Appropriate to the weekend just passed, and with apologies to any Founding Fathers who happen to be looking in:
"When in the course" — appetizer, entree, side or dessert — "of kitchen events, it becomes necessary for one diner to dissolve the culinary bands which have connected him with a restaurant table.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all meals are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Taste, Nourishment and the pursuit of Happiness."
Even freedom, of course, isn't free, which is why we pay for all our takeout meals. We're beginning to stretch our geographical area just a bit but the object remains the same: to get meals from restaurant to table without having to reheat them at the end point.
WHAT WE GOT: Caprese Salad ($14). This is probably by far the "healthiest" meal we've had in a month: Three kinds of heirloom tomatoes — red, yellow and purple, equally fresh but each with a different flavor (the yellow tomato in particular had a lovely almost citric acidity) — quartered, flanked by fresh, slightly watery mozzarella and topped with plenty fresh basil, plus separate cups of olive oil and a slightly sweet balsamic reduction, all on a bed of mixed greens. It was delicious and we ate it all the way down to the bottom of the to-go container, bed of greens and all.
HOW IT WENT: Boulevard Bistro's dinner special that night that had lured us into the establishment — steak frites — was so popular it had completely run out and disappeared by 4:45 p.m. The caprese salad leaped out at us as the best option left on the limited bistro menu. It took about 10 minutes for the kitchen to put it together (the plate presentation was excellent, not always something kitchen personnel thinks about when putting together a to-go order).
HOW IT'S GOING: There were a few other customers in line that early in the dinner cycle. The dining room, which had briefly opened, is now shuttered in the evenings.
WHAT WE GOT: Shrimp plate ($15.50), choice of fried, grilled or blackened shrimp with hush puppies and one side. We chose grilled and got 10 medium-size shrimp, firm and grill-tasty; we never saw a single hush puppy, however. Out of a choice of 18 sides we picked corn, which turned out to be closer to a maque choux, slightly spicy with bits of green pepper and onions.
HOW IT WENT: We placed and paid of our walk-in order at the bar and camped out at a nearby table while the kitchen, backed up a bit by a couple of dine-in orders, took about 10 minutes to hand out our order through the kitchen-bar-expo pass-through.
HOW IT'S GOING: The place was pretty busy late in a recent lunch period, with more patrons on the patio than in the now-open dining room.
WHAT WE GOT: Grilled Faroe Island Salmon ($19), with a grilled pineapple salsa and grilled seasonal vegetables. We got a nice piece of fish, and this was the first we can recall in a long time that we were asked to specify how we liked it cooked — lightly seared would probably have been fine, but we told the kitchen to cook it through, and that's the way we got it. The pineapple salsa, in a separate little plastic cup, wasn't nearly as sweet as we expected; in fact, it had a little extra spicy kick. It did complement the fish, but we'd have been equally pleased without it. On the side we got grilled slices of yellow squash and zucchini (sigh), one slice of grilled red bell pepper and one piece of grilled asparagus.
HOW IT WENT: The dining room is open, so we walked in and placed, and paid for, our order at the bar, where we also sat while awaiting our food, which took a little more than 12 minutes to come out of the kitchen. Front-of-house staff was all wearing masks and gloves, though many of the customers, particularly the gentleman seated not entirely 6 feet away from us at the bar, did not.
HOW IT'S GOING: The patio in particular was a busy place the night we dropped in. Several dining room tables were occupied, and there were three other people seated at the bar.Gallery: Takeout Tastings
WHAT WE GOT: Larry's offers a lunch special: any personal pan pizza and 32-ounce drink, for $6.99; add $3 and upgrade to a 10-inch pie. That's what we did, ordering and paying for a 10-inch pepperoni-and-mushroom on a walk-in basis. Larry's crust is thin and slightly flaky, a little cracker-like, and generously topped with a thick layer of cheese and sauce (more cheese than sauce), plus plenty of pepperoni and canned mushrooms.
HOW IT WENT: Current conditions, alas, have put the kibosh on Larry's normal lunchtime buffet and semi-circus setup — take-a-slice pizzas passing from table to table around the dining room in the hands of the wait staff (ranging from single-topping to more exotic, including cheeseburger, chicken Alfredo and chicken ranch & mushroom). But you can still order a whole pie for takeout or dine in. All the staff we saw was masked and gloved.
HOW IT'S GOING: About half a dozen cars were parked out front, awaiting curbside pickup, with a handful of folks, widely separated, in the large dining room.
WHAT WE GOT: Sushi Roll Combo ($22.95), Salmon Lover and Oh My God rolls, with salad and onion soup. Sekisui just moved from its longtime home on Shackleford Road just north of West Markham Street to a revolving door space on Cantrell Road that has housed several Asian restaurants, many of which specialized in sushi. The rolls were tasty but not impressive — the Oh My God ($9.95 if ordered separately) features spicy tuna and cucumber inside a deep-fried nori (that's seaweed) shell; the Salmon Lover (otherwise $12.95) encloses smoked salmon, crab meat, cucumber and avocado with more salmon on top. The pieces are small enough to put entirely into the mouth — not always the case, and a convenience that can compensate for other shortcomings. There were a lot of little plastic cups in the bag, filled with soy sauce, salad dressing, Sriracha and a dark brown sauce for the Oh My God roll. The salad was all lettuce but not iceberg and with a ginger-and-tomato dressing. Sekisui does a nice Japanese onion soup, with plenty of toasted onions that have to be dredged off the bottom of the polystyrene cup.
HOW IT WENT: Menu prices on the restaurant website are out of date — this combo shows up at $17.50, for example, more than $5 off from what we actually paid. More accurate pricing is available if you pull up the BiteSquad version via the "order online" button, but you could subject yourself to BiteSquad surcharges if you order that way even if you're picking up your food instead of having it delivered. So we called our order in and paid for it on arrival; it was ready in the 20-minute window we were given. The restaurant's 50% grand-reopening special on sushi, however, doesn't apply to the combos, just to individual rolls and nigiri, which we wish somebody had told us before we showed up. Front-of-house staff was all wearing masks and gloves.
HOW IT'S GOING: Sekisui seems to have brought its customers along with them when they moved. There were several occupied tables in the open dining room.