Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2023

Miu Fish

Alright, I know some of you might laugh, some might criticize and some might just roll your eyes and want to stop reading right now.  However, bear with me here.  I feel that eating one type of cuisine (even though it can be diverse) can catch up to you.  If you look at your dining behaviour in your own town, it generally won't be the same things over and over again.  Therefore, we just had to go eat something else for dinner while in Pisa.  So don't laugh when we went to AYCE sushi at Miu Fish.  Just like in Rome, this place is Chinese-run, but I guess we had to see if it was any good.

Looking over the huge menu, we selected a bunch of items including the Tatare Special, Tiger Venere, Tris Tartare and Carpaccio di Pesce Misto.  Surprisingly, the fish quality was rather decent with a nice sheen and fresh smell.  Texturally, it ate well and the carpaccio was especially buttery.  As for the purple rice in the maki sushi, it was a little soft, but not mushy.  It still had a bit of chewiness.

Off to our next set of dishes, we had the Ebi Tempura, Unagi Nigiri, Gio Spicy Tuna and Gio Spicy Salmone.  Unlike the one we had in Rome, the ebi tempura was solid with a crispy and light batter.  The ebi itself was cold water buttery.  Unagi was pretty typical being soft and fatty with just enough unagi sauce.  Sushi rice was acceptable with a moist chewiness.  The tuna and salmon flowers were akin to the fish we had with the previous dishes.

With a variety of Sushi e Sashimi, we chose the 20-piece platter.  As you can see in the picture, we found salmone, pesce bianco, tuna and ebi nigiri as well as the same in sashimi.  Also on the plate was Salmone Gunkan and a Miura Roll.  As you can see so far, even though this was AYCE, the food was prepared carefully and presented neatly.  Again, the fish quality was good and hence, the nigiri and sashimi ate well.

Our next 3 dishes were a bit of a mishmash of things including the Gamberetti Sale e Pepe, New Chirashi Sake and Gambero Pistacchio.  Yes, the first dish was a Chinese one with fried salt and pepper shrimp.  Hey, it was good, crispy with meaty shrimp and lots of flavour.  The next dish was essentially thinly sliced salmon on top of sushi rice.  On the bottom, the last one was a salmon flower with cream cheese on top and pistachios.  Interesting, but ate quite well. 

We actually had quite a few dishes that were rather similar.  That was the case of the Ikura Special, as it was essentially like the gio spicy salmone except with ikura on top (and not being spicy) with some ponzu dressing.  The kids love Salmone Sashimi, so we got an order of that.  Look how vibrant it is.  Nothing much to say about the Ebi Nigiri as we already had that in the platter.  Last in this round was the Spicy Salmone Roll.  This was deep fried and topped with spicy salmon and spicy mayo.  Quite saucy and crunchy.

One of our favourite dishes was the Grigliata Mista comprised of filetto di branzino, gamberoni and totani grigliati.  So the grilled prawn was sweet and meaty while the branzino was moist and flaky.  The squid was a bit chewy, but tender enough to eat.  Also got some Salmone and Tuna Tataki coated in sesame seeds and dressed in olive oil.  Mild-tasting, but again, the fish quality was good.

Last set of dishes included Manzo Piccante con Verdure and Spaghetti di Soia Vegetariani.  Back to the Chinese dishes, the spicy beef was quite good with tender slices and a tangy spicy sauce.  The mung bean noodles were chewy and well-seasoned and accompanied by crisp veggies.  Overall, this was a rather surprising meal as it was more than acceptable especially since it was AYCE and located in Pisa of all places.  Worth a visit if you aren't into pasta, pizza, steak or sandwiches anymore.

The Good:
- Solid food quality
- Actually prepared well
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Some creative liberties take here, but we didn't mind it
- Some confusion on which dishes we ordered

I Porci Comodi

So for those who aren't aware, the month of August is when many businesses in Europe, including restaurants, close up shop and go on vacation.  Great for them, but when we are looking for places to eat, it complicates things.  This is especially frustrating when they do not post anywhere online that they are closed and also when Google doesn't have the updated information.  This was the case when we were roaming the streets of Pisa in search for lunch.  We finally settled on sandwiches (again) since I Porci Comodi was open and we were done walking around.

Turned out to be a blessing in disguise as this worked out to be a cheap lunch as well as being tasty.  For my sammie, I selected the 18 and I'm Happy Please consisting of thinly-sliced porchetta, eggplant, green sauce and EVOO.  Similarly to the sandwich we had in Florence, the bread was crunchy and firm.  It did hold up to the ingredients quite well.  The fatty pork was super tender and aromatic.  Green sauce was bright with herbs while the eggplant provided some moisture.

Viv decided on vegetarian with Corinna's Sandwich with fresh tomato, eggplant, stracchino, green sauce and EVOO.  Naturally, without meat in this sammie, the whole thing depended on the cheese to provide some body.  That it did with a creamy freshness and plenty of moisture.  Tomatoes were indeed fresh and flavourful while the eggplant was "meaty" in texture.  With the same green sauce, the sammie was bright and flavourful.

My son had the Prosciutto Crudo Toscano with aged pecorino cheese and truffle sauce.  Once again, the sauce made all the difference as it provided moisture as well as plenty of earthiness and creaminess.  The prosciutto was at its salty best and offering a chewy meatiness.  Let's not forget about the thick slices of cheese as they were pungent with salty nuttiness.

Staying with the same theme, my daugther had the Prosciutto Crudo Toscana with aged pecorino cheese, honey, walnuts and EVOO.  As expected, the honey was the perfect foil for the salty prosciutto.  This sammie had the salty sweet thing going on and due to the addition of walnuts, it also had crunch and nuttiness.  Of course the cheese provided another layer of salty nuttiness as well.  In the end, we were just happy to have some food in our tummies after walking around for awhile.  We enjoyed the sammies, but thought the ones in Florence were a bit better.  But overall, solid and inexpensive.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Nice flavour combos
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Would've liked just a bit more meat in the sammies

Cantinetta Cavour

Since we were pretty exhausted on our last night in Florence (and also we had to wake up early the next morning to head to Pisa), we decided to hit up Cantinetta Cavour right across the street from our apartment.  Hey, it wasn't giving up on good food either as the place has positive reviews.  However, reviews aren't the end all, so we needed to assess this with our own lens.  We enjoyed our Bistecca Florentine so much the first night, we decided to have it again at this meal!

But before, that we started with the Crostini Toscani with chicken liver pâté.  Unlike the one we had a few meals before, this one was a bit smoother, yet still had plenty of texture such as the Tuscan-style of this dish.  I much preferred this one as the pâté was more balanced in flavour and aromatic.  The crostini was crunchy, yet not hard while holding up to the wet ingredient on top.  Also liked how they weren't shy with slathering that pâté on top. 

For our mains, we wanted to get something to compliment the beef, so we chose the Filetto di Orata alla Mediterranea (Sea Bream).  We enjoyed this dish as the fish itself was flaky and moist while beautifully prepared.  It was seasoned properly and had a nutty flavour from the sear. However, the sauce on top really put it over the top with so much flavour including the tang from the olives and sweetness from the veggies.

Onto what we were really here for - the Bistecca alla Florentine!  This was 1.2kg as it should be at minimum to qualify as such steak.  For some reason, it seemed like more meat than the meal we had the first night.  I also thought the steak was even better in terms of texture.  Although it was rare (as it should be), the meat was buttery and soft with lots of meaty flavour.  It was salted enough and I enjoyed how it was thicker than the first steak we had. 

Even thought their Beef Tartare with mustard, dried tomatoes and stracciatella was a pretty hefty main dish size, we decided to do that as an appetizer.  This was pretty good with a nice mix of flavours including the tang from the mustard, sharpness from the red onions and additional sweet zip from the tomatoes.  Add in the stringy cheesiness from the stracciatella, this was delicious and went well with our bread.  The beef itself was tender and didn't require much effort to chew.

Moving onto the pasta course, we had the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with pomodoro and burrata.  Sporting a bright and mild tomato sauce, this didn't eat very heavy despite the burrata on top.  The natural sweetness of the tomatoes came through as well as a nice dose of background acidity.  Of course the burrata was a nice addition to provided depth to the pasta.  About that pasta, it was firmly al dente, just how we like it.  If we had to compare with our meal at Ristorante Romantico il Paiolo, the one here was far superior and I felt our steak was really 1.2kg or maybe even bigger.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Beautiful Florentine steak
- Super nice people

The Bad:
- Gets a bit busy and they are trying their best to attend to every table, but you have to be patient

My Sugar Gelato Artigianale

Our last visit to a gelato shop in Florence ended up at My Sugar just a block from our apartment.  So far, we hit up the other 2 more popular spots in Perché No! and Carabé.  I guess third times a charm as we felt this was the best of the bunch in terms of texture and taste (as well as the sweetness).  Just a note to others visiting Florence, there was a dollar store right across from My Sugar and be sure to hit it up for all your needs including water and souvenirs. Anyways, back to the gelato, we each got a cup to test out the flavours.

For myself, I went for the Mango Sorbetto and the Black Sesame Gelato.  I thought the mango was natural-tasting and purposefully sweet.  It had all of the aromatics and fruitiness of mango while being smooth and not icy.  The black sesame gelato was creamy but not thick.  It was also just sweet enough with lots of nuttiness and classic aroma.  This has been one of my favourite flavours of gelato so far on this trip.

Viv chose Coffee Gelato as well as Lime & Mandarin Sorbetto.  We found the coffee to be smooth and creamy but again, not heavy.  It was lightly sweet with a pleasant coffee aroma that had a nice finish.  The star of the show was the lime & mandarin as it was the perfect combination of tangy and sweet.  The essence of lime really came through while the floral sweetness of the mandarin provided balance.

For my daughter, she didn't stay far from her favourites including both the Lemon and Strawberry Sorbetto.  Once again, these were blended smooth and were just sweet enough.  The lemon was tangy but not as acidic as some other versions we've tried.  The strawberry was naturally-flavoured and had a good tanginess to balance off the sweetness (which wasn't overpowering).

Just like my daughter, my son went with his go to combination of Dark Chocolate and Strachiatella Gelato.  Okay, if you are wondering what that grey stuff is, it is in fact the Strachiatella.  Both that and the chocolate were smooth and creamy.  Not as heavy as some others we've had, but also not super light such as the one from Carabé.  Chocolate was plenty flavourful with deep notes.  As mentioned, this was our favourite gelato in Florence.  But I need to mention, Frigidarium in Rome is still our favourite despite being in a different city and region.

The Good:
- Smooth and creamy
- Not too rich or sweet
- Natural flavours

The Bad:

- For those looking for very creamy, this is a bit lighter than that

All'Antico Vinaio

We woke up early to catch the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace before it got hot as it was a toasty 37 degrees Celsius the day before.  Even with that, we were still plenty sweating after those 2 tourist attractions.  We made our way over the Ponte Vecchio to a very popular sandwich shop called All'Antico Vinaio.  It was just a smidge past 10:00am and the lineup was already forming.  They actually have 4 storefronts near each other and they have staggered opening to help move the lines.

We got a sandwich each with mine being the Tartufo Uno with mortadella with truffles, stracchino, mushroom cream and arugula.  This was all served on freshly-baked focaccia that was rather firm and crunchy.  With all of the wet ingredients, this bread did serve it's purpose by keeping its shape and keeping things within.  There was a good amount of mortadella that had the unmistakable taste of black truffles.  The mushroom cream added both moisture and another layer of earthiness.  The arugula provided some bitter brightness.

For Viv, she went with the Summer consisting of prosciutto crudo, 
mozzarella fior di latte, tomato and basil.  Due to the use of raw prosciutto, it was a bit more difficult to chew without yanking the entire slice out of the sandwich.  However, the firm bread made it easier to not destroy the whole thing.  Mild ingredients such as the mozzarella, tomato and basil helped temper the saltiness and added texture and moisture as well as aromatics.

My son had probably the best oft the bunch with the Number 5 with porchetta, roast potato cream and parmesan cream.  Beyond the thin fatty slices of the roast pork, the best part of this sandwich was the roast potato cream.  It was certainly smooth and creamy with depth of flavour as well as adding a binding agent to the sandwich.  It held things together and the whole thing felt like a roast pork plate in a sandwich.

My daughter ended up with the Manolo with prosciutto cotto, mushroom cream, mozzarella fior di latte and basil.  This one, as well as mine, was the easiest to eat since the ham was tender.  The saltiness was tempered by the mozzarella as well as the fresh aromatics of the basil.  Just like my sandwich, this featured the same earthy mushroom cream.  So does this place live up to the hype?  I would say yes because the sammies were tasty and stuffed full of excellent ingredients.  An affordable and quick lunch that won't interrupt your sightseeing or wallet.

The Good:
- Quality ingredients
- Tasty ingredients
- Inexpensive considering everything

The Bad:
- Of course the dreaded lineup
- I liked the bread and it served a purpose, but for some, it might be too firm

Antica Osteria di Pietra

After a brief hiatus from Roman cuisine (only one meal in between), we went back to the well because when in Rome...  Our destination was another recommendation and it sat near the Trevi Fountain on the very busy Via di Pietra.  Normally, that would be a place to avoid due to the touristy nature of the area where restaurants are practically pulling you into the place with their large posted menus and pictures of their dishes.  However, when we arrived, the place was bustling, but no one was pressuring us to go in nor was there any large advertisements.

As such, we sat relaxingly at our table looking over the dishes we wanted to order.  To start, we didn't do anything complex and went for the Antipasto della Casa featuring some prosciutto, coppa and spicy sopressata.  As for the cheeses, it appeared to be provolone and asiago.  We also found toasted bread with marinated tomatoes on top.  The star of the show was the tomatoes as they were fresh and sweet while nicely seasoned.

For our mains, we shared a bunch of dishes including the Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe.  This was a solid version of this dish with the salty nuttiness of the pecorino coming through with each bite.  I liked how there was only enough to coat each strand of pasta without being soupy.  There was a good amount of black pepper to give the dish some bite.  The tonnarelli itself was firmly al dente and had a great mouth-feel.  Since it is thicker than spaghetti, it already had a firmer chew, which I prefer.

We also had the Lasagna alla Bolognese which was pretty good.  I would've liked to see the sheets of pasta to be a bit firmer, but they were still good nonetheless.  The pasta sheets were fairly thin and that would've meant by virtue of being baked, it would soak up much of the moisture.  In turn, the pasta was delicate and very easy to eat.  The creamy bolognese featured properly cooked down meat that was tender and rich.  Good balance between tomato and creaminess.

I really wanted to try the Trippa alla Romana since I spotted it on the menu several meals ago.  This time I went for it and knew I had to eat the whole dish myself.  Well, everyone else's loss since this was delicious!  Each strip of tripe was cooked until super tender with only a minor buttery bite.  There was no gaminess as this was prepared properly before and during cooking.  Loved the creamy tomato sauce as it was mild and not overpowering.

Our favourite dish of the meal was the Spigola alla Sicillana or sea bass with olives, capers, parsley, basil and tomato.  The fish was seared up beautifully where the skin was browned and nicely seasoned.  Flaky and super moist, the sea bass was a bit buttery (as it generally is) and was also properly seasoned.  The sauce of the aforementioned ingredients provided a really bright tanginess from the olives, capers and tomatoes.

Lastly, we had the Bistecca di Manzo prepared medium-rare.  The rib-eye steak was properly seared on the outside while being medium-rare (closer to rare) on the inside.  This was our preference and it yielded a juicy steak that was properly rested.  It was seasoned enough and was served with an arugula and tomato salad.  So as you can tell, there was a little of everything on this menu representing different regions of Italy.  Normally, this would be dubious, but we felt the food was quite good and reasonably-priced.

The Good:
- Well-prepared dishes
- Solid service
- A little of everything on the menu

The Bad:
- Located in a busy part of town near the Trevi Fountain, so it can be packed

Sto Bene Roma

Our original plan was to hit up Forno Campo de 'Fiori for a quick bite at lunch while we peruse the market and the surrounding area.  However, after being dropped off by our Uber, we quickly noticed the place closed for the month of August!  Great.  Now we were standing there being solicitated by mediocre restaurants left, right and centre.  We quickly made the dash out of there and did a quick Google search for the best sandwiches near us and decided on Sto Bene Roma just a few blocks away.  It turned out to be a great decision as the place was inexpensive and their sammies were good!

For myself, I tried the Fiori with tuna, tomatoes, lettuce and seafood sauce.   This was all served on some really crunchy and crusty bread.  It was still light, but firmly crunchy on the outside.  There was a good amount of delicate tuna that had been dressed in both olive oil and the seafood sauce (which was really mayo and ketchup mixed together).  Fresh thick-sliced tomatoes and crisp lettuce completed this excellent sammie.

Viv decided on the Piramide with ham, artichokes, onion marmalade and ricotta.  I took some bites out of this one and it was even better with lots of freshly-shaved ham that offered up both moisture and saltiness to the sandwich.  The creamy ricotta provided even more moisture and the artichokes afforded some tang and aroma from the olive oil.  What really brought this together was the sweet onion marmalade.

My son went for the Augusto with prosciutto di parma, buffalo mozzarella and parmigiano (he omitted the arugula).  This was a classic combination of saltiness that was tempered by the blank slate of the mozzarella.  Due to the meatiness of the prosciutto, it was imperative that the bread stay intact so that each bite wasn't resulting in things slipping out.  The crunchy bread did its job and each bite yielded all of the ingredients.

My daughter opted for the Farnese with mortadella, pistachio pesto, brie and a balsamic cream.  I do believe this was the best tasting sandwich as well as being the moist impactful.  There was a nutty herbaceousness from the pesto and the creamy sweet tang of the balsamic complimented the buttery brie.  Of course there was a bevy of sliced-to-order mortadella which made this sandwich fulfilling.   Well, I guess this proves sometimes we don't have to think too hard to find good eats.  Somewhat random, but ultimately delicious and easy on the wallet.

The Good:
- Loaded sandwiches with quality ingredients
- Super nice people
- Huge selection

The Bad:
- Mostly take-out, very few seats


Alright, here we go again, dining on something that we shouldn't be eating in Rome.  Yes, I realize that sushi, especially one that is all-you-can-eat, is not on anyone's bucket list for the city.  However, as mentioned in the Hua Wei Ju post, sometimes, we just have to take a break from eating the same thing over and over again despite the sacrilegious optics especially being in Rome.  For those trying to hate, remember, these are my food adventures, not yours.  Also, I have kids with me (albeit older ones) and I don't make decisions base solely on my needs.  Without further ado, let's dive into Sushiko and the AYCE meal we had.

First off, the pricing seemed reasonable at around 24 Euros, especially for the extensive menu that was offered.  However, it did seem a bit sketch with all of the Chinese dishes that were available too.  It is run by a Chinese family, so this wasn't surprising.  Anyways, we kicked things off with some starters including Wakame Salad, Edamame, Seafood Salad, Miso Soup and Hot & Sour Soup (yes, there is the Chinese item!).  Nothing really out-of-the-ordinary here where the everything was rather typical except the seafood salad was both good and bad.  Loved the squid as it was tender but the crab stick was hard and lifeless.  The hot & sour soup was actually quite good but needed to be thicker though.

Onto some fried starters, we had the Tempura, Ebi Tempura and Fried Pumpkin Blossoms.  Gotta say all of these were not very good.  The tempura batter was far too dense and laid on too thick.  Hence it was overly crunchy and hard.  Furthermore, they fried the heck out of everything where the veggies were overdone while the ebi was indiscernible because it just melded into the batter.  Really didn't like the blossoms as the batter was also extremely hard and far too fried.

We ordered a selection of Nigiri including Salmon, Tuna, Ebi, Unagi, Tako and Branzino.  It all looked good and in fact, the salmon, tuna and branzino were nicely textured and fresh.  However, the sushi rice underneath was really dry and in dire need of seasoning.  Really too bad because the fish itself was appealing.  The same couldn't be said about the tako as it was also dry and a bit too chewy.  Unagi was typical being soft, but needed a bit more sauce.

For our specialty roll, we chose the Black Dragon Roll featuring a tempura shrimp and avocado on the inside wrapped in black rice and topped with seared salmon, tobiko, mayo and teriyaki sauce.  Again, with the hard and overfried ebi tempura, the roll ate heavy and overly crunchy.  The torched salmon on top was buttery soft while the sauces didn't add too much moisture to the roll.  We thought the black rice was actually quite good and we should asked for it in our nigiri if we had known.

The kids just love the raw fish, so we got some Sashimi (Salmon & Tuna) and Carpaccio (Salmon, Tuna and Branzino) as well.  The main difference between the two was partially the cut as well as the carpaccio having a ponzu sauce in the middle of the plate.  As mentioned, the fish quality was decent and the textures were soft without being mushy.  In terms of flavour, the fish was on the bland side, but it tasted fresh and had a nice sheen.  I preferred the carpaccio as I love the tang of the ponzu.

Our last round of dishes included the Gunkan Salmon and Tuna Rolls, Shiromi Yaki, Stir-Fried Veggies, Beef Yaki and Salmon Maki.  Other than the crappy sushi rice, the gunkan salmon and tuna rolls were good due to the amount of fish.  That overshadowed the rice and that was a good thing.  Super surprising, the shriomi yaki was excellent.  The fish was cooked perfectly and was buttery soft with plenty of seasoning.  Beef yaki was okay but the meat was a touch tough.  We only got the veggies because we needed veggies, it was not overdone.  Overall, the fish quality at Sushiko was surprisingly good.  On the other hand, the sushi rice and tempura batter were shockingly horrible.  I guess if you order the right things and avoid the regular sushi rice, the meal could be fairly good.  But for us, it was only okay.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Nice people
- Good fish quality

The Bad:
- Sushi rice was not good
- Tempura batter was worse



Continuing on my quest to find the best Gelato in the few days we were in Rome, it brought us to another highly-rated spot in Frigidarium.  It worked out quite well for us since we were dining at the nearby Osteria da Fortunata for lunch.  We made the short stroll over to the busy Via del Governo Vecchio to find a small lineup for the tiny gelato shop.  They have been around since 1988 and pride themselves on using a minimum of 50% fruit in their sorbettos.

I went ahead and got a medio with three flavours including Limone and Melone Sorbettos and Amarena Gelato.  Oh the fruit flavours really popped here with the limone being the most impactful of the 3 we've had.  This was very tart, but refreshing and natural tasting.  The melone was also very fruity with little bits of canteloupe strewn throughout.  It was on the sweeter side though, possibly from the ripe fruit.  As for the amarena, the vanilla base gelato was creamy and more rich than the other 2 I've had.  It was on the sweeter side, especially with the cherry preserve.

Once again, my son went for the Cioccolato Fondente as well as the Straciatella (probably with my influence the night before).  Once again, the gelato here delivered as he thought this was the best of the 3 he has tried so far.  The gelato was richer and thicker than the other two and the dark chocolate really came through with balanced bitterness.  As for the straciatella, it was creamy and rich while being sweet.  It had a good amount of chocolate shavings in it.

After some coaxing, my daughter relented and got a single flavour of gelato coated with chocolate.  She didn't get very creative as a result and had the exact same flavour as my son with the Staciatella.  Naturally, without the influence of the chocolate gelato (like in my son's order), this ate a bit sweet while being creamy.  Of course the abundance of chocolate on top made it sweeter.

Viv went for the Fruitti di Bosco Sorbetto as well as the Coffee Gelato.  She thought the mixed berry sorbetto was natural tasting as well as being a bit sweet.  She wasn't a huge fan of all the seed though as it broke up the texture too much.  She did enjoy the rich coffee gelato though as it aromatic and had a strong coffee hit and aftertaste.  Compared to the other gelato we've had so far, Frigidarium was our favourite.  Spoiler alert: this was our favourite of the entire trip (including more gelato to come after this post).

The Good:
- Natural impactful flavours
- Creamy texture
- They really load up the cup

The Bad:
- Fairly sweet

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