Category Archives: Reviews

Want a Great Night Out? Try…

McEwen’s on Monroe


Hit or Ms. is pleased to introduce our first GUEST BLOGGER, Kelly Daniel!! Whoo hoo! Kelly’s a fellow downtown resident that loves giving kudos to local restaurants and happily wrote about her recent experience to McEwen’s. So read on and enjoy!

Last Saturday night my husband and I, parents to 15 month old twin boys, had a very rare dinner out planned with another couple to celebrate my birthday and Mother’s Day. Since our nights “out on the town” are few and far between these days, we knew that we wanted:

a) some place special

b) somewhere we had never tried before.

After asking several other friends for recommendations, we were led to make a reservation at McEwen’s on Monroe.  And, yes, I would suggest making a reservation, more on that in a minute.

courtesy of TripAdvisor.com

Before booking, I went to their webpage, and I’m happy to report it is very easy to navigate, up to date, and lists everything from their dinner menus to lunch features to specials on their homepage to their wine list. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they have a “Small Plates” menu. I absolutely love picking several appetizers to eat when I am at a restaurant; since we do not get to eat out that often, I find that this is one of the best ways to sample multiple dishes at a restaurant instead of selecting one large main course.

The ambiance of the restaurant (which is why I would suggest making a reservation) is perfect for anything from a weeknight quiet dinner for two to a larger celebration. Reservations are suggested if you would like to dine at a table– the main floor of the restaurant is relatively small, which is a huge positive characteristic in my book because it keeps the restaurant quiet and the service timely.

Courtesy of McEwen's website

Speaking of the service, our server ever vigilant– never letting a wine glass go empty or an finished plate sit too long on the table– but she was very personable; eager to describe the menu, tell us her favorites, and offer suggestions. The restaurant itself was nice and dark, which just emanates the feeling that you are actually having a fine-dining experience.

Side note: While I mentioned that reservations are suggested for a smaller table and necessary for a large party, they are not needed if you would like to sit at the bar. Our group of four moved from our table to the bar once the meal was completed since we were thoroughly enjoying our night out and just did not want to leave this welcoming cocoon in downtown Memphis. Sitting at the bar was just as comfortable as enjoying dinner at our table had been. In addition to serving the full menu at the bar, they have a full drink list as well. A vodka gimlet is a must taste here!

And heads up, McEwen’s is also terrific for private dining! If you are out to find a spectacular location for an intimate celebration or larger dining event, there is a downstairs part of the restaurant with a wine cellar that can be reserved for private parties.

Courtesy of McEwen's website

Moving on to the main course! The table started off with wine: Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz-Mourvedre blend, which is now one of my favorite bottles and a “must-find” on my next trip to the wine store. And, the food was out of this world! As I mentioned, I am one to order a couple of appetizers for my meal out instead of one large entree. After our order was taken, a delicious basket of miniature homemade biscuits was placed on our table, soon to follow were our appetizers. My husband and I split the fried oyster appetizer. The oysters were nice and crisp and, despite being drizzled with a very light sauce (which was excellent to soak the biscuit in by the way), there was absolutely no sogginess to the oyster at all.

My next selection was the Wild Mushroom Salad. Normally when I order a salad at a restaurant I am slightly disappointed because it is usually a small handful of some type of green with toppings that are not too exciting (I am a regular salad eater, make a lot of salads at home, so I can be very critical of eating them while dining out). This was an exception: a hefty base of mixed greens were topped with not just a handful of mushrooms, but a hearty serving of warm, marinated mushrooms, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and all drizzled with walnut balsamic vinaigrette. The salad could have almost been a meal itself: I even had to get part of it to go, worried that I might be too full to enjoy my dinner!

Courtesy of McEwen's website

For my main course I ordered the Southern Style Crawfish Cakes from the “Small Plates/Big Taste Menu”  (which is how they refer to it). And this was the truth: these were not small, palm-sized cakes. Instead I was served two large crawfish patties that were bigger than my fist, lightly fried, which gave a welcoming crunch on the outside that was the precursor to warm, smooth, meaty, tender crawfish meat on the inside. The cakes included no “fillers”–there was no extra breading or any other additions– the chef let the crawfish meat speak for itself. Truly providing a big taste! My husband ordered the Pan Seared Chilean Sea bass (editor note: we’re right there with ya!), which was truly the most succulent, melt in your mouth sea bass I have had in a long time, served with mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. The risotto was creamy and the spinach was moist and well-seasoned.

The night out was one to remember and one to keep us going back to McEwen’s for special occasions and with visiting relatives because of these three spectacular parts to the “dining out” experience: ambiance, food and service. And because of that, McEwen’s is a HIT! Even though the restaurant has been successful in downtown Memphis for years, this experience is just another reminder for why Memphians need to keep supporting this local spot or try it out, if you haven’t been before! Cheers to a great first-time trip with many more to come!

Thank Kelly! We’re making a ressie ASAP!

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Loving Some Sweet Grass: New Cooper Young Restaurant

Hi folks! Had to write about a fantastic meal we recently enjoyed at one of Cooper Young’s newest eateries, Sweet Grass. Have you not had a chance to go? Well this spot definitely needs to be on your radar…

Two of us checked it out, and we kicked off the meal with craft beers that were delicious (forgive me, I can’t remember the names… guess that’s a sign of a good night out??).

Side note: When we went, Sweet Grass didn’t have a liquor license that permitted the typical beers– Bud Light, Coors, etc. However, the beers we drank were allowed because they had a higher alcohol content (a plus!). It’s possible that’s changed by now. And don’t worry, there’s a wine list.

Anyway, once  we were slightly inebriated, we placed our food order and out came an AWESOME bread basket: jalapeño cornbread, sourdough, and some sort of cheese (perhaps Asiago) and rosemary focaccia.

The bread was totally an indication of how the rest of the meal would play out… it was seamless and quite tasty. Our faves were the oyster stew (brings to mind New England clam chowder, but Carolina style) and the jambalaya that was actually a lot lighter than the typical kind.

Chicken Jambalaya, courtesy of Sweet Grass' Facebook Page

Additionally, the deep dish sour cream apple pie is to die for, really, it could be our last meal with the caramel on top reminding us of a praline.

Deep Dish Sour Cream Apple Pie, courtesy of Sweet Grass' Facebook Page

The service was spot-on. We had a terrific server who was prompt, knowledgeable, and courteous, and we happily tipped over 20%, see our thoughts on tipping here!

And quickly, the ambiance and decor had a calming effect with soft colors and sweet grass (what else?) tastefully decorating the interior.

This new Cooper Young spot is totally a HIT in our books. Make sure to visit asap. Oh, and check out the full menu here.

Mosa Asian Bistro: Two Thumbs Up

Mosa Asian Bistro is a locally-owned restaurant from the original owners of the well-known Formosa. Mosa has two locations in East Memphis: Poplar at Kirby and White Station between Poplar and Park. A casual dining experience and reasonable prices, Mosa offers a modern take on traditional asian cuisine.

For starters, there are traditional favorites such as potstickers, edamame and lettuce wraps; but we definitely recommend the basil rolls.

You choose the heat level and meat (or tofu) for your main dish. If you prefer rice dishes, the Fried Rice and Teriyaki Bowl are our favorites. If you are more a noodle fan, you can’t go wrong with the Mosa Pad Thai or Dan Dan Noodles.

However, if you are interested in trying something new, we recommend the Jiao Zhe Bowl. It is similar to Wonton Soup, plus vegetables and a kick – its own dipping sauce. But go easy on the dipping sauce, too much at once will light your mouth on fire!

We say Mosa is “A HIT” for consistency in service, price and quality!

If you have any other favorites, please feel free to let us know. We always love trying new dishes.

Sekisui Pacific Rim: Sink or Swim?

So on to our first review…

The Tuesday before Christmas, a group of us decided to pop into Sekisui Pacific Rim before the city went on hiatus for the holiday.

Restaurant Background

As you may or may not know, Pacific Rim is a part of the Jimmy Ishii empire that includes Sekisui locations around the Mid-South, BARI, Dish and blue fin. Technically, Pacific Rim and Sekisui constitute a chain; however, it’s local, so Hit or Ms. is on board.

Anyway, the Pacific Rim in Memphis has been open for close to 10 years. Through several concept and menu revamps, this Japanese spot has become a hangout for those looking for fresh sushi in East Memphis in an environment that’s not your traditional sushi house (think dimly lit with neon, flat screen TVs and a hip vibe perfect for a sake fueled birthday party).

Food

For this specific Pacific Rim experience, our table started with two yummy appetizers: a special that night of Pork and Sweet Potato Egg Rolls served with a sweet dipping sauce (similar to duck sauce) and Fried Pork Dumplings ($5.95).

Both apps were wolfed down and determined to be amazing by my dining companions. I mean honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with fried food. However, the sweet potato egg rolls lacked a distinct sweet potato flavor.

Another option is the Ocean Pyramid ($9.95) if the fish is fresh (see below). Though no one ordered it this time, it consists of layers of salmon, yellow tail and tuna sashimi with flying fish roe, avocado, sushi rice and a sesame vinaigrette. Overall, it’s a very cool texture combo with an even neater presentation. This use to be one of my favorites to order until it became unreliable: i.e. fresh one time and “fishy” the next. So, I stuck with a cooked appetizer this go-around.

For our next course, we ordered salads: the signature Ginger House Salad with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat (small $4.95 / large $8.95) and the Wakame Seaweed Salad with Seared White Tuna ($4.95). Both salads lived up to their description and were perfect precursors to our sushi extravaganza (more on that below). Fyi, the Ginger Salad is a staple item at all of Jimmy Ishii’s Japanese restaurants (luckily!) and typically very consistent. I rarely visit any of his spots and not order this salad— it’s a must-have!

The Seaweed Salad was also a pleasant surprise. Given the option of several toppings (Squid, Seared White Tuna, Octopus, Salmon Skin, Crabstick and Shrimp), one of my co-eaters ordered the Seared White Tuna. It came served over thinly sliced cucumbers in a slightly vinegar-y, soy based dressing.

For our main course, we chose a huge assortment of sushi. A full list of our sushi order is below, but first, a few comments on the sushi choices. For one, sometimes it’s hard to find “healthier” roll selections at Pacific Rim or really any of the Sekisui restaurants. Most of the rolls have something fried in them or mayonnaise incorporated, so beware if dieting is a concern. The good news is that you can always order Nigiri or Sashimi to try to bypass this situation.

Second, during this visit, the fish was very fresh. However, after several failed experiences over the years, I can honestly say it is hit or miss if you prefer raw sushi vs. cooked rolls. Consistency definitely varies on this front. There’s no hard evidence, but with Pacific Rim and usually the other Sekisui restaurants, the fish tends to be fresher towards the end of the week, Wed – Sat. Unfortunately we aren’t a coastal town, and you can sometimes taste the difference if raw sushi is your preference (mine). So, to be on the safe side, I’ll usually skip raw rolls earlier in the week or ask what’s fresh for the day.

As for this enormous sushi platter, the entire table LOVED all the rolls:

–          The Firebird ($9.95): Crunch Crab, Sweet Chili Sauce topped with Tempura Shrimp and Thai Sauce. A flavorful combo that relies on the fried components.

–          The Jimmy Walker “Dyn-O-Mite” ($7.50): Avocado, Cucumber, Assorted Fish with Wasabi Roe. A healthier option due to the lack of anything fried or mayo. I’m a big fan of Wasabi Roe (caviar flavored with wasabi).  However, in comparison to the flavor of the fried rolls, it’s a bit bland. I recommend ordering with other healthier options to fully appreciate the flavors.

–          The Pacific Rim ($9.95): Crunchy Crab and Shrimp topped with Tuna, Salmon, White Fish and Sweet Chili Sauce. The favorite of the raw fish eaters at the table. The sauce complements the roll and the crunch contrasts nicely with the variety of fish on top. I highly recommend ordering!

–          The Crunchy Shrimp ($5.50): Self explanatory with Cucumber.  A safe, but boring option. Nothing to write home about.

–          The Shiitake Mushroom ($3.95): Simple, but delicious when paired with wasabi and soy sauce. Added bonus, a nice, cheap option!

–          The Volcano ($7.50): Tempura California Roll with Spicy Sauce* A traditional California Roll, ENTIRELY FRIED. It’s as unhealthy as it sounds, but well worth the splurge.

*not pictured

Believe it or not, one person in our party had room for dessert after this massive amount of food! He ordered red bean ice cream and was a very happy camper. I seem to only find red bean and green tea ice cream in the Asian restaurants around town and not at any of our grocery stores, so if I could have fit anything else in my stomach, I would have indulged. If you are able to plan better than me, I definitely recommend trying one of these flavors. AND, if you know somewhere in the city that sells these ice cream flavors for couch consumption, definitely let me know!!

Drink

Pacific Rim has an admirable beer list, and I was impressed by the beer special, Hitachino Nest Beer.

Sadly, my dining companion didn’t love it and unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling too hot that night, so I wasn’t able to personally sample.

Service

Overall, the service was fine. You can tell there aren’t nearly enough servers on the floor to adequately handle all the tables. I was the first to arrive for the dinner and decided to go ahead and sit down. Initially, the service was not super prompt, and I sat by myself for a solid 5-10 before I flagged someone down to ask for a  drink. Aside from that, all courses were spaced well and our server was attentive, once the restaurant calmed down a bit.

So should you go?

Pacific Rim is a HIT. Consistency is definitely something they need to work on as far as food and service go. However, you know you can always get a satisfying dish (with the Ginger Salad, cooked sushi and the appetizers), as well as a good beer, which are two major pluses in my book. So if you haven’t been into Pacific Rim at all or even for a while, go visit this month after you ring in 2010!

-A

Quick side note: As we mentioned in our initial post, we are not professional restaurant critics, nor do we have any formal culinary training. These write-ups are just our personal experiences that will usually focus on one specific meal at the restaurant, though we may reference previous times in these eateries.