Posts tagged “restaurants

addendum to dream ultra lounge & bar review

Dream Ultra Lounge & Bar: Gulf View, Trinidad
phone: 868-223- CHIC (2442)
dream facebook
Find Dream here on the web

dream mezzanine

This may seem very bizarre in the world of reviews and reviewers and believe me when I say, I have thought about this and tried to reconcile it several times in my head before deciding to post this addendum to the review which I had written a few weeks ago on Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar.

By nature I am very open to learning new things and am extremely eager to get facts straight and this is what has prompted me to make this post today.  If you haven’t read my initial review on Dream, please take the time to read it as I will refer to that post during this addendum so as to clarify my opinions and experiences at Dream.

I decided to take to ‘paper and pen’ today because I feel like I owe everyone reading my blog and especially my reviews, the truth.  I am unbiased in my opinions and serve only to be a vehicle of truth and honesty here at thehiddencook.com and as such feel utterly compelled to make an addendum to my previous review.

I re-visited Dream for dinner a few nights ago with my family and all I can say is that some of my previously noted ‘cons’  have seriously caught up with the people behind Dream.  I’ve also read some comments and other reviews of Dream and have to say that I completely agree with many of the ‘cons’ observed by fellow patrons.  Like some of the other commenters, I too visited Dream at dinner time with my family, including of course my toddler.  To say that I was disappointed would be a euphemism!  After rating Dream’s service, food and decor a high 8.75/10 there was very little that night that garnered that score- in fact, nothing did.

First off, we too were seated in the upper mezzanine- the justification for which is beyond my comprehension- which as one person said and I have to agree, is a ‘death trap for children’. If the owners desire a ‘no children’ policy then I think they would be better off stating that since putting children upstairs is clearly not a feasible idea.  The other issue I had, being a second time diner, is that the portion sizes, tastes and presentation of the food at Dream has been vastly altered.  In my initial post I actually applauded the portion sizes, flavors and prices of the food items, this time…not so much.  The portions have decreased, the items- for instance in the chunky vegetable add-on have changed- broccoli and cauliflower have now mainly been replaced by the more economical carrots and cabbage, and the presentation is appalling.  We too were handed hot plates in our hands, menus were thrown on the table instead of being handed to us, when we asked about non-alcoholic drinks, like juices, one of the waitresses clearly did not know which juices were available, the food arrived in such a haphazard manner that side dishes were brought out long before mains arrived, steak was overcook-waiters never asked how we’d like our steak done- sauces weren’t brought to the table to accompany main dishes.  I mean, this is a place I had been to once before (and on the same day of the week mind you) and I had almost nothing negative to say, this time it was as though I had woken up in some sort of Dream clone-the bad edition!

I am not going to go much further with my qualms about this place.  Suffice it to say I am hoping that management:

  1. Seeks the opinions of their patrons and really listens to constructive criticisms- Dream, your reputation is only as good as your last diner’s experience
  2. Trains their staff to be more formal- your staff simply does not suit your establishment.  If you have a place decked out to look exclusive and expensive (even if you didn’t) you need to train your staff to be more vigilant about their diners.  Orders that take 30 minutes to arrive to the table on a night where tables are virtually empty should at least be RIGHT! You cannot be giving people fish when they ask for beef and vice versa, that is purely unacceptable.
  3. You need to be consistent with your portion sizes and more importantly the taste of your food- there is no good reason to have one meal one week taste superb and then the following week be salty or bland, tough and rubbery.  Where is the consistency?
  4. If your intent is to have an adults only lounge then please, indicate that.  Don’t chuck the children up into an area that isn’t even safe for them and then tack on 10% extra!
  5. If items aren’t available, please inform the wait staff and let them mention that when patrons arrive and are seated- over 3 items weren’t available the night we dined; one of the guests we took actually got do disgruntled he gave up trying to order anything and just left.

In closing, I would like to say that although I was thoroughly aghast at the seeming decline in quality and service in the space of 3 weeks, my motivation for writing this addendum is not to ridicule and criticize Dream, but rather to inform and hopefully uplift it.  I would really like to see this place grow into something better than it is right now so that South patrons could have the variety and option of dining and liming somewhere other than the usual suspects.  I feel that a lot of work needs to be done in order for that to be achieved.

Personal Disclaimer

I trust that anyone reading this will appreciate that I put a lot of energy into writing reviews and getting good, positive information about Trinidad and Tobago-dining, food, entertainment and places of interest- out there.  I take this very seriously since I know that my credibility is all that I can offer using this blog as a forum for information.  That being said, I work to bring the raw truth to anyone reading since I know you may potentially ‘take my word’ and choose to dine/visit somewhere or not.  I will neither review a product or service of someone or something that I am in any way associated since I feel that my opinion may become inadvertently biased nor will I take the opinions of others and use them for my own personal views here at thehiddencook.com.

Ultimately, what I strive to do is present a picture – in an unbiased, objective way to everyone reading this blog.  In the end it is my hope that dining in Trinidad and Tobago becomes on par with that of larger cities like New York, London and Paris and the only way for that to happen is by owners and managers of restaurants listening to their patrons and fixing flaws so that dining can be elevated in our country.  I do not intend to be negative in any way and hope that that is conveyed in my writing, since my desire is to always applaud the positives in any product/service.

This experience has been a learning one for me as it has taught me to visit an establishment a few times well before committing to writing a review; in fact, I will openly state that ‘any restaurant review will only be written after dining/eating at/from said restaurant on at least two occasions.’


david’s tea- a review

thcdavidstea1

Ok, so I was fortunate enough to be given two boxes of David’s tea for my birthday- I am an avid tea drinker, I collect tea pots and all things tea, so this was a great gift!

I had never heard of DAVIDsTEA before, which evidently is a Canadian staple.  The company started up in 2008 and has been enjoying wonderful success since then.  The teas are beautiful and vibrant, mellow and relaxing- all at the same time!  Apparently there are over 150 varieties of tea to be had at David’s tea locations found throughout Canada- I’m thrilled to have 24 in my 2 box sets, plenty for me to get started on!

thcdavidstea2

I’m planning to try one tea each week so that I could fully appreciate the flavor and blends of these beautifully packaged teas, so this is sort of of a ‘part 1 of 24’ series.

What I can say so far is that I simply adore the packaging! The boxes are beautiful and the individual canisters filled with brightly colored, tangibly textured and distinctly perfumed teas are genuine keepsakes.  I immediately thought of brewing the teas, drinking them and saving the canisters for some creative project or the other.  I can’t wait to see what I come up with.  For now though, I’m delighted to savor the flavor of these little unique blends.

With names like ‘forever nuts’, ‘pink flamingo’, ‘saigon chai’ and ‘happy kombucha’ I was enthralled!

My first taste came compliments of ‘saigon chai’ and let me tell you, I was not disappointed! I could smell the cardamom, clove and cinnamon immediately after opening the individually packaged blend, the bright pink peppercorns jumping out at me.  The smell was familiar- those chai spices that I’ve grown to crave from time to time, especially when my mother visits. The saigon chai came in my ‘around the world’ box- an austere black box with beautiful dandelions imprinted in subtle lustre.

thcdavidsteasaigon1

I brewed the recommended amount by the suggested method and time and sat quietly to enjoy the unique fusion of scents and tastes without the addition of milk or sugar- pure, straight, uncorrupted.  The smell permeated our house- warm cinnamon intermingling with the spicy aroma of fiery pink peppercorns and familiar peppery ginger perfectly intertwined with assam tea.  The tea felt rich, yet soothing, hot yet cooling.  Needless to say, my first taste of DavidsTea was a pleasant, comforting and perfectly familiar experience. I look forward to sampling the other blends- don’t know if I’ll be able to try just one each week!

thcdavidsteasetup thcdavidsteasaigondetail thcdavidsteasaigonfinal


dream ultra lounge & bar review

dream menu closeSo, I’m excited about this one;  Dream ultra lounge and bar has been open for less than one month now and I’m getting the opportunity to do a review!  I’m not in any way, shape or form affiliated with Dream Ultra lounge- again, simply went there, ordered, dined and left (remember Bacco Pizzeria Italiana review?)

My good friend called me up out of the blue and invited me out for lunch, with limited ideas but a plethora of excitement (we hadn’t seen each other for months!), we called up some people and asked them for ideas.  It was my husband who suggested Dream- we’d heard of it but hadn’t gotten the opportunity to dine there since it’s opening- my friend and I were game.

So this is the low down- the location is good, it’s pretty central- I mean everything is central in South- the parking is sufficient and the opening hours acceptable.  The one problem I had right off the bat was the entrance.  There isn’t proper signage and the heavy industrial gates make you question whether you’ve found the right place. There were no directions saying this way or that so it’s just a little bit confusing.

dream lounge entrance

dream wall dream lounge

Once inside you’re greeted by a hostess who shows you to your seats.  The decor is modern and sleek with a very sexy color palette- warm burnt oranges and vibrant cherry reds intertwined with subtle taupes and creams, the smooth jazzy tunes blaring in the background only add to the sultry atmosphere- I mean, it is a lounge!  You immediately notice the ‘lofty’ feel- an open mezzanine with tables and chairs overlooking the open floor space, cable wired stair cases and highly polished tiled floors- you can easily envision a ‘pumping’ Friday/Saturday night after work lime or fete.

The staff are very friendly and somewhat informal- giving patrons a sort of ease of dining if you will.  It took me by surprise since I could very naturally see a more formal type exchange between waiter/waitress and diner in an establishment outfitted to the nines like this one.  Either way, what counts for me is an attentive, clean, well-mannered waiter/waitress- which I had.

Now for the most important thing of all- the food.

menuThe menu is simple offering a few choice items- which in my opinion makes sense for a lounge.  There isn’t much frill or fru-fru  to the menu items- unpretentious and to the point.  It’s almost as though the head chef, when creating his menu was saying “you want Thai red curry?  Well, here it is.  You can get it with shrimp, chicken, fish etc etc.  That’s it. You’re done. Choose and move on.”  I like that.  There aren’t pages upon pages of menu items (in fact, it’s a flat menu card- one for drinks and one for food) and noticeably missing were dessert items.

mojitos at Dream lounge

We weren’t offered or given a ‘soft drink’ menu, which I found a slight bit strange.  Are we meant to have hard liquor only? Well, we did!
We both chose Mojitos- not the hardest hard, but who’s checking?

mojitos

When it came to our choices for food we decided to share everything- there was the Thai coconut mint soup, Emperor wings with sweet/spicy sauce (baked not fried), Chicken alfredo and Thai red curry shrimp.  Everything was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! The tastes were subtle, never intrusive, the spice was perfectly adjusted to suite the discerning Trini palette and the quantity? Nobody could even try to accuse Dream of small portion sizes- I felt like a child at a swinging party- party bag in tow when leaving.  I left with more food in my stomach and doggy bag than I had had when I entered, how could that ever be a bad thing?

Thai coconut mint soup baked wings Thai stir-fry Thai red curry shrimp chicken alfredo Dream lounge chicken alfredo @ dream lounge

As good as the meal was overall, these are the minor adjustments I would make or at least take into consideration:

  • The main Thai meals(and I’m guessing the ‘Western Style side of the menu is the same) don’t come with built in sides so you find yourself ordering a dish and having to ‘add- on’ (aptly named ‘add-ons’ on the menu) rice or vegetables or whatnot.  I find this inconvenient as a diner.  I would prefer to have a complete meal as a main since the brain behind the planning (the chef) will know what goes best with what.
  • Although the items in the stir-fry vegetables were varied and delicious, cooked to perfection, some of them were very salty as though salt was added at the end and not fully incorportated.
  • The presentation could be improved upon.  The soup was brought out with the spoon already submerged- I don’t fancy this- unless it’s some small ‘hole in the wall’ eatery. I’d prefer to have my spoon on the table and as the food is brought to me I’d use it.
  • A ‘soft drink‘ non alcoholic menu should be given to diners.
  • The music could be a bit lower and the lighting a bit brighter.  I’m no authority on ‘good restaurant practices’ but I think it’s safe to say that when one dines, one must be able to visualize one’s food in totality.

In all fairness to Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar however, they are newly opened so these little details might well be fixed in due course and my lists are my own and based on my dining preferences so that’s something to bare in mind.

However this is my verdict…

I would definitely recommend Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar!

Here is the breakdown:

Pros

  • Very clean and furnished to a high standard
  • Very reasonable prices especially for the large portion sizes- Dream, don’t get bright and change this!
  • Very romantic (although I would quicker say, sexy) atmosphere- turn on the charm gentlemen
  • Very tasty, well cooked meals- the chef certainly knows what he/she is doing
  • Affable staff
  • Menu is simple without too many distractions
  • The food was brought to the table very quickly
  • Bathrooms are highly sanitized

Cons

  • Card machine was giving trouble- slight inconvenience but no big deal, I think they’re working on it- the manager was extremely apologetic and I see this as a minor con, for now.
  • Could be a bit brighter during dining hours
  • Music could be a bit lower during dining hours
  • Non-alcoholic menus should be given as well
  • Main dishes should be served with at least one side
  • Entrance should be clearly marked and signed

Overall I would give Dream Ultra Lounge and Bar a rating of  8.75/10

Dream Ultra Lounge & Bar: Gulf View, Trinidad
phone: 868-223- CHIC (2442)
dream facebook
Find Dream here on the web

bacco pizzeria italiana review

 

bacco pizzeria

Good day all!

Hope everyone is fine and had a good night’s rest.

Today I am doing my very first food review! I’m pretty excited about this because I’ve been wanting to do one for quite sometime.  So without further delay here is my review on a newly opened Italian pizzeria called Bacco.  You should know that I am in NO WAY affiliated with this restaurant and did NOT inform the owners/staff that I was conducting a review.  I simply went there, dined, took a few photos and left with a heap load of thoughts and ideas.

Bacco is located in Duncan Village in South Trinidad (for those of you who don’t know Trinidad very well, or South Trinidad very well, Duncan Village is located just before Palmiste if you’re going towards Penal/Debe from the flyover intersection by Cross Crossing).  I will try to put in a map if you comment on this post and indicate a need for one.

bacco1bacco2

The owners of Bacco relocated a couple of months ago to Trinidad, their fist pizzeria called ‘La Cantina’ was originally located in Crown Point, Tobago.  The restaurant is extremely no frills.  If you’re looking for a place with fancy tables and place settings, stuffed crusts with dipping sauce, deep pan pizzas, meat lovers, 1000s of toppings, side orders and jungle gyms for the children then Bacco is NOT your place!  If however, you are looking for pizza made with passion and skill, cooked in an open wood fired oven, simple fresh ingredients and a huge variety to choose from, some new to us here in Trinidad, then Bacco is where you need to be!

The selection is seemingly endless- with pizzas consisting of modest single cheeses and marina sauce to ones with anchovies and artichokes, whipping cream and ricotta, buffalo mozzarella and parma ham; you will be very confused the first time you get there.  The doughs are sublimely thin, with a crunchy bite and a floury base.  The pizzas arrive to your table piping hot and sizzling, fresh out of the oven.  The ambience is simple and bright allowing the patrons to view straight to the back where you can witness the whole process from start to finish.  The black boards located at the back showcase fresh cheeses and deli items as well as other Italian delights like eggplant parmigiana.

Bacco menus

Now for my opinion on perhaps the most important thing of all- how does it taste?

Divine!

The first time I tried the pizza I went for simple.  I took the 4 formaggi(cheese)- taleggio, parmesan, mozzarella and gorgonzola.  I wanted to ‘taste’ the pizza- without distraction.  The pizza came sizzling, cheese intimidatingly bubbling atop a visibly thin crust.  I dug in.  The taste was (and I have to say it again) divine!  The sharpness of the gorgonzola was perfectly balanced by the mellowness of the mozzarella, the ‘stretchiness’ of the cheese was fantastic- just what you’d expect from good pizza.  I loved the simplicity of the presentation, no fuss, no frills just good, honest food.

capricciosaLast night we returned for a second round.  This time I ordered a ‘salccia’ pizza- tomato, mozzarella and fresh garlic sausage.  My husband chose the ‘capricciosa’- tomato, mozzarella, Italian ham, olives, artichokes and anchovies. Both were delicious!  I must admit the second night could not surpass the first night for me- I don’t know if it came down to just a preference of taste- the 4 formaggi vs the salccia or if the consistency just wasn’t there.  The crusts seemed slightly thicker this time as opposed to the first (I prefer thin crusts) and the pizzas, though hot, weren’t blistering hot this time. Now, I like hot food HOT. I actually enjoy burning the roof of my mouth- I know it’s weird- but it just signifies a true heat to me.  This time and maybe it also had something to do with the different type of cheeses (?) the pizzas weren’t sizzling like the last time.  The taste was great again but to me, not divine.  I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, because I wasn’t, but it was just, different.  The one thing that is a bit of a disappointment however, was that the mushrooms used aren’t fresh but clearly canned mushrooms.  I would have expected fresh portabella(which we grow locally as well) or fresh button or crimini mushrooms.  I think this could be improved upon- and I’m not the first customer to notice this and wish it were different.

salccia

I like consistency.  I think the mark of a good food establishment- whether it’s your little mom and pop place, a doubles stand, a gyro van or a big fancy fine dining restaurant- is consistency.  In all fairness, I think I would need to try Bacco one more time as a ‘tie breaker’ to see if it’s divine or great.  I would have absolutely no issue with trying it again and would have no reservations about spending another TT$200-TT$500 (that’s about US$35-US$83) on the food- because it was satisfying and does actually make me want more!

The staff is also very friendly and accommodating- especially the owner- a very friendly, warm gentleman willing to explain the menu and make suggestions.  They also make fresh-straight off the fruit- fruit juices with a very very small amount of sugar added, sometimes none if the fruits are very sweet.  We tried pineapple, strawberry/banana and pawpaw.  They were all delicious and reminiscent of the fresh smoothies I make for myself and my family.  We also tried the pies-strawberry and pineapple. The crust was good- could have been a bit flakier in my opinion and the filling was fine- though I thought a tad bit too sweet.

fresh juices

Summary

Bacco is a great place to have a meal if you’re looking for a simple, filling, tasty meal and expecting something a bit different than what you might be accustomed to (Pizza Hut, Papa John’s). It’s also somewhere to get fresh cheeses and other deli items- served with authentic rustic Italian breads- the caprese salad is particularly enjoyable.

I would definitely recommend Bacco!

Noteworthy points

  • The pizzas get cold exceptionally soon after they are taken out of the ovens- so DINE IN!!! You won’t regret it and you’d get a much better appreciation for the high quality and superb taste.
  • There isn’t a linx/credit card machine at the restaurant at the moment- so walk with CASH
  • Closed on Wednesdays- very European!
  • The hours are lunch (12pm-3pm) and dinner from 6pm

Pros

Good location
Good parking- parking extends to the lower level
Great tasting food
Large variety to suit many needs
Delicious deli items, cheeses and breads
Friendly staff
Decent prices

Cons

Closed on Wednesdays
Lack of card machines-maybe they’re just waiting for the machines to be installed?
Lack of fresh mushrooms (don’t know what else might not be fresh)
Can be considered a bit pricey

My overall rating for Bacco Pizzeria Italiana is  9.5/10

 
Bacco pizzeria italiana: 183 S.S. Erin Road, Duncan Village, Trinidad
phone: (868) 653-7261
Bacco facebook

this is pastelle

pastelle

So, as I posted earlier today I ate a really great breakfast; now I want to talk about lunch.  Not my lunch, my husband’s (I ate a really boring salad today, very simple-greens and a couple of vegetables tossed in- this is much more interesting).

pastelle lunch

sparkling water

So what is a pastelle?

Pastelles are a traditional Christmas food of Trinidad and Tobago.  We learned about them from our Venezuelan neighbours and subsequently put our own take on them.  They are essentially ‘meat parcels’.  They are made by encasing a variety of meats in a cornmeal dough, steamed and enjoyed.  That’s the simple definition of a pastelle- the reality is pastelles, like all things worth something, take a great deal of work to prepare.  But they are worth every minute spent in oil and every single of their 400 calories!

IMG_4763 upclose pastelle

How are pastelles made?

I am not including a full recipe on this post now but will definitely put one in the Recipes section as soon as I’m able to. I will however include an outline of the process.  As aforementioned, they are made of meat and cornmeal.  In essence, the meat of your choice is prepared first- popular meats include ground beef(called mince meat in T&T), pork and chicken.  Vegetarian alternatives do exist and include those being made from soya, lentils/legumes, fish, shrimp and vegetables.  Personally, the meat pastelles are my favorite but they are the only ones I’ve ever tried.  After the meat is cooked, olives, capers and raisins are added. The cornmeal is then prepared into a soft dough using butter, oil, water, sugar and salt.  This dough will then be pressed onto a fig leaf using a pastelle press and filled with the prepared meat, folded, wrapped in foil and steamed/boiled.

detail pas

What does it taste like?

Heaven! Ha, no but seriously, I’ve heard comparisons made between pastelles and tamales.  I’ve never tried a tamale so personally can’t make the judgement.  I can tell you this though, no two pastelles taste the same. Everyone has their own special way of making them and sometimes you can come across one that’s terrible- I’ve had a few of them, but thankfully they weren’t many.

berry

If ever you get the opportunity to sample a good Trini pastelle, please do not hesitate to try it. You will be happy you did!

lemon


fishy smells and dirty toes

So in my last post I showed some photos from my market trip.  If you remember in one of my earlier posts ‘my 7 simple ‘musts’ for getting healthy and staying healthy’ I mentioned that I wanted to eat more fish?

moonshine

Well at the Marabella market you can find a wide variety of fish- king fish, sharks, moonshine, carite, cascadura, shrimps, even crabs(mmm, I can taste the crab and dumpling)and more.  I usually go on Sundays and purchase the fish I feel like trying and then cook it immediately; I really don’t like leaving fish for longer than a day in the fridge so I try to purchase and cook the same day.

sharkcascadura

Some of the vendors don’t keep their fish under the right conditions and in this blistering heat I think the fish are at risk of rotting pretty quickly.  So, I’m really careful about who I buy from.  There’s a guy named Ravi who sells at the back of this fish section; his fish is always fresh and kept in a freezer/cooler with lots of ice.  Packing fish on ice is a MUST.  Some of the photos I got today show a little less than favorable conditions, but who am I to judge?  Some of these people get off their fishing boats and come straight to the market and I suppose the turnover is fast enough that it’s safe.

shrimps

bluecrab

What amazed me about the trip to the market- and this is probably only the second time ever I’ve gone to photograph the stalls and bustling activity there- is that the vendors, well not just the vendors, but everyone, is so keen on being photographed! You cannot help but be warmed by their generosity to share themselves.  I haven’t included their images because I am after all, thehiddencook!  However, that doesn’t make me any less impressed and grateful to them for sharing their time and a part of themselves with me.  So, thank you!