Archive for May, 2012

To the window, to the walls, to the tapioca balls!

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Nera Deva was another spur-of-the moment idea. Man Biscuit and I were on a journey to buy a keg. The keg store was located in Millenia, which to the unfamiliar is a portion of South Orlando that has blown up in recent times. There’s a huge Target complex surrounded by restaurants, furniture stores and pseudo-yuppies. We snagged our sweet party keg and looked around for something to munch.

Around the corner from the Wal-mart of liquor stores, there was Nera Deva Thai. It looked like any other strip-mall restaurant from the outside, but we do love Thai food and thought to give it a chance.
As we entered the building, I was surprised by the decor. You would ordinarily expect a few artifacts from the native restaurant’s homeland, maybe some table cloths and pictures of the food. This wasn’t the case. Everything was wooden. Natural wood everywhere. Our booth was wood. There were wooden crossbeams everywhere, supporting hanging flowers. There was a large, intricately carved wooden archway on the wall. You could see the dancing spirits of Thai culture, people, animals dragons and all sorts of cool stuff carved into this peice. It was pretty cool.

We sat down and looked at the large menu. There were many traditional Thai dishes, and a bunch we hadn’t heard before. This time we decided to choose only from the appetizer menu, in a Tapis style. We ordered four appetizers. The server brought a photo album with professional looking pictures of each of the dishes. I was getting hungry just looking at it.

The first  appetizer arrived. Steamed Tapioca Dumplings. They were visually very appealing. A sea green color, dusted with sesame seeds. I grabbed my chopsticks and went to flavor country. Well, I tried to. First, let me say that I am a chopstick expert. Not for nothing, but I’ve been using chopsticks for a really long time. These tapioca balls were just a bitch to pick up. They were coated in tapioca. Wobbly, jello-jiggler-like tapioca. When I finally managed to get one into my mouth, it was pretty entertaining. The tapioca coating was thick and gummy, the interior was flavorful and overflowing with porkiness. I just picked up the next one with my fingers, which was nearly as difficult as with chopsticks. If you want to mess with your friends, buy a whole bunch of these and watch them try to get them to their mouths.

The dumplings arrived and were good. They were traditional style in a gyoza wrap and came with a teriyaki soy dipping sauce. I won’t give them points for originality, but they were acceptably tasty.

Another plate landed on he table. Fresh rolls. I know, it sounds vague, but the fresh rolls were interesting. They were essentially a small salad with a piece of shrimp, wrapped into a roll. The dipping sauce was sweet and well spiced. I feel like the lettuce and vegetables in the roll could have used a little more life. There was something missing, flavor-wise, I just can’t put my finger on it.
Lastly, there was the Thai Jerky. Super-fried strips of pork with a thick and spicy dipping sauce. I’ll say it, it was delicious. The spices were rich, the crust crunchy and he pork chewy. It did feel like jerky, but was hot and not too dry. I would love to come back and try the chicken or beef, because the pork was excellent.

We hadn’t had enough with our nibbles, so we ordered a dessert. There were a few interesting sounding dishes, but we settled on the Black Sticky Rice with Coconut and Palm Sugar Caramel Topping. The small black brick that arrived was aromatic and alluring. The sticky rice was fluffy and not too sweet. The coconut and caramel were incredibly sweet, but drizzled artfully so as not to overpower the flavor. I would definitely order it again. In fact, I might look up recipes to see if I can make my own.

So, in conclusion, the prices were fair, the variety was good. Dessert was fantastic. I recommend for anyone who is looking for a bite of Thai.

Having a wonderful Thai-m

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Applecheeks and I were on an adventure getting a half keg for my padre’s birthday. One of the best prices I found was at a place called Total Wine near the Millenia mall.

While we were there we decided to stop off at NaraDeva Thai Restaurant for some grub. Hauling kegs is hungry work. It’s placed in a corner lot with fairly convenient parking. We got in there in the early evening, around 5:30pm on a week day and business was understandably slow. The hostess, server and another lady were chatting quietly at a booth and greeted us immediately.

The decor was pretty awesome. There were plenty of plants and fountains. Lots of wooden decorative pieces and light fixtures.

Our server was very friendly and didn’t mind waiting when we took a while to order. Since I was in a Thai restaurant I had to order a thai tea, sooo tasty. It was a little sweeter than I’m use to but still good. We decided to order all appetizers so we could eat a bigger variety of things.

First up on the hit parade
Steamed Tapioca Balls – stuffed with savory ground pork, sweet turnip and crushed peanuts filling, sprinkled with fried garlic flakes, garnished with cilantro.

My thoughts on this one; They were green and squishy. I don’t have a problem with that but some might. The outside resembles flavorless jello. Which isn’t too far from the truth, when the tapioca is steamed, it gels and creates that distinct squishy outside. The filling was a tad disappointing. I didn’t taste much of the savory ground pork but I would recommend these to impress your friends.

Steamed Dumplings – Steamed Gyoza Wrapper, filled with seasoned pork mix, with garlic chives and shredded cabbage in sesame sauce, served with Sweet & Sour Soy Dip.

These guys I felt were nothing special. Pretty good if you’re a dumpling fan but the portion size is pretty small… which I guess is the point of appetizers?  The sweet and sour sou dip was a good complement to the dumplings.

Fresh Roll – Steamed Rice Paper Rolls, filled with boiled shrimps, crisp vegetables, fresh Thai herbs and rice noodles, served with Sweet Chili Sauce with crushed peanuts.

These guys looked naked with transparent rice paper. Basically you wanna have one of these in between as a pallet cleanser. The flavor is of unseasoned, raw vegetables. For best results, dip the roll in the sweet chili sauce and then into the crushed peanuts.

Thai Jerky – Marinated in flavorful Thai Jerky sauce, deep fried & served with Spicy Lemon & Chili dip.

You can chose between beef, pork or chicken. We went with pork and I was quite happy about that decision. Imagine little chunkies of pork that have been deep fried. That’s essentially what this dish offers. The spicy lemon, chili dip was, at first taste, a bit odd. But it was actually one of the tastiest sauces we had that day. I would totally recommend this appetizer. It’s a little more costly than the others but you get a decent amount of meat for your money.

Since we didn’t get an entree we felt totally justified in ordering dessert. There were quite a few choices that looked delicious. Eventually we ordered Black sticky rice with coconut in palm sugar carmel topping. Heck of a long name for a dessert but it happens to be very descriptive. The dessert features black sticky rice which I think is a wild rice.  It had shredded coconut which was mixed with that palm sugar carmel, topped with Coconut Cream Sauce. That sauce was super sweet but went well with the rice. I’d say the dessert was a winner, especially if you like rice. I don’t know if it was because we were a couple or if it’s how it’s normally served but our dessert was shapped like a heart! <3

Zilly Be Good.

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Nested in the middle of several  businesses surrounding it. The outside is quite humble. When you first walk in, you get the aroma’s floating over to you from the kitchen and the pleasant banter from the host(s). Well, that is a normal visit… as it turns out freaks can smell their own because we were greeted at the door by an overly-enthusiastic previous-night-party-goer. His eyes were red and he looked like he could see for miles.

After he let us walk to our booth, I noticed where a bar would be in a normal restaurant, this place held a coffee shoppe area complete with a barista. We had a seat and within 10 seconds we were greeted by Jade… or Jada? She was very nice and attentive. Unfortunately for her, Applecheeks and I had a temporary mental breakdown while staring at the menu. The number of caffeinated (and non caffeinated.) delights was nearly staggering.

They appear to have a daily changing drink specials. We both went for it but in different ways, I had the iced version (they call it frozenchino) and Applecheeks went for the cappuccino style. Today’s flavor was “Almond Joy”. Sadly, like most frozen drinks (alcoholic ones included) the ice melted quickly and led to a watered down flavor. Before that happened though, the drink was quite tasty, if small. (The photograph makes it look like a normal sized drink, but most of that was large crushed pieces of ice.)

Finally, I arrived a choice for breakfast… see if you like the sound of this: fresh croissant topped with eggs, spinach,ham, cheddar jack cheese  with hollandaise sauce and your choice of breakfast side.

I thought so too! So, I ordered that with their red potato home fries. When this bad boy got to the table, I’d say they’ve got a great presentation and I’m ready to get down on some topped croissant. After the first few bites I noticed a distinct lack of seasoning. There is something to be said about having the ingredients speak for themselves. But even in a fancy steak house, they still use salt. I felt like there was no attempt at flavoring the eggs or spinach. Even the hollandaise lacked that acidic hint you would expect. The red-skinned potato home-fries had the same issue; no seasoning. So in the end both dishes were well cooked, well prepared and well served but lacked seasoning.

That being said, I intend on giving this place another shot. Applecheeks waffle looked awesome and service was great. We may hit up their lunch menu or some such.

I Dream of Waffles

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

There was one thought on my mind as we barreled down the highway at the breakneck speed of 48 miles per hour. Waffles. When I want waffles, I really want waffles…and they’d better be good ones. So, we googled around a bit and found a little place in Downtown Orlando that serves…You guessed it! Waffles!

As usual, it was a biotch to find parking, but once we did the walk from the parking garage wasn’t too far. We popped into the entrance and was greeted by an attractive seating hostess, and an old guy who asked us if we were excited. He didn’t work there, he was just really excited about the food.

“You having breakfast?” he lunged toward us with big, outstretched arms. We involuntarily took a step backward and agreed that we were, indeed, having lunch. “You excited? It’s really good here!” he wiped imaginary drool from his mouth, “Really good!”
The hostess looked a bit uncomfortable, but played it off well. “He’s just really jazzed about our breakfast.” I think he was also jazzed about the sangria, to the tune of 7 cups or so. So, with a glowing review still lingering in our thoughts, we took our seat in a comfortable booth. The lighting was surprisingly romantic for a breakfast setting, there was a bunch of local art on the walls, and a snooty food channel on their over-large flat screen tv’s. In a word, it was “cool.”
We took a peek at the menu, but I was already well positioned to vote for waffles. Man biscuit lingered over the menu before deciding on his own meal. Almost everything sounded amazing. Of course, hunger is a tasty sauce.

We both ordered specialty drinks – the Chef’s Choice. Mine was a hot almond joy cappucinno. It was pretty tasty! Very sweet and more like hot chocolate than a proper cappuccino, but the foam was foamy, the coconut flavor was rich and aromatic, and the sweetness was thick. It was maybe a bit too sweet. I might have preferred an actual cappucino, but for the sake of tasting like a candy bar, they pulled it off. If you want something to kill your sweet tooth, I’d highly recommend it.

After a minor deliberation on the toppings, I did settle for a “Downtown Waffle” with bananas and berries. This also included a glob of whipped cream the size of my fist. The waffle arrived in no time, brought to us by an incredibly attractive server (who reminded me of the chick from Firefly – the tall pretty black one? Married to Wash? I can’t remember her name. Help me out, readers.) Come to think of it, every member of the staff was attractive. It was more like a modeling agency than a restaurant. Even the greasy chefs were hot in a greasy Gavin Rossdale sort of way. Oh right, and they had food, too.

One bite of my giant, fluffy, heartbreaking waffle and I was in love. It was crisp on the outside, warm and inviting in the middle and delicious all over. The fruit was ripened well (though the strawberries were more on the tart-side, the whipped cream helped with this.) The hot Firefly server brought me some syrup in a handy squeeze-bottle (which I imagine cut down on the stickiniess factor.) I didn’t need it. The waffle, cream, fruit and my fork were all that were required for this symphony of happy noises. Waffles, you are my sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray. Sorry Man Biscuit… I’m leaving you and running away with this waffle.

So, that’s the scoop. Sexy watiers and hot waffles, steamy creamy sweet drinks and a cool hipster atmosphere. Check it out, it’s worth a bite.