No Need to Hide From Hyde Park

If you are up to date on our blog, and I expect that you are, you will know that actual Valentines Day for us was spent playing trivia. If you are one of the few who didn’t read that post, you can enjoy HERE. We decided to celebrate a day of romance a few days later at Hyde Park in Birmingham. We first saw Hyde Park when we happened to be in Birmingham for other reasons. The place was intriguing, nestled in a strip, near the Birmingham Theater, boasting prime steaks and seafood. We checked out their online menu and although the menu didn’t have prices listed (your first sign that it is going to be a pricey night) we decided to splurge and try it out.

We made reservations in advance, for a very early dinner as we wanted to beat the dinner rush. We are finding more and more that we seem to be becoming those crotchety old people who want to eat early so they don’t have to deal with the masses of annoying people. We are enjoying the spoils of “early bird specials”. Those old people are on to something! I must say although we are eating like old people, we are still super young at heart and still pretty hot. LOL

We started our dining adventure with cocktails, Omar ordering his classic Tanqueray Martini, up, with 3 anchovy stuffed olives. I stuck with my classic Tanqueray and Tonic, with just the right squeeze of lime.

We were pleased to be offered a complimentary amuse bouche, which is a fancy french word that translates as “uber fancy food served very tiny.” Actually it translates as “mouth amuser”, designed as a small bite to show off the chef’s skill in blending and creating flavor profiles and is typically served before your order is taken. The manager brought a small sampling of their crispy tuna sushi roll, with an avocado crema. I am not a sushi lover and try to steer clear of raw fish, but this one bite was delicious.

As we haven’t been eating as much as before, we decided to split an entree and get some accompaniments. I ordered a Caesar Salad that I assumed I would be splitting with Omar and French Onion Soup. Omar ordered the calamari and our entree to split was the bone-in, 36 day, dry aged 26 oz behemoth bone in ribeye with boardwalk fries.

The Caesar Salad was ok. The lettuce was fresh, with nice shaved Parmesan but I felt the dressing lacked that certain tang that Caesar dressing needs. You can order anchovy on the side and as much as I hate anchovy, I need a tiny bit in my dressing that was missing if you didn’t request it.

The French Onion Soup was good, not great and definitely not the best I ever had. It wasn’t packed with flavor or onions, but was far from inedible, but far from delicious.

The calamari was excellent, light, not greasy, and surprising crispy even though it was in a Thai sweet hot chili sauce, along with cherry peppers, carrots, green onions and nuts.

The steak and fries arrived, a plate of which looked like a Fred Flintstone Brontosaurus Steak, and tiny fries, nestled carefully in a paper cone, salted to perfection. The aged steak, cooked a perfect medium rare, was tasty, but honestly I don’t see the difference with an aged steak or a brand spanking new steak. The flavors are supposed to deepen, the enzymes in the meat are supposed to break down fibers, making the steak more tender, but to me, it just tasted like an everyday steak. Good, but not blow me away amazing. Frankly, Omar and I get these massive Cowboy Ribeyes from Sams Club, grill them at home and they are just as good. The fries though, were amazing. They do fries right. Small Pomme Frites, cooked to perfection, salty with interesting aoilis to dip. We opted against desert, although they brought to a nearby table a stacked carrot cake that appeared to be at least 7 layers and looked so decadent and delicious.

The waitstaff was incredibly attentive, from the manager, to the waiter, to the person filling our water to the bus staff. A fine dining experience, with exceptional service. The ambiance is cozy, with white table clothes, wood and stone walls, deep rich paint colors and walls of aged bottles of wine.

We enjoyed our evening, felt very well taken care of by staff, but were simply not blown away with the food. Sometimes I feel we are getting too snobbish with our reviews, but we feel it is our duty to give people good, honest reviews. We would recommend Hyde Park, and would return, but probably wouldn’t splurge for the aged steak.

Killing Time at Sterling Bistro

So Omar and I had to kill some time while his daughter was at Lakeside Mall with her friends.  Didn’t make a lot of sense to drive home and then drive all the way back.  We decided to grab some dinner at the Sterling’s Bistro (in the Lakeside parking lot, next to the new Fuddruckers).

Now we had been here some time ago, pre-blog era.  I honestly don’t remember much about the place, whether we thought it was good, or worth revisiting.  Omar was recently here for a work event and was happy with his meal so we checked it out.

They have a rather upscale menu, with meatball lollipops, fried brussels sprouts, and crab and shrimp cake appetizers.

All of which we did not partake. Omar was looking for something on the lighter side, so he ordered volcano sushi.  It came out so pretty, it really was visually stunning.  Although not the best sushi Omar ever had, it was tasty and plentiful.

I ordered the strip steak, which was served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies.  The steak was flavorful although the potatoes were a bit gummy.

Omar enjoyed his Tangueray Martini, up, with 3 anchovy stuffed olives.  I ordered a gin and tonic, to keep things simple.  Sorry, no beer review tonight.

Overall, we were happy with the service, the food and the ambiance.  We will return, when it is convenient.  Unfortunately it is one of those places that you can visit if you are in the area, but maybe wouldn’t seek out and drive a long way for. Good, not great. Frankly, writing this review weeks after the fact, and I forgot a lot about the dinner, which does say something.

More valleys than hills

I decided to try something different for dinner tonite. My beautiful hottie (Jen) and I went to Tre Monti in Troy.  Now I scoped it out on line and they had a cocktail hour from 5-7 Tuesday -Friday.  Now most places that tout some type of happy hour, have a  limited number of items and drinks on special. This place was no different. When Jen and I arrived, at 5 pm, it was clear that they just opened. The staff seemed confused as to where to seat us. I said, we are here for happy hour can we sit on the patio and we were told no because there was a wine tasting party later. So, we sat at the bar instead. Then just as someone handed us a menu, they said that we could sit outside after all. So we got up and were escorted to the patio.

Now, the patio was very spacious and resembled a courtyard with lots of flora including an abundance of Hydrangeas. We were the only ones out there. The waiter, David came over quickly and took our order. Jen and I wanted to stick with the cheaper happy hour menu. Jen asked for a Mojito but David said that they don’t make those. So she then switched to a Dewars and ginger ale. I asked for a chilled gin martini with 3 anchovy stuffed olives. Now, when the drinks came, we couldn’t wait to sample cuz as y’all know it was hot today. Jens cocktail tasted odd and looked watered down. My martini was equally disappointing. It bordered on a being a flavorless mixture of average hooch just thrown together. Certainly not the punch of the Bombay Sapphire Gin that was touted to be in it.

Now came our entrees/apps. We split a small Caesar salad that was served in a Parmesan bowl. I believe all you Italians call this Fricco. Its kind of a cheesy cracker. Now that was damn good, while the salad was tasty but not worth the 15 dollars.  Jen ordered  a meat ravioli in a Bolonese sauce,while I ordered the prime burger. Now I asked the server David, how big was the burger and he said 10 ounces. Of course I knew that a burger for 9 dollars on a happy hour menu wasnt going to be 10 oz. And when it came I was right, more like 4 oz. This prime burger came topped with spinach, pancetta and Gorgonzola all on a toasted bun. Sounds interesting right? It actually was a cacophony of dissonant flavors that didn’t work at all. The cheese over powered everything, couldn’t taste the meat much, and as we all know, the star of any burger should be the beef patty.

Jens ravioli was just okay. Now I am not Italian, but no way in hell Nona would let that leave her cucina. Less than enamored with our first cocktails we decided to switch to beer. So we ordered two Peronis, a good Italian pale lager. David took our order and then came back saying that they didn’t have any, even though he suggested it. We asked about any draft beers and he said they don’t serve any. He then suggested  a different Italian beer, Menabrea. This beer is similar to Peroni, beautiful Jen and I both agreed it was good.

In summary, the ambiance was wonderful,the beer was good and the service was excellent. The food was mediocre and even though we ordered off the limited happy hour menu, it doesn’t mean the taste has to be limited as well. I have been to plenty of places that have upscale happy hours and basically, they serve their same food just smaller portions at reduced prices. We probably wont be returning anytime soon, unless we feel compelled to drink beer and look at a nice garden. But I guess we can do that in our own backyard. Buona sera paisanos!