52 Weeks of Restaurants – Mumtaz Indian Restaurant

When I asked what she wanted for dinner, Cinnamon’s response was simply “spicy is good”.  That was my cue to look up Indian restaurants, and I found this little gem in Richardson called Mumtaz Indian Restaurant (shout-out to WordPress blogs!).

Mumtaz Indian Restaurant

Mumtaz Indian Restaurant

Sassafras:

I have to admit, I was pretty excited when we decided on going for Indian food. I don’t get a lot of Indian food, mostly because most people I know don’t enjoy it. It’s a real bummer, because I ADORE Indian food. Usually I go to lunch buffets, like Tandoor in Arlington, or Roti Grill in Plano. I haven’t been for Indian food for DINNER in forever.

After a bit of confusion as to where the place was (I very stupidly listened to my GPS – it was mostly right, the place was just further into the shopping center), we stepped inside to a very empty restaurant. It was beautifully decorated, and the music playing was wonderful, but there were only two other occupied tables at 7:30 on a Tuesday night. A few other people came in, but it makes me sad that this little gem is so hidden.

We decided to get the two chef’s special platters. One was vegetarian, the other was not. They seemed sampler-ish, and part of what I love about Indian food is the variety! First to arrive were the appetizers – fish pakora and vegetable samosas. The fish pakora wasn’t heavy at all, but light and yummy, with a little bit of heat (disclaimer: Cinnamon’s and my definitions of “heat” and “spice” are probably different than the average person’s, as we love spicy things). The samosa was freaking incredible, and also gigantic. We split it in half and it still seemed huge! We, uh, may have forgotten to take a picture of those, because we were starving and it looked too delicious.

Platters of Indian deliciousness

Platters of Indian deliciousness

The platters were humongous big. Like, gargantuan. Both had rice and raita, and the non-veggie one had chicken tikka masala, lamb curry, and saag paneer. The vegetarian one had palak paneer, punjabi chana masala, and malai kofta. Some naan and roti accompanied the platters (which took up our whole table). Cinnamon and I are both huge fans of chicken tikka masala, so that got devoured really quickly. As far as I know, that’s the only kind of Indian food Cinnamon had ever had, so it was a new experience for her. The lamb curry wasn’t entirely what I expected – it was much spicier than I anticipated, but fantastic. The lamb wasn’t as tender as it could have been, but whatever, yum! Saag paneer is another favorite dish of mine, and it lived up to expectations, with a little more heat than what I expected. We DID ask for “hot”, but I assumed that was “inexperienced Indian food” hot, and not “hey this is an Indian restaurant you idiot” hot.

I have to admit, we didn’t really get to the vegetarian plate so much, mostly because we stuffed ourselves full of chicken and lamb. We did try everything on it, and loved it all!

When the waitress came by asking about dessert, I got really excited – gulab jamun is one of my favorite things ever, and so we ordered some. Cinnamon, again, had never had it, but I think I’ve turned her into a convert. Gulab jamun is a sweet pastry ball, served warm in a rose and honey syrup. It’s sweet in a natural way, and doesn’t feel heavy at all. It was a great ending to an awesome dinner, and we’ve got leftovers to devour tomorrow!

Cinnamon:

My experience of Indian cuisine is limited. Chicken Tikka Masala, yes please. I had basically found a favorite + stuck to it when I went to Bombay House in Utah once a year. So chalk this up to being more adventurous. In selection of dinner I decided that it needed to be spicy as a decongestant while trying to shake being sick. Sassafras made an excellent choice in this restaurant.

We decided on the Chef’s Recommendations: Mumtaz Mahal Feast (non-veg) + Vaishnav Delight (vegetarian). When they asked what level of spicy we wanted, it was a given that we wanted hot.

The vegetarian samosa appetizer + fish Pakora appertizer went so quickly we did not have the chance to think about taking a photo of it. The fish literally melted in my mouth perfectly. As for the samosa? Again, quickly went. Perfect amount of spice.

Main entrees? All with naan bread, roti (another fried bread), rice pillau, badami kheer. Raita is good to bring down the level of spice when I’d had Indian food in the past. I think I only dipped into it once just to try it. Good, but not needed with all the deliciousness.

Mumtaz Mahal Feast (Non-Veg) – I had never tried lamb in my life before + it was delicious! Makes me wonder why I’d avoided it. Can never go wrong with Chicken Tikka Masala. I could live off of it, so this one more than passed the test. The saag paneer is spinach based with cubes of cheese. I was silly enough to miss the cubes even after it was pointed out. It’s in my leftovers too. Still, delicious.

Vaishnav Delight (Vegetarian) – I got lost in all the varieties + it was all truly wonderful. The punjabi chana masala was perfectly spicy. I really enjoyed the chickpeas. Overall, devoured a lot of it + saved some for leftovers.

As for the service? Wonderful. We lost track of how many times our water glasses were refilled + the obscene amount of water we drank. It wasn’t because we were overwhelmed by the level of spiciness either.

Now I want to go during the lunch buffet.
I actually give this place five stars.

Gulab Jamun, came with two, one was devoured before the photo

Gulab Jamun, came with two, one was devoured before the photo

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52 Weeks of Restaurants – Zuzu

We decided to take a break from Asian cuisine, and went for Tex-Mex instead. We found a cheap, comfortable little place in Lakewood called Zuzu, and were so ridiculously pleased with ourselves for this decision.

The outside of Zuzu

The outside of Zuzu

Sassafras:

Originally, the plan was to hit up Asian Mint, but we realized we’ve reviewed too many Asian restaurants. A quick Yelp search (I’m a Yelp addict) revealed Zuzu, and it sounded pretty quality from the reviews and the menu. I had seen the place before, on the corner of Mockingbird & Abrams, while on my way to my favorite bar in Lakewood, but I’d never stopped in or looked into it. I am so, so glad that we did today!

The outside decor is adorable. If it had been a little warmer out, we probably would have sat outside. I imagine it’s gorgeous at night – they have all these multicolor jalapeno-shaped lights hanging, and it would probably look great with the yellow paint on the wall! Even inside, it’s bright and cheerful, with lots of yellows and greens. There aren’t too terribly many tables inside, maybe fifteen in all. Drinks are self-serve, and they have gargantuan bowls of three different salsas – a traditional red, a tomatillo, and a chipotle red. Overall, Cinnamon and I preferred the chipotle red! It had a delicious smokiness to it.

We placed our orders at the counter – I opted for the chicken cosumel (chicken fajita strips grilled with onions, mushrooms, and spinach, topped with sour cream sauce), with sides of fat-free black beans and green salad with balsamic vinaigrette. I almost asked to hold the mushrooms, but I decided to be brave. I honestly have never given mushrooms a fair chance – they’re like that nerdy boy in school that had a crush on you but you never bothered. Everything was absolutely fantastic, even the mushrooms. The corn tortillas weren’t dry, and fell apart in my mouth. There wasn’t much in the way of spice, but that’s what the salsa is for, right?

Chicken Cosumel

Chicken Cosumel

A few things that I must mention: First of all, their house-blend peach mango iced tea is so off the chain, you have no idea. It’s not overly sweet or fruity, but tastes like TEA, and it’s fan-freakin’-tastic. Secondly, the service at this place is amazing. Every person we encountered was so friendly, and seemed to want to ensure that we had a good meal. I will DEFINITELY be coming back to this place!

Cinnamon:

We thought it would be a good idea to break our repetitive streak of Asian food. The best option was a place something Sassafras had passed by in the past + had previously assumed was expensive. Hello, homemade Mexican food, can’t go wrong there. It was a relief to find it was inexpensive.

The outside is unique, original + unforgettable. I loved the touch of the red + green chili peppers Christmas tree light style on the very top of the roof entrance covering the patio. The brightly painted tables + chairs were something I quite liked too. The inside space was open enough, then you walk up to the counter to order + are given a number. The menu on the site is exactly how it looks on the board. Cost was decent + can’t complain about it.

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I ordered the Poncho Dinner that consisted of a chicken enchilada, crispy beef taco, chicken flauta, small queso + chips. The customer service is one thing that was epic. We were invited to a bigger table + insisted it was cleaned off for us while we got our drinks. We loaded up on salsa for the tortilla chips. Everything was wonderful on this plate. The chicken flauta was not too dry nor was it covered in oil. The chicken enchilada was AMAZING. It was perfect. I didn’t try the taco yet since I saved it for later, but it’s safe to assume it’s just as epic as the enchilada.

Poncho Dinner

Poncho Dinner

Then, tea. The peach mango tea they have was almost to die for.

I tried a piece of the corn tortilla Sassafras had + was stunned to find it was perfect. It’s so easy to mess up a corn tortilla. And suddenly I’m regretting not trying Sassafras’s salad offer. Can never go wrong with Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Easily will go back to this place without any force. Maybe to try breakfast next time.

52 Weeks of Restaurants – Pho Legacy

We know that we skipped a week. We’re sorry, and we promise to make it up to you. Work keeps us busy, and all of that. We did continue our Asian food trend – expect a lot of that, as we eat LOTS of Asian food – with a trip to a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Legacy (no, I’m not typing accents, I’m too lazy for that).

Pho Legacy

Pho Legacy

Sassafras:

The first time I had Vietnamese food was on a date when I was 17 years old. I didn’t eat Vietnamese food again for about seven years – not on purpose, really, I just never found another place. Vietnamese restaurants weren’t super common where I used to live, although in my new neighborhood they’re everywhere. I’m a regular at the Vietnamese restaurant closest to my apartment, and they have even learned my voice, given how many times I call orders in on my way home from work.

Pho Legacy doesn’t disappoint, but I’m not necessarily sure it’s a standout either. It’s a quiet place, although we ate around 3:00 – far after the lunch rush, and way before the dinner rush. The inside is spacious and bright, with lime green accents on the ceiling tiles, lush green plants, and an aquarium housing some seriously sizable fish. The tables are unadorned, but have plenty of condiments – the standard Sriracha sauce, chili garlic sauce, and chili oil. We were greeted by  a waitress, who gestured for us to sit wherever we liked. We opted for a booth by a window – it wasn’t the best view, but hey, I don’t go out to eat for the view.

Crispy Egg Rolls & Chicken Spring Rolls

Crispy Egg Rolls & Chicken Spring Rolls

We ordered appetizers, the same I always get at Vietnamese restaurants, a couple of crispy egg rolls, and some fresh spring rolls. Normally I opt for shrimp spring rolls, but Cinnamon is sadly allergic, so we went for grilled chicken instead. The appetizers came at the same time as our food, which was disappointing, but didn’t take away from the tastiness. The egg rolls were a little greasy, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with a napkin or two. The peanut sauce was wonderful, a little sweet, but not overly so.

Rice vermicelli with chicken and pork skin

Rice vermicelli with chicken and pork skin

It was a warm day out, so pho wasn’t necessarily on the menu for me. Instead I opted for bun – vermicelli rice noodles with vegetables (in this case, lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrots, and radish), and grilled chicken and pork skin. Cinnamon and I traded carrot/radish (she gave me radishes, I gave her carrots), and dug in. The portion size is huge, which I’m sure Cinnamon will get into – she always marvels at portion sizes at some of the places we go to! I honestly didn’t realize what the pork skin was until way afterwards, when I suddenly realized “Hey! That deliciously chewy bit is the pork skin!” The grilled chicken was a little smoky, with a little char on the outside, adding a nice flavor to contrast the fresh vegetables. One thing to remember is that this dish is served cold – the only heat comes from whatever protein you get. I added a little bit of chili oil for some spice, and it was a great flavor, although I’m not sure I’d do it again, as part of the thing I love about bun is how light and fresh it is.

Not my absolute favorite place, but definitely somewhere I’d go again if I’m in the area…Which I probably will be, considering it’s on my way to work!

Cinnamon:

Vietnamese food is something I’m slowly making friends with. Sassafras took me out to I ❤ Pho at the end of last year + I loved it. The atmosphere at Pho Legacy has the laid back feel to it in a positive way. Plenty of space with lots of earth tones minus the random bright green accents. Options of booths or tables with chairs are available. There’s the counter choice if you want your food to go. We seated ourselves + picked up the menus.

The clear plastic cups the ice water came in reminded me of the red cups found in the 90’s at places like Pizza Hut. Strange nostalgia. It made me want to go out + get the red version of the cups for myself. No chewable ice, but the slice of lime was a cute touch.

We tried out the chicken egg rolls + chicken spring roll. Can’t go wrong with either of those. The chicken spring roll comes with an peanut sauce, something I’d thoroughly enjoyed the last time I tried Vietnamese.

Rice vermicelli with chicken

Rice vermicelli with chicken

Since today was a day I needed my upset stomach to settle, I decided upon the vermicelli with chicken. I figured the protein + noodles might help. Still not sure what the carrots + cucumbers are marinated in, but LOVE the taste. Beansprouts are always yummy + as per usual Sassafras got my radish pieces. One day I will work up to developing a relationship with radish. Soon. Not a fan of iceberg lettuce. There’s just something about it I never quite liked; perk of this restaurant is that the default lettuce in the bowl is romaine. As per usual, I thought the bowl was huge. The appetizers certainly added to it too.

Cinnamon's leftovers!

Cinnamon’s leftovers!

The service at Pho Legacy was quick + good.

52 Weeks of Cooking

Sassafras here! I’m a pretty big Reddit user (and by that I mean I read a bunch but rarely comment), and there’s a very interesting and awesome subreddit called 52 Weeks of Cooking. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Every week, you’re given an ingredient, or style of food, or some other prompt (week four is “ingredient you hated as a kid”, which will be challenging for me, as I don’t remember really hating anything as a kid, at least not anything that I don’t still hate), and you have to cook a recipe accordingly. I admit, I haven’t even spoken to Cinnamon about this at all, but I don’t think she’ll turn down the opportunity to eat some food.

Given that I want to cook more, and that I’m always looking for new and fun things to cook, this seems the perfect challenge for me! I tried to do it last year, but cooking for one is just such a pain. I only live a mile away from my mom, so even if Cinnamon can’t come by, my mom is always willing to sample my cooking. Not to mention, my boyfriend is moving in with me in a few weeks, and while he’s not the most adventurous eater, he always tries it if I make the effort to cook it. Maybe he’ll even make a few guest appearances on Sassafras + Cinnamon, either reviewing whatever I make for 52 Weeks of Cooking, or joining Cinnamon and myself for our 52 Weeks of Restaurants.

Week one is eggs, and while I can make a pretty mean Eggs Benedict, I want to try something new. I’m thinking a souffle! I found a recipe that looks delicious – spinach and feta souffle! I don’t know how willing Cinnamon will be to eat it – not sure how she feels about feta, although I did introduce her to creamed spinach a couple of weeks ago, so that part won’t be an issue, at the very least!

52 Weeks of Restaurants: Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen

Sassafras and Cinnamon decided to hop right in to their New Year’s Resolution on January 1 – the first week of 2014 is shortened, after all! Asian food was the decision, and Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen is a brand new restaurant in Koreatown in Carrollton, opening on Christmas Eve 2013.

You can see Kimchi on the far right, the white sign!

You can see Kimchi on the far right, the white sign!

Sassafras:

Now look. I’m Korean, so I have decent standards for a Korean restaurant – if it’s not as good or nearly as good as something my mom can make, it’s not a great restaurant. One thing that Kimchi has that a lot of other Korean restaurants don’t is style – I guess that’s why it’s called Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen. It’s decorated in a very modern, simplistic style, with wooden tables and chairs that look straight out of an IKEA catalog. They serve drinks out of mason jars with handles on the side, and the ice is heavenly. It’s the perfect ice to chew on! The dishes are all white, and never round (with the exception of the rice bowl). It’s very different from most of the Korean restaurants I go to, all of which have grills on the table, private booths, etc.

Most Korean restaurants serve something called banchan, which is a series of small side dishes that the table shares. Normally it’s things like bean sprouts, zucchini, tofu, spinach, and the ubiquitous kimchi. Kimchi is a staple of Korean food – basically pickled spicy cabbage (that’s really breaking it down, though – when my mom and I make kimchi, it’s a day-long affair). Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen doesn’t do this, though. Instead, they serve one style of kimchi with each dish, with no other sides.

Cinnamon and I opened our meal with the Fire Tteok, a favorite of mine since childhood. We devoured them too fast to get a picture. Tteok are rice cakes, not the kind sold in grocery stores in a bag, but chewy.  They’re simmered in a fiery sauce and served warm. I admit, I was impressed with Cinnamon’s ability to eat them without sipping water in between bites! This was some of the spiciest I’d ever had.

I ordered smoked pork belly, which was served with cabbage kimchi (the most common kind of kimchi you’ll find), rice, and not one, not two, but three different sauces. I admit, I only really used one of the sauces – the traditional sesame oil with salt and pepper. According to the menu, the other two sauces were a mustard sauce (I absolutely despise mustard, so I obviously skipped that one), and a doenjang-mayo sauce. The doenjang sauce was more tart than I expected it to be, and I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise. The pork belly was cooked beautifully, with a crisp blackened skin. It wasn’t too greasy, either, which I certainly appreciated. A salad was served on the side, with greens and red onions, and a sesame-ginger dressing atop it. I requested a side of the radish kimchi as well, even though Cinnamon said she wasn’t going to eat hers and I could have it! I ate all of mine, and packaged hers up to take home for myself.

I had already devoured a bit of the pork belly, so the portion size is a bit larger than this!

I had already devoured a bit of the pork belly, so the portion size is a bit larger than this!

Kimchi Stylish Korean Kitchen (despite the lengthy name) was a great start to our 52 Weeks of Restaurants, and definitely somewhere I’m going to end up going again. I have to try those noodles and fried rice dishes, after all!

Cinnamon:

Since moving to Dallas again, my love for Asian food has been renewed + it would be a crime not to make use of the perfect guide. My new favorite hankering is for Korean food, especially of the spicy sort. If it says it is spicy, I’m more than likely to order it over anything else.

The appetizer was the Fire TTeok, which is fried rice cakes in special very spicy sauce. It came perfect to split between two people + left us with three each (although would not object to more as it was delicious). My eyes watered a touch, but that’s nothing new + doesn’t mean it is too spicy for me.

The Fire Smoked Chicken caught my eye quickly. It was covered in a special very spicy sauce. I’m not sure how others gauge the level of how spicy something is since not much seems to make me blink much these days. The piece of chicken were cut into perfect bite sizes with rice cakes mixed in. The sides consisted of white rice + radish. Not a fan of radish, but I skipped over it. Once I was adjusted to the taste of the sauce, I noticed how sweet the chicken itself was. A very nice contrast.

Fire Smoked Chicken

Fire Smoked Chicken

Let’s talk ice. It’s strange, but I do meter restaurants on their choice in ice at times. It’s been a habit of mine to chew on ice since I was little, though I make myself resist completely if it is solid ice. Kimchi Stylish Restaurant has the perfect chewable ice; breaks apart nicely although it remains together. The ice water comes in cute little mason jars with handles. A nice + memorable little touch.

Service? Waiters are super nice, polite + pretty epic. No complaints there + no need to ask for water refills as they’re on it.

All in all? It won’t take any arm twisting if Sassafras wants to return to this cozy little find. There’s even a little wall with strings to each side to clip notes about the restaurant on it. Notes were both in Korean + English. By far the most amusing note was about how the place was so good it made someone bust a nut. It makes me wonder what the patron ate, but it doesn’t surprise me.

The Post-It Note Review Wall

The Post-It Note Review Wall