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Pho Hanoi

Asian lunch adventure offers unique cuisine

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

PHOhanoiI'm glad GLOB Content Editor Lynn Dirk extensively covered the wonders of Pho, Hanoi Pho, (FUH), in her feature below this one.

It has been a while since I had visited Pho Hanoi, the Asian soup restaurant on SW 34th Street near the Good Will Industries warehouse. Life must be good in this Vietnamese soup kitchen   I have always appreciated the clean, uncluttered style of most Asian restaurants. Pho Hanoi is no different in this sense. Tables are arranged to provide a spacious, albeit intimate, environment for conversation, comfort, and a leisurely lunch. PH has also added a very large salt water aquarium containing yellow tangs and other spectacular marine life.


Talk about a conversation starter for the GLOB Master. I used to own saltwater aquarium and enjoy discussing the unique process of keeping a piece of the ocean alive indoors.

No, I didn't make any smart remarks about the 'catch of the day' being from the in-house saltwater fish tank.

Pho Hanoi has an extensive menu of authentic Vietnamese cuisine from appetizers, (Khai Vi ) to tapioca noodle soup (Bnh Canh).


PHOsandwich350Between these Asian lunch bookends you will also find Vietnamese sandwiches (Banh mi), sliced stir fried beef and onions marinated in house seasonings, and a dish called Ham & Cha consisting of Jambon and sliced cured pork roll.

For a vegetarian lunch, Pho Hanoi offers a platter of tofu and mixed vegetables wok-fried in house seasonings call Bnh M Chay. Of course the friendly staff will be happy to make any entrée vegetarian if you ask. There is also a list of many different vegetarian entrees including pan fried egg and pan fried rice and noodle dishes.

Vietnamese crepe pancakes are available too. The crepes are prepared in a cast iron skillet with shrimp, chicken, pork, and bean sprouts served with large leaf lettuce, cilantro, and house Vietnamese Sauce.


PHOsoup1Not to steal Captain Dirk's thunder in the review below, I counted 15 different soups available all including your choice of either rice noodles, egg noodles, or a combination of both served with or without homemade pork broth and finished with fried shallots, chives, and a salted radish crumble. All soups include a side of fresh bean sprouts, jalapenos, lime, and thai basil.

Lastly chicken, fish, shrimp, and rice dishes are also on this multi-item lunch list.  Phew!  That's alot of information just to say this lunch stop has a long and varied list of Asian soups, sandwiches, salads, and platters available for hungry GLOBers.  There is a complete Pho Hanoi menu at a weblink below.

As you can see, we spent more time than usual reading a menu of engaging lunch ideas. Our server was very helpful in answering our questions, and my two lunch companions and I ventured into South East Asian gastronomical boundaries of Viet Nam and chose completely different directions.


PHOjanesSMALLPLATEaSweetBerries Eatery & Frozen Custard co-owner Jane Osmond went the small plate route and selected three appetizers from the Khai Vi menu. Of course her intent was to share with her husband, Mark Olson providing he understood he would share his Com Chin Tm with her. His choise was a Vietnamese shrimp fried rice with a wok-fried rice seasoned with soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, and black pepper and accompanied by bean sprouts, scrambled eggs, and scallions.

Jane's plate of appetizers made a good starter to our lunch -- Samosas:  Ground chicken marinated with yellow curry deep fried in wonton skins and served with pineapple sauce; Cha Gi: Crispy fried Vietnamese egg rolls; and Dumplings: Pan fried or steamed ground chicken dumplings served with ginger sauce.

The ginger sauce and pineapple sauce made these treats yummy. The crunch of the deep fried phyllo dough sheets combined with the spicy flavors made these SE Asian appetizers really good.



Mark was presented a giant plate of shrimp fried rice that could have been easily shared by all of us for a healthy, stomach-filling lunch. Mark said he liked the assorted fresh veggies and the ample portion of shrimp.

The GLOB Master ordered a Vietnamese sandwich called Bahn mi (image at top). A Banh mi is an "authentic bite of Vietnam served on a toasted French baguette with homemade paté and mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, fresh jalapenos, cilantro, salt, pepper, and soy sauce." This was a very good sandwich with loads of crunch from the veggies. The peppers and cilantro sent my taste buds around the world trying to decide where the food gods sent me for lunch.


PHOdiningIn true Mike Sanford fashion I was enjoying my sandwich, Jane's small bites, and the most excellent conversation when the server approached asking how lunch was going.

"This is really a good sandwi . . , er, uh Jambon," I exclaimed. "Do you have some spicy mustard I could put on my sandwich?"

"No mustard here," the server said and walked away with a surprised look. I don't care, this is a great lunch stop for good friends, conversation, and an adventurous lunch.   Oh! plus a multitude of soup variations.

The Pluses and Minuses of Pho Hanoi:

The + indicators : Nice dining area, amazing menu, different tastes, textures, flavors.

The - indicator:  I think this lunch stop is for the more adventurous, 'Americanized' lunch outers.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Pho Hanoi.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!



Pho goodness's Sake – lunch is soup-erb

By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Content Editor

On a tip from a good friend – "my favorite restaurant in Gainesville," I went to check out Pho Hanoi. This is a small, pleasant restaurant with outdoor seating. The décor is interesting, but tables are packed in.

For such a small restaurant, the menu is quite large and has great diversity – rice, egg noodle, rice noodle, rice vermicelli, crepes. The menu also has some exotic surprises, such as tripe.

The restaurant was busy and, always a good sign, customers looked to be from the culture of the cuisine served at Pho Hanoi. Of course, there aren't that many Vietnamese restaurants in Hogtown, so maybe it wasn't just the authenticity of the food, but a kind of nostalgia. Either way, the food was quite good as far as a typical 3rd generation European (me!) could tell.

The restaurant is named after the famous soup dish, pho. There is a hilarious essay on how to pronounce this Vietnamese word, generally considered to be 'fuh,' which any fuh-n loving linguist should check out. And note that the entire website is all about loving pho. As a soup lover, I have to agree – this is a pretty special soup.

I ordered chicken pho. In pho, apparently the meat is generally sliced very thin. You get a big bowl of broth containing meat and rice noodles, and then a plate of fresh "condiments": bean sprouts – if you've never had fresh bean sprouts, you are missing out, jalapeno, lime, and a kind of basil that tasted a bit like anise, which is the herb that tastes like licorice.

There is also a spectrum of sauces on the table to add: hoisin -- a thick, sweet soy-ish kind of sauce; fish sauce -- a very salty soy-ish kind of sauce; soy sauce; and sriracha -- the hot sauce of the moment.  I added all the sauces except sriracha since I was putting all the jalapenos in the soup.

The condiments are added to the hot broth and it steeps the condiments like a tea. It's a fantastic dish, and PH does a great job. It's a huge bowl of soup, and I couldn't finish it. I had a little difficulty getting the left overs into the takeout container with all the condiments. The next day (for dinner!) it was even better.

My lunch partner had a beef stir fry with rice. That seemed very ordinary compared with my pho.

The service was slow – there was only one waiter for a good number of people. Everyone else seemed to accept it. But this is not a FOTR place even though it might look like one from the outside. No, this would be a special lunch where you are taking more time than usual. One of those lunches where you would truly get away from the office culture to a culture that is usually on the other side of the world.

The Pluses and Minuses of Pho Hanoi:

The + indicators : The chicken broth was rich and the ingredients you add yourself are very fresh.

The - indicator: Service. And the food, at least the pho, does not lend itself to rushing.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Pho Hanoi.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!


Bento Cafe

Bento brings sushi-boat load of good eats

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

Both Bento Café locations on Archer Road and Newberry Road in Hogtown are not new concepts. However, students, parents and people of all ages flock to this chain pan-Asian and sushi kitchen regularly. I wouldn't even attempt going during peak lunch or dinner hours unless you are prepared for an extensive wait time.


The cooked entrees range from teriyaki, curry and stir-fry creations with protein and veggies to more inspired dishes, like the Cantonese Pork Chop bowl or the Pineapple Thai Fried Rice bowl. Don't even get me started on the sheer number of sushi rolls and bowls available, from veggie-only to standards like the Mexican and Volcano rolls to sashimi bowls and everything in between. For under $10, a sushi Bento box offers a little of everything: a selection of 2 classic rolls and a California Roll ( 4 pieces + 4 pieces + 8 piece California Roll = 16 pieces ). The long lines are almost welcome to give patrons enough time to wade through the sea of meal options. But that is a big ALMOST welcome.


At the Newberry Road location on a Tuesday at 7 p.m., the GLOB team and I were lucky to have just missed the swarm of hungry diners eager to get their hands on some reasonably-priced, casual Asian fare. We had a diverse palate for this particular venue: Mike is not a fan of raw fish; Lynn is slightly more open to the idea; And I love sushi more than most. With that being said, we went in with open minds and empty stomachs to try a little of everything.



It took little convincing, but I sort of took it upon myself to navigate the menu for the team, as I have ordered Bento much more frequently than both of my dining companions. Starting with the cooked items, the steamed pork dumplings were a no frills, tasty appetizer with just the right texture and a tangy dipping sauce. Some clever visual signage persuaded Lynn and Mike to order six of the cilantro wings. The sauce was very tasty and the breading had an enjoyable crispness, but they seemed to be more breading than protein content. I liked that an additional dipping sauce was not needed. Without hesitation, I urged Mike to consider the Spicy Cream bowl as the main cooked entrée, especially knowing his love of spicy foods and the sheer amount of praise I hear about the rice dish. The three of us agreed that while it did not pack too hard of a heat punch, it had a great creamy flavor and texture that offset the thick chunks of slightly breaded chicken. Even the veggies in there had a little something extra to them, which I think is completely due to that sauce.



After a 5 minute wait time for the cooked stuff, the raw side of our menu arrived about 5-10 minutes after. First up was the very large Bamboo roll, which I think was the unanimous winner among the three of us. For $9.50 you can get easily an entire meal out of this 10-piece roll: I was surprised that with a filling of tuna, tempura shrimp, masago, cucumber, jalapeño AND Japanese mayo, the flavors were so cohesive. The avocado, eel sauce and tempura flakes piled generously on top, however, truly shown through with each texturally-rich bite. Sushi is just one of those foods that almost requires you to take a large, somewhat unlady-like bite of food to get all of the flavors as intended.



The Veggie Delite roll -- image at the top of this review -- l was a much smaller, albeit refreshing change of pace filled with a ton of crunchy veggies and fried tofu. I usually like to order a more traditional or popular roll to see how an establishment measures up, and I figured a pretty standard sushi roll, the Volcano roll, would aid in this determination. As Mike described it, the roll was much "mushier" than the others, a filling of krab, cream cheese and avocado certainly playing into it, while the salmon, although baked with the addition of spicy mayo, contributed to such a texture. This fishier roll was still devoured in its entirety, as it was pretty well-crafted. That's an understatement: All of the sushi rolls had a beautiful presentation and were certainly crafted with care and attention to detail. Even the edible garnish was eaten. We had to take the spicy tuna-salmon don bowl to-go because there was so much food, but that is my usual order when I dine at Bento so I knew what to expect.

BENTOrpSPECIALSThere are specials offered every day, so Lynn and I thought we would take advantage of the Tuesday one to each get a boba tea since they were BOGO. I ordered a milk tea with red bean flavor and boba tapioca pearls, while she ordered the green tea with passion fruit flavor and tapioca pearls. I greatly enjoy boba milk tea, so that was a treat. The flavor list is quite extensive, so I will have to come back another Tuesday to take advantage of the mix-and-match special.

MKdrinkAIn addition to the three other Florida cities that Bento is expending into, it is no wonder why the fast-casual Asian spot has developed quite the following in Jacksonville, Gainesville and Orlando (I would go as far as to say it's partially due to a cult following for that Spicy Cream dish). Next time, I would love to try some of their lighter menu options in the form of the Kawaii rolls. These protein and veggie-filled rolls take on a healthier approach to sushi, as they are wrapped in rice paper or lettuce, which significantly reduces calories and that overfull feeling that too much rice certainly provides. I also like a more refreshing approach to sushi, and these lighter rolls allow the taste of the fresh fish to be the star. For a chain restaurant, I think the GLOB team will agree with me when I say we are on Team Bento.

The Pluses and Minuses of Bento Box:

The Bento Box + indicators: Friendly service, standard wait time for food, good value for quantity of food, decent quality considering it is raw fish, extensive and varied menu

The Bento Box - indicators: Can get very crowded.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Bento Cafe.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!




Sushi, variety abound in Asian cafe

By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Content Editor

bentoBento Cafe in Royale Plaza on Newberry Road is generally a very busy place, so people apparently like the food. One thing that might contribute to that is cuisine variety and sushi options. The variety comes in a range of pan Asian cuisines including Korean bulgogi, Japanese tempura, Chinese szechuan, Pad Thai, Malaysian curry, and even a Cajun dish and a range of styles: either rice or noodle bowl or the famous bento box.

The GLOB Master, Joan Morasco, and I lucked out and got to Bento Box between rushes. We walked up to the counter and placed our orders and then took our numbers to a table.

The restaurant décor is modern and sleek, not very cozy, but the tables are very neat – the tops are lighted from underneath. Bento Box is a chain restaurant that uses either red or blue as the theme color. So far there are only two in town (thus the GLOB listing as chain restaurants with more than 3 restaurants in town are excluded). I've also been to the Newberry BB, and it has the blue theme.



Generally I have restricted my sushi experiences to the vegetarian sushi from Publix. Joanie persuaded me to share a grouper sushi and I am very grateful because it was fantastic. The grouper had been battered and fried so the sushi had an unexpected crunch that was a great complement to the rice. And my favorite part of sushi is actually the wasabi combined with the soy. Yum. Sushi also includes sliced pickled ginger, and the BB ginger had a much lighter, sweeter flavor than what I had tasted at Publix. Very nice.

About the time the sushi disappeared, the entrees arrived.

Joanie had come along specifically for some bulgogi, and next time I'm back at bento box, that's what I'll get. The sauce had a very rich, spicy flavor, but yet was not overpowering.

I had the chicken and broccoli with rice. It was a bit dry, so thankfully I was able to pour on a little umami with the soy sauce.

Both mine and Joanie's dishes were similar in that the meat was thinly sliced and tender. As in most restaurants, the veggie part of the dish is not predominant, which always bothers me. BUT the broccoli was crispy good.



The GLOB Master had his first bento box – the Cantonese pork chop. I was a little sorry I didn't also get that style of entrée because the dish comes with standard sides of sautéed green beans (yum, again) and a small salad consisting mainly of iceberg lettuce. The ginger dressing redeems the salad. There is also always rice AND noodles, which I think is a strange combination, but being a carb lover, I'm all for it. Finally there is a cute little coconut macaroon for dessert. Mike thought the pork chops were a little dry.

Overall, the meal was satisfying and the portion was large enough to justify the price. This is one of those fast casual restaurants – it's in between fast food and fine dining. As an example of that, BB does a good job.

The Pluses and Minuses of Bento Box:
The Bento Box + indicators: This good variety of food; there is outdoor seating; great grouper sushi.
The Bento Box - indicators: Can be very busy; the ambience is not cozy or welcoming

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Bento Cafe.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!


Bagels & Noodles

Visitor gives pho, friend, the 'What Pho!'

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

B&NsfMany Gainesville restaurants, delicatessens, and fast food spots have become staples simply because they have been around for many years. It is not until someone visits that you really evaluate these places, especially for those, like myself, who want to show out-of-towners the culinary best of Gainesville.

My good friend Dorothy from my hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla., has visited Gainesville a few times. It wasn't until she heard of a little place called "Bagels and Noodles" that she was intrigued. To anyone else besides Gainesville residents, bagels and noodles sound like the least complementary food items imaginable, from taste to meal to cultural background. And yet, here is the unlikely marriage of two delicious foods. I thought, "Hey, why not try the place again with someone new?"


BNtabkeWord of mouth has been the best advertising for the place by far based on raves over their breakfast and their lunch that I have heard. Until I visited for lunch this week, I had completely forgotten about this place. Was the food just forgettable, or was I so clouded with the plethora of new restaurants that I forgot about this small, long-time Gainesville haven?

It was a perfect Fall sunny day with a cool breeze, a sky so blue, and a daytime moon.

The restaurant, inundated with hungry customers of all ages, gave this indecisive food adventurer all the options in the world in the breakfast and Asian food spectrums. Again, how can the two possibly mesh? From big-as-the-plate omelets and banana pancakes — both of which are beyond tasty and extremely generous helpings for the price — to the highly-proclaimed Pad Thai and noodle dishes, I was overwhelmed. But, as with every food outing during my friend's visit — even though there's never enough time in a trip to cover all the bests, I was giving it my all — I aimed for a well-rounded meal experience, as imposing as the menu was.

Dorothy has made, ordered, and eaten pho more times than she can count but was taken aback when this food adventurer proclaimed a lack of pho experience (sorry in advance for the upcoming puns with "pho"!). Of course, we were obligated to try a bowl of their deluxe beef pho, but the meal would not be complete without a bagel. The adventurer in me needed a unique bagel choice, which the restaurant is known for, and I thought a sundried tomato bagel with sundried tomato pesto cream cheese would fit the bill.

After placing our order, not 5 minutes went by before the bagel was served, and not 10 minutes passed until two heaping bowls full of pho emerged before us. Complete with Sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, and a side plate of bean sprouts with lime wedges, it was high-time for a true lesson on the art of consuming pho, "pho" real!


BNsauceHERBDorothy showed me how to mix the Sriracha and hoisin sauces in a small dish, take the small ladle to scoop some broth and the clear rice noodles and sprouts into the ladle with chopstick assistance, and grab a piece of meat floating among the broth to dip in the sauce mixture. With ladle of broth and noodles in one hand and a chopstick of sauce-soaked beef in the other, we dove right into the meat then, ladle full in one messy slurp, throwing all proper etiquette inhibitions aside. To say the least, it was a process. Regardless, I was extremely drawn to the aromatic broth warming my belly with each slurp; the long noodles curled at the bottom of the bowl in a heap; the hearty chunks of beef contrasting with the crispness of the fresh sprouts and the dark blanket of deep red Sriracha and black hoisin sauces.

For a first encounter with pho, I was enjoying every bite. But it was not my opinion this time that was the deciding factor. My Vietnamese compadre was weighing each component of the Vietnamese noodle soup for elements of authenticity, flavor, and overall execution. Upon the first taste of the comforting broth, she was pleased with its flavor.

"You can taste and smell when the broth has been cooking for a long time and when the herbs and spices, like cinnamon, have been soaking in it. That's how you know it's good," she said.


BNmlLUNCHDorothy not only commented on how the portions were plentiful, but she was also pleased with how well the flavors merged and how the cook definitely seemed to take the necessary time to let the flavors permeate the dish. It takes at least a day for this soaking process, she added, and the longer the soaking, the more aromatic and flavorful the pho. To say that it was the best pho she's had aside from her homemade version is high praise.

With at least a four-star pho-nalé (OK, I'm done) underway, my contribution to the food experience, the bagel, paled in comparison. It's not to say that the bagel was bad — in fact, it was toasted perfectly to a light crisp — but I felt it was overtaken by the pho feast. Regardless, I smeared on a generous helping of the light pink sundried tomato pesto cream cheese to the warm sundried tomato bagel. It was a tasty and hearty breakfast experience, varying greatly from my usual plain or everything bagel and plain cream cheese. The bagel was fresh, and it was a welcome contrast to the large serving of liquid from the pho. While the bagel was flavorful, I am spoiled by the bagels my mom buys from the New York-style bagel shop back home, so I couldn't really boast about this bagel any further.


BNmkpalIn my four years in Gainesville, I have been a few times and didn't give the hole-in-the-wall on University Avenue a second thought. Now, I'm not sure why that is. Not to mention there holds a bit of sentimental value to it: Dorothy and I have been friends even before we had cell phones (I figured that would put it in perspective), and it seems that based on our cultural backgrounds and the closeness of our relationship, "Bagels and Noodles" is the perfect metaphor to depict us. I recommend the place hands-down for a casual Sunday brunch with family or friends, a great breakfast with fellow peers to start the school day, or maybe the place to take your out-of-towners for a wholesome and original experience.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Bagels & Noodles:

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: Great execution of all specialties both Asian and breakfast-related; fast service compared to number of customers; highly-praised; great price for what you pay for.

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: I want to try everything.

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Midtown lunch surprises with menu variety

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

I like to remark that Ward's Grocery is the only market in town where designer beer, vitamin supplements, and frozen pizzas are eight to five feet away from each other.

The Bagel & Noodles breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot might have them beat in the 'we have it all' category.

If you haven't had any reason to be at the corner of University Ave. and 13th St., you most likely aren't aware of this very old building close sitting cozily behind the Holiday Inn that houses Beef O' Brady's. But if you have ever had any kind of UF business taking you close to this very busy intersection, some might say the true heart of Gainesville, you are thinking, "Oh yeah, I know that place."

B&NsilhouteWalking inside B&N you recognize this gow historic old building continues  to be a convenient retreat for UF folks escaping the stressors and issues that encumber all aspects of life of those lunchouters crossing 13th St. to get away from the world of academia.

In the hustle and bustle of orders being taken, served, and eaten, there is a serenity that made me feel I had escaped the real world looming, passing by, outside the large Bagel & Noodle picture windows.

I was curious to see exactly how far this have-it-your-way-lunch stop goes for the hungry lunch adventurer.

I have heard about the fabulous Asian/Vietnamese lunch entrees and tasty soup called pho (pronounced "fuh").

I already knew B&N served a full menu of breakfast fare including bagels, of course, and lox, pancakes, French toast and numerous breakfast specials.

I was surprised to see an even larger list of typical lunch items including sandwiches, cheese steaks, grilled cheese, tuna salads, and hamburgers.

There is a link to the Bagel & Noodles menu below this feature.

B&Nlunch600The tuna salad patty melt sounded like a good lunch for the GLOB Master. After my server listed six or seven bread options for my sandwich, she suggested a bagel and I opted for the Sun Dried tomato bagel toasted with a slice of tomato and Monterey Jack cheese.

It turned out my patty melt was a large open face sandwich with big scoops of tuna salad, tomato, and cheese on both halves of my bagel, photo above.

The sandwich was very good, and the tomato slice was a nice complement to the creamy tuna salad. The toasted bagel and melted cheese 'sandwiched' all the ingredients into a very nice bite size parcel of lunch time joy. The potato salad was an interesting after thought-like addition. Next time I think I will go for the bag of chips instead. My server suggested I might like a side of jalapeno peppers for my sandwich. I wish I had listened to her. Some spicy peppers would have sent this lunch over the mountain top of great lunch time expectations.

I'm usually not the dumbest guy on the bus, and I did feel smart making my visit to Bagel & Noodles when the UF campus was emptying out. A lot of UF types call themselves Bagel & Noodles regulars, and I have heard it can get busy at this close-to-campus lunch stop hideaway.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Bagels & Noodles:

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: Extraordinary selection of lunch items. Interesting elements of campus life within this café.

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China Wok

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Chan's Chinese Take Out

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China King

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China 1

Satisfying Chinese cuisine, egg roll lunch fix

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

There are 64 Asian places to eat lunch in the Urban GLOB.  And this is a story about one of them.

I enjoy Chinese food.

I like the way Asian chefs chop their vegetables in a technique unique to the far east. The veggies are always fresh and crisp -- stir fried quickly so that they retain their color, taste, and crunch.

I like duck, mustard, wasabe, and soy sauces -- they all add an extra flavor punch to what would otherwise be considered an ordinary, boring plate of food.

I like egg rolls. Actually, if I couldn't get egg rolls in Asian lunch spots, there's a good chance I wouldn't have many Asian lunches. I like the crisp fried wonton skins enveloping all that Chinese goodness with a little Chinese mustard that opens up the sinuses as well as any hot sauce in the GLOB.

Finally I really like the Food Network's Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Iron Chef Morimoto is one very cool chef. He cooks up some fabulous meals for the TV show judges to critique – and they are generally very pleased with his dishes.

There. I just gave you the extent of my Asian cuisine knowledge. If there is an Asian eating expert reading this feature story who would like to offer up some oriental cuisine opinions, ideas about this interesting food type, by all means comment at will – or better yet, if you would like to provide a full length feature story, give Mike Sanford a yell:

In the meantime, I am going to tell you about a Chinese restaurant I frequent regularly.

China 1 on the corner of NW 13th St and NW 39th Ave is where I take care of my Asian lunch fix.

It's not a coincidence China 1 is real close to my residence. Like most GLOBers proximity seems to be a good wild card for my lunch choices.

An Asian Food On The Run lunch interlude rings my bell when fresh veggies, stir-fried chicken and a very large plate of white rice beckon my gastronomical soul.

China 1 is not really too different from any other of the Asian mom-and-pop storefronts in the GLOB. They all seem to hint that interesting stories of espionage and samurai warriors are floating around the oriental backdrop of these Chinese quick stops. I will never know the back story though. That's a part of the mystic East that will never meet the twain of my thoroughly Western soul.  besides, I only speak the English

Still, China 1's food is excellent, homestyle Chinese fare.  I add an additional order of veggies to my lunch and I feel very healthy doing so.  The extra veggies, all the rice, the chicken, and the sauce create an incredible smorgasbord on my plate. Plus I will walk out of China 1 with extra food to share. Funny I would use the word smorgasbord, a Swedish word, but then again, many Chinese restaurants are known for their buffets. Chinese 1 is not one of those.

You know what, I feel good about patronizing China 1.  These are good people, working hard to make a go of it. Their kids come to the restaurant after lunch and do their homework when they aren't helping mom and dad out in the kitchen.

So thanks China 1 for making my Asian FOTR cuisine experience nothing but a happy family of good tastes.

The Pluses and Minuses of China 1:

China 1 (+) indicators: The chicken with vegetables, a side of veggies and an egg roll works for me every time.

China 1 (-) indicators:  I have no idea what these folks are saying, but I do know they understand, "CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES"

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Szechuan Palace

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Miraku Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar

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Yamato Japanese Steak House/Sushi Bar

Yamato's serves complete lunch with no sacrificing

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

I can't begin to list how many restaurants people try to cram a party of 8 plus people into for a birthday celebration. Many locally-owned restaurants, while having delicious food, tend to be on the smaller side. Let's face it: Good food is being sacrificed for available space. Again, these smaller places are some of my favorites in Gainesville, but they are not feasible options for large parties.

yamatoCHEFWhile it is not a cozy boutique or a posh Italian eatery, Yamato Japanese Steakhouse, off of Newberry Rd. behind McAlisters Deli, gives the complete meal experience. Not only do you get dinner and a "show," but it comfortably, and purposefully, seats a large party around a large hibachi stove top. You can dine in with your significant other and a few other smaller parties, or you can nicely gather a pile of partiers — I've seen up to 12 —around the same stove-top for more unique dining.

This was the case of one of those birthday dinners, and I was greatly looking forward to the location choice. I have yamatoFIREeaten at Yamato multiple times since arriving in Gainesville four years ago (oh, how the time flies), and I have had nothing but delicious and fulfilling experiences. It is a dimly lit restaurant, complete with up to 10 hibachi stove-tops ready for viewing pleasure, but more on that soon.

Our large party crowded around the stove top table, and of course everyone went straight to the Teppan Yaki menu, where you will find the list of items ripe for the taking, a.k.a. ready to be grilled over the hibachi stove. I always order the steak and shrimp hibachi; it's good, it's filling, and how can you say no to surf and turf for $17 complete with a salad, soup, rice, noodles, and grilled veggies? All of these sides are included with any of the protein/veggie hibachi options. Yes, all of that is included. On this recent occasion, I mixed it up from my tried and true steak and shrimp option with a tofu protein main dish for the hibachi grill. Note: I am not in any way giving up on the steak and shrimp as a favorite or saying it should not be tried, as it is delicious. But I, your resident food adventurer, have to shake the palette up a bit every now and then.

So I'll take you through the night at Yamato's. Each stove-top has a chef assigned to it for the duration of the meal, along with a server. The server takes drink and meal orders, and the hibachi grilling starts soon after. This does not mean that sushi is not be an option; whenever I have ordered sushi at Yamoto I have been thoroughly satisfied, but when in Rome.... Anyway, after orders are taken, all those who selected hibachi start with a bowl of miso soup and a small ginger salad. I have never seen a time when servers did not bring out a bowl to everyone at the same time.

YamatoRICEShortly after the salad and soup are brought out, the chef arrives at the stove in front of everyone with my favorite part of the meal: the shrimp sauce. I slather the sauce on at every phase of the meal, from meat to veggie. Regardless of calorie count, for that one night, it is the most amazing addition to be consumed because it makes everything taste so much better.

The chef begins preparing fried rice, which at many dinners I have been to, is the unanimous favorite and many times replaces the noodles all together for a double side of rice. The meat for each person is brought out and tenderly cooked to each person's specifications. The chef does some spatula slight-of-hand with an egg or two, and we are all served piece by piece each stage of the meal.

yamatoSHRIMPveggiesWhen the veggies arrive, prepare for the onion volcano: A stack of raw onion rings, ascending in size as it is made to look like a volcano, is lit on fire in the middle of the stack with the help of some oil, creating an overwhelming gust of "lava" that is sure to warm your cheeks. These little tricks are a great way to stall the fact that each item has to be made separately to accommodate everyone at once, but it works in everyone's favor.

Once the veggies are grilled and served, noodles are then served — along with heaps more shrimp sauce — and the plate is full, so to speak (you've probably made a dent in some part of the meal somewhere, but it is a ton of food). A $17 price tag, or $11 for my tofu hibachi meal, can seem a bit too pricey, to which I agree for just another night out to eat. However, for a nicer or an out-of-the-box occasion, it is well worth it. Not to mention that the amount of food you get, from the soup and salad to start and the rice, noodles, veggies and meat to conclude, leaves more than enough to take home as well. And it is all so good. Just don't forget the sauce.

YamatoSFAnother thing to not forget: Make dinner reservations. I can't stress enough that a reservation is almost essential for smaller as well as larger groups. Just call ahead. Oh, and your entire party has to be at the restaurant before you can be seated, but once you are all there, I guarantee it'll be an enjoyable outing for all ages.

The Pluses and Minuses of Yamato Japanese Steakhouse

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse + indicators:  Seats larger and smaller parties; varying meal experience; good food and atmosphere; great food to price value

Yamato Japanese Steakhousel - indicators: you may have to be rolled out of here.

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