Monday, December 10, 2007

Lunch at Merlion Singapore Cuisine

Hi everyone, Shirley here. I'll be guestblogging while Alex deals with finals. A couple of days ago, Alex and I were hungry for something new. So we decided to try out Merlion Singapore Cuisine.

Location: On 13th street south of campus, across from the IHOP.

Now believe me when I say it may look like a total dive hiding behind some bushes, but it's actually impressive.

Atmosphere: Very clean look. We were surprised by the large amount of seating and the decor, which was simple yet elegant. There was definitely a struggle between the restaurant's ability to seat large parties and the desire to remain intimate. There were many 4-top tables in a large central area, lined by more spacious booths along one side and extra chairs and bar stools against another. There were beautiful candles and wall decorations around the room, but none were lit. I'm assuming this is because we went for lunch. Hopefully, they light the candles for dinner. I'm sure this place looks great, although too large to be romantic, at night. There also seemed to be a separate area to the left with curtains and 2 or 3 very large tables behind it. I wonder if this is a more private space for large parties, or an eating area for the people who work there?

Menu: I was personally impressed by their Afternoon Tea menu. Yes, Afternoon... Tea... MENU. If you decided to bypass a complete meal, you could pay anywhere from 7 to 15 dollars per person and enjoy a pot of delicious tea (they had at least 20 varieties listed) along with some traditional tea cakes and snacks. Great for the person who likes to eat out, but can't stand the huge portions offered in popular restaurants. I would check on the times for this before you go, I didn't note when it was available.

Alex and I ordered a pot of Rose Petal Green Tea, but went with full meals instead of the afternoon tea menu. The tea was delicious and served in a clear pot, decorated by what looked like hand-painted flowers. Rose buds floated in our green tea, which really makes you feel fancy. It was kept warm on a matching clear tea light holder. Food presentation itself was nice. Nothing too creative, but elegant nonetheless. Alex started off with the Communist Soup. Who can look at a menu, see Communist Soup, and not order it out of curiosity? It is described as a curry beef and potato soup. It tasted like a stew, but had the consistency of beef broth. It seemed like a flavorful, but light start to a meal. I had the Nyonya Veggie Soup. I was thrown off by the texture, which felt a bit like gelatin. Turns out it was textured soy protein. It tasted pretty good, but I think I'll steer clear of it next time. There was too much of an eggy taste to it, which I wasn't expecting. Not bad, but be prepared.

For his main dish, Alex had the Java Fried Rice. I had the Kung Pao Seafood. There were lots of options, even though it was the lunch menu. I would definitely go back to see their dinner menu selections. The menu was organized as multiple flavor combinations and sauces, and you could choose to put it on chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, combination (chicken and beef) or seafood (shrimp, scallops, and octopus). I chose the Kung Pao Seafood. It was a spicy sauce with crunchy peanuts, red and green bell peppers, and of course, my seafood. The seafood seemed perfectly cooked (even the scallops), and you could tell they actually cooked it all together as opposed to just pouring sauce on a precooked seafood medley. Alex seemed to enjoy his fried rice. Our meals came with a spring roll (Alex loved it, my sentiments were "eh", so he ate mine), crab rangoon (fried wontons with crab and cream cheese), and white rice. The crab rangoon was especially good. There were plenty of other selections, including curry dishes, vegetarian dishes, appetizers, pad thai, and noodle dishes. It looks like their dinner menu even includes more "americanized" dishes (such as a Merlion burger).

Price: Great price. Keep in mind we were there for lunch, but Alex and I both ate filling meals and a great pot of tea for under $25 total. I would definitely go back. I also want to go back and try their dessert. I heard the guy in the booth next to us raving about a fried banana with ice cream. I also see fried ice cream on an online menu... mmmmm.

Service: Fast, professional. Don't expect your server to smile too much or make jokes, but you'll get your food/drinks. They're pretty attentive without being annoying (I dislike servers who ignore you, but I dislike the ones that check on you every 2 minutes more). I think they almost gave my plate to another table, but a woman came out and corrected the server before he handed it to anyone. Again, it was such fast service that this didn't even matter.

Score: Hmm, I feel like it's not my place to do scores on Alex's blog. I mean, it would be hard to compare to the other scores he's posted since we have different palettes. I would venture an 8/10 for lunch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Copper Monkey

Copper Monkey

Generally quick and friendly. Nothing special but always deserving of a good tip.

Big, juicy, incredibly tasty burgers. Best burgers in Gainesville and they're had at a great price. My only complaint is that it's easy to hurt your jaw eating some of these burgers.

I usually get the chips and salsa, which are actually tasty. The salsa tastes fresh and the chips don't taste straight out of the bag.

They've also got your usual bar food appetizers, which being fried, can't be too bad.

They have lots of other sandwiches available, including grilled chicken for those who a bit more health concious. I've only ever gotten the burgers, because hey, it's a burger place.

The sandwiches are all 5-8$, and are plenty for one person. If you're getting appetizers or some beers, expect 15-18$ a person.

This is a good place to watch sports and drink a few beers. TV's in view from every seat and a well stocked bar. If you're looking for a place to watch the game, or ease yourself into going out for the night, this is a great place to do it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mark's US Prime

So, it was Shirley's birthday and I decided to make it a fancy one. I looked around for fine dining restaurants in Gainesville, and decided on the nicest steakhouse in town: Mark's.

Location: Downtown across from the parking garage and next to Dragonfly.

Atmosphere: It's a steakhouse. Mark's captures everything you want from a steakhouse very well. Cushy leather booths, dark wood everywhere, and some jazz playing in the background.

Service: Excellent. The wait staff is personable, knowledgable, and very quick. Empty dishes were cleared from the table as soon as they were emptied, and the food delivered as if they were reading our minds.

Food: We lead with the steak tartare and crab cakes for appetizers. The steak tartare is served with horeradish cream sauce, capers, and red onion. It was tender and full of flavor. I don't think I could have had a better introduction to steak tartare.

The crab cakes were served with a very nice looking presentation, and were absolutely delicious. These are not stuffed with fillers and grains. These are meaty, tasty, amazing crab cakes. If you like crab cakes, do not pass these up.

For our main course, we both had steak. Mark's has other items that looked good, but hell, we're in a steakhouse. Get the steak.

I chose the bone-in ribeye, and Shirley chose the petite filet. For sides, Mark's serves all their sides family-style. We chose grilled asparagus and potatoes lyonnaise.

The steaks came out, and we learned about something special Mark's does with the steaks. They heat all their plates to 400 degrees, meaning that your steak comes to your table sizzling, and stays hot and tender throughout your meal. For those worrying about it ruining your meat by cooking it further, it seems to be at just low enough temperature for that to not be a problem. My steak stayed at a nice medium rare throughout the meal.

The steak was near fork-tender. You will not have to work your knives much. It is delicious, large, and perfectly cooked. There's not much else I can say for these. They know steak, they have good cuts, and they prepare them perfectly.

The asparagus made me jealous, they had such large and tasty looking stalks. Much bigger and tastier than what I can get at the supermarket.

The potatoes lyonnaise were certainly not the highlight of the meal, but I think if I were not eating them alongside such great food, they would have stood out more to me.

For desert, we looked at the cocktail menu because we were so full of food. Mark's offers several dessert cocktails for those wanting both alcohol and a little sweetness to finish the night. I chose the chocolate decadence cocktail, and Shirley chose the creme brulee. I'm not quite sure how, but I think if I were to order the actual desserts I would have not enjoyed them as much. The cocktails were delicious and everything I come back, I will be ordering one.

Price: Expensive. Probably one of the most expensive meals you can get in Gainesville.

Overall: 9.5/10 Excellent food, service, atmosphere, and drinks. What more can you ask for?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Restaurant Review: Sushi Matsuri

My loss is your gain. After an eventful week, and a 5 hour wait in the emergency room, Shirley and I decided that going home to make dinner wasn't quite enough. We decided we needed some good food and a lot of it. We needed... a sushi boat.

My usual sushi haunt, Miya Sushi is our go-to place. So we went there, ready for that sushi boat we know and love. But... it was dark. Windows papered up. Shit. Luckily, a quick investigation revealed it was just a remodeling.

We still had the problem of needing a sushi boat to fill that hole in our hearts, so we went to Sushi Matsuri right down the street. And we were pleasantly surprised.

Location: In Butler Plaza, right next to Target Copy and Blockbuster.

Atmosphere: Good. It's small and a bit cramped, something I think is a bonus for a sushi place. Japanese lanterns, a lot of wood, and random decorations make for a comfortable atmosphere.

Menu: I'm not going to lie, I didn't examine it as close as I should have. There was only one thing I had my eye on when I walked in. I did notice they had a lot of options. Lots of entrees and appetizers to choose from. The sushi menu seemed about as extensive as any of the other places in Gainesville.

Service: Pretty good. The hostess seemed kind of confused when we walked in needing a table for two. I don't really know why. But the rest was friendly and quick enough that I'm gonna chalk it up to it being late at night and her being tired.

Food: Presentation was good. Very good. And that sushi boat... they pack it full. This is the most impressive boat I've found in Gainesville and at comparable price to the other places. Tons of sashimi and rolls, and huge hand rolls. It was really nice. It also came with wakame so huge props for that. We dove into it, really excited. Unfortunately, I started with the salmon. One piece was actually icy. And the cut really wasn't that good. Luckily, everything else was much better but starting with the salmon made me very critical and inspecting of the rest of the fish. Luckily, it didn't dissapoint and I ended up having a great dinner.

The miso was miso. Not great, just ok. The salad was kinda bleh. I like my ginger dressings to have a bit of sweetness to them, this one really didn't.

Price: Average. I paid 45$ for the sushi boat, which was probably enough food for 3-4. (It provided dinner to two starving people and lunch for one later.)

Overall: 7/10 This is a more than fitting replacement for Miya while it's being remodeled. I would definitely come back, but because of my previous experience with the salmon, I'll probably stick to tuna and other fish.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Restaurant Review: Guthrie's

So I'm drunk sometimes, what of it? There are times when you crave hot, greasy, fried food. And those times are when Guthrie's is damn near perfect.

Where: Corner of South 13th Street and SW 16th Avenue.

Atmosphere: Non-existent. They have booths and chairs. Just go through the drive-through.

Menu: They do one thing, and they do it very well. Chicken fingers. They fry chicken fingers, and will either put them in a box with fries, or put them on a bun and call it a sandwich. When you order, you can ask for a 'box' or a 'sandwich'. If you are morbidly obese, you can order a bucket. The box is six bucks and comes with the fingers, texas toast, fries, and cole slaw. It's what I always get, and it's what keeps me going some nights.

Service: It's fast food. They get the food to you pretty fast. They have not cursed at me so I consider that good service!

Food: Chicken fingers are so, so good. Seriously, they're straight up good chicken fingers. They're hot, moist, and tasty. This is the best fried chicken product in Gainesville.

Overall: It's fast food and drunk food. It serves only chicken fingers. But damn if it doesn't serve the best ones I've ever tasted. 8.5/10

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Review: Chopstix Cafe

Where: South 13th Street, next to X-mart and across from IHOP.

When: I went to Chopstix Cafe on Thursday May 17, the restaurant moderately busy.

Atmosphere: Quite nice, actually. Though a lot of restaurants along 441 suffer from dingy surroundings, Chopstix is very lucky to be on a nice looking lake. The inside is decorated well enough to make guests feel comfortable.

Menu: The menu at Chopstix made me wish I was vegetarian. So many options for them! Unfortunately, I was really craving some kind of beef dish. Their usual dishes were standard chinese takeout fare, though prepared authentically. Think kung pao, general tso's, etc. but prepared without all the frying and MSG. They had some unique (and tasty!) appetizers, along with sushi, soups, salads, and other options. Definitely enough options to satisfy any diner.

Service: Suprisingly good, actually. The reason it's a suprise is because from every story I've ever heard about Chopstix, the service is horrible. I have heard so many horror stories about rude waiters, wrong orders, long wait times, etc. So unless there's been a major change lately, I think it should be safe to assume my experience is out of the ordinary. While it was far from perfect or corteous, the wait staff kept my glass full of water, and the food came out in a timely fashion. It was enough to keep me happy.

Food: I ordered the house kung pao beef for my entree, wth an appetizer of fried frog legs with garlic. The appetizer was decent, though the breading did not stick to the meat in the least bit. The sauce was quite tasty, and made up slightly for the bad frying.

The kung pao beef arrived, and was very simply good. That's not a slight. It wasn't amazing, but it was solidly good. It had good fresh ingredients, the sauce tasted good, and the portion size was perfect. It wasn't great, but it's about the best 'good' cuisine you can find. My friends dining with me all had no complaints with their food, as well.

Price: Quite reasonable. Appetizers from 3-5$. Soups 2-4$, Entrees 8$-10$. I didn't catch the prices of their noodle bowls or vegetarian options, but I'd imagine they fall slightly below that of the entrees.

Overall: Feel like a sitdown asian meal, but don't feel like paying out for a meal downtown? Go to Chopstix. Familiar dishes made well and offered at a reasonable price. Make sure you have a few hours in case the service is as bad as history suggests, though. 7/10

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Recipe: Tea Eggs

Tea eggs are a chinese new year's dish. They are known not only for their flavor, but the interesting patterns the shells take. Most do them with black tea, but being a fan of green tea, I substituted some green tea from the Asian market in this recipe.

You'll need:
  • 6 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 2 teabags or 2 tablespoons of tea
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and boil for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Remove eggs, add all other ingredients to the pot.
3. Lightly tap the eggs with a knife to crack the shell.
4. Place eggs back in pot and simmer for an hour and a half to three hours.
5. Drink a beer.
6. Enjoy these cool looking and tasty eggs!

Credit goes to and for info about this dish.

Review: The Top

Where: Just north of University Avenue and Main Street in Gainesville's downtown area, The Top restaurant can be found across from another popular hangout, The Atlantic.

When: I went Friday, May 11 for dinner. The restaurant was packed with people. Some at tables, some at the bar. This is a popular restaurant for locals and for students.

Atmosphere: The Top has a very laid back, indie sort of environment. It's walls have interesting art, and the lighting is kept dimmed and intimate. Interesting music is always playing, though never loud enough to disrupt a conversation.

Menu: A major attraction for The Top is their many vegetarian selections. They have many dishes that offer a choice of meat or tofu. The dishes are all over the place. From stir-fry to stuffed chicken to pastas.

Service: The service I received was friendly and quick. Make that very quick. Very, very quick. I barely had time to eat my appetizer before my salad was out, and when I was halfway done with my salad, the entree had hit the table. Despite this minor annoyance, the server was very friendly and attentive. It's important to note that it looked as though he was covering half the restaurant by himself, so that may have explained why the dishes were coming out as they were.

Food: I ordered the special of the day, Crawfish Etoufee. It's a Cajun dish with crawfish and vegetables in a brown sauce served over rice. It was accompanied by some grilled asparagus. All parts of the dish were great. The sauce was just spicy enough, the crawfish and the vegetables were tasty and tender, and the asparagus was fresh and grilled just right.

For an appetizer, I ordered the 'word famous corn nuggets'. While that's an exaggeration, it probably shouldn't be. The corn nuggets are fantastic, and the garlic ranch complements them perfectly. While the other appetizers looked equally appealing, I don't think I could resist ordering these again.

I also ordered a small side salad, which was surprisingly good for a garden salad. It had a good variety of vegetables, all of them fresh and tasty. The vinaigrette was quite good as well.

Price: The average entree at The Top is around 10-13 dollars, with appetizers coming in at 3-6 dollars.

Overall: The atmosphere and the quality of the food are the reasons to go to The Top. 8.5/10


If you're reading this, then my blog might not be a complete failure! I'll be updating this blog weekly with new restaurant reviews and random tidbits about food in Gainesville.

A review of The Top will be coming soon, but until then...

Gainesville Farmer's Markets

As most people probably notice, Gainesville isn't exactly surrounded by bustling metropolises. To be totally honest, Gainesville is in the middle of a bunch of nothing. Just wide open spaces with the occasional trailer or flea market. But that's not such a bad thing. All that wide open space is filled quite nicely by local farmers. And Gainesville farmer's markets are definitely worth checking out.

There are several times and locations for farmer's markets, with some farmers going to just one of them, and others being at all. My favorites are the markets on 441 Saturday morning and Haile Plantation farmer's market. The 441 market generally has the best prices and selection of produce. However, it has no crafts and no bakers. The Haile Plantation has a more limited selection of produce, but makes up for it with local crafts and bakers. I'll generally go to Haile if I want a great baguette, otherwise I'll go up 441.

Some of the farmers grow their crops hydroponically, and almost always have fresh produce yearround. One always has delicious tomatoes and basil for sale. If you see a couple with beefsteak tomatoes, cluster tomatoes, and basil (sometimes some seedless cukes too) don't hesitate to buy from them. The tomatoes are all ripe and delicious, and the basil keeps for a long time.

Other than that, look around! The produce at the market isn't always going to be very pretty, but it's always fresh and delicious. Expect to pay about 10$-15$ on a week's worth of vegetables and fruit.

Other farmer's markets include the Union Street market Wednesday evenings. While I have friends who swear by it, I avoid it because it is generally more crafts than produce.