Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Luciano's -- Corpus Christi, TX

Luciano's, 1821 S. Alameda at Six Points, is a classic from way back. You gotta love a restaurant with starched white table cloths and low lighting. A very classy atmosphere greets you as you enter Luciano's . . . most of the time. This visit we were greeted by a man wearing a ball cap. Hmmm, that's never happened before, and I must tell you that he didn't hang around. A man dressed more appropriately manned the host's booth during the rest of the time we were there. Perhaps it was a fluke. He was probably just watching the front while the host took care of something important. Regardless, we always enjoy visiting Luciano's.

Our waiter, arrived at our table several minutes after we were seated. He apologized for being so long, telling us he had just been told that he had a table. I'm not going to speculate as to why he was not out front waiting for someone to be seated in his section, but I will say he was professional, personable, gave us great service, and he was dressed appropriately.

Shrimp Diavolo
Rob had the Shrimp Diavolo. Six plump shrimp in a spicy, serrano laced tomato sauce served atop linguine. Delicioso! The shrimp were beautifully cooked. The sauce just spicy enough to let you know the peppers were there, but not burn your mouth spicy. The seasonings were great, a wonderful balance. I had the Veal Saltimbocca. This is where things take a turn. The thinly sliced veal is covered with prosciutto and provolone, baked and served on a bed of risotto with a rich cream sauce. The meal was beautiful and the flavors were wonderful, but the veal was tough, and the risotto overcooked for my taste. I like it a little closer to al dente. Now, before you stop reading and resolve never to visit Luciano's, you need to know that in my many visits over the past few years, this is the very first time that I have ever had anything to complain about.
Veal Saltimbocca
 I informed our server that the meat was tough (I didn't mention the risotto) and he immediately offered to order something else for me. I didn't want to have to wait and leave Rob eating alone, then him waiting on me while I ate. I assured the server that the flavors were good and the veal was edible, just tough. He spoke to the chef and returned to the table telling us that the chef admitted that the veal had not been prepared as well as it should have been. The server comped my meal and we all lived happily ever after.

Would I still recommend Luciano's? Absolutely, without hesitation. They serve the best Italian in town, and as I've stated before, this is the first time I've ever had a meal that was not top notch. I'm not holding it against them, especially since they were willing to make it right.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saltwater Grill -- Corpus Christi, TX

The Saltwater Grill, 2401 Cimmaron, is located right on the curve coming off Airline. I give you this because a couple of people in our party had trouble finding it. We went there with a party of almost 20 people. They were expecting us and we found them setting up the tables as the first of us arrived. There was plenty of room for us to wait for our table, but we didn't have to wait long.

The best thing I can say about the place is that our waitperson was very attentive and worked hard to keep everyone happy. Notice that I say waitperson, singular, she had no help whatsoever. I cannot say that she was cheerful, but I can't imagine that I would have been either waiting on a group of nearly twenty all by myself. She worked hard. She earned every penny of the gratuity and deserved more. We were doing separate checks and you can rest assured that Rob and I did add to the gratuity.

Atmosphere. I didn't really notice much decor. The restaurant is in a strip center, so most of the place is open windows and we were seated next to the kitchen and didn't have much of a view of the place. I did notice some planters separating the waiting area from the section where we were seated. The room was noisy where we were at, but that may have had a lot to do with our location in the place, though there did not seem to be any acoustical adjustments to lower noise.

We were greeted at the table with homemade potato chips. These were great! Be careful when they arrive at your table. One, they're hot, and two, they're addictive. I was afraid I would have no appetite before I ordered, much less before the food actually arrived. Rob and I were looking at the same dish so we decided to share and add an appetizer. We ordered Crabcakes (you should know by now that I have trouble passing up crabcakes) as our appetizer. They were more like crab pancakes. The best thing I can say about them is that they were not greasy. They were about half filler. Though the flavor was decent, I like more crab in my cakes. Not impressed.

The dish we ordered was the Shimp and Fish plate. This came with four large shrimp and some fish filets, all fried. The shrimp was not bad, maybe a little overdone, but okay. The fish was tough. Yes, tough. We had fried okra and french fries as our sides and they were fine. This is the kind of food that you can get in any mediocre restaurant in any town of nearly any state. I guess for the price it was okay, but that's the best I can say. Now, before I close I have to tell you that most of the others in our party thought it was really good, and the place was packed. So, maybe we're just picky, but for a city on the bay, off of the Gulf of Mexico, I expect better from a place calling itself Saltwater Grill.

I really don't like writing reviews like this, but we really cannot recommend the Saltwater Grill -- not when there are so many other really good seafood restaurants in the area.

Dos Comales -- Corpus Christi, TX

Dos Comales, 227 N. Water St, is a newcomer to Corpus Christi, but not to the Coastal Bend. You could say that Dos Comales is a direct decendent of Los Comales in Rockport, since the son of the owner of Los Comales runs Dos Comales. If you're not confused, we'll continue. Festive is the word that comes to mind when you enter Dos Comales. Bright and festive. The building itself is rather small, but the decor cleverly takes advantage of the fact by cutting the space lengthwise, separating the bar area with a brightly painted wall, but punching that with arch windows, keeping the space open with a patio feel. A loft level over the bar povides even more space, and for those who don't want to be boxed in, there's the actual patio off of the parking area. Speaking of parking, stay on the street. The parking lot is tight -- very tight. It'll be much easier to get in and out on the street.

Being near the bayfront, I understand it can get pretty busy at Dos Comales, expecially on the weekends. I've read some reviews complaining that it took a while to get food. Well, I can tell you that the kitchen is small, having worked in it over Christmas making bread with a friend, before Dos Comales was there, so I can see how things could get backed up. Personally, we like to eat fairly early, so we had no trouble with the time it took to receive our food. Our waitperson was great. She was knowledgeable about the food and was able to make some wine suggestions. She was attentive and gave us the history lesson on the place.

Tarasco Shrimp
There are plenty places to get enchiladas in this town, so we go straight to the specialties. There were two dishes that caught our eyes. Tarasco Shrimp and El Yucateco. These were the dishes that Rob and I both wanted to try so we ordered both, sat the plates next to each other in the middle of the table and ate from both of them. Fortunately, since we were there early, there were not too many stares. Both dishes were good, but my favorite (and Rob's) was the Tarasco Shrimp. Six jumbo shrimp sauted in a creamy sauce with red onions, mushrooms, cilantro and Parmesan cheese. I was surprised that this would be my favorite because I'm not a big mushroom fan and there were plenty of mushrooms on the plate, but the creamyness of the sauce and the cheese just fills your mouth with rich but mellow happiness.

The El Yucateco was good, but not quite what we were expecting. The description read: Eggplant twice crusted and once fried, with crab, shrimp, scallops and chili con queso, and it was beautiful. We thought it would be rich and flavorful. Though I can't really say I was disappointed, it was good, just not impressive. The seafood was cooked well, but it just didn't deliver on the flavor, and the eggplant was rubbery. But, this is what sometimes happens when you try something new.
El Yucateco

Overall, we liked Dos Comales. Can't gush about it, but we were treated well and we did enjoy our time there. It was comfortable, affordable and we were able to sit in a place where we couldn't see the televisions. We would go there again.