Sunday, December 9, 2046

Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?



I served my country in the United States Air Force for over 20 years and have visited 41 countries over the last 35 years, most without spending over $75 per night for a nice hotel room and dining in excellent restaurants for well under $25 per person. How do I do it? Through diligent research, exploration, trial and error, and local knowledge.
Would you like to stay in a central, 3-star hotel in a major city for under $20 per night? How about a room with a balcony and view of the Himalayas while attending teachings with the Dalai Lama for just $5 per night? Or a beachfront hotel for $13 per night? Maybe a meal prepared by a 5-star chef for less than $20? Well, you have come to the right place ...


Having several popular travel blogs CombatCritic.com and received numerous accolades from several of the top travel and restaurant websites/apps (Yelp, TripAvisor, Zomato, Tabelog, Booking.com), you can trust my opinions. 
Unlike many reviewers who are either afraid to tell the truth or have personal relationship with businesses and biased views, I reserve 5-stars (10 Bombs on my blog) for only the most flawless restaurants, accommodations, businesses, attractions and destinations, those where you absolutely and without a doubt get the most “bang-for-the-buck”. 
CombatCritic.com

I try to remain as objective as possible in all of my reviews, providing the pros and cons as I see them and a rating based on the overall “value” as compared to similar entities in similar locations. I accept no "freebies" and only identify myself as a critic after having been a customer and paid the bill, so you can trust my reviews.

Here is a breakdown of my ratings both on my blogs (where I use a ten point scale) and on travel and dining websites (that all use 5 point Likert-type scales) ...

If I hate a place, they get 1-2 Bombs (1-star)

If so-so with numerous”issues", they get 3-4 Bombs (2-stars)

If average (the vast majority of businesses fall into this category if you look at the distribution of my ratings), they get 5-6 Bombs (3-stars)

If above average, they get 7-8 Bombs (4-stars)

If they are one of the very rare “best of the best” values in my experience, they get 9-10 Bombs (5-stars – I always round up from bombs to stars because I use a 10 point Likert-type scale in order to be more discernible). 

Now that you understand my philosophy and ratings, on to my reviews …

CombatCritic

The Leader In Getting Travelers The Most "Bang-for-the-Buck"

"Follow Me To TraveValue"
CombatCritic's "TravelValue" Channel




Read More Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!




Title: Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?

Key Words: combatcritic, travelvalue, travel, value, combat, critic, review, reviews, objective, restaurant, hotel, attraction, destination, Italy, USA, India, Asia, Europe

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vancouver, WA: A Little Italy Goes A Long Way In Downtown Vancouver

Little Italy’s Trattoria
901 Washington Street
Vancouver, WA 98660
Phone: (360) 737-2363
Facebook: LittleItalysTrattoria
Prices: $$$$

The first time my wife and I tried to eat here (last November), they were closed (during business hours) for renovations. The second time, they were open but out of veal, the dish I drove all the way across state lines to order. This review incorporates visits #2 and #3.
The place has the feel of an old, historic restaurant as you enter, but I was seated in the bar in the back which has recently been renovated from what I understand. There is another large dining room in between the two. The bar is dark and modern, and the drinks (based on what I saw on the menu) reasonable.
On Visit #2, the IPA and other drafts were $3.75 on the drink menu I received, so I ordered one to start, then another with my entree. When I was told they were out of veal after a busier than expected 4th of July weekend, I almost left, but was famished, so I ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese ($12) which was not bad. Most meals come with salad and garlic bread, a nice touch, my Caesar (or garden salad if you choose) being very good and the two pieces of garlic bread also very tasty. The Bolognese was a bit dry and lacked zest, nothing that some grated parmesan could not fix, making it much more flavorful.
I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding the veal, so my friend and I returned the following Sunday for Visit #3. We ordered a bottle of Chianti ($20), a decent wine and value. My friend ordered a spaghetti dish topped with 5-6 shrimp tossed in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce which looked good, but was "nothing special" according to him. I finally got to try the Vitello (veal) Parmigiana ($19), an overly thick chop, not a cotoletta (cutlet) as is normally the case, buried under quite a bit of sauce and melted cheese that had been broiled a tad too long. Had the the same piece of veal been pounded out into a thin cutlet then breaded and fried, it would have appeared to be a much larger portion, perceived as a better value and a more appropriate presentation. I had Bolognese on the spaghetti once again with the same result as Visit #1. The marinara on the veal was actually pretty good.
When the check arrived on Visit #2, the IPAs were $5 instead of $3.75, so I asked why. "Oh, that's the Grand Opening menu ... You shouldn't have received that menu.", I was told. The bartender (and my server), a relative of the owners, quickly fixed the error and I paid the bill.
I really want to like this place because it would make a great new regular go-to spot for Italian now that we live in Portland. The owners and staff are all extremely nice, the environment a bit cheesy but welcoming, the prices relatively fair, and the food good, but not great. Saucier sauces, thinner veal, and a bit more seasoning would improve the experience, but if they have been using the same recipes (Neapolitan I was told) for 14 years, seeing change any time soon may be a pipedream. I have not found a decent, authentic, home-style, family Italian restaurant in the Portland area yet, having seen mostly foo-foo hangouts with tiny plates and big prices and very few that serve veal, a necessity in any Italian restaurant I am going to frequent.

CombatCritic Gives Little Italy's Trattoria 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Read Chris S.'s review of Little Italy's Trattoria on Yelp


Little Italy's Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Vancouver, WA: A Little Italy Goes A Long Way In Downtown Vancouver

Key Words: CombatCritic, Italian, Italy, little, little Italy, Little Italy's Trattoria, menu, pasta, pizza, Portland, restaurant, review, trattoria, travel, TravelValue, value, Vancouver, WA, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = "Continue Mission"

Italian: Mama Mia - Best Italian West Of The Willamette!

Mama Mia Trattoria
439 SW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
Southwest Portland, Downtown
Phone number (503) 295-6464
Prices: $$$$
Mama Mia, that's one spicy meatball! Actually, it was the tomato sauce accompanying the complimentary Calamari (normally $12.95) that was spicy, having added a sprinkling of chili flakes on top before serving. As a new member of their "VIP Club", we got the royal treatment, including the free appetizer and free garlic bread (on every visit). I also received a $15 off coupon for our first visit.

The corner restaurant hits you in the face as you cross the SE Morrison Bridge into downtown from the east. There is no free parking or validation here, so pay $2/hour on the street, more in a lot, or arrive after 7pm as we did to park on the street for free. The old corner building (early 1900s) has high ceilings and an open feeling. The decor is tasteful, but not "obviously" Italian in any way, shape or form, more like a high end steak house than a trattoria.
Our server, Kelly, was prompt, efficient and courteous from the get-go. She dropped off the surprise calamari, then the garlic bread, and after bringing my son the Veal Parmigiana instead of the Veal Scallopine all Marsala ($25.95) he had ordered, told him to taste it and take it home while they prepared his marsala. The calamari was good, although the breading could have been crispier and it was a tad greasy, but we barely made a dent because my son is not a seafood lover and I did not want to fill up before my entree arrived.

I had the Veal Parmesan ($25.95), two decent size cutlets breaded, fried and topped with marinara and their "house made" mozzarella accompanied by a small bowl of linguini with marinara sauce (soup or vegetable can be substituted for pasta). The veal was the best I have had in a while and the portion size reasonable considering the price. A dinner salad and some bread would be inexpensive additions to the entrees, making them seem like a better value although $26 for a nice veal dish is not unreasonable. I tasted my son's Veal Marsala which was also a decent size portion as well as being one of the best marsalas I have tasted in recent memory, thick and rich ... HOOAH!
In the end, we had the calamari ($12.95), an order of garlic bread ($4.95) two veal parmesans ($51.90), a veal marsala ($25.95), nearly $100 worth of food for $36.90 (after the $15 coupon was deducted) plus a healthy $15 tip for Kelly, bringing the total to a whopping $52 ... what a bahgain!

We will not get free calamari, an extra meal, or $15 off every time we come, but members of their VIP Club do get free garlic bread every visit as well as other discounts and offers throughout the year. So far, this is the best Italian restaurant I have tried (out of three) and expect to be back soon, bringing my Italian born better half next time. If she gives them her seal of approval, a massive compliment, I will note it here first.
You may ask why I do not give my top rating, so let me briefly clarify. My ratings are based on value, bang-for-the-buck, taking price, quality, preparation, ambience, service and other key factors into account. To receive 10 Bombs Out Of 10, the meal, service, decor, and price must be impeccable, flawless, and the best value money can buy. To get 9 Bombs, one or two minor flaws are normally noted, but otherwise the experience is top-notch. Unlike many so called critics, I do not throw around 9s and 10s (5 Stars on Yelp) like candy, so when you see a rating that high, you can bet your booty that you will be pleased as punch. In order to improve their rating, I would recommend the following:

1. Validate parking
2. Increase the temperature on the deep fryer (or do not let it sit too long before serving) for crispier calamari
3. Include a small dinner salad and bread with every entree
4. Make the side of pasta accompanying entrees a little bit larger
5. Put ice in the water or cool it before serving - room temperature water is a bummer

CombatCritic Gives Mama Mia Trattoria 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Eight Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

View my food journey on Zomato!


... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Read Chris S.'s review of Mama Mia Trattoria on Yelp

Mama Mia Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Portland, OR: Mama Mia - Best Italian West Of The Willamette!

Key Words: Mama Mia Trattoria, mama mia, mama, mia, trattoria, Portland, downtown, Italian, veal, Italy, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: WTFO! = "What-The-Fuck ... Over!"

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Golf: The Great Blue ... Woo-Hoo - Robert Trent Jones At His Finest

Heron Lakes Golf Club
Great Blue Course
3500 N. Victory Blvd
Portland, OR 97217
North Portland, Kenton
Phone number: (503) 289-1818
Prices: $$$$

A fairly typical Robert Trent Jones design, what more can I say ... great layout and lots o' bunkers. They had a Friday "all the golf you can play" special ($30 - walking) which included two post round drinks (well drink or beer).

Unfortunately, the fairways are a little rough (pun intended), very tightly mowed and brown in many areas. With all of the water (Heron "Lakes"), you would think there would not be a problem watering fairways. The greens were in great shape for the most part, undulating and plush.

Fairway bunkers are strategically placed to suck in your ball and greens are elevated, surrounded by bunkers, water, and/or scrub, calling for accurate approach shots. There is water on most holes, sometimes all carry and other times adjoining the fairway and only in play on the most errant shots.

Deceiving from the tee, the holes look tighter than they really are, leaving plenty of room for most decent tees shots to find the short grass. The rough is not long, sometimes leaving you with a better lie than if you were in the fairway.

Unlike many golf courses, the staff were friendly and helpful from pro shop to snack bar to starter. The course is not quite as friendly, but we can thank Mr. Jones for that.

CombatCritic Gives Heron Lakes 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)


Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

View my food journey on Zomato!


... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube
Read Chris S.'s review of Heron Lakes Golf Club on Yelp

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Portland, OR: The Great Blue ... Woo-Hoo - Robert Trent Jones At His Finest

Key Words: Heron Lakes, Heron, lakes, lakem golf, course, golf course, public, Portland, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"