Archive for November, 2009

LaSalle Grill

Monday, November 30th, 2009

LaSalle Grill
South Bend, Indiana

Good Food : 3/5 | Good Service : 4/5

The husband and I like to go to performances in the South Bend/Mishawaka area when interesting groups or performances stop this way while on their way to bigger cities like Chicago or Indianapolis. We haven’t been to LaSalle Grill in at least a year, so when a local performance group landed at Notre Dame University, we decided to do a pre-performance dinner at LaSalle Grill.

Service is good at LaSalle – the restaurant touts that it is a 4 diamond/AAA rated restaurant, and the quick response of an employee when we walked through the door reinforced their high level and attention to customer service. Making our reservation through their website was also very easy and quick, and changes were equally easy to do when we had to move up our seat time.

With the recent laws requiring dining establishments in the South Bend/Mishawaka area to regulate separate smoking and non-smoking areas, many restaurants have either been converting to all non-smoking or providing separate areas for their smoking audience. LaSalle has always segmented these 2 dining audiences by offering the upstairs Club LaSalle bar area, which is zoned smoking. The main dining area has usually been the non-smoking area, and this had not changed when we arrived. What was surprising to us was the aroma of cigar smoke when we walked through the main entrance door, even though there were no evidence of smoking being allowed in the main dining floor. This is an unfortunate side effect of the restaurant’s decision to offer cigar-themed dinner menus.

With the late fall, the menu reflected this theme. We started with a baked brie appetizer which was paired with an apple-based sauce. While the brie itself was baked perfectly, the apple-based sauce was not strong enough to accompany the strong cheese.

I had a bowl of the chicken dumpling soup while the husband ordered the fall chop salad. The presentation of the salad was very thoughtful – the warm salad was served in a hollowed out baking pumpkin, which was a very pleasing visual presentation. However, the seasoning of the salad itself was too heavy-handed in the vinegar and salt & prevented either one of us from finishing our halves.

Reviewing the menu, we both noticed an effort of incorporating Asian touches into the various dishes and entrees in the seasonings and side accompaniments. I had the pistachio-crusted arctic char filet served with pomegranate-infused long-grain rice and haricot verts & the husband had the pork chop. The fruity-sweet flavor layer of the tea-infused rice was too overpowering, making the seared char filet have little to no taste in comparison.

As we noticed a different sommelier from the last time we dined here, we decided to do the ‘sommelier wine menu’ option – 3 glasses of wine chosen by the sommelier paired to each course. At $15 per person, this seemed very affordable. The disappointing part of this choice was that all of the wine choices came from the ‘by the glass’ menu listing and averaged $4/glass. And in once instance we actually disagreed with the sommelier’s choice.

So while we definitely give LaSalle credit for trying to update their menu and offerings, we have to cite the following shortcomings :

  • The ‘cigar dinner’ offerings that the restaurant has been offering the past few years have unfortunately given the non-smoking dining area a permanent smoke tinge.
  • The current executive chef, which putting together an interesting menu, is not doing a good enough job of supervising the execution. And in several instances, we were puzzled and confused by the ingredient/flavor choices.

Because of these issues, we’ve had to unfortunately put LaSalle on our ‘great in the past but starting to slide’ restaurant list …

Pacific Rim

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Pacific Rim
1309 Joe Harvey Blvd
Hobbs, NM 88242
(575) 392-0030

Good Food : 4/5 | Good Service : 4/5

During my travels to this eastern corner of New Mexico, Tex/Mex, Mexican, steakhouse, home-style cooking and chains seems to be the norm. Which is OK if I’m in the mood for beef or cheap good Mexican food. But it’s an issue when you’ve got that craving for Szechuan or Mediterranean. So what a surprise to find an Asian-themed restaurant in Hobbs, NM during a recent quest for decent Chinese food.

Pacific Rim is run by a local Asian family who own a fairly popular local Chinese buffet restaurant. The restaurant’s title hints at the menu theme – Asian cuisine from countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean area (China, Japan, Hawaii, California). This restaurant was the brainchild of the owners’ son, who went off to culinary school in California and decided to apply what he learned to the family business. The appetizer, soup/salad and entree menus reflect this theme, offering crab rangoon, hot & sour soup and an asian-themed salad. Their signature menu item is the ‘create your own stir-fry’ option. You can choose from several combinations, or create your own if you feel adventurous from a large array of fresh ingredients & sauces.

The drinks menu is also more than the typical light American beer – there is a fairly decent selection of wine and even sake flights available for you sipping pleasure, in addition to the usual soda and sweet tea that Southwesterners seem to drink like water.

Service and ambiance is good for a local-owned place – the restaurant greets you with an impressive waterfall fixture when you first walk in, and the dining area is decorated with rich dark colors. But you can still show up in jeans for lunch and dinner. The servers are very attentive and earnestly want you to enjoy your dining experience.

I was surprised to find sushi on their appetizer menu, but their definition of sushi is commonly available/safe fish. And you really don’t want to be ordering sushi being this far from an ocean. Their chicken potstickers were obviously pulled from a frozen bag. But if you want more than the typical Chinese-American fare in this area of New Mexico, Pacific Rim will help satisfy that desire.

In a concession to customer demand, they’ve added an Italian/create your own pasta’ section to their menu. And they’ve started to expand their menu to include more European cuisines (eg – a spanish paella special they had one night). Hopefully they don’t lose their original idea/mission in their effort to please the local palates.

The only other complaint I have about this restaurant is that they don’t have separate lunch menu pricing. Perhaps this is due to the food supply costs, but most diners expect a lighter/slightly cheaper lunch menu. But with Pacific Rim being as unique as it is in this area, maybe this is not a deal breaker.