Ralph and Jan Rosenfield have sent reviews of their favorite eateries that were included in the Innerart website. The site is currently undergoing major changes. It hadn't changed much in 10 years (an eternity in the fast-paced world of electronics) and… frankly, was getting pretty stale! My son, and in-house computer guru, Adam has agreed to help design a new, hip, fun and user-friendly format for Innerart… to be announced soon.
In the meantime, articles submitted to Innerart will appear as features for this blog. So, enjoy these food reviews.
What Happened to Liu Pon Xi?
Jan and I were very disappointed to hear that Liu Pon Xi was closed. We liked the Asian Fusion restaurant on the Cap, and its colorful owner Paul Liu. We felt badly that we hadn’t been there recently. But before we knew it Paul had bounced back and opened two new restaurants in the same space. Surprise Surprise!
We decided to try Paul’s Chinese restaurant first and found it to look and feel a lot like the old “Far East”, a favorite of mine, even though all Paul did was add a bar and put up a wall to create this space from the former Liu Pon Xi. But that was enough to compress the space and make it more intimate. Oh, yeah the name on this restaurant is tricky: Paul Liu Chinese Restaurant
But it is the food that is the winner here. The Short North/Downtown has lacked a real Chinese Restaurant and now that gap has been filled by this little gem on the Cap. I am only going to talk about the few things that we ate, but the menu is extensive and offers food for all tastes. Although the food is fine, this isn’t a stuffy fine dining experience - this is your corner neighborhood Chinese restaurant, one to take your family to.
We started with Shrimp Potstickers ($8.50). There were six good sized dumplings, pan seared to perfection. They were not at all greasy, and they were full of vegetables and shrimp.
Then we had the Hot and Sour Soup ($4.00). This soup was not as spicy as I would have hoped, but it made up for it with big flavors and freshly chopped onion and cilantro. The big pieces of chicken made it even better. I thought it could have been served hotter from a temperature standpoint.
Our next course was Szechwan String Beans ($7.00). This was served with chicken and, again, I would have liked a more intense spicy flavor, but I suspect that most people would be pleased with this dish just the way it came out. Also served with the String Beans were our three main dishes:
Egg Fu Yong ($11.50). This is Paul’s dad’s recipe from the “Imperial Kitchen”. An egg omelet, Chinese style, it is light and fluffy and served with a pungent sauce that gives it a little edge. This is a keeper and it will become a favorite dish for you if you try it.
Chicken with Black Beans ($12.00). Sort of a typical dish that you would expect at a good Chinese restaurant. Nothing particularly special here except great flavor. I will try something else next time that might be more interesting. We were hoping for a bit more fermented black bean flavor.
General Tso’s Chicken ($12.00). This dish has become a standard at almost any Chinese restaurant. It was more than big enough for three of us to share. Again, I would have preferred it to be done with more spice, but the chicken had a crisp crust and the sauce was full of flavor. (If you eat the peppers it is really spicy!)
What I think Paul has given us is a great little place to drop in and have a nice, reasonably priced dinner. If we weren’t tasting as many items as we could manage, I think we could have had a fully satisfying $25 dinner.
Bluefish, Seafood on the Cap
Bluefish, on the corner of High and Goodale, has the outdoor dining space formally enjoyed by Lu Pon Xi. The interior is basically the same as Lui Pon Xi as well. Again, the food is the story here, and I am only going to tell you about the few things that I enjoyed.
We started our meal with Calamari. Ok this is a dish everyone has but I use it as a standard to understand how a restaurant approaches its preparation and menu. There are as many ways to serve squid as there are restaurants, and each seems to have its own way. In the past my favorite was K2U, then Barcelona. Now I’ve moved Bluefish right up there to the top of the list. Bluefish’s calamari has almost no breading, is seems to be pan seared with jalapeno peppers, toasted garlic, and some green onion. There may be a bit of white wine in there too. I’ll be tempted to keep this dish to myself instead of sharing next time. It was wonderful and only $8.
I next tried the New England Clam and Seafood Chowder ($5.95). I had wanted the Shrimp Gumbo with Andouille, but they were out. I wasn’t disappointed in the Clam Chowder; it was full of clams, potatoes, a rich cream base and plenty of seasonings. I could have been in Boston. My dinner companion (an out-of-towner, who didn’t realize that in addition to sharing his meal he was buying as well) ordered the Lobster Bisque ($6.95). It was made with a hint of sherry wine and was pleasantly spicy. It was very good.
What is a Butterfish? I have never heard of such a creature. Did Paul make this up, or what? Whatever it really is, it melts in your mouth. Paul calls this item “Sweet Miso Marinated Butterfish”. He serves it with buttered edamame and yellow pepper coulis. It is $19.50 and it is to die for. The fish literally falls apart and is so full of flavor I was shocked. The miso (fermented soybean paste – sounds weird if you’re not familiar with it, but it’s a wonderful marinade) is present but not overbearing. I rarely have been so impressed with a baked fish. You should try it.
The Pan Seared Lake Victoria Perch, with wilted watercress and pickled Bermuda onions.
($16), was great. I don’t know the difference between Lake Erie perch and Lake Victoria perch, but this was rich and tender, and had a nice texture too. The dark green watercress and red onion looked as good as it tasted. I could have eaten more, but the serving size was actually just right.
I didn’t taste it, but Paul has a Braised Striped Bass that passed by us and I almost stole it from the server. It smelled great - full of ginger, it is on my list for my next visit.
I did try the Flourless Chocolate Cake. It was very good and only $6. I think it was six layers thick with chocolate mousse between each layer.
I would suggest you give Bluefish a try; Paul has a great deal of variety on his menu, a great location, and well food that is expertly prepared and nicely served.
You’ll be doing yourself a favor if you make it a point to visit both Bluefish and Paul Liu’s Chinese Restaurant soon. Both are winners.
Ralph and Jan