Pho Chandler

Pho Chandler
4055 S. Arizona Ave. #8
Chandler, AZ 85248
(480) 895-9090

My wife and I decided to try Pho Chandler because it is conveniently located to our home. While we have a favorite Vietnamese restaurant, it is always good to try others to expand your repertoire. After all, going to a new restaurant isn’t like cheating!

The restaurant is a nice clean place. Upon entering we were greeted and seated by a friendly hostess / waitress / bus person. We were having a late lunch, so they weren’t busy. The Olympics were playing on the LCD screen in the dining room. While not exactly traditional Vietnamese décor, it all worked in a very casual way.

There is no lunch menu, just one menu for lunch and dinner. This wasn’t really a problem as everything on the menu was less than $10. The appetizers ranged from $3.50 to $5. All in all Pho Chandler is an inexpensive, casual place.

Since Vietnamese is one of our favorite cuisines, we had high hopes when we ordered our standard dishes. While we are adventurous dinners, I find it is easier to judge a restaurant if I am comparing apples to apples. In a new Vietnamese restaurant, I usually order spring rolls and a simple rice or noodle dish. We went for the spring rolls and the Pho Xao Ga Tom Thai lan Lat Na. Translated that means Thai style stir-fried with chicken breast, shrimp and rice noodle.

The spring rolls were not very crispy. Almost as if the veggies had gone a little soft. The peanut sauce was flavorless. It actually didn’t even have a lot of peanut flavor. The main dish was a disaster. The stir fry consists of chicken and shrimp on Pad Thai type rice noodles. All of the ingredients were cooked a bit too long. The chicken and the shrimp were rubbery and the noodles were, well, over cooked. The shrimp also tasted like it was at the end of its shelf life.

The only saving grace of the meal was a competently prepared Thai Ice tea. All in all this was a strange dining experience for a Vietnamese restaurant as a number of the dishes seem to be Thai. If they are still in business in the winter time, I might go back to try some Pho or Bun Cha Ha Noi.

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Pita Souvli

Pita Souvli
1940 S. Alma School
Chandler, AZ 85248
(480) 907-5893

We were sitting at home unpacking one night when some friends called. They wanted to know if we would join them at Pita Souvli. Being somewhat hungry and always up for a new restaurant we said “sure, why not?” We found the restaurant almost by accident. It’s near the Mountainside Fitness right next to the Cactus Bike shop. This is a store front that has almost no exposure to the main parking lot. It’s not easy to find! Insiders tip: there is rarely used parking directly in front of the door on the very south side of the shopping center.

Pita Souvli is done up in a very modern, but not overly modern motif. It has nice bright colors and a cool stone bar. There are high top and regular tables through out the restaurant giving everybody a chance to sit as they wish. It’s a smallish intimate restaurant perfect for a date or just to meet friends.

The menu includes standard Mediterranean fare including humus, tzatziki and many types of souvlaki. Appetizers start at less than $4 while meals go up to $13. This is a pretty inexpensive place to have a nice lunch or dinner.

I like humus, tzatziki, gyros and all manner of Mediterranean food. I will state up front that under no conditions will I eat dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Unfortunately eating Dolmades gives me the feeling that I’m eating a cigar butt. This isn’t a reflection on any particular restaurant, just one of my personal peccadilloes.

The humus was very good. I prefer mine with a bit of tahini added, but it was very good. The tzatziki was a little thin but also very good. Both appetizers were served with hot fresh pita bread sliced into wedges and sprinkled with herbs. Not bad, now to see about dinner.

We ordered the chicken breast souvlaki platter. The platters are served with roasted potatoes, a Greek salad, a side of tzatziki and pita bread. In too many restaurants the Greek salad is a weak side of wilted lettuce designed to take up space. Here, we were in for a surprise! The very friendly and personable waitress brought out several large, delicious looking platters of souvlaki heaped with food. The chopped roasted potatoes seemed odd at first on a souvlaki platter, but they were excellent. The heavily seasoned chicken was flavorful and tender. The Greek salad was fresh and delicious.

We didn’t have room to try the obligatory baklava, but perhaps another day.

I would rate this restaurant with four stars. I would recommend trying it.

Floridino’s

Floridino’s
590 N Alma School Rd
Chandler, AZ 85224
480-812-8433

Floridino’s used to be a neighborhood secret. The secret is pretty much out! During the off season it can be tough to get a seat at lunchtime. During the winter, the place is packed. There can even be a wait for dinner. That said, Floridinos is worth the usually brief wait. The prices are great, the food is great, the service is great and the redecorated dining room almost has a hint of ambiance.

This isn’t the place to go for cloth tablecloths and expensive food. If you want a great lunch special for $3.50, then this is the place. The individual lunch pizza is an unbeatable deal and there are about a half a dozen other specials that are too good to pass up.

If you are interested in a unique individual pizza, I strongly recommend the spicey chicken pizza. It’s an individual pizza topped with chunks of boneless chicken wing served with a side of creamy ranch dressing. It’s one of my favorites and it tastes even better than it sounds. You can choose what kind of meat, cheese and veggie fillings you would like in a freshly made giant calzone. You can get sausage, meatball, pepperoni, broccoli, garlic and about a dozen other things in your calzone or on a pizza. My personal preference is for the white calzone with no tomatoes.

The chicken parmigiana sandwiches are bursting with sauce and cheese. The pasta dishes are available with meat sauce or marinara and a very interesting take on garlic bread.

While I’m not a huge salad fan, the Chicken Ceaser salad is probably the best I’ve ever had. They put big chunks of lightly breaded chicken on a mound of fresh greens. If your tastes run to the garden salad with vinaigrette or the chef’s salad, they are all prepared equally as competently.

For a great appetizer, meal or quick snack the pizza muffins are a great choice that you won’t see anywhere else. Picture a sliced up Stromboli cooked with your choice of fillings and made fresh to order. Delicious!

Floridino’s is a must for great, inexpensive Italian food. They rate five stars.

Saigon Pho

Saigon Pho
1381 N Alma School Rd
Chandler, AZ 85224
480-786-8828

Here’s the short version of this review: “Saigon Pho has the best Vietnamese food in Chandler”. I haven’t found any Vietnamese restaurant in the area that compares to Saigon Pho. I spent a year living in Orange County California. I lived within 20 minutes of “Little Saigon” in Garden Grove. That said, I’ve eaten at a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. I’ve yet to find many that I like more than Saigon Pho.

When you walk in to the deceptively large restaurant, you will be greeted by a smiling waitress asking you how many in your party. If they aren’t crowded, you’ll usually be seated at one of the tables or booths in the main dining room. There is a spill over dining room attached that is just as large. The décor is plain, very plain. I do recommend visiting the large fish tanks in the back. Seeing giant fish swimming around in a restaurant is always a treat.

The Vietnamese style egg rolls are lightly fried, not greasy and filled with meat and vegetables. The spring rolls burst with crispy veggies and lean meat. The Bun and Com dishes are sensational. Saigon Pho has by far the leanest and most flavorful charbroiled pork I’ve ever seen. The namesake Saigon Pho is a great soup with perfectly cooked rice noodles.

The Beef Chow Fun is a mix of vegetables, beef and sauce on a thick bed of rice noodles. Speaking of rice noodles, the seafood and vegetable with crispy rice noodles is one of my favorite dishes. A medley of seafood with mixed vegetables cooked in one of Saigon Pho’s signature sauces is served on a bed of crispy rice noodles. Absolutely fantastic.

If you like seafood, Saigon Pho has a special treat for you. Saigon Pho has their Saigon Pho special sauce. This is the best seafood sauce I’ve ever eaten. The Saigon Special Crab, Saigon Special Lobster and Saigon Special Fish are incredible. You could put Saigon Special sauce on a rock and it would be great! The Saigon Special Fish isn’t on the menu, but they’ll make it if you ask.

Saigon Pho is the one of the best Vietnamese restaurants around. They rate five stars.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law
58 S San Marcos Pl
Chandler, AZ 85225
(480) 812-1588

So, the family is sitting around trying to decide where to go for dinner. My daughter suggested Outback, but we’ve been there several times in the past few months. After some debate, we decided to try something new. My wife found Murphy’s Law on-line so we decided to try it. Having been to a few Irish pubs in Ireland and more than a few in New York and Boston, I admit that I had some expectations.

We arrived at the pub and found a hostess standing outside. She promptly entered the pub without a word and left us standing there. Strange, disorganized, but O.K., we go inside. The inside does look like a real Irish pub with a few differences. Obviously in Ireland the Guinness signs don’t say “Imported.” They usually don’t have pictures of dogs playing poker and the T.V. is usually turned to their football, not ours. That said, it was still a very nice interior and had a nice pub like ambiance.

Then we ordered food. Unfortunately here is where things went horribly wrong. Most Irish pubs have good food. Irish pubs in Ireland usually have traditional dishes such as bangers, blood pudding and mutton as well as a healthy selection of American food. That is healthy as in a large selection of juicy burgers, not healthy as in good for you, of course.

We had chicken salad sandwiches and shephard’s Pie. The large chicken salad sandwiches were served on a plate with a nice helping of fries. We ordered both sweet potato and regular fries. The chicken salad was rubbery and served on a warm plate. The sweet potato fries were cooked properly and had a bit of crisp too them. Even the steak fries were O.K.

The shephard’s pie was another story altogether. Served in a small metal bucket on a wooden plate it is unlike any other shephard’s pie that I have ever seen. I was expecting some meat and veggies topped with fresh mashed potatoes. Their pie advertised that it was also topped with a puff pastry. Interesting I thought, why not? I’ll tell you why not. The puffed pastry tasted like a chunk of Kevlar. It was tough, flexible and completely resilient to cutting with a spoon.

The texture of the mashed potatoes gave away it’s frozen past. The bland yellowish cheese on top didn’t do anything to help the flavor and the center was still cold. The food was inedible. The worst part of the experience was the waitresses’ response. She told me the manager pulled the shephard’s pie from the menu because it was the second complaint that night. She then went on to tell me they’ve had to pull the shephard’s pie on several other occasions because of quality control problems and the meat being over salted.

Their lack of concern for their patrons and the quality of food that they serve is alarming. I would rate them with one star and I won’t go back.

Cornish Pasty Co.

Cornish Pasty Co.
http://www.cornishpastyco.com
1941 W. Guadalupe Rd #101
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 838-3586

Legend has it Cornish miners carried pasty’s (pronounced pahs tee) for lunch. Some claim the recipes date from the 12th century which is possible, but the earliest recorded recipe is from the mid 18th century. Miner’s wives would bake meat and vegetables into pastry dough. The food would stay hot and fresh contained in the dough until lunch time. Supposedly they could stay hot for eight hours if properly wrapped.

I can honestly say I’ve never worked a tin mine, I am however glad that others did, as we are the beneficiaries of their culinary heritage. The Cornish pasty Co. is a nice restaurant on the south east corner of the intersection. As you walk up you’ll see a brick storefront with an outdoor patio in front. Upon entering you are greeted with three long tables, a bar and a few small tables for two. It’s an unusual arrangement but seems to work. The juke box in the back plays a variety of songs all of them contemporary American.

The bar overlooks the kitchen where the pasty’s are prepared. You can see the cooks working with good basic ingredients to prepare the meals. You won’t actually see them prepare your meal as they take 45 minutes just to cook. The pasty’s are prepared ahead of time and finished for you when you order. The good news is that you can get a variety of delicious pastys in a reasonable amount of time. The disadvantage to this is that the pastys cannot be changed or customized. If you want an ingredient removed, it’s not possible.

The menu covers pasty from the more traditional dishes such as beef, shepherd’s pie and pork to the more modern such as Chicken Alfredo. The pasty’s are served hot and fresh. They are properly seasoned, not too spicy and very flavorful. The crust alone deserves a trip to check it out. The crusts are all homemade, delicious and flaky.

I had the pork pasty with the red wine sauce. The pasty and the source were both excellent. The roasted potatoes were delicious, though swimming in butter. You should be aware the pastys are made with a substantial amount of butter and all of the dishes are fairly high in fat. Delicious for me, problematic if you can’t eat fat.

The only negative is that the service is somewhat indifferent. I would rate them as 4 stars and I would go back.

Gold Chef

Gold Chef
1055 S. Arizona Avenue
Chandler, AZ 85286
(480) 812-3661

O.K., What was I thinking going to eat in a place called “gold Chef”? Well, I’ll tell you. I read a few online reviews that were positive and thought I’d give it a shot. Now you know why I’m doing this. Because most other reviews are bogus.

We had egg drop soup, Spicy Shrimp with Dry heating and Shrimp and Vegetables. The egg drop soup was unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I don’t mean that in a good way. Picture thick sludge with some egg white in it. Disgusting. The Spicy Shrimp was basically mediocre shrimp with chopped onions. Not a very pleasant mix and the addition of a heavy gloppy sauce didn’t help any. The Shrimp and Vegetables was awful. The shrimp had a heavy ammonia taste and smell rendering the dish inedible. The egg-rolls were typical frozen egg-rolls that you can buy in any Asian market.

The food ranged from bad to inedible. There is no way I would recommend eating here.

Original Review: Saturday, January 22, 2011