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Restaurant Review: The Spice December 15, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Ames Restaurants.
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Well, unfortunately it has been awhile since I have blogged. This is mostly due to the fact that first I got injured and then I got sick. I am active in Taekwondo and I was testing for my black belt two Saturdays ago. I had an excellent testing until the end. I was sparring (fighting) and basically got kicked in the leg pretty hard. This injury rendered me unable to walk for two days and left me hobbling for a week. This made cooking hard and I really didn’t feel like blogging since I couldn’t cook. Then, just as my leg was starting to get better I got sick with whatever is going around and that really didn’t put me in the food blogging mood.

Even through all this, some exciting things have been happening. The women in my family all got together and baked cookies. It was great fun, but I was still recovering so I didn’t really take pictures or get recipes.

But, there will be more baking to come. I have a lot of plans to make cookies to give as gifts and for a cookie exchange. I am planning on making truffles again (maybe raspberry chocolate truffles…) to give out in the exchange. I know they aren’t cookies, but a lot of people give caramels and fudge so I think truffles will work well too.

I have kept this restaurant review in a file for awhile. I intended to do this a couple weekends ago, but never got around to it with the whole testing preparation, injury and illness thing. So … here it is… better late than never…

The Spice

One of Ames’ other newest restaurants is a place called The Spice. It is located at 402 Main Street. They serve Thai cuisine in a somewhat upscale environment. This is definitely a place you could take a date. Their presentation is excellent and their food is very flavorful.

What they offer

The Spice offers Thai cuisine for dine in. Their menu includes all Thai entrees as well as a decent selection of appetizers, drinks and desserts. They are open Mon-Thu 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-9pm; Fri-Sat 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm. They also accept reservations!

Ambiance

The Spice is tastefully decorated with good lighting. There are booths and tables you can sit at and the booths are very nice and intimate. The music in the background is not distracting and fits the ambiance well.

Service

The service I have received there has always been excellent. Our waiters are always very attentive and keep us up to date on the status of our food. There can be quite a wait on busy days at the Spice, but they do take reservations, which is excellent.

Food

The first thing I always order when I go to the Spice is a mango smoothie. They have the best mango smoothies ever. They cut up real mangoes and blend it up and serve it nicely garnished in a pretty glass.

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The other thing I like to order is the Chicken Pad Thai. I have not had Pad Thai very much in my life, but I really like this dish. They sprinkle ground peanuts over it and it has a delicious mildly sweet flavor. The chicken is cooked correctly goes well with the rest of the dish.

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This past visit to The Spice, we actually ordered dessert. This was a fantastically plated hazelnut mousse tart. Three of my girlfriends and I shared it together and it was divine. It was rich, with a deep dark chocolate flavor. They also served it with some raspberry sauce and a small fork that was perfectly sized for eating such a rich dessert. It was well worth the price paid.

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Paying, Price, and Portion Size

Unfortunately, it has been a couple weeks since I have been to The Spice and my copy of the receipt has disappeared. So, next time I go, I will update this section with pricing. In general, I would say for the amount of effort they put into presentation, and their use of quality ingredients, that the price is fair. In terms of price, this is not on the same level as most Asian restaurants in the area. It is slightly higher but well worth it. In terms of portion size, I think they are excellent. They give you just enough food to make you comfortably full. Light eaters will probably be able to take some home and heavy eaters will still be able to eat an appetizer and a dessert with their meal.

I really think The Spice is worth trying, even if you are wary of Asian cuisine. They have a variety of dishes (curries, noodles, etc.) and present them well. The environment is relaxing and well-lit and the prices are fair. The food is tasty and offers some new flavors to the Ames dining scene.

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Restaurant Review: Smoke N’ Antlers BBQ October 24, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Ames Restaurants.
3 comments

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In Ames, the southwest side of town is really starting to develop. There are lots of apartments for students to live in and the bus runs right through the area, making it a great place for students to live. However, it also is developing a very nice residential area with single family homes.

Naturally, new restaurants are going to pop up in this area. One of which is a new barbeque place called Smoke ‘N Antlers. It is right next to the West Town Pub where Buckets used to be.

The restaurant is owned and operated by a man who has spent a lifetime barbequeing. He started out in Texas barbeque contests and cooking for large church groups. Then, he opened a restaurant in small town Roland, Iowa. Now they have moved it to Ames to bring the goodness of their barbeque to the college masses.

What They Offer

Smoke ‘N Antlers offers Texas Style barbequed meats and sides. They have reasonably priced sandwiches in three different sizes (1/4 lb., 1/3 lb. 1/2 lb.). They seem to have more sandwich selections than one of the other local favorites, Battles BBQ. They have sliced brisket, pork, ham, BBQ pork, BBQ beef, a brisket, pork and ham mix, as well as a two meat option.

They also have several supper options that feed anywhere from 4-6 people. They offer pork and beef ribs, lamb riblets, pork, ham, brisket, and chicken. They have a reasonably priced children’s menu with many options for kids.

Some options of ordering food from Smoke ‘N Antlers are through delivery (minimum order $15), carry-out, dine in, and even catering. They have excellent hours as well. They are open Monday-Friday 11am – 2pm & 4pm – 11pm. Saturdays they are open 11am – 11pm and Sundays they are open 11am – 9pm. You can also check out their website at http://www.smokenantlers.com/

Ambiance

Since this is a new restaurant and they just moved, I wasn’t really taking the ambiance into account. It looks like a fine place to eat and there was country music playing which makes sense since it is a Texas barbeque place. It is kind of smallish, probably a little bigger than Battle’s before they moved, if that helps.

Service

The service was good and they were very friendly. The food was ready to carry out in maybe 10 minutes and there is always the option of calling ahead for faster carry-out.

Food

We got the Chicken Special which had 2 white meat pieces and 2 dark meat pieces, 2 sides and a choice between 6 slices of Texas Toast or 4 garden salads. For our sides we chose coleslaw, baked beans, and Texas Toast.

Let me say, the chicken was excellent. It was nice and smoky and moist, for the most part. The white meat was a little dry, but still delicious. The meat alone is worth the trip.

The Texas toast was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. It was a lot crunchier than Battle’s Texas Toast (but I really am partial to Battle’s delicious, soft, slightly sweet, Texas Toast).

The baked beans were pretty decent, if not a little too sweet. The coleslaw was a little too onion-y for my tastes and not sweet enough, but my husband liked it.

Paying, Price and Portion Size

We paid $12.99 for the whole chicken dinner and it fed us for 2 1/2 meals. I used the smoky leftover chicken for some tortellini and chicken in a garlic-sun-dried tomato cream sauce. It was great. Then, my husband had the rest of the leftover chicken the next day.

Summary

So, you definitely get a good deal when you go here. The portions and prices are good, they are friendly, and they DELIVER! Ames really needs more food delivery options (other than pizza and Golden Wok), so I’m glad this place stepped up to the plate and I hope they continue to do so!

I would definitely go here again. I am really excited to see what their sandwiches are like and even what their ribs are like too. Definitely a great new place to check out in Ames next time you are hungry!

*UPDATE*

I went back again to pick up some of their sandwiches to try for dinner and they are awesome. I had the sliced brisket and it was the juiciest, most flavorful barbequed sandwich I had had in a long time. My husband had the BBQ pork and that was really good. Their sliced, smoked meats are exceptional!

Restaurant Review: Olde Main Brewing Co. & Restaurant October 1, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Ames Restaurants.
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Olde Main is a favorite of mine. My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner there and their environment is pretty nice. Also, I’m pretty impatient when I’m hungry, and you hardly ever have to wait to be seated there.

What They Offer

Olde Main boasts “handcrafted food” (I’m not sure what that means… isn’t most food handcrafted?), seasonal menus, an executive board room, a featured chef’s table, fresh brewed beer and root beer, a casual atmosphere, a private dining area for parties, carry out, and full lunch and dinner service. They also have delicious Black Angus Beef and Seafood. They also have a Sunday brunch where you can have as much of their delicious prime rib as you want. I will say that on Sundays their desserts and

They are open daily at 11 am and the pub is open until 2 am. They are located on Main Street and there is free parking behind the restaurant. Their restaurant is non-smoking, although I believe you can smoke in the pub (not that I smoke). Check out their decent looking website to learn a little more.

Ambiance

The restaurant has a open design with wood floors and stylish decor. Each area of the restaurant has a different feel. If you are seated near the bar there are big screen TVs with sports or TV shows on them. You could go there to watch “The Big Game” if you wanted to. Another area is away from the TVs and has booths and tables and is nice. There are two other sections that are more dimly lit and private. One has booths only and the other has tables only. The private party section is upstairs and is decently sized, though rectangular in shape.

My one complaint about the ambiance is that they have music inside their walls. If you happen to get stuck sitting next to a speaker that is hidden inside the wall, you will be forced to listen to the music being piped out of it. Sometimes I think that the music is too loud, especially if you are trying to have a conversation while sitting right next to the embedded speaker.

Service

Usually, I get pretty good service at Olde Main. As with most places, servers can be hit or miss. One time my friend ordered a beer and the waiter never brought it and forgot some other things that my friends had ordered. However, the experience I am blogging about was very good in the service area. Our waiter was great. Very friendly and honest about the menu items. I think his name was Alex. He got our drinks quickly and even apologized about only having Seafood Bisque soup (I was feeling sick and really wanted soup, but seafood bisque was NOT what I wanted). He did a nice job keeping our drinks refilled and checking to make sure everything was okay. My meat was a bit undercooked and he quickly took it back and had it cooked a little longer. He was very prompt and attentive to my five other friends and I. It took about 1/2 an hour from the time that we ordered before we got our food.

Food

I ordered one of my favorite items, the Mediterranean Salad. I apologize that I don’t have a picture of it, but next time I get it, I will take one. I always order this salad with beef. This salad comes on a huge plate with romaine lettuce, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, tangy marinated onions, artichoke hearts and plenty of feta cheese. The beef on top came well-seasoned and warm. On first bite, I realized that my meat was really rare. I like my meat about medium rare, so as I said earlier, I sent it back and it came back medium rare and delicious. (Although my husband loved the rare piece I gave him!)

The salad comes with a tangy, vinaigrette and Mediterranean spices. It is sweet and clings to the artichokes in just the right way. I feel like some people might complain that the salad has too many salty ingredients, but I think it is an excellent balance with the tangy-sweet dressing. This is a salad I will order again and again. It is filling and tasty.

However, some meals at Olde Main are hit or miss. My friend ordered the vegetarian calzone and did not like it. It was filled with eggplant, mushrooms and other veggies. Among my friends, we have this rule that mates get first rights to their other half’s leftovers. This dish was passed from my friend, to her boyfriend, and then to our other friend that is the least picky eater I know. He is known to eat just about anything and is affectionately called “the trash compactor” because he can just keep putting food in and not get full. He can eat all of this food and still maintain his slim physique. Even he did not like this calzone. His main complaint was that it was served on a pool of runny marinara that soaks quickly into the dough and makes it soggy and slimy. It did not look or sound very appetizing (although he did finish, so it was at least edible).

For desert, I ordered the Peach Crepes. These are excellent. You get two decent sized crepes stuffed full of warm peach filling. These are then drizzled with a fantastic caramel sauce. I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream for 50 cents. They were great. My friend ordered the angel food cake with berries and deemed it, okay. It was good, but not the best thing she ever had.

Paying, Price, Portion Size

The tickets were delivered to our table by our waiter in the little leather booklets complete with a pen. It did not take too long for our waiter to run our credit card and return it to us, although it will depend on your waiter and how busy they are. I have had it take awhile to get my ticket back at Olde Main.

My salad was $7.95 + $3.95 for the added steak (you can add steak, chicken, shrimp or almond crusted duck). My peach crepes were $3.99. Sometimes Olde Main can be a little expensive but it is usually worth it.

The portion sizes at Olde Main are usually pretty good. You usually get more than you can eat, unless you are a hefty eater. However, they don’t give you a ridiculous amount of food. I was able to eat all of my salad and 1/2 my dessert.

Summary

Overall, Olde Main is a great place to go for a nice dinner or Sunday brunch. A good choice for a place to take a date, too. It can be a little hit or miss in some areas, but overall, definitely a good place to eat.

Restaurant Review: Bali Satay House October 1, 2006

Posted by Sarah in Ames Restaurants.
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On Thursday night, we went to Bali Satay House in Ames. This restaurant has been in Ames since 1992 and I had never been there (I’ve lived in Ames all my life!) However, my husband recommended it, so off we went.

What They Offer
Bali Satay house offers Indonesian and Chinese cuisine. Their menu was decently sized. They offered many house dishes and had a large vegetarian section. They also have seafood dishes, rice and noodle dishes and classic Chinese dishes. There are many bottled beers as well as plenty on tap. (Bali Satay house becomes a kind of bar in the evening and they often have live bands and entertainment). They have a medium sized wine list with whites and reds. They also have fun specialty drinks like Avocado Shakes and Tapioca Bubble Drinks. They also offer the usual soft drinks and such.

Their hours were a little confusing. They boasted that they were open 7 days a week, but then said they were closed on Sunday. Maybe they don’t serve food on Sunday. Bali Satay is also a popular place for the local college students to hang out and they have live music at least 4 nights a week. Check out their website for more information on their entertainment.

Restaurant Hours: Mon-Thurs 11-3, 5-9; Fri & Sat 11-9, Sunday -closed

Ambiance

The building is medium sized and there are booths and tables. They don’t mind shoving a bunch of tables together to serve large groups either. When I was there, they had some nice jazz playing in the background that wasn’t to loud or too soft. There is plenty of natural light coming in from the front windows. I’m not sure what it would be like at night, but it wasn’t too dimly lit. Also, I wasn’t positive on this, but I think they have wireless internet for their patrons to use…

Service

Our service was decent. Our waitress was very friendly and was able to recommend items from the menu with confidence. She also checked to make sure that it was okay that my dish had egg in it, which is nice. We seated ourselves and were seen by the waitress within 2 minutes of sitting down. Our drinks and appetizer were ordered and we were given menues. 7-8 minutes later we ordered. The waitress misheard my husband’s order so he had to wait awhile for his food to come out. My food came out after 15-20 minutes. My husband’s food came out 15-20 minutes after mine.

Food

My husband ordered Mello Yello and had no complaints. I ordered lemonade and it was about the same color as his Mello Yello. When I tasted it, I was pretty sure it wasn’t Country Time because it didn’t have the chemical-y taste, but it was extremely sweet. My husband likened it to Lemon Drop Candy in drink form, which I thought was appropriate. So, I don’t think it was homemade, but I don’t think it was regular fountain Country Time, but I could be wrong. I would not order lemonade there again.

For our appetizer, we ordered the Chicken Spring Rolls. On the plate, were two spring rolls with a little dish of sweet and sour sauce. The ingredients were wrapped in a flour-type spring/egg roll wrapper. Inside was the typical cabbage, carrots, seasoning, and of course, chicken. There was also a hard to identify purplish-black thing, which I think was mushrooms, but could have been overcooked red cabbage. Overall, they were pretty good. They were a pretty typical egg roll that I would order again.

For my entree, I ordered something called Vegetable Kwetiew. It is pictured below.

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It had thick rice noodles, tofu, egg, and a mix of vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green onions, bok choy, and different types of mushrooms. The tofu was not overly fried or chewy (like some restaurants make it), and the vegetables were nicely steamed. It was slightly greasy, but I’ve had greasier. The one complaint I had was that it was not flavorful enough. It had a sauce with it but I would have preferred more of it. Some of the more absorbent vegetables soaked up some of the sauce and it was a slightly sweet and flavorful. Overall, it was an okay dish. It was pretty good, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. There are better things on the menu than this… like what my husband ordered…
My husband ordered Spicy Curry Lamb. I am not a big lamb fan. However, when it came it was presented beautifully and looked delicious.
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The lamb was well seasoned and extremely tender, as you can see. The meat had an excellent curry flavor that was not overpowering. You could tell that they use good curry powder. No Tones curry powder for them! The meat and sauce was not overly spicy, but spicy enough to please my husband. It was served with a pickled salad, which was spicy, and perfectly cooked white rice. I would definitely order this dish, especially if you like lamb and curry. I will certainly be trying some of their other meat and curry dishes in the future.

Paying, Price and Portion Size

Our ticket was delivered to our table by our waitress with a Blueberry Hill red and white mint. We were able to pay with a credit/debit card and we didn’t have to wait very long to get our ticket, or our card back.

They have really reasonable prices. Our meals were each $6 -$8 each and the spring rolls were around $3.00. Drinks were about $1.50 each. The total price of our meal was $20.58.

The portions were decent. They weren’t overflowing like at many typical Chinese restaurants. There was enough that you could eat and be full with maybe even some room left for dessert. I felt that our meal was worth what we paid.

Summary

Overall, I like the Bali Satay House. I would go back again and choose something off their meat menu, probably something with curry. I was pleased with their many vegetarian options and wide variety of drinks and meals. The prices are reasonable and they are friendly. I would suggest checking it out next time you are going out to eat in Ames.