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.
Let’s talk pizza this week. I know there are a lot of different places to choose from out there and that we all have our favorites whether it be the local corner pizza place or a big chain like Pizza Hut but I like to find the ones that stand out and give me something a little more different than just the standard pizza. This is why I am so glad to have discovered Grimaldi’s. Grimaldis is a New York style pizza place that not only has great food but has a nice atmosphere for dining with family and friends. Since it is a New York Style pizza place you can imagine that the interior of the restaurant yells out New York when you walk in the door. When you walk in the door the first thing you see are all of the black and white photos of the Big Apple hanging everywhere. These tie in nicely with the checkerboard style table cloths and give it that Italian restaurant feel. The other thing you will notice when you walk in is a slightly different smell in the air. This is because Grimaldi’s uses coal ovens to cook everything. These ovens get very hot and only take minutes to cook a pizza to perfection. The coal ovens give the pizza a unique flavor that you don’t get from the big chains or even from most of the local guys and because they cook so hot you also get a nice crisp crust.
For this trip I ordered a pepperoni, onion, and meatball pizza using the classic sauce. You can actually order one of three different types of sauce for the pizza (white, pesto and classic) but while I have been tempted to try the other two, the classic is so good I just cant seem to break away from it. I also ordered a caesar salad to start out because I just love a great caesar salad. I would put Grimaldi’s caesar at number two on my all time favorites list of caesar salads. I will be telling you about the number one in a later review,so stay tuned.
One thing to keep in mind when you order at Grimaldis is that everything is big. If you order a small salad you can share it with a friend. the small pizzas are also about the size of a medium at most places so order accordingly unless you like taking home left overs. The salad is made with nice crisp fresh lettuce, just the right amount of a nice mild yet tangy dressing. The best part though is croutons. These look to be made in house and are the perfect compliment to the salad.
The pizza is a nice thin crust pizza cooked with crisp outer edges and topped with strips of real mozzarella cheese. None of that processed shredded stuff here. The pepperoni is not to thick and not to thin and has a nice little spice to it but the wow factor for me is the meatballs. First of all they taste great and have that homemade flavor and texture to them. Some times the meatballs at restaurants can come out dense and hard or have an odd texture to them that screams frozen mass production. They slice them in thin slices and place them around the pizza like the pepperoni. I was surprised at how well they complemented the pizza and added to the overall flavor. For me they are a must have any time you visit Grimaldi’s. The sauce is a very nice homemade type of sauce that is just thick enough to keep everything held together. You can tell that a lot of thoughtfulness was put in to getting just the right flavor. Now when you combine all of these ingredients and slide it in to the coal oven you get one heck of a pizza that makes you want to come back again and again.