Jardiniere

January 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Super delayed post on a trip to San Francisco and my first time in California (gasp). As expected, a lot of my activities were planned around meals and restaurants and, for dinner the night of my arrival, we went to Traci des Jardins’ French-influenced restaurant, Jardiniere. Being from New York, I’d decided to walk there from my hotel (only about 30 minutes or so), not realizing that my route would take me through the sketchy-ass Tenderloin neighborhood, but I managed to get there in one piece (albeit, slightly shocked by the sight of multiple people shooting up heroin out in the open).

The restaurant itself was beautiful and maybe a little bit fancier than I’d anticipated, and we started out with some raw oysters with all the typical fixings, delectable little bites of sea urchin, lardo and zesty meyer kosho on crostini and a colorful salad of juicy heirloom tomatoes with crisp romaine, fried bread and crescenza (a soft, creamy and very delicate cow’s milk cheese). All the hype that I’d heard about California’s fresh and amazing produce rang true and I started getting super excited about tucking into a big meal after a morning of traveling.

For our next course, we ordered an absolutely killer gnocchi dish with lamb sugo and cabbage, which I absolutely fell in love with, the duck breast and confit with sweet corn and pumpkin seed mole and a side of creamy polenta and goat cheese. It turned out to be a ton of food (I still felt stuffed the next morning) but everything was delicious. You could tell that the pasta was made from scratch (so fluffy) and the duck was perfectly seasoned and prepared a nice medium rare. The polenta also had a ton of corn-y flavor and I appreciated the tangy accent from the goat cheese. Let’s just say that by the end of the meal, after a bottle of red wine, I was certainly succumbing to the charms of the West Coast.

Eats around town

January 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

A delicious brunch with Bohee at Claudette, right by Washington Square Park, consisting of their chicken liver mousse with soft, squishy pain Tunisien and a super juicy lamb burger

Another solo visit to Via Carota in the middle of a day of errands. The bartender highly recommended the lemon grilled chicken and though it didn’t sound particularly thrilling on the menu, I was impressed (and it’s so cute!)

Craftbar with co-workers – delicious burrata, kale (meh) and winter squash salad, duck hearts and dumplings and of course, the oozy pecorino fonduta, my favorite item on the menu

Lunch at old reliable, Charlie Bird – diver scallops with brown butter and Sicilian lemon and mezze paccherie with suckling pig and saffron ragu (and their addictive house-made chili oil). I should probably start trying more new places but am a huge creature of habit.

Thanksgiving I and II

January 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday bar-none and this year, I got to celebrate it with good friends (though I’m not a huge fan of the term “Friendsgiving”) and family. For the first event, Artemis went all out (as she often does), rented a beautiful event space in her building and ordered the Momofuku Bo Ssam to-go deluxe package (pork belly buns, bo ssam with sauces and fixings, multiple side dishes and biscuits) to go along with all the other dishes brought by guests (Vanessa brought a huge vat of potato gnocchi with pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce from a mom-and-pop shop in Hoboken that we couldn’t stop eating despite it being such a carb bomb). Bottles of wine and pounds of pork later, we still managed to finish off the party with ridiculous ice cream sandwiches of Momofuku Milk Bar corn cookies and strawberry ice cream.

For actual Thanksgiving, our family goes out to Long Island to see long-time family friends every year and it’s a pretty big affair of three or four families. There’s all of the traditional American dishes (roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese) but also a healthy mix of Chinese dishes as well (braised beef and bean curd, my Dad’s stir-fried vermicelli, steamed whole fish). It’s a night where we really get to relax, slow down a bit and truly appreciate how lucky we are to have our family, friends and good health (which we then make a little bit worse by eating three pies and a Momofuku Milk Bar pumpkin pie cake – you’ll see that Momofuku offerings usually have some appearance at any celebration I attend).

Thanksgiving weekend is also one of the few times a year where going back to New Jersey is not an option, and this time around, I got to catch up with old friends and try some new eateries, including a hole-in-the-wall Baguette Delite in South Edison that serves $5 banh mi’s and super tasty summer rolls. Always nice to get out of New York City and take some extra time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Toro

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Lately, one of my favorite restaurants in the city has been Toro, the giant Spanish restaurant owned by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette in the Meatpacking District, right next to the West Side Highway. They manage to do everything right here (which is impressive considering their extensive and varied menu) and the service is absolutely awesome. There have been many instances where I’ll go with a few friends after a late night at work, grab seats at the bar and order a bunch of tapas along with whatever wine/cider/cocktail the bartenders recommend that evening. Sometimes we end it after a couple bites but most nights (especially if it’s during the weekend or a special occasion), we’ll order multiple rounds and even partake in trying the porron, a traditional Catalan drinking vessel, or bone marrow luge. I even decided to have my birthday dinner here. Below are some of my favorite dishes after multiple visits and menu changes. If you ever have a chance to go, I seriously recommend it for a fun, casual night out.

Classic jamon serrano – rosier and less salty than its Italian counterpart, prosciutto

Grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette seasoning and aged cheese – super rich in the best possible way

Fideos with clams and peppers (I actually like this broken-noodle dish more than the paella below)

Grilled razor clams with piquillo pepper, garlic and lemon – briny with a touch of acidity and a good amount of meatiness

Caviar, sea urchin and quail egg with jamon iberico – ultimate indulgence in a single spoon and understandably, my friend Vanessa’s favorite dish of them all

Bacalao (salt cod) fritters with tempura lemon rings and aioli – a classic and exemplar of anything fried

A sea urchin crudo special with shiso strongly recommended by our favorite bartender, Ken

Seared foie gras with seckle pear and marcona almonds

Paella with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo and chicken, complete with the required crispy and slightly burnt soccarat on the bottom

Mushrooms, cooked on the plancha (a sort of super-hot flattop), with a beautiful farm egg

Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad, beef cheek marmalade and grilled bread. This is probably my favorite (and one of the most gluttonous) dishes at Toro. It’s well-balanced between the fatty marrow and the tart and peppery salad AND it enables you to do the bone marrow luge (where you pour some dry sherry down the scooped out bone and take it like a shot).

 

Pasta tasting at Babbo

December 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

A second visit to Babbo during the early fall, but this time to sample their pasta offerings and wine pairings. So delicious (the casunzei and the garganelli were probably my favorite dishes of the night) and so nice to ignore work for an evening:

Black tagliatelle with charred corn and castelmagno paired with Acari e Danesi, Dosaggio Zero NV

Casunzei with poppy seeds paired with Bastianich, Ribolla Gialla 2011

Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati paired with Crivelli, “Collina La Mora” Barbera d’Asti 2013

Agnolotti al Pomodoro paired with La Mozza, “I perazzi” Morellino di Scansano 2013

 

Pappardelle Bolognese paired with Masciarelli “Marina Cvetic” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010

Olive oil cake and gelato paired with Santa Vittoria, Vin Santo Valdichiana 2009

The tasting menu at Semilla

December 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

Had a really lovely and vegetable-heavy dinner at the intimate, 18-seat Semilla in Brooklyn (yes, I traveled all the way out to BK) a few months back that surprised and lived up to all of the hype it’s been receiving since it opened. 10 courses with beverage pairings in an intimate setting with friendly, open staff and good Cahill company.

Tomato gazpacho with peaches, rat tail radishes and black olives paired with Cremant d’Alsace, Dirler-Cade, 2012 from Alsace, France. I’d just been telling Chris and Wes that I don’t really like fruit in savory dishes but this cold soup proved me wrong. So flavorful and clean. I also don’t like olives that much and was crazy about them in this dish.

Tomato salad with cucumbers and scallops and stuffed tomato with ricotta and basil with Dupont cidre, bouche brut from Normandy, France. I didn’t get a photo of the cute stuffed tomato but it was pure summer in a bowl and one of the most memorable bites of the night.

Sweet corn chawanmushi with matsutake mushrooms with Grimm, Rainbow Dome, from New York. Perfect balance of sweet and richness, with lots of umami and unctuousness.

Roasted eggplant with pepper leaves and grapes with Gamay, Les Chamins de Traverse, Bachelard, 2013, from Beaujolais, France. The most distinct characteristic of this course was the heavy smoke.

Bread course of Anson Mill’s grits sourdough with Cowbella butter and buttermilk…which I could not stop eating. Buttermilk with butter is a genius idea.

Tomato tart with Feints Cuvee Zero, Ruth Lewandowski, 2013, California/Utah. Also deceivingly simple but everyone really loved this dish. I have no idea what was in the crust but it reminded me of a Cheez-it (my favorite childhood snack) and was kind of mind-boggling to have it paired with floral shiso.

Lobster mushrooms with corn and mole with Chenin Blanc, Els Bassots, Escoda Sanahuja, 2013, Conca de Barbera, Spain.

Another reminder of childhood – peaches, saffron & bitter almond. Growing up in a Chinese family, the only dessert we’d ever serve (other than straight up fruit) was almond jello that came in a packet served with fruit cocktail. Think of this as a highly refined, delicious version.

Tarragon profiterole with wild blueberry and buttermilk with Chinato Americano, Vergano, from Piemonte, Italy. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the tarragon/anise-y element but it was still a nice end to a meal that surpassed expectations and showed how creative cooking with vegetables can be (we really did not miss the meat at all). Would definitely visit again, especially since chefs Jose Ramirez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung change the menu according to the seasons.

Costata

November 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Had a great catch up dinner with Tim, Sebastian and Christine at Michael White’s Italian steakhouse, Costata, in Soho. I always enjoy eating at two of his other restaurants, Marea and Osteria Morini, so had high hopes for this and wasn’t disappointed. We decided to share everything, starting with the heirloom tomato and burrata salad (this was during late summer when they were at their juiciest and most flavorful), the fusilli alla convivio with pork shoulder ragu, pomodoro and robiolina and the garganelli alla fiamma with peas, con speak and truffle cream (there is usually a similar dish on the menu at Osteria Morini). Amazing, amazing, amazing. The pastas at any of Chef White’s places never fail to satisfy and my favorite was the fusilli, which was cooked perfectly al dente and nicely balanced between the rich ragu, the slight sweetness of the simple pomodoro sauce and tangy creaminess of the robiolina cheese. Sometimes, when I’m at home and feel like splurging on delivery food, I order this dish on Caviar with some creamed spinach and it feels like such a treat. It was good that we’d ordered the tomato salad, which was a lovely, lighter compliment to the much richer pastas.

For our main course, we shared everything again and it turned out to be the perfect amount of food – not too much that there was a lot leftover but still pretty gluttonous. We ordered the enormous, beautiful Costata, a 40 day dry aged 44oz tomahawk ribeye, with the bearnaise, salsa verde and creamy horseradish sauces and then two sides, the creamed spinach and french fries. Everything was so well done – the beef was a perfectly cooked medium-rare with a slight bit of funk thanks to the aging (and flecked with sea salt, which makes a huge difference IMHO), all of the sauces were super tasty and I actually really liked the salsa verde since it was refreshing and lighter than the others. The sides, especially the creamed spinach, were great takes on classic steakhouse sides. Pair that with a killer bottle(s) of Brunello di Montalcino and I was in heaven. I’ve had a few large format beef dishes (Minetta Tavern’s cote de boeuf, Bowery Meat Company’s chateaubriand, etc.) but this was a great version and would be something really fun to order for a birthday dinner or when your parents are visiting (and paying).

We really got to take our time eating the ribeye and sides (service was super friendly and never hovered over us) and actually had interest in some light dessert by the time our table was cleared. We got the affogato (freshly brewed espresso with ramazotti amaro and vanilla gelato) and then a trio of flavor-packed sorbets – lemon-basil, which was my favorite and perfectly tart and herbaceous, blueberry-limoncello (another standout) and strawberry. A nice, low-key dessert to a super satisfying meal.

The Clocktower

November 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

Sometime in August, Cindy and I had a date at newly opened restaurant, The Clocktower, by Stephen Starr.  It’s located in EDITION Hotel right by Madison Square Park and helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, who leans toward seasonally-inspired (though it seems like no one intentionally does out-of-season cooking these days anyway) contemporary food with British influences.  You enter the dimly lit hotel lobby and then go up a flight of stairs, leading to three different dining rooms, a billiards room and a room with a bar, all sumptuously decorated with works of art covering almost every inch of the walls. This is definitely a great place to bring a date – it looks super fancy and might seem a bit stuffy at first, but the service is warm and very helpful when you ask them for recommendations (food or wine).

We started with some bread, right out of the oven, and cultured butter, a hand chopped steak tartare au poivre with roasted bone marrow, sourdough, pickled artichokes and mustard leaves (nicely balanced with fattiness from the marrow and zing from the pickles) and finally, uni risotto with peekytoe carb and bottarga. The dishes were all well executed and I fell in love with the uni risotto – comforting and luxurious but not too heavy for a starter. I could have maybe used a different textural element (some crunch on top?) and slightly more seasoning but that’s mainly me just being a little nitpicky.

For her main, Cindy ordered the beef wellington with carrots and potatoes gratin, which looked absolutely amazing and a nice medium-rare, and I got the classic Long Island duck with sauce l’ orange, fennel, endive and salt baked turnips. These were pretty substantial portions and I liked that the sauce in my dish was not overly sweet, which can often happen with orange sauce, and the breast pieces were perfectly cooked for my taste. All of this washed down with a round of cocktails and then a bottle of smoky red wine, and Cindy and I were happy campers, ready to walk all the back to the Village from Madison Square Park.

Eats around town

November 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Phi and Vikki visited a while back during the summer (don’t think I’d seen them in 3 or 4 years, maybe even longer) and one of the stops on our eating tour was Eataly, where we got the mixed salumi and cheese platter. So good to see them, even though I ended up totally stuffed when we finally called it a day.

A favorite in the Financial District: Harry’s Italian square pies – 1/2 pepperoni and eggplant, 1/2 sausage and broccoli rabe (gotta get some veg), half of which usually gets eaten by Bert.

The beautiful charred lamb breast with giant roti at Rouge et Blanc

Another solid restaurant from Andrew Carmellini in The Dutch. This wagyu steak tartare had sunflower seeds and pickled ramps.

Mini high school reunion featuring Momofuku’s fried chicken dinner at Noodle Bar. Amazing.

Months later, we had another reunion at Pig and Khao and got this crazy sizzling sisig with pork head, chili and fried egg

Finally, a weekend trip to Charlottesville for another high school friend’s wedding yielded some super tasty tagliatelle with braised lamb, eggplant and feta and an enormous pork belly gyro

A second time at Marea

October 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Dinner with Bert, Cindy and Artemis at Marea a few months back (so behind on posting) included some seriously tasty food. Dainty amuse bouches, compliments of the chef, and some cocktails to start (Bert’s is the girliest looking of the three).

Starters of lobster with burrata (my favorite despite the weird combo of seafood and dairy), crab cakes with artichokes and seasonal soft-shelled crab.

For our pasta course, we all opted for the justifiably famous fusilli with bone marrow and baby octopus in red wine sauce. Always so satisfying and perfectly balanced.

Main courses included the giant seared scallops with potatoes and morels (again, one of my favorites from the last time I visited), roasted halibut with nettles and the most enormous portion of rack of lamb I’ve ever seen.

We were so stuffed by the time dessert came around that I didn’t even take photos but that didn’t stop us from first going to the bar at the NoMad Hotel and helping ourselves to some Manhattans and then even more wine at Lelabar. Such a fun evening with a great group of people.

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