Kona Chill, er Grill

I feel quite remiss. I just noticed that we have not done a review of Kona Grill. I say remiss because Kona Grill is one of our go-to places, for Happy Hour anyway!

Kona Grill has a great patio/bar area. Not quite outdoors, it offers large windows that open fully to bring in the balmy Michigan air and the stunning views of Big Beaver Road. For the area, it is about the best you can get for drinking “al fresco”. I must say when we started going to happy hour here, we got ample drinks, large selection of appetizers ad sushi and it went until like 7 pm. Happy hour started ending earlier, menu started getting more limited and the drink sizes smaller and smaller. Happy hour now is from 3-6 p.m. Mon-Friday and after 9 p.m. Mon-Thursday. As with most happy hours you must be in the bar, which is fine because that is typically our favorite place to sit.

The menu used to be extensive, with a large variety of flatbreads and sushi. I could get California Rolls for $4 and best I have had in the area.Yeah, yeah I know all you sushi connoisseurs, California Rolls are not “real” sushi, but this girl doesn’t do the raw fish thang.

So let’s talk about the good and the great. So far I have no bad and ugly to talk about. As I said, I love the California Rolls. (Refrain from the “eye” rolls LOL). Omar loves, I mean loves the Voodoo Roll. The roll contains spicy crawfish, avocado, tuna , habanero sauce, green onion and smelt roe. For those wondering what roe is, well it’s the poor mans caviar. Fish eggs. So gross, no thank you. So you may be asking yourself, what is the difference between caviar and roe? Well according to Wikipedia, and you know if it is on the internet it must be true, “traditionally, the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Sea”. Basic roe however are typically from different breeds of fish, usually “flying fish” and used in sushi restaurants. Usually red or orange in color, just do not confuse with Masago which are again from a different breed of fish, smaller and brightly colored.

To sum up, fish eggs are gross in any form.

The flatbread is always pretty solid. I enjoy the margarita, with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and a balsamic glaze reduction drizzled over the top. Edamame is simply a ridiculous item to order on the menu as far as I am concerned. I just don’t see the allure. I see many people order, so they must be good, but I refuse to pay that much for some beans. The potstickers are good, not great. As far as potstickers go, they are average. We have tried most appetizers and you can’t go wrong. I would however avoid the avocado egg rolls. Something about the hot avocado in the egg rolls is very off putting.

Drinks, Omar always gets the Saki bomber. That’s a kirin ichiban or kirin light and warm saké. I enjoy an iced cold Cosmopolitan Martini. I am so sad that the martini glasses have gotten so tiny and the Cosmos are no longer a happy hour special. So it winds up being about $4 a sip. But it is yummy!

We have ordered main courses on occasion and vary our selections, but we are always satisfied with the ambiance and the quality of the food and drinks. As you all know, we are very picky and for us to have a “go to” place it means it is reliable.

Getting a table or seat at the bar, especially a nice table near the open window is difficult during happy hour. Go early, or creepily make the rounds, stalking the tables and looking for bill payers. If you go on a Friday night, look for us. We will be the ones with the Saki Bomber and Cosmo!!

All Primed Up for Happy Hour

If it is one thing we love, its happy hour. Cheap(er) drinks, food, small bites, early eating to avoid the crowd, what can be better? I had the day off Friday and Omar and I had big plans for fun and relaxation. We had our pool opening scheduled for what we thought was the early morning. We planned on hitting Ocean Prime’s happy hour early, enjoy some drinks and snacks and continue our evening somewhere else.

As what typically happens to the the best laid plans, is something always comes along to throw a monkey wrench in the works. Today was the pool guys showing up at 3:30. Although I have to say, they are always quick and efficient. They were on their way out the door at about 5 and so were we.

Ocean Prime has a nice happy hour, but just in their bar area (as most do). They have a lovely patio with couches and tables, but was a bit cold that day. They have an indoor lounge area, cozy, elegant, with a grand piano for entertainment. Today we had a young man playing guitar and singling classics like Bill Withers that seemed to old for his young soul, but was very enjoyable. He was very talented.

We enjoyed the music and ordered a couple drinks. A “Bubble and Berry” for me, and Omar ordered a classic Old Fashioned. The Bubble and Berry was muddled berries and fruit, champagne and a bit of dry ice for that smokey exotic fun. I expected a burst of sugary sweet syrup, but was pleasantly surprised for a delicious drink that was not too sweet at all. Our awesome waiter John, really recommenced a cucumber gimlet. I am not a fan of muddled cucumber so I passed. He was so sure I would like it, he brought me a small drink to try and I have to say, it was nice and light. A great pool side cocktail (mental note taken!)

Omar’s Old Fashioned was made perfect, in a nice high ball glass and a sphere cube of ice. So good in fact, I ordered one for my second beverage!!

Omar ordered the oysters (not on the happy hour menu) and Tuna Tartare. I was having a hard time deciding and John again said to try the lamb lollipops (best in the area). I am not a fan of lamb unless it is ground and mixed with many spices. I ordered the chop chop salad with a club dressing, and french onion soup.

Omar said the oysters although small, had nice flavor. But the Tuna Tartare was exceptional. Fresh tuna, atop a bed of avocado and soft noodles. My salad was really good and the dressing light. Kind of their play on a antipasto, it was hearty and really filling. The french onion soup was good, not great. The soup itself was a bit underwhelming and needed a punch of beef and onion flavor. Didn’t stop me from eating the whole bowl I should mention. And that darn John, awesome as he was brought out a lamb lollipop to prove how good they were. I must say even though not a fan, it was the least gamey lamb I had in a long time.

What a nice experience. The lounge is comfortable, and entertainment, food and drinks top notch. Was a bit pricey for happy hour I must say but we did order much of the food off the main dinner menu. Definitely worth going again. Especially on a nice summer night where we can enjoy the outdoor patio.

Feeling Jolly at the Jolly Pumpkin

We went to lunch at the (newer) Jolly Pumpkin in Royal Oak for lunch. Sad, I know, going to a brewery on lunch when we can’t enjoy the beer, but I have to say the food was good. Jolly Pumpkin is a chain brewery with locations across Michigan and in Chicago.

They have unusual offerings such as Baked Feta, popcorn cauliflower and interesting salads. As I am on this new eating healthy “thing” I opted for the Farro and Brussels salad. For those that do not know Farro is a combination of various grains of species of wheat. It tastes “puffed” almost like you would imagine a sugar smack from childhood. I like to say if brown rice and barley had a baby, it might be Farro. It is an interesting flavor and texture, and does well hot, or chilled in salad.

This salad was a heaping mound of shaved Brussel Sprouts, chopped Kale, Farro, dried cranberries, feta cheese, roasted almonds with a whole grain mustard vinaigrette. I added chicken since I wanted some protein. The salad was good and filling as I could only eat about half. My only complaint, the price. Adding the chicken, sticking with water to drink and adding tip put me at almost $20 for lunch. Pricey when you didn’t even get a beverage.

I was going to order the turkey melt and I wanted those tiny pomme fritte fries that I love, but I abstained. Others around me ordered, so I snagged a fry. The Parmesan truffle fries were amazing. Hot, just the right amount of crisp and salt. Buttery Parmesan and just a hint of truffle. The turkey melt looked and was described as delicious, with smoked gouda, arugala, tomatoes and a dried cranberry mayo. All melted into the most perfect looking crisp farmers bread. Ugg. Yeah my salad was great blah blah.

I found our waiter to be very underwhelming. Zero personality. One of our guests didn’t get her salad due to them forgetting to order it. No real apologies, at least not from him. There was another waitress who was working hard to make up for his inadequacies.

I would go back, but next time at night when I can drink. The beer menu however looked very heavy with sour beers and IPA’s. Even the neighboring restaurant in the basement (where Bastone Brewery now solely resides) is not laden with stouts or porters.

So go, be Jolly. Drink beer. Grab a burger. A great place to nosh if in Royal Oak.