Balise (Lafayette Square/Historic District, New Orleans, LA)

Justin Devillier does it again! His original restaurant, La Petite Grocery, is a more refined restaurant with delicate, rich French flair. The new Balise is more of a communal hangout/bar type of restaurant with the same refined flavors but with more of a bold and masculine flair. There’s more of a bachelor’s hangout kind of feel, but can be laid back and romantic at the same time. The service was great. The waiters are very knowledgeable and make great recommendations!

 

IMG_0696eFancy Rose Lemonade. 

 

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Gulf Shrimp. Uni. Clam Vinaigrette. Fennel. Saffron Mayonnaise.

 

 

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Chilled Roasted Beets. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta. Red Vein Sorrel and Spiced Pecans.

 

 

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Crab & Camembert Gratin. Lemon and Fines Herbes.

 

 

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Cauliflower Soup. Fried oysters. Black Truffle.

 

 

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Cheeseburger. Sharp Cheddar. Caramelized Onions. B&B pickles. Comeback Sauce. Hand Cut Fries.

 

Balise’s menu is very different from La Petite Grocery in that it has more small plates on the menu. First, we ordered the Gulf Shrimp, which attracted us since there was uni, clam vinaigrette, saffron mayonnaise, and fennel. Somehow, every component and flavor profile meshed together so well. It was refreshing and interesting at the same time.

For our veg, we ordered the Chilled Beet Salad with spiced pecans and ricotta. A touch of ricotta for richness and the spiced pecans added a ton of flavor. I wish I could make this stuff at home.

I ordered the Crab & Camembert Gratin, because I can’t turn anything crabmeat down! Camembert is a type of cheese, similar to brie. It was yummy! I took the bread and topped it off with some of the crab au gratin.

Next, was the Cauliflower Soup topped with a crispy, fried oyster showered in black truffles. DE. LISH. I sometimes wonder why they give you such small portions, but due to the law of diminishing returns, small delicious bites are meant to leave you yearning for more. I can still remember those few bites of soup…

Despite our fine dining tasting menu that we created,  I am always craving a burger. So we ordered the burger as our main entree. haha..It definitely hit the spot. What makes this burger is the juiciness and the sauce. They call it the Comeback Sauce. It tastes like a remoulade and a buttery aioli at the same time.

What a great meal! If you’re looking for a laid back bar with fine dining, then Balise is for you. It’s worth trying at least once, but keep it mind, it is fine dining so it may be a little on the pricier end. Our whole meal with alcoholic beverages was around $111, but we left completely satiated.

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Rating: 4.5/5
Balise on Urbanspoon


 

Blaze (Warehouse District, New Orleans, LA)

Blaze is a new concept that has reached the NOLA scene. You can create your own 11-inch personal pizza and it’s ready in 180 seconds! It’s very similar to Chipotle or Subway. The menu has a few signature pizzas ready to order for $7.95 and you can customize them by adding more toppings  (including meats!) for no additional charge.

 

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Our Pizza Maker crafting our pizzas!

 

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A bunch of cheeses, toppings, and meats. 

 

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Before the Blaze. 

 

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Our friendly pizza maker. 

 

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The finished product: thin, crispy, flash-fired pizzas!

 

Our pizza makers were especially friendly and helpful. I ordered the Meat Lover’s Pizza and added fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, and basil. My fiance ordered the White Top pizza and added chicken, garlic, jalapenos, and spinach. The pizzas were flash-fired quickly and out came two thin, crispy gourmet pizzas. You can top it off with your sauce of choice. We added olive oil to the Meat Lover and Pesto to the White Top pizza. The crust was thin and crispy but still had a nice bite to it. The pizzas are pretty large considering they are a “personal pizza”, but I can probably eat a whole one with no problem if I was hungry enough.  I only ate half of the pizza tonight as a snack.

Next time I’m craving a quick late night bite, I know where I’m going. I love that Blaze opens later than most fast food joints: Monday- Thursday til 11PM and midnight on the weekends. Also, they serve draft beer! Since my fiance often gets home late from work, we’re always looking for late night joints for dinner. Blaze will have to be one of the top on our list now (especially since it’s only a few minutes away from our home!).

 

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Rating: 5/5 spoons

 
Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

Hot Spot (Fairfax, VA)

In Washington, D.C. Asian cuisine is limited, but there a few unsuspecting spots if you venture a little further out. Hot Spot is a “hot pot” place located in Fairfax, VA. For about $22.99 you have the choice of broths, meats, veggies, and get to create your own dipping sauces at the sauce bar. Next, it’s easy. You just cook your selections in the broth, dip into your specially made sauce, and enjoy! To learn more about Hot Spot’s hot pot style, check out their website: http://www.eatdrinkhotspot.com/

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Fresh broths.

 

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Fresh Seafood and Meats. 

 

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Veggie plate. 

 

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Hot Pot. 

 

We had a party of 6 and after a whole day of museum going and site-seeing we were starving! For an all-you-can-eat restaurant, the selections are very fresh and the broths are flavorful. On the other hand, every time we ordered more vegetables or meats, the same portion size would come out each time (even if we put down an order of 100). That would have to be my only complaint, however, I do understand from their standpoint since they are all-you-can-eat BUT they should supply enough for a large table who is sharing, since it can be frustrating to have to order multiple times during the meal. Regardless, this has to be the best hot pot restaurant I have every been to. The quality, freshness, and service was on point. I wish I could’ve brought this Hot Spot home to Louisiana with me!

 

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Rating: 4/5 spoons
Hot Spot on Urbanspoon

Tan Tan (Chinatown/Sharpstown, Houston, TX)

Houston has a ton of late night food options and Chinatown probably has a majority of them. One of the more popular spots has to be Tan Tan. My mom and I drove in from New Orleans around 12:30 AM and were looking for something good to eat. We’ve been to Tan Tan and they’re well-known for their hot pots. We ordered the Seafood Hot Pot…

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Great late night food option. You’ll even see families out here!

 

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Hot pot veggies. 

 

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Seafood selection. 

 

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The server brought out a huge plate of veggies and a plate filled with an array of seafood: shrimp, fish, mussels, oysters, fish balls, etc. The veggies were fresh and I loved that they provided a lot, but I can’t say the same for the seafood. The amount of seafood was okay, but the quality was subpar. The fish seemed freezer burned. The shrimp and mussels seemed somewhat chemical-like, as if they put something on it to preserve it. The only thing that I could eat on that seafood plate was the oysters, fish balls, and imitation crabmeat.

I’ve been to Tan Tan in the past and I know their stir-fry and appetizer dishes aren’t bad. I would never order anything that is “fresh” here again, but then again, they didn’t advertise “fresh” on the menu. Just Seafood Hotpot. I will be back to Tan Tan, but for safer options like the fried rice or egg pancake. I’m just disappointed that considering they are known for their hot pot, they failed. Tan Tan continues to be a decent late night option, but be cautious of the quality and freshness of seafood and meats.

 

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Rating: 2/5 spoons

 


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Crave Cupcakes (Rice Village, Houston, TX)

Cupcakes are the perfect dessert. It’s a portion controlled sized cake. I’m not saying it’s a healthy option, but it’s definitely a smaller version of a could-be much larger cake slice. There was once a time I was obsessed with Sprinkles’ Strawberry cupcake, that is, until I found out about Crave’s delicious Strawberry Cupcake…

 

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Coconut Cupcake. Vanilla Cupcake. Strawberry Cupcake. Margarita Cupcake. 

 

While I visited Houston, I had to visit my top favorite places to eat and Crave Cupcakes was one of them. (Especially since I’ve been craving cake so badly lately!). I find that the Strawberry Cupcake is much  more wholesome and fruity. There are small chunks of strawberry within the super moist cupcake and the flavoring is very subtle. I really enjoy the sprinkle that Crave Cupcakes uses too. It’s a softer and more edible sprinkle compared to Sprinkle’s sprinkle (theirs is almost unedibly hard). My only disappointment is that we don’t have a cupcake place this good in New Orleans!

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Rating: 5/5 spoons
 
CRAVE Cupcakes on Urbanspoon