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Dining By The Alphabet: Letter I: Il Ponte Cafe

- Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4 Comments

Letter I is now upon us. We were this close (holding my fingers really close together for those lacking the ability to picture things without me explaining any further) to choosing Imbiss Grill. After looking at the menu and just not feeling in the mood for German food we looked at our other options. IHOP......pass. Il Vicino, we've been there quite a few times in the past month due to charity events.

We also realized the word "Il" pretty much means the and we've said in the past that wouldn't be allowed. But hey, we make the rules so why not allow ourselves to break them? So I bring to your our choice for Letter I

Il Ponte Cafe. Located at 3101 N. Rock Road inside the former Le Monde building. Website and Menu: http://www.ilpontecafe.com/ 

The place inside is pretty fancy. Nice colors inside, very vibrant. One television. Tables in the middle area, booths along the walls, a fully stocked bar. It is one of those places you walk inside and just get a good feeling. It wasn't very busy when we arrived but we were quickly greeted and seated.

Checked the menu over, its similar to other Mediterranean places in Wichita like Cafe Bel Ami, Bella Luna, Adrian's but Il Ponte Cafe advertises themselves as "Specializing in Traditional Italian Cuisine With a Bridge To Mediterranean Flavor"

Where does this rank on the Hummus Challenge?
Today just happened to be Tuesday night so why not thrown in some Appetuesdays! We quickly order the hummus, or as the menu has it "hommos", with pita chips and bread. This gives us ample time to look over the menu. The hummus runs $5.25 and comes out in a decent size bowl. Comparable to Bella Luna size. The pita bread was very warm when it came out. It felt and smelled like it had just grilled or toasted. By far the best pita bread we've ever had among all the places we've tried during the course of this blog. As for the hummus, it was good. We wouldn't say great as its not breathtakingly awesome but it was still worth the price. They added a very nice touch of garlic in the middle as you can see in the picture. We mixed a small portion in with the hummus and it really added a unique taste to it. The server told us, it was a recent addition to their hummus. Well done. How does the hummus compare in our current Hummus Challenge:
1.) M.I.F. Deli
2.) Il Ponte Cafe
3.) Cafe Bel Ami
4.) N&J Cafe


During this time our server comes out and runs by the specials for us. I have the worst attention span when it comes to these. Two things stuck out.....salmon and filet. Tiffany would later fill me in on what they were. She listens.....I don't. Sounds like most relationships huh? When we place our order, I decide to go with their special. It was a poached salmon served with squash, zucchini, this special rice, and either a Caesar salad or a fattoush salad. I order Caesar. The server is quick to ask me if I've ever eaten fattoush salad. I tell him yes and he asks where. So I tell him Cafe Bel Ami and Bella Luna Cafe. The server then goes on to explain how many of the customers prefer their fattoush salad. He says their fattoush salad has been "Americanized", more of an Italian dressing taste and less olive oil. I think about it and am preparing to go with the Caesar. He sees my hesitation and says, "I can bring you out a sample if you'd like to try it out." to which I oblige. He brings it out and it looks like your everyday fattoush salad. Upon the first bite, I can really tell the difference. Tiffany tried a bit and could tell the difference as well. One noticeable ingredient they added was chopped up pickles, not sure if this is in other fattoush salads but I've never noticed it until now. I liked it. Decided to go ahead and order the fattoush. I loved how the server was very helpful and went the extra mile to offer an item that was very popular for their restaurant to which he would gain nothing cause it wasn't an upsell. Tiffany decided to go with the chicken pesto panini with a Caesar side salad.

The food came out promptly.

First bite into my salmon, it was delicious. Flaky, the sauce was excellent, the rice......well I consider myself to be a "Professor of Rice" or "The Dean of Rice University" so to speak. Their rice was as Tiffany put it, "absolutely delicious". We just had to ask what was in it and tell him we loved it. The server said it was some sort of pasta fried in olive oil that was put in with the grain rice, there was a mention of jasmine. I couldn't make out the spelling of the pasta but he said it was pronounced chi-ray. Never heard of it but it was great nonetheless. The two pieces of shrimp were a little dry; was not a big fan. Tiffany thought the panini was delicious. She liked her Caesar salad, she did comment on the size of their "side salad". Pretty big to the point she couldn't finish it. We were both stuffed before even finishing our meal. I then asked the server what all was in the rice again and he explained it a second time. I missed it. Tiffany asked if she could ever order it just as a side. You are allowed to.

I manage to finish my meal and Tiffany grabs half her panini to go. The server asked us if we have room for dessert. Not tonight. Stuffed to the brim. He then mentions they have half priced wines on Monday and Wednesday. Plus on Sundays they have a lunch buffet from 11 am to 3 am. They offer everything from the salmon to the fattoush salad to the rice (way to twist our arms sir, well played). Its something we'd definitely recommend. He then boxed up the rest of Tiffany's meal. On his way back he even brought us back a little to go box of the rice we loved as a complimentary item. Very very very nice touch. Freebies aren't required, it was just the cherry on top to what had been an excellent night of service. Seriously one of the best in our time of Dining by the Alphabet.

We get our ticket and for the appetizer, two side salads, and two meals, we were looking at $30. Fortunately  the Entertainment Book had a $5 off a $25 meal purchase. So our bill was $25. We tipped him, left the collector's "Wichita By E.B." card and made our way out the door.

Letter I ended up as a success. How big of a success? That all depends on the Super Scientific Scale. After much deliberation taking into account price, service, quality of food, here's how it played out. Tiffany thought about it, discussed it, voiced her thoughts, made the comparisons and she gave Il Ponte Cafe, 5 out of 5 stars. I had already made my mind up before the tab came out as I had an idea of how much it'd be. Me? 5 stars.

So Wichita By E.B. readers we have our first ever perfect score. Il Ponte Cafe Super Scientific Scale Rating: 5 stars. 

We highly recommend this place to anybody looking for a little Mediterranean/Italian twist.  That closes out a very successful Letter I and takes us on to Letter J as we continue to head towards the halfway point.

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Happy Dining.


Il Ponte on Urbanspoon

AppeTuesdays: Return of the Hummus Challenge

- Wednesday, April 6, 2011 5 Comments
First off, congratulations to the Shockers on winning the NIT in Madison Square Garden! What a way to cap off a season and turn lemons into lemonade. I'm absolutely proud of everything they accomplished. They literally ran through the tournament and won it in what I'd call dominating fashion. On to business.......

Well instead of going out to eat which we literally did all last week in the absolutely beautiful city of New York (an entire blog dedicated to that is in the works), figured it was best to just grill out in the nice weather Wichita had to offer.

............but what could we eat before that to hold off the impending hunger? Wait, what day was it? Tuesday! And that could only mean one thing. APPETUESDAYS!

Todays review will be a little different and shorter than usual, just totally based on the food. No pictures of the inside of the building, the ambience, reviews of the service because we decided for just carryout.

Our choice of appetizer was something we haven't had in some time....... hummus. Lets review the current competition rating for best hummus:
1.) Cafe Bel Ami
2.) N&J Cafe

Remember we've had hummus from other places but since the inception of this blog, we've only been to the two places. Lined up this week to see how they would fare against the other hummus. None other than M.I.F. Deli. They are a deli located at Central and Woodlawn that serves mainly Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. We stuck solely with hummus but we hope to be back to try out some of their other offerings.

M.I.F. Deli and Catering
5618 E. Central
Wichita, KS 67208
Ph: 316.684.7431
Website
Menu: http://www.360wichita.com/Restaurants/Mediterranean/MIFDeliAndCatering.html

So I called in the hummus as I was leaving work so it'd be ready for pickup. Took the 10-15 minute trek to the Deli, picked it up with no troubles, place was pretty dead around 5 pm. The hummus ran $4.99 and came with pita bread. Headed home and unpacked it all.

Our first thought upon opening it all up was..... "That's it?" The portion size looked pretty small compared to what we received with N&J and Cafe Bel Ami. It all came in a small container
Little dinky cup, I'd compare it to the size of the pasta salad at Bardnrds

Cup wasn't even filled up most of the way! Boo!!!!
Took the first bite and we both had that "Wow, quite impressive" look on our faces. We were not let down. I've spoken with just one person who I know's been to M.I.F. Deli and she said, "Its the best hummus in Wichita." I don't know if I'd go that far yet but it was really good. Tiffany liked it quite a bit. Its been a while since she has been to Bella Luna so she wasn't able to make a solid decision if it was better.

Regardless we both liked it a lot. I wish the size was a little bigger considering the price is the same you see at nearly all restaurants.

No star rating for M.I.F. Deli because it was just carryout but to update our Hummus Rankings, it stands as is:
1.) M.I.F. Deli
2.) Cafe Bel Ami
3.) N&J Cafe

Who's next on the Hummus Challenge? It might be time to finally put Bella Luna to the test against the current best: M.I.F. Deli.

That's all for now. Coming Soon: The New York Experience Blog!
M.I.F Deli on Urbanspoon

Appetuesdays: Hummus and Baba Ghanouj

- Tuesday, March 1, 2011 7 Comments
You'll notice our new poll this week ask what is the best hummus in Wichita. As hummus fans, we thought it'd be cool to try out some new hummus. We didn't want a full dinner such something light and easy. Take a break from Dining By The Alphabet and just have a nice conversation over what we call "Appetuesdays".

So for our Appetuesdays spot, we selected N&J Cafe. A place both of us have never been too. Our plan was simple, just order a couple appetizers, eat, chat, people watch and call it a night.

Upon entering in, the place was BUSY! For its location on the southeast side of town (literally adjacent to Southeast High School), we were surprised how busy they were. Didn't know if we were to seat ourselves so we had to ask the main guy at the cashier station. You do. So we grabbed a booth and waited for a server. Service was a wee bit slow. Noticed there were really only two servers for as busy as they were. The servers worked their tails off but restaurants should be staffed properly. We didn't gripe about it but one guy behind us sure did. I think the term best to describe him throughout the night is "asshole". Seriously a guy who was griping about everything, entered in, a table wasn't bussed yet, so he bussed it himself and ended up dropping an entire glass of water on the ground and left it there, then asked for a server wanting to order, changed his mind and needed more time, complained about waiting for a server. You know those types of customers.

So yeah, service could have been quicker. Anyhoo, we decided to order a large hummus and a small baba ghanouj with one walnut baklava (to my credit I pronounced it correctly). We've never had baba ghanouj. One of the servers at Cafe Bel Ami suggested it, called it hummus made with eggplant instead of chickpeas. We kept it in the back of our mind for the future. I've never had baklava so we ordered their walnut baklava, only $1.25, tiny little pastry. The hummus and baba ghanouj (I'm telling you that's a hard word to spell, I have spelled it wrong everytime I tried to type it) came in two sizes, small and large and run around $4-5 depending on the size.

Hummus and its ugly stepsister, baba ghanouj


Both apps came with pita bread and pita chips. You'll notice the sizes look the same in the picture that's because the server took our order wrong. She thought we ordered both larges. Kind of upset about it because I didn't want a large order of baba ghanouj in case we didn't like it. We told her and she just looked at us. Some places may have offered it at the small size rate, some would have taken it back, she honestly just stood there and looked at us. So I let it slide since it was only a dollar difference but even an apology would have been nice.

We took bites of each and Tiffany immediately nixed the baba ghanouj calling it gross or as she now calls it "Baba Gross". I had my first bite and was seriously intrigued by the flavor. Wasn't sure if I liked it or not, so I tried again..... and again..... and again.... and again.... and again. To this moment I can quite pinpoint what it tastes like. At some points it taste like a bad chunky salsa, other times it tastes bland, other times weird. It does have a very smokey taste to it. It wasn't great but then against it wasn't horrible. Just is what it is. Tiffany refused the rest of the night to try it again. Our server came by and even said she wasn't a fan. The hummus on the other hand was good. Compared to Cafe Bel Ami, Tiffany says N&J's doesn't have as much flavor as Bel Ami. She said N&J put way too much oil in it and that I have to write the following "You better agree cause when you had a bite of that oil you made that "ughhhhhhh" face." So I do agree. There were spots of hummus where the color just changed completely. I've heard many people say that N&J has the best hummus in Wichita. Just not sure I feel the same way. Tiffany still believes Bella Luna is the place to beat. So that's where the bar has been set.

Tomorrow's word of the day: Baklava
As for the baklava, not sure I like it. Tasted kind of dry to me but Tiffany said it was pretty moist. Maybe its just me not being a big fan of desserts or maybe i'll just have to try it again. She liked it, me...still on the fence. But for only a dollar, great value! They had walnut, pistachio, and almond baklava. The pistachio's were all gone when we were there so that maybe the most popular option. I may grab some at random next time i'm in the area. I like that word though, baklava. Its so fun to say, not so much type. Baklava.

After we finished, we asked for a couple to go boxes and our ticket. She brought them out and we put our card out and waited for her to pick it up. While waiting, we decided to walk around the little "grocery store" they have inside the cafe just to see what else they had. Tons of hookah supplies. By the time we got back, our server still hadn't picked up our check. So we just grabbed it and paid up front.

We will probably go back to try this play out in the future. Heard many good things about this place but just honestly didn't get to experience it or see it. Service was a little on the slow side being understaffed. The baba ghanouj was weird, hummus possibly overrated. We won't rate this on our super scientific scale but going into it the next time, its already an uphill battle for N&J Cafe.

We saw some items on the menu that interested us like the combo, kebbe dinner, and the kafta. So when we do get a chance to get a full meal, we'll give a better review on the place.

But for hummus alone, it goes:
1.) Cafe Bel Ami
2.) N&J Cafe

We've had hummus at other places but since the inception of the blog, we're off to a fresh start on rating hummus.

N&J Cafe, you better step your game up for the next time we come in.
N & J Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon