Category Archives: Restaurants

Enjoying Bouillabaisse in Marseille

Restaurant L’Annexe

Arriving hungry and tired in Marseille, the world capital of Bouillabaisse, it was never really up for discussion what to eat. We just had to try this traditional Provencal fish stew dating back to 600 BC, when the Greeks founded the city. Near the old port, next to a small fountain, we found a cool looking restaurant called L’ Annexe, which served this classic meal. But don’t worry if you cannot find this particular place, almost every eatery in Marseille has Bouillabaisse, a fish soup popular for centuries with the local fishermen and made out of class B fish (every chef insists on having the “right” recipe but you won’t find salmon or tuna in a traditional Bouillabaisse). To make it more filling, it is spiced up with potatoes, tomatoes, onions and garlic.

THE Bouillabaisse

In addition, you get a plate of croutons with saffron and garlic mayonnaise. Over the years Bouillabaisse became internationally fashionable offered in many of the fanciest restaurants in the world. However, eating the traditional one, in the old port in Marseille, is an experience hard to beat.

Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

Mr. K’s dazzling world of Chinese food

Alex went to Mr. K’s, and all we got was this this lousy photo.

There are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and, according to Chinese Restaurant News, Mr. K’s in Manhattan is #4 in the entire country and #1 in New York City. That is an achievement hard to beat and when you visit Mr. K’s you understand why. Run by Johnny Kao and his family for over 30 years, Mr. K’s never stops to amaze with its exquisite cuisine, excellent wine list and truly outstanding service. There are numerous choices on the menu but in our view you have to try the dumplings (they offer several options, all are great). The shrimp dishes are mouthwatering good and Mr. K’s is also famous for its Peking Duck. Let’s put it this way – whatever you try, you will not be disappointed. Just remember: this restaurant is definitely not a five-dollar-all-you-can-eat-buffet. It’s an extremely stylish place to enjoy and savor the tastes from the Shanghai, Peking, Hunan, and Szechuan regions.

Mr. K’s
570 Lexington Ave, New York
Tel.: (212) 583-1668

Puttin’ on the Ritz

If you are dressed up like a million dollar trouper and have a few hours to spare, one of the best brunches offered in Washington, D.C. is at the Fyve Restaurant Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. The place is not big but highly luxurious. The staff make sure everything is top notch and the buffet selection is beyond one’s imagination. You can go for salmon, shrimps, the likes, or have a more traditional breakfast. There is also a main course included in the price (if you can still eat after helping yourself a couple of times at the buffet).

As would seem obvious in such a fancy place but never checked by us before (banging our heads on the wall), champagne is unlimited so if no serious tasks  planned for later, the waiter will make sure that your glass is amply full throughout the meal. Fyve is famous for dining the power elites of D.C. and you definitely will feel like one. So, if-you’re-blue-and-you-don’t-know-where-to-go-to-why-don’t-you-go-where-fashion-sits…

Aquavit – Nordic tastes with a twist

Aquavit’s Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark (Photo: Evan Sung)

New York Times two-star rated restaurant Aquavit is run by Swedish Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark from Gothenburg. He has recently been ranked 2012 Top 5 rising chefs in the U.S. and samandthedunes managed to meet him for an exclusive interview.

“I started working at Aquavit as an Executive Sous Chef in 2009 after my job as Executive Chef at the Swedish Consulate in New York.  There I got the chance to cook for celebrities, royalty, politicians and over 25 Nobel Prize winners and it was a great experience,” says Jernmark. In April, 2010, after only six months at Aquavit, he got the opportunity to take over the role as Executive Chef after Marcus Samuelsson’s departure.

To stand out among the many restaurants in Manhattan, Jernmark explains that Aquavit is not a traditional mid-town New York restaurant. “For example, we change the menu every day and I like to be spontaneous in the kitchen, play with new ingredients and see what happens,” he says.  One of the Jernmark’s signature dishes is “forgotten beets.” “Yes, I once forgot some beets in the kitchen and the next day I experimented and the dish tasted even better,” says Jernmark.

(Photo: Evan Sung)

You will of course find many traditional Nordic fares on the menu like pickled herring, gravlax but also beef, seafood and some exotic desserts (how about Artic Birds Nest or Raspberry Cylinder). “Previously we only had a four course prix fixe menu but now we moved to a la carte which makes it more approachable,” Jernmark explains.

Among the guests there are many celebrities, including First Lady Obama. “We try to be discreet so that everybody can enjoy a private moment in Aquavit,” says Jernmark.

After the interview samandthedunes tried the New Jersey Asparagus, Gravlax 37C, Charred Icelandic Cod and Seafood “Norden 2012” and we just loved the unique, modern and clean tastes. The presentation was superb. We were even offered their fine selection of Aquavit shots with unique flavors of cucumber and figs. If you are looking for a first class evening in Manhattan and enjoy seasonal Scandinavian cuisine with an experimental touch in a classy setting, Aquavit is the place you should visit. Chef Jernmark shows why he has been ranked 2012 Top 5 rising chefs in the U.S. and will make your dinner an unforgettable experience.

More news about Aquavit: A Michelin Star is Born!

(Photo: Evan Sung)

Aquavit interior (Photo: Evan Sung)

3 lounge bars you have to visit in Marrakech

On our visit to Marrakech earlier this year we stayed in the Hivernage area outside of the medina. The first evening we were up for a drink and felt like visiting a nice bar but we just didn’t have the slightest idea where to go. By chance we were passing by Palais Jad Mahal close to our hotel. It was just a small sign next to a discrete wooden door but we gave it a shot. We hit jackpot! Wow, what a place. This is a truly upscale establishment looking like a palace inside. We started out in the bar and had a drink before we moved on to the dining area. They had an extensive menu leaning towards Asian-Moroccan fusion and everything we tried was excellent. We also got to see a belly dancing show and ladies doing amazing moves with tea trays (full of candles!!) on top of their heads and listened to a great cover band until late in the evening.

In the end we decided to check with the bartender what other places he would recommend us to visit. Except for Jad Mahal (of course) he gave us the names of two other must-see-bars in the Hivernage area – Le Comptoir Darna and SO Night Lounge. We visited both of them and couldn’t agree more.

Le Comptoir Darnais a landmark in the Marrakech nightlife scene. It’s fun, loud, crowded and just plain cool. Here you can have dinner (the menu is Frensh-Moroccan) in an exotic, lounge-style setting and enjoy a cocktail (or two) while watching the spectacular belly dancing show. It’s simply a must to visit Le Comptoir Darna next time you go to Marrakech.

Just like Jad Mahal, Le Comptoir Darna has a great evening show

SO Night Lounge is located in the Sofitel hotel and has more of a night club feeling. As in Jad Mahal and Le Comptoir Darna, it is packed with party people, all enjoying some entertainment over a few drinks. Nice place but (according to us) not up to the level of Jad Mahal and Le Comtoir.

Have you been to Marrakech and found some other great places to lounge around at night? Share them with us. 

Asiate – on top of the world

Photo: Asiate

Located in the ultra-chic and ultra-expensive New York Hotel Mandarin Oriental, Asiate offers gourmet cuisine and arguably one of the best views, being situated on the 35th floor overlooking Central Park. Designed by Tony Chi who has dazzled with his contemporary and cool designs of hotels and restaurants worldwide, Asiate is grand without being overbearing; fun-looking without being kitschy. Don’t forget to check out their impressive wine wall with over 1,000 bottles to pick from.

The food is fabulous and can be best described as fusion with Asian influences. Try their Prix Fixe three-course menu with a nice selection of starters and main courses. If you are into shellfish, we would highly recommend the prawns as a starter and poached lobster as a main, you won’t be sorry – they are cooked to perfection and served with subtle sauces. To make a long story short, we loved Asiate, the food and the view will make us come over again. We hope that by then Asiate would be given a Michelin Star, we find it hard to understand why it yet doesn’t have one.

Photo: Asiate

SushiMex – sashimi meets fajitas

The idea of having delicate sushi with a burrito never crossed our minds (bet it didn’t cross your mind either?) That is why we were a bit reluctant when we for the first time visited restaurant SushiMex in Maspalomas (Gran Canaria). The menu (one of the longest we have seen) mixes traditional Mexican dishes with different sushi and sashimi. They are all good and if you are for some hardcore barbeque ribs or for some raw salmon you have come to the right place. But what is really amazing is the several fusion plates they offer (mostly based on maki rolls). Dishes such as Diablo and Fire Dragon are basically seafood filled maki spiced up Mexican style and served with some hot sauces. Not something that you would consider typical but once you try them you will be hooked. We have been going to SushiMex regularly for the past year and are still not tired of their cuisine. It is one of the more pricey establishments in this area and the view is not much different from the other nearby restaurants filled with tourists. However, SushiMex is a few steps ahead; the food here really stands out. For a nice lunch or dinner, we highly recommend SushiMex, a foodie’s delight in Maspalomas!

1516 Brewing Company – the best meeting place in Vienna

Photo: 1516 Brewing Company

Alex discovered this place more than a decade ago. No wonder, knowing his love for beer. 1516 Brewing Company is an Irish pub/microbrewery/restaurant that is very difficult to beat. It is popular with locals and expats, and it is easy to understand why. 1516 serves excellent food (gourmet style at pub prices), offers their own beer, a fine selection of wines and the service is impeccable. The place is full 24/7 and on special occasions you get to listen to some groovy tunes live. On a lazy Saturday afternoon during the summer months you can sit outside, puffing on a Havana and sipping whatever you fancy: we doubt that they will not have it. Be it an exotic beer (how about a Russian Stout), a Spanish Rioja or a shot of vodka with some cool chaser. The Vienna diplomatic community loves the place, international personalities can be seen rubbing shoulders, and, to make a long story short, everybody seems to have a great time. This is definitely the in-place in Vienna, especially for those who enjoy long evenings in good company over a few beers. Alex no longer lives in Austria but whenever a member of the samandthedunes team passes through, this is the one place we never miss to stop by. Bottom line, if you are in Vienna, you must visit the 1516 Brewing Company. We promise – you will not be disappointed!

Photo: 1516 Brewing Company

Bamboo Thai – cozy atmosphere but no sea view

Bamboo Thai in Agadir, Morocco, is a Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Japanese restaurant all rolled into one. Tempura, sushi, dim sum and chicken satay with peanut sauce are offered at reasonable prices in a very pleasant setting (even though we missed the sea view). It’s located some serious meters away from the main boardwalk. The starters are quite big and the main courses are not small either. Wash it down with some wine or beer and leave space for dessert. OK, it’s not the best Asian restaurant we have been to, but it is good enough to spend an evening indulging oneself in some spicy stuff. It will not cost you a fortune and it is a nice place to chill out before you hit the Agadir night scene.

Special Moments

Moments restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Barcelona is often advertised as the best restaurant in town. According to us it is not, but it’s a exquisite place to have a very romantic dinner. Moments is the brain child of chef Carme Ruscalleda, who is no novice to the cooking business having earned several Michein stars. Her new culinary establishment is dedicated to the works of local artist Josep Riera i Aragó. As in most Michelin star restaurants (Moments recently got its first), the name of the dish doesn’t really describe what you are going to eat, but don’t be shy, go crazy (or perhaps ask the waiter) and pick something you think will be that ultimate experience you’ve been craving for. You simply can’t go wrong (well, maybe with the stuffed pigeon). Starters are excellent and the main course will not disappoint you either. The wine list is extensive and the sommelier would be delighted to pair your choices with the appropriate red or white. Now, this is one of those places where it should be borderline illegal to skip dessert, since you will reminisce about it for the next several weeks. We still can’t forget that delicate chocolate and orange truffle and the little ruby of fruit with a taste so fresh it lingers in the mouth for hours. So why isn’t this the best food experience we had in Barcelona? The answer is easy. The kitchen sometimes pays too much attention to the visual part. All courses are displayed as tributes to Josep Riera i Aragó’s paintings and they look sometimes more fascinating than they taste. We are sorry to say but more attention should simply be paid to the adequate use of spices. The overall experience at Moments is still very good and it offers you a unique opportunity to take somebody you cherish into the world of fine dining and contemporary art at the same time.

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