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Thursday, January 19, 2006

More on Blue Orchid

The Daily Nebraskan featured a review of Blue Orchid today I thought I'd offer as an alternative viewpoint. If you've read J.J. Harder's reviews before you know he doesn't mince words or try too hard to find something nice to say when there's nothing even remotely positive about the restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying it because it's been a long time since I've been able to get consistently good Pad Thai in Lincoln.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lunch at Scrumpy Jack's

I'd been meaning to get to Scrumpy Jack's for a long time but it wasn't until New Year's Eve day that Sarah and I made it. I was also interested in the Doughboyz Bistro which is opening (or may be open by now) next door. The sign on the door said it was opening at the end of December so I guess things were a little behind schedule.

It was a Saturday lunch so it wasn't too busy. There were maybe 5 or 6 tables but probably 2/3 of the place was empty. It looked good. They've done a very nice job with the interior. It was hard to believe I was sitting in the Edgewood strip mall. It felt more like I was in an old building downtown. For me that's a good thing. Others who prefer the atmosphere of Noodles and Co. and the like may disagree. There was also some great jazz playing on the big TV behind the bar. I want to say it was a Jean-Luc Ponty live performance, at least from the sound, but I didn't get up to take a close look at the faces.

The menu was a bit limited as most lunch menus outside the area of East Asian cuisine often are. It was mostly sandwiches, salads and soup/sandwich combos. I was a little disappointed because I'd done soup and sandwich the day before at M13 and the special, chicken alfredo pizza, didn't really grab me.

I rolled with it though and ordered the Cajun Chicken salad sandwich with the soup du jour but the server was a bit confused about the soup at first. She said "potato bean" which sounded a little odd but not unheard of. It turned out to be a delicious creamy potato chowder. The Chicken Salad tasted great but the presence of actual chicken in the salad was a bit low. It was also somewhat difficult to eat the sandwich without things falling off everywhere because the bread was cut in a triangle shape with a very acute apex so at least half of the sandwich was very skinny.

Sarah ordered the Scrumpy Sandwich, which, on paper, sounds like a Good Thing™. From the menu: a choice, juicy 6-ounce strip cut of Omaha Steak, grilled to your liking, served open faced on toasted baguette slices and smothered with sauteed mushrooms and onions. Sarah ordered it without mushrooms because she has yet to learn the joys of eating fungus, and the kitchen delivered it that way. It tasted great. The problem was, the bread disintegrated under the weight of the sauce and the grease until it was serving as a thickener for the sauce. I would have liked to see a little less sauce and grease combined with a toastier toast that would stand up better.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with Scrumpy Jack's but I'm willing to give it a another go. Mr. Wilson is a big fan and the dinner menu is a much more diverse. They serve their filets and strips bone-in which is good to see and they have an au Poivre sauce which is always good. Plus, Scrumpy Jack's has the good sense to have a simple website where you can easily find menus and other information without having to sit through some tedious flash movie that has nothing to do with anything.

Blue Orchid

What I've got here are dueling reviews of the new Thai place in the old Federal Building, Blue Orchid. First is reader Gary's review followed by Blue Orchid through the eyes of ace correspondent, Jack Jackson.

Blue Orchid

by Gary

A friend treated me to a late birthday lunch at the Blue Orchid last
week. This is a Thai restaurant in the old Federal Building at 10th
and P streets. The restaurant is in the south portion of the newly
remodeled Federal Place Apartments.

I was surprised by the elegance of the restaurant, from its open floor
plan to the color scheme and the detail given to dishes, stemware and

The lunch menu was standardized but flexible enough to give you plenty
of options. I believe lunch cost $7.95 and included a choice of two
appetizers (spring roll or Thai roll); choice of soup (Tom Khan or Tom
Yum); and several entrees.

The food and its presentation was excellent, although the service was
pretty slow. I chalk that up to what must have been a new waitress
because she walked as slow as the service. Must not be used to
carrying food or the pace of a restaurant's lunch rush.

I had Thai rolls with a plum glaze and they were spectacular. My soup
was the spicy coconut milk based soup Tom Yum. It was a generous
portion with lots of flavor and not too spicy. My entree was red
curry chicken that came with steamed rice. The portions were, again,
generous and the spice was just right, if not on the bubble for more
spice than I expected. Knowing this, I'm anxious to try the milder
yellow curry next time, assuming it will have at least a little kick
to it.

My favorite Thai restaurant in Lincoln is the Thai House on 27th
Street south of Vine but the food here rivaled the quality of food at
the Thai House. It was hands down a better place in terms of
atmosphere and presentation, although the Thai House has the Blue
Orchid beat on price.

It's nice for Lincoln to have a restaurant that focuses on elegance.
And the price, compared to the atmosphere, is a bargain.

Blue Balls

By Jack Jackson

I went to Blue Orchid this fine Saturday afternoon with four friends after reading the write-up in yesterday’s Ground Zero. I call this review Blue Balls because “orchid” is derived from the Greek “orchis” (ορχις) which means “testicle” referring to the shape of an orchid’s tubers, and my experience at Blue Orchid was a lot like having blue balls, which is the painful feeling a man gets in his testicles after a lot of foreplay but no winning.
First off, it’s a nice-looking place. They spent a lot of money on fixing up the old Federal Building, but they unfortunately spent no money on an experienced staff, either at the front or back of the house. This is shocking, since the restaurant was apparently in Chicago before it came here, and you’d think they’d have the kinks worked out by now. Or maybe they were run out of Chicago because the service was so bad.
Don’t get me wrong. Our server was friendly. But the servers have to bus the tables and fill water and answer phones and it looked like they even had to do some dishes. Other Thai restaurants have basic service figured out without extra staff, like Thai House and Thai Garden, so why can’t Blue Orchid get it straight with multiple servers?
At lunch, for $7.95 you get an entrée, an appeteaser, and a soup. It took forever for anything to show up. We assumed soup would be right out, but we were wrong. When we asked our server why the soup took so long, she said that each bowl of soup is made fresh for each table, whether Tom Yum or Tom Kha. She said it was worth the wait because it was fresh.
I have to digress now to talk a little bit about soup. Soup often tastes better after it is reheated, after it has sat in the fridge and the flavors have coalesced. And what is the point of making soup fresh for each person? That makes no sense. Soup is something a restaurant should have ready to go, ready to ladle out as a quick dish.
It was tasty soup, after twenty minutes of waiting. I am not exaggerating at all about the wait. We waited a full twenty minutes for soup. Whatever “freshness” the soup had was lost on me for I’ve had many bowls of Thai soup in bigger cities and they tasted just as good but came straight away. But our server thinks it’s worth the wait. She is wrong.
And then we were told our entrees were cooked before our spring and Thai rolls, so we had to wait another twenty minutes (no exaggeration) for the rolls. And when the rolls came out, only half of them showed up, even though our server claimed the initial delay was because they wanted to plate all of our entrees at once.
Then another twenty minutes passed (again, no exaggeration) before our entrees showed up. If we had been to Thai Garden or Thai House, we would’ve been done eating at least thirty minutes earlier, and it would’ve been $2 cheaper. One tofu dish came out cold, the result of behind cooked early and then slightly reheated, we figured. We sent it back, and in five minutes, it came back without being heated. The server promised to make it new again, and then it came back five minutes later, the same food on the same plate, microwaved.
And it took another five minutes to get our check. The server passed by three times promising the check, but it still took five minutes.
My advice: don’t go to Blue Orchid unless you want Blue Balls. The wait is not worth it, the food is not any better than Thai House or Thai Garden, and it is more expensive. The décor is simply a waste of money and I doubt they’ll be able to pay their rent for very long.
[Side note: I know it is a more upscale place, but we would’ve appreciated the little caddy of chili paste and what-nots to flavor our own dishes to our own liking.]

As you can see, the service was a bit of an issue. Jack went the day the Korbelik feature appeared in the Journal-Star so that might have something to do with the service issues. Never go to a restaurant the day it gets featured in the local paper. On the other hand, a friend of mine went there for dinner that night and was in and out within an hour.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Catching Up

You might notice some old posts suddenly appearing. That's because some things I started on weeks ago I'm just finishing and I didn't feel like changing the timestamps. Coming soon will be posts on:

  • Jade River - the Chinese buffet where Charlie's used to be.
  • España - Not a Lincoln restaurant but one that everyone should take the time to visit.
  • Top non-Nebraska dining experiences over the last year for those traveling Lincolnites.
  • lunch at Scrumpy Jack's

Also don't forget to check out the new sister site Drinkin' in Lincoln. Now I just need someone to start a public restroom review blog called Poopin' in Lincoln.