Category Archives: Reviews

The Sake Social Hour at Uchiba

When Uchi announced that it would be opening a more bar-focused concept earlier this year, I could barely contain my excitement. (Though, I know many of us Top Knot-lovers were a bit wary.) You can breathe easy, because the new concept is yoi (gooooood).

The name makes sense—the word Uchiba combines “Uchi,” which means house in Japanese, and “Ba,” bar. Since its opening on January 31, this concept brought to us by Chef Tyson Cole under the Hai Hospitality umbrella, is Uchi’s sleek and stylish little sister has been a hit for those seeking shareable bites, fabulous décor and incredible cocktails.

 

If you’re anything like me (and our friend Susie), you love a good happy hour, but really love when the good happy hour also has incredible food. That’s why I was so excited to go check out Uchiba’s Sake Social Hour, which is offered daily from 5-6:30pm and the entire menu is $10 or less! Yes, you read that right! It features delicious creations like their hot fried chicken buns, spicy crunchy tuna temaki and hama chili. Oh, and not to mention, half priced specialty cocktails.

All of the food I sampled was incredible, but you can’t miss the nigiri (which is only $2 during the social hour)! I also tried both types of temaki that is offered during the Social Sake Hour, and while it’s hard to choose a favorite, the spicy crunch tuna has a little bit of spice with which the avocado perfectly complimented. And do yourself a favor and order the hot fried chicken bun. It’s similar to Nashville hot chicken but with Asian-style flare. They definitely have a kick but nothing too overbearing.

And the cocktails … yassss. All of the specialty cocktails are half-priced during the social hour. I started out with the Too Much Heaven, which was very similar to an old fashioned but with a nice hint of lemongrass. My second choice was the Sanmittai, a refreshing blend of gin, lemongrass, black warrior shochu, cilantro, mint and basil. It’s like an herb garden in a cup—in the most delicious way possible. If specialty cocktails aren’t your thing, Uchiba also offers a variety of wine and beer for a steal.

Something to note: if after you’ve had a taste of the social hour and you need to really fulfill your Uchiba fix, you can order from the full menu at the same time! I’ve heard that the fried milk dessert is to die for.

You can either walk-in or make reservations based on availability for the Sake Social Hour. If you’re planning to check it out on a Friday or Saturday, I would definitely recommend calling at least a few days in advance since those are some of the most popular days.

Sake Social Hour: DAILY, 5-6:30pm
1/2 price all specialty cocktails
$4-5 select wine & beer
$2 nigiri (sake, avocado, or hamachi)
$2-3 yakitori (shishito yaki, pork belly, or ribeye)
$6 temaki (sake karei or spicy crunchy tuna)
$6-8 tastings (hama chili, foie gras mousse, yuca fries, or hot fried chicken buns)
$6 selected seasonal dessert


UCHIBA
uchiba.com
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214-855-5454
2817 Maple Avenue, 2nd floor (Uptown)
complimentary valet

Cover image courtesy of Uchiba.
**Thanks to Uchiba for treating Lauren to happy hour.**

Andaz Napa—a Napa Valley Respite

Napa is hard. (Stick with me here.) Between multiple wine tastings and tours of more barrel rooms than you can count, rich food at every meal bloating you up (who can eat like that every meal!?), and the long drives through the valley, it all makes for a wildly exhausting “vacation”. So, after the long days of fun on my last trip to Napa, I was delighted to come home to the Andaz in Downtown Napa.

Its beautiful, slightly rustic yet modern decor and the incredibly friendly valets welcome you and start your visit on a wildly high note. And to make the welcome complete, you’re given a glass of wine.       *Hello, new favorite hotel e-ver.*       The hotel marries natural elements and high-end design, giving guests a ridiculously comfortable yet luxurious experience. The lobby offers a ton of comfortable seating and is roomy enough to make sure guests aren’t crowded. (I mean, waiting on people is the whole point of a lobby, so you may as well do it comfortably!)

The location is right in the thick of things with easy access to the highway up to Yountville, Oakville, etc., and plenty of local shops and restaurants. Our room faced Main Street overlooking Oenotri, which ended up being one one of the many amazing meals we had in Napa.

The rooms themselves are clean and spacious with a comfortable flow. Look for hardwood floors, fireplaces*, a desk, and a fully stocked bar. Our room had a little sitting area that gave us an extra space to relax and unwind. Oh, and the bed … that bed was hard to leave. The pillows were perfect for a full cocoon situation.
Pro Tip: Looking at the room layouts while writing this made me sad that I didn’t think to request a balcony. So make sure you do that.

In my opinion, the most delightful part of these lovely rooms was its bathing options. Between the roomy eastern white marble bathrooms with rainfall showerheads in wildly spacious (curtainless) walk-in showers and a freestanding soaking bathtub in the bedroom*, getting clean was always an enjoyable process. And with so much room and Jack and Jill sinks, there wasn’t any elbow throwing to get mirror time.

Outside of the rooms, the hotel offered quite a few appealing elements. I was happy to stumble upon an outdoor oasis (apparently called The Mercantile Terrace) with cabanas and fire pits. I spent some time out there taking calls here and there and sorting through work emails in peace on their complimentary high-speed WiFi. Other standard perks like free non-boozy drinks and snacks in the room and wine tastings in the lobby made the us feel like we were real VIPs.

If all of this isn’t convincing enough, it’s a surprisingly affordable option when hotels in Napa Valley can cost you upwards of $700 a night. For my money, I’m staying here every visit. (They should just go ahead and put my name on a suite.)

I know this may sound like one of those “there’s no way this place was that awesome” kind of reviews, I have to insist it was. The Andaz Napa was such a delightful respite that it really is at the top of my list for future visits.


ANDAZ NAPA
napa.andaz.hyatt.com
1450 First Street, Napa, California
707-687-1234

Images courtesy of Andaz Napa. My visit to the Andaz Napa was partially comped.
*amenities available only in select rooms

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

Savor the New Happy Hour at Savor Gastropub

Savor Gastropub in Klyde Warren Park hit us with the real deal—their all-new happy hour menu has arrived … and I’m just wondering what took it so long. With great deals on drinks and food, there’s no reason to not make it in to their (air conditioned!!) digs and try it out sooner than later.

For those who haven’t been yet, Savor Gastropub is a glass box-esque restaurant right on the North Western side of Klyde Warren Park. They have a chef-driven menu with shareable plates (or not shareable if you’re anything like me) and options for lunch, dinner, brunch, and even a pre-show option if you’re in a hurry to catch the latest performance downtown.

During their new happy hour, you can expect to see these great choices:
$3 select beers
$6 Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, Sidecars, French 75s, Moscow Mules, Oleo Daiquiris, select wines, and their dangerously delicious frosés

Also included in the Happy Hour are these tasty dishes:
$3 Tator Tot Poutine smothered in cheese curds, gravy, and bacon
$10 Margherita Flatbread
$6 the Q Dog drowning in bacon, onion, relish, cheese, ketchup, and mustard
$6 Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders with horseradish pickle, roasted onion, maple vinaigrette on a brioche bun
and so much more!

Their delicious and highly flavorful happy hour runs 4-7pm Monday through Friday. Even more clutch, they offer happy hour ALL DAY when it rains or temps rise above 100ºF, which kind of makes the heat somewhat bearable.


SAVOR GASTROPUB
SavorGastropub.com
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2000 Woodall Rodgers Freeway (Downtown)

Book Review: Booze & Vinyl

Cocktails and vinyl records—two of my favorite things. So, when Susie sent this book along (because she knew I’d enjoy reviewing it while my record player spun out a tune), I immediately started thinking of what I’d listen to while reading.

Brother and sister duo, André and Tenaya Darlington, collaborated to create an amazing book that pairs records from the 1950s through the 2000s with a perfect set of cocktails. Each highlighted album has a Side A and Side B set to a complimentary cocktail pairing. There are seventy featured albums including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, Thriller, Pet Sounds, and Hotel California … classics we can all appreciate.

Of course, the book is all about the cocktails, but it is so much more. The pictures are amazing and the authors also included tips on throwing your own boozy listening party. The book is broken up into four genres—rock, dance, chill, and seduce. (Ohh la la.) No matter what mood you are in, you can easily find a cocktail and record to compliment.

I picked two cocktails out of the book for a sampling; the Harvey Wallbanger paired with the Saturday Night Fever album. The Harvey Wallbanger dates back to the 1970s and is basically a jazzed-up screwdriver. The jazziness comes from the addition of Galliano, a sweet, herbal liqueur.

The Suffering Bastard is a classic tiki cocktail that the authors urge you to serve in a simple glass. This has become the drink of choice in my house lately. The combination of gin and bourbon is fantastic. This went nicely with the Johnny Cash Folsom Prison album, though I’d have thought they’d go for a bit more tropical since it’s tiki.


BOOZE & VINYL
Purchase From Amazon
boozeandvinyl.com
Author Website
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Picnic with Ponies

What goes better with sunshine than a delicious rosé cocktail and a spectacular view of horses galloping in a field? I’m a little hard pressed to come up with anything else. That’s why I visited Black Star Sport Horses in Rockwall, Texas with a bottle of rosé in-hand!

Black Star Sport Horses is a full service training, show, and sales facility featuring an International Federation of Equestrians trainer. They offer riding lessons for all ages and skill levels, so no worries if you don’t know the tail end from the nose, they’ll help you figure it out!

The rosé I brought along is the Inspiration Rosé from Château de Berne,  a 1,235 acre vineyard in Provence, France originally built by the Romans. On the CDB property is an 18th century 5-star château-style hotel, a Michelin Star restaurant, and an award-winning spa and visitor center. Oh, and they make some really fantastic wine. I’ll take a one-way ticket, please!

 

Château de Berne Inspiration Rosé is one of three bottles from the Provencal range of classics, only recently brought to the US. This dry rosé, with fresh strawberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate notes has been awarded the 2018 Bronze by Texsom International Wine Awards and the 2018 Silver by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of American Competition. At 12.5% alcohol, it pairs well with light cheeses and a side of fruit.

The day we made it out to Black Star, it was pretty warm, so we decided to batch out a rosé cooler to cool us off a bit more. Picnics can also get messy, so it’s best to batch any cocktails out before heading out.

SUMMER PEACH ROSÉ COOLER
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups frozen peaches
4 cups rosé (I chose Chateau de Berne’s Inspiration Rosé)
1 liter club soda
Rosemary for garnish

Puree the peaches with water and sugar.


CHATEAU DE BERNE
Château de Berne
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Featured: Inspiration Rosé, ~$20

BLACK STAR SPORT HORSE FARM
BlackStarSportHorses.com
Facebook
5565 FM 549, Rockwall, TX 75032

Jackson Family Wines + Harwood District Wine Dinner

The Harwood District has given Dallas some of (my) favorite new restaurants and spaces in the last few years—Mercat Bistro, Marie Gabrielle, Magnolias: Sous Le Pont, etc.—so it was surprise to me when I realized I hadn’t yet visited Dolce Riviera when I was invited to a wine pairing dinner there. I couldn’t say no. If it was anything compared to the other restaurants in the district, I was in for a treat. Bottom line: the food, the wine, and the “show” were all incredible.

The wine dinner featured Jackson Family Wines and was led by none other than Julia Jackson herself, daughter of the famed winemaker, Jess Jackson who began the brand in 1974. Each course got an introduction from someone from the restaurant, an overview of the paired wine and a colorful anecdote from Julia, and a step-by-step demonstration by Executive Chef Michele Scarpa.

Jackson Family Wines is a family-owned and operated wine company that owns vineyards, wineries, and brands throughout the world with brands spanning price ranges and various winemaking techniques. They continue to product incredibly wines and push teh envelope when it comes to innovation—both in winemaking and in eco-friendly practices. Well-known US brands include Freemark Abbey,  Kendall-Jackson, and La Crema.

The.meal.was.amazing. Each course was beautifully prepared and the paired Jackson Family Wines were exquisite and paired flawlessly. The risotto and Valodorna Supertuscan pairing was, by far, my absolute favorite. I’ve never been much of a risotto fan, but Chef Scarpa’s was life changing. Not kidding. The Supertuscan pairing was perfect as its bold notes of black cherry and spices cut the creaminess and richness of the risotto.

The food at Dolce Riviera is inspired by Chef Scarpa’s roots in southern Italy and dishes are authentic, but with a slight French slant. Everything is made with fresh ingredients from scratch to finish and is beautifully and intricately crafted to not only taste authentic, but to be presented beautifully as well. Dolce Riviera aims for simple, yet elegant.

ANTIPASTO: Half Crispy Quail over Green Asparagus with Quail Eggs and Sauce Mornaise
Paired with Cambria Clone 4 Chardonnay (Santa Maria Valley, USA)

CRUDO: Venison Carpaccio with Wild Herbs, Late Radicchio Salad with Dried Apricot and Fresh Red Currant in White Balsamic Dressing
Paired with Yangarra Grenache (McLaren Vale, Australia)

PRIMO: Risotto Carnaroli with Pomegranate
Paired with Valodorna Supertuscan (Tuscany, Italy)

SECONDO: Veal Tenderloin Rollatino with Truffle Heart, Mix Wild Mushroom Sauce
Paired with Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, USA)

Harwood District gives diners incredible opportunities to dine delightfully with various events like these wine dinners, DJ Brunches, and more. Make sure to watch the Harwood District events page and their social channels to be up on all of the offerings coming from the district.


JACKSON FAMILY WINES
jacksonfamilywines.com

DOLCE RIVIERA
dolceriviera.com

HARWOOD DISTRICT
harwooddistrict.com

The Bloody Buddy

Do you love Bloody Marys but hate the hassle of having to find the perfect mix to alcohol ratio? Fear no more, because The Bloody Buddy has arrived.

TBB is Texas’ first and only ready-to-drink Bloody Mary. (Yes, alcohol included!) Straight from Dripping Springs, TBB is a corn-based (gluten free, hollaaa!) vodka infused with real chili peppers for about a week. Their house Bloody Mary recipe contains organic tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, lime juice, and other secret spices.

Not only does this mix taste good, it does actual good, too. There are no artificial flavors, additives, or preservatives, and they use recycled plastic bottles which make TBB perfect for golf courses, lakes, beaches, hikes, pools, hotel mini-bars, the symphony … ya know … anywhere. And at 10% ABV, there’s just enough booze to hit the spot.

The Bloody Buddy is the easiest and tastiest way to get your Bloody Mary fix in a flash. Just open, poor over ice, and serve.


THE BLOODY BUDDY
TheBloodyBuddy.com
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TBB is available at most Spec’s locations.