Archive for the ‘Big $’ Category


I’ve graduated and still am in Ithaca and there are still restaurants I haven’t been too!  The family came to visit for the holiday weekend and my dad suggested The Heights Cafe & Grille after perusing the interweb.

I may have a new favorite restaurant in Ithaca… Let me show you.

a whopping calamari appetizer and beet salad!

There was also bread, pita, and garlic hummus and we figured two appetizers would be good for four people.  This is the biggest appetizer serving of calamari I have ever been served in my life!  We stupidly asked for more bread right before the apps came out and we couldn’t even touch it we were digging into the calamari so fast.  Couldn’t even finish all the calamari to save room for the rest of the meal.  Not only a giant serving but perfectly crispy calamari with a chunky thousand island-ish tartar sauce.

Oh yeah, and the entrees came with salads choice of arugala or cesear.  I knew there was something missing in my pictures…  The portions were pretty generous with those as well.  Lots of dressing though.

The mains were as follows:

braised short ribs



scallops with gnocchi

The scallops and gnocchi were to die for!  My mom who ‘doesn’t like gnocchi’ was a fan of the delectably soft potato dumplings and the scallops were just like scallops should taste: sweet and buttery.

Branzino was also good.  Not like the most amazing fish I have ever tasted but nothing to complain about.  Is it sad that I now think of the new Spiderman movie where Gwen Stacie’s mom makes branzino for dinner with Peter comes over to her fancy NYC apartment for dinner?  She did say it about a thousand times “My mom’s making branzino for dinner, braaannzino.”

Burger delicious and also giant.  There seems to be a theme here for the portions.

Spare ribs were also good, but I feel like there could have been more flavor incorporated into the meat.  It just be that I’m used to calbi when it comes to spare ribs?  I was slightly underwhelmed nonetheless.

Last but not least, desssert!

chocolate souffle with a frozen berry terrine

On the menu with entrees there was a little blurb that mentioned that the chocolate souffle had to be ordered with the entrees for there to be enough time to bake.  So we foolishly thought that that was the only dessert and ordered two to split.  Well, there were other desserts on their dessert menu but the chocolate souffle was delicious and the frozen berry terrine was cool.  I liked the figs most in the terrine and I think it’s my first terrine ever!

I have to mention the coffee though.  Instead of just the cream and sugar that usually comes with coffee there was a whole plate of rock sugar on a stick, cinnamon sticks, mini chocolate chips, raw sugar, and whipped cream to add into your coffee…  It was the most amazing coffee service ever and they didn’t even charge it since only my mom ordered it.

The website says it’s casual and it’s the most casual fine dining type place I’ve been to.  There are back servers and servers and the decor is elegant and understated.  The portions though were waaaaaaay bigger than I was expecting at a fine dining type place.  Someone at the table next to us ordered the steak and it was a giant pile of meat.  It might have been the way they cut it up and piled it onto the plate but it looked huge.

The prices were also more on the fine dining end but not ridiculous.  The burger was the cheapest entree at $19 but my big teen brother didn’t even finish it.  It was so much food we had leftovers which are now sitting in my fridge :).

Note to self, maybe order one appetizer for four people since there’s the bread and salad before the entree and there is more dessert than just the souffle.  Oh, and also order coffee even though I don’t really drink coffee but they give you so much stuff to add it is amazing.  If there’s one thing I can assure you, it’s that I will definitely be coming back to the Heights!


Something new ~ Sea Pearl

This weekend was the dad’s birthday which calls for special dinner out. For special occasions our go-to restaurant is Peking Gourmet Inn for possibly the world’s best peking duck. We wanted to try something new and of course I was landed with the task to scope out a new restaurant. In about 30 seconds I found ‘100 best restaurants in DC’ lists but most of the ones on those type of lists are uber expensive like The Inn at Little Washington, L’Auberge Chez Francois, 2941 etc. For the record, I haven’t been to any of those fine establishments but I will before I die. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely wanted to go somewhere nice but also not spend $300 on dinner for 4. After we had already made reservations at Peking Duck, we decided to go for Sea Pearl in Merrifield.

from sea pearl website

It was a large space with bar, lounge, and dining areas. The walls were a oceany teal with mahogany tables and chairs and straight-backed booths. there were a few ‘center pieces’ of iridescent, creamy discs strung from the ceiling in a rectangle that flowed down to the backs of a benches used for seating. It was reminiscent of bubbles or strings of pearls. On the table were plastic, orange, meshy table runners or place settings that popped off the dark wood and had a seaweed kind of feel. I remember speedo used to make sandals with a similar material for the soles but it was much classier than that.

Now for the real good stuff. The food. My family is definitely a bread eating bunch. When the first basket of garlicy, oniony focaccia type bread was down it was gone in about 2 minutes. When we asked for more the server returned with about three times as much bread stuffed in the same basket. The other appetizer was classic calamari. I believe Sea Pearl’s version was corn meal crusted but it was like every other delicious calamari I’ve ever had.

For the mains, the table was laden with the Akaushi Beef Burger, Spicy Crab Pasta, Panko Crusted Crab Cake, and the Japanese Kabayaki Salmon Salad. The burger was pretty substantial with some perfect little skinny fries.

The crab pasta had plenty of crab and my dad said might have been a little too much on the spicy side. I had just a bite and I liked it a lot but I could see eating a whole plateful becoming overwhelming.

My crab cake was the size of a baseball and it was accompanied with a shaved asparagus, arugala salad, a grilled corn relish, and piquillo pepper aioli. The plate looked a little off balance with the crab cake in the middle and the salad off to the side. Asthetics aside, it was delicious and was pretty much all crab the whole way through. The salad was dressed perfectly and balanced it out with some nice acidity.

The salmon salad was big and well dressed and colorful.

No meal is complete without dessert so we ordered two. The Florentian Tower and the Pumpkin Brioche Bread Pudding.

The tower was a huge florentine cookie molded into a cylinder that had caramel cream, bananas, and whipped cream in the center. Initially, we thought it was a little over priced at $12 dollars but we concluded that the technical skill required for the dessert warranted the price. We always make these florentine chocolate sandwhich cookies at Christmas that are always a bit tempermental. The Florentine cookie tower really complemented the creamy interior very nicely plus a spring of fresh mint. I’ve found I really like fresh mint. It has such a different flavor than the peppermint candy vibe. It’s fresher tasting more smooth sort of mint taste. Whenever there is a mint garnish I find myself eating it! I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that or not.

The pumpkin bread pudding was warm and rich with maple syrup, candied walnuts, dollop of vanilla creme anglaise, and a spring of mint. Bread pudding is one of the most warm, rich, fabulous desserts. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bread pudding I haven’t liked. This was was delicious but I’m not sure I tasted too much pumpkin in it.

It was a fabulous dinner that was satisfying start through finish. The portions were satisfying without being grossly stuffed or hungry by the end. As an expensive restaurant prices were reasonable from the salad at $17 to my more pricey jumbo crab cake at $27. The mood and ambiance was perfectly complimentary and I left really glad that we had tried a new restuarant.

Sea Pearl gets: 0 0 0 0 0     5 pearly pearls

Pretty bouquet to close. ;D