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.
April 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
My favorite restaurant, without a doubt, is Momofuku Ko in the East Village, and lately, I’ve been lucky enough to visit multiple times. Everyone there is so warm and friendly (they remember your name and your favorite dishes by your second visit), the food that chef Sean Alex Gray and his hard-working team are putting forth is as creative as any I’ve ever had (and absolutely gorgeous on the plate, without being too fussy) and the interiors and details at the new location on Extra Place are as particular and unique as the food that’s coming out. All of the accolades and praise they’ve received since their relocation and revamp are well deserved (though the only downside is that it’s now harder to get those already super-coveted counter seats). Below are the dishes (note some are older and might no longer be on the ever-changing menu) that I’ve had recently, some in their final form and some in development. One cool thing about multiple visits is seeing how specific dishes are conceived, initially executed and then refined over and over again until they’ve reached their final iteration, which still sometimes undergo changes depending on ingredients and season. That being said, I’ve never had a dish, work in progress or otherwise, that’s disappointed. Below are some standout dishes…but because I’m lazy and it already took me forever to get this post up in the first place, all you get are minimal notes from what I remember:
Bites of potato waffle, pommes soufflees, lobster paloise and millefeuille. Super high end finger food. The lobster paloise, which I’ve had multiple times now, is my favorite of any of their amuse-bouches offered so far.
Madai – consomme, shiso and finger lime…a relatively newer dish that’s now one of my favorites for its pure flavors. Lately, they’ve been serving it with sea bass instead of madai, which is a bit firmer and stands up really well.
Raw scallop with tonburi (a Japanese herb known as “caviar of the fields”) and citron. Here, paired with Kaika “Tobindori Shizuku Daiginjo” from Togichi, Japan.
An old favorite and Ko staple: uni with chickpea and hozon. I love everything about this dish – the colors, the slightly different textures and the olive oil and sea salt that make everything pop.
Razor clams with apple and basil seeds, paired with two 2014 wines from Peter Lauer. Stunning.
Oh my god…this. Caviar with potatoes that would make Joel de Robuchon cry they’re so buttery and addictive and hidden fermented radish on the bottom to cut through all that richness, served with sourdough bread and cultured butter and Tarlant champagne. Just look at those velvety potatoes and the way they’re draped in the bowl. Ugh.
Monkfish with a sauce of its liver and a sauce of poblano. Love the heavily white presentation accented by the green (also I need to figure out where the dishware came from). I was never really interested in monkfish prior but damn if this didn’t change my mind. So tender and ingenious to serve it with its own liver. Now I try to see if anywhere else has a better version. So far…no.
Crack pasta. Actually, pyramidi with broccoli and aged cheddar with just a little black truffle shaved on top. Who knew broccoli pasta could be so exciting? If they figured out a way to freeze and package this, I’d eat nothing else, carbs be damned. Paired with Andre et Mireille Tissot Cremant du Jura “Indigene” NV rinsed with Tissot “Chateau-Chalon,” Vin Jaune, both from Jura, France.
Venison with kale and olive berry, paired with 2011 Chateau Moulin de Tricot from Margaux, Bordeaux.
Another Ko favorite: foie gras with lychee, pine nut brittle and riesling jelly. Don’t really have anything to say about this other than it’s always wonderful.
Ko’s version of a creamsicle – carrot cardamom and meringue, paired with a 2013 pear cider from Cidrerie de Vulcain from Switzerland.
Chocolate cake with mint and fernet branca, paired with Zucca and root beer (?). Not typically one for desserts but the above creamsicle and this were just sweet enough without being cloying. Also, any dessert with fernet is OK by me.
And on visits that followed, some new dishes included:
Happy Valley beef with accoutrements I can’t recall that was perfectly cooked and beautiful to look at. I think the green is some kind of parsley puree. Ko also started my obsession with MUD Australia ceramics that has by now cost me a pretty penny.
New amuse-bouches: fried chicken oysters with dried honey mustard (take that, Wendy’s!), potato waffles, Ko Cheez-its and a shot of kimchi granita to offset all that fried goodness. On a following visit, we ordered another 6 pieces because we are crazy and the people there are awesome.
Lobster “bouillabaisse” with new potatoes and aioli. Just look at those colors. That sauce is one of the most shellfish-y (in a good way) sauces I’ve ever had and each time, I use their new flatbread to mop it all up.
Duck pie and greens. Can’t imagine the technique and time that goes into making this dish come out as great as it did but it was gone within 30 seconds.
An early version of the chocolate mousse and olive oil ice cream dish that’s now on the counter menu. Again, slightly bitter and barely sweet, with a nice contrast from the bergamot sauce drizzled on top.
Happy Valley beef again with a fried potato churro. That’s right. Potato. Churro. Think on this visit we had way too much wine (including a 1997 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino…life was not bad that day) so when I was hungover the next morning, 50 more of those churros delivered to my bed would’ve been really nice.
So if those above photos don’t make you go straight to the Momofuku Ko website and try to make a reservation (by the way, they’re actually open for lunch now as well), then I don’t know what will…Just do it and I can guarantee you’ll have a meal of a lifetime.
June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Scotch eggs and steak tartare with Christine at Dead Rabbit, where she first told me she was going back to California 😦
A relaxing night in with Spunto
My first time at i Sodi with Artemis – an enormous steak with arugula and rabbit prepared porchetta-style with spinach
Enjoying a beautiful plateau and more oysters at John Dory with Christine and Laura
Trying a new dish of scallop and ham crudo at Momofuku Ssam Bar to celebrate Laura’s decision to attend Yale’s architecture grad program
An old reliable while dining solo – steak tartare and red wine at Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen
El Luchador – a new lunch option near the office with outdoor seating
Hot pot during a brief trip back to Edison, NJ
Shots from the beautiful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (GO)
Pork belly appetizer from Han Dynasty
Christine’s good-bye, hosted by Artemis and one of my favorite wines of the night
Excited about the next few posts coming up…whenever I manage to get to them.
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
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
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
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!
April 8, 2014 § 1 Comment
Had a pork-tastic dinner this past weekend consisting of Momofuku Ssam Bar’s pork belly buns and bo ssam. Totally worth the meat sweats and food coma afterwards, although it’ll be a while before I can eat any pork again.
January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
Photos from Esther and my summer meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which is still one of my favorite places to eat in the East Village.
A seasonal cocktail and the Penicillin – scotch, lemon, honey and ginger…all my favorite ingredients in one beverage with a giant ice cube.
The famous steamed pork belly buns with hoisin, cucumber, and scallions. Still so good that I could make a full meal out of these babies.
A new addition to the menu since my last visit – bbq buns with crispy pork belly, coleslaw, and smoked mayo. Maybe it was the novelty of the dish, but I think I actually preferred this version to the original, and Esther and I seriously contemplated ordering more.
A classic – spicy pork sausage and rice cakes. I always tell myself that I won’t order these again, but something about the crispy starch mixed with the crunchy Chinese broccoli and spicy meatiness of the sausage just keeps calling me back.
Silky Santa Barbara uni with some melon ice and a strange but tasty gelee (I vaguely remember a porky, ham flavor) with summer tomatoes.
Beef, two ways, with bulgur, fava beans and soubise. I think this may have been the first time I’d had bulgur actually and it was totally great – nutty flavor and a toothsome texture. The meat, as you can see, was also perfectly cooked. Just goes to show that while it may be easy to fall into the same great dishes again and again, it’s definitely worth your while to try new dishes at places where you’ve eaten many times in the past.