28 November 2006

Chambers Kitchen, Minneapolis, MN

The Chambers Hotel opened recently at 9th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis. It bills itself as an art hotel. Chambers Kitchen is the hot, new restaurant in town that’s attracting a lot of attention and a lot of buzz. It’s the brain-child of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, specializing in Asian fusion. My wife and I chose it for my birthday dinner at the end of my Thanksgiving week vacation.

Arriving at the Chambers is an experience. You can come into the lobby bar from an entrance on Hennepin Ave., or you come into the hotel lobby if you use the valet parking service on 9th Street. Either way, you enter a bright, open, and welcoming space. The hotel lobby and the lobby bar fuse seamlessly. In fact, the check-in desk for the hotel is slightly hidden between two white pillars. I suppose the owners of Chambers would object to me calling it a ‘lobby bar.’ They refer to it as a lounge and casual café.

We had a few minutes before our reservation, so we asked to see the art gallery. It’s not large. But it’s nice to see a commitment to original art. The pieces on display the night my wife and I were there were quite modern. We were told that after the initial display, it would be replaced with exhibits of all local artists. Presumably there are original pieces of art in the guest rooms as well.

In my Sept. 11 post on Michelangelo’s in Sacramento, I noted that it bills itself as an art restaurant. At Michelangelo’s, they take that very seriously – there is art everywhere. But sitting in the dining room of Chambers Kitchen, you look around and wonder “Where’s the art?” It’s there. It’s just unobtrusive. Perhaps it’s too unobtrusive.

The other thing about the dining room itself is its industrial décor. While the hotel lobby and bar are sleek, white, and open, the dining room downstairs features an open ceiling, exposed ductwork, iron beams, and the space is broken up by support pillars. The stairway down from the lobby also chops up the space by leading right into the middle of the dining area, almost creating four separate spaces.

We were seated at a table under the stairway. At first we were a little hesitant and considered asking for a better table. But it turned out to be a great table because we could see everyone coming and going. After all, this is a “see and be seen” venue.

We had been warned that the Chambers attracts a young crowd, and that we would feel old. Neither of us found that to be the case. We thought that the people in the lobby bar and the dining room were a nice mix. (The rooftop (5th floor) lounge was definitely more upscale, youth oriented.) Open Table says that the dress code is “casual dress.” The night we were there, people were more dressed up and very fashionable. We only saw one table of people wearing jeans. I had a sport coat and tie, and I wasn’t the only one.

No matter how you feel about the décor of the hotel or the dining room, the real star is the food. In a word, it’s fantastic.

My wife started with a mushroom soup. The server brought a bowl with grated parmesan cheese on one side and charred poblano peppers on the other. Then he poured the soup over the peppers and cheese. The flavors were amazing with pieces of charred peppers mixed with parmesan and the creamy mushroom soup.

My first course was like a Caprese salad made with grilled figs instead of tomatoes. The mozzarella was ‘house-made.’ It was very creamy and yielded nicely to the bite. The salad was served with ice wine vinaigrette, which was very good as well.

For an entrée, my wife chose striped bass crusted in spices and served in a sweet and sour broth. The fish was cooked through, as my wife likes it. The spices formed a crust over the top of the fish. It was a little spicy for her tongue, but tolerable. (She confesses to being a wimp when it comes to spicy food.)

I chose duck a l’orange. A duck breast was served seared and sliced on an orange sauce. I didn’t think the orange sauce was very distinctive. What really made the dish for me was a small mound of shredded Asian pear and crystallized ginger. It complemented the duck perfectly.

For wine, we chose a Moulin-a-Vent, Chateau des Jacques beaujolais. We both liked it very much. It was not too heavy to drink with the fish, especially considering the spice crust.

When we picked Chambers Kitchen, we wanted a special place to celebrate my birthday, and we didn’t care if it was an expensive dinner. That said, we were pleasantly surprised that the evening was not expensive. If we would have had dessert, I suppose the total would have been more. But we left feeling very satisfied.

A final word about service: when we were seated, our server seemed to think we were in a hurry. We were taking our time talking about what we might like to order and selecting a wine. He kept stopping by our table to see if we were ready to order, not in an impatient way, but just checking. When he finally figured out that we wanted to relax and enjoy the evening at a slower pace, he accommodated very nicely. After our first courses were served, we asked him to wait a while before bringing the entrées. He honored the request, and he checked with us to see when we wanted the next courses brought out. He also was very accommodating about taking our photo.

We do have some nice restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul, special places to celebrate a birthday. Chambers Kitchen certainly earned a place on our list for future visits.

27 November 2006

Notes on Thanksgiving recipes

For Thanksgiving this year, I volunteered to bring dinner rolls and a vegetarian entrée. I figured since I was taking the week off, I would have all day on Wednesday to do the cooking.

I got the recipe for the dinner rolls from the New York Times Dining & Wine section online – Wheat & Cornmeal Cheese Rolls. It sounded interesting and calls for fresh sage. Since I still have sage in the garden, I couldn’t resist trying the recipe.

Here are a couple of observations. First, this dough is very sticky when kneading it. I’ve had similar experience with other bread dough that uses cooked cornmeal as an ingredient with the yeast and wheat flour. I kneaded in way more white flour than the recipe calls for, and it still was sticky when I put it in the bowl for raising. However, after raising, the dough was nice and soft and not too hard to work with.

Secondly, as noted, I made the rolls on Wednesday, then I stored them in plastic bags for transport to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. When we ate them on Thursday, I felt that they were tough. I should have freshened them for five minutes in the oven, and I think they would have been better. In fact, I have been toasting them for breakfast this week, and they turn out very well. (When I split the rolls for toasting, there’s a nice spiral of cheese and sage in the middle. Very fun.) So if you make the recipe and don’t eat the rolls when you make them, try warming them in the oven, or toasting them, and I think you’ll like them better.

Finally, I made the rolls with cheddar cheese. It works very well, but I wish I would have made one batch with goat cheese, as the recipe recommends. I think it would be an interesting flavor.

The vegetarian recipe – Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables – came from Giada De Laurentiis show, Everyday Italian on the Food Network. I’ve had the recipe since she made it on a show that was aired last May. Instead of using zucchini and summer squash, I used a butternut squash, peeled and cubed.

The dish strongly resembles a lasagna recipe I’ve made with roasted vegetables. I felt that it needs more cheese (and that would make it even more like lasagna). I think you could double the quantity of the fontina and mozzarella.

So here are the recipes:

Wheat & Cornmeal Cheese Rolls

(From NYTimes, Nov. 15, 2006)

1½ c. milk

1/3 c. stone-ground cornmeal

1½ teaspoon salt

1 packet active dry yeast

¼ c. maple syrup

1½ c. whole wheat flour

1½ c. all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded, or 8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

2 teaspoons minced sage leaves

Scald milk in 1-qt. saucepan. Stir in cornmeal, mixing constantly, and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes until thickened. Add salt and transfer to large mixing bowl.

Place yeast in a bowl and add ½ c. warm water. When cornmeal is no longer hot, stir in the yeast and syrup. Mix in whole wheat flour and then 1 c. all-purpose flour, half a cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.

Knead about 8 minutes, adding most of remaining flour. Dough should be elastic and a bit sticky. Coat a bowl with some melted butter, place dough in bowl, turn so buttered side is up, cover loosely, and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and roll or stretch on a board to a rectangle 12 by 16 inches. Sprinkle cheddar on top (or spread with goat cheese). Scatter with sage. With long side facing you, roll dough up tightly. Brush edge with water to seal it. Cut roll into four equal sections, and cut each section in thirds.

Use half of remaining melted butter to grease a baking pan 9 by 13 by 2 inches. Place rolls in pan with cut side up and brush tops with remaining butter. Let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake rolls 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes more, until browned. Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls apart and transfer to rack to cool.

Yield: 12 rolls.

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

25 November 2006

Introducing the ‘new’ Krik

I got an interesting phone call from a friend of mine a few weeks ago. She’s known me my whole career. In fact, she hired me for my first job after college. She called after she read my blog and had some observations about it.

“I see you’ve got a new name,” she said.

I didn’t know what she meant. At first, I thought she meant my username: SPKrikava. But when I tried to clarify, she said, “No, not that. I see you’re going by ‘Krik’ now.”

“Oh,” I said, finally understanding what was behind her comment. “You’re right. I am re-branding myself. But Krik is a ‘heritage’ brand, not a new name.”

In fact, I went by Krik all the way through high school. I checked my senior yearbook, just to make sure I remembered it correctly. It seems that only the guys called me Krik. Most of the girls who wrote in my yearbook called me Steve. A few called me Steven. One, quite inexplicably, called me Stevie. (If there’s any reason why, I sure can’t remember it now.)

During my college years, only old friends from high school ever called me Krik. By the time I had graduated and got my first career job, no one called me that anymore.

I’ve always been pretty conscious of what I call myself. For the first seven years of my career, I was a reporter and editor. So the name I chose for my byline was pretty significant; I went by ‘Steve Krikava.’ After I started working in government relations, I gradually shifted to ‘Steven.’ For a while, I even insisted on being called ‘Steven P. Krikava.’ But that was too formal, it didn’t feel natural, and it didn’t last long.

I don’t know when I started thinking of myself as Krik again. On my August 31 post, I mentioned how I called my DC restaurant guide Krik’s Picks. Maybe that’s when it resurfaced. Anyway after that, our CEO started calling me Krik, and it just seemed kind of natural.

I also didn’t intentionally start out to re-brand myself. It’s just sort of a reflex response to some of the things happening in my life. Today is my birthday. I’m 55. I actually like birthdays. I’m not self conscious of getting older. But this one seems more significant than most.

One thing that’s significant is that retirement is now an option.

The last time that celebrating a particular birthday made any real difference in my life was when I turned 21. One day it was illegal to buy alcohol; the next it was legal. I didn’t do anything different, just got a day older. Fast forward now to this week. If I quit my job at the beginning of the week, I would have collected my final paycheck and moved on. But after today, whenever I decide to leave Land O'Lakes, I can ‘retire’ and that involves some kind of on-going connection as a recipient of retirement benefits. I didn’t do anything different, I just celebrated a birthday.

And while I’m not planning on retiring any time soon, the chronological possibility is somehow making me consider – what do I want to be, what do I want to do, how do I want to live when I retire. See? Re-branding.

But there’s more. In less than a year, my children will be married. Admittedly, that’s more of an evolutionary step. I’ve been a parent for almost 29 years, and my children have been on their own and independent since they graduated from college. But now they are bringing other people into our relationship. (Fortunately, the ‘other people’ are nice people.) So that changes the way I see myself (as a father-in-law) and the way I relate to my children.

And I’m already a grandfather. It would be easy to think about being a grandfather as simply a variation on being a parent. But my experience so far has been the same as many others who say that being a grandparent is remarkably different from being a parent.

So there, you see, there’s enough going on that’s requiring me to explore new dimensions of my existence. So isn’t it natural to consider re-branding?

Stay tuned to Krik’s Picks and see how the new brand works out.

21 November 2006

A week of fun, food, family

I’m writing this at the beginning of Thanksgiving week. I’m taking the week off, which really means three days of vacation because the office is closed on Thanksgiving day and the following Friday.

It’s a big week for me. At the end of it, on Saturday, I celebrate my 55th birthday. So I’m taking time off to just relax, take time to do some fun activities, do some cooking, go to a few restaurants, and, of course, spend time with family.

Here’s what I did yesterday, on the first day of my vacation.

First of all, we went to the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus. My wife and I both graduated from the U of M, and we enjoy just going to campus from time to time to walk the campus and reminisce.

As you may know, the Mississippi River flows by the campus. The East Bank campus is the main campus where we had most of our classes. The West Bank campus (connected by the Washington Avenue Bridge) was the hippie, counter-culture hangout during the early ‘70s when I was there. Now it’s the location of the new law school and the Rarig Center for performing arts. When I was a freshman, I lived in Middlebrook Hall, located on the West Bank.

Besides walking through campus, we went down to the river and walked for a couple of miles. There’s a nicely maintained walking path that follows the river flats. In the ‘70s, they threw some pretty wild parties on the river flats.

After our walk, we went to Al’s Breakfast for a late morning breakfast/lunch. I mentioned Al’s in my very first post, ‘Welcome’ on August 6. My son works at Al’s, though he’s cut back on his hours now that he’s back in school. He wasn’t working when we went this week, but we had fun with his friends who were working that day.

Al’s is good because it knows what it does well and it doesn’t try to do anything fancy. Eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles – pretty basic but good stuff. I had the Jose – two poached eggs on a bed of hash browns (nice and crisp) with cheese melted over the top, served with buttered toast. Yum! My wife had the Smokey – an omelet with bits of crisp bacon, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese, also served with toast. (She had her toast ‘dry.’ Sad choice.)

My son invented a summer special (scrambled eggs with spinach and feta cheese), a spring special (scrambled eggs with fresh mozzarella and basil), and a winter special (I don’t remember what’s in it, scrambled eggs and something tasty). Of course, all three are available all year round.

On Monday night, I made braised lamb shanks with white beans (recipe in the next post). I’ve been carrying the recipe around in my Palm Pilot for a long time. I can’t remember for sure where I got the recipe, but I think it was from the food page of the Florida Sun-Sentinel. It was an interesting recipe to make. Often, the first step in braising meat is to brown it before adding the cooking liquid. In this case, the recipe calls for searing the shanks in a very hot oven, then adding the beans and cooking liquid.

The recipe says to periodically check the liquid and add more if necessary. I added a half-cup of water after an hour and another half cup during the final 30 minutes. I probably didn’t have to add that last half cup, but I didn’t want the beans to dry out.

We drank half of a bottle of Prunotto Barolo wine. We brought the bottle back from our trip to southern France a few years ago. It was a wonderful wine that perfectly complimented the braised lamb and beans. Trouble is, I can’t find any place in Minnesota that carries Prunotto. So sad.

Try the recipe. I think you’ll like it.

Barbara Kafka's Oven-Braised Lamb Shanks With White Beans

This hearty dish makes an ample amount of richly flavored white beans. Rather than serving the individual shanks as the entree and the beans as the side dish, consider stretching the meal by spooning the beans into shallow plates and shredding the meat over the top.

From Barbara Kafka's "Roasting" (William Morrow, 1995). Makes 4 to 8 servings

4 lamb shanks (1 to 11/4 pounds each), trimmed of visible fat

2 small onions, peeled

6 medium cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup water

2 pounds dried white beans, such as Great Northern or navy, soaked overnight in enough water to cover by 2 inches, then drained

1 bouquet garni (fashioned from a 2-inch sprig fresh rosemary, five 2-inch sprigs fresh oregano, six 2-inch sprigs fresh thyme and 1/2 dried bay leaf)

3 cups canned tomatoes with their juices, tomatoes chopped

1 cup red wine

2 cups chicken stock or broth

About 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Pat the shanks dry and place in a roasting pan large enough for the shanks to fit comfortably without touching.

Roast the shanks for 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn the shanks. Add the onions to the pan and turn to coat with the pan drippings. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan, turn to coat and continue roasting until the shanks are crusty and brown, about 10 minutes longer.

Using tongs, carefully transfer the shanks, onions and garlic to a plate; cover to keep warm.

Pour or spoon the fat from the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons. Place the pan on top of the stove over medium-high heat, add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Using the reserved 2 tablespoons fat, coat the bottom and sides of a large pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, such as a 7-quart casserole, that is large enough for the shanks to fit comfortably without touching. Place half the beans in the pan. Coarsely chop the roasted onions and garlic and spread them over the beans. Place the shanks on top and add the bouquet garni. (If you prefer, you may scatter the herbs between the shanks instead of tying them into a bundle.) Spoon the remaining beans over and around the shanks, spreading them in an even layer. Pour over the tomatoes and their juice, the wine, stock and the reserved deglazing liquid from the roasting pan and cover the pot. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Transfer the pot to the oven and roast for 2 hours, checking the level of liquid occasionally and adding more water as necessary. (May cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Return to room temperature prior to proceeding.)

Sprinkle the shanks and beans with the salt and, using a wooden spoon, work or mix the salt into the mixture. Return the pot to the oven and roast, uncovered, until heated through, about 20 minutes (adding more water as necessary). Remove and discard the bouquet garni.

To serve, either transfer the shanks to individual plates and spoon the beans on top or spoon the beans into shallow bowls and shred the meat over the top.

Per serving: 635 calories, 61 gm protein, 76 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 866 mg sodium, 19 gm dietary fiber.

12 November 2006

Cue at the Guthrie – Take 2

In my October 18 post, I mentioned an experience at Cue at the Guthrie. While three of us at dinner that night enjoyed our meals, we all agreed that the service was mediocre at best, and one of our group was very dissatisfied with his meal.

I went back to Cue later in October, this time for lunch. My brother and I try to have lunch together in between his birthday (mid October) and mine (late November). I suggested that we give it a try, and he was game.

The modern, stylish décor of the restaurant works as well during the day as it does at night. At night, the lighting is all cool and dramatic. During the day, the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the dining room with light and reveal attractive views of the Mississippi river and the hip new development along the river.

This was a birthday lunch, so we started with a glass of wine. We chose a Barbera d’Alba by Pio Cesare. We both started with the puréed white lentil soup with olive oil-baked croutons
and heirloom tomato coulis. I like lentils and lentil soup, and this was very satisfying. The tomato coulis was very flavorful, but the small dollop in my bowl of soup was not sufficient for the size of the bowl they served.

My brother had filet of big eye tuna on grilled whole wheat bread with leaf lettuce,
grilled onion and peppercorn tartar sauce. It was a very attractive sandwich. The tuna slices were about a half inch thick – easy to overcook. But this was nicely seared and medium rare in the middle.

I ordered the wild mushroom risotto with pecorino cheese, crisp leeks and parmesan broth. The flavors were very good. The mushrooms had an earthy flavor and scent that combined well with the cheese. The leeks were a nice touch and lent a textural contrast to the rice and mushrooms. The parmesan broth added moistness to the dish, but not so much that it became soupy.

I liked it a lot, but I think my brother’s sandwich looked better. My wife always says that she likes the risotto I make so well that she never orders it at a restaurant. But I like to order risotto at restaurants to try different flavors and combinations of ingredients. In this case, however, I agree with her. I’ve made risotto with mushrooms and liked it better than what was served a Cue.

Which is not to say that I was disappointed. Overall, I thought the food was very good and a reasonably good value. (You don’t go to Cue for a bargain meal. But the prices were acceptable for a celebration lunch.)

Service, which was mediocre for our dinner foursome, was outstanding at our birthday lunch. Our server was attentive and prompt. She checked in with us regularly, made suggestions but never was pushy. And she graciously took our photo to preserve the moment.

In my October 18 post, I said that I wanted to like Cue. I’m happy to say that it redeemed its ‘miscue’ from our earlier dinner. I’m ready to recommend it and look forward to another meal there soon.

Salt Creek Grille, Valencia, CA

Election Day this year was kind of unusual for me. For the past several years, I’ve hosted an Election Night party at our house. This year, business travel precluded me from putting on another party.

I got up early, as I usually do on Tuesdays, and went to spinning class at the JCC from 6-7. Usually on a Tuesday, I go to the office from the ‘J.’ But this time, I went home instead and had breakfast. (Toasted challah, cheese, a pear, and coffee.) Then I went to the polls to vote. After voting, I went to the airport for a trip to Valencia, CA.

Recently, my job has taken me to California more regularly. And I like California. But most of the time, I’m in Sacramento (see my September 11 posting) or the Central Valley. I rarely go to southern California, and honestly, I don’t really like the Los Angeles metro area. It’s too spread out and traffic is awful. It took me 45 minutes to get from the LA Airport to the Hyatt Valencia.

Once I arrived, however, I have to admit – it’s really quite pleasant. The hotel is right across the street from Valencia Town Center. After getting checked in and doing a little work, I wandered over to the shopping center to look for a place to have dinner.

After checking out several places (some ordinary like TGI Fridays, some interesting but expensive), I settled on Salt Creek Grille. I wanted to eat outside. The weather in Minnesota was in the 50s and damp. The weather in Valencia when I arrived was 95 with low humidity, bright and sunny. By the time I went out for dinner, it had cooled a bit. But it will be five months before I can eat outside in Minnesota again, so that was one of my criteria. Also, the restaurant has a nice range of choices – from salads and sandwiches to fairly expensive entrées, including a selection of prime beef meals.

I was hungry after a day of travel. I didn’t have any lunch, and the shift in time zones made it later than I normally eat dinner. But I still didn’t want to overdo it. So I decided on a salad and a sandwich.

The salad was their house specialty. It was mixed greens with Granny Smith apples, tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette. It was pretty good. I especially liked the apples, pecans, and dressing. I had expected the tomatoes to be ripe and flavorful. They looked very nice, but they weren’t anything special. The gorgonzola was good, but not as robust and salty as I normally like.

For my sandwich, I ordered a blackened ahi tuna steak. It was seared and served very rare. I’ve written in earlier posts that I don’t mind rare fish, and this was very rare. Barely warmed in the middle. But it was very good quality tuna and very delicious. Also on the sandwich were daikon sprouts, tomato, avocado, and wasabi mayo. It was served on Portuguese bread. I picked it up and started working on it. It was a very thick sandwich and somewhat difficult to eat.

I was enjoying it, but I finally set it down and started to deconstruct the sandwich, cutting off smaller bites and separating the different ingredients. That actually made it more enjoyable. I decided that the bread was the main problem. I’m not sure what Portuguese bread is supposed to be like. The bread with this sandwich was sort of like Italian focaccia. But it was kind of dry and not very flavorful. I think the bread was absorbing all the flavor and moistness of the sandwich.

When I started eating the sandwich by isolating the individual elements, it was a lot more tasty. The only other quibble about the sandwich was the wasabi mayo. It didn’t have a lot of spiciness, like I expect from wasabi. I suppose a lot of the mayo was spread on the bread, and when I took apart the sandwich, I didn’t get as much mayo in each bite as maybe was intended.

According to the web site, the Salt Creek Grille has two other locations – one in New Jersey and another in California. Overall, I liked it. I would go back again.

Salt Creek Grille postscript: Wouldn’t you know? The second night of my meeting in Valencia we had a group dinner – at the Salt Creek Grille. We had a choice of the house salad like I had my first night or a Caesar. This time I had the Caesar – good but nothing special.

For an entrée, we had a choice of salmon, a steak, or rack of lamb. I love lamb, so I ordered that. Wrong choice. This was an example of a restaurant trying to do something fancy when plain would have been better. The steak and salmon were simply and nicely prepared. The lamb was nicely done, but it wasn’t great quality meat. They roasted the lamb with a seasoned breadcrumb coating. It did not enhance the meal at all.

For our wine, we have Ravenswood Zinfandel. It was very good and went well with the lamb as well as the steak.