My Savvy Traveller

THE travel site for discerning business travelers, road warriors, foodies, wine lovers. Local, trusted, insider intelligence found nowhere else.

My Savvy Traveller serves demanding travel connoisseurs that are always one step ahead of others - on the search for exclusive destinations and unique opportunities. They desire experiences and products that mirror their own enthusiastic and dynamic way of life.


We Only Recommend What We've Tried

Dining is, by far, one of life's most pleasant pastimes. Hence our Savvy Agents and Angels are constantly scouring the globe for culinary jewels that belong in our crowned line-up of establishments. From that famous meat-lovers' restaurant on the fringes of Johannesburg to the farm-to-table eatery near Paddington Station. Whether it's a hole-in-the-wall seafood shack on the beach or the must-go-to, historic dumpling restaurant in Hong Kong, our repository of establishments has been carefully curated to satisfy all tastes.

Featured Establishments

  


Fin: Asian Fusion Livens Up a Ho-HUM Part of LA!


fin.jpg

By Pendo Eustard

So before I continue I would like to thank my fellow Yelper Extraordinaire Alice K for introducing me to this fine restaurant...no, scratch that, for taking me to one of the best girl on girl Yelp date ever at this restaurant  which happened to be about 5 minutes from my hut..I mean home.  So I am one of those lazy people who do not like to travel  East of  Centinela to go eat I mean with all the restaurants in Venice, Marina Del Rey,  Mar Vista... why should I right? Wrong!  

Fin was a great introduction to hip dining culture that is taking over Culver City...yeah it is not you mama's Culver City anymore!  

Have you ever stepped into a restaurant and you suddenly start feeling sexy  and you have no idea why? Well, Fin had that effect on me- as soon as I walked into the dimly lit modern room my walk just shifted from left right left right... to "sashay... sashay"  WHAT why are my hips swinging?What is going on? Oh! Hey , you are at Fin, the sexiest restaurant in Culver City-just dark, clean, minimal,  understated- you just want to find out more  about it!

The low down...

FOOD:

We ordered to share:
1) Thin Sliced Salmon Truffle Sashimi-my all time favorite! You can put truffles on a bar of soap and I will eat it!  You will have to excuse me as I can't remember the names of the other items we ordered because I let Alice who is the regular to order us her favorites. Well, let me say this, everything I put in  my mouth was unbelievable scrumptious!  Especially those little taco looking  thingies -they were absolutely delicious, we ordered them twice!!!

DRINKS:
1)  I started with the Drunken Sumo(Tateo Jalapeno, Lime Juice, Agave) because I had a long tough month and I needed a strong drink-any drink that would get a morbid obese Japanese wrestler drunk, it was the perfect drink for me!

2) Hello! Who can pass over a drink called "Hello Kitty (Ketel One Vodka, Pom Juice, Lemon, Agave, Muddled Berries)?" True story-I was also wearing Hello Kitty earrings and yes I know what you wondering-no, I am not 5, i just like some Hello Kitty stuff,  so don't get all judgmental on me!  Yes, the drink!!! it was so good, I heard a choir singing "Hallelujah Hallelujah, hallelujah!

DESERT:
A plate of mango Mochi ice cream came out of nowhere! I love Mochi especially Mango Mochi! Alice is not a big Mochi fan, she didn't want to eat it so I said a silent prayer" dear God thank you for making Alice hate Mochi"  and had the whole thing by myself-it was absolutely divine! 

AMBIANCE:
Is cool, it is hipster, it is sexy, it is trendy, it is packed!  The place is packed with good people (and there was that hot guy at the bar) because we ended up meeting the coolest girls-fellow foodies, who were sitting at a table next to ours and before the night was over, we were planing our next food adventure!.

SERVICE:
Everyone was so welcoming! The managers were super awesome! Oh! and Nando?-the waiter/bartender-golden personality he had and a beautiful smile to match! The main bartender was also super cool-made us great drinks that made us  very happy...almost too happy!

So yeah this is the beginning of my love affair with Fin, I can't wait to go back!

Fin
12223 W Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066
(310) 398-8611
Happy Hour: Everyday 5 - 7
Dinner Service: Everyday 5 - 11:30
Late Night Happy Hour: Mon thru Sat 10 -11:30
Bar Open Late: Mon thru Sat


Osteria Italiana, Munich


One of the best Italian restaurants this side of the Brenner Pass. A bold claim made by the owners of this hidden gem in Munich. Indeed, Savvy Traveller agents and angels have been known to bolt from Munich Airport during brief transit stops, just to enjoy a lazy lunch at this cozy, intimate Italian eatery. Known as Hitler's favourite Italian restaurant (its history goes back to 1890 and Lenin and King Umberto of Italy reportedly dined here), Osteria Italiana is now popular with couples - young and old - local residents and the occasional tourist who's been brought here by locals. Think warm, cozy, old school.

The owners call the eatery "tradition-conscious and middle class..where everybody gets a piece of Italy." There is no rushing here: the proprietors insist one spends not only one hour here but an entire evening! History comes alive here as the paintings and murals, some dating back to the late 1800s, are admired on the walls of what used to be called Osteria Bavaria.

During warm weather, insist on a table on the outdoor patio, which requires skillful navigation through the kitchen. Homemade pastas are wonderful here - and look for white asparagus dishes when in season. Meat and fish dishes change daily, with the season kept in mind. The Sicilian tuna carpaccio (EUR14) is one of our favourite starters. The wine - at any given time there are 350 different wines in the downstairs cellar - flows easily here thanks to the affable, helpful waiters. For dinner, reservations are recommended two-to-three days in advance - sometimes more. Reportedly, groups of up to 16 can book dinner in the basement wine cellar for multi-course meals. The menus are scrawled in German but the waiters are prepared to translate into English or Italian.

Schellingstraße 62. 80799, Munich
Tel: 087-2720-717.
Tuesday-Saturday: Noon-230pm; 630pm-11pm.

Osteria Italiana in Munich

Osteria Italiana in Munich


Al Liwan Restaurant, Doha

A portion of the desert section at Al Liwan. Photo: Michael Bociurkiw/MST

A portion of the desert section at Al Liwan. Photo: Michael Bociurkiw/MST

This all-day dining restaurant, located in the heart of the sprawling Sharq Village and in an authentic Arabian atmosphere, won over our palate and heart before we even made it to the generous buffet. A refreshing lime and mint cocktail awoke our senses and had the impact of a re-boot after a long morning flight.

Normally, we do not recommend hotel buffets, but this one is an exception - in fact it is one of the best we have sampled anywhere in the world! The entire operation is presided over by Chef de Cuisine Ali Hadla - who varies the buffet each day to combine new specialties and regional favourites.

There are plenty of seafood from local and international waters, expertly-made sushi, fresh humous and other Middle Eastern favourites are topped off by a meat and seafood grill station (manned by a Syrian chef, ask for the yogurt-marinated chicken skewers) and a chocolate corner. One is simply spoiled for choice here: roasted lamb ouzzi, mashawi mushakala; samak harra; samak chermoula and a display of fresh seafood such as seabass; red snapper; lobster; tiger prawns; hammour and salmon. At the grill station don't miss the beef sirloin; shish taouk; lamb kofta and marinated lamb cutlets. There is even a decadent pasta station!

Sharq Village and Spa (Operated by Ritz-Carlton)
Sunday to Thursday - Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.; Lunch: 12:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Dinner: 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday. Brunch 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.


Vin Room, Calgary

By Claire Korionoff

I’ve been exploring restaurants throughout most of southwest Calgary for the past 2 months that I’ve lived here.  In the very trendy area of Mission on 4th street – there’s a little Tapas place that came highly recommended called the Vin Room.  Appropriately named, this restaurant offers up to 100 different selections of wine – including sparkling wine. The impressive wine list is only outdone by a beautifully arranged bar that boasts a back panel refrigeration system encased in glass with a handy spout for each of the wines currently being presented for the day To keep them “bright and fresh,” which the restaurant calls a high-tech Enomamatic system and what owner Phoebe Fung calls “the Ferrari of wine preservation systems”.

 Vin Room has a wonderful ambiance provided by the dark walls and modern furniture ranging from lime green armchairs to soft brown leather couches arranged along the back wall. It has oblong oval tables situated near the bar and a touch of light emanating from a candle on each table. For those warm Calgary nights that bring the Chinook winds, it also offers a patio on the second floor.

The staff at the Vin Room are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. It offers wine tastings (recommended 3 wines per person per meal) and helps the patron sift through the multitudes of selection wine by narrowing their choices down through preferences of taste; bold or mellow? Sweet or dry? Red, white or rose?  Of region; Australian? Californian? South African? Italian? Or South American? For the more discerning wine connoisseur there is a members only club accessible online that tracks the wines you have already sampled, create a customized wine “wish list” and participate in a wine community where you can share your wine experiences.

Tapas has always been a favourite of mine.  Small samplings of food originated in Spain that gives one enough of a portion to capture the essence of food yet provides enough leeway to sample several types of dishes at one sitting. Executive Chef Claire Cameron brings her skill and artistry to each dish which not only pleases the senses of taste, but also visually entices the mind.  The seafood selections such as the Grilled Prawns served in a sake, ginger and Thai Basil sauce and the Grilled Calamari nestled in peas, bacon, mint and sweet potato were in one word – incredible.  My favourite dish hands down on the menu was the Brome Lake Duck Breast – if you like duck – get ready to be impressed.

 For the more daring sophisticated palettes I implore you to try the Stuffed Bone Marrow at $5 each; it is creamy, rich and absolutely tantalizing to the taste buds. The Pure Vida Beef Carpaccio with a Truffle Brassica mustard and garlic chips had an extra layer of sophistication with a kick. The Vin Room also offers an array of vegetarian dishes as well as some exotic meats - Elk, smoked Sturgeon and Duck Salami.

Old Mission Cycle Building, 2310-4th St SW.
403.457.5522.
Sunday, Monday: 1600-2200
Tue & Wed: 1130-2300; Thursday: 1130-0000
Fri & Sat: 1130-0100

Seared scallops at the Vin Room

Seared scallops at the Vin Room


Craig's, Los Angeles

By Pendo Eustard

From a Maître d' at Dan Tana's to owning his own restaurant - Craig is a great reminder that the American dream-anything is achievable with hard work, discipline and determination. 

I of course remember Craig from Dan Tana's so to be honest I came to the restaurant the first time out of curiosity.... and oh! yeah, I always cheer for the underdog .  I did not have great expectations as far as the food was concerned because based on my past  experiences, any restaurant that is simply hyped up because of  it's celebrity clientele is usually synonymous with mediocre food and plenty of TMZ cameras that add to the cheesy glitz and glamor. 

As far as I am concerned, Hollywood is not known for it's discerning palate. These folks would  flock to a new restaurants just because "George" (Clooney) or" Brad" frequents the place, they don't care about the food; they are there to feed the persistent hunger to be with the in crowd-just like high school, "go where the cool kids go".      

I mean I don't get the logic when someone tells me they go to a restaurant because "celebrities" go there, WHAT? Unless it is a celebrity chef  or food critic then I might be impressed. The likes of Mr. Chow, The Ivy, Boa need-plenty of glitz but the food meehhhh! These restaurants are like that beautiful woman or man- all sexy  and glamourous but when they open their mouths, it is a whole another  story " No, I' m not into Hawaii  and such, I mean it is a  foreign country and  stuff....yeah I d' rather stay in my country and go to Mexico instead ....yeah even though they speak Mexican over there instead of American but anyways, they got great Margaritas! "  So how much longer you can take conversations like that depends on what is more important to you- the glitz or the substance. I say great food is more important to me than a load of "celebrities" - a term that is now applied to anyone  and everyone who had their 15 minutes of shame on TV.
 
THE RESTAURANT:
It was a wednesday night at 9:30 pm but still it was the busiest I have seen for any LA restaurant on a Wednesday night! The bar area was so happening, you would think it was Friday nght! 
The clientele was more on the older side anywhere from 30s up.

THE DECOR:
It reminds me of  Dan Tana's but bigger, same booth sitting arrangement,  That is why I did not give Craig's 5 stars for lack of originality and it also looks like it was decorated by someone's grandmother-the gauwdy carpet and the busy cheap looking wallpaper in the bathrooms. And I don't know whether it was the carpet or the furniture but the place seemed darker than it should be, I mean there is dark romantic and there is that uncomfortable cave dark ....And blasting inane bubble gum music in a  classy restaurant full of "sophisticated adults", what is up with that?

SERVICE:
Craig himself was there to meet the patrons as they come in and he was as charming as always. He was joking that now he has his own restaurant but he is still doing the same thing he was doing at Dan Tana's -pulling chairs for folks.
Fittingly, the service at this restaurant was top notch. I mean you  can only expect the best from an owner who was himself head waiter for years.

THE FOOD:
I was taken aback on how good the food was!  I mean I thought it was a fluke that the flat bread they gave  us was that awasomely addictive! And then came the main course...the desert! OMG...OMG... OH MY GOD!!!

We ordered:
Oysters on a half shell
Shrimp Diavolo
Colorado Lamb Chops, with potato croquette
Spinach
Jalapeno Creamed Corn

Desert:

Butterscotch Pudding, Salted Caramel

Drinks:
Great bottle of Bordeaux 

VERDICT:
The food was unbelievably amazingly good! I mean damn!  I could have been happy  with  the flat bread alone! But then I had to find out that everything I ordered was better than the next! 
I left this place with such a great feeling that  comes with having such a fulfilling meal.  There is definitely more to Craig's than the Hollywood celebrities hype , it's culinary repertoire is  exemplary!   I can't wait  to go back!

Craig's
8826 Melrose Ave
West HollywoodCA 90069
(310) 276-1900
www.craigs.la
Open Nightly from 5pm | Dinner Monday-Saturday: Until 11pm  Bar Open Until 12:30   Sunday Dinner: Until 10:30  Bar Open Until Midnight|Cocktails 

 

 

craigs.jpg