Thursday, March 28, 2013

KAMAKURA: Café Campanella カンパネラ 0467-22-6798


Address:  鎌倉市長谷2-14-12.   Located about a 30-second walk from Hase JR Station in Kamakura.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open from about noon till around sunset.  Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays.
It was the perfect combination.  We were starving, and Campanella was the first restaurant we saw open after getting off the train at Hase Station in Kamakura.  Luckily for us, things worked out well!
For me, it was a tough choice between the honey and cinnamon crêpe with vanilla ice cream set (1050 yen) and the Kamakura ham with buttered toast set (950 yen), but since I felt that my body was craving protein, I went with the ham, toast, and the Kamakura blend coffee set.


My better half was eyeing the chocolate, banana, and caramel crêpe set (1050 yen), but she also opted for a more protein enriched meal and chose the Kamakura ham and cheese toast set (1000 yen).
The buttered toasted bread was light, fluffy, perfectly toasted, and delicious!  The ham slices were slightly thick and also scrumptious.  A small, tasteful sampling of pumpkin paste was served alongside pickled vegetables that went well with the toast and ham.  This felt more like a snack than a meal, but it did tide me over for an hour or two until my next opportunity to snack.
My wife loved the flavor of the cheese on her toast, and was quite satisfied that we found such a convenient eatery to gobble down a light snack.


Capanella was quite busy on the Saturday we ventured in.  I was quite surprised and happy that the kind and helpful waitress was a fellow foreigner.  It’s rare to see a foreigner working as a staff member in a restaurant in Sendai.

I’d love to come back to try Campanella’s dessert crêpes some day, hopefully come next hanami season.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

UPDATE #2: amo la Pizza 022-395-5317


If you haven’t read about amo la Pizza before, please read my earlier posts at:  amo la Pizza and HERE.
Address:  宮城県仙台市太白区鹿野2-14-14、グローリアス鹿野102.   Located about a four-minute walk from The Mall Part 2, next to the giant Paradiso Pachinko Parlor in Nagamachi-minami.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open:   Lunch:  11 am – 2:30 pm  Dinner:  5:30 pm  - 9:00 pm
Closed Mondays.
We simply LOVE this place and because of our nearly weekly visits, my wife and I have become regulars at the amo (they don’t capitalize the “a” in “amo”).  But getting a table is still a feat since amo was featured on the 仙台放送 program あらあらかしこ.
The skillful owner, Yoshiki Katsuta, has totally revamped the menus for both lunch and dinner and has taken his restaurant into a new, exciting direction, going from a simple pizza joint to a refined choice for dining.
I’ll begin with the new and improved lunch menu.  There are two menu choices for lunch:  the Lunch Course or the Pizza Lunch.  The Lunch Course is only offered on weekends and holidays, but I’ve ordered it during the week after calling in and requesting it.  It includes an appetizer platter, salad, soup, pizza, gelato, and a drink, all for 1480 yen.  For an additional 300 yen, an alcoholic drink can be served.  Unfortunately, only the first ten orders for the Lunch Course can be served daily.  If you'd like to try the Lunch Course, I suggest calling ahead and reserving both the course and a table.

The appetizer platter features three different samplers: an Italian omelette with balsamic dressing, a slice of Milano and Mortadella ham in olive oil, and pickled vegetables.


I have never been a fan of omelettes, but I have to admit that the combo of balsamic sauce mixed with this bacon bit omelette is outstanding!  The pickles are delightful, and the ham slices with olives round out a great starter to the meal.
Next, comes the vegetable salad topped with the wonderful Sendai miso dressing.  On any given day, the veggies could include red daikon, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, turnips, endive, onions, mizuna, mini cabbage, and romaine lettuce.

Salad w/Sendai Miso Dressing

Following the salad is the minestrone soup.  Along with the salad, the vegetables in the soup scream “freshness” in every bite.

Minestrone Soup

When selecting your pizza from the Lunch Course, there are six varieties of pizzas to choose from (Margherita, Italian Sausage, Four Cheese, Vegetable, Bacon & Mushroom Cream, and Seafood Genovesa), or you can order a half & half pizza.  On some days, I’ll go with the one topping of homemade salsiccia Italian sausage, on other days I’ll go with a half & half pizza.  I’m not sure if it’s because they staff knows I write this restaurant blog, or if it’s because we are regular customers, or if it’s that amo likes to satisfy its customers whenever it can, but my off-menu requests are often fulfilled.  When ordering off the beaten track, I’ve ordered a half & half pizza with either the ham and rucola topping or the grilled chicken with the salsiccia sausage.

A side note concerning the salsiccia (“sausage” in Italian).  To me, this Italian sausage tastes exactly like my mother’s meatballs in her Mexican albondigas soup.  My mother’s albondigas soup is one of my all-time favorite dishes, so to have a 懐かしい moment while dining in Japan warms the cockles of my heart.
The vanilla gelato accompanied with whipped cream and berries is a wonderful finisher to a delightful meal.


But if the lunch course seems a bit much for you, perhaps ordering from the regular pizza lunch menu would be more to your liking.
The same six varieties of pizzas are available a la carte or with a drink set.  The pizza sets range from 900 yen to 1100 yen, with the choice of drinks being hot/iced coffee or tea, orange juice, or oolong tea.  Beer or house wine is an additional 300 yen.  A 100 yen discount is deducted if you choose not to have a drink.  Dessert is also available for 200 yen.

Below are photos of the various pizzas I’ve encountered.

Half & Half:  Ham/Rucola and Italian Sausage





Now on to the restyled dinner menu.  The 1900 yen Set Menu is quite similar to the Lunch Course, but there are a few differences.  First, there must be at least two people ordering the Set Menu.  Secondly, it’s one pizza for two people, but you can still order a half & half pizza.  Lastly, the pasta of the day is included!  
The menu states that, like the Lunch Course, your dining experience starts out with three appetizer samplers.  Again, I don’t know if Katsuta-san was just taking care of us this evening, but we were served four delicious hors d’ oeuvres.   In addition to the lunch course’s Italian omelette and pickles, a delightful mixture of broccoli and shrimp in balsamic sauce plus a refreshing caponata were placed in front of us.  My only complaint was that the caponata was a bit difficult to eat in the spoon/bowl that they served it in.

Dinner Set Appetizer Sampler

The pasta d’jour was chicken and gobou (burdock root) in tomato sauce.  The gobou was soft and delicious, which was surprising to me because gobou has never been one of my favorites, while the chicken possessed a savory soy sauce seasoning to it.

Chicken and Burdock (ごぼう) in Tomato Sauce Pasta

As you can see from the menu photos below, amo la Pizza now offers a fine dining experience with a variety of culinary delights for all. I've yet to try amo's selection of nomihoudai party courses which are available upon request, but their menus are enticing.  And with the lovely waitress, Honami, attending to you, who could ask for anything more?

Dinner Menu

Dinner Menu pg. 2

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

UPDATE: Casa del Sol 022-265-7633

If you haven’t read about Casa del Sol before, please read my earlier post HERE.
Address: 宮城県仙台市青葉区中央1-7-40 大野第一ビル5F.   Across from the AER Building.  There’s a little walkway entrance next to a gyoza restaurant.  Take the elevator to the fifth floor.  
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open:  5:00 pm – 11:30 pm.  Closed Sundays (except preceding a national holiday).
This is one of my original favorites and an update is long over due, especially since this restaurant receives the most hits on this blog.
But unfortunately, I really don’t have that much to add other than that the guacamole is still fantastic and an enjoyable time is still always had at this Casa.
I haven’t frequented Casa del Sol as often as I used to, but this restaurant is still the first restaurant I recommend when someone asks me for my #1 spot.
Last night, I felt like splurging a little and ordered the carne asada platter that consists of a thin beef steak, rice, salsa, jalapeño, and two flour tortillas, all for 1750 yen.  I know there are cheaper places to find a steak, but the tangible feeling of eating tortillas with my hands is something that takes me back to my childhood, so I don’t mind paying a little more for this.

Carne Asada:  カルネ・アサダ・デ・レス

The beef was tender and delicious, while the rice, though not authentic sopa de arroz, was a nice side.  The accompanying salsa had a nice flavor to it but did not register on any kind of spice-o-meter.  But the jalapeño?  This depends on who you ask.   
I was a sorry excuse of a Mexican as a child as I was never much of a chile eater (nor bean eater, either).  But I find the jalapeño at Casa del Sol to add a wonderful kick to the carne asada.  My wife, knowing my poor impression of being Mexican, was impressed with my ability to eat the jalapeño with ease.  So, she cut a one-centimeter sized cube and put it in her mouth.  I wish I would have had the camera out to capture her expression as she almost tried to spit it out and lunge for her water glass.  So use your own judgment on the jalapeño.

My wife went with her usual Mexican Burrito (and Margarita) and was quite content with both of her choices.

Mexican Burrito

Guacamole and Chips

A couple of months ago we had a small gathering for my friend’s birthday and were treated very well that evening.  I’ve added a photo that my friend Takayo Yamaguchi took of the delicious ice cream taco (my photo didn’t turn out so nice).  This ice cream taco is definitely not an authentic Mexican dessert, but it does make a wonderful finisher to a wonderful meal at Casa del Sol.

アイスのタコス 680円

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Friday, March 1, 2013

CoCo’s Curry カレーハウス CoCo壱番屋

Address:  Numerous locations throughout Miyagi, but I often frequent the stores in Nishitaga, Nagamachi, and the one on the corner of Ichibancho and Minami-machi dori.
Open from 11 am till either midnight or later, depending on the location.
Not to be confused with the COCO’S chain of family restaurants, which uses a similar color scheme in its advertising.  Which came first: COCO’S or CoCo’s Ichibanya?  Who knows, but I wish one of them would change their colors.  
I don’t know how many of your acquaintances have tried a CoCo’s Ichibanya before, but upon taking an informal survey of the Japanese people I know, I soon found out that almost none of them had ever tried the curry here, including my wife.  It's a mystery as to why others have passed on CoCo’s, but I became a convert upon my first venture to the Ichibancho store over a decade ago.  In my opinion, CoCo’s Curry has always been a dependable choice for a meal out.  Sure, this is not gourmet dining at the pinnacle of elegance, but it’s always good and filling, and at a reasonable price.  You can’t go wrong with CoCo’s!
Last week, I wrote of my visit to Kanazawa 18 Curry.  Sorry Kanazawa, you may have the gimmicky pricing and the Challenge platter going for you, but for pure flavor CoCo’s is head and shoulders above you.
I always order the Chicken Katsu Curry for 680 yen, while my wife orders from either their seafood or vegetable curry selections.


And talk about selections!  CoCo’s offers a variety of seventeen meat curry platters, five seafood entrées, and thirty-seven topping options!  There are also vegetable curry and allergen-free alternatives listed on the menu.  But a word of warning to vegetarians:  I could be wrong but I believe the curry sauce is always meat based regardless of your selection.  You might want to stick to one of the four veggie salads listed on the menu.


I forgot to mention that you can also order larger or smaller portions of rice on the curry, as well as the degree of spiciness.
On a side note, the Ichibancho locale will always hold a place in my heart.  A few days after the March 11th disaster, my wife and I headed downtown in search of food and supplies.  We were astonished on the availability of resources on Chuo-dori and Ichibancho compared to where we lived.  But what really thrilled us was that the CoCo’s Curry was open for business.  It was our first hot meal in days and we were so grateful for it.
If you’ve never tried CoCo’s Curry House Ichibanya, I highly recommend it to you.