This blog is devoted to highlighting restaurants of Memphis, Tennessee.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


A Memorable Experience

For my birthday, a couple of former college classmates treated me to Lavoro's, a family-owned Italian trattoria housed in a former KFC restaurant. It wasn't a place that was on my radar, although I have driven past it a lot while driving around Memphis. Fortunately, one of my friends said it was a place that he dined often at and had high praise for it. Also, because he was buying and had a "buy one, get one free entrée" coupon, he convinced me that this was the place to go. So, instead of going to a place like the more upscale Cortona, an Italian eatery located in Cooper-Young, I ended up in one of the nicest restaurants that I've been to in awhile.
After being seated in the patio, Omar (the friend with the coupon) suggested that we get an appetizer first.

For that, we went with the truffle-stuffed mushrooms covered with Mozzarella cheese and sprinklings of Parmesan cheese and parsley. I thought it was interesting that one fungus plant would be stuffed inside another, but it worked. Combined with the toppings, the stuffed mushrooms was a nice appetizer that left us yearning for more.
Once we finished eating the stuffed mushrooms, we decided to get a second appetizer, which was the creamed spinach dip. Accompanied by toasted bread, the dip was the usual fare that can be found at most bars and restaurants, although it was well received by our dinner party.

After knocking out the dip, we were more than ready for the main course. As we were about to order our entrées, the waiter server informed us that Lavoro's uses fresh ingredients, with many of them grown in the restaurant's garden. The garden surrounds the patio, consisting of many vegetables such as garlic, parsley and basil, with a scarecrow adorning it all. Impressed, I felt very confident that whatever I ordered was going to be good. After looking over the menu, I decided to go with the pesto tortellini with chicken. The reason I chose this was that the description piqued my curiosity, for the entrée had a "kiss" of cream. I never thought of pesto and cream as a combination in a sauce, but given that everything I had earlier was good, I gave it a try. Omar went with the special, which was penne in pomodoro sauce with pancetta. Meanwhile, my other friend Celeste chose the spinach lasagna.
As typical of most restaurants, the entrées came with salads. In choosing the type of salad we wanted, we all chose the Caesar. For the dressing, we went with the raspberry vinaigrette that I thought had the right balance of vinegar and sweetness.

Regarding the salad itself, I could be wrong, but I didn't detect any onions in it. In my opinion, onions ruin a salad, although many will disagree with me. Nonetheless, the Caesar salad with the raspberry vinaigrette was really good, and I'm sure my friends would agree.
Shortly after we finished our salads, the server brought out our entrées. I was visually impressed with what I ordered, for the pesto cream sauce was a nice lime green color. Seeing this made my mouth water, fueling the anticipation for an excellent meal.

Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed, for the pasta was superb. The taste of pesto within a cream sauce rather than olive oil is genius. Also, the cream was very thick, so I didn't worry about spilling any of it on my shirt, a common hazard when eating pesto-based pasta. The chicken in the tortellini dish were big chunks of perfectly roasted tender chicken breast that nicely accentuated the entrée. Overall, this was one of the better pasta dishes that I've had in a while. Kudos to the chef for coming up with a very original dish.
Regarding what my friends ate, both of them seemed pretty satisfied with their entr
ées. I even got a chance to taste Omar's dish, which was penne pasta with pancetta.

As far as I could tell from one bite, the penne pasta's sauce was thick with a good amount of garlic in it. Compared to what I had, the penne pasta was decent, though not as good as the tortellini. I didn't get the chance to taste Celeste's spinach lasagna, but judging from her enthusiasm, I believe she enjoyed it.
When everyone finished their main courses, we were about to leave when our server told us about the dessert special, the milk chocolate and strawberry bread pudding. The special was something that our server said he made himself, so out of respect to him, we ordered it. As expected, the bread pudding was rich in cream and sweetness, with a smooth texture. Even if I hadn't eaten anything else, the bread pudding would've still been a gut buster to me. My friends and I were all in agreement that the bread pudding was great and the perfect ending to a wonderful dinner.
In all, the experience I had at Lavoro's was excellent. The food was better than I expected, and is reminiscent of places I dined at during my stint in Italy. The only thing that I didn't like was that it didn't serve wine, a must-have in any Italian restaurant. However, Lavoro's had beer specials like the $1.50 Bud Light that I ordered, which is a really good deal. Also, and this is more of a suggestion, but if I owned the restaurant, I would convert the "order" counter to either a bar or a lunch counter. I would do this because I would want to convey more of a restaurant environment and less of a fast food atmosphere. Nonetheless, I liked everything about the place, including the service that is first class.
By the way, Lavoro's also serves pizza and sandwiches. Whenever I visit again (which will be very soon), I will definitely try that part of the menu. After my initial experience, I'm confident that whatever I order will be outstanding.
In closing, I want to thank Omar and Celeste for treating me to dinner, for it was very memorable. Not only did I enjoy the food, but I also enjoyed being in your company. It was a cherished experience that I won't forget. Thank you.


Lavoro's on Urbanspoon

LabelsDessert, Pasta, Pizza, Salads, SandwichesShelby Oaks, Summer Avenue

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Otherlands Coffee Bar

My "Other Land"

Lately, I've been spending time at the Otherlands Coffee Bar in Midtown to work on various things using my laptop. Consequently, I got around to sampling some of the stuff on Otherlands' menu, including its two feature sandwiches, the Tuna Melt and the Turkey and Cheese Melt Down.
The Tuna Melt sandwich, consisting of tuna, cheddar cheese and tomato between slices of well-toasted bread (either sourdough or wheat; I went with wheat), isn't anything special, for other than those ingredients, there isn't any discernible qualities about it as far as unique taste is concerned. The sandwich components mesh nicely together, and with tortilla chips as a side, makes for a light meal. It would have been nice if I had a choice of chips, for potato chips are a much better complement to a tuna sandwich than corn-based tortilla chips, in my opinion.
Otherlands' other signature sandwich is the Turkey and Cheese Melt Down that comes with sliced turkey, cheddar cheese, tomato and a "secret sauce" that included some kind of green spice. For this sandwich, I went with the sourdough bread as opposed to wheat, and I'm glad I did. The sourdough was toasted perfectly, so it didn't detract from the strong cheesy flavor of the sandwich. Because the portion of the turkey was smaller than the tuna in the aforementioned sandwich, it seemed more like a grilled cheese sandwich, although not merely as weighty as what can be ordered at other places like the Majestic Grille. Then again, the sandwich, like the Tuna Melt, wasn't meant for those with huge appetites, but with tortilla chips (which complemented this sandwich much better) makes for a nice light meal. In my opinion, the Turkey Melt is clearly the better sandwich, although tuna lovers might disagree with me.
Otherlands also serves breakfast, although my experience with one of its menu items wasn't good. I had the Breakfast Burrito, a small 6" (maybe less) burrito stuffed only with scrambled eggs and accompanied with a slice of tomato and a small (shot glass size) cup of salsa. Diners can also get turkey sausage included in the burrito, which is what I ordered for lunch (all breakfast items can be ordered during all operating hours). From the first bite, I can't say that I was impressed. The tortilla wrap was hard, so biting into and eating it from my hands was very difficult. Even when using utensils to cut into it, the burrito still proved very tough to tackle. As for the stuffing inside it, it was mostly scrambled eggs with small chunks of turkey sausage sparsely mixed in. The eggs, while well cooked, lacked seasonings like salt and pepper so the taste was a little on the bland side. Fortunately, the salsa made up for the lack of flavor. I would have liked to put the salsa in my burrito, but the tortilla wrap was so hard and overcooked that it was too unmalleable to squeeze and sealed too tight to unwrap. After pouring the salsa over the top of the burrito, eating it along with the sliced tomato made for an okay meal, but I can't see myself ordering it again (it's a good thing that I don't wear dentures).
For those not looking for a full meal but just something to snack on, Otherlands offers various pastry options such as toast and muffins, but my personal favorite is the "Bagel Sandwich Thing." Although I'm not a big bagel fan, Otherlands' bagel sandwich (which I eat "open-faced") can be ordered with either plain cream cheese or one of its "fancy" cream cheeses for an extra 25¢. Among the flavors offered, strawberry is my favorite.
As far as the beverages that are sold at Otherlands, I can't say too much about them because I only had a few items, such as the coffee and hot chocolate. For the most part, everything I've had is on par with most places such as Starbucks and Cafe Eclectic, so the quality is good.
Overall, Otherlands Coffee Bar, while far from being a five-star restaurant, offers decent food and beverages in a relaxed, cozy environment that is conducive for working and meeting friends, in addition to dining. On Fridays and Saturdays, the coffee shop serves as a venue for various musical acts, mostly within the folk music genre. Also, Otherlands has a gift shop that sells art created by local artists; the art is displayed throughout the coffee shop. Given all that Otherlands offers (including Wi-Fi), it is one of my favorite coffee shops in Memphis. I like it not because of the food, but for the friendly staff who have been gracious hosts to me and many others who visit there. I hope this place is around for many years to come.

Otherlands Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

LabelsBreakfast, Coffee Shop, Midtown, Sandwiches

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