Tag Archives: Peony Pavilion restaurant

Yet More Restaurants: Ricky’s Thai, Skillman; FunniBonz BBQ Smokehouse, Robbinsville; Szechuan House, Hamilton; Peony Pavilion, West Windsor; Cafe Vienna, Princeton

What I stated in my previous post holds true: I am still playing catch-up since my daughter’s wedding, and I continue to burst out in restaurant-related print. Here’s the next batch. I am still not current. Consider yourself warned.

Ricky’s Thai, Skillman

Heaven knows, there’s a dearth of good Thai restaurants in the Princeton area. Check out my review of newbie Ricky’s Thai, from the May issue of the Montgomery News.

Spicy duck

FunniBonz BBQ Smokehouse

Jim Barbour, the originator of the highly successful line of FunniBonz barbecue sauces, opened his first restaurant, the small, casual storefront FunniBonz BBQ Smokehouse in Robbinsville, in December 2013.

Courtesy Community News Service

Courtesy Community News Service

I recently sat down with him over lunch to get the scoop. Midway through our chat, he confessed that he had revealed things about himself that he’s never spoken of in public before. That includes his goal of turning FunniBonz into the Chipotle of fast-casual barbecue chains. My profile of Barbour-the-entrepreneur and Barbour-the-man is here, in the May issue of the Robbinsville Advance. In a subsequent post I’ll report on my lunch at FunniBonz. (Spoiler alert: I thought it was terrific.)

Lisa Shao of Szechuan House, Hamilton & Peony Pavilion, West Windsor

Assorted dim sum, Peony Pavilion

Assorted dim sum, Peony Pavilion

I’ve previously posted about Peony Pavilion, Shao’s Asian fusion restaurant that opened late last year on Farber Road, just off Route 1: reviewing it for the Montgomery News & blogging here about a dim sum lunch I later enjoyed. And I’ve long been a fan of the traditional Szechuan House on Nottingham Way, which Shao took over in 2010.

4-30 Cover & Front (1-8).indd

So for the cover story of the 2014 US 1 Spring Dining issue (above), I wanted to learn what makes this 44-year-old dynamo tick. Over lunch with Shao at Szechuan House I discovered how her love of the fine and performing arts led to her path as restaurateur. (I’ll report on that lunch in a subsequent post, too.)

Cafe Vienna, Princeton

Although there are already several fine coffeehouses downtown – Small World and Rojo’s to name just two – Cafe Vienna, which opened on April 26, sets itself apart by offering the beverages and sweet treats of a traditional Wiener Kaffehaus, including Sacher torte. It comes by them honestly: proprietor Anita Waldenberger is an Austrian native and many of the recipes are old family recipes.

Cafe Vienna, Princeton

Cafe Vienna, Princeton

I did a quick reconnoiter on Thursday afternoon. Sitting out on Nassau Street during the balmy post-deluge weather, my Jause for Kaffee und Kutchen consisted of a fine apple strudel and cafe mocha (hot chocolate with a shot of espresso). Clearly, more research is warranted.



Dim Sum Comes to Princeton & The Pillsbury Bake-off Evolves

No Carts, but Excellent Dim Sim at Peony Pavilion

Assorted dim sum, Peony Pavilion

Assorted dim sum @ Peony Pavilion

The Princeton area has long suffered from a dearth of dim sum. In particular, good dim sum. Which is why I jumped at the chance to try that of Peony Pavilion, which otherwise tags itself an “Asian fusion” restaurant. This stylish spot opened late last year in the space that had been Sunny Garden, and ever since I have been pleasantly surprised by its excellent sushi and successful fusion dishes. One example of the latter, pictured below, is miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with cinnamon-scented Korean black rice, sautéed East and West vegetables (e.g., baby bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and carrots), herb oil, & hoisin reduction.

Peony Pavilion Chilean Sea Bass

Peony Pavilion Chilean Sea Bass

Prices for the fusion entrees hover around the mid-twenties, which is of a piece with their quality and with the modern East-meets-West decor. (The rest of the menu, given over to pan-Asian noodle and rice dishes such as Pad Thai and teriyaki, skews lower.)

Bean curd skin rolls. Dim sum @ Peony Pavilion

Bean curd skin rolls. Dim sum @ Peony Pavilion

So when Peony Pavilion’s owner Lisa Shao – who also has the highly regarded Szechuan House in Hamilton – invited me to stop by for the dim sum that’s offered on weekend afternoons, I jumped at the chance.

And I was not disappointed. The selection and the execution reflect the restaurant’s overall aesthetic: authentic yet tweaked to be modern, made with first-rate ingredients, prepared by knowing chefs, and beautifully presented. Here are examples:

Shrimp Dumplings, Peony Pavilion

Delicate shrimp dumplings with translucent wrappers, Peony Pavilion

Beef with Rice Noodles, Peony Pavilion

Beef with Rice Noodles, Peony Pavilion. Silky rolled noodles, tender black mushrooms, succulent shredded beef.

Pork & preserved egg congee, Peony Pavilion. I could eat this every day.

Pork & preserved egg congee, Peony Pavilion. So soul-satisfying I could eat this every day. In the rear: crisp crab dumplings, the dim sum chef’s specialty.

Steam golden buns, Peony Pavilion.

Steam golden buns @ Peony Pavilion.

A sweet mixture of lotus seed paste & egg gives the golden bun its name. Peony Pavilion

A sweet mixture of lotus seed paste & egg gives the golden bun its name. @ Peony Pavilion

These are just a fraction of what I enjoyed and of what’s available. Prices range from $3.95 to $7.95. Dim sum is served on Saturday, 11 am to 3 pm and Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. Peony Pavilion serves Alba Vineyards wines, but BYO is welcome.

Changes Made to the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Gluten-Free Bakers Take Note!

Pillsbury BakeoffIt’s that time again. You can enter to win the $1 million prize or, for the first time ever, you can cast a vote to determine this year’s winner. Plus, there’s a new gluten-free category. Here’s the scoop, straight from the Pillsbury folks:

“Start your ovens! The iconic 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest is redesigned and calling home cooks to compete for the $1 million Grand Prize. This year’s contest, which is now open for entries at www.BakeOff.com, will culminate at the finals November 3, 2014, at the Omni Nashville Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
What’s new?

  • For the first time, America’s vote will be combined with the judges’ decisions to determine the Grand Prize Winner.
  • The Contest ingredient list has been expanded to include Pillsbury’s Gluten Free line of products.
    • Judges will award the Pillsbury® Gluten Free Award to the Finalist with the best recipe which uses a Pillsbury® Gluten Free product and does not contain wheat or any products that include wheat as an ingredient.
  • The Bake-Off® Contest now features four recipe categories with two separate entry periods.

Participants have two chances to enter and vote. The first entry period includes the Simply Sweet Treats and Savory Snacks & Sides categories and is open for entries from now until March 27 (11:59 a.m. CDT), 2014. The second contest entry period runs from March 27 (1:00 p.m. CDT) to May 8 (11:59 a.m. CDT), 2014 and calls for Weekend Breakfast Wows and Amazing Doable Dinners recipes.”