Sunday, June 26, 2011

Las Delicias: Meet The Owner, Antonio Martinez

Today, I am posting an interview with Antonio Martinez, the owner and patriarch of the Las Delicias Restaurants. Las Delicias seems to have an almost cult like following now. Customers are extremely passionate about “their” restaurant. It’s almost like they have taken part ownership of the restaurant. “Las Delicias, that's My restaurant." "My restaurant is the best Mexican restaurant in Memphis!" "My restaurant makes the best margaritas in town!”  I know I count myself among the fanatics. I really am looking forward to sharing one of my favorite restaurants and favorite people with foodiememphis. Their food is some of the best I have ever eaten. My mouth is watering just looking at Sophorn's photos. 

Where are you from originally? I am originally from a small town named San Miguel el Alto in one of the central States in Mexico named Jalisco, when I was around 5 years old my father decided to move to Mexico City, I stayed there from 1963 to 1998. My first job, which I started at the age of 12, was in a restaurant. I worked there for about 12 years. After that, I decided to work with computers. I got a job at Kimberly Clark and stayed there for about 13 years. I then moved to a Software selling company until about 1998. This last company for which I was working had some financial problems.  So one Sunday morning, I took my wife for a ride, I told her this was our time to move to USA. She was very surprised, but after talking for about 2 hours, she agreed on the move.

How did you end up in Memphis? For years we had visited my mother and sisters who lived here in Memphis. Every time we drove back home (yes, we drove from Mexico City!) we would speak about how nice it would be to live in Memphis. So in 2 hours we decided and in 2 weeks we moved. I quit my job, my niece moved into our house in Mexico...she is still there by the way and we moved to Memphis. Now you know, why Memphis? Because my family was here. ~ Being a “Memphian-By-Choice,” I always love hearing people say that chose to live here. Kudos Antonio for making a great choice! ~

What lead up to the opening of the first Las Delicias? My first job here in Memphis was at KM Logistics, cleaning burnt oil off of cracked diesel engine heads, then as an orders picker. After about 6 months, I moved to Jabil, another company, repairing computer monitors.  I then became part of their technical support team for the company’s internal computer network. I stayed there until late 2004. I was fired for refusing to go to a new facility they were opening in Reynosa (Mexico.) They had wanted me to go and set up the network there.  

As a way to make a little extra money, I had started selling "tacos al pastor" in my backyard, and then in my   garage a few months before my firing.  Right after my firing, I took my wife for a ride. We spoke and decided not to look for another job. We had some savings and so we started looking for a place to lease for "Las Delicias". In January 2003 we open our first place on Shelby Dr. close to Lamar (it was an old Subway). It really was a family restaurant. I was a cook, did prep, and managed, while my wife worked the register and did prep as well.  My 3 sons helped where ever they were needed…cooking, prep and waiting tables. No one earned a penny for about four months. We stayed at that location until March 2006, when the railroad company bought every building around them. They gave us 20 days to move. We found a small restaurant for sale on Mendenhall, which at the time was the closest place to our former location. We paid the owner for her equipment and moved in a single weekend.

About three years later, in September of 2009, we opened our second location here at Park Ave. It seems to me that it was only yesterday, but it has been almost 2 years! ~ The second restaurant has the same amazing food, but is a bar and grill, which means… MARGARITAS!  I have no personal experience, but I continue to hear people rave about their margaritas. There is something about fresh squeezed limes rather than a mix that seems to make all the difference. I can't wait to try one at our gathering. ~

I am interested in the tortilla place next to the original restaurant. Rumor has it that you run it as well...fresh tortillas made daily served in the store. How did that come about? Back in 2007, the tortilla shop that had made our corn tortillas suddenly decided to stop making them. They told us that changing the cutter size was damaging their machine. Right then, I decided to open our own tortilla shop. It took us about 6 months to get it ready, but finally in early 2008 we opened. One of my sons is in charge and we now sell corn tortillas and bags of chips, funny thing is that slowly but steadily we are now making more tortillas to fry into chips than to sell as tortillas. ~ You may have seen their chips at the downtown farmer’s market downtown, the trolley stop market on main, or many other places around town. They also sell their heavenly guacamole and salsas there as well.  ~

Your son runs the original restaurant now. Was he raised in the restaurant & just naturally took over when you moved to the one on Park? My son has been with me since the very beginning of the restaurant, I oversee the operation but he has been the one in full charge since we opened at Park. There have no big problems up to now. ~ The Las Delicias on Mendenhall still has incredible food. When Antonio left, his son kept everything runnning just as smoothly. Please stop by either restaurant and enjoy the food. Tell them we said hello. ~  

Las Delicias
Mexican Bar and Grill
4002 Park Avenue (Near Getwell)
Memphis, TN 38111
ph 901.458.9264

or try the original

Las Delicias
3727 S. Mendenhall
Memphis, TN 38115

Photos from original Las Delicias by Sophorn AKA norococo

Las Delicias Mexican Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 6, 2011

Asian Palace Photo Recap and Review

Having lived in Asia for a couple of years when I was younger, I have a true love affair with all foods Asian. If I were to recommend a travel spot for someone heading to Asia for the first time, I would probably choose Hong Kong. As everyone speaks English, is an easy visit. The food there is absolutely amazing. I probably ate my weight in dim sum and egg cakes when I was there. There is something to be said for the instant gratification of the dim sum carts.

After eating at Asian Palace several times before, I was extremely excited about sharing this authentic Chinese experience with my American friends. I have eaten at Chinese restaurants in San Francisco’s, Chicago’s, and New York’s Chinatowns. I can proudly say that Memphis’ Asian Palace holds its own with the best of them.

We had a really good crowd turn out, 27, for the gathering at Asian Palace. Mike the owner, greeted us before dinner. He introduced Simon Chow - the chef, Lisa Lei - the dim sum chef, and our two wonderful servers, Danny Pan and the ever smiling- Joyce Chan. Everyone seemed excited to learn about the history of the restaurant. Once Mike had finished, the feast ensued. When I write feast, I mean FEAST! Restaurants often provide a large menu for the invite and then a smaller version once we are there. So I really wasn’t expecting to receive each of the 20 items on our menu. Asian Palace definitely delivered! I think we even got more than what was on the original menu. Scroll down for our full tasting menu.

Foodie Memphis Tasting Menu
Appetizers or Dim-Sum
1. shrimp ha ow
2. various shrimp & pork dumplings
3. chicken sil myl
4. shrimp spring roll
5. bean curd shrimp roll
6. stuffed egg plant

7. walnut shrimp
8. squid w/ spice salt
9. roast duck
10. singapore rice noodle
11. pork w/ spice salt
12. frangang egg plant
13. vegetarian tofu
14. asparagus w/ three kinds mushrooms

15. egg tart
16. mango pudding
17. coconut bun
18. egg cake
19. sesame seed ball
20. water chestnut cake

The Exit Survey Result Highlights

What dish(s) did you like?
“Shark fin dumpling”
“All the dumplings”
“All of it”
“There were so many, if I could remember, I couldn’t decide”
“the duck, or the eggplant”
“I really liked the 6 desserts”

What did you like best about the gathering?
“meeting the restaurant owner and staff”
“meeting old friends
“the people, conversation, and the food”
“the variety of food and variety of people”
“getting to try so many different dishes”
Talking about my passion, food”
“The subtle jokes from the servers. Hilarious!”
“did I mention the shrimp?”

What can we do to improve the event?
“N/A - so yummy“
“It was a great evening!”

This month’s Group Favorite Award was very close. Three items on the menu were within 1 vote. The Shanghai Noodles and the Dumplings were very strong contenders, but came up just one vote short and tied for second place.

Our group has a tradition of voting for a vegetable as the Group Favorite Award. Did we do it again?

Yes we did.

The frangang eggplant (which I hear was mighty tasty) won by a single vote. When I told Sophorn that the eggplant won, she said “They got it right! It was REALLY GOOD.” I have no idea how, but that one slipped right past me with out even a taste. I now have to back out there to try that amazing eggplant.

I hope you can make it out there soon. The food is wonderful and the staff is really a lot of fun. They are really nice people. It is one of our “go to” Asian restaurants in Memphis. When you stop by, please remember to tell them hello for us.

The Dim Sum Cart Service is only on the weekends.

The Asian Palace
5266 Summer Ave

Asian Palace  on Urbanspoon