#58: Sports Page Restaurant & Bar

What with the NHL playoffs kicking off I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out the new Sports Page Restaurant & Bar that went into the glass-domed building by Century Theaters on Eureka late last year.  This location seems to have some sort of a curse on it since not a single business has had any success there.  I know my first reaction to hearing about this new restaurant was to think “I wonder how long they’ll last.”  I’m pretty sure I ate there once back when it was either River Rock or Town Lounge, but I don’t remember anything about it.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon at about 4:30 right as game 1 of the Blues & Sharks got started.  There were maybe 6 other customers there, spread out around the bar area, so I had my pick.  Seeing my hat, the bartender confirmed I was there for the Sharks game and put one of the larger TVs on to the right channel.  I sat at the end of the bar closest to the TV and got situated for a long stay.

The Sports Page has 5 distinct sections, a room off to the far left with a jukebox and pool table, the central dining area under the big glass dome, the bar next to that center area, another section of bar with additional tables on the far right and the patio.  I was in the 2nd bar section, and this is the side that seemed to be the busiest all night.

I wasn’t really hungry yet after having a big lunch earlier in the day, so I just ordered a Moylans Irish Red Ale to start.  This is the first Irish red ale I’ve had since the Smithwick’s at the Boxing Donkey last October.  It was smooth and just as good as the Smithwick’s.

They had a pretty good selection of beer on draught, and a decent wine list as far as I could tell from my brief glance at it.  It didn’t seem to be advertised anywhere but all my beers were $3.50.  This may or may not have been a happy hour price.

Soon I had some company around my end of the bar to watch the game, including a Bruins fan who was also rooting for the Sharks.  He seemed to be a regular and sampled a couple beers before settling on the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, a German Maibock.  The bartender seemed to be very knowledgeable and described a few of the beers on tap in detail to help him make a decision.

As I mentioned earlier, when I arrived the place what pretty quiet.  Only the TVs in the bar area were on.  Once people started showing up though the rest of the TVs in the main dining area lit up and the whole place kind of came alive.  About an hour in it was almost half full and the conversation level was a little loud.  I imagine at full capacity it would be very loud and difficult to have a conversation.

Late in the first period was when the crazy thunder-hail storm hit and the satellite signal was lost.  I was worried I might have to cut it short and head home for the rest of the game but luckily it came back about 5-10 minutes later when the worst of the storm had passed.  It was cool to look up at the big glass dome in the center and see the hail just pouring down in every direction around you.  I went outside to get a little video of the action.  Even right up against the door I was getting soaked so it’s a super short clip.

Once the 2nd intermission started I was ready for the next round.  This time I went with a Lost Coast Great White witbier.  While I enjoyed the Moylan’s, this is a little more up my alley.  It was refreshing as always.  Into the 2nd intermission at around 6:15 is when Sports Page was at it’s peak.  It was about 1/2 to 2/3 full and some additional bartenders were now working and staying on top of everyone pretty well from what I could see.

I noticed at some point that the Bruins game was playing on a TV on the other side of the dining room and mentioned it to the fan to my right.  He asked someone working, who may have been a manager or even the owner, if he could put it on the other smaller TV right in front of us.  He was able to put it on, but it took some effort, and I only mention this because I feel he kept at it longer than most people would at other bars until he had the right TVs showing what everyone wanted (the one he was changing seemed to be mirroring what others were showing so he had to split them up).

I realized I was running out of Happy Hour time and ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms, because I’m always a sucker for stuffed mushrooms.  In addition to a rosemary reduction the stuffing consisted of a blend of spinach, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and one or two other items I was unable to hear when I asked the bartender about them.  They were pretty good, definitely cheesy and the reduction was delicious.

For my third round, as the third period got going, I ordered a Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat (a creamy, citrusy witbier).  I’ve had this once before.  It’s a pretty decent beer and the most interesting thing about it, which I had forgotten, is that it tastes like it has been infused with fruity pebbles.  No kidding, it’s really weird but in a good way.

Finally, I decided I was ready for dinner, and had my first serious look at the menu.  Aside from the bar-like appetizers, they have salads, burgers and sandwiches.  Normally I would have been fine with ordering a burger or sandwich, but they all sounded pretty heavy.  Even though I was now finally hungry, I wasn’t ready for another big meal that would sit with me for hours, so I took that path I rarely choose and ordered the Scrumptious Spinach salad.  This salad was made up of baby spinach with tomatoes, bacon, feta cheese and onion straws with a warm bacon vinaigrette.

It was pretty appetizing when it showed up, and after I took the photo I dug right in.  The vinaigrette was absolutely delicious, and at the time I was eating it I didn’t realize the description had said “bacon vinaigrette”.  The bits of bacon were clearly visible so I thought that was where the flavor was coming from, but obviously it was in the dressing as well.  The feta cheese was plentiful and strong, I ended up leaving a good amount of it in the bowl since there was a lot more than needed to have a little in each bite.  The onion straws added a nice crisp and the spinach itself was of course fresh and tasty.  Overall it was amazing, very rich with the bacon vinaigrette though a bit  heavier than I anticipated which I mentioned to the bartender (at this point I’m beginning to think she was the manager as well).  She agreed with me on that and told me that they were going to lighten it up a bit for the summer.

I had my last beer during the first period of overtime, a Lost Coast Tangerine, which is one of my favorites.  Similar to the Great White but with a sweet punch of tangerine flavor.  Eventually it was clear the game was going to 2nd overtime and I decided I would close my tab and head home for the rest.  For 4 beers, a salad and the appetizer I was pleased to see my bill was less than $25!  The Bruins fan next to me didn’t have anything to eat but drank about the same amount, in addition to shots he bought for the bartenders and himself, and his bill was about the same as mine (which I only know due to a mixup in which he nearly paid my tab over).

Overall the service was pretty great all night.  Sitting at a bar and watching a game for several hours isn’t something I do very often but I’d definitely come back here to do it again.  They already have events scheduled for May on the patio when the weather isn’t freak thunder-hail, so that should be nice to check out.  I’m far more optimistic about this business than I was before I came in, and I think they may actually have a decent shot at sticking around.  One major thing I would say is that I think they need to flesh out the menu some more.  It’s a good start but I found myself flipping it over several times in hopes that more options had appeared on the back while I wasn’t looking.

Oh yeah, and the Sharks ended up pulling off the win early in 2OT, yeah!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/sportspageroseville

Scanned Menu: Click Here

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#57: Susumu Steakhouse (CLOSED)

Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend, mine was a little busier than I realized so I’m just getting to this post now.  One of my Groupons was expiring this weekend so I met up with my family on Saturday to make sure it didn’t go to waste.  It was for Susumu, a teppanyaki style Japanese steakhouse, hidden way back in the old Mervyns shopping center on Douglas.  Susumu is a locally run restaurant very similar to Benihana, which I’m sure everyone is familiar with.  If not, the basic gist is that you sit around a large griddle where the chef prepares your food while performing tricks like juggling utensils or flipping shrimp into his hat.  I loved going to Benihana as a kid for birthdays (and hey, still do sometimes 😉 ).  The show was always fun, but to be honest I really liked the food the most because of how freshly cooked it was.

Susumu serves sushi in addition to the featured teppanyaki cuisine and just past the entrance is kind of a mini sushi restaurant within the main restaurant.  The Sushimaster menu is much like a sushi joint’s but much smaller, though they seem to hit all the major items.  We of course came for the full dinner experience so we were sat at of one of the tables with another group of 4.  At 5:30pm the restaurant was about half full.  They have about 8 standard size tables that seat 8 each and a couple double-long tables which feature two griddles where I presume two chef’s work at simultaneously.  By the time we left at 7 they were just about packed, even both of the big tables were seated.

Our waitress greeted the table and took drink and appetizer orders.  I ordered a Kirin Ichiban, which was light and refreshing, and my parents ordered an asparagus roll that my mom noticed on the specials board by the front door.  The asparagus roll had asparagus tempura, cream cheese, avocado and sauce.  I had just one piece in order to save room for the main course and it was alright.  I didn’t use any soy sauce on it and I think it could have used just a tiny bit to make it better.

Before the roll came out we also had soup and salad, which is included with the entrees.  I recall not liking the dressing that you get at Benihana, and I think this was similar but I actually enjoyed it.  It was the first time in a while I even bothered to try the salad, so my tastes have definitely changed since I was a kid.  The onion soup is one of the highlights that I always seem to forget about until they bring it out.  It’s awesome and I’m always left wanting more.  It’s super light and fairly subtle in flavor.

After all the small starters, our chef arrived with the cart of ingredients and utensils.  He started out with a quick and skilled display with his spatula and knife. and reviewed all the orders around the table to make sure they were right.  Soon he was flipping an egg up in the air and catching it expertly with his spatula.  He was off to a pretty strong start.  Soon he had moved onto the onion volcano trick.  At Benihana they just let it steam but here the chef sets it ablaze!  Eventually he breaks the volcano apart and adds it to the giant pile of fried rice he’s been preparing on the side.  Everyone gets a scoop of this as soon as it’s finished.  I spin my plate around at this point to allow easier access to the rice while veggies and other items are added as they are prepared.  The rice is easily one of my favorite things about eating at a restaurant like this.  It’s some of the best fried rice I have enjoyed anywhere, simply due to how fresh it is.  Whatever sauces and seasoning is added definitely varies slightly from Benihana, because I think I like theirs a bit more.  Susumu’s was still better than just about anywhere else I can think of though.

After the rice was done he kind of toned down the show a bit and just focused on cooking everything.  I had ordered the beef & prawns combo.  You get about 4 prawns with this, which is pretty small compared to Benihana’s similar combo, the Splash & Meadow.  At Benihana, I believe most of the dinner entrees include a shrimp appetizer of about the same amount.  It’s also nice there because when I order that I get a little bit of shrimp up front and then the rest later.  Something I noticed the very first time I ate here was that when it came time to cook the beef, the chef did not ask how I’d like it cooked.  That was because it wasn’t a typical steak, rather thinly sliced strips of beef.  Just as before, they are cooked until they are brown, were a bit tough, and without a lot of flavor.  I needed to use the dipping sauce provided, which was pretty tasty, but I would rather it was tasty on it’s own.  For about the same price at Benihana you get steak cooked to your liking and it’s thicker and juicier, making the sauce an optional enhancement, not something you should rely on.

He was starting to wind down as he finished the last thing on the grill, a tofu dinner for my brother, which actually had little prep work since it was wrapped in foil and steaming.  Instead of serving it to my brother with the rest of his food, he reached back and took an extra plate from the table behind him, set the foil with Tofu in it on that on and set it next to my brother’s current plate.  That seemed a little lazy to me.  This was when I realized he hadn’t done much trick-wise since about the flaming onion volcano.  I had been sitting with my camera set for video to catch his closing display but instead he simply cleaned the griddle, said thank you and left.  I’ve definitely seen a lot of varying amounts energy and enthusiasm from chefs over the years, but this one was probably the most disappointing in recent memory, particularly since he had demonstrated that he was quite capable early on.

I should point out that the prices seem to have increased since the first time I was here last June (the online menu has not been updated).  Before, I could explain away the difference in amount of shrimp and quality of beef  by the lower price, but now it’s hard to justify.  On both visits I’ve used a Groupon, and I still have one left that is good for a while.  I think I’ll try the Filet Mignon steak and prawns combo to see if it’s much better.  If I was paying full price however, I might be tempted to make the drive down Sunrise to Benihana instead.

Website: http://www.susumusteak.com/

UPDATE:  It’s been about 4 months since this visit and I just recently went back to use my last Groupon.  I tried the Filet Mignon + shrimp combo and it was absolutely fantastic.  The Filet Mignon is absolutely what I thought it would be, a thicker more proper cut of meat instead of the thin strips of beef.  It was cooked medium-rare and was amazingly tender and very flavorful (the clump of butter that was dropped on it towards the end certainly didn’t hurt).  Our chef was pretty entertaining and had a great sense of humor.  I had a taste of Teriyaki chicken  (something that’s usually take or leave for me) and it was also amazing.  If I were to rate that visit it would be about a 4 of five, the only reason they didn’t earn the 5 is that the waitress would disappear for long periods of time between checkups, even when she left to run everyone’s credit cards.  They were very busy at the time but the waits seemed extraordinarily long even taking that into account.

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#56: Tandoori Nights

Exterior

I’ve been looking forward to this one quite a bit since I first found Tandoori Nights a couple months ago while driving around and updating my list.  I’ve never had, or even considered for that matter, Pakistani cuisine.  I kind of assumed it was related to Indian cuisine by the storefront signage and since the two countries are right next to each other, but I wasn’t sure how similar they were.  I’ve enjoyed the Indian food I’ve had so far and figured this would prove to be good as well.  I invited my good friend, Sid, out to join me.  His family is from Pakistan and in addition to helping me choose some tasty items, I wanted to see what he thought of the place.

Interior

We arrived at around 7:30pm and there was table with a few people finishing up their dinner when we walked in.  I was expecting a table service restaurant, however despite no visibly displayed menu it became apparent that you grab a menu up near the register and order there.  The first thing Sid mentioned was how inexpensive it seemed to be, particularly compared to some Indian restaurants in Sacramento.  I recognized a few items that I’ve either seen or tired at Swagat or Mehfil.  Soon Sid was speaking to the server (possibly manager/owner?) in Urdu, asking about some items and getting his recommendations.  I decided to let him do the ordering and told him I was up for whatever he thought sounded good.  They went back and forth for a couple minutes and towards the end, as Sid told after we sat down, the server had asked how many were eating.  When he found out it was just the two of us he said we had plenty of food, so that was pretty nice of him to stop us when I think a lot of places would likely just let you keep going.

Water, Chai Tea and Mango Lassi
Chai Tea

I sat down and started to scan the menu (link is just above the map down below) and Sid grabbed us a carafe of water and cups of chai tea which are complimentary.  He also got me a Mango Lassi (Mango pulp mixed with yogurt) from the self serve cooler.  The very orange cup reminded me of Thai iced tea and I wondered if it was similar.  I sipped the chai tea first, which was delicious and relaxing.  We ended up getting another cup after we finished eating.  The Mango Lassi was ridiculously smooth with a somewhat sharp initial mango flavor upfront and finishing off with a sweet creamy flavor.  It was really good and I can totally see myself picking one up by itself sometime if I’m in the area, especially in the summer.

Samosa
Samosa

A pair of samosas were the first thing to arrive.  These deep fried pastries are filled with a mixture of potato, peas, onions, green chilies and spices.  They had a pretty good kick to them.  I tried it with a couple chutneys, one sweet and one mint/chili based, as well as plain.  It was pretty good each way.  For just a few bucks this is a solid appetizer.

Seekh Kabab

Next up a Seekh Kabab arrived.  It is ground beef with green chilies mixed in.  This was really spicy, so spicy that it overpowered what flavor was in it.  Sid wasn’t really into it because of that.  I ate what was left but I would agree that it was just too hot to really enjoy.

Plain Nan and Garlic Nan
Rice

The next few plates started arriving rapidly.  We had an order of plain and garlic nan, which were a good size and I think we only used about half of it.  Sid mentioned that it looked really authentic and he wondered how they made it, which I’ll tell you about in a bit.  The nan was good by itself, but it’s main purpose is to be used to pick up other food and to soak up some of the flavorful sauces, and there are a lot of those to soak up.  Some rice arrived as well which also worked well to soak up the sauces.

Nargisi Khofta

The two main dishes that Sid ordered were Karahi Chicken (a traditional tomato base curry from north Pakistan delicately cooked in wok) and Nargisi Kofta (a special that is not on the menu but I’ve found described as ground beef or lamb [beef in this case] mixed with spices and onions and served with hard boiled eggs).  Both of these dishes were very flavorful and the sauces they were served in were absolutely delicious.  The Karahi chicken had a whole chicken in it cut into about 4 pieces.  I struggled with this one at first until I got an idea of how it was cut up and figured out where the meat was.  I’m not particularly good at dealing with bone-in foods, mostly because I’m always afraid I’ll miss one and impale myself on a shard while chewing.  Despite the extra effort it was very good.  Sid loved this one.

Karahi Chicken

My favorite was the nargisi kofta, just over the chicken by a bit.  It actually reminded me a lot of the Doro Wot I had at Taste of Ethiopia in Austin, TX last December, but that might just be due to the boiled egg.  I really do need to go have Ethiopian food again soon.  Each of these two dishes had just a little heat to them, nothing compared to the kabab or even the samosas though.  The rich spiced sauces were a huge part of what made these dishes great, and if I wasn’t so stuffed I would have used the rest of the nan and scooped it all up.

Once we had finished and were up at the register to pay, Sid noticed they in fact had a traditional tandoor and pointed it out to me.  They were kind enough to let me go behind the counter to get a closer look at how they made nan by sticking it to the inside wall of the tandoor and BBQed various meats in a second one.  Super cool!

Nan in Tandoor
Kababs in Tandoor

This was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be.  We left Tandoori Nights full of delicious food, Sid seemed pretty impressed overall and I know for a fact I’ll be back sooner than later!

Plug time: You can see Sid’s excellent funk band, Funk.Defied, at Old Ironsides in Sacramento Friday the 20th and in Davis the next day for Picnic Day!  I’ll almost certainly be at at least one of those shows.  Check out their videos page where you can see what they’re all about, and a couple of those were shot by yours truly 😉

Website: http://www.tandoorinights.us/

Menu: Click here. (They have the menu on their website, but this one that I scanned is a little bigger and easier to read)

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