Friday, October 29, 2010


Bob Manning has been in the restaurant business for several years and well-known for owning Gebhardt's, a German eatery in the Glendale section of Queens. The restaurant itself had such a long time following since it opened in 1933 that even after it closed some years ago, people still wind up standing in front of the building, calling a Long Island phone number and asking, "Are you open? It looks dark. There are no lights on." The reason is that Bob having first taken over in 1985, moved to Floral Park, a town that sits on the Queens border and no one has yet claimed that Myrtle Avenue spot.

Bob then found that the German cuisine just didn't fit the neighborhood changing it in 2007 to what may be described as American eclectic with varied cuisines. The name? It also seemed that when it was called Gebhardt's most people would say, "Hey, let's go to Bob's place". Thus the name Bob's Place paired with the "food that tastes good" cuisine. I mean think about "American" food as now be a conglomerate of "ethnicities".

When you go to 230 Jericho Turnpike you'll find both the exterior and interior of an "old world" decor with wood and high ceilings. The crux of the restaurant is on the main floor and step-up second level and a cozy bar meets your view upon entering.

It looks as though there is a second floor with windows. Part of it hosts the offices while that other lends room for a private party of 20. There is another private room past the bar for a larger group of 75.

Needless to say all doesn't matter if the food is good. In checking out the Fall menu I requested a tasting from their Executive Chef Jeff Eustler.

A bread basket with a few choices is accompanied by a dish of olive caponata and an whipped herb butter. The combination of both spread on a slice of olive bread was addicting. Since chef's tend to prepare a small appetizer that's off the menu, this one was a vegetable pate in a gelatin topped with thin slices of raw tuna in the shape of a flower. Vegetables were separated and for me, there is no way that the bitter taste of broccoli rabe will ever be enjoyed.

The first tasting plate of appetizers had: Beet Salad - roasted beets (I love the taste and texture of fresh beets), Granny Smith apples, watercress, walnuts, bleu cheese in a vinaigrette; Bob's Chopped Salad - mixed greens, roasted peppers, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, calamatta olives, fresh mozzarella, tossed in a white balsamic olive oil dressing (It's easier to eat a chopped salad with a spoon to get all of the ingredients in one bite); Saki Clams - baked whole clams with pancetta, sweet peppers, scallions, sesame oil (great combination to bring out the taste of the clams); Steamed Vegetable and Shrimp Dumplings - miso bok choy, ponzu dipping sauce (I could be eating at a Chinese restaurant); Crispy Calamari - cilantro, sweet and spicy serachi and marinara sauce for dipping (perfectly cooked calamari and zesty sauces); Crabmeat Napolean - blue crab claw, avocado (Certainly a lot different than the bakery ilk).

Rather than the full entrees with their side dishes, the tasting plate featured the main ingredient. Miso Atlantic Salmon - sweet and sour plum glaze over Forbidden Rice (salmon was obviously fresh and the chef made a smart move obtaining that nutty, short-grained, black Forbidden Rice from Lotus Foods. Long Island Duckling Ravioli (Both the ravioli and sauce twittered my taste buds). Roasted Acorn Squash with Fall vegetables. Ale Braised Beef Shortribs (Couldn't have been softer). Panko crusted Rack of Lamb (cooked just the right temperature)with corn fricassee.

I stopped in for lunch at a later date ordering the Chicken Pot Pie. It's an item that I tend to avoid out of disappointment. I mean, how fresh can the ingredients be let alone the taste? The dish arrived to view a thick mound of an extremely flaky pastry, which I was able to lift off and reveal the ingredients. The chicken was sliced, the peas were from the pod, carrots were freshly diced and the gravy was just thick enough to meet the standards of being a "pot pie". I had to ask Jeff why the gravy was so delicious. He said that finely chopped herbs went into the chicken stock.

Out came the dessert plate. A picture is worth a thousand calories. My two favorites were the Crispy Banana Cheesecake and the Berries Napolean of which the contents depends upon the fresh berries or other fruit that day.

Restaurants tend to give you a mint with your check. Not Bob's! Instead you get a tiny cone with a rainbow sorbet.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


A sushi menu at a Chinese Restaurant is not uncommon. It is even less common to find a Japanese owner, let alone chef at a Japanese restaurant. Authenticity and having a well-trained chef of any ethnicity is the key to the restaurant’s success.

Chinese “take out” venues have split the restaurant’s name and menu to accommodate both cuisines. At 97-17 Jamaica Avenue, a Woodhaven eatery bares two names: Cheung King Kitchen and Ginza. The Chinese “side” offers Cantonese and Sechuan fare while Ginza specializes in sushi and a few other Japanese goodies.

Ginza delivers and prompted me to sample their menu during lunchtime (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). There were two specials, one of which was a Bento Box, consisting of an entrée choice of Teriyaki (beef, salmon, shrimp or beef), Beef Negimaki (scallion wrapped in thinly sliced beef with teriyaki sauce) or Unagi Don (eel bowl). Adding to it is rice, a California roll, spring roll and either miso soup or soda, for the price of $6.95 (tax included).

That sounded fine to me until I read what was listed underneath. You get to choose from a list of any 3 maki rolls, 3 pieces of sushi from their menu and either miso soup or a soda for $10.95. I opted for rolls of Shrimp Tempura, Eel Avocado and Spicy Salmon Crunchy (using masago). For those of you who are not up on terms, “sashimi” is slices of raw fish; “sushi” can be anything sitting atop a clump of seasoned sushi rice, “maki rolls” are made by placing rice and other ingredients (raw or cooked) on a sheet of “nori” (dried seaweed), rolled and sliced, whereas “hand roll” is basically the same but in a cone shape and eliminated the rice. Got it?

As for the sushi, it was mackerel, striped bass and white tuna as my selection.

Chef Huang learned to master the art of sushi making while working at a few Japanese restaurants. For those of you who chicken out by ordering a California roll, it consists of imitation crabmeat (kani), avocado and cucumber. How boring.

Search the menu for a list of “Special Roll” to indulge in Huang’s creativity. At this point I have only been able to sample three of them. Spider Roll consists of using deep fried soft shell crab, avocado, cucumber and a spicy mayo. Godzilla Roll got me shrimp tempura and avocado on the inside topped with spicy lobster. Magic Roll had a crunchy spicy tuna on the inside (the “crunchy” also tends indicate the use of fried tempura flakes) with shrimp, avocado, eel and masago (orange-colored roe) on the outside.

There were a few other menu items that struck my curiosity. Tomiyama Soup, a spicy soup with shrimp, mushrooms, and Chinese cabbage was a bit like having the Thai rendition of Tom Yom Soup. I would describe the Tomiyama soup as being “peppery” vs the use of chili. I’m not one for “spicy” and all that I sampled satisfied my craving and taste buds.

Kani Salad takes the shredded crabmeat stick and julienne cucumber, mixes it with mayo and tops it with the masago.

Then there came the most creative idea for an appetizer, Sushi Pizza. Start with a scallion pancake as the “crust”, add seaweed salad and spicy mayo, top it with the “sashimi” tuna, salmon and masago for a “personal pizza” unless you’re not too selfish to share.

I stopped in days later to sample more beginning with a sushi platter of: shrimp (ebi), tuna (maguro), salmon (sake), white tuna, eel (unagi), and scallop (hotatege). I love the eel sauce and the scallop was "inventive" with two seasoned scallops and a mushroom slice atop the rice.

Since I was there, I thought I might as well check out some of the Chinese cuisine as well beginning with two different spring rolls. One had the common shrimp and vegetables in that thin crunchy skin, while the steak spring roll had that beefy flavor with the added vegetables.

Chef Huang prepared the prepared two entrees. Sesame Chicken can be found at most Chinese restaurants. Huang has discovered "umani", that extra taste. Aside from the chicken pieces being cooked with just the right crunch and juiciness, the sauce had a sweet, sour, salty, and slightly spicy kick to attack all of my taste buds.

The other entree was a Seafood Mei Fun. Mei Fun are thin rice noodles vs the Chow Fun which are wide and thick. Here is where I got to test his calamari cooking and was timed just right. I also noticed that the Chinese food was not "oily".

Gee, I'm getting hungry just writing this. I think I'll call for a delivery!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Took a rest before going to Catalina Island, just off the southern coast of California. Esther, Eunice and I got there via Long Beach on the Catalina Express, a "fast ferry", about an hour or so trip. I was on the "Jet Cat" which offered the Commodore Lounge with plush seating, tables, pre-boarding privileges, a snack and one drink for an extra $15. There is an area for baggage as well. That's great because I had to bring my luggage to include my short stay at Catalina Island and the rest of the week.

Leaving the dock we passed the Queen Mary, which I hope to visit on an soon future trip. The trek, which they said was usually calm, was certainly NOT!

I arrived in the town of Avalon with the Casino Tour was the first destination. The Casino, which does not house anything to do with gambling, was built by the same Wrigley guy associated with the gum and the baseball field. The term "casino" referred to a building of entertainment with ballrooms and a movie theatre.

Lunch was at the Catalina Beach House where I learned that the first Sea Trek will be taking place. Yes, it's the kind that you're donned in a wet suit with an air hose attached to your glass helmet. I have a photo of my doing this some years ago which you can view on the home page of my website.

With a few of adventure or relaxation, I opted to tour Avalon on a golf cart. It's more common for residents to own a golf cart than a car. In fact, there is a waiting list of more than five years to own a car.

I was able to get some great photos of the area including the entrance to the botanical gardens and some animals (deer and quail).

We checked into Villa Portofino Hotel, situated on the waterfront. The Portofino Suite had sliding french doors that opened to the panorama of Avalon Bay and Casino. It featured an living area with a gas fireplace, double sofa bed and a "sumptuous" bath with a large soaking tub, glass enclosed shower finished with Spanish marble.

An Italian restaurant with an outdoor cafe is underneath my room. I can see the outdoor cafe from the french doors as well as hearing the romantic Italian music. It was totally reminiscent of my experience of the Amalfi Coast.

There was also a refrigerator (which I didn't need to use), cable tv and internet access as well. In fact, I did my radio show later that night.

Dinner was at a restaurant called "M", part of the Metropole Hotel company. The Executive chef Michael Stewart chose to do a wine pairing tasting. The five course dinner was fine, but did not reflect their usual menu.

The next morning got us on a boat tour of Avalon's coast and loads of dolphins. Every once in a while a sea lion would be jumping up from the group as if to say, "I'm a dolphin, too. Look at me. Forget that I don't have a fin."

The Catalina Express back to Long Beach didn't have as much rough waters. After two boats, it took me quite awhile to recover from "sea legs". As for Catalina Island, I hope to go back for more of the sight seeing adventures.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


One great mode of transportation is the Channel Cat Water Taxi. For $6 you can ride the whole day and even bring your bike. I was told that there are some people who will just ride without getting off while reading a book, just to relax and enjoy the river and views. There are five stops along the Mississippi River. Moline Landing - Ben Butterworth Parkway at Celebration Pier, home to the Celebration Belle, a non-gambling excursion boat. The Quarter - East Moline Landing - home of Beacon Harbor and the Visitors Center. Bettendorf Landing - Isle of Capri Casino. John Deere Commons Landing - just a block away from the John Deere Pavilion and iWireless Center. Village of East Davenport Landing - where you can take a Segway tour.

That's just what we did in Davenport. An IA Segway tour goes for about 2 hours along a bike path on the Mississippi Riverfront. We were able to view much including lock and dam #15. Mike Mott pointed out some historic sites at the Arsenal on Rock Island, Illinois, located across the river as well as the town of East Davenport.

Final lunch was at Front Street Brewery in Davenport where I had their signature cheddar cheese soup made with beer. Time to go home!