Friday, January 31, 2014

Gladio: Spanish/Mexican グラディオ 022-265-3007

Website:    (This is the web address on their business card and the one I had bookmarked before, but on this posting date this website does not open.)

Address:  仙台市青葉区国分町2-11-4 PSC ビルディング.   Coming from Jozen-ji Dori down Ichibancho, turn right at the 77 Bank across from Mitsukoshi Department Store.  It will be on your left-hand side between the first and second intersections.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open Mondays thru Saturdays from 6 pm till 4 am, and Sundays and holidays from 6 pm to 1 am.
Ever since a reader posted a comment on this blog raving about Gladio being “the best Mexican food in Sendai, and possibly Japan,” I’ve been dying to dine here!
Last weekend was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone; hit my beloved Happy Happy Melon Pan Truck, and then head over to Gladio for a new dining experience.
As my wife and I strolled into the restaurant a little after 6 pm on a Saturday night, we noticed that there were only a total of eight patrons in this large establishment, but considering that they had just opened their doors, this seemed about right.  Yet, despite the place being nearly empty, we were told that only counter seating was available.  We actually prefer sitting at the counter, as we enjoy seeing how the food and drinks are prepared, so we were fine with this.
The chipper waiter informed us right away that Happy Hour was from 6 pm to 8 pm, and that many beers, tequilas, cocktails, and wine were a mere 300 yen!  What a deal!  Unfortunately, my better half desired a frozen piña colada margarita (850 yen), which was not on the Happy Hour menu.  It was refreshing to see that the cocktail was served in a traditional-sized margarita glass which stem was shaped as a saguaro cactus for a bit of ambiance!  However, this was all merely cosmetic.  “It tastes like frozen pineapple juice!  There’s no alcohol in here!” said my wife in a disappointed manner.  She remedied this by ordering a shot of 300 yen Sauza tequila and adding it into her margarita.  She then commented, “Much better!  This should be called a ‘self-service margarita.’”   So that made it 1150 yen for an adequate, self-made frozen margarita.


For starters, we requested a small serving of guacamole (700 yen).   Upon arriving it did seem small, yet nicely arranged with the freshly fried tortilla chips.  After sampling a few chips, we quickly found that they were a little too greasy.   The guacamole, though fresh, had little taste to it.  I should have asked for some salt and pepper, as that might have helped.


Since this was our first visit, we decided to start off small.  My wife went with a hard shell beef taco (450 yen) and I with a beef soft taco (500 yen).  She said the meat filling and cheese were so-so at best, but the taco shell, like the tortilla chips, was too greasy!


My beef soft taco, with jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes was quite tasty, but it definitely wasn’t Mexican!  The beef seemed to be marinated in barbeque sauce, which made for a unique taco experience.


Our tummies weren’t quite full after this, so we ordered the chicken fingers with honey mustard sauce, and something that I had never seen before; chopped beef and avocado tostadas (both 500 yen each).


The chicken fingers seemed to follow a pattern:  Too greasy!  And they were not very flavorful.  


However, the chopped beef and avocado tostadas were delectable and the highlight of the evening!  Still, a traditional Mexican tostada comes topped with frijoles (beans), that’s why I don’t like tostadas.  So although I was very pleased with these tostadas, they weren’t really tostadas.
We were quite full after taste-testing the aforementioned dishes, and decided to call it a night, when the waiter, with a theatrical flourish, set ablaze a plate of beef fajitas (1650 yen) right before our eyes (and everyone’s sitting at the counter), and delivered it to the couple across from us.  This did look tantalizing, and made me wish that I had ordered that first!  Then I saw something that I had never seen before:  People picking up tortillas with tongs.  This may be common among many people, but I’m Mexican-American by descent, and I have never used tongs to pick up a tortilla, so this seemed very amusing to me. 
I noticed that as we were dining, the restaurant started filling up little by little. By the time we were finished with our meal, the place was completely full and customers were waiting outside to get in.  Despite the food, this place is popular!
The restaurant irked me in one other the way:  The restrooms!
If a restaurant has separate restrooms for men and women, they should clearly be labeled so, either in English or Japanese.  Gladio decided to use the same design but with differing colors on both of their restrooms; one red, one green.
This was problematic for me from the start as I am color blind, and in the low-lighted hallway it was difficult for me to see that there were actually two different colors.  Luckily, upon closer inspection, I could see the colors accurately, but I still didn’t know which color represented which gender, so I had to sheepishly ask (it’s green for men).  Am I the only one in Sendai who did not know this?
Oh, did I mention the table charge?  300 yen per person, which isn’t really much.
Because of the youthful, energetic atmosphere, my wife and I really enjoyed our time at Gladio, unfortunately we didn’t enjoy the food so much.  Gladio is part of a corporation, and besides St. Marc, I’ve yet to find a corporate restaurant that is worth revisiting, so this seems par for the course.
You may enjoy this restaurant much more than we did, but we see no reason for going back.  When we want Mexican food, we’ll head over to our favorite, Casa del Sol.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Montana モンタナ 022-376-6444

Address:  仙台市泉区福岡字森下2-3.   Located way out in the boonies on the way to Izumigatake and Spring Valley Ski Resort on Route 223.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open weekdays from 11 am till 7 pm, weekends and holidays open till 9 pm.  Closed Tuesdays.
Upon returning from a recent snowboarding trip to Spring Valley, my good friends, Yvonne and Fong, and I stopped by the Montana restaurant.  I heard about this famed American restaurant some time ago, and had visited once before a few years before I started my blog.
From the log cabin architecture and the Pontiac Trans Am in the parking lot, to the interior rich with Americana artifacts, this place so reminded me of my homeland.

Sitting near the wood-burning stove added an additional sense of coziness and warmth.
But my companions and I were starving, and although we enjoyed the atmosphere, we wanted to dig into some good-ole American grub!
We started off with an order of french fries (682 yen), which were actually thick potato wedges.  Crispy on the outside and seasoned just right!  Although, they seemed to be oven baked rather than fried, this was a plus as they were not the least bit greasy.  What a great way to start a meal!


Following the fries, came the Big Burger Sandwich (1312 yen w/drink), and true to its word, it was BIG!  Vonnie and I would have been better off had we shared one sandwich as we originally had planned, that’s how big it was.   However, it was mostly the romaine and iceberg lettuce that added to its size, along with the thick slices of bread, and not the amount of beef. The hamburger patty itself was quite flavorful, but I would’ve preferred to have it cooked just a little more thoroughly.


Next came the Cowboy Rice (945 yen), which we ordered out of curiosity.  “What the hell is Cowboy Rice?” was the question being asked at our table, where two of the three diners were American born and bred.  According to the menu, this dish is a Montana original mix of chili, cheese, and rice.  To be honest, I didn’t have my glasses with me at the time, and had I read that it had cheese, I would have passed on it.  But after sampling a couple of spoonfuls, I would also recommend that you pass on it, too!  No flavor whatsoever.  It seemed as if they opened a can of Hormel chili beans and put it on top of the rice.  If this is what the cowboys ate, no wonder there ain’t many left.


Because our eyes were much bigger than our stomachs, we finished off our American-style feast with the Max platter of spareribs (2940 yen).  In my opinion, spareribs should be so tender that you can separate the meat from the bone with a fork, and then let the succulent beef or pork melt in your mouth.  
Well, I had to use a knife.  And, I had to chew… a lot.
Although the barbeque sauce was delicious, these were not the finger-licking spareribs I remember from home.


One thing I found interesting, in a good way, was the coffee that came with the hamburger set we had chosen.  I normally do not care for flavored coffees, but Montana’s coffee had what I believe to be a hint of cocoa, which was enjoyable.
Overall, I think you should try Montana if you are in the area, but I wouldn’t drive out of my way for a meal here.  My normal-eater friends were in agreement with me on this.
The next time I’m returning from Spring Valley, I would definitely want to stop in Montana for their tasty Big Burger, fries, and coffee, but that’s about it.

An old photo from a few years ago of the Chili con Carne.   More like a can of Hormel Chili.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Happy Happy Melon Pan Truck - This weekend: Jan. 24 - 26, 2014


To read a previous post on this mouthwatering melon pan, please click HERE.

This weekend, Friday, January 24th till Sunday, January 26th, the Happy Happy truck will be parked on Chuo-dori in front of Daiei Department Store.

This is the fifth month in a row that the luscious melon pan truck has come to Sendai.
Let's hope it's a monthly ritual!

See you there!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brother Ken ブラザー軒 022-222-1171


Address:  仙台市青葉区一番町4-2-20.   Located between Hirose-dori and Jozenji-dori.  Walking down Ichibancho from Hirose-dori, turn right down the side street when you hit the 7-11 on your left-hand side, and the picture of Marilyn Monroe on the right.  Brother Ken will be on your right-hand side.
Map:  Scroll down below.
Open from 11:30 am till 8 pm, but lunch is till 2 pm.  Closed Thursdays and holidays.
Like many of you, I’ve walked by the area between Hirose-dori and Jozen-ji dori a thousand times, but I never noticed this restaurant, which is surprising since this restaurant has been in existence for over 100 years.
Brother Ken, which specializes in Chinese cuisine, was recommended to me recently by my student, Chiaki, who seems to know a thing or two about fine dining.  
Upon entering, it appears as if you are in a hotel lobby rather than a restaurant, as there are no noticeable restaurant-style chairs or tables in view, but instead sofas and coffee tables.  The hostess guided my wife and me to a small room in the rear with about seven tables.  As we were escorted to our table, I noticed a separate dining room, as well as a staircase leading up and down, giving the impression that this restaurant is quite spacious.
Whilst perusing the menu, disappointment was soon met for a couple of reasons:  
1) The primary lunch set, which consisted of pork, was sold out.
2) The secondary lunch set, which was not sold out, consisted of fish.
This was fine with my seafood-loving wife, but this severely limited my options.  The a la carte menu offered a vast array of dishes, so I considered ordering the karage chicken (840 yen) and perhaps a side platter to go with it, but I knew the cost of ordering two separate dishes would not only up the price, but may not be worth it as I am not a big eater.
Luckily for me, I am married to a very kind and thoughtful lady.  She said, “How about if we order the third lunch set (1575 yen) and you order the karage chicken, then we just split everything?”
I love you, baby!
The lunch set my better half had chosen came with a choice of yakisoba or Chinese noodles, hors d’ oeuvre, a Chinese dumpling, fried spring rolls, and a dessert.  My wife asked for the yakisoba.
The hors d’ oeuvre was a tangy mix of pork and salad.  While the portion size was rather small, it was quite appetizing.


The karage chicken was tender and full of flavor, although the breaded-battered coating could have been just a bit crispier.  Still, I was quite satisfied.


The yakisoba serving was generous and tasted quite nice, despite the hint of a seafood taste.  No wonder, as shrimp and squid were added in the mix.     


The fried spring rolls were OUTSTANDING!  I broke apart a bit of the fried wrapping and I found it to be super crispy and savory in its own right.  The succulent flavorings of the ingredients inside just made it all the more delicious!  The accompanying Chinese dumpling was quite large and also scrumptious!  I would have gladly requested another order of this platter had I a bigger appetite.


I didn’t touch the desert that came with the lunch set, as it didn’t look too appealing to me, but my wife enjoyed it.


In fact, she stated, “I would definitely come back here again!”  
So, in a nutshell, that about says it all.  
In addition to their Chinese dishes, Brother Ken also offers a variety of curries, omelets, and desserts.
I’ve mentioned this restaurant to a number of Sendai-ites who have heard good things about it.  I don’t think you would go wrong dining at Brother Ken.

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