A Saturday full of good things

With a few changes from the original plan, we got everything fit in yesterday.

I slept in more than I meant to, but once we got the baby into the stroller and hit the sidewalk, it was pushing 11 a.m. and we were hungry.

The farmers’ market was, predictably, pretty picked over by the time we arrived, but I still managed to snag a few colorful beets, squash and a lovely sweet red onion. My husband couldn’t wait any longer and got a breakfast burrito from a vendor, with a fresh corn tortilla that tasted earthy and sweet. I’d wanted flowers, too, but the remains were pretty bedraggled. Ya snooze, ya lose!

Then, over to Avenues. I was worried that the baby was going to be a problem… the place looked a little upscale for a toddler. But the hostess didn’t bat an eye, said that she had a highchair, and walked up back to a nice quiet corner with an older couple just finishing up their breakfast.

Sure enough, the toddler was a PITA. I don’t think he annoyed anyone much more than his parents, but he made sure we didn’t get to relax much. Too bad, because for the first week open, Avenues Bistro looked like it was on the right track.

Husband ordered the eggs Benedict (a relatively reliable barometer of a breakfast place, in our experience) and coffee, and I got some fresh OJ and the Bananas Bruleé to share with the beeb. The eggs came quickly, perfectly poached on Canadian bacon and toasted English muffin, with a lovely velvety Hollandaise generously ladled over the whole thing, accompanied by freshly made cottage potatoes (golden, not oily at all, hot and creamy in the centers, no herbs or onions to detract from their flavor) and a cup of fresh coffee (the house blend, from the Roastarie, was delicious).

However, things sort of went downhill from there. Not only did they not bring any sort of cracker or nibble or crayons for the baby (not required but certainly a wonderfully thoughtful touch from a place that wants to welcome kids to the dining room), not only did they not bring my food with my husband’s, but when it finally arrived, it wasn’t what the menu had described. I’m paraphrasing here, but what we were expecting was a bowl of oatmeal with caramelized pecans, sliced bananas, whipped cream, and “banana struesal.” What we got instead was oatmeal (and not, as I was secretly hoping, the slow-cooked Scotch kind… but at least not the bland super-quick-rolled kind, either), with whipped cream, toasted (but definitely not caramelized) pecans, and some sort of not-sweet crumb topping. Not a whiff of banana at all in the whole pile.

A manager-looking fellow did bring a plate of sliced banana right away when I mentioned it, and the small one hoovered them up, but it was a disappointment that we had to go looking for them. Also, the OJ, which was indeed freshly squeezed, was made with a mediocre orange… certainly not Valencia (perhaps I’m spoiled from living in California).

The help was friendly, if a little overwhelmed in the first week, but I would like to have heard an acknowledgement of the oddly timed food deliveries and missing fruit from our server… he just glossed over them as if it didn’t happen. The decor was a bit dark, but elegant (I especially liked the twisty lights, reminiscent of vines), with not-too-loud jazz standards floating through the background… I can see they’re aiming for the well-heeled dinner crowd, but they were being quite hospitable to us T-shirtted wanderers from the farmers’ market. The bar area looked well-stocked with many wines, and the prices were reasonable (about $20 for our breakfast). There are lots of international dishes listed that I’d love to try (German sausages, Swedish pancakes, not to mention several fabulous-looking steaks… there were lots more, but I was sadly distracted by the ankle-biter). We will be back soon!

We wandered through Brookside a bit more, peeking into Domo, the new sushi place, but even though it was about 12:30, it was very quiet inside. We weren’t hungry, and the toddler would have torn the place up, so we went home and puttered for a bit, including making some tarragon-flavored biscuit dough to make a savory potpie out of our leftovers.

Later that evening, my daughter heroically volunteered to watch the little guy while Husband and I took off to see “Little Miss Sunshine” (nothing related to food, but still highly recommended!). Afterwards, we were driving home… around 9:45pm. I remembered that Domo was supposed to be open to 11, and suggested that we drop in and check them out… it had been many hours since that pie.

Well, I knew I was pushing my luck… visiting two places, each open less than a week. I really was asking for a trainwreck, but the universe decided to smile upon us. We got great parking (don’t even try for street parking… there’s a big lot behind that row of shops you should aim for), and came in through the back. The place was busy, with a large table of drunk and giggly young professionals right behind where we were seated on the sushi bar. Between the party behind us and the Police elevator music, we couldn’t hear a single word the sushi chef was trying to say to us.

That’s a shame, because I love to talk to the chefs and hear what they are most proud of, what they recommend, what is really fresh, that sort of thing. I also like to hear their stories about where they were trained, how they came to this establishment, and so forth. I’m probably a bit of a pain to have as a customer, but usually folks seem happy to talk about themselves and their work. As it turned out, once the crowd of tipsy lawyers left, we could hear our chef just fine, and he was a lot of fun to talk with. But for the majority of our meal, we just soaked in the atmosphere.

And there is plenty of atmosphere at this place. It’s really hard to imagine the old bagel place that was once there… soothing green-washed walls and a lovely mural surround the tables, very cool little lamps hang along one side (that made me think of ice cubes), another full bar up front, mirrors behind the sushi stations, and of course the sushi-making itself was the center of attention. The hostess gave us a rundown of the specials, and once we found her again, some descriptions of some of the more imaginatively named rolls. Our server was off-and-on available, but self-effacingly aware of his absences at least.

We tried a shrimp spring roll (filled with “noddles”… we have a game where, if a dish is misspelled on the menu, one of us has to order it. Sad to say that all the menus at Domo badly needed the attention of a proofreader, but that’s something that most likely will be attended to in the coming weeks), a spicy tuna roll, a “cappuccino” roll (a California roll with barbecued eel), tuna sushi and tomago (egg) sushi, and something the hostess highly recommended as one of her personal favorites, “The Big O,” a large tempura roll with shrimp, crab, cream cheese (and maybe one other thing? I can’t remember).

Not a clinker in the bunch. The spring rolls were fresh and delicious, with a bright chili-vinegar dip that underlined the shrimp and “noddles” beautifully (and, if I recall correctly, two rolls were something like $3.50… I could have ordered three or four plates of this for a meal and been perfectly happy!). All the rolls and sushi were presented on platters, a few at a time, so we could enjoy them before the next batch came out, ending with (ahem) the “Big O.” The ginger and wasabi (piped onto the plates in a pretty squiggle) were on each platter, no danger of running out.

The prices were reasonable (all of the above totalled around $30), the waitstaff friendly (when they could be heard/found), the atmosphere upbeat and elegant, and the food was fresh, delicious and beautiful. The fact that this place is in walking distance is the cherry on the sundae… we’d have come back even if we’d had to drive 20 miles!

After a series of slight dining disappointments lately, it was a delight to have two pleasant dining experiences in the same day, and so close to home. (The disappointments were Georgie Porgie’s, Bella Napoli’s new oven-fired pizza place, and the Harvey House diner… if anyone wants more details on those, comment and I’ll give you the lowdown.)

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Saturday full of good things

  1. Those are some very professional restaurant reviews. You should totally be writing for that magazine you mentioned the other day — or a better one!

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