Prime29 – Glorious Restaurant, so-so Food


We’re in Detroit – that should be steak country right? I’m thinking if you want a great US steak – you should be able to get it here. Well – forget about that if you go to Prime 29. So beautiful, so disappointing.

Lets talk about the good stuff first. The restaurant is beautiful. They did a brand-new renovation in a space the size of a small Target (Ok – probably not that big – but you get the idea.). The space is divided up into a series of smaller spaces with huge round tables/banquets nestled into the walls, a huge bar, a huge terrace area with a glassed in gas fire pit and heat lamps, plus standard dining rooms as well. It went on forever.

I just loved the look – dark woods, rich carpet, nicely dressed wait-staff (well – except for hostess in too tight skirt and top – and huge high purple heels – but the guys ate that up), and comfy seats. We opted for the terrace – open air, not a great view – but the weather was so nice it was worth it.

The menu was a bit of a shocker – $41 for a 12 oz rib steak is in the pricy area in my book. But the Filet – 8 oz – was just $34, much more reasonable. And as a teaser – there’s Prime Rib for $29 – but only on Sunday. Since I was eating there on Saturday night – that’s a non-starter.

But I’m flexible, so I order 2 appetizers – a cheese and fruit plate and a tuna tataki, neither of which was cheap – but I had hopes they’d be good. The tuna was a winner. Nice slices of cold tuna, served on a seasoned salad of avocado slices. Yummy. The cheese platter really should have been awesome. There are so many delicious cheeses from micro-producers these days that you can really pick and choose. So Cheddar, Pepper Jack, Cheap Brie and amazingly – Boursin were hardly an impressive selection. Not that they aren’t good cheeses – but for $18 I’d expect at least something like a Jasper Hill, or a local Michigan cheese. Not cheese bought from Price Club. Really. This the best you can do?

But ignore my complaints – my husband’s medium rare filet was medium well, the truffle fries were battered frozen fries (come on people – frozen french fries – at an upscale restaurant?) that weren’t very truffled, and the lobster bisque was declared thin and watery by my friends.

So – it’s a beautiful place to go to be seen, but hardly foodie worthy. Oh well. Next time in Detroit, maybe we will make a better choice.

The Prune – Crazy name, great food, lovely restaurant


I adore eating a meal at the Prune in Stratford. Yes every option is Prix-Fixe – but there are lots of options – a ‘Chef School’ option for $49, a ‘Vegetarian’ option for $59, a 4 course meal for $85, and a 5 course meal (it includes the cheese course) for $95.

To challenge the kitchen we ended up ordering 3 different options. I was torn between the vegetarian option that sounded yummy and the ‘Chef School’ option which featured a Flat iron Steak. I ended up with the steak – which aside from being a tad over-cooked (I prefer raw, it was served without asking at Medium Raw), was delicious. I found my beet and Kielbasa salad delicious – and my desert of lemon semi-fredo was amazing.

My husband’s fresh pea soup was thick, creamy, and a delight on the tongue. I didn’t try my sister’s chicken liver mousse (I hate liver) – but she seemed to enjoy it! Her main course – a risotto – wasn’t as creamy as she expected, but she refused to let the chef know. Her choice, I guess. My husband’s main course was the clear winner – a pouched trout Napoleon. Layers of crisp pasty dough sandwiched between slices of pouched trout. Oh, it was wonderful.

For the cheese course, they offered 4 cheeses from Ontario – none of which I’d ever heard of. They were properly served with toasted walnut bread. Perfect.

But the most fun – the conversation. We were seated in a side section of the restaurant – and the people at the next table heard us discussing a play we’d just seen – and joined in. Eventually, our entire corner of the restaurant was engaged in a free-for-all discussion of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”. Only in Stratford, eh?

Bottom line – great looking restaurant – modern without pretention, excellent food, a variety of price points to suit many different budgets and requirements – and as an added bonus – fab conversation.

A winner, for sure a winner.

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Old Prune The on Foodio54

Rundles in Stratford – Overpriced – but oh so elegant


Used to be that getting a reservation at Rundles was impossible. You needed reservations months ahead, and even then it would be a challenge. But the food was amazing – so the planning ahead was worth it. And if you asked, and it wasn’t rented, they would give you a tour of the house next door.

Well things have changed over the years – and not to the better unfortunately. Prices are up, food quality is down, service is lacking – and no house tour was available. Guess it figures – getting reservations was decidedly easy.

We arrived promptly at 5:00 – with a theatre at 8:00 – we needed to eat and go. But in 2.5 hours – you should be able to get us in and out. And that went well. We did leave on time, we just didn’t leave impressed.

The menu is now prix-fixe – and at $95 per person, a bit of a gasp if you aren’t planning to eat a lot. We opted for 3 different appetizers, three main courses, and 3 desserts. The meal was so forgettable – I can’t even remember what I had. My sister had duck – presentation was lovely, taste was good – but for the price – well, a tad over kill.

I hate to say this – but Rundles – I think you’ve seen the last of us.

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Rundles Restaurant on Foodio54

The Queen’s Inn’s Boar’s head Tavern – Utterly Forgettable


Tell me it isn’t so – you aren’t really serving pre-packed and Frozen Fish and Chips in a ‘Tavern’ are you? Can you say Terrible? Can you say Insane?

I mean if you’ve gone to the effort to have dart boards on the walls, wooden floors and a great looking bar with draft beer – why would you serve people clearly frozen pre-battered fish. It’s so obvious for goodness sake.

At least buy frozen fish filets – those are just as cheap – and batter them yourself. Those obviously perfect diamond shapes are a give-away. And the taste is bland and boring. Clearly there are better options out there in Stratford, Ontario.

Definitely avoid this one!

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Raja – Elegant Indian food in Stratford, Ontario


Not quite on the main drag, the Raja has survived its location because of its quality. And despite the years, it continues to impress.

Stuck with having to eat between Matinees and Evening Performances – ie: 5:00 to 7:30 – and not wanting ‘fast food’, the Raja has always been one of our go to options. The room is lovely. Dark wood, quiet carpeting, table cloths, proper napkins, and attentive waiters win me over every time. The food is good as well.

We were 3 – so we opted for a combo dinner for 2 which included an appetizer sampler, butter chicken, rice, and several other traditional Indian dishes. I opted for the tandoori Chicken, served sizzling on a platter of onions. The butter chicken was delicious, the tandoori Chicken properly cooked and appropriately juicy, and my sisters Chai tea was excellent.

Just a bit more on the Chai Tea. We were warned when we ordered it that it would take about 5 minutes to prepare because it is done to order. And they delivered a tea with the milk and tea leaves properly steamed and combined by hand into a lovely bouquet of delicious smell and taste.

Bottom line – Great look, ok Indian Food – and fast. So perfect for a quick and relatively inexpensive but nice dinner pre-theatre.

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Raja Fine Indian Cuisine on Foodio54

The Library Bar, Royal York Hotel, Toronto – Awful food in a great looking Bar


Library Bar at the Royal York in Toronto – forget it. Very expensive, and not very good.

Perhaps the problem was my timing. I ate lunch there on a Friday, and from the other reviews – I can see that they are normally open only Saturday and Sunday. But still – it was a simply terrible excuse for a meal.

I ordered an Ahi Tuna Wrap – and it came with either a salad or french fries. Since it was billed as a ‘low calorie’ option on the menu – why would you offer french fries with it. But moving past that, the wrap was actually terrible. A too thick tortilla, folded around 3 small slices of Ahi Tuna, a bit of salad, and 3 slices of what might have once been avocado. It was served chilled, and honestly looked and tasted like it had been made much earlier in the day, put in a fridge, and just plopped on the plate. The salad was mealy and ordinary – which given the price of an outrageous $22 – I’m sorry. That’s disgusting.

Too bad too because the Library Bar looks so lovely – all dark brown and woody with comfortable seats and sofas and a very pleasant feel of restrained elegance. Plus the service was very nice. Normally they charge for internet – but the matre-d’ took pity on me and let me sign on using his code for an hour. Question to consider, why do expensive hotels still insist on charging for something that less expensive hotels and most restaurants and even some airports give away for free? I’m talking of course about internet access.

In any case – stick to the ‘Bar’ part of the Library and avoid the food.

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Aikawa – Best Sushi Lunch on the West Island


Ok – that’s my view, and if you disagree – let me know where else I should be going! No joking on that. I’m willing and able to try anything, but as of right now – today – I’m going out on a limb and saying Aikawa is tops.

First off – the lunch is just $15 for the ‘initiation’ – a plate of 15 maki’s – all different, all yummy. Included is soup and salad and tea. So to my mind – perfect. Well, ok – I’d rather it was less $$ – but still – it’s a pretty good deal.

The service at Aikawa is always excellent. Most of the staff has been there forever, and they know both their jobs, and their sushi. So they can answer questions, get your meal to you promptly, and disappear quickly when you look to be talking business.

And the tables are nicely spaced – you can’t hear the people at the table next to you – a delightful change from the bistro mode that is sweeping so many of the restaurants these days. The Aikawa harkens back to the old days of deep carpets and glass barriers between tables. Nice for those of us more interested in our dining companions than the people at the nearby tables.

And the maki are quite good. With 15 different tasting nibbles, you can forgive a miss here and there – because the next one is perfect for your taste. Completely works.

Complaints? I wish they’d put at least one of the really up scale maki on the lunch special – Tuna Flower say. And at my latest lunch, all the maki were wrapped in Soy wrappers not Seaweed. I liked it – nay – I loved it, but I can image some purists thinking that old school is better.

Other lunch options – none of which I’ve ever tried – include platters of sushi and sushi maki mixtures. And of course the traditional menu is always available, you don’t have to do the lunch special!

Bottom line – I like it. An easy A for effort, for food, and for surroundings.

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Aikawa on Foodio54

Koi in Biddleford, ME – Outstandingly Unique Sushi in a very surprising location


My daughter did the 5k ‘Kennebunk Library’ Race – and when it finished, asked for Sushi for dinner. Oops – I know lots of restaurants in Southern Maine – but not one serves Sushi. What to do?

Well – sometimes you just have to ask around. We spotted some ‘locals’ – and asked if they knew of a sushi place. They quickly suggested the Koi in Biddleford – and showed us the tripadvisor reviews – it’s #1 overall for that location.

Sounded like it would do the job so we headed North. Biddleford is about 10 minutes from Kennebunk – and the Koi is right on highway 1. The building has clearly been repurposed – I’m guessing a bar perhaps. There’s a main room, and a side room. Nothing about the space, except the cleverly designed tables that fake a sit on the floor look but are really just standard tables, says Oriental – let alone Sushi. But there is one hard-working Sushi Chef in the corner – so I figure – why not.

The menu covers the range from Chinese, thru Pad Thai, to Sushi. We focused on the Sushi selection – and it was pretty intense. There were standard offerings, but the Maki (rolls) which are my favorite option, were truly intriguing. I was particularly interested in the fresh fish options – I mean, we’re on the Maine coast, fish should be amazing. And it was. We tried the Amazing Roll – it was great. We also really enjoyed the UpTown Roll which mixed avocado with fresh salmon. The Sweet Potato Maki was another winner. Less impressive were the Eel Speciality, not bad, just not great enough to want to order again.

To illustrate how impressed we were overall – when my husband arrived a few days later, we suggested going back – and had another delicious meal. We repeated our orders from the first trip – and added the Iron Man Maki. Yum. We also tried the Tempura platter – but were less impressed.

Bottom line – the winners are real winners, and I will definitely go back again. I adored the Amazing maki, the freshness of the fish was outstanding. Equally good – Sweet Potato Maki, Uptown and Iron Man. The Chef’s special that night – which included real Crab meat was also delicious.

Less impressive (I’d suggest not getting these) were the Fantasy Eel and the Tempura Platter. We didn’t try any of the other ‘cuisines’ – so I can’t rate the Koi on those.

B+ for sure – an A if they got a better Tempura Batter!

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Koi Sushi Bar & Asian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

The White Barn Inn – The Perfect Place When Money is No Object


We discovered the White Barn Inn several years ago. Located in Kennebunkport – known as the summer get-away spot for several US presidents – it’s not exactly the low-end option. In fact – the first time we went, they cautioned us that they had a dress code. My then 8-year-old granddaughter insisted that she’d definitely need a dress! For my husband, it meant borrowing one of their ‘loaner’ jackets.

There are only 2 price points – you can choose the standard menu, at over $100 per person, or the 12 course Tasting Menu at over $150. Either way – you are definitely in for the taste thrill of a life-time. Yes – it’s that good.

We’ve eaten at the White Barn once a year for the last 5 years. Generally we do the standard menu – but last night we did the tasting menu – just for the fun of it. And we were rewarded with some supremely yummy dishes and excellent service.

Let’s talk service first. Upscale restaurants like The White Barn have several standard extras that just make the service that much more special. For example – if you get up to go to the bathroom – a waiter will quickly replace your napkin with a freshly folded one. Or when the entrees are served – at say a table for 6 – 6 waiters will arrive, one with each dish, and then at a discrete signal from the lead waiter, all dishes will be placed in front of the diners in unison. Makes for a lovely feeling. Other special service touches – fresh silverware for each course – regardless of which spoon or fork you used, salt service with both black sea salt and white sea salt, perhaps a butter tasting, bread options ranging from white to carraway seed – brought to the table in a large basket and individually served. One seriously nice touch – when we arrived, the wait staff lined up to greet us as we walked into the restaurant.

My daughter, who has her chef’s papers from Culinary Institute of America, says that in a restaurant like this the staff is trained to say yes to any request. Then go back and make sure it was ok. But yes is the right answer at first. So refreshingly different from most restaurants where ‘no’ – or at best – ‘I’ll check’ seem the standard responses.

But it’s about the food – right? With 12 courses – none very large of course – there are multiple chances for losers as well as winners. At the White Barn Inn, there were 7 winners – and last night – only 2 losers. The winners were the Carpaccio of salmon – incredibly thin slices of fresh salmon lightly seasoned and served with a sweet mustard sauce. Words can not describe how totally delectable this combination tasted on the tongue. Another winner – the Morel dusted Beef Tenderloin. Perfectly seasoned, delightfully raw, super tender, melt-in-your mouth delicious. And my third favorite – the chocolate pre-dessert with its candied pistachios and tiny piece of chocolate cake and airy chocolate pudding. I also liked the duck dish, the pork belly, and the foie gras duo. The Sherry vinegar ice cream with fig roll was a savory/sweet surprise.

Less wonderful overall was the butter poached smoked lobster – in my case the smoke didn’t happen and my piece of lobster was slightly over-cooked. Neither of us was thrilled with our main desserts. The souffle was very ‘egg white’ heavy, not rich and dense like a proper souffle. And the doughnuts, which looked lovely, were heavy-handed and dense. I guess I was expecting ‘beignets’ – not clunkers. Oh well. Fortunately, the Friandise served with the bill made up for the ‘oops’ on dessert – I loved the dark chocolate ‘stick’ and the raspberry jellies.

Bottom line – if you’ve got the money to spend, and a special occasion to celebrate, or just really need an outrageous night out – the White Barn is perfect. Just call ahead for reservations and don’t be surprised if the only option is a 6:00 seating.

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White Barn Inn on Foodio54

Merriland Farm Cafe – so good, we went back 2 days later! Now that’s good.


Breakfast is always a bit tricky as a ‘eating out’ meal. We all know that its fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive to just make your own coffee, cereal, maybe a bit of fruit, some yogurt. So why eat out. It’s just going to be expensive.

I must at this point admit that I find the proliferation of coffee shops (here – and in Korea) a bit puzzling. As noted – making coffee at home isn’t that hard. And for $100 you can get a foamer that works perfectly every time – so its not about the latte. I think it must be related to convenience. Run it – drop a few bucks – get coffee. Tis a puzzlement.

But moving on to ‘eating out’. A serious breakfast place has to offer something special I think. It’s not good enough to just have 5 different kinds of omelets – discriminating guests demand extras. And on that score – the Merriland Farm delivers – in spades.

First location. It’s not really that well located. Its off the main drag (on the beach in Maine – that’s Route 1). And not towards the ocean either. It’s up in the hills – right before you are on the wrong side of 95. So as far as location goes – it has it’s work cut out for itself. To make up for that – it’s on a berry farm – fresh blueberries and raspberries. And it’s on a 9 hole golf course. So the surroundings – while not ocean – are rather spectacular.

You can choose to eat out side, or inside. The main building dates from 1800 – but it’s been modernized and sophisticated. Hardwood floors, beamed ceilings, great paint job. It’s very nice. The A/C is a bit on the weak side – and the rooms can get a bit warm – but they are lovely. And not so noisy that you can’t hear yourself think.

The breakfast menu is long, detailed, and mouth-watering. The ‘tea bread’ starter is outstanding, too bad it’s not free. Order it – and you get a fresh loaf of blueberry laced bread with a delicious crumble on top. Yum. There are omelets, a selection of ‘Benedicts’ – including a lobster Benedict. There are waffles served with their farm made blueberry/raspberry mixture that are the best I’ve ever had. All the various dishes are served with your choice of sides – sweet potato fries (oh yum), or the absolute best thing – a 3 potato medley. Purple, Sweet, and Plain potatoes roasted to potato perfection.

On the table – Maine maple syrup – as if things aren’t sweet enough. The savory options include heart stopping options like Sausages and Pancakes. Even the Bacon is sweet – but delicious.

The one ‘oh well’ for us was the corn beef hash – my husband still thinks that the one he makes at home is better – but otherwise – outstanding.

How outstanding? We went back again for breakfast just 2 days later!

It’s an A. Oh, yes – definitely an A.

PS: quick note – they do dinner – which based on the quality of breakfast – we had to try. Not the same quality unfortunately. So definitely do breakfast – steer clear of dinner unless the chef gets a serious change of heart! (well – and menu!)

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