Restaurant Review

Pheasant Glass

I have previously thrown in a few restaurant reviews in this XML Aficionado blog, but after some careful consideration over a recent vacation trip to the west coast, I came to the conclusion that it makes more sense to collect those in a separate blog and to keep XML Aficionado focused on technology, XML, and the occasional update from the Red Sox.
For those of you interested in restaurant and hotel reviews, please take a look at our new Pheasant Glass blog and read about our recent trip through California with stops in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Carmel Valley, and San Francisco.

Restaurant Review: Shibuya at the MGM Grand

I had the pleasure of having dinner at Shibuya twice this week: on Tuesday I invited our trade show booth team to celebrate a successful presence at the IBM Information-On-Demand conference and trade show in Las Vegas, and on Thursday I ate a quick bite at the Sushi bar before seeing KA by Cirque du Soleil.

Sushi Bar @ ShibuyaShibuya is located in the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas and features regular restaurant tables, teppan-yaki style tables, where the chef grills at the table, and a fantastic Sushi bar right below a gigantic virtual aquarium.

For our trade show team dinner we set at a regular table and were served by a very competent, friendly, and knowledgeable waiter.

To start the evening off we had cocktails, and I can only highly recommend the Shibuya Cocktail: it is a delightful Vodka- and Sake-based drink with crushed sake-flavored ice, that give it a unique texture and taste. Not too sweet, but also not too dry. If you like Cosmopolitans, you will definitely enjoy the Shibuya Cocktail, although it is not nearly as sour as a Cosmo.

Sake Business Cards The Sake menu at Shibuya is simply impressive. They boast the largest selection of Sakes in the country, and while I cannot verify that claim, it certainly sounds plausible, given that their menu is practically a book. The sakes are nicely organized in separate groups between the honjōzō-shu, ginjō-shu, and daiginjō-shu. When you order a bottle, the waiter brings a little "business card" for each guest that describes the Sake that is being served. We had two junmai-daiginjōs and they were equally exquisite. My favorite was the Wataribune from Ibaraki Prefecture: light and pure, with subtle hints of pineapple and peaches.

The appetizers are inspired and range from Kobe-Beef-Tataki to Toro-Tartar. They are all wonderfully presented and simply delicious. Make sure to order some Edamame and a seaweed salad to share for the table, and don't skip the Miso soup. It is also a good idea to order a few appetizers and share with friends to take in all the different tastes.

Yellow Tail Jalapeño + Toro Scallion (Negi Toro) While the menu certainly has a wonderful variety of warm dishes that are probably excellent, we didn't try any of them. I simply cannot help it: when I'm faced with a spectacular Sushi bar, that's what I'll have. The Sushi menu has a broad selection of Nigiri, Nori-maki, and Temaki, and all the fish is freshly flown into Las Vegas for them. The O-Toro that I had melted like butter and was just wonderful. There is a Spider-Roll (soft-shell crab) on the speciality side that is to die for. And I can also highly recommend the Negi-Toro (or Toro Scallion) maki. An inspired combination is the Yellow Tail and Jalapeño maki - the spiciness of the Jalapeño very nicely compliments the Yellow Tail and is slightly subdued by the Sushi rice, so as to not be totally "in your face".

Sushi chefs at work The only thing on the menu that I disagree with, is the Hinomaru roll - Buffalo Mozzarella and basil in a Sushi Roll? Who's ever heard of that combination? However, John Judy actually tried the dish and insisted that it was not only delicious, but also argued that it is permissible to try such new cuisine cross-over variations. I don't know about that - when it comes to Sushi I'm a bit of a traditionalist....

But during my second visit I saw many other people order the dish, so I guess it must be pretty good - maybe I'll try it some day, during a future visit to Las Vegas.

Master Sushi Chef Yoshinori Nakazawa On my second visit I also had the honor of sitting right at the Sushi bar in front of Master Sushi Chef Yoshinori Nakazawa, who directs a team of 5 sushi chefs and they are truly experts at the art of creating Sushi.

Watching Nakazawa-san work his magic up-close was inspiring and made the visit to Shibuya a mesmerizing experience. And the Sushi tastes even better when you sit right at the bar and it appears in front of you the very second that the chef has finished his creation - and a true creation it is, with all the detail that goes into making each piece.

If you are brave enough to leave some room for dessert, you will be aptly rewarded. My favorite is definitely the Mochi ice-cream, which comes in 3 flavors and is just spectacular. A thin layer of Mochi wrapped around fruit and green-tea flavored ice - heavenly!

To end the evening, I recommend a cup of hot Genmaicha to round things off.

In my opinion, the Sushi at Shibuya is at the pinnacle of Sushi restaurants in America, and puts Shibuya on par - if not even above - my favorite Sushi places in San Francisco. More on those in a future review here on the XML Aficionado blog.

My rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ (5 out of a possible 5 diamonds).

Restaurant Review: Atomic Cafe

What a great last day of summer in New England. Fall starts tomorrow, but today's temperatures are in the high 70s and it's just beautiful out there.

Talking of which, I just got home from lunch at the Atomic Cafe, and liked it so much that I thought I'd share a few thoughts and some photos (nothing high-res, just a few snapshots taken with my iPhone during lunch today).

Over the past few months Atomic Cafe has become a new staple in Marblehead due to it's central location, great food, and excellent coffee selection.

Located on School Street - right next to the Marblehead Little Theatre's newly renovated Firehouse - the Atomic Cafe sports 4-5 booths for seating 4, 3 tables for seating 2, a small bar overlooking school street, and a few comfy chairs. Their official address is 14 School Street, Marblehead, MA 01945.

In the summer you can also take your drink outside to the two benches in front of the cafe, or enjoy your beverages in the sun.

The Atomic Cafe offers WiFi interet access to patrons for free, and you can easily connect with your laptop (or iPhone) and utilize fast connectivity while enjoying your Frozen Cappuccino or other fine beverages.

Talking of coffees - I can't even begin to describe how good they are, as I wouldn't be doing them justice. Luckily, there is already another great blog post on barismo that goes into great detail about he espresso shots and doubles, so you should read that. Another great blog reaction is on (a)musings.

In addition to the usual selection of sandwiches, wraps, and panninis, the Atomic Cafe offers a few signature dishes that are both inspired and delicious.

This Grilled Pesto and Goat Cheese sandwich on the left is what I had for lunch today, and it is simply "to die for". As such it has quickly become one of my favoites. Equally impressive is the Caprese Twist or the Swanky Chicken. The selection of cakes and other sweet treasures easily out-performs Starbucks and their coffees creations, inspired teas, and smoothies are spectacular.

There is also a second sister location of the Atomic Cafe in Beverly, but I haven't tried that one yet. I will plan to do that in the upcoming weeks for some work lunch, since my office happen to be in Beverly, too. It will be interesting to see how the two locations compare, especially since the one in Beverly was already established in 1996, whereas the Marblehead location is fairly new.

My rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊ (4 out of a possible 5 diamonds).