Friday, December 21, 2012

Fuji On Rte 40 May Be Closing This Weekend

Fuji Restaurant on Rte 40 may be closing this weekend.  That's what Jean heard and reported by email.  She has heard that it will close Saturday and be replaced by another restaurant.

Fuji is a nice, small Japanese restaurant, and it has been on Rte 40 for about 20 years, according to Jean.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Could Have Been At Bistro Blanc

Burgers at Bistro Blanc
Just for the record, they invited me for burgers at Bistro Blanc.

The mass email on Wednesday promoted half-priced burgers, and I made an impulse decision to go to Glenelg for gourmet beef and beer.

It could have been great.  The pickle was awesome.  The dehydrated mushrooms were inspired.  Some of the fries were the perfect  execution that you'd want in a high-end restaurant -- scattered with melted parmesan and served with sweet roasted garlic cloves.

But the night had collapsed by the time those arrived.

Five minutes waiting for them to set the table we had reserved.  Five minutes standing at the empty bar hoping in vain someone could tell me about the beers.  Forty minutes after ordering that we waited for our meal.

Forty minutes, and we weren't alone.  At one point, there were only two tables with food, and everyone else was waiting.  The table next to us waited longer than we did, and they were actually told "We ran out of buns.  They're bringing more from the supermarket.  They'll be here in four minutes."  Then the waiter promised a cheese plate that no one delivered.

By the end, the entire staff had given up.  Our waitress just apologized.  Clearly, something had gone wrong in back.  Really wrong.  We knew immediately that the burgers were medium rare, not medium well.  We just couldn't endure sending them back.  Mrs. HowChow ended up leaving the raw center on her plate.  One of the "supermarket" burgers must have been similar because the other table did send it back.

We have friends who really enjoy Bistro Blanc.  We even loved bits of the meal like those pickles, the mushrooms, sprouts and lettuce garnishes, and the bread basket.  But we have had a series of sloppy, disappointing dinners, including an epic failure in 2009.  We couldn't get over last night's experience -- a lonely 40 minutes and badly-cooked meat.

Most of the time, poor meals just disappear for us.  We recommend good things on HowChow and just don't mention the disappointments.  But Bistro Blanc wants to be something special.  That burger normally costs $14.  It can't be raw on the night when they invite people over for burgers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

LinK: One Dish Cuisine In The WPost

The Ellicott City cafe that focuses on gluten-free options got a nice write-up in the Washington Post yesterday.  The author -- whose name I can't see in the on-line version -- interviewed One Dish Cuisine's owner Maureen Burke and talked up the black bean burger.

What Does Gambrill Have That We Don't Have? Pretty Great Chicken By A South African Chain

Nando's Peri-Peri in Gambrills
Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken is coming to Gambrills, and I have to admit that I'm jealous.

Nando's is a chain from South Africa that sells spectacular chicken.  Really great wings.  Huge,  meaty wings grilled perfectly and offered up with sauces that run from mild to screaming-hot.  They do full chickens, salads, sandwiches and wraps (and great olives), but the 10 whole wings has been a major treat when I meet people for lunch in Gallery Place.  They rank equal to my favorites at Kloby's -- and they're grilled, not fried.

Now Nando's is coming to Baltimore with one spot on Baltimore Street and a spot opening today . . . wait for it . . . in Gambrills.

I know a bunch of people commute over to Anne Arundel County, so I heartily recommend eating at Nando's.  I'll drive 30 minutes to Gambrills for those wings one evening soon.  (The Nando's folks turned me away from a soft open yesterday because they were quite reasonably feeding just people who had made reservations.)  That food makes a worthy lunch if you work anywhere nearby.

But I must admit some jealousy because I don't know why Nando's would bypass our fair county for Gambrills.  In the past week, I have driven twice along Rte 3, and it makes Rte 175 look cosmopolitan.  The Nando's PR folks are lovely, and even they can't find Gambrills.  They write that they're opening the restaurant in "Waugh Chapel."

Waugh Chapel is a big shopping center with a Target, Dick's Sporting Goods, Joseph A. Banks and Five Below.  Hello?  Sound horribly familiar?  If you travelled from South Africa in search of that kind of shopping, Howard County is your type of town!  Nando's and Lebanese Taverna -- those are the chains that I'm rooting will roost around here.

Nano's Peri-Peri
1417 Main Chapel Way
Gambrills, MD 21054

NEAR:  This is actually easy to find -- and easy to reach just east of Odenton and 30 minutes from most of Howard County.  Go east on Rte 32.  Take Rte 3 south.  Then get off on Main Chapel Way and look for the Waugh Chapel shopping center.  If you go, mention loudly that you're from Howard County.  We want to get a Nando's in the second wave.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Indian Restaurant Breaks Ground In Fulton

Site of the new Fulton restaurant from the folks behind the Ambassador
The folks behind the Ambassador in Baltimore have broken ground on a new Indian restaurant in Fulton -- inside the Maple Lawn development just off Johns Hopkins Road.

You can see above that they're moving dirt.  The Maple Lawn developers announced in May that this would be an Indian restaurant.  The talk has been about a white tablecloth place along the lines of the Ambassador.

Does anyone know a timetable?  Or even the name proposed for the new restaurant?  This is on Maple Lawn Boulevard just south of Johns Hopkins Road.

Interestingly, Indian is already one of the deepest cuisines in Howard County.  Earlier this year, I wrote about the "Big Three" and the depth of Indian choices from Mango Grove, House of India, Royal Taj, and more.

New "Garbanzo" Pita Chain Coming To Columbia

A new chain appears to be coming to Columbia with fresh-baked pita, falafel and schwarma -- according to a sign spotted by Lotsabogeys.

The sign near the Walmart and My Eye Doctor at Rte 175 and Dobbin Road says "Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill," Lotsabogeys reported.  It looks like a national franchise doing a Chipotle-style "build-your-own lunch" plan with Middle Eastern inspiration.

Anyone know the food?  Anyone know the timing?  Thanks to Lotsabogeys.

(Update: The Columbia Patch called the Garbanzo headquarters and has details, including a February 2013 opening date.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Lotte In Catonsville -- Honey Pig's Steamed Dumplings Headline A Party For Food Lovers

New Lotte in Catonsville
If you love food, then you should be checking out the new Lotte Market in Catonsville this weekend -- with a first stop at the Honey Pig dumpling stand on the left-hand wall.

Lotte is a new Asian market on Rte 40.  Great produce.  Great seafood.  Wide aisle after wide aisle of food from America, Korea, South Asia, Latin America and around the world.  I just loaded up the fridge with fun, and I'll post more next week.

Wang mandu from Honey Pig
You will not be disappointed.  They were sampling dumplings, noodles, and more around the store -- to the delight of Mrs. HowChow -- and you can nose around from sweets to meats, Japanese noodles to Indian banana chips.  (See this post about reasons to shop Asian markets.)

The Honey Pig dumpling stand is a new extension of the barbecue chain.  Steamed dumplings -- wang mandu in Korean -- stuffed with chicken, bulgogi, pork or other fillings.  They're $2.  They're the size of a softball.  And they're delicious.

We got a chicken mandu just as Honey Pig sold out tonight.  Shredded chicken cooked with . . . .  Oh, dear.  We ate with plastic spoons so quickly that I didn't take notes.  It was a bright, rich flavor, and we will be going back for more.

Thanks for Kevin, who tipped us to the Honey Pig mandu.

(Update:  Honey Pig Dumpking closed later in 2013.  The Lotte remains open and wonderful.  They installed a casual Korean restaurant where Honey Pig had sold dumplings and then fried chicken.)

Lotte Catonsville
6600 Baltimore National Pike
Catonsville, MD 21228
410 - 750 - 3951

NEAR: Lotte Catonsville is on Rte 40 just over the bridge into Baltimore County.  It's on the left, and they renamed the shopping center as Lotte Plaza so it's easy to spot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ale House Has Opened -- HowChow Folks There

The new Ale House Columbia has opened off Dobbin Road in Columbia.  This is the former Rocky Run, which they ripped back to the studs and renovated.

Timothy stopped in yesterday for lunch and knocked off an awesome update for HowChow readers.  This has turned into a week of new opening announcements.  Timothy has provided the first report from the new Ale House, and he got a great lunch on takeout:
I just got back from ordering lunch to-go from the new Alehouse in Columbia (the former Rocky Run). I wanted to stop by to get a feel for the place since I enjoy going to many of our local bars, namely T-Bonz, Frisco and Judges Bench. The Alehouse wins the proximity war to both my home and office, so even if the food was just "okay" there was a very good chance I would frequent it often. 
The good news is that I may have just had the best burger I have ever eaten. I ordered their "Classic Bacon Cheeseburger" to-go since I was on a quick break, and I had a small Olivers Stout to tide me over while I waited. Note that there appears to be choice in 10, 16 and 23oz pours for each draft, but I could not confirm because the draft menu's were still printing when I arrived. That size choice is familiar at a place like TGI Friday's but lacking from our more specialized watering holes thus far. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lotte Opening New Catonsville Store Friday

The new giant Lotte on Rte 40 should open this Friday, and I'm pretty excited for the new option just a quick run east of Howard County.

The Lotte at Rte 29 in Ellicott City will stay open, but the new Lotte replaced an entire Toys R' Us so it's bigger and was slated to have even more international goods, last that I had heard.  It sounded like the new store would be more like H Mart, where the goods from Mexican to Thai, Pakistani to Chinese.  Of course, they have a heavy concentration of Korean items.

I'm looking to cook from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings, so this is particularly good timing for me.  I have posted about Asian markets in the past.  If you go, explore the produce, the fish section, and some basics -- like Japanese noodles, the frozen dumplings, or the Korean snack foods.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Waffle Shop Opens On Frederick Road

Looking for waffles and coffee in Ellicott City?  There appears to be a new place on Frederick Road just west of Rte 29.

Adam found a new cafe that may to have the name "Waffee" or "Waffles, Coffee And Ice Cream" in the spot that used to be Comzy Time.  Adam -- who blogs at Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp -- says he noticed the new cafe near Oakey's Grill.
I walked in and they seem to be all about Belgian “Liege” waffles with combos for waffles, coffee, and Affogato (which, their flyer tells me, is Italian mascarpone ice cream and espresso).  And, in an homage to Howard County diversity only its residents can appreciate, the mixture of Belgian waffles and Italian coffee and ice cream is run by what looked to be an exclusively Korean staff.
Has anyone eaten at the new cafe?  MaybeKathy and Lintman, is this the place that you commented about?  Any know the right name?  We had another new waffle spot in the La Pearl waffle truck that has been driving about.  We need to try new stuff.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peruvian Chicken Is Coming Back To Columbia

Peruvian chicken is coming back to Columbia -- at the same Hickory Ridge village center spot where it used to be.

Signs for Grille Chick 'N Pollo say that they're coming soon.  They're in the backside spot where the old Chick 'N Pollo used to be.  Jeremy sent me the photo above.  It looks like a similar place advertising roasted chickens.  I hope that they'll have plantains and the antichuchos.

Does anyone know the story or timeline for the new Grille Chick 'N Pollo?

(Update: The signs now say that they'll open on January 3, 2013.  Amanda posted photos on the HowChow Facebook page.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Howard County Needs: Shave Ice & Whole Foods (Or "What I Learned On WInter Vacation")

Shave ice on Maui
Snowballs are a wonderful tradition for Baltimore, but I'd drive a long way for the Hawaiian variation called shave ice.

It's Hawaiian so you can't drive.  But someone could definitely import a real shave ice machine and make a name offering the beauty of flavored snow.

Snowballs and other stands here serve up crunchy ice flavored with candy-colored syrups.  The Hawaiian ice machines grind finer.  The ice really feels like the fluffiest snow, and the syrups just spread into the ice.  Nothing pools on the bottom.

Ululani's in Kihei
At the top end, chains like Ululani's pour flavored syrups that they make themselves.  Basic fruits like banana, strawberry, and watermelon.  Tropicals like mangos, lychees, and passion fruit.  Exotics like tamarind or "tiger's blood."  They really taste like fruit, and the fluffy snow makes them completely unique.  

Okay, I'll say it:  It makes them better than snowballs.  (I love you snowballs.  But I have to speak the truth.)

They're getting about $5 a cone on Maui -- plus another dollar if you get coconut or macadamia ice cream on the bottom.  (And you have to get the ice cream on the bottom.)  It seems like someone could import a machine and skim a little of the frozen yogurt trend into a profitable business.  

A few summers ago, Mrs. HowChow and I found the snowy soft shave ice at an Artscape vendor, but we haven't seen it again.  I see Yelp reviews for Hula Honey's that looks like a mobile vendor or a food truck.  I'll need to campaign for a Howard County visit next summer.

Surprisingly, the other lesson that I learned on vacation was that I can't wait for Whole Foods to open in Columbia in 2014.  We stumbled on a Whole Foods one morning when we were heading out on a day-long drive, and we bought delicious sandwiches that we ate sitting on a black-sand beach.

Even without the beach, Whole Foods is going to bring some stuff that just doesn't exist here now.  The prepared foods were wonderful.  We stopped again and filled our hotel refrigerator with lunches -- poke and tortilla chips, then hummus, cheeses, olives and grilled vegetables.  

In Hawaii, these were delicious alternatives to hotel restaurants.  Back in Howard County, the prepared food will be a convenience, but the meats and fish will be my big draw.  Harris Teeter's spicy chicken sausage remains a great staple, but Whole Foods sometimes offers a half dozen chicken sausage variations.  Grill them.  Cut them in pasta sauce.  Crumble spicy ones into tacos.  I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Variation On A Plan At Shin Chon Garden

Chapchae at Shin Chon
Our standard order at Shin Chon Garden has become so standard that it's the basis of a "Korean 101" post and a bit of a bore.

Don't get me wrong.  You won't ever go wrong with four people eating dolset bi bim bop and some grilling their own meat.  But we go to Shin Chon enough that we wanted to venture into other dishes.

New variation: Order chapchae as an alternative to bi bim bop.

Chapchae is a Korean staple that should be easy for anyone to try.  It's thin noodles served warm and dressed in a light sauce with vegetables and, if you want, a little marinated beef.  We went on a Friday night as a twosome, so we didn't sit at a barbecue table.

Barley tea
I've been trying other restaurants on Rte 40 -- like Tongnamoo House and Han Sung -- but Shin Chon is still our far ahead favorite.  The chapchae was fresh and light, although so filling that we couldn't finish all the noodles, mushrooms and other vegetables.  We paired it with dolset bi bim bop because I save my pork belly orders for nights when I can barbecue at the table.

The standard chapchae comes with a few pieces of marinated grilled meat to mix in the noodles.  If you want a vegetarian meal, just tell the Shin Chon staff.  Vegetarian chapchae or bi bim bop are easy, and a vegetarian pancake would help you fill a table for four.

Seriously, Shin Chon is one of Howard County's best restaurants, so check out the Korean 101 post for step-by-step thoughts for a first visit.  Or skim all the Shin Chon posts.  Shin Chon's waitresses will generally offer ice water for the table.  Ask them for tea if you want hot barley tea.  It's free so you should try it.  You'll get a large plastic glass of hot tea.  Traditional and a way to warm up on a cold night.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Link: Judge's Bench Is A Best Bar in Baltimore

A team of hardcore lushes Baltimore Magazine writers checked out bars around Baltimore, and the Judge's Bench in Ellicott City made their list of the 25 best bars.

The best bars are the cover story for the December edition, and, to my pleasure, the writers skipped the trope about how no one would expect to get good beer in the suburbs.  They talked up the ambiance and the beers at Judge's Bench.

Baltimore Magazine even invites you to jump in the bar review game -- asking you to vote for your favorite bars in its online poll.  They're running a similar restaurant poll where you can vote for your favorite places to eat.