Azu - Where's the White Meat?

One beautiful Saturday afternoon, I met fellow Tallahassee blogger Brie, who writes Le Grand Fromage, at Azu - Lucy Ho's latest concept restaurant. If it was anything like Masa, one of my favorite joints in town, I would be totally psyched. However, I knew it was the replacement restaurant for the former Lucy Ho's located near the I-10 overpass and Kaiser University. Hubby and I had eaten there once when we first moved here because we had a hankerin' for some good Chinese food. Sadly, all of our chicken dishes were made with dark meat and hubby's tummy didn't feel so good after our visit (insert frownie face here). So, I was hoping that with Azu would come some major improvements.

The first improvement was their location - Azu is more centrally located off of Apalachee Parkway. The second improvement was the interior of the restaurant. All I can remember about Lucy Ho's were some sticky vinyl tablecloths and flimsy furniture. Azu is decked out in substantial mahogany wood tables and cherry wood chairs. The wood paneled floor, beige and maroon walls and colorful accents also add to the class of the joint. And I personally love the bamboo stalk and Samurai wall. Just cause it makes me smile. I mean, come on, look at those little guys!

Now down to brass tacks, or wonton soup, in this case. It was time to sample the food. Brie and I both decided to order a lunch bento box because of the amount of food we would be able to sample. Each bento box comes with a vegetable, spring roll, noodles, fried rice and side dish of the day, which today was crab rangoon - all for just $8.00! For my bento box, I selected the General Tsao's Chicken and Brie chose the Cashew Chicken.

On the whole, our meals were delicious. The crab rangoon was crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The shells of the spring rolls were light and crispy, the veggies inside were flavorful and the sweet and sour sauce was perfectly balanced with a tart kick. The noodles were coated in a light oil that didn't weigh the dish down, and the fried rice (while not extraordinary) was respectable. I was delightfully happy eating my General Tsao's chicken, which was slightly sweet, slightly spicy, with a pleasantly crunchy batter, just the way I like it - until I cut one of the bigger pieces in half. It was then that I noticed I was eating dark meat. Now, I know that some people genuinely like dark meat, but I am certainly not one of them. To me, it's just a bit slimier, saltier and somehow gamey-er than white meat. Now, Brie's cashew chicken seemed to be white meat - and I'm assuming that's because, unlike mine, it wasn't hidden beneath any batter. I then began to notice that quite a few of my pieces were also slightly fatty. I'm not sure why Azu couldn't spring for all-white meat chicken in ALL of their dishes, but I have to say it tainted my experience just a bit. Brie, on the other hand, proceeded to consume all of her cashew chicken without one complaint.

All in all, I had a rather enjoyable lunch. We got a lot of food, for just a little price. The service was outstanding. I got to meet a fellow blogger and friend with whom I've been exchanging blog comments and emails for almost a year. And I got my Chinese food fix. It's worth mentioning that Azu also has a rather sizeable sushi and sashimi menu as well (just like Masa), which I've sampled during other visits and it holds up to the standard that Masa has set. Now, if I could just convince them to stop using dark chicken meat - we'd be BFFs.

Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - A
Taste - B+ (I'm knocking them for the dark meat)
Presentation - A
Service - A
Price - $

Restaurant Info:
3220 Appalachee Parkway
Tallahassee FL 32311

Azu on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Pet Peeves!

Photo credit:

Last week I read an article from eatocracy entitled "Are you still working on that?" It catalogued some of the most annoying things that servers say and do to their customers. Many of them I agreed with - like the server who conveniently disappears when it's time for the check, or the pitiful looks they give to solo diners, but it also got me thinking about what my own personal grievance list would be. I thought it would be fun to share my list of restaurant pet peeves and then have all of you share yours as well! You know, like a group therapy venting session! But before I get into it, I just have to state (for the record), that YES, I had a waitressing job in college, so I know what it takes to be a darn good server! Okay, so here it goes:

  1. Drinks not getting refilled - This is my number one no-no. When I was a server, my rule was that no glass should ever get more than half empty. Basically, if you can hear me sucking through my straw like an impolite child, it's time to refill my drink!
  2. Empty plates not taken away - There's nothing worse than sitting with a plate full of drippings and crumbs in front of you for 20 minutes. If you come to ask if I want any dessert or coffee and walk away without taking my empty plate, your tip automatically goes down by 2%! Sometimes I get really cranky about it and actually stack the plates up and hand them to the server myself.
  3. Check always given to the man - When I was a server, I always placed the check in the middle of the table. Cause you know what happens when you make assumptions, right? I must admit, it's nice when I'm out with my husband - but when I'm having lunch or dinner with a guy friend, it makes for some awkward exchanges.
  4. Asking if I want a box. When I say no, asking "Are you sure?" - First of all, it's condescending. Second of all, I don't like leftovers. So sue me.
  5. Not making a recommendation when one is asked for - Not being knowledgeable about your menu is inexcusable. Servers should be required to sample all of the dishes - even the ones they may not personally like, in order to answer customer questions about flavor and provide honest recommendations. Not doing so is just plain lazy.
  6. Not being knowledgeable about the wine/beer list - See #5.
  7. Appetizer coming at the same time as your entrees - There's a reason why they call it an appetizer. Because it's supposed to come first! It's really not that hard to stagger when you put the orders in with the kitchen. Learn how to do it. There's nothing worse than taking one bite of your potato skin and then having your entree shoved under your nose!

Now it's your turn! Sound off in the comment section about all those things that drive you crazy when you eat out. You shouldn't keep that kind of thing bottled up. Trust me, I feel better already!

Marie Livingston's - You Clean Up Good, Girl!

When I first moved to Tallahassee, I asked around at work to see if there was a good steakhouse in town. Now, you must keep in mind that this was B.S. (Before Shula's). Someone mentioned Marie Livingston's, so hubby and I decided to check it out. I can't say I was really impressed by our visit. The location was very out of the way - off Monroe, past the Tallahassee Mall, past the I-10 overpass and tucked away as part of a hotel (it had no visibility from the street). We had to turn around a few times before we finally found it. All I can really remember about that first visit was that the inside seemed pretty old, dirty and tired. We were seated upstairs in the loft area - I remember going up some wooden steps - and that the steak was no better than I could have made myself at home. There was no seasoning on it, no sauce and no flavor. There was really no reason for us to go back.

Then I saw that Marie Livingston's was building a new location off of Apalachee Parkway, a location that actually looked like it had a bit of class to it. So when I heard that it had finally opened, I asked a friend to join me there for dinner and see if there had been any major improvements.

I'm happy to announce that the new Marie Livingston's is definitely IMPROVED. You notice it the first moment you walk in the door. The interior boasts a modern color scheme of taupe, black and white with damask print curtains, stylish hanging lights and comfortably cushioned chairs and booths. There are 2 separate dining rooms, one to the left and one to the far right with a bar area in between. It's upscale enough to dress up for a date, but casual enough to meet a friend for drinks after work. Essentially, it's the best of both worlds.

The service is pretty good, too. We were greeted promptly and asked for our drink order. He returned with those quickly and then asked for our dinner order. The only beef (no pun intended) I have with the service is that once your original server gets your order, you don't see them again until almost the end of your meal. Other servers come out to bring your salads, entrees, even refill your drinks. We didn't see our original server again until we had already taken a few bites of our main entree and then he came over to ask how everything was. So while everyone was attentive, you're never really sure who to ask when you need something.

Since Marie Livingston's is billed as a steakhouse, it's pretty preposterous to try anything other than the steak. So, my friend and I both ordered the 7 oz Filet. At $19.99, you get a lot for your money. Your meal comes with bread, a salad and your choice of potato. For those with bigger appetites, you can get a 9 oz Filet with all of the same accoutrements for just $21.99! At half the price of a Shula's steak and with more extras (at Shula's sides and salads are an additional cost), you definitely get more bang for your buck. Now, we just had to see if they tasted any good. But, first things first, let's start at the beginning...with the bread.

I love it when restaurants put more thought and effort into the bread they serve rather than just put out a couple of slices of thick, crusty white bread. The bread you get at Marie Livingston's is not really even bread at all, but hot, doughy rolls. They felt like they were fresh out of the oven! And they're served with a side of honey butter that one of the servers told me is homemade. Ugh, it was delish! I kept re-buttering my roll after every bite. Even though I knew it was totally going to my hips. I just didn't care - that's how good it was.

Next, our salads. Nothing fancy going on here - just some lettuce, tomatoes and croutons. But all the ingredients were fresh - there was no brown or wilting lettuce and the croutons actually tasted homemade as well. I ordered mine with honey mustard dressing and it was sweet and tangy, just how I like it. The size of the salad was what I like to call a classic "side" portion, which I also liked. Enough to whet your whistle, but not so much that you're full before your entree arrives.

Now, let's talk about those entrees, shall we? The steaks were absolutely savory. A better cut of meat than you'd find at Outback or Longhorn, but not quite as superior as Shula's. It definitely holds it's own, though. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a better steak at that price anywhere else in town. They were both cooked exactly as we had specified and came with Marie Livingston's "special sauce." A bit smoky, a bit tangy with a taste similar to A1, but less thick and better tasting. When I asked our server what it was made of, he confessed he wasn't privy to the recipe but he suspected it was a mixture of Worchestershire sauce and soy sauce and probably something else. After tasting it again, I had to agree. You can definitely taste the Worchestershire, which was the likely culprit for the smokiness. Whatever it was, I mopped it all up with every last bite of my steak. As far as our sides go, I ordered the sweet potato that came with cinnamon butter, and my friend ordered a regular baked potato that came with two heaping helpings of butter. They were the perfect compliment to a hearty hunk of steak.

I left Marie Livingston's that night with a full belly and a happy heart, genuinely pleased that a Tallahassee tradition had managed to give itself a face lift and end up looking like Demi Moore instead of Joan Rivers!

Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - A
Taste - A
Presentation - B
Service - A
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
Marie Livingston's
2705 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee FL 32301

Marie Livingston's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Mockingbird Cafe - An Inconsistent Truth

I love eating at new restaurants. I love it even more when the experience is spectacular. Unfortunately, that is not how my review of Mockingbird Cafe is going to go. I wish I could write something different about the new little place that has sprung up in Fusion's old spot, I really do. There were moments of brilliance, but then there were also moments of mediocrity. Unfortunately on this visit, the mediocrities tipped the scale. And that's the honest truth.

My friend invited me to dinner at Mockingbird after having a great lunch there with some of her co-workers. She had ordered the Cobb Salad, raved about the freshness of it and hoped to be able to order it again for dinner. I'd also heard through the grapevine that the transplanted Havana restaurant had a solid reputation. So I was more than thrilled to go with her.

When we arrived, we accidentally entered on the "lounge" side (formerly Tantra), where there were lots of small tables and some live musicians were setting up. Wanting to be able to hear each other talk, we walked over to the "cafe" side to get a table. I expected a complete re-imagination of the space. With a name like Mockingbird Cafe, and knowing about their original Havana location, I expected something akin to the Central Perk coffee shop from Friends (see the photo below).

You know - big comfy couches and chairs, quaint and colorful artwork gracing the walls, even perhaps some sort of antiques filling in the empty spaces at the edges of the room. However, there was hardly any imagination applied to the redecoration. The tables and chairs are the exact same as those that Fusion used. And where Fusion's walls were maroon and grey, they have simply repainted them to a more neutral palette of white and beige. While some may think this a drastic change, it didn't make the place feel cozy, so much as sterile. And the large photos that graced the wall gave off a very depressing vibe - a Padaung woman with neck rings, an elderly African man with his head in his hands - not really the types of images I want to look at while I'm trying to enjoy a good meal and a fun evening out.

So, we averted our eyes and turned them to our menus. My friend didn't see the Cobb Salad on the dinner menu and so she asked our waitress about it. We were told that unfortunately, it couldn't be ordered at dinner. So, we asked the waitress if she had any recommendations. When she said that everything was excellent, it should have been my first clue. Usually when a waitress tells you this it either means she hasn't eaten any of the food (or at least not enough to feel comfortable selecting a favorite) or that none of the food is very good. We pressed her a little bit and she eventually told us that she can never bring herself to order anything except the Ribeye. She admitted she'd tasted a few other of the dishes, but the only thing she's eaten completely is the ribeye. So, my friend decided to order that. I opted for the Almond Crusted Mahi-Mahi. But first we decided to start off with an order of Sweet Potato Fries.

Now, these sweet potato fries were one of the shining stars of our meal. Cut thinly, dusted with sea salt and served with a side of bourbon barbecue sauce, these little beauties were honestly like crack. My friend and I did not stop eating them until every last little bit had disappeared from the plate. I generally like a good side of tangy honey mustard sauce with my sweet potato fries, but I thoroughly enjoyed the bourbon barbecue sauce. The bourbon added a little touch of sweet kick and kept the barbecue taste from being on the smokey side. It was a good start. I was looking forward to being WOWed by the entrees.

Unfortunately, I had no such luck. We'll start with my dish - the Almond Crusted Mahi-Mahi. Now, I'd hardly call that piece of fish crusted with almonds. Yes, there were almonds sprinkled on top, but to me, crusted means that there is a crust that goes all the way around the entire piece of meat - usually made up of crushed nuts, pretzels, coconut or something to that effect. Not so. It was supposed to have a honey-lime glaze. I didn't taste a hint of either honey or lime on this fish. It was also supposed to be served with a coconut-curry sauce. Now, generally a coconut-curry sauce is somewhere in the range of a white or light orange sauce. As you can see from the picture, this sauce was a deep red. And again, tasted neither of coconut, or curry. It actually tasted like it had more of a tomato base, which would account for the deep red color. It wasn't spicy, it wasn't sweet, in fact, it didn't really have much flavor at all. I felt the fish was a bit on the dry side, which with Mahi-Mahi isn't unusual. I find most people tend to overcook Mahi-Mahi, which is why I rarely order it at restaurants. But I though with it being glazed and then served with a sauce, that would cancel out or at least cover up the dryness. There was no covering it up, this dish just didn't work. And the napa cabbage stir fry that it was served with was not my cup of tea either. The bitterness of the cabbage and the saltiness of the soy sauce just didn't sit well together. I took two bites and abandoned it completely.

Now, for my friend's dish. At the recommendation of our waitress, she ordered the Blackened Angus Beef Ribeye. She wasn't sure about the tomato hollandaise sauce that it was served with, so she asked to have it put on the side. It was also served with beer battered onion rings and a side of mashed potatoes. I know that a ribeye is a particularly marbled cut of meat (aka: it has some fat in it), but it seemed like my friend's cut was mostly fat, and only some meat. It was also fairly cool by the time it had been brought out to our table. Not good. Fortunately for her, the mashed potatoes were outstanding. Very creamy and with a nice buttery taste, they just melted in my mouth. And because I could see some skins in the potatoes, I'm guessing they were homemade. My friend also thought the onion rings were quite good, with thick cut onions and a light, crunchy batter. I, as you all know, won't touch an onion with a 10 ft pole, so I've just got to take her word on it. Oh, and the tomato hollandaise sauce was fairly savory, even though it does sound a bit weird.

Determined to make up for our less than satisfactory entrees, we decided to order dessert. We selected the Vanilla Cheesecake, which came topped with blueberries and raspberries and was served with a sliced strawberry and whipped cream. What the entrees lacked in flavor, the cheesecake more than made up for. Fresh, fluffy and delectable, with visible flecks of vanilla bean, this cheesecake is one of the best I've had in years, outside of my own wedding cake (and that's saying a LOT!). Again, it tasted like it was made fresh, and not simply cut from a frozen pre-made concoction. So I'll give them credit for that.

Overall, I'm not sure this place lives up to all the hype I've heard. I'm willing to assume that I may have ordered wrong, or the chef may have been having a bad night, or that their lunch menu is simply better than their dinner menu. But all I can tell you for sure is that my experience was a very inconsistent one.

Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - C+ (I wish they would have made a bigger departure from Fusion, and featured some more uplifting artwork)
Taste - C+
Presentation - A
Service - A
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
Mockingbird Cafe
1225 N Monroe St
Tallahassee FL 32303
Website Link

Mockingbird Cafe on Urbanspoon

Angelette's - Southwoodians Rejoice!

First of all, yes, Southwoodians is the correct terminology for all those of you who make your home in the community of Southwood! Because I made it up, that's why. And now you have something to be truly happy about, because after living with only Burger King and China Wok in your neighborhood for who knows how long, you are now graced with the presence of Angelette's Cajun Kitchen!

Tucked into the Publix strip mall off of Blair Street, it looks fairly unassuming on the outside, but don't let that fool you. This. Place. Delivers. The servers are attentive, the food is outstanding and the price is just right.

But, before I get into that - let me talk a little bit about the environment of the restaurant. There aren't a TON of tables - perhaps about 8-10 inside and only a few outside, and when I arrived at 11am on a Sunday to meet my girlfriend for brunch, I snagged the last table in the joint. It's a comfortable hodge podge of tables and chairs of various colors, shapes and sizes, set against a palette of beige, sage and rust colored walls. And while the artwork on the walls is almost too small in size to be impactful, the food and service more than makes up for it.

I was promptly greeted at the door, ushered to a table and asked for my drink order. As I waited for my friend to arrive, my server checked in on me one more time and I decided to go ahead and get an order of beignets for my friend's arrival. I just HAD to compare them to the yumdillicious ones that I had at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans recently. Honestly, I wasn't sure they would be able to measure up, but they certainly held their own. Presented with just as much powdered sugar and with the same sweet cakey pastry dough, the only difference was that Angelette's were hollow inside. But I'd like to think that means that I consumed less calories!

As I looked over the menu, I was struck by the fact that every item was priced under $10. While that would usually make me a little nervous (you get what you pay for!), I had only heard good things about Angelette's, so we forged ahead. For our main courses, I ordered the Bananas Foster French Toast and my friend ordered the Egg Platter. OMG - this place is seriously wrong (and I mean that in a very, very good way)! That is the BEST french toast I've ever had in my life. It was thick sliced, served with warm bananas foster sauce and crunchy caramelized pecans. The warm ooey-gooey bread and bananas, drenched with the brown sugar, cinnamon and dark rum of the foster sauce was enough to send me to the moon and back - but the pecans - ugh, the pecans added the perfect bit of crunchy texture that sent me beyond the moon into the heavens itself. This dish is NOT to be missed!

Okay, now on to my friend's dish - which I can't comment too much about because she totally scarfed it all before I could even try any of it (I still love her, though!). She ordered the Egg Platter, which was composed of 2 eggs made to order (she chose scrambled egg whites), your choice of grits or home fries (she chose home fries) and she added on an order of bacon. When I looked up and saw her plate completely empty with only a few crumbs, I asked her how it was. Her answer was that although these are fairly standard breakfast items, that they were cooked to perfection and tasted great.

Throughout the whole meal, our server was right there with waters, clearing our plates and asking if we needed anything else. The check was brought to us promptly and even after we had paid and were just sitting and chatting, she came and checked on us one last time. Talk about service! Finally Southwood has a great little local eatery. FINALLY! Now, if only they could get a decent bar or two...

Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - B+
Taste - A+
Presentation - B+
Service - A+
Price - $

Restaurant Info:
Angelette's Cajun Kitchen
3551 Blair Stone Rd
Tallahassee FL 32301
OPEN Tues - Sun, 6:30am - 3pm
CLOSED on Mondays

Angelette's Cajun Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Fuzions - Yogurt Your Way

It's been a while since I've done a posting on a dessert place - oh, who am I kidding, it's been a while since I've done a post AT ALL - but I'm definitely excited to tell you about Fuzions. It's a fairly new joint that has popped up on Thomasville Road next to Red Elephant and Five Guys, which makes it very convenient if you want to grab something sweet after dining at either of those establishments (which I highly recommend).

Painted in bold swaths of orange and red, decked out with funky hanging lights and equipped with plenty of seating inside and out, it's one of only a few yogurt/ice cream shops that I'd actually want to spend any time in. Fuzions has definitely made an attempt to rise above the two sticky-topped, wobbley-legged tables you'll find squeezed into a tight corner at those other places. Its contempo-chic vibe is only augmented by the fact that Fuzion's yogurt flavors are non-fat, low-calorie and contain probiotics that support a healthy immune system! In other words, it's yogurt for the yoga crowd. But don't worry - unlike rice cakes and fiber cereal, this stuff actually tastes good!

Now, that's not to say that you can't get yourself into quite a bit of guilty trouble with some of their toppings - which include a bevy of chocolate offerings, brownie bites, cookie crumbles and candy pieces among others. But if you MUST insist on consuming an entirely healthy snack, they also offer fresh cut fruit, granola and nuts.

The very best part about this place is that it's completely self-serve. Their yogurt flavors change weekly and there are usually 6 offered at a time. They put out little free sample cups (see the one on the right in the above picture), so that you can taste all the flavors first to decide which one is your favorite. For those of you who are part of the cheap college crowd - that alone could be your dessert! But, if you're willing to go further, all you have to do is pick out a big cup, mix up to 2 yogurt flavors and then load it up with your favorite toppings. The price you pay is based on the final weight of your creative concoction.

For my first foray into the world of Fuzions, I selected the Coconut and BlueRazz flavors and yummied them up with peanuts, chocolate chips, cookie dough and gummy bears. I swear I really tried to be good and only put on fruit and granola, I SWEAR, but I just couldn't help myself. That cookie dough was eyeballin' me! I'm just lucky I was able to get out of there without adding some cheesecake bites as well! The flavors themselves were not as tart as some other yogurt places I've been (think Pinkberry), but were still quite wonderful. I liked the Coconut flavor better as it was a little on the sweeter side, but hubby liked the BlueRazz for its tangy kick.

Yes, it's fun. Yes, it's delicious. But the absolute best part about this yogurt is that it doesn't leave you with that oh-my-god-I-just-gained-10-pounds-can-somebody-roll-me-outta-here? feeling. The yogurt is light and fresh and satisfying, but you can still look at yourself in the mirror when you go home that night. And for me, that makes it worth it's weight in gold. Or pound cake squares.

Tally Foodie Rating:
Atmosphere - A
Taste - A
Presentation - Depends on your own artistic abilities!
Service - Again, it's all you!
Price - $

Restaurant Info:
Fuzions Frozen Yogurt
1870 Thomasville Road
Tallahassee FL 32303

Fuzions Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

About this blog

This blog is dedicated to giving you honest reviews of local restaurants in Tallahassee and the surrounding area. I won't hold any punches, you'll hear about it all - the good, the bad and the (hopefully infrequent) inedible!

This blog was written from July 2009 - August 2010 and is now retired. I currently live in Sarasota, FL...stay tuned for more on my adventures there!