If you are like me then you love Asian cuisine of all types but while you would still like to pick your own ingredients you don’t always want to cook it yourself. This is where restaurants like HuHot, Genghis Grill and Firebowl Cafe come in to play. They allow you to go in and select all of the ingredients that you want and have someone else cook it for you. Being a fan of this type of restaurant I decided to give Firebowl Cafe a try to see how it stacked up against the other big players out there. Firebowl Cafe is similar to Genghis Grill in regards to being able to build your own meal and have them cook it for you but does not have the same level of selection. You can choose to order right off the menu from quite a few different meal types and add noodles or a couple different types of rice and choose what you would like added to it such as sauces and meats or you can create it yourself. The create it yourself method is the most appealing and fun since you basically get to create something unique and different each time. Unfortunately Firebowl is more of a simplified version of what you get at the other guys. Here you can select all the veggies and tell them what sauce you want added and choose what meat you would like them to use from Chicken, Beef, Shrimp or Tofu for the vegetarians out there but you don’t get to choose how much of it you want like you can at the other guys. On the plus side you get a few more choices that places like Genghis Grill don’t offer like Orange Chicken, Pepper Steak, Sweet & Sour chicken and several other Asian favorites.
Inside Firebowl Cafe is set up more like Chipotle Grill and is basically an upscale fast food restaurant. As a matter of fact when you walk in the door and start looking around at the menu and dinning room layout it is set up almost exactly like a Chipotle Grill.
For this visit I was feeling especially lazy and decided to go with one of the standard menu items instead of building it myself so I ordered the Fire Noodles. This is a Chow Fun type of flat rice noodle with green onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, snap peas, Thai basil, cilantro and jalapenos although now that I think about it I am pretty sure they forgot the Jalapenos and cilantro in mine. I also chose the beef for mine and I added a couple of egg rolls.
The egg rolls came out almost as soon as I sat down and I will go on record saying that these were some of the best egg rolls that I have ever eaten. They were hot, crispy and had a nice mixture of ingredients unlike a lot of egg rolls that can be filled with mostly cabbage. With only a couple of bites of egg roll left my meal came out in a pretty decent sized bowl. I gave it a good stir to mix everything up and tried my first bite which was pretty good but a little on the bland side of things so since I am a soy sauce junkie I had to add quite a bit to get it up to my flavor standards. I also added a bit of their spicy Thai sauce (a little goes a long way) to give it the kick that I like in my food. After that it was a pretty good meal all in all. I would definitely go back when I get one of those lazy day feelings where I don’t want to cook but would like Asian food. I would put Firebowl somewhere between Panda Express (on the low end) and Genghis Grill (on the high end). Decent food overall with a great egg roll at an affordable price and a fair amount of freedom to customize your own dish. So if you are in the mood for a quick but good Asian meal go out and give it a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
This week we are going to be visiting Pasha Mediterranean Grill for a little change of pace. Being the type of person that will try just about anything and having never really eaten much Mediterranean food before I thought Pasha would be a good place to visit. We have a couple of locations here in San Antonio, One on Wurzbach Rd and the other at 1604 and Blanco Rd, so I chose the one closest to me on 1604 and Blanco RD. It is located in a pretty nice area not far from Stone Oak and looks nice and inviting on the outside, so I was kind of surprised when I walked in the door and got that somewhat cramped and loud fast food restaurant feel. I will tell you now that the quickest way to turn me off from any restaurant is to have a cramped dining area. I am a big 6’3” guy and like to eat in comfort and do not like having to squeeze by people or between tables to get to my seat. You should never have to worry about the person behind you bumping into your chair when they get up because there is not enough room between the tables and this is exactly how Pasha is set up. The worst part is that they are not just cramped together, they are cramped and disorderly. Tables are turned every which way and make no sense to any type of traffic flow. They also have the long bench type of seating along one wall but the tables were pushed so close to the back of the seat it would have been hard for even the smallest person to fit comfortably. This is never a good way to start a dining experience in my opinion.
Now that I am done going on about the crazy seating let’s get to the food. After all that is the main reason I decided to visit and more than likely the reason that you are here reading in the first place. First off They bring you a giant piece of flat bread and olive oil and spices to dip it in. The bread was very tasty and the spices in the oil had a great unique flavor. For an appetizer I decided to try the Baba Ghannouj (grilled eggplant dip with lemon juice and garlic. I have tried Baba Ghannouj at other places and wanted to see how this one stacked up. In short it was not good at all. It actually tasted like the eggplant was starting to turn and I could not try more than two bites it was so bad. It had an almost rancid taste to it that took several minutes to get out of my mouth.
For the main part of the meal I wanted to try several different things so I went with a Mediterranean seafood plate and a sampling their Shawarma Beef. The Seafood plate came with a generous Basa filet and grilled shrimp and two sides which include basmati rice and sauteed spinach. The Fish was cooked just right but very bland and under seasoned while the shrimp were over cooked and bland. I am a big fan of all seafood and have had it many different ways but this was just disappointing all in all. The sides were actually the best part of the plate with buttery fluffy rice and a very nice tasting sauteed spinach that melted in your mouth. With the fish out of the way it was time to try the Shawarma beef and I am happy to say that it was a step up. It is slow roasted steak that is sliced thin and seasoned with cinnamon. While it is a different flavor than I am used to it was still pretty tasty. The only problem is that with that seasoning it isn’t something you can not eat very much of before it becomes just to much as it is kind of sweet. Accompanying the beef was a nice Hummus that was not as bland and smooth as most hummus that I have tried. This hummus had a strong garlic flavor that I enjoyed and had thicker chunks than I am used to. This is a big plus for me as most hummus comes across as a little to slimy feeling for me. I am usually not the biggest fan of Hummus and can only eat it in small doses but this hummus left me wanting more of it. Although this could be because of the disappointing food that came before it. While Pasha looks nice from the outside and offers something a little out of the norm for people looking for an adventure, the cramped seating and sub par food overall really soured me to ever trying it again. I cant really think of anything that I would have to go back for so I doubt that they will ever see me again. With that being said, if you like Mediterranean food and have a favorite spot to get it, don’t bother trying Pasha as you will most likely be disappointed.
I know a lot of people are not crazy about seafood or will only eat certain types of fish that don’t have that “fishy” taste to it, thankfully I am not one of those. I love all types of seafood and chances are if it has ever lived in or near the water I have eaten it. On my latest adventure I decided to give the Islamorada Fish Company a try. For those of you that have never heard of it, this is the restaurant attached to the Bass Pro Shops. I am not sure how this place has flown under my radar so long but I am glad that a friend of mine pointed me in their direction.
This location is set up sort of like a fishing lodge on the inside with dark wood everywhere and stuffed sea life hanging from the ceilings. They also have a giant fish tank on one of the walls and a huge fire pit in the middle of the dining area. The dining room is huge and the tables are spaced far enough apart so that you do not feel crowded. There is also a nice outside dining area with a large waterfall to give it that nice ambiance.
While you are waiting on your food they bring you a small loaf of bread with whipped butter. The bread was fresh and hot and it is baked with a sugar coating on top. I wasn’t sure I would care for it that way but one bite proved that wrong. It will melt in your mouth and make you look forward to the next bite. It is a wonderful way to start a meal.
Originally being from Florida I had to start out this adventure with an appetizer fit for a former resident of the panhandle state, so I went with the fried alligator (or gator as we call it in Fl). Now gator is one of those things that if done right can be an incredible treat but if done wrong can be a tough chewy nightmare. Luckily in this case it was cooked to perfection. The outside had a nice breading that was crisp and crunchy while the inside melted in your mouth. It was so good in fact that it influenced my main meal choice.
My main dish is called the Sportsman’s Platter and includes a hefty sample of Fried Shrimp, Fried Catfish and yes, you guessed it alligator. It also comes with a very tasty Cole slaw, and french fries or onion rings. If you have read any of my other reviews you have probably figured out that I chose the onion rings. You also get three sauces for dipping, a nice creamy tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and another sauce that I have yet to identify that is so good you will not need the other two. It is green for starters and I am pretty sure is sour cream based. It is a nice compliment to all of the different tastes on the plate. The shrimp were pretty typical of any seafood restaurant out there. Nice big breaded shrimp that were pretty tasty but nothing you can’t get anywhere else. The onion rings were no doubt frozen but were pretty high quality frozen onion rings that had a nice flavor but nothing spectacular. The Cole slaw however is much better than most restaurant Cole slaw especially the restaurants in San Antonio who think Cole slaw is nothing more than shredded cabbage doused in vinegar. This Cole slaw was very creamy the way it is supposed to be which is a very nice change. I don’t really need to go over the gator again because I covered that above but will move on to the catfish. I grew up eating fried catfish and think that I have a pretty good view of how it should taste and what is good and what is not so good. Well this my friends is some great catfish. It has a light breading and is fried crisp on the outside and is tender and flaky on the inside. They use a corn meal breading that compliments the fish perfectly and makes that nice crunchy coating. Overall this was one of the most satisfying meals I have had at any restaurant in a while. I would highly recommend giving it a try and if you have someone in your group that is not a fan of seafood you can take them anyway as Islamorada Fish Company has plenty of non seafood choices too.
You can guarantee that I will be back for more.