Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Red Lantern

Finding good Chinese food in McKinney has been a struggle ever since I moved here seven years ago.  While I have found some halfway decent Chinese restaurants, I have not dined at any that I absolutely loved.  Recently, a fellow foodie posted a picture of their lunch at The Red Lantern.  It looked delicious and they gave it such high praise, so I decided that I must try this relatively new restaurant that specializes in Northwest Chinese cuisine.
Dining area with red lanterns above
Their menu is quite extensive and I actually had a hard time choosing what I wanted to order on my first visit.  I finally decided to start with the Chicken Pot Stickers and then have the Soup Noodle Combo for my main course.  The pot stickers were filled with shredded chicken and were perfectly cooked.  While I couldn't pinpoint the ingredients in the dipping sauce, it was very good as well.
Chicken Pot Stickers
For my Soup Noodle Combo, I ordered the Spicy Braised Beef Noodle Soup with a Spicy Chicken Stuffed Bun.    While the soup didn't have as much kick as I hoped, it was very flavorful and I can honestly say that it was the best Chinese noodle soup I have ever had.  The noodles were great, the soup stock was very flavorful, and the braised beef was of much better quality than one would expect from most Chinese restaurants.  The stuffed bun was exceptional as well and was much spicier than the soup.
Spicy Braised Beef Noodle Soup and Spicy Chicken Stuffed Bun
I enjoyed my first visit so much, that I actually returned two days later and ordered the Chicken Spring Rolls and the Urumqi Beef Fried Rice.  Although I am usually not a huge fan of spring rolls, the ones at The Red Lantern totally changed my outlook on what spring rolls should taste like.  They were the best I have ever had and I will certainly order these again on my next visit.
Chicken Spring Rolls
The Urumqi Beef Fried Rice lived up to the expectation set forth by the other items I have tried here.  The portion was very large and the beef was the same quality as the noodle soup I and tried on my previous visit.  Brown stir fried rice was served with eggs, onions, and braised beef.  This dish was basic, yet excellent, and had what tasted like a hint of ginger to it.  If I had one complaint, it would be that I would have preferred more of the beef mixed into the fried rice.
Urumqi Beef Fried Rice
The Red Lantern is certainly a welcome addition to the West-side McKinney restaurant scene.  This casual restaurant serves up the best Chinese food I have ever tried in McKinney and it is only a couple of minutes from my house.  I also found out that they make their own hand pulled noodles, which can be ordered with any noodle dish after 5 p.m.  Since everything I have tried so far has been top notch, I cannot wait to try some new dishes on my next visit. 

The Red Lantern
Livin the Good Life Rating=4
Red Lantern on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 17, 2015

Eat-The Breakfast and Lunch Joint

I will be the first to admit that I generally avoid downtown when dining in Vegas.  While I enjoy gambling downtown at times, it has generally been a dining wasteland.  That label seems to be changing and there are now several highly touted restaurants in the old downtown area.  Good things are being said about a little restaurant called Eat, which is just a few blocks away from Fremont Street.  On our second morning in Vegas, we decided to go downtown to gamble and have breakfast at Eat.
Dining Area
While we were looking over the menu, our waitress recommended that we start with the Cinnamon Biscuits.  The biscuits arrived cut in half and topped with strawberry compote, fresh strawberries, and fresh blackberries. The cinnamon was not overpowering and the tasty dish was quickly devoured.  
Cinnamon Biscuits
I ordered chicken fried steak dish, which arrived topped with pork gravy and came with eggs, potatoes, and toast.  The Chicken Fried Steak was thick and had a great batter.  The gravy was excellent, the eggs were commendable, and the potatoes were topped witch chives.  The thick sourdough toast, which was perhaps my favorite item, was extremely buttery and perfectly toasted.
Chicken Fried Steak, Potatoes, and Scrambled Eggs 
Sourdough Toast
My wife got the Pancakes and Chicken-Apple Breakfast Sausage.  The massive stack of pancakes was more than she could eat, so I had to help her eat them.  Luckily for me, I got to finish off the tasty pancakes and sampled the chicken-apple sausage as well.  While not as good as my chicken fried steak, the pancakes were also noteworthy.
Pancakes and Chicken-Apple Sausage
After dining at Eat, I am happy to report that good food can be found in downtown Vegas.  The breakfast items at Eat are huge and very tasty.  Our waitress did an excellent job of recommending items and Chef Natalie Young has developed a restaurant that serves as good a breakfast as I have had anywhere in Las Vegas.  I highly recommend that you give this restaurant a try if you visit the downtown/Fremont St. area.

Livin the Good Life Rating=4
Eat on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 10, 2015

Gordon Biersch

Gordon Biersch Brewery has two two restaurant locations in Texas.  The upscale casual brewery restaurant has one location in Dallas and one at The Shops at Legacy in Plano.  On a recent Sunday, I met my brother for dinner at the latter location.
Italian Cheese Pizza
We were both hungry and decided to start with the Italian Cheese Pizza.  The pizza was made with Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses and was between 12-14 inches in diameter.  Neither of us were impressed with the pizza, which was burned in some places and had a tough crust.
Marzen BBQ Chicken Sandwich and Garlic Fries
For my entree, I ordered the Marzen BBQ Chicken Sandwich with garlic fries.  The barbecue sauce was almost non-existent and the chicken was rubbery.  The garlic fries had way too much garlic on them for my taste and I didn't finish either the sandwich or the fries.  My brother gave me a bite of his Kobe Cheeseburger and it was the one item I tried that was actually decent.
Kobe Cheeseburger and Garlic Fries
The wait staff was decent enough and checked on us regularly, but the food was beyond disappointing.  Maybe some of their food is good, but I certainly didn't try any of it on this visit.  Gordon Biersch Brewery will not get a return visit from me, especially when their are much restaurants located at The Shops at Legacy.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
Livin the Good Life Rating=1
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


On our first night in Vegas, my wife said that she was in the mood for Italian.  Before going on my trip, I had researched various Italian restaurants and Scarpetta seemed to be getting a lot of buzz from bloggers and diners alike.  Scarpetta is Scott Conant's (celebrity chef and Chopped judge) flagship restaurant and we were quite anxious to try this upscale Italian restaurant at The Cosmopolitan.
From our table, we had a cool view of the Bellagio fountains
Bread Basket
We were lucky enough to get a table with a view of the Bellagio fountains.  The beautiful view was one of the best I have ever had while dining in Vegas.  Our waiter also brought out a bread basket that included an excellent variety of breads with some flavorful spreads.  For our first dish we started with the Braised Short Ribs, which sat atop a mixture of farro risotto and diced vegetables.  This flavor of the dish was outstanding and raised our expectations for the restaurant even more.  Without question, this was the best dish I have had so far in 2015. 
Braised Short Ribs
For our entrees, we ordered the highly praised Spaghetti and the Fennel Dusted Black Cod.  The spaghetti was very simple, but the noodles had a perfect texture and the sauce was divine.  The cod dish sat atop concentrated tomatoes and roasted fennel.  While the cod was very good, the roasted fennel might have been my favorite part of the dish.
Fennel Dusted Black Cod
Since everything we had sampled so far was very good, we couldn't leave without sampling a dessert.  We ordered the Amedei Chocolate Cake that came with toasted almond gelato and salted caramel sauce.  This dessert was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.  The flavors of chocolate, almond, and caramel blended perfectly into an amazing dessert.
Amedei Chocolate Cake with toasted almond gelato and salted caramel sauce
In addition to the excellent food, the service was outstanding.  While enjoying our meal, we were able to see the Bellagio fountains fountains erupt twice.  This meal was certainly worth the short walk from The Palazzo to The Cosmopolitan and I will definitely add this restaurant to my list of Vegas favorites.  

Livin the Good Life Rating=5
Scarpetta on Urbanspoon