Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imperial Garden brings flavor to Madison

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Peking Duck
If you're someone who have not tried duck or only have had it in a simple preparation, you should definitely try Imperial Garden's Peking Duck.  It's a whole duck specially prepared and served in three courses.  You can tell the dish is takes time since Imperial Garden requests you order at least one day in advance.

The first course is crispy duck skin with madarin crepes (picture on left).  This is my favorite part of the meal because of the unique sweet, crispy, and juiciness you get alone just from the duck skin.  Usually, duck skin has a really thick soft fatty texture, though the thin duck skin had a bacon-like crispiness.  It's thin duck bacon!  Also a highlight, is the sweet glaze that has a candy mango flavor you can't get enough of.

The second course is duck soup with assorted vegetables (top right).  Similar to other poultry broth, the duck soup has a familiarity though this soup is more flavorful and has great texture with the bits of duck, mushrooms and carrots.

Lastly, the third course is the seasoned sauteed duck served with rice (lower right).  The duck is cooked perfectly, just absolutely tender and moist.  Unfortunately, it has a strong soy sauce presence that masks the gaminess of the duck though because of that, the dish has a one tone flavor.  I wish more flavor is incorporated into this part of the dish especially when the first two courses are packed flavor and uniqueness.  Overall, great experience.  I would definitely ask for the soup and crispy duck skin again. 
Lettuce Wrapped Shrimp
Another great experience is their lettuce wrapped shrimp which can also come in chicken or tofu, appetizer or entree.  I'm admitting, I have returned solely for the lettuce wrapped shrimp.  They serve their lettuce wrap with a choice of lettuce or mandrin pancake, but why choose? Have both lettuce and mandrin pancake which is what I suggest; I wouldn't have it any other way.  You take the pancake and lay a lettuce leaf on top.  Then, layer the mince shrimp and vegetables with the thin crisp noodles and drizzle a spoonful of ginger soy over the spectrum of food.  Either fold it up like a taco or roll it up like an eggroll; prepare yourself, this can get messy.  With your first bite, you'll notice an amazing savory flavor from the shrimp like a smoky hibachi with savory sweet flavor.  In addition, you get all this great crunchy texture from the dry crispy noodle and lettuce and soft texture from season cooked veggies and the thin stretchy pancake.  I totally recommend this dish.  Also be sure to get the ginger soy sauce with it.  It compliments it so perfectly.  I had a server forget it once.

Crispy Duck
Half, bone-in duck seasoned, roasted and fried is definitely a way to overcome the gaminess duck naturally has.  It may be for those who are familiar with the duck flavor though I believe it can be a dish for ones who want to venture out and try something different.  It is very similar to fried chicken but beware, duck meat is all dark meat.  The crisp duck is served with hoisin sauce which helps add sweetness to the dish.  Also, be careful when biting into this meal, you'll notice you'll hit bone more often then you would when eating chicken.

Shrimp Rangoon
Typically you'll find in the appetizer section crab rangoon which is cream cheese with a blend of shredded crab imitation.  Imperial Garden has a different take and has chunks of fresh shrimp mixed in with cream cheese.  The taste and texture of the shrimp is all there and works great with cream cheese and crispy fried wrap.  The sauce has a sweet pineapple flavor and added a bit more, complementing the shrimp rangoon.

Crispy Scallops
And there's always at least one dish that lessens the experience.  Unfortunately, the lightly battered deep fried scallops disappointed me in many ways.  I had expectations since I was content with the other dishes but with this dish, disappointment couldn't have been avoided.  As you can see from the picture alone, you wouldn't have any idea what that was.  Is it chicken nuggets, fried veggie slices, what is it?  Well, it's the crispy scallops which was once probably 3 or 4 perfectly fine scallops until thinly sliced, covered in batter, and fried.  Its basically getting overpriced fish sticks.
2039 Allen Boulevard, Middleton, WI
(608) 238-6445

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AJ Bombers - Fun, Creative, Wisconsin Burger Joint

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Mad Sconnie Burger
Uniquely Madison. As a Wisconsinite, it's only right to try the amazing Mad Sconnie Burger built with Gahnzo patty (grass fed beef blended with Nueske's bacon), frickles (fried pickles), signature bomber sauce (house creamy ketchup), lettuce, tomato all cradled in yummy spicy cheese bread made by our local Stella's Bakery.  Do I really need to say more to have you go out and try this colossal ingredient packed burger?  If that doesn't convince you, think about the tangy crispy fried pickles giving more crunch texture and flavor to the already unique combo patty along with a savory smooth sauce.
Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls
Creative.  Yup that's right, AJ Bombers found a way to differentiate themselves from not just burger joints, but from many other food joints by redesigning a traditional menu and keeping it local.  An example of their uniqueness is found right away in the their appetizer, the Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls.  Chopped buffalo chicken and cheddar cheese wrapped in a crispy eggroll wrapper with a side of ranch or blue cheese.  The crispy wrapper adds a great crunchy texture and something more, stepping outside of the usual soggy breading of a boneless chicken wing.  A fun way to start out.
Brunch Burger
Morning Delight in a Bite.  Imagine your morning with eggs and bacon, turkey and gravy, and pancake with sweet syrup.  Where do you get that in one sitting?  AJ Bombers has your perfect brunch burger on Saturdays and Sundays.  This amazing brunch contains turkey patty, bacon, eggs, gravy mayo and peanut hollandaise on cranberry focaccia bread.  Your first bite will take you to a golden summer morning on a fresh green field.  And the bites after, you'll be twirling in the winds in slow motion.  Yup!  It's that good.
Black Bean Burger
Become a vegetarian for a day.  I said it, VEGETARIAN.  With just black beans mixed with seasonings and panko formed into a patty, layered with lettuce, tomato and Bomber Sauce; the Black Bean Burger packs a surprising amount of flavor and satisfaction.  This is probably the one time something good for your actually tastes good.  Crazy to say, but this burger could be the murderer of my carnivorous days.  For a burger joint, AJ Bombers actually have a great variety of vegetarian options: Veggie Burger, Stuffed 'Shoom and of course the Black Bean Burger.
Mac -n- Cheese Eggrolls
Special Eggrolls Saturdays.  I don't mean the ones stuffed with cabbage, carrots and pork.  Try their specially designed eggrolls on Saturdays.  Ever had Mac -n- Cheese wrapped in a wonton wrapper, or how about chili cheese or BBQ?  Try something different, you'll be amazed how tasty and creative AJ Bombers' staff can wrap things up.  But don't hesitate, these awesome eggrolls won't last.
A little different, eh?  To change things up, AJ Bombers goes beyond to bring back the Poutine, a Quebec dish with cheese curds, fries and gravy.  Poutine has made it on my list of comfort food.  The cheese and gravy with fries has all savoriness that makes you feel like you don't need anyone else in the world.  But once you ate all the cheese curds, you will want to your friends.  The simple three-ingredient dish is lovely, but needs all three together to have that perfect bite.  Unfortunately, the only complaint about this dish is that there are not enough cheese curds.  Fries and gravy alone just don't cut it.
Grilled Cheese
Basic to Delicious.  A great combination of Wisconsin cheddar, muenster cheese, bacon, tomato and Bomber Sauce on Panini bread.  The warm ooey-gooey cheeses and crispy bacon makes you melt more than the sandwich itself.
Barrie Burger
Not for everyone.  Another unique burger on their menu is the Barrie Burger, which is layered with a quarter pound burger, lots of bacon, American cheese and natural chunky peanut butter.  Unfortunately, the burger overall tasted identical to a plain peanut butter sandwich.  Although the bacon cheeseburger tasted great together without the peanut butter; the flavor was masked by the peanut butter where the stickiness and dryness had me dipping the burger into a ranch sauce crying for moisture.  And believe it or not, the PB also suppressed the tangy ranch flavor.  I appreciate the idea; unfortunately, the PB didn't work for me.
Peanut Bomb
Peanuts! Heads up! Kaboom!  As you walk in to the restaurant, you'll notice the unpolished floor decorated with peanut shells and beams stretched across the ceiling.  And shortly after you're seated, you'll realize why it's called AJ Bombers.  The bartender dumps a handful of peanuts into the bombshells and launches them.  As it sores towards your table, an exploding sound wakens you and a rain of peanuts drop down a tube into the bucket at your table.  The majority will make it into the bucket, though the combustion can cause peanut debris to fall on the table and floor.  Since the floor already has peanuts sprinkled all over, you are welcome to add to the decor and toss your peanut shells where ever.  A different menu, atmosphere, and vision; I recommend you to try it out and have "AJ Bomb" good time.
201 West Gorham Street, Madison, WI 
(608) 305-4474 

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1241 N Water Street, Milwaukee, WI 
(414) 221-9999 

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