April 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
Recently, I got to catch up with two separate groups of former co-workers at Momofuku Nishi and Blue Ribbon Federal Grill. While the types of cuisine and locations were very different, both places provided a really fun and casual place to reconnect with friends and tuck into some good drinks and food.
At Momofuku Nishi, we ordered a couple of small plates to start but the main event was the Pok Pok and Nishi fried chicken offering, while at Blue Ribbon Federal Grill, which had only just recently opened in the Financial District, we ordered as much food as three girls could stuff down our gullets.
Jajangmyeon with pork sausage; chili pan mee and fried egg. A riff on a traditional Korean/Chinese noodle dish made of fermented black bean paste and usually pork but here, dressed up with some spice and a runny egg. Typically, the noodles are served with julienned or grated cucumber and/or carrot to add some freshness and crunch and I think that element was unfortunately missing here.
Bone marrow with XO sauce, milk bread and herbs. An interesting and slightly funky take on the typical fatty bone marrow and toast combo, which had a nice balance between the sweet and slightly squishy bread and the pungent flavors of the marrow.
And finally, two fried chickens – one midnight fried chicken from Pok Pok served with chili garlic sauce and tamarind sauce and then the Szechuan style fried chicken from Nishi with hot sauce and honey butter. Side dishes included an absolutely monstrous plate of super dense and buttery green onion biscuits, a papaya salad with miso (because you know…plants) and toasted rice. We dug into this hard and actually managed to finish it all, which we’ve found is surprisingly hard to do on most large format Momofuku dinners. My favorite of the two chicken styles was the spicier and tangier Szechuan and even though it was absolutely freezing outside, my post-dinner flush kept me warm enough to walk all the way home from Chelsea back to Soho.
When Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen in my neighborhood closed this past winter after years of serving American comfort food, it definitely felt like there was a sudden dining hole in the neighborhood. Luckily though, the Blue Ribbon family was able to move all of the staff down to the new restaurant Federal Grill in the Financial District at the AKA Hotel, where they’re now offering slightly fancier fare in a posh setting. Alice, Vanessa and I got to try it for the first time right around when it opened to the public and it was so wonderful to see so many familiar faces and treat ourselves to a really standout dinner where the service was incredibly warm and gracious.
Below – beef shin with spatzle, cornichons, beets and caraway cream; shishito tempura with malt ponzu; baby kale caesar salad and farro and shrimp with poblano peppers, grilled corn, pomegranate and mint labneh. Of these, my favorites were the beef shin, which was perfectly tender and full of earthy flavors, and the farro and shrimp, simply because it was a really well executed dish and something completely new to me, bringing together flavors I never would’ve thought would complement each other.
For our mains, we split the bavette steak with bourbon and black pepper sauce; the insanely good, perfectly cooked Maine lobster with potato, corn and miso butter (highly addictive) and then the truffled potatoes and cheesy spatzle (think macaroni and cheese on crack). So much food but we had no problem eating it all. Luckily we were seated in one of the larger banquettes, where if we really needed to, we probably all could’ve lay down for a quick nap in between courses.
Alice and Vanessa insisted on also getting dessert even though we were absolutely stuffed so we went with the apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, which I actually ended up being crazy about, and the incredibly alcoholic baba au rhum with creme fraiche. I took a couple of bites of each and finally gave up.
I’m definitely biased when it comes to Blue Ribbon but have to say that they’re doing a really nice job at the new location, which is completely different from what Bakery Kitchen ever was. The food walks a nice balance between the familiar and domestic vs. unique and worldly, the service is as awesome as ever and I’m sure they’ll have no problem filling their seats with new regulars downtown. Especially want to thank Roghan, Laraugh, Bessie, David and Sam for their wonderful hospitality and can’t wait to go back soon.
June 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Dinner at Momofuku Nishi, David Chang’s newest NYC restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood, featuring a kind of mash-up of Korean and Italian food. The interior is typical for Chang’s restaurants (spare, not particularly comfortable furniture and a cramped, loud space with mostly communal seating) and service would sometimes disappear and pop up again randomly, but there were a number of interesting dishes that conveyed the concept particularly well and made the visit worthwhile…
To start: whole fried shrimp with salt and pepper…a perfect bar snack to pop into your mouth, head, legs and all, while drinking a refreshing beer or cocktail. Crunchy and heavily seasoned, brightened with a squeeze of lime.
Instead of getting any protein-heavy dishes (the brisket had run out by the time we arrived), we ordered a number of pastas, including the much-hyped ceci e pepe with chickpea hozon and black pepper, a funky take on the classic Roman pasta. Here, the usual pecorino cheese is swapped for a chickpea miso-esque substance that doesn’t skimp on the umami and maintains that velvety texture. It looks super simple on the plate but don’t expect it to be bland.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening, Nishi’s Asian take on chicken and dumplings. It was a lighter version of the Southern comfort dish, with strong hits of toasted sesame oil, wide flat noodles and meaty, smoky shiitake mushrooms. It reminded me of the minimalist, medicinal soups that my mom and dad would prepare when my sisters and I were young, consisting mainly of a milky bone broth made pork back bones, sesame oil and other Asian ingredients like goji berries and ginseng.
Here, clams grand lisboa, a potentially great dish that was unfortunately way over-salted on our visit (and I tend to like a lot of seasoning). Topped with tender clams, the noodles were cooked like Spanish fideos or Cantonese pan-fried noodles, with crunchy, almost charred noodles around the perimeter and heavily sauced, softer noodles in the middle. At some point, I’d like to try a better executed version of this dish because it has everything that I like – briny seafood, lots of different textures and an interesting sauce.
Our final pasta dish, spicy beef Sichuan noodles, a decent dish but not particularly memorable. It evoked a hybrid of pappardelle bolognese (and looks a lot like it too) and the addictive sauce in the spicy pork sausage and Chinese broccoli dish at Ssam Bar but didn’t have as much of a kick as I would’ve expected from a dish labeled “Sichuan”.
We also tried the fried fingerlings with smoked yolk and tarragon and while the sauce was delicious, I didn’t really care for the large, thick chunks of potato, which were missing that crispy exterior and creamy interior that I look for in any fried potato dish.
Dessert, however, was delicious and wonderfully simple. We ordered the pistachio bundt cake with ricotta because everyone had been raving about it and it was a lovely, not-too-sweet slice offset by the tangy cream. So many carbs in one meal…in the end, while I was happy to have tried this cross-cultural restaurant, it will be a while before I feel the need to go back.
July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
Yet another day of traipsing around New York City, this time in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene (where I got the first nasty sunburn of the summer).
Asia Dogs: the Vinh (aioli, pate, cucumbers, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno) and the Wangding (Chinese BBQ pork belly, onions, and cucumber). The Vinh was the better of the two, since the pickled vegetables balanced out the meatiness of the dog. Plus I love anything with cilantro. On the other hand, the pork belly and accompanying that topped the Wangding was a bit too salty and syrupy for my taste.
Salvatore Bklyn, makers of the best ricotta (insanely creamy and rich) and olive oil I have ever had. Literally went cross-eyed when I had my first bite. With just-sliced prosciutto and arugula on fresh bread…absolute heaven on earth. I could eat five, no six, of them and consider it a perfect meal.
Chelsea Market for more gelato from L’ Arte del Gelato…this time pear and grape sorbet. No, sadly, these cups weren’t all mine.
Company Pizza (again) in Chelsea for a relaxed dinner, complete with a whole growler of Allagash White (props to Maria’s boyfriend, Dave, for introducing me to a new favorite beer), veal meatballs, bread and butter, and three different pizzas.
Brooklyn Flea Market
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenue)
Saturdays, 10 am – 5 pm
June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
Somehow, even after our trip to Doughnut Plant, Laura and I still had room for more carbs, so we walked our way over to Jim Lahey’s place, Co., for some thin-crust pizza.
Although the weather was amazing that day, we opted to stay inside, where it was surprisingly quiet for 1 PM on a Saturday. The interior set up and decor was pretty minimalist, with one large table for communal dining going down the midde.
To ensure we had a “balanced” meal, we ordered one “Boscaiola” pie, with tomato, mozzarella, pork sausage, mushrooms, onions, and chili flakes, and a green-laden “Popeye,” with Pecorino cheese, gruyere, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper, and garlic.
Because I’m a sucker for any pizza with meat and mushrooms, the Boscaiola was my favorite. The sausage tasted very fresh and I liked the not-so-subtle, spicy kick from the generous sprinkling of chili, which was well balanced against the sweetness of the tomato.
I was actually surprised by how much I liked the Popeye. They really don’t hold back with the spinach, and some of the green leaves became wonderfully crisp from cooking at such high heat, almost like garlicky, salty spinach chips. And though I tend to stay away from too much cheese on my pizza, I really loved the combination of the nutty Gruyere and the sharpness of the Pecorino.
Because the pizza was so delicious, Laura and I actually managed to finish two whole pies, even though our stomachs were to the point of exploding by the end. Luckily, we had an afternoon of exploring the Chelsea art galleries to work it all off.
230 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
June 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
Ugh, I’ve been so bad about posting lately due to work and general craziness. Definitely going to try and be better about that as I slip into a summer routine.
So, in continuation of our most recent NYC trip, after our time at the Met with McQueen, Laura and I went to Chelsea to take a look at some of the art galleries – the beautiful, the ugly, and the wtf? – and also FINALLY stopped at the Doughnut Plant by the Hotel Chelsea since we discovered they had opened a relatively new location in the area. In the past, difficulty in getting to the Lower East Side had always prevented us from visiting.
I loved the look of the place. First, the smell that hits you when you enter the shop is absolutely insane. All that sugar and dough makes for an incredibly heady combination. There were also cute doughnut plushies on the walls and donut patterns on the seats, and everyone appeared to be happily enjoying their orders with some iced coffee.
We chose a yeast based donut, the peanut butter and blackberry jelly, and a cake donut, the rich tres leches. Laura and I were split on favorites; I preferred the cakiness and creaminess of the tres leches whereas Laura went gaga for the PB&J, a terrific balance between crunchy, peanut-y saltiness and tart fruit from the filling, but we both agreed that these were the best ring-shaped desserts we’d ever had.
We debated ordering another one, perhaps the blackout donut, but we had lunch plans at Company (post to come later) and decided to wait until another time.
So the next time you find yourself in Chelsea craving something sweet, definitely consider heading to the Hotel Chelsea to indulge in some serious donut fare.
The Doughnut Plant
220 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011