authentic offerings of Amo La Pizza.  I would have been better off ordering a second meat entrée for just a few yen more.

Margherita Pizza

Secondly, came the fabulously fattening pancake lunch at Pancake & Café 38 Mitsubachi.  On this day I introduced this restaurant to a dear friend of mine and we both waddled out of there stuffed and satisfied.
I went with the lunch special selection of hamburger patty in tomato sauce with salad, drink, dessert, and three buttermilk pancakes (1280 yen).  As a kid who had the rare opportunity to visit an IHOP, I learned right away that hot cakes can turn into cold, unappealing cakes in a blink of an eye, so I dug into the pancakes immediately and found them to be light, fluffy, and delicious.    The hamburger patty was appetizing though, as an American, found it strange that it came on the same plate as the pancakes.
**The following photos from the pancake shop were not taken by me, but were taken by my friend who ... A) has a better camera than I do, or B) has a better photographic eye.   I hate to admit it but I think it's B.

Hamburger / Pancake Lunch Set

The salad was good but nothing special, but I never touched the yogurt dessert that came with the platter.
My friend surprised me by ordering the ten-layer pancake special for 1500 yen.  Yet, I was not surprised when my friend couldn’t even finish half of it.  Though the pancakes are rather small, this mountain of goodness would be good for two very good-eaters, or three normal eaters to share.  Thankfully, the kind staff gave us a doggy bag with the remaining pancakes and informed us that thirty seconds in the microwave would revive them to good as new.

Ten-high Pancake Stack (w/o butter?)

Next, came today’s company lunch at La Gita.  The staff was so impressed with our previous visit that we felt it was necessary to acquaint the absentee associates from our last luncheon to this shining star in Shiogama.
I had my heart set on the ham with ricola pizza, but unfortunately, the pizza of the day was octopus.  I switched to the non-tomato sauced based, sliced bologna with fresh tomato and arugula pizza.  The bologna, when tasted by itself, was very delicious, yet seemed to lose its identity when combined with the pizza crust, perhaps due to the bologna's thinness.

モルタデッラ:  Bologna w/o Tomato Sauce. Oops, took a slice too soon.

Still, it was very good and everyone seemed to agree that La Gita offers a first-rate pizza and the best in Shiogama.

メランシャーネ: with Eggplant

But let me backtrack to the salad for a moment.  This time I did notice that the dressing on the salad was merely olive oil and that, true to my friend’s suggestion, pepper should have been added.

And lastly, this evening’s fantastic fare at Bistro Ampoule.  Tonight, I tried something new and went with the a la carte fried chicken, but this definitely wasn’t your neighborhood KFC recipe.
The outer skin was thin, crispy, and peppery.  The chicken meat was soft and delectable.  What amazed me was that each individual vegetable, from the potato, to the eggplant, and even the sweet potato, seemed to be cooked in separate seasonings.  I really don’t believe that they were prepared separately, and it was probably due to the fact that each veggie carried its own flavor stamp, yet it still seemed that the seasoning on each vegetable was unique, which made for a wonderful dining experience.

プール・ソワール Chicken

My wife ordered “A” set dinner special and chose the fish carpaccio for the appetizer and shrimp pasta with tomato sauce as the entrée.   She loved it all!  The carpaccio was quite plentiful so I indulged in the salad portion of it and found the tangy dressing to be terrific.    My wife loved it all and praised the chef over and over again for the amazing meal.

Carpaccio Appetizer

Shrimp in Tomato Sauce Pasta

Oh, I forgot. Last weekend we ordered take-out from Amo La Pizza for the second time within a month, both times with the lovely miso dressed Genki Salad.   Of course, Amo treated us exceptionally well and I expect we'll be taking out again the next time the weather is weary. 
I’ll try and post about a new restaurant soon, but until then hopefully this update will lead you to some great restaurants that I’ve reviewed before.  
Have a great holiday weekend!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pizzeria La Gita ピッツェリア ラ・ジータ 022-364-1774

Address:  塩竈市港町 1-6-10.   Located across from the Shiogama Marine Gate, or a seven-minute walk from Hon-Shiogama JR Station.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Lunch:  11:30 am to 2:30 pm.  Dinner:  5:30 pm to 9:00 pm.
First off, let me just say that I think it’s commendable that the owners of Pizzeria La Gita set up shop in a neighborhood that was ravaged by the tsunami.  This restaurant opened in May of this year and these small business owners are helping to rejuvenate the area that was destroyed by the March 11th  disaster, and for this alone I feel that it’s worthwhile to patronize their restaurant.  And for those who do, you’ll also be quite happy with the food!
My friend, Keiko, who knows that I am always on the lookout for great restaurants, recommended La Gita to me sometime back, but I hadn't been able to see what she was raving about.  But the other day I was lucky enough to persuade my friends (Takayo, Rumi, Tony, Michael, Fong, and Yashima-san) to join me for a midweek lunch.  
Upon entering, a couple of my friends were impressed with the décor of the pizzeria:  photos taken from the owner’s personal travels from around the world, which makes sense as “gita” apparently means “trip” in Italian.  I felt that the place carried a warm, inviting atmosphere and I immediately noticed the stone hearth, wood-burning pizza oven, indicating to me that La Gita was an authentic pizzeria.  No second-rate electric or gas ovens here.  But on to the food ….
The lunch set comes with a salad, a beverage, and offers a choice between six varieties of pizzas for 1200 yen.  Despite my pickiness, I had some difficulty choosing a pie as four out of five of them sounded really delicious to me.  At the last minute, I copied Fong and chose the pizza of the day:  ham with arugula sans tomato sauce.  This pizza, with tomato sauce, is one of my favorites at one of my Favorites, Amo La Pizza, so I was a little skeptical on how this would turn out.

本日のピッツァ: Ham w/Arugula (Rucola)

My pizza did not disappoint. The ham was salty and delectable, with the arugula complimenting the ham well, and a light crust (Fong was of the same mind) with a hint of individual flavor.  Although I was very satisfied with my pizza, I think it would’ve been even tastier with a tomato sauce base.

I thought the salad was good, with a tangy vinaigrette that I managed to save, quite noticeably, on my shirt.  But one of our group thought that the flavoring could have used some pepper.  I didn’t realize it at the time but afterwards I could see how this would have enhanced the flavor.

Salad with Tangy Dressing

Our group ended up ordering five of the six pizzas on the menu, and we traded slices with each other in order to get a good assessment of all the assorted flavors.   
My first sampling was Takayo’s カラブレーゼ, with spicy Italian salami, mozzarella cheese, and red onions on a tomato sauce base, which was quite nice, but the salami was sparse and there should’ve been more substantial servings.   But Takayo thought that my ham pizza was better than her salami pizza.  I agreed.

Spicy Italian Salami w/ Red Onions

Next was Michael’s メランツァーネ, with bacon and mozzarella cheese on a tomato sauce base.  This actually comes with eggplant but Michael requested that it be left off, and since I’m not a big fan of ナス either, I was quite pleased.  I liked this pizza and it appeared that there was bacon on every slice.  Afterwards, Michael stated that flavor-wise, this was one of the better pizzas he’s had.

Bacon and Mozzarella

I didn’t try Rumi’s anchovy pizza because I don’t like anchovies.  And I forgot to try the Margherita pizza that was also ordered.

Anchovy Pizza

Margherita Pizza

My friends all seemed to be in agreement that this was a very nice place with good food, good service, and decent prices.  We also decided that we would definitely be back.
But one common consensus was that it was a bit disappointing that there was no dessert option offered, as a nice scoop of gelato or a light tart would have went well with the pizza.  A related criticism was that the pizza was actually too big, and it would have been better to serve a smaller sized pizza and then a nice dessert.
I took a peek at their dinner menu and it looked very promising, with a wide variety of appetizers, pizzas, and even desserts available.

Stone heath pizza oven

Pizzeria La Gita is a non-smoking establishment and they have five parking spaces available.  It’s unfortunate that there is not a lot of foot traffic (nor car traffic, for that matter) outside of summer in this area.  But if you happen to be near the Shiogama Marine Gate or on the way to Matsushima, stop in and have a great meal (and help the recovery effort) at Pizzeria La Gita.

View Larger Map

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekly Update: November 2, 2012

I thought I put on the pounds (or kicked up the kilograms) after two great lunches this week, but luckily for me the damage wasn’t so bad.
First off, due to a change in my schedule, I had a very rare (actually first time) midweek lunch at Amo La Pizza, where the benefits of writing this blog are paying off, or, they have decided to reward their frequent customers.   Either way, I’m getting extra stuff!!!
Although there are only three pizza options listed on the lunch menu, the lovely assistant, Ms. Honami Suzuki, remembering that I prefer meat-like toppings, asked if I would like some grilled chicken added to a margherita pizza.   She also recalled that I don’t like pottage soups very much and mentioned that that the soup of the day was pumpkin pottage, and would that be all right with me?  Pumpkin pottage sounded much better than the spinach soup they usually offer so I told her I’d give it a go.  

Pumpkin Pottage

The fresh vegetable salad (with all veggies grown in Miyagi) topped with the wonderful miso dressing was delectable, as usual.  The pumpkin pottage was a very pleasant surprise:  a definite pumpkin taste without being overbearing.  The pizza … awesome!

Fresh Veggie Salad w/Miso Dressing

Margherita Pizza w/Bonus Grilled Chicken

The orange tart cake for an extra 200 yen was well worth it as it topped off a perfect meal.  Oh, and I forgot the coffee, that was my choice for the drink, which was included in the lunch.  Still, only a 1200 yen lunch.  

Orange Tart Cake

Get a load of the super small sugar spoon

A little more on reaping the benefits: the kind staff has rewarded us recently with extras on our dessert orders and free, quite generous, refills on my wife’s wine glasses, saying they appreciate our business and promotions.   Thanks Amo la Pizza!!!  You sure know how to take care of your customers!

Later in the week I introduced my friend to the fantastic flavors of another Favorite of mine, Bistro Beouf d’ Or.   We both ordered the pork fillet with balsamic sauce from the 1000 yen “A” lunch set, which came with rice or bread, dessert, and coffee, along with the soup of the day (mushroom pottage) for an additional 350 yen.  


Because of my faith in Bistro Beouf d’Or, I decided to go with its mushroom offering, despite not being big on mushrooms nor a promoter of pottage (as mentioned above).  Like a good pottage should be, it was quite creamy (did I forget to mention I’m not crazy about creamy, either).  Yet despite all these strikes against it, I still liked it.  In fact, I ate the whole thing!  My friend, upon tasting the first spoonful, exclaimed, “すごくおいしい!”  and then proceeded to devour the bowl.

Mushroom Pottage

Because we were both rather engaged and focused on our conversation, we really didn’t pay much attention to the flavors we were ingesting, but from time to time we’d stop and say something like, “This is really good!”   Then continue on with our heart-to-heart.   At one point we were a bit confused by the white orb-like, yet yummy, vegetable on our plate, only to discover that it was a turnip.  Turnips never tasted so good.
The mango jelly dessert was sweet … very sweet, yet scrumptious.  I had chunks of mango in my jelly, while my friend didn’t have such luck.  Haha.  Sorry.

Marvelous Mango Jelly

Oh, I also forgot to mention that my wife and I stuffed ourselves at Bistro Ampoule last Saturday, another Favorite of ours.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera at the time but I ordered my usually steak and fries.  The only difference on this day was with the appetizer, as we selected the pork pâté salad for the first time, which was a nice change of pace.
I don’t know where we’ll be dining this weekend, but I’ll keep you updated so please check back soon.  
Thanks for reading!!!