Frida Cantina Mexicana, Luxembourg City

I have started 2019 with the resolution to try as much as new restaurants I can. Finally I got the first chance yesterday night and, even if I have still quite a backlog of reviews to publish, I decided to write about Frida Cantina Mexicana immediately today, instead of waiting any further.

So if you follow my stories on Instagram, you might have seen I planned to go to Tom Odell concert with Federica at den Atelier yesterday night. As the weather was incredibly cold, we decided to have a quick dinner in a place nearby den Atelier and unfortunately options on a Monday night are quite limited. So, as Frida Cantina Mexicana was already on my “to try” list and it is just few steps away from den Atelier and from where I live, we decided to go straight there – without reservation, but, again, being a Monday night, we supposed it would have not been an issue.

We arrived at the door at 7 pm, with the restaurant busy but not particularly packed. We waited good 5 minutes on the door, with the two waiters in front of us at the bar totally ignoring the world outside, until the chef, from the kitchen window, noted us and called them. Not a good kick off, but after that we were seated.

The atmosphere was nice, colorful and informal, even if not particularly distinctive. We were handled the menu and made quickly our choice. We ordered one margarita and one beer, with a Mexican mix as starter to share, followed for me by an enchiladas with roja sauce (marked as extra spicy) and a chilaquiles for Federica.

From that moment on, it started be more a nightmare than a proper dinner. As said, we got in at 7 pm and got our food ordered by 7.15. While Federica’s beer and water were taken at the table after fair 10 minutes, my margarita took more than 20 to arrive. Finally, at 8.10, so almost one hour after we ordered, we got our starter to share: a basic dish of commercial tortilla chips, guacamole, pico de gallo and re-fried beans. The dish was cold – as it should have been – with beans probably just out of the can (I can suggest you also the brand, as I buy the same at home). Would this kind of dish need one hour to be prepared in a restaurant not full? I doubt. As we were starving, we finished it in less than 5 minutes. I ordered a second drink – that again, took 15 minutes to be ready – and we waited for our main course, starting feeling pretty nervous about the time, as concert was supposed to start at 9 pm. We also were very surprised to discover that the table next to us, arrived when our starter was out, were served cocktails and main courses in less than 5 minutes. At that point, very nervous, we called the waiter to cancel the order and he promised us that the main course would have arrived in 2 minutes. So finally, after 1 hour 40 minutes in the restaurant, while served only a commercial dish of tortilla chips, we got our dinner.

I said to Federica: I would have easily forgotten about the wait, if food was worth it – you can clearly remember from some recent reviews. Unfortunately my dish was probably one of the most disgusting thing I have ever had in Luxembourg. This soggy wrap – where you cannot even taste the chicken – totally covered up with this that was far being a homemade roja sauce, but was more a mild-spicy watery ketchup. I got to half of the dish only because I really needed some food, but in other circumstances and without a gig to attend, I would have left the dish and have gone somewhere else to have proper food.

Total bill for 2 margarita, 1 beer, 2 half-liter bottles of water, 1 starter, 2 main read 75 Euro (37 Euro each).

Pictures of my dinner followed by my final impressions.


What I liked about Frida Cantina Mexicana:

  • This is probably the first review were I can honestly say: nothing at all. It was one of worst dinner I had in my life. I might have said that the margarita was pretty good, but if I have wait 20 minutes every time I rather have something else to drink.

What I didn’t like about Frida Cantina Mexicana:

  • Service was horrible. It was not only a question of wait, 1 hour and 40 minutes to have a dish is already a great support to this evaluation, but also the attitude of the waiters was awful. They were both walking with their chins down, avoid the eye contact with the clients… how are you supposed to ask for another drink or whatever? Not to mention, when clients were leaving, dirty dishes were remaining on the table forever, basically until the next clients would have been seated.
  • Food was horrible. 12 euro to have a dish “to share” composed by a bunch of commercial tortilla chips, guacamole and pico de gallo (plain ones) and beans out of a can. Main course was something I want to forget as soon as I can: watery sauce and a soggy wrap that you cannot even understand what you were eating. I am not a fan of franchising, but I honestly can say that at the Tex-Mex in Place d’Armes food is way better (while still on the bad side) of the one I had at Frida.

In conclusion: my experience at Frida Cantina Mexicana was personally bad. While I can tell you that on the service side they might have been understaffed and having hired (very) inexperienced servers, on the food side there was nothing I would say it can be saved or improved. This is definitely on my list of places I would not go back even if it was the only restaurant open in town.

Luckily Tom Odell concert was amazing, so our night was not totally ruined.

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Trattoria da Gino, Luxembourg City

The story is the same: you see “work in progress” on a window in the city previously occupied by a restaurant you walk by and you start to wonder which kind of food you are going to eat there next. And then, when the sign unveils, you discover that it is, once again, an Italian restaurant.

The question is: do we need another Italian restaurant in town? This was the same I might have initially crossed my mind when I discovered that, at the place of a lunch eatery next the station, an Italian trattoria was going to open, Trattoria da Gino.

My curiosity has never been stopped by a cliché, therefore I decided anyway to try the restaurant – well, I said, even if it was just another boring Italian night, would still be Italian.

I could have not been more wrong.

The place itself, to start with, it is quite different from most of the Italian places I have been in the city: bright is the first adjective I would use to describe it, cozy, relaxed, with a clean and open kitchen on view at the end of the main room – open kitchen in an Italian restaurant in Luxembourg for me is a first time.

First time I visited Trattoria da Gino was a very calm Saturday night at the end of August, during the Fair, and the restaurant was full but not packed. We have been welcome by the owner, Gino – you have probably seen him already around as he has an astonishing experience in the food industry in Luxembourg.

While drinking an aperitif, I discovered the lovely details of the place. The restaurant embraced perfectly the concept of Italian “trattoria” : there is not a menu, but the dishes proposed a la carte change on a daily basis for dinner, are limited to a few and are written on a huge chalkboard on the wall.

We decided to share a starter (“vitello tonnato”, a North Italian cold dish composed by tiny slices of veal and a tuna fish sauce). For main, I went for “Fusilli Calabresi con Sugo di Porcelletto” – homemade pasta from the South of Italy with a piglet sauce, while my friend had Roasted Duck with Plums sauce.

During the meal, we drank one of my favorite wine ever – Marina Cvetic Montepulciano. The list of wine – as the food card – is limited but has indeed some extremely interested items.

Our dinner and our entire evening were amazingly pleasant: I was surprised above all by the fact that, even if the place is low key and casual (exactly a “trattoria”), ingredients are gourmet, dishes are polished, wine list has a lovely selection and the dish presentation is definitely very refined – more like a high end restaurant than a casual eatery.

I did not mention the taste of the food, which was amazing.

I did not miss the chance to come back to visit Gino very soon afterwards – fact is, they are publishing the daily menu on their FB page and when I am leaving the office and I see something I like, as it is very close to where I live, I just ask myself: do you want to cook or do you want to have …? Well, you know already the reply.

On my second visit, I had another succulent dish – “fregola” (an Italian small type of pasta typical from Sardinia) with sea food followed by a delicious Baba’ with rhum – still dreaming about that. Another time, I had a sandwich with octopus. Then I lost the count…

Well – actually I have been there on a wine tasting night – but I am happy I did not have many pictures about that, but only blurred memories and a memorable headache to follow 🙂
Indeed, Gino is also organizing special nights that are just a good excuse to try the place – on a regular basis, there are wine tasting events and after-works. Watch out the Facebook page for more update.

To conclude, the striking contrast between the concept of the restaurant – a low key Italian trattoria – and the result they obtained – a fine-dining selection of dishes and ingredient, special wines and sophisticated presentation – is making Trattoria da Gino a unique place in its style on the Luxembourg scene – and therefore a must to visit.

This article has been adapted from the one we originally published as contributors on the new Editus website.

Ukelele, Clausen, Luxembourg

If you are following my blog, you have probably already realized my “restaurants to try” approach. I have a “to do” list with new openings and restaurants I have never been, but it often happens that if I don’t visit a restaurant immediately after the opening, I loose a bit of interest, as I have the impression my readers will not be extremely reactive, considering there might have been written already enough on the subject.

It was the case of Ukelele, this Thai corner located in Clausen, just off the Rives. I wanted to try it so much as soon as it opened, I lost the moment, for one reason or the other, and then everybody was so much talking about it that it went at the bottom of my “next restaurant”. What could I added if a general public idea is already wide-spread?

I love Thai food indeed and I tend to stick to ordering delivery from Bangkok Thai at the station – the place is a bit dodgy (sorry!), but the food is authentic and well priced, compared to other Thai restaurants I have tried in the city (not the time to mention now, but you can easily find in my reviews).

So – I have almost forgot about Ukelele, when my boyfriend decided to surprise me with a reservation that read “I passed there in front, I liked it and I pop in for reserving”. I could not say no: first of all, because generally speaking I am the one in charge of restaurant reservation in our family and therefore it came pretty much as a shock (no offense intended, just the fair truth 🙂 ). Second, because normally M. is very picky concerning food – and as much as he can eat his Delirio Culinario pizza with gorgonzola and salami at least three times per week, he is totally unmotivated regarding exotic cuisine. So – I told myself, why not.

I got to Ukelele a bit earlier than him and the place was half-busy. I gave my name at the counter and I was indicated two tables on the main street side. There were actually three tables available in total – one in the corner with two chairs and two on a bench. I wanted to be on a chair but I was told to choose between the other two.

I ordered a Thai Tonic while I waited for M. to arrive and I was given the menu. He got there from work with his usual delay and, little by little, the restaurant got really packed.

He also had a Gin to start with and we ordered. We went for a mixed starter to share, I follow with a basil beef, while he had red curry chicken. We concluded with espresso and cognac.

After the pictures of our dinner, you will find my thoughts about Ukelele – and yes, I know lots have been written already, so these are just my two cents.

What I liked about Ukelele:

  • The place is very nice and I loved the decorations – specifically the reversed umbrellas on the ceiling. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and casual, as well as the service. If you are not familiar with Thai cuisine, the staff is very glad to help you doing an informed choice, advising on hotness level, sauces and so on.
  • I liked the food: the basil beef was definitely MY dish and would order it again straight away. Perfect level of hotness and delicious, authentic flavors. The starter platters was as well tasty. The spring rolls were so good I wanted to have other ten probably, while I liked the fish cake a bit less, but it was a kind of starter I would have not ordered in a single portion. Go for the rolls, definitely 🙂
  • While you could not expect to pay the same price you would in Thailand – in Bangkok, I probably had the same dinner for the equivalent of 17 euros and my Thai colleagues were complaining about the fact it was a rather expensive place – Ukelele is fairly priced, with main around 15 euros. We had basically everything (Gin Tonic to start, a shared platter of starters, two main, a good bottle of wine, coffee and cognac) and we spent a bit more than 100 Eur.

What I liked a bit less about Ukelele:

  • We had a lovely dinner and I would definitely consider to visit the restaurant again – even if over week-end it is often fully booked, so having to reserve well in advance might be, for me, a restrain factor. There are just few points I would note, as you know I am picky: the place is small and very cozy as said, but if you end up in a night where the are big groups, like the night we visited, it becomes a bit noisy. Second, on the same side, you are basically dining with the table next to you. That might be positive if you are in the mood for talking, not really if you want to have a reserved conversation and the table next to you speak your same language. Lastly, the bench where I was seated was very uncomfortable as it is at a different level to the table compared to chairs, at least if you are tallish like I am. Ask for a table with chairs 🙂 Silly points, as usual, indeed, and nothing that would stop me to consider it as my first choice for Thai dining in.

 

To sum up: Ukelele is a lovely Thai restaurant in Clausen. The location is very unique and warm and the atmosphere is casual, with a friendly service. Food is on point and prices are fair. My recommended dish would definitely be the basil beef, if you like spicy food. Perfect for a night out with friends. Reservation needed – in advance for the week-end.

Lumbini, Indian Restaurant, Hesperange

It seems ages I am not reviewing an Indian restaurant, right? Well: I was definitely missing it, so after couple of unsuccessful tries, I was finally able to convince a bunch of friends to have an Indian dinner. We chose Lumbini, in Hesperange, as it was quite some time I wanted to try it!

We got there a bit before 9 pm on a calm Monday night – they are open 7/7. Just a couple of tables were busy and the waiter accommodated us on a nice table on the window. The location is very cozy, overlooking the street but with the good level of “privacy” – you can see, but not be seen.

As my friends never had Indian food, it was up to me to introduce them to the menu and to suggest them dishes – and I was very keen doing that.

To start, after Papadam from the house, we shared a portion of meat samosa and one of chicken drumsticks. Both seemed to be much appreciated by the table and we continued then with: a portion of Chicken Vindaloo (guess who ordered it…), a portion of Lamb Dansak (with lentils and herbs, mild), a portion of Panchrangi Takari (vegetables in cashew nuts sauce) and two portion of Butter Naan bread. While in three we mainly shared these dishes, one of us, who does not like much sauces, ordered a portion of Chicken Tandoori.

We accompanied our dinner with two bottles of Sicilian red wine (you know, Italian men…) and concluded with espresso and two rounds of Paan digestifs (of which the second one was offered).

Total bill (2 starters, 4 mains, 2 bread, 2 bottles of wine, 3 bottles of water, 1 espresso and 4 digestif, plus 4 offered) read a bit more than 150 Eur, 38 eur per person.

Pictures of our dinner are followed by my general impressions on Lumbini.


What I liked about Lumbini
:

  • The food was nice and have the right amount of spices: mild dishes were tasty but soft, while my Vindaloo was hot, but in an appropriate way (enough for someone who is used to eat spicy as I am, but not impossible to eat). Portions were pretty big, above all the Naan was much more than expected and with three men at the table we were barely able to finish all (even if I did my best). In particular, my favorite dish was the Lamb Dansak: I usually tend not to order mild dishes, but this one was delicious and the lamb meat so tender!
  • The service was professional and polite. Even if we were a bit noisy at a certain point, the waiter was very accommodating toward our requests, open the wine at the table and make it try twice (not always happens in exotic restaurants), offered us a last round of drinks.
  • The bill came out very fair for what we ate and drunk. Even if we shared two starters in four people, we were almost not able to finish the food so portions were more than enough.

What I liked a bit less about Lumbini:

  • We did not have any negative remark about our visit. Everything went smoothly and we had great time, so would definitely consider to come back again. Couple of points just to mention to be picky as I usually am: the place is very nice, but, as most of the Indian restaurant in Luxembourg, is anything fancy or posh, so don’t expect Myfair style Indian restaurants. Then. While all our dishes were great, the only one I would not order again might be the veggie one – the nuts sauce had a very weird taste for me, almost burnt, but as it was the first time ordering it, maybe it was just a wrong choice.

 

In conclusion: Lumbini is a perfect choice if you are looking for an Indian restaurant not right in the city center. The service is extremely professional, food is enjoyable and the location is very cozy. Not to mention the fact the prices are a bit lower than the Luxembourg average. Definitely recommended for friends’ gatherings! Bonus point: it is open 7 days a week.

 

A new Italian in Bonnevoie: Moka Bar & Restaurant

Last couple of weeks have been awful and I am really looking forward to a break. The sudden changes of weather are killing me off this year and it is also a quite stressful period between work and private matters. This is just for saying that, after a very busy August, we have been slightly missing. We have a bit of backlog of reviews and we are going to bake them off soon. In fact, we did not stop trying new places!

Last week it was the turn of this tiny Italian restaurant located at the start of route de Thionville, coming from town, in Bonnevoie district. Moka Bar & Restaurant opened just the week before but I have seen so many people I know going there already that I decided to make it jumping at the top of my “to-try” list.

We arrived there around 8.30 pm on a Thursday night without reservation. During the evenings, you can easily park in the car shop slot just in front. The location, as said, is cozy, with a lovely interior design and a warm atmosphere. We were allocated at a table on the side of the room and we ordered some drinks to start – I had a Spritz with Campari while A. had a Diet Coke.

The owner came back after a while with a proposition of dishes: indeed the restaurant does not have a proper menu card, but offers daily dishes based on the market availability and on the mood of the chef. Several interesting options were anyway available for main, while as starter we were proposed a mixed Italian platter that was anticipated by a small pot of olives.

I had a dish of octopus “alla Catanese” accompanied with vegetables – the initial dish was proposed with spaghetti but I am not a fan of pasta as side dish – while my friend had strozzapreti (a kind of fresh pasta) with lobster and shrimps.

During the dinner, I drunk couple of glasses of Montepulciano and we concluded with an espresso and two digestifs that were offered by the house.

Total bill (1 Campari Spritz, 1 Diet Coke, 2 glasses of red wine, 1 mixed starter, 1 pasta dish with seafood, 1 seafood main) read 65 Euro.

Find the pictures of our dinner and my final considerations.


What I loved about Moka Bar & Restaurant:

  • The atmosphere is great and you feel “like at home” as the service is smiling and polite. We were asked several times during the dinner how we enjoyed the night and the owner stopped at the end to explain us a bit the concept of the restaurant. At the same time, I find the decoration were accurate, from outside the place does definitely not look like the neighborhood’s trattoria, but a more refined restaurant.
  • The food was very tasty and the presentation is amazing for this kind of place. I enjoyed both the starter and my main and I am looking forward to come back to try other dishes ( I heard steak with truffle and I regret not having it as well!). You can feel ingredients were really fresh and the preparations “like in Italy”, with the right aromas and spices.
  • The bill was surprisingly fair: right, we did not have a lot to drink, but still, I think I fail to pay 32 euro for my meal even at Burger King’s – and we had fresh sea food!

What I liked a bit less about Moka Bar & Restaurant:

  • While dishes were presented and explained in details, on the wine side I was slightly deluded. I asked for red wine and they just asked me if I wanted it strong or light (guess what). Then they got my glass and I had to stop the waitress to ask which kind of wine was it. It was a Montepulciano, as already said, and it was pretty fine – unpretentious, but fine. I definitely liked it at the end but don’t have too many expectations on the wine by glass I suggest. We did not ask for bottles, I suppose it will be definitely different in that case.
  • This is not a negative point – there were no indeed in our evening, even the note about the wine above is one of the picky things from me – but more a recommendation: I lived in Bonnevoie for more than 10 years – and I will be back sometimes soon, finally! – and I have seen several of this kind of places opening their doors. I don’t name them, but I suppose if you are familiar with the area you might guess at least two. The formula was really similar – no menu, just daily dishes. At the beginning the quality was amazing and the prices extremely fair. Going on, as customers were more and more, they started to cut drastically on the quality (frozen food, microwaved dishes, cheap ingredients) and increasing exponentially the prices (last time in one of them, we paid 80 euro for 2 beers, a mortadella starter and two pork sausages mains without side). I really hope Moka will stay like it is as I found one of my perfect places.

In conclusion, Moka is the kind of place you might go when you don’t want to cook, but it is definitely lovely as well as for a date or for a friend’s dinner. Fresh products, an extremely nice service and reasonable prices are making it for me one of the best Italian in Bonnevoie at the moment.

 

 

Restaurant Tibet, Gare, Luxembourg

Were you missing my Indian reviews? I am not over them yet – still looking for the perfect Indian restaurant in town! – but in the last months I have to say I confined my passion to take-away delivery – mostly because I am running out of friends who like Indian food – (sad face)

Anyway, last Sunday I came back to the roots and after analyzing the “open” options – you know, even when everything else is closed, there is always an Indian restaurant welcoming you somewhere in town – and decided to visited Tibet restaurant near the Zitha Clinik, Station area. I have been there couple of years ago and I have frankly good memories, so I said, why not to refresh them and see how it competes with other Indian I have tried recently?

We arrived there without reservation and were accommodated to a nice spacious table on the side of the room – near a plug, so I could charge my mobile to take the pictures as after a full day around my mobile was off 😛

One of the reasons to like this place is the simple but colorful main room.
We had Indian beers to start with and ordered a mixed Indian starter, anticipated by offered papadam. I have to say that I am a huge fan of papadams and their sauces and I appreciate here at Tibet because the pots were really small, so you are given the possibility to finish your own sauce. In other Indian restaurants the pots are huge, so you ask yourself if you are actually handled the sauce that was not finished by another table… (better not to think about it, really!).

The mixed starter dish was nice, contained chicken tandoori, sesame scampi, samosa, vegetarian rolls. Even if I like pretty much everything, I have to say next time I will come back to my usual soup starter – except samosa and their sauce that were very good, the rest was not memorable.

To continue we had Murgh Timuri (boneless chicken cooked in a special Himalayan spice timur), Gosht Gulkhar (diced lamb with green chili, mushrooms, curry leaves and madras hot curry sauce) and Tibet Special Vegetarian Curry. The dishes were lovely presented and the portions were fair but not huge (still I took back home in a doggy bag small remaining of lamb). We accompanied with some garlic naan – that was delicious!

We concluded with a round of pan liquor (my favorite) and a second one (not my fault this time, it was offered, hands down).

Total bill, including two further large beers, read 130 Eur.

Let’s go for the pictures before talking about my impressions.

What I liked about Tibet restaurant:

  • The place is really nice and you basically feel at home. It is informal, but cared in the details, the atmosphere is lovely and the service is very friendly – like in most of the Indian restaurants I have been honestly.
  • The food choice is various and includes also a Tibetan menu – but I had it delivered online and it is too much on the creamy/sweet side for me, so I am not a fan. Anyway, the best things I had were definitely the garlic naan and the chef vegetables. I would order them again.

What I liked a bit less about Tibet restaurant:

  • I am a fan of spicy food – you should have learned it by now – and even if I asked to have my chicken hot spicy as it was indicated in the menu, it was not at all. Indeed the person who was with me is not eating spicy food and I suggest him to try and he confirmed me it was fine even for him. Unfortunately for me this is a big delusional point and one of the factor to choose one Indian on the other. If a dish indicated as hot spicy is not spicy at all, this is not the place for me. But I perfectly understand for someone it might be a great positive side 🙂
  • We ordered quite a lot of stuff and it was good. Still I will not categorize the place among the “cheap” Indian in Luxembourg. Quality was good, but still, slightly overpaid. I appreciated anyway they offered us the second round of digestif.

 

In conclusion: if you are looking for a colorful Indian place with as well Tibetan options, Tibet near the station might be your place. It is perfect as well as for a date and you should not be afraid of chilli, as dishes are definitely not spicy hot. Not the best Indian in town anyway if you are on a budget, anyway.