Flame & Fire’s Caipirinha, Bacon Mania Food Truck & Downtown Tuesday Nights

It looks like I’m still waiting on the next restaurant to open.  Not sure if it will be Blast 825º, Chando’s Tacos or Krush Burger.  All three are looking pretty close.  I checked out those and others today to see if anything had sneakilly opened on me over the weekend.  While I was out I had also planned on stopping back into Flame & Fire to have something I have been wanting to try for a while and had completely forgotten about while I was there the first time.

I popped into the quiet bar and met the bartender, David, who I saw momentarily last week but didn’t say much more than hello to at the time.  I took a seat and ordered up a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.  After 13 or so seasons of watching Anthony Bourdain eat and drink around the world I think I’ve lost count of the number of these he’s had and raved about.  It is basically muddled limes with sugar and cachaça, a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice, over crushed ice.  It’s always looked awfully refreshing on TV.

With the temperature a toasty 100º+, with no end in sight, I was definitely in the mood for something refreshing.  It was happy hour so this was $6 as opposed to $9.  David smashed up the limes with sugar and then shook it up with with the cachaça, then poured it over ice.  It was heavenly. Cool and crisp with a sweet lime flavor.  It was pretty much everything I had hoped it would be.  Now I need to go buy some limes and cachaça.

Finished up at Flame & Fire’s bar, I headed over to Vernon Street and Downtown Tuesday Nights.  I came here a couple of weeks ago with the intention of hitting some food trucks but there was not one to be seen (except the Dave’s Dawgs pickup truck, which doesn’t really count in my opinion).  Earlier in the evening when I swung by to check on Cheese Louise’s progress (of which there has been none, as usual) I noticed that the Bacon Mania truck was getting set up.  I parked in the free Vernon Street structure and headed down.  As I got closer to the truck I remembered that I had actually eaten at this one not that long ago at SactoMoFo maybe a few months back.

I had the Mac’n Bac’n [$7] (Our truckmade baked Macaroni and Cheese, with Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Hickory Smoked Bacon, with just a bit of a tangy kick!) that time and wow was it rich!  I kind of wanted that again but didm’t want a whole serving of it.  I lucked out and found Mac Fries (Crispy Shoestrings topped with Mac’n Bac’n)[$9].  Perfect.  I ordered it up, grabbed it in a few minutes and was off to have a seat in the shade to enjoy it.  This was great.  It was the same amazing mac and cheese with bacon and “chipayo,” which is like a chipotle/sour cream aioli that is insanely good, all over pretty good fries.  They stayed crisp through the end, except those in direct contact with sauce.  All in all it was a delicious heart-attack in a basket.  I recommend it.

Afterwards I took a quick stroll up and down Vernon and saw lots of little vendors selling crafts, organizations with informational booths, a couple of stages with bands and, of course, the car show at the West end.  The Monk’s Cellar is looking good and I can’t wait for it to open later this summer. Scattered here and there were a few street performers.  Tons of kids were playing in the water fountains/playground feature in the new square and everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time despite the heat.  If you’re like me then Downtown Tuesday Night’s might not have a lot for you, but it’s neat to check out maybe once a year.

#208: Flame & Fire

It took a few weeks but I finally made it out to Roseville’s first churrascaria, Flame & Fire.  This is a Brazilian steakhouse that has taken the spot of the long defunct night club Cloud 9 in a small shopping center on Pleasant Grove, where you will find Ninja Sushi, Granite’s Wings and Taj Oven.  They opened almost exactly a month ago on June 21st.  I had popped in that weekend to take a look and was greeted by the manager (I think he said his name was Miguel).  He enthusiastically told me about the restaurant, how it all worked and about all the different meats and salad bar items they had.  I’ve been pretty excited to come and try it out ever since.

I was joined by recurring-dining-company Justin.  He beat me there by about 5 minutes and got a seat for the two of us just before 6PM.  I didn’t expect it to be that busy on a Thursday, but almost everyone that came in seemed to have a reservation (we were seated near one of the main dining room entrances which was right by the hostess’ podium).  The place wasn’t full, but easily half capacity at it’s peak when we left at around 7:30.  We only saw the main dining room and bar area, to the right and left respectively.  There seemed to be at least another dining room behind the bar and, based on a video slideshow I found via their Facebook page, apparently they have a huge patio as well.

As I entered and found Justin at the table I was spotted by our server, who came to the table to greet me and then run through quite a primer on how everything worked.  This was our first time at a Brazilian steakhouse.  I was somewhat aware of the process but Justin was getting all this info for the first time.  Basically it is one price ($45 for dinner, I think $30 for lunch) for all you can eat.  There is good sized salad bar in the back corner with 20-35 items on it.  Then there are the meats.  Servers will come by periodically with meat on long skewers and slice off a piece for you.  If you want them to stop at your table then you flip a little coaster to the green side.  If you are good for the time being, and don’t want any more, then you flip it to the red side.  They generally cook the meats to about medium-rare, but will gladly cook items more well done on request.  Seems pretty simple.

We started off over at the salad bar.  This isn’t your typical “I’m gonna grab some lettuce and then some toppings” salad bar.  Instead each item is very much it’s own thing, and honestly I’m not really familiar with most of what I saw.  I grabbed a small selection of things including grilled asparagus, some aged cheeses, a broccoli salad, some sort of corn & tomato salad, a fancy mashed potato looking thing and a thick slice of prosciutto.  Remember that video slideshow I mentioned a moment ago?  Go check that out (here’s the link again).  Tons of great photos of the salad bar items.  I didn’t want to get all up in the way during dinner with a camera.

All of this was a pretty good start.  I was barely into the salad items before we started receiving meats from the roaming servers.  It was quickly apparent that the pace can be very, very quick here, if you want it to be.  The nice thing is that all you need to do is flip your coaster to red if you want to slow things down, and I did just that a few times.  I forgot to write down what the very first meat was.  It was clearly beef, I’m just not sure of the cut.  The server set a metal base down on the table with a small dimple to anchor the skewer in and then began to slice a piece of beef off.  He would stop briefly for you to get a hold of it with your tongs, then he would finish the cut.  It was a 2-person job, and you’re involved!  This was definitely medium and maybe into medium-well territory, which I wasn’t crazy about.  The flavor was decent, it was just tough.  Next up was leg of lamb, which was closer to medium or medium-rare.  This was better.  Lamb can be a little boring, so I continued to look forward to more meats.

Parmesan pork came up next.  This was one of the few items where they simply slid the lowest section on the skewer right onto your plate with no assistance.  This had pretty good flavor and a crispy parmesan crust to it.  The pork itself was a little dry though.  I was starting to get a little worried that this was going to be the norm.  In actuality, most everything after this was really great!

The next meat to arrive was one of their specials, picanha.  This was an amazingly tender and flavorful piece of beef with a thick layer of fat.  I got a little more of this later and could probably live off of it if given the chance.  I took a little break from meats and during this time we were given a couple small sides of fried banana with cinnamon and some mashed potatoes.  We didn’t get too much into the potatoes, they were fine, but the banana was crazy good.  Justin loved it even more than me and ended up having a couple more brought out.

After this came tri-tip, which Wikipedia tells me is the opposite cut of picanha.  Like the picanha, this was cooked perfectly medium-rare and was very tender.  It had a great crust to it on the one edge.  I had a couple of pork ribs after this which were light on meat but very tasty.

Next up was a small piece of filet mignon wrapped in bacon.  The bacon was great but the filet itself was a bit overcooked and tough.  Another parmesan-crusted item followed, this time it was chicken.  The dark meat was plenty moist and tender and the parmesan crust was again great.  I had a second leg of lamb piece at this point.  This one was rare.  For lamb, this was actually approaching borderline too-rare for my tastes.  I love my beef very rare, not crazy about other meats though for some reason.  Nevertheless it was pretty good, definitely tender.

Next up was a hell of a treat and actually one of our favorite items, so much so that Justin asked if they could bring it back around a little bit later, to which which they happily obliged.  This was grilled pineapple.  But not just grilled pineapple, that doesn’t sound so special.  This was coated in cinnamon and sugar, much like the fried bananas.  It was insanely tasty.  We ended up having this last which ended up serving as dessert.  They have a menu of desserts (for an additional price), but we were both stuffed, so a couple slices of delicious pineapple was perfect.

I expected to enjoy this.  Meat on skewers, how can you go wrong?  Well, some were kind of overcooked, but the nice thing is that all you have to do is wait for the next one if it’s not to your liking.  As I found with the leg of lamb, one pass was med-well and another rare.  There’s a good variety to be had both in meats and salad bar items.  Our server was friendly and had a good sense of humor.  The servers with meats were moving non-stop and there was only one point where it felt like they had been gone for a bit, but that was maybe 3 or 4 minutes tops.  This was certainly one of the pricier meals I’ve had on this mission.  It was a really unique and interesting experience from the getgo, and full of good food.  It’s not something I expect to go do very often, but I’d like to return some time, maybe for lunch.

Website: http://www.flameandfire.com/

#207: Matsuyama Japanese Fusion

Another post, another Japanese restaurant.  I had planned on breaking up the flow by going to Flame & Fire, the new Brazilian Steakhouse, but it hasn’t worked out quite yet.  I’m hoping for early next week!  Anyway, I don’t mean to take anything away from Matsuyama, so lets move forward.  I had a really big lunch today that I was worried might hinder my efforts tonight.  Indeed while I was walking into Matsuyama, over 6 hours later, I could still feel it.  Once I had my beer though it magically subsided enough to allow me to enjoy dinner.

So what is Matsuyama?  It’s a Japanese Fusion restaurant at Foothills and Pleasant Grove which took the place of Pho Vietnam.  I headed in just before 6PM.  The place was very quiet, I believe there was just a single couple seated and eating at the time.  I was greeted by my soon to be server right at the door, then by one or two chefs behind the sushi bar.  I had my pick of seating and decided I wanted a table so I could spread out a bit and have room for my camera.  As I sat down near the front corner of the dining room, I made eye contact with one of the sushi chefs who smiled and waved.  It only occurred to me a couple minute later when I looked back over there who it was.  The jig was up.  This was Tang, my sushi chef from Sakura Japanese Bistro, and he remembered me.  I also recognized another chef, also from Sakura.  I want to take this moment to point out their website, which has a little opening couple of paragraphs explaining how Matsuyama was born from friends and co-chefs Song and Tang, with a nice big photo of the two.  I really like this sort of thing on sites, it really personifies the restaurant, and I always like getting a little insight into the creators intent.

The dining room is similar to what Pho Vietnam had going on.  They appear to be using all the same tables and chairs, with the addition of black tablecloths.  The place got a bolder paint scheme with red walls.  The biggest change is the removal of the front kitchen wall and a new sushi bar in it’s place.  I didn’t notice it until a woman came in and sat there but it’s probably a good 5 inches taller than the regular tables, but with the same chairs.  It looked like it was right on the verge of being awkwardly tall.  Nevertheless, the bar was nearly packed by the time I left and everyone seemed to be doing just fine.

I took a moment and flipped over the menu to pick out a beverage.  Although today was one of the coolest in a while, at just under 90º, I was feeling warm and in need of something refreshing.  Kirin was calling my name.  Unfortunately they were out but Sapporo swooped in to save the day.  I like them equally, so no biggie.  As I sipped it, unlocking my appetite, I studied the menu in more detail.  I had only skimmed over this briefly at home a while ago and picked out a single item based solely on the name.  The Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion.  Can you blame me?  Never mind.  Let’s plow ahead.

My server was ready as soon as I was, coming over to take my order when I placed the menu down.  Aside from the Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion (no description, so I was going in blind on that one)[$11], I wanted to try something from the fusion section of the menu.  I selected the MILF (yeah, I know) (spy tuna, tamago, unagi and jalapeños with a miso french sauce and deep fried)[$7].  I wasn’t rely in the mood for something deep fried (shocker, coming from me) but nothing else was jumping out at me so I went for it.  I finished the order off with a 7pc Nigiri Combo (chef’s choice)[$12].  While I was ordering I had asked my server if the MILF was a roll, because it kind of sounded like it the way it was described but it wasn’t clear.  He was unsure and did a half turn towards the kitchen like he was considering asking someone.  I told him not to worry about it and went with it anyway.

I waited about 10 minutes for my first items to arrive, listening to pop music and watching the A-Team on a TV across the room.  The repurposed vase – now chopstick holder – was kinda cool, as was the soy sauce container with it’s little cork.  I get a kick out of little stuff like that for some reason.  First to be delivered was my nigiri combo.  It looked great and had an excellent assortment of items, including one I’ve never tried before, masago roe.  Every one of these was fantastic, fresh and delicious.  The roe was pretty much what you expect from it’s appearance.  A mouth-full of tiny, crunchy eggs.  They had a very light flavor, most of it came from the yellow colored ones that must have been infused with lemon.  I wonder how many of these get stuck in your teeth.  I should have taken a big toothy-grin selfie after it to find out.

Just a couple minutes after the nigiri came the MILF, which did turn out to be a roll, though one without rice.  This was cut into 4 giant pieces.  My only suggestion to the chefs would be to make this a 5-piece dish so that they are more bite-sized.  I went to town anyway.  This was considerably more spicy than I was expecting, despite knowing it had jalapeños in it, and maybe one of the spicier things I’ve ever ordered in a Japanese restaurant.  I had two pieces and then worked on the nigiri and my next dish before returning to it.  It was really good though, absolutely packed with egg, eel and spicy tuna and dipped in the thick and creamy French sauce.

The Jessica Alba-Core Crunch Onion was last to arrive by another 7 minutes or so.  I had just finished the nigiri when it arrived.  Much like it’s name-sake, this was a sexy dish.  There were about 8 pieces of seared albacore tuna topped with crispy onions, slivers of jalapeño and more masago roe.  It all sat in a shallow pool of a very thin and somewhat oily sauce.  My table was slightly off balance, causing the sauce to gather at one end of the dish.  I really dug this.  Albacore is probably one of the few types of fish that I will tolerate being seared/cooked with my sushi, and it was done well here.  The onions were super crisp and not only added their excellent texture but also really wonderful flavor that made up about half of the experience.  The jalapeños only added a hint of zing to each bite.  I devoured this entire plate from one end to the other.

Chef’s Song and Tang have got a very good thing going here.  I very much enjoyed Tang’s sushi at Sakura and this was no different (with 2-3 chefs at the time I’m not certain how much of my order he was directly involved in, but still).  I was glad to see a good crowd had developed by the time I left, and they had plenty of staff to handle it.  I think Matsuyama has a bright future here in Roseville, even with the abundance of excellent sushi we have.  Go check it out!

Website: http://www.matsuyamafusion.com

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here