Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Tavola Pizzeria - a real surprise in Cincinnati

When Cincinnati comes to mind, you don't quite think cultural vibe or hipster flair. But neighborhoods such as The Banks and Over the Rhine will make you think again. With its close proximity to Kentucky bluegrass culture, mid-west friendliness, and German immigrant population, Cincinnati has charm. I went there for the first time in Q4 2013 for work and scoped out a few of Cinci's best local restaurants. Of course there was a pizza joint on the list - A Tavola in Over the Rhine at 1220 Vine St.

I went to A Tavola with a few colleagues on what we thought was a quiet Tuesday night, A Tavola was buzzing with energy. They don't take reservations, but we arrived  around 6:30 and we're seated right away. The space was open yet inviting, wood topped tables closely placed, an open bar area towards the front, and a huge wood burning pizza oven nestled just in view of the dining area. The menus star is obviously pizza, but they have a nice selection of antipasti, salads, and sliders. At $10 to $16 per pie the cost is on par with SF but the portion sizes are slightly larger. We ordered family style - Roasted Cauliflower, Margherita Pizza, Artichoke Pizza, and Peach & Rhubarb Streusel with Salted Caramel Gelato. All were very tasty with my favorites being the artichoke pie and peach streusel.

Roasted Cauliflower - cauliflower and lemon vinaigrette. The dish came out with piping hot with the over roasted cauliflower lightly drizzled with lemon vinaigrette. Each floret was a bite-size portion and the overall serving was enough to feed 3 as an antipasti dish. The dish was a bit bitter and acidic, but not overpowering. The cauliflower itself had a nice charred/smoky flavor and was slightly al dente.

Margherita Pizza - tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil. This was a safe choice given the other eclectic pies on the menu. The crust was chewier than I prefer with a few char marks from the wood oven. The sauce was a hint sweet from the san marzano tomatoes, the home made mozzarella was a hint salty - a good balance but nothing that I hadn't tasted before at many SF establishments. Lets just say that we ate the entire pie, but in the futures would opt for a more unique choice.

Artichoke Pizza - tomato sauce, pesto, artichokes, mozzarella, and goats cheese. This was by far the best dish of the evening. On the surface the combination of artichokes and goats cheese did not sound appealing, but the waitress indicated that this was one of restaurant's best sellers. The pizza was perfectly cooked with and generous charring along the crust. The combination of mozzarella and goats cheese provided a sweet and salty balanced flavor. The artichokes were cut small and before being added to the pie. They were fresh and retained a nice crunch. The pesto seemed out of place and it's taste really didn't come through, but I'm nitpicking at this point. I would order this again.

Pear and Rhubarb Streusel - baked pear and rhubarb with cinnamon crumble and salted caramel gelato. This dessert definitely hit the spot with the warm naturally sweet streusel and the cold creamy salted caramel gelato. The gelato itself was soft serve, a nice touch since it was easy to scoop and share. I have become a bit fan of salty sweet combo desserts and A Tavola does it right. The streusel tasted more peach than rhubarb, but none the less the fruit was very ripe and tasty. The serving size was about right for three to share and I would definitely order this dish again.

All is all A Tavola did not disappoint. A hipster vibe, great friendly service, and memorable pizza makes this place a must on your list in Cincinnati. I give a solid 7.5 out of 10. See for yourself.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Classic NYC pies at John's of Bleecker St

John's of Bleecker St is a classic NYC. An 850 degree coal fired brick oven pizzeria that serves thin crust with no frills. Sheila and I have already succumb to hipster movement of new age farm to table high end pizza joints. But John's of Bleecker St is it's old school, founded in 1929 and still in the same location with seating in time-worn graffiti-filled booths surrounded by photos of celebrities such has Jack Black, Regis Philbin, and Billy Crystal. On a recent trip to NYC, we decided to go back to NYC's pizza roots in the West Village.

It was Friday during lunch and place was starting to fill up, but Sheila and I got a nice booth near the storefront windows. The interior is warm and inviting, the sort of gritty NYC establishment that you'd see on TV. The menu was straightforward, pies and calzones made to order with your choice of ingredients. It was a no brainer for us get the classic cheese and tomato pie straight up - 14" six slice pizza for $14.50.

The pizza came to our table piping hot within 10 mins of ordering. The crust was slightly chewy with hints of char from the brick oven. The flavor balance of the dough was perfect - not too much gluten and only pinch of salt. I guess it true, NYC's water just makes things taste better. The sauce was true freshly crushed tomatoes and not a cooked down sauce; not overwhelmed with seasoning. The cheese was amazing - classic naturally salted mozzarella cooked with a few blisters from the 850 degree even.

Despite there being six large slices, Sheila and I had no trouble finishing off the medium pie. We'd definitely go back again, smack dab in the middle of the West Village, it's a great atmosphere in and around John's of Bleecker St. So if you're looking for classic New York style pizza, don't miss John's as it get's my 8 out of 10 rating. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

the sweet side of switzerland ...

There is nothing as rich and decadent as Swiss chocolates and pastries. Here's a sampling of what we enjoyed during a recent two week jaunt through magical Switzerland. Enjoy!

Chocolates on Swiss Air on Flight to Geneva
Patisserie at the Suisse Majestic in Montreux
Patisserie at the Suisse Majestic in Montreux
Grapes from Lavaux Vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Blackberries in the Farmer's Market in Lausanne
Raspberries in the Farmer's Market in Lausanne
Chocolate & Coconut Ice Cream at Movenpick in Montreux
Swiss National Day Pastries in Geneva
Chocolates at the Cailler Factory 
Chocolates at the Cailler Factory
Fruit Pastries at Eichenberger Confiserie in Bern
Matcha Tea Ice Cream at Fugu Nydegg in Bern
Eichenberger Confiserie in Bern
Luxemburgerli Macaroons at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich
Fresh Bread at the Zurich Farmer's Market
Hazelnut Chocolate Bark at Laderach Confiseur in Interlaken
Truffles at Confiserie Sprungli in Zurich

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Michelin starred SPQR in Pacific Heights

SPQR has been on our restaurant list for years, but for one reason or another we hadn't dined there. It's premise is simple - farm to table fresh Northern Italian cuisine with one of SF's best wine menus. The menu changes daily based on the availability of locally sourced ingredients. This restaurant shot fame under Nate Appleman, who also oversaw A16 in the Marina. After his departure in 2009, Matthew Accarrino took the helm and elevated the restaurant to Michelin star level. From our perspective, very well deserved. One of the top restaurant we've been to in the city. 

The restaurant is located on Upper Fillmore amongst the stylish boutiques, contemporary furniture showrooms, and trendy restaurants. As you would expect, reservations are hard to come by, so plan ahead. We decided on a Sunday lunch over Labor Day weekend. The interior is warm and inviting, with rustic dark floor, cherry dining tables, and an open plan kitchen / wine bar. The menu had several vegetarian options after a few suggestions from the wait staff, we decided to share an antipasti and have separate entrees. After a few minutes, the dishes started coming out. 

Biscuits with apricot & wild fennel preserves and fresh butter - This was complementary and given to every table, probably because it was Sunday brunch time. The biscuits were warm and fresh out of the oven. Slight sweet with a hint of salt, the biscuits were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The homemade preserves had chucks of apricot with a dusting of fennel. It didn't take us long to finish these off. As a first tasting, we were instantly impressed. 

Sweet carrot and lentil salad, medjool date and vadouvan curry crema - The plating was amazing, each component was meticulously placed around the Heath ceramic plate. Because of the plating, we didn' t know whether to combine all the component or leave them separate. We decided on the latter, which allowed us to vary the taste in each bite. The textures and flavors are hard to describe, which you would not expect from an Italian restaurant. It had more of a Mediterranean influence and wonderful balance - there was the earthiness from glazed carrots, crunchiness from a chickpea fritter, spiciness from the curry crema, and natural sweetness from the medjool date paste. Every bite was different and left us wanting more. For those curious, vadouvan is a derivative of an Indian spice blend.  

Creste di galli, rapini pesto, leek, fingerling potato and ricotta salata - A fresh rooster's crown hollow pasta prepared with a light rapini (broccoli rabe) pesto and shaved ricotta. The dish was light yet flavorful; and i really enjoyed the pesto - not overpowering, nor olive oily. The ricotta salata had the consistency of fresh mozzarella, but more airy. the potatoes were a nice touch and were probably the only heavy component.  Similar to the salad, this dish had strong earthy qualities from the leeks, rapini, and potatoes. The portion size was perfect as well. Overall, we both agreed, that this was a well thought out dish and fine balance and finesse. Case in point, without the ricotta salata, Sheila felt that the dish lacked salt. However with all the components together, the dish was in complete harmony. 

Tuscan kale francobolli, goat cheese, green onion and poppy seed - A thin ravioli stuffed with tuscan kale served bits of fresh goat cheese, lightly sauteed green onions, poppy seeds. The pasta was not overfilled with kale nor was it thick, so you could taste the slight bitterness of the kale. The sauce was a very light butter and as the goat cheese melted it formed a creamy sauce. The poppy seeds seemed a bit unnecessary, but at times added a slight crunch. Sheila felt this was a hearty dish without being overly filing and was pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoyed the fresh goat cheese on warm pasta. It was great sunday lunch entree. 

Tiramisu, espresso coffee, mascarpone and cocoa - Served in a glass tumbler with multiple layers of mascarpone, lady fingers, and cocoa, topped with warm espresso. This was probably the richest dish we had during the meal. The flavors were bold - strong espresso shot, sweet creamy mascarpone, slightly bitter dark cocoa, and moist yet crunchy lady fingers. This was not your typical tiramisu, almost had a deconstruction quality to it; and as well spooned each layer the depth of flavors came alive. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even with food coma setting in. 

All in all, SPQR is worthy of its acclaim and Michelin star. A wonderful treat in SF if you can get a table, and if not try the lunch. Farm to table and locally sourced ingredients have come to be expected at SF restaurants. We will most certainly come back to this modern Northern Italian restaurant to try a few more dishes from this ever changing menu. Bravo with a rating of 8.5 out of 10. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A little Gem in Islington

A bit late... but when A joined me in London while I was there on business in February; I promised him that I would guest blog to share my thoughts on Gem. Note to readers, this review is going to be very biased as Gem is my favorite restaurant. Ever. 

We first discovered Gem when we first moved to London, many years ago. It's one of many Turkish restaurants in Islington, but Gem boasts a Kurdish take on food. Peering into the storefront, you will see an elderly woman making fresh Qatme (stuffed bread) for the patrons. 

On our last trip, we found a fresh new Gem, as it recently underwent a significant remodel. It's spacious, bright and while we checked out the 'new digs' we were brought our Qatme. This time around, we received one with potato and the other filled with spinach and green onions. Thin, warm and very comforting, it's a perfect quick bite while you peruse the menu. 

Being regulars, and not having a chance to eat there in so long (4 years!) we stuck to our usual: the Menu C. What is Menu C? 6 hot mezze and 7 cold mezze + dessert. Too much food you say? Never! Each item is appropriately portioned, and just enough for two people to share. Usually, the chef will select the dishes for you; our only comments to our server was to indicate that we were vegetarian and that we'd love to double up on the Halloumi (more on that later). We ended up with the following selection:

Cacik: yogurt with cucumber, mint, garlic and dill. It's very refreshing, and a great accompaniment to the hotter mezze

Yaprak Sarma: Essentially dolma. I'm not really a dolma fan, but I loved these! Gem's version had raisins, along with rice; which I thought was a great complement to the briney leaves.

Patates Salatasi: Potatoes with chopped pickle, parsley, dill, lemon juice. A heartier dish. The lemon juice and dill make it feel super light, even thought there are good sized chunks of potato. 

Kisir: Cracked wheat in thick tomato sauce. This one was a new one for us. In all our visits, we'd never had it, so it was nice to try something different.  It had a nice tang to it, very different from the other dishes, though I would have preferred this to be warm. 

Taboule: Of all the taboule i've tried or made, these guys do it best! They've mastered the parsley/wheat ratio and the results are amazing. Not too herby, not too lemony; but just right.
Patlican Soslu: This, to me, is more like a giardinaria. It's fried aubergine with tomato and red pepper. Alone, it's a little underwhelming; but spread on the foccicia like bread? Amazing. It's tart, yet sweet.
Falafel: If you haven't tried falafel, you don't know what you are missing. Made from chickpeas, broad beans, and onions they are deep fried. Gem's take on falafel rivals the famous Falafel's Drive In in moistness. 

Halloumi: A salty grilled cypriot cheese. I first tried halloumi at Gem, and I have been addicted ever since. It grills well, and pairs well with almost any mezze. It's hearty and surprisingly filling. 

Muska Boregi: Filled with Feta and spinach, these samosa shaped pastrys were our last hot appetizer. I'm not always a fan of feta, but these are consistently good and never over powering

Sounds like a lot of food? Well, it was sort of. Did I mention that we also had dessert? As part of the fixed menu, we received a small baklava, a small seker pare with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream. As all things Gem, this dessert is a great finish to the meal. The baklava is homemade, not overly sweet and full of pistachios and walnuts. Seker Pere is a soft sweetened semolina cake. If you have a sweet tooth, this is for you! With the two desserts, if the ice cream had been absent, it would have been fine - but after all who can resist!

After so many years, I was curious if Gem would still be as good as we always thought, and it was! We've been to many restaurants in our travels (as can be seen on this blog), but Gem has always been my favorite, and continues to be. It's always fresh, feels like home cooking and reminds me fondly of our time in London. If you ever happen to find yourself in London, make the trek to Islington to visit Gem. You won't be disappointed. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pok Pok, take me back to Chiang Mai via PDX

Located about 5 miles from Portland City Center in the Hawthorne District is Pok Pok. At the far edge of Portland's new dining scene, this is a must on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest. Andy Ricker, the much heralded chef, took home a James Beard Award in 2011 and his streetshop style eatery was recently named one of the top 20 most inflential restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine. You might have also seen it on The Food Network or Travel Channel or read about it in the New York Times. We actually took a bike from City Center, which certainly helped to work up our appetite, and within about 30 mins arrived at Pok Pok. This place doesn't have much curb presence, so if you weren't paying attention just look for the long line of patrons out front, it'll be a sure give away.

This decor looks like a Thai street side restaurant with it's open tables, steel grate roof, clear plastic tarp windows, stainless steel table tops, and chalk board menu. Of course, that's part of the charm to be transported back to Thailand. We arrived at 12:30pm and were seated within about 5 mins in the covered front area; there's also any upstairs outdoor deck, and counter stalls along the entrance corridor. Come early, else expect a wait because by the time we left at 1:30pm, the wait was a good 45 mins.

The menu is packed full of Thai street food classics with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, in additon to wonderful southeast Asian inspired cocktails with basils, limes, Thai chilis, mango, jackfruit, etc. We asked our waitress for recommendations since everything looked so appetizing. She suggested a salad, noodle soup, and dessert for us to share; it did not dissappoint.

Khao Soi - a Chiang Mai street food favorite of curry flat noodle soup with tofu, squash, cilantro, and fried chickpea noodles. It came our table piping hot in a large bowl with a serving ladle and two small eating bowls. The perfect dish for this overcast rainy Portland day. This Northern Thai dish had strong flavor influences from the Burmese and Chinese Muslims. The tofu was lightly stir-fried along with the squash, for a wonderful earthy balance. The noodles were cooked well and did not overpower the dish. This was a soup with noodles and not the other way around. But the real star was the lightly spiced soup made with a gentle mix of coconut milk and thai chili that was on par with anything we'd tasted in Thailand. In one sentence, Sheila and I felt this was the best single dish of food we've had in many years.

Yam Samun Phrai - a Northern Thai herbal salad of carrot, turmeric, parsnip, betal leaf, basil, lime leaf, cashews, ginger, fried shallots, and Thai chilis in a mild coconut milk dressing. This salad packed some heat but was actually a good counter balance to the warm soup. The flavors were a mix or both sour and sweet which you typically see in Thai cooking. My only suggestion would have been to have some more shallots and cashews for a bit more crunch. Nevertheless we had not issues finishing the dish.

Thai Ice Cream Sandwich - three small scoops of coconut jackfruit ice cream over sticky rice drizzles with chocolate sauce and shaved almonds served on top of a Chinese bun. As you could expect this was a heavy dessert, but oh so good. The ice cream tasted naturally sweetened, the shaved almonds proved a nice crunch, and the sticky rice was could perfectly. The bun, although airy to the taste, was cut a bit too thick for me. We ate about two-thirds and then succumb to food coma.

This place did live up to the hype, it's the most authentic Thai meal we've had outside of Thailand. The quality of ingredients, expertly prepared dishes, and authentic dining experience make Pok Pok a true hit. I give it a resounding 9 out of 10 overall.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An unexpected surprise with Portobello Vegan Trattoria in Portland ...

Although we’re vegetarian, Sheila and I don’t often frequent vegan restaurants not necessarily by choice, it’s just there are very few in SF. Nevertheless, after having read reviews on Yelp and Eater PDX, we made reservations at Portobello Vegan Trattoria for our upcoming trip to Portland which is known for its eco-friendly, sustainable, vegetarian happy persona. Now you’re thinking how can there be a vegan Italian restaurant? How about cashew cheese, beet burgers, and seitan sausage? Don’t be shy about trying something new, because Portobello Vegan Trattoria was an unexpected surprise.

Portobello is located in an indistinct metal and glass shopping center approximately 2 miles southeast of Downtown Portland.  The space itself is warm and inviting, with sustainable and recycled would furniture, warmly lit chandeliers and a cozy banquet seating. The wait staff was friendly and extremely helpful in navigating through the interesting selection of options – all of which we wanted to try. After asking our waitress for some recommendations, we decided to each have our own entree and then split a dessert – the beet burger, spicy arrabbiata pizza, and bourbon vanilla & salted caramel ice cream.
Beet Burger – a house-made beet burger on fresh baked rosemary foccacia with carrot aioli, arugula, red onions and tomato confit. I was surprised that Sheila ordered this and up until it arrived she was a bit skeptical. But after the first bite, that all changed, this was a perfectly balanced and flavor packed burger. The beet patty was moist, the carrot aioli was creamy, the tomato confit slightly tart, and the arugula & red onions were fresh. The bun was a lightly toasted rosemary foccacia which had a wonderful herb and olive oil flavor. The portion size was quite large, so Sheila ended up cutting the burger in half so I could have some. I am often disappointed in veggie burgers because the patties are a dense block of flavorless wheat, corn, black bean, and carrots. This was not, the patty was light and airy, which I had the recipe!
Spicy Arrabbiata Pizza – a take on a neapolitan style pie with seitan-made Italian sausage, cherry peppers, garlic, basil, tomato marinara with chili, and cashew creme. I’ve never really been a fan of faux meat, until a few years ago. With all of our travels my culinary curiosity has broadened, but even seitan sausage was a stretch. Upon first bite, both Sheila and I uttered the words – that’s interesting. And as we kept eating slices our taste buds adapted to complex flavors of this dish. The sausage had a salty flavor, the cherry peppers packed the heat a la jalapenos, the marinara was plump and juicy, and the cashew crème was silky smooth. Of course, we’ve come to know great pie crust, and Portobello’s version was quite good, slight charred on the edges but with a nice chewy texture. We end up with three left over slices which I happily ate cold the next day. That should say it all from this pizza snob!   
Ice Cream – a scope each of bourbon vanilla and salted caramel. A wonderful mix of sweet and salty, Sheila and I found ourselves trading bites back and forth. The bourbon definitely came through as did the pure vanilla bean. The salted caramel was good balance to offset our other scoop as it start off salty upon first bite with a gooey aftertaste. We both thought this was a great palette cleanser to end our meal.  
Despite our initial apprehension, Portobello turned out to be a wonderful neighborhood restaurant and worth the trip outside of Portland touristy City Center. The dishes were inventive takes on Italian classics, although in a thoughtful sustainable manner. The original flavors preserved, this restaurant was able to transform each dish without us even missing the diary. With that, I rate Portobello a strong 8 out of 10.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

the surprising MANA food bar in chicago

With more frequent travels to Chicago, I've had the benefit of eating at some amazing establishments in the Windy City. This past Feb during a typical cold and snow-filled week, I persuaded close friends P & J to break from their busy doctor lives for a late dinner at MANA Food Bar in Wicker Park. Wicker Park is a trendy gentrified neighborhood in the Northwest Loop known for it's commercial and entertainment venues. MANA itself is a charming and creative vegetarian restaurant that serves inventive and eclectic sharing dishes. This is definitely a winner in my book so check it out.

The interior of MANA is charming with rustic wood tables and bar, clean lines, and Edison bulb fixtures. The interior was very reminiscent of places I've been to in Soho or the Mission - felt right at home! The menu has a selection of american and asian inspired plates that can be served as either small or large plates. In order to maximize a "tasting menu" experience P, J and I decided on nine small plates of cold and warm items, including dessert. This worked out to 3 plates per person, which is what our waiter recommended. For the three of us, it was on the cusp of too much food so keep that in mind. 

First up were beets, sliced thin, with arugula and apple salad in a raspberry vinaigrette. A light, fresh, and crisp starter with a good balance of sweetness and tartness. The beets were understated given the abundance of arugula and apples; and the vinaigrette was slightly heavy handed. However those are just minor tweaks for an overall solid dish. The presentation was playful with delicately placed arugula leaves and shoestring apples across a long, thin white plate. 
Second up was baked goat cheese served with spicy tomato sauce and sourdough toast. I'm not a huge fan of strong cheeses, but this bake was remarkably muted although a bit too cheesy. The toast was slightly sweet but became cold quickly. The one thing I appreciated was the chunky tomato sauce spiked with chili peppers. Nonetheless, together the cheese, sauce, and slightly charred toast made for a hearty starter. Although a good dish, there seem to be many other better dishes on their menu, I'd most likely pass on this next time. 

Third up was the bi bim bop of hot pepper miso and vegetables served over brown rice and a sunny side up egg. This signature Korean dish was our favorite of the evening. A bold mix of cucumbers, zucchinis, mushrooms, spinach, and tofu stir-fried in sesame oil and red chili. The lightly fluffed brown rice and perfectly cooked egg gave this dish an unexpected earthy and creamy texture. The chili was not overpowering, but I felt it on the tip of my tongue. First time I've tried this dish and it won't be the last. 

Fourth up was the ma po tofu with spicy eggplant, chinese black beans, and red chili paste served over brown rice. A decent dish but compared against the bi bim bop, it lacked the same depth of flavors. Although the components were well prepared, the paste may have overpowered the eggplant and tofu. A slight refinement of component is all that's needed to make this spectacular. I've had ma po tofu at other restaurants and this was above average and pretty tasty.  

Fifth up was the mana sliders, a brown rice and mushroom patty served on small slider bun with spicy mayo, pickled cucumbers, and pickled onions. Okay I lied, the sliders were our favorite dish of the night. I'm typically skeptical of mushroom burgers because of how heavy they can be, but these were surprising. The brown rice and thinly grated mushrooms were bound together lightly and grilled to a slight char. The spicy mayo was nice kick and kept the dish moist and flavorful. I never would have thought to pickle cucumbers and onion for fear of the vinegar taking over, but that wasn't the case. This one that I'll be ordering again and again. 

Sixth up was artichoke filled ravioli with tomatoes, spicy kalamata tapenade, and shredded asiago cheese. Not sure that an italian inspired dish fits in with the overall food theme at MANA; and although the ingredients was fresh and nicely prepared, we weren't too thrilled with the overall dish. You couldn't quite taste the artichoke filling nor the tapenade due to the heaviness of the tomatoes and asiago cheese. And by now we were pretty stuffed. Nevertheless, my recommendation is to stick with the american and asian inspired dishes in lieu of the ravioli. 

Dishes seven and eight were our desserts, cinnamon creme brulee and double chocolate cheese cake. This was juxtaposition of delicate and decadent desserts. Neither of them were overly sweet. I enjoyed the creme brulee with its hint of cinnamon. The sugar burnt top was textured and flavorful; and the interior creme was light and airy. The cheesecake was dense and chewy; and the cookie base has a nice crunch. I appreciate the fact that it was made with bittersweet dark chocolate, however it was a bit too heavy for my taste. 

All in all, MANA Food Bar was a surprisingly charming restaurant. The creative and eclectic dish are perfect for sharing; and pack some amazing flavors. I didn't quite know what to expect from this neighborhood joint; for the most part we loved our dishes and even the ones that were mediocre only needed slight modifications to have been spectacular. This is not a tourist spot which made it all the more better and I can't leave out how great it was to catch up with my friends, P & J. MANA is worth the trip to Whicker Park and I give it an overall 8 out of 10 rating.