February food randomness

March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Artemis and I took advantage of the BYOB offer at Union Square Cafe during one of the several snow storms that pummeled NYC this winter: fried calamari with spicy anchovy mayonnaise and chicken liver crostini with shaved brussels sprouts salad; Berkshire pork with winter squash and polenta, the winter beef entree and a side of broccoli rabe; two bottles of Italian red

Weekend lunch with Melissa at my favorite neighborhood spot, Lupa: black and white tagliatelle with mussels and jalapeno; succulent heritage pork arista and a plethora of sides (fingerling potatoes, more broccoli rabe and brussels sprouts)

Catching up with Hussam over the braised beef tongue tacos at Empellon Taqueria, another one of my go-to’s in the Village:

Galentine’s Day dinner of linguine alle noci and eggplant involtini with a dessert of Molly’s Cupcakes courtesy of Alice:

Snow day lunch with Laura at Do Hwa: seafood dolsot bibimbap and the daeji bulgogi with watercress salad

A belated Chinese New Year’s lunch with the family at BQ-HQ: roast duck and pork, fried whole fish, lots of greens and Mama’s dumplings

Bowery Meat Company

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

A couple days after Momofuku Ko, Artemis, Chris, Tim and I had dinner at the relatively new Bowery Meat Company, operated by the same team behind the scene-y Lure Fishbar and Burger & Barrel. Our reservation was on possibly the coldest night of the year so the idea of tucking into some red meat and red wine sounded perfect. The interior is huge with a mid-century feel (lots of Eames chairs and the like that I wanted to just pick up and take with me). I’m also really digging all of these recent restaurants emphasizing spaciousness instead of cramming as many tables as possible into a given space. It makes a huge difference when you don’t have to yell over the conversation of the people next to you and you’re not elbow to elbow with your fellow diners.

Starters: hand-cut steak tartare with grilled bread and baby romaine, which wasn’t as memorable as some other steak tartares I’ve had and needed more acid or spice to cut the beef flavor (also, nobody at the table cared for the romaine), and Chinese BBQ pork belly with butter lettuce and pickled vegetables, which had good flavor and freshness from the pickles. My favorite starter was the dish of broiled oysters with garlic, romano cheese, bread crumbs and parsley. Normally I favor raw oysters because their flavor doesn’t get lost in accompaniments or sauces but these were barely cooked through and smothered in piping cheesy, garlicky goodness, so who am I to complain? We also received some complimentary croquettes (one meat and one basil, cheese) from our server that were quite tasty.

We also had a middle course of the duck lasagna for two with caciocavallo cheese and parmesan. The portioning is highly misleading because I’m pretty confident this lasagna, which comes out of the kitchen in an enormous, steaming casserole dish and is then divided table-side, could easily put four people of average eating capability in a cheese-carb coma, especially if combined with a magnum of Chateauneuf du Pape. It was SO good, especially on a night that was 10 degrees below 0 outside. At one point, I thought to myself that if I were to ever come here again with just one other person, I’d get the oysters and the lasagna and completely ignore the red meat (keep in mind we hadn’t gotten our steaks yet). I still kind of think that actually. I bet the lasagna would make for some amazing leftovers.

Our mains were the insane and beautiful 20 oz chateaubriand with charred brussels sprouts, parsley potatoes and sauce chasseur. No idea what a sauce chasseur is (a quick Google search mentions a sauce of demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots and sometimes tomato sauce) but it seriously made the dish. It kind of reminded me of salted toffee, with its sweet and savory qualities. I even dipped some of the frites in that ish.

We also shared the Bowery steak (Grub Street did a write-up about this interesting cut created just for BMC) with salsa verde and whipped potatoes; an enormous sour cream and onion hash brown of perfect crispiness, compliments of the kitchen; and a bottle of 2009 Saint-Estephe by La Dame de Montrose. Needless to say, by the time we finished our meal and went back out into the cold and windy night, we were well fortified by some seriously tasty (albeit heavy) food and wine in our system.

And because I hadn’t given enough money to Lelabar at that point, Artemis, Chris and I went and shared a killer bottle of 1989 (my birthday year!) Cos d’Estournel and 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. There was a point late in the evening, which included a hilarious run-in with a co-worker, when I probably should’ve stumbled home but thanks to Chris’ enabling, I was persuaded to get a bottle of the 2012 Golgotha from Scholium Project in California. Only about 22 cases were made of this period and 2012 was a standout year that yielded an intensely perfumed wine that for some crazy reason, reminded me of those tiny Asian yogurt cartons you sometimes get at the end of a meal in a Chinese restaurant or eat when you’re a kid (not sure where I was getting the yogurt component – possibly because of its three fermentations?). Bizarre, I know, but strangely evocative of my childhood in the best possible way and I could not get this wine out of my head. About a week later, Chris and I went back to Lela and had the very last bottle and in despair, I went home tipsy, scoured the internet, found it at a store in Dallas and ordered three bottles. It will take all the will power I have to not drink them all within a month.

Momofuku Ko

March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

About a month ago, yours truly got lucky enough to experience the tasting menu and beverage pairing at the newly relocated Momofuku Ko on Extra Place right off the Bowery in the East Village. It’s a much bigger place than the original location, and along with roomier counter space for the diners (Ko is pretty unique in that all seats are at the counter so you can see the cooks preparing the food and even interact with them), there are beautiful glass cases full of hanging meats and all other kinds of ingredients that catch your eye. The restaurant is probably also home to one of the largest works by the artist David Choe, whose gorgeous and frenetic handiwork is sprawled all over the walls.

Right from entering, everyone was super friendly and inviting (shoutout to Su Wong Ruiz who was especially great!), and my dining companion Chris and I even got to make small talk with David Chang himself for a little bit (FYI, he recommends the carbonated cocktails at Booker and Dax if your goal for the night is to get very drunk, very quickly). The menu changes pretty regularly based on the season, so if you get to go, you’ll probably have dishes and pairings totally different from what we did.

Honestly, at this point, I have a hard time remembering the components of each individual dish (many of which were served on beautifully crafted MUD Australia ceramics) but I will say that the major highlights were the madai (super clean and refreshing); the sunchoke (which was very meaty and unctuous despite being all vegetable); the gorgeous, gorgeous uni with chickpea and hozon (as soon as Momofuku starts selling bottles of this stuff, I will be hoarding it) covered in olive oil (when I tasted this dish, I almost cried it was so delicious); the kabocha agnolotti with smoked duck – katsuobushi-style – and parmesan (just loads and loads of umami and deliciousness paired with a pear cider from Switzerland that I need to get my hands on somehow); the famous frozen foie gras over pine nut brittle, riesling gelee and lychee and the venison with pommes puree and epoisses (literally a layer of warm epoisses covered in fancy mashed potatoes that I’m pretty sure were composed of at least half butter). Hell, every single dish was standout. Even looking at these photos again, I’m salivating and checking out their availability for the coming week. Just know that this meal was probably one of the most memorable and enjoyable dinners of my life and I cannot wait to go back again. See below for each course and dish/pairing descriptions.

lobster paloise; tartlet w peter lauer, saar riesling sket, brut from mosel, germany nv 2011

vegetable roll

millefeuille

madai – green chilli, shiso, consomme

bay scallop – pineapple, basil with peter lauer, saar riesling sekt, brut reserve from mosel, germany 1991

sunchoke – blood orange, tarragon with goose island ‘lolita’ from chicago, illinois

uni – chickpea, hozon w shimaoka shuzu yamahai junmai izumi from gunma, japan

mackerel sabazushi – wasabi, dashi ponzu w savart ‘bulles de rose’ ecueil from champagne, france

mackerel dashi – oyster mushrooms, asian pear

soft scramble – potato, osetra, herbs w matthiasson “linda vista” chardonnay from napa, california 2013

bread and butter

kabocha – smoked duck, parmesan w ciderie du vulcain “poire doux” from fribourg, switzerland 2013

halibut – watercress, artichoke, truffle w j.f. ganevat, cremant ‘oh’ blanc de blancs from jura, france 2010 rinsed with j.f. ganevat ‘vin jaune’ from jura, france 2003

apple soda

foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly w karthauserhof, eitelsbacher ‘karthauserofberg’ riesling auslese from ruwer, germany 1998 (magnum)

venison – pomme puree, epoisses w domaine monier perreol saint joseph from chatelet rhone, france 2011

huckleberry – laurel bay, bee pollen

chocolate – mint w dr pepper, rhubarb, scotch and amaro

mignardises

And of course, because we don’t know how to stop being gluttonous once we’ve started, I introduced Chris to Lelabar, which in retrospect was probably a terrible idea for both our livers and wallets. A bottle of 1985 Chateau Leoville-Barton and 2000 Vietti Barolo to cap off an epic night of eating and drinking!

Upland

March 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Had a fun girls’ dinner at the relatively new Upland right off Park Avenue a while back and got to tuck into some Italian-influenced food with a California twist. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive because my co-worker Artemis went right after their New York Times review had come out and she ended up unimpressed, but based on our experience, it could have been attributed to them still working out the kinks so shortly after opening. I didn’t get any great shots of the interior but the restaurant itself is very spacious, follows the recent trend of having more banquettes than stand alone tables (meaning more room per group, always a plus) and houses shelves and shelves of bottles of olive oil or jars of preserved lemons glowing prettily in the dim lighting.

Our first starter were the crispy duck wings with lemon, olive oil and yuzu kosho, this funky Japanese fermented paste of chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which kind of hit you over the head with their spice and tang. Really delicious and intriguing since I also don’t think I’d ever had duck wings before. We got the much-hyped estrella (long tubular pasta stars perfect for picking up sauce) with creamy chicken liver, sherry, rosemary and sage and the delicious pappardelle with spicy pork sausage, kale and parmigiano, all giving great first impressions. Also would point out that chef Justin Smillie even pays close attention to the bread and butter, which is just-out-of-the-oven toasted sprinkled with coarse salt and the butter is room temperature with a smattering of chives and a smidge more salt. It’s little details like this that count, people.

For my main, I ordered the crackling porcelet, an interesting cut, accompanied by jimmy nardello peppers, charred onions and permission. A nice balance between savory and sweet from the fruit, this came in a pretty large portion and turned out to be quite rich thanks to that crunchy, slightly fatty strip of pork crackling running along the right side, though honestly, I had no problem finishing. The other entrees looked amazing as well – a very colorful cioppino with a melange of shellfish and striped bass and a whole grilled branzino with citrus scallion vinaigrette. We also ordered a side of the slow roasted celeriac with black truffle butter and sea salt (because, you know, vegetables) which was earthy and surprisingly light given that I’m pretty sure it came out doused in butter or olive oil.

After a break between courses, we ended our meal with a solid, though not particularly interesting, apple tart and some kind of caramel custard with devil’s food cake and ginger ice cream, which I could only take one bite of since it was too sweet for me.

While I don’t think I’d necessarily revisit Upland that frequently (the food and service were good but I think some places further downtown and closer to my apartment that I’ve recently visited have been more memorable), I’m definitely glad we went, despite hearing some mixed reviews, and our group had a great time. This place would be really fun for birthdays or special occasions with larger groups so you can order a lot of different menu items.

Bouley lunch

March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The lunch at Bouley in Tribeca may be one of the best deals (five courses for $55) in New York City, especially since it happens to be in one of the most beautifully decorated and ornate restaurants I’ve seen. To start – some complimentary amuse bouches that I honestly don’t remember too much about (except that the cracker looking bite had caviar and some kind of black truffle cream). For the first course, I chose the “blini” of Scottish smoked salmon with roe and white truffle honey. The dish was topped with some sort of apple meringue that was a bit too sweet for my taste, especially since the truffle honey was already sweet, but the roe provided some necessary saltiness.

Next, one of Bouley’s most famous dishes, the porcini flan with golden princess crab and black truffle dashi. This was amazing – it came to the table with a cover and when removed, all one could smell was black truffle and brininess from the crab. Really warm and comforting, like a Japanese chawanmushi or egg custard, the portion initially seemed kind of small but was so packed with flavor and richness that it turned out to be just the right amount. I would go back to Bouley just to have this dish again. Also, what I forgot to take a picture of was the amazing bread cart that they wheel to each table after this course. I think there were about twelve different varieties (the usual sourdough all the way to a pistachio and apricot version) and you could potentially try every one of them, but we had to keep in mind that we had more courses coming.

The main dish, a slow braised Kobe-style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi, also hit the spot. I don’t have beef cheeks very often but always love how tender and unctuous they can be when done well and the sauce that came with was super savory and just this side of being over-seasoned. Also really enjoyed the perfectly cooked gnocchi (because who doesn’t love some butter soaked starch with their beef?).

For a palate cleanser after our savory dishes, a chilled coconut soup with pineapple granite, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Really refreshing with a good balance of sweet and tart – this almost punched you in the face with its coconutiness. Around this time, we were struggling to stay awake, so a cappuccino was in order. My dessert was the hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, hot toffee sauce and huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which was a bit too sweet for me and since I was so full, I was only able to take a couple bites.  However, when the tower of mignardises and petits fours came out, I had no problem popping a few chocolate bonbons in my mouth.

So there you have it – one of the best lunch deals in the city. At some point, I’d like to go back and try everything with their recommended wine pairing, which brings the meal to $110 before tax and tip. I think this would be a great place to bring parents when they’re in town and or a special date. Here’s a shot of the entryway, which is lined with apples to greet you and say farewell with the most heavenly smell (we kept wondering how often they have to check and change them out). Oh and I almost forgot to mention that when you leave, they send you off with not one but two individually wrapped cakes (lemon pound cake and stollen) for you to peck away at as soon as you’ve recovered from your lunch food coma. :)

Little Park in Tribeca

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants (Locanda Verde, Lafayette, Bar Primi and others), so when he started getting positive reviews for Little Park, his new farm-to-table, vegetable-focused restaurant in the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, I knew I wanted to try it. Like all of his other restaurants, Little Park is on a corner and it’s right by the Chambers Street subway stop, making it a maybe too convenient place to stop by on my way home from work. The interior is very neutral in color and there are a lot of large banquettes which means more room for each table. Our lunch group of four started with some spent grain bread and a nice tangy cultured butter, both of which I’m guessing come from farms in NY state and are probably processed and made in house.

For our starters, we ordered the wild mushroom broth with short rib raviolini and black garlic, the crispy brussels sprouts with smoked parsnip and apple and the girandole pasta with black kale, squash and pine nuts. These dishes reminded me a lot of the offerings at ABC Kitchen – lots of vegetables that you almost feel virtuous eating them but flavorful and different enough that it nevertheless feels like an indulgent treat. The mushroom broth tasted super clean and light and actually, when tasted alone, I thought lacked some seasoning, but the miniature ravioli it came with packs a petite yet meaty punch to counteract the mildness.

As for the brussels sprouts…these might give my favorite ones at Tertulia a run for their money. They’re also fried to the point where they’re almost charred and super crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, and instead of using pork belly to give it that umami and smokiness, Carmellini adds smoked parsnip and apple for some sweetness. So addictive. Finally, the girandole was probably my favorite dish of the meal – comforting and cheesy with different textures from the crunchy pine nuts, slippery pasta and soft butternut squash. And it should be noted that while none of these dishes had any meat, we didn’t miss it at all!

Our main courses were the grass fed hangar steak with charred broccoli and green sauce, the spatchcock chicken with New York state freekeh and sweet mustard and the steamed black bass with beluga lentils and oregano. I didn’t try the chicken or the black bass (both of which looked gorgeous on the plate) but really enjoyed my hangar steak – super flavorful and well seasoned without being too chewy – and whatever that herby, green sauce was. And the nicest part about this meal was leaving feeling completely satiated but not gross and bloated, which happens quite often because I can never restrain myself from eating everything in front of me. Carmellini’s restaurants each have their own character and feel and Little Park is no different. While it doesn’t necessarily focus on a particular cuisine (like Italian pastas at Bar Primi or French bistro at Lafayette), it delivers some seriously delicious and refined food that made this unapologetic carnivore think about vegetable-driven food in a different, and definitely positive, way.

Dinner at The NoMad

March 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

The popular and well regarded NoMad hotel and restaurant are owned by the same group that operates Eleven Madison Park, so when a group of us went for dinner at the end of January, we knew we were in for a treat. Upon entering, we could see that the dining area was broken up into different sections with different decor in each – the atrium, the parlour, etc. – and we were seated in the parlour, which was sumptuously decorated with velvet chairs, ornate furniture and lots of red. We stuck with cocktails and beer for our meal, and because I was craving something super citrus-y and refreshing, I actually started with a non-alcoholic basil-fennel lime soda and asked for a healthy splash of Hendrick’s gin to be added.

Our small bites to start were the butter dipped radishes with fleur de sel, a very rich chicken liver mousse and the scotch olives with lamb’s sausage with sheep’s milk cheese. Everything gave a really great first impression of the kitchen, including the super French-inspired simple and kinda cute looking radishes, and my favorites were the scotch olives (which is saying something because normally, I don’t even like olives), which were expertly fried and just the right amount of gaminess from the lamb’s sausage. There was also some killer, toasted on the outside but cloud-soft on the inside pita-esque bread that they kept replenishing throughout our meal, seasoned with caraway and other spices that I couldn’t identify that we could just not get enough of.

As mentioned earlier, after cocktails, we decided to order 2 growlers of beer instead of wine for our starters and entrees, mainly because our main course, the famous roast chicken dish for two (times two because there were four of us), had been recommended with a specifically brewed Belgian-style brown ale by Brooklyn Brewery called Le Poulet. It definitely proved to be an interesting pairing, especially since the roast chicken came with foie gras and truffles, (typically very luxurious ingredients you’d think would go better with wine) yet the carbonation and savoriness of the beer was a great match with food so rich.

Moving on, for starters, we shared the slow poached egg with cauliflower, kale and almonds, which had a great combination of different textures (smooth and unctuous from the egg, light and crispy from the fried kale and crunchy from the almonds), the foie gras with shaved beef carpaccio and mushrooms (surprisingly probably one of the least memorable dishes of the evening) and the tortelloni with celery root and black truffles, which blew everyone’s minds with its perfectly cooked pasta and pure umami, truffly deliciousness. We definitely used that caraway bread to scoop up every last bite of that celery root sauce, which I still crave to this day.

Our main course, the roast chicken for two, was the biggest reason why I wanted to come to the NoMad. It’s been hyped up ever since chef Daniel Humm put it on the menu, and after trying it, I think it’s well worth all the praise and good reviews. They actually present the whole chicken, in all its golden and shiny splendor, to you before they take it back to the kitchen for carving. Out comes a plate with the perfectly cooked, not to dry breast, which has black truffles and foie gras (too much of a good thing can only be even better) stuffed underneath the beautifully burnished skin on top of a bed of brussels sprouts and lentils. The dark meat comes in a separate side dish with crispy, well seasoned chicken skin, more brussels sprouts, slightly sweet brioche bread and some insane cream sauce that makes it taste like a savory bread pudding on steroids. This was actually my favorite dish of the night and I would come back just for this.

After our small bites, starters and then the roast chicken (as well as the two growlers of beer), we could’ve called it quits but no…time for dessert! As someone who doesn’t usually care for sweets, I was intrigued by the milk and honey dessert, with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and it definitely did not disappoint. It’s a dish that’s kind of hard to describe and the techniques seemed slightly avant-garde, but the flavors were very familiar and very comforting. It was also very light, especially compared to the cobbler dessert we also ordered. By the end of the meal, a long walk home in the cold weather was definitely needed.

The restaurant at NoMad is a real gem. Compared with Eleven Madison Park, which is super refined and sophisticated, serving dishes that feel incredibly modern (but are still very delicious), NoMad is a place that executes the dishes you know and love at the highest level. At the same time, throughout our meal, service was super friendly, attentive and not stuffy in the slightest. We had a really lovely time in a beautiful setting and felt very lucky to indulge in all the food that we did. I hope it’s not too long before I get to go back and have some more of that tortelloni and roast chicken.

Recently

February 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

3:00 am Korean BBQ at Miss Korea in K-Town…

An impromptu, late night meal at Benchmark in Park Slope with the most awesome foie gras dish served with peppered pineapple, pecans and bourbon glaze (so good we ordered a second one) and filet mignon with purple potato gratin and caramelized marrow

Pecorino, golden raisin and pine nut kale salad to balance out all the gluttony

Homemade chicken parmesan during the night of the snow storm that turned out to be no big deal…

The roast beef press during lunch with Cindy at that old standby, Grey Dog

Greatest delivery pizza ever from Spunto (with caramelized onions, mushrooms, hot Italian sausage and a ton of red pepper flakes)

Marta at the Martha Washington Hotel

February 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

Had a great dinner at Danny Meyer’s new pizza-focused place, Marta, a couple weeks ago with Caitlin, Tommy and Cindy and it seems like everything that man touches turns to gold (or in the case of the Shake Shack IPO, about $155 million). Located in the Martha Washington Hotel in Murray Hill, the restaurant has high ceilings and a good amount of space between tables so patrons don’t feel like they’re on top of one another. And as expected, the service is warm and friendly without being overly hover-y. Started off with a various assortment of wines and cocktails, including a glass of Brachetto, a wine I’d never heard of  before but turned out to be quite delicate and floral.

We ordered the green risotto croquettes with mozzarella and mixed herbs as well as the rabbit meatballs with black olives and meatballs for our starters. Both were amazing. The croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside, followed by a layer of well-seasoned creamy rice (hate bland arancini) and gooey melted cheese on the inside. And I don’t usually even like olives but really enjoyed the meatballs, which were very tender and an interesting twist on the classic pork and beef classic.

The pizzas, however, were the highlight of our meal and we actually eschewed ordering any mains. Of the red varieties, we had the amatriciana (pecorino, guanciale, onion and chili) and then of the whites, the funghi (fontina, hen of the woods mushrooms, chanterelles, red onion and thyme) and the patate alla carbonara (potatoes, more guanciale, black pepper, pecorino and egg). So. Frikkin’. Delicious. The crusts of these pizzas are cracker-thin, making them taste a lot crispier than your garden variety pizza. I think the only similar versions I’ve had are the ones at Spunto or maybe Mario Batali’s OTTO by Washington Square Park. One notable benefit of the thinness of these pizzas is that you can eat considerably more without feeling like you need to be wheel-barrowed out the door at the end of your meal…

I had a really hard time deciding on a favorite between our three choices, especially since they were all quite different. The amatriciana is pretty classic and the red sauce hit a good balance between tart and sweet. On the other hand, I’ve never really had anything like the carbonara version anywhere else, which was super indulgent with all that creamy yolkiness, guanciale and pecorino. But the mushroom pizza also proved to be standout and tasted quite meaty despite being completely vegetarian. I also seriously loved our side dish of sunchokes (our feeble attempt at incorporating at least some vegetables into our meal), which were super sweet and creamy on the inside.

With all the great hype this place has been getting lately, I think it’s becoming harder and harder to get a reservation during prime dinner hours, but if you can manage to snag a spot at the bar or go late at night, I’d definitely recommend doing so.

Check out that amazing spread (and the cute Italian grandma-style dinnerware)

Recently…

January 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

A full-on late night meal at Empellon Taqueria after cocktails at Wilfie & Nell – spicy cucumber margaritas, guacamole and seven salsas (one of which almost burned my face off), gooey queso fundido with shishito peppers and a trio of tacos (lamb barbacoa, beer braised pork tongue with potatoes and fish tempura)

Afterwards, a stop at Bar Sardine, where I had Cape May Salts for the first time (wish the bartender, who was clearly new, did a better job of shucking though) and we stupidly decided to order a magnum of wine because it was more “economical”

Brie, honey and black pepper croutons at Les Halles in Midtown during Friday night dinner with co-workers – two orders of these would be a great dinner

A lunch of roasted asparagus and broccoli with parmesan to make up for all the week’s indulging