Ruffian & Salvation Burger
July 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
Two relatively new places that couldn’t be more different (and one that is now temporarily closed due to a fire). I’m a bit conflicted posting about Ruffian because it’s a matchbox of a place and I don’t like the idea of someone else taking up my seat but at the same time, it totally deserves the publicity and recognition. I’ve posted about West Village wine bar, Lelabar, on this blog multiple times and have been a visitor ever since I moved into the neighborhood. One of the first Lela sommeliers I got to know was Patrick – a super friendly guy who’s seriously passionate about his wine, especially anything particularly funky or strange – and when I heard he was opening his own place in the East Village, I knew it’d be a gem.
He’s assembled a great team – I know Alexis, the other sommelier, from Lelabar and the chefs, Josh and Andy, are turning out some crazy ambitious Southern French small plates in a kitchen that’s tucked right behind the bar and tinier than mine. One thing to note about Pat and Alexis is that by now, whenever I visit either Lela or Ruffian, I have no idea what I’m drinking since they know my preferences and I always defer to them…it’s an approach that’s never steered me wrong.
On this visit – Cindy and I started with a refreshing rose wine and this dreamy dish of scrambled eggs with shaved bottarga, ramps and mushrooms. Texture of the eggs was perfectly creamy and I loved the raw earthiness of the mushrooms against the briny, funky bottarga and the garlicky bite of the ramps. Seemingly simple but surprisingly complex.
Josh and Andy also had us try this slightly Asian take on a steak tartare – unfortunately I can’t remember what the other components were but I can tell you it was a lighter version compared to classic iterations and so delicious.
Here we have the octopus dish with pickled sunchokes, cilantro and a sauce made with octopus ink. The octopus was tender and I quickly became addicted to the sunchokes, which I’d never had pickled and sliced that thinly before. Chilies added some heat and a generous glug of fruity olive oil rounded out the dish.
Somehow we managed to eat even more food after all the above – below is some sliced finocchiona, a salami from Tuscany that’s heavy on the fennel, a generous wedge of soft coupole cheese (one of my favorites and not too strong), a selection of crusty bread and then more pickled sunchokes (I’m telling you, I couldn’t get enough) and pickled grapes. We had a really lovely time catching up with Pat and Alexis, meeting Josh and Andy and can’t wait to see what they turn out next. The menu is constantly changing and it’s always a new surprise every time I visit.
Much further uptown is April Bloomfield’s newest NYC place, Salvation Burger. Note that the restaurant is temporarily closed due to a kitchen fire they had at the end of May but they should be opening up again soon. If you’re ever in Midtown East and craving some satisfying, greasy food, this is definitely the place to go. We came here right before seeing Fully Committed, a totally hilarious one-man play starring Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson about the restaurant industry, and thank god we had enough time before the show to walk some of this off. We split two burgers and a giant side of fries (super crispy on outside, creamy on inside and nicely salted, just how I like them).
The Classic Burger (second photo below) was basically what you dream a Big Mac could be – a double patty burger with American cheese, some special sauce and pickles – and the Salvation Burger (third photo) had ramp butter, taleggio cheese and a whole mess of mushrooms. Both were cooked to a medium rare, super juicy that I think I used about a dozen napkins, and not too heavy handed with the garnishes, but my favorite of the two was the classic version. It’s a wonder I didn’t start snoozing during the play and I mainly credit Mr. Ferguson’s talent with keeping me awake and entertained.
Here’s hoping that Ms. Bloomfield’s team will be able to get the kitchen running again soon…there are admittedly a ton of burger joints in NYC but this one is turning out some seriously good food and the neighborhood needs an upbeat restaurant like this.
June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
Remembering when I still had it easy at work and weekends were free…just need to make it through June 30. Here – a lazy Sunday lunch at the Via Carota bar, starting with fried green olives with pork sausage and a superb negroni
A huge, hands-only kamayan feast featuring banana ketchup ribs, longanisa sausage, whole head-on shrimp, braised lamb, etc. at Filipino gastropub, Jeepney, in East Village with Cahill friends. Total gut bomb.
The Macho Man sandwich from a new favorite, Court Street Grocers – heritage pork shoulder, cabot cheddar, coleslaw, pickled jalapenos and duck sauce on garlic bread. Between this, the Delight and the Cubano, I can order from here about 4 times a week. So dangerous.
Dinner with Artemis at Mario Batali’s new restaurant, La Sirena, in the Meatpacking District. Bucatini with braised octopus in spicy pomodoro sauce and then ravioli all’amatriciana with spring onion butter…quite tasty but wasn’t crazy about the atmosphere, the service or the scene
Lunch at Legend near Washington Square Park with the family. We ordered our usual dishes – spicy lamb with cumin, spicy beef tendon with chili vinaigrette and a seriously delicious whole braised fish with spicy bean sauce – and went for a really long walk afterwards to recover
Sunday night shellfish bake at North End Grill – half a Maine lobster, head-on prawns, clams, new potatoes and corn in an addictive garlic butter and then sweet gem lettuce and blue cheese dressing on the side. Not pictured: duck fat fries and a lot of white wine.
The famous, substantial duck carnitas at Cosme…’nuff said.
Late night eats at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken…my ultimate weakness.
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.
Out and about
October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment
Family dim sum at Chinatown classic, Jing Fong:
Drinks at Dead Rabbit right by the office:
More dim sum, this time while working from home and ordered from Nom Wah:
A lunch of white wine and fresh, grilled seafood at Via Carota before my trip to Croatia:
Square pizza at Harry’s Italian as my first meal back in the U.S. after Yacht Week:
Simple summer meal at home with tomatoes and basil from the Union Square Greenmarket, Murray’s Cheese ricotta and Blue Ribbon country bread:
Late-night drunken eats at Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s:
Ordering in Xi’an Famous Foods for Laura’s birthday meal:
The #1 at Black Seed Bagels in Nolita (so good):
September 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
Visited relatively new Hawaiian restaurant, Noreetuh, in the East Village a while back with Chris and Wes. While the space itself wasn’t the most comfortable (a little cramped and stuffy, temperature-wise), the food overall was well prepared and handled with a surprising amount of finesse for a restaurant more on the casual side (likely due to Chef Chow’s experience at Lincoln Ristorante and Per Se).
We started with the crispy mushrooms with sweet miso and big-eye tuna poke with macadamia nuts, pickled jalapeno and seaweed. Both were nicely executed but I was hoping for a bit more flavor with the poke.
We also ordered the grass-fed beef tartare with smoked egg yolk, daikon and wonton chips and monkfish liver torchon with pear, cilantro, passionfruit and hawaiian roll. While I’ve had more interesting and tastier steak tartares at other places (with Blue Ribbon’s version being the benchmark), the latter was probably my favorite dish of the meal, partly because the idea of monkfish liver was completely new to me and partly because the fattiness of the torchon went really well with the tartness of the passionfruit.
Finally, for our mains, Chris and I ordered the pineapple braised pork belly with yams, swiss chard and peanuts, which was perfectly tender and well balanced in terms of textures (chewiness from the pork, creaminess from the yams and a nice crunch from the peanuts). It also reminded me of braises that my mom used to prepare when I was younger so that hit of nostalgia made it even more appealing. Wes ordered the duck breast with persimmon, purslane and li hing mui, which looked quite gorgeous as well.
To finish on a lighter note, we chose the bruleed Hawaiian pineapple with lime zest and Hawaiian sea salt. Super juicy with a crispy brown sugar coating on top, balanced out with the acid from the zest and pops of salt. Would definitely say that Noreetuh is worth a visit, especially if you don’t really know anything about Hawaiian food (like us) and just want to try something a bit different and new.
Maialino and some bar favorites
June 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
One of my favorite bars in NYC is Booker and Dax, right next to Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village. They have really well made cocktails (I’ve never ordered something there that I didn’t like but the bee sneeze and the tropical thunder are my favorites) and there’s no standing so customers aren’t on top of each other and you can hear what your fellow guests are saying. One night after attending an opening reception for the new Whitney Museum, we were looking to get drinks and dropped by right before closing. Started with two rounds of cocktails and then escalated to the seriously awesome 13 year old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. It was my first time trying any of the Van Winkle offerings and one could only describe it as a warm, velvet strangulation. By the time we left the bar, we were tired and struggling and in a moment of weakness, walked over to Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s to get something to soak up all of the booze we’d consumed. Ordered the jon-jon deragon (everything bagel spices, scallions and cream cheese), the chihuahua (a bacon-wrapped dog with avocado and sour cream) and the loaded tater tots – a total (but amazing) gut bomb that saved us from terrible hangovers the next day.
Some time late in April, Artemis and I had dinner at Danny Meyer’s Maialino right near Gramercy Park and it was such a treat. We started with the fritto misto (super crispy and surprisingly light mussels, octopus and soft shell crab) with a mayonnaise-y dip and then split two different pastas – the bucatini all’amatriciana with spicy tomato and guanciale and the tonnarelli a cacio e pepe with pecorino and black pepper. Really well executed and super flavorful despite being some of the simpler primi options on the menu.
For our main course, we split the duck arista, served with morels, spring peas and charred scallions and roasted sunchokes with maple and anchovy. Both dishes were incredibly savory. It was probably only my second time trying sunchokes and this version got me absolutely addicted. They were slightly sweet and creamy on the inside with so much umami from the anchovy. They’re no longer on the menu which makes me sad but I’ll just have to go back the next time they’re in season. We also got the opportunity to try some really amazing wines thanks to our sommelier, Paula, who was very in tune to what we were looking for and even poured a couple extra tastings for us to try. The attention to detail in the food and wine and warmth from the staff throughout made this a really enjoyable experience and Maialino remains one of my favorite restaurants in the city. There’s a reason that Danny Meyer and his team have earned so many accolades over the years.
Another bar option down in the Financial District: the relatively new Cedar Local, which is conveniently located right by the office. FiDi isn’t really known for its dining and drinking options but Cedar Local has some pretty nice cocktails (my go-to is the East Side with gin, fresh cucumber, lime and mint) and slightly fancier versions of bar food, like their plantain and potato chips nachos, sliders with dijon mustard dipping sauce and fried macaroni and cheese balls. It’s a great place to unwind after a busy day at work.
Here and there
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
More solo dining while on staycation – the omakase meal at Blue Ribbon Sushi and lunch at the Lupa bar
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.
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.