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.

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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

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):

Noreetuh

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.

Back to the NoMad

July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Visited the NoMad for the second time back in late May and had an even better experience than the first! Started with the fruits de mer “le grand plateau”, a beautiful selection of prepared raw seafood and the chicken liver mousse with pickles and rye bread, which was a favorite from the previous time. At this point in our meal, we got to meet Becky Quan (!), one of the NoMad pastry chefs who I’d spoken with online after my first post on the NoMad and who brought out their highly addictive potato-onion-caraway bread and butter. Such a small world! And the in-person introduction made the rest of our meal even more fun and memorable.

We then progressed to the mackerel cured with buttermilk, peas and nasturtium, which looked absolutely stunning on the plate and tasted so bright and clean. I hadn’t really eaten much mackerel before but since this meal, I’ve actually ordered it more often when on the menu because this dish left such a great impression (and only a few other versions have been as good). We also ordered the foie gras with rhubarb, celery and pistachio, which had everything you could possibly want in a foie dish. There was creamy and smooth against crunch, sweet and tart against fatty and herbaceous. So predictable of me but I really enjoyed this dish (and I dare anyone else not to). Our sommelier of the night also gave us a great wine recommendation – a Sicilian red with dry ripe fruit notes and hints of spice and tobacco – that paired well with all our courses and never overwhelmed.

For our main dish, we ordered the roast chicken for two (duh). Just as great as the first time – the combination of black truffles and (more) foie is so heady and I can never understand how they manage to keep the breast meat so juicy. And that “stuffing” of dark meat was just as outrageous and rich as I remembered.

For our dessert, we ordered the milk and honey with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and were also surprised with a complimentary strawberry cheese cake dessert courtesy of Becky Quan, Pastry Chef. While I loved both, I preferred the classic and simpler milk and honey, which had nice savory elements as well, which worked out perfectly because Ameya had basically finished the strawberry cheesecake by the time I looked up again from my plate. Can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our dinner here (thanks not only to Becky but also to James, our wonderful server who answered all of our questions and even shared the name of the artist who crafted all of the NoMad’s beautiful ceramics that I’d been obsessing over throughout the course of our meal). I’m already dreaming of the next time!

Also, even if you’re not able to stop by for a meal, I would highly recommend the NoMad bars (I like the Elephant Bar that’s connected to the restaurant itself but there’s also a separate, larger bar with its own entrance on 28th street that serves slightly more casual food). Well-crafted cocktails and though I don’t drink too much brown liquor, I’ve heard from various sources that they serve the best Manhattans in the city. 🙂

Rose’s Luxury

April 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

My last meal in Washington D.C. was a blow-out dinner with Fred, Joanna, Ameya and Murphy at the newly opened Rose’s Luxury, which earned the top spot in Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants list for 2015 and is home to a chef who refuses to be pigeon-holed into any one particular type of cuisine or style of cooking. Initially, we planned to get in line around 4pm, knowing from reviews that there’d be a super long queue, but our late lunch at Hank’s and stop at the Phillips Collection meant that we didn’t get there until around 5. Turned out to be a pretty big mistake on our part as we ended up waiting until around 10:30p to be finally seated (luckily, most of those 5 and a half hours was spent drinking and playing shuffleboard at a nearby bar, not waiting outside).

By the time we finally got our foot in the door, we were delirious for some food and thankfully, our server immediately served us some toasty Japanese milk bread with whipped honey butter and fennel seeds. Perfect.

Given the enormous wait we’d had to endure and not knowing the next time we’d ever be back, we decided that we might as well try to order everything on the menu. To start: the smoked trout mousse with apples and chervil; sliced beef crudo, mustard oil, sea salt and watercress and chicken-fried oysters with raw oyster tzatziki. These were admittedly pretty small bites (we ordered seconds of the trout mousse and oysters) but so packed with flavor. Really loved the tart crunchy apple against the creamy mousse and those crispy crispy oysters with the cooling tzatziki. I could probably eat twenty of each of those bites and call it a meal.

Other small plates that we got were the famous pork sausage, habanero & lychee salad and the grilled avocado with tomatillo, poblano and cotija cheese. The lychee salad looked simple enough and you get to mix it all together after it arrives at the table but there’s such a great balance between the juicy sweetness of the fruit against the bite of the red onion and richness from the sausage and creme fraiche. The habanero also gives it some kick that burns the back of your throat. We also ordered a second of this dish.

Our pasta course comprised of the ricotta stuffed gnocchi with crispy sunchokes, mushroom butter and dill; mezze rigatoni “sausage & peppers” as well as a cacio e pepe that was on the house. My favorite of the three was probably the ricotta stuffed gnocchi – it definitely did not conform to what one normally pictures when thinking gnocchi and I loved its pillowy soft texture, the rich mushroom butter sauce it came swimming in, along with those crispy meaty sunchokes on top. The rigatoni was delicious as well, although a little more traditional but unfortunately, we all agreed that our cacio e pepe had been over-salted (though we still managed to finish the entire thing anyway).

For our next and last round of food, we got the Korean-fried catfish with cilantro and daikon pickles; hakurei turnips with spicy fish broth and tofu for something on the lighter side, the family-style smoked brisket, white bread, horseradish and slaw and finally, whole grilled quail with fall greens and mulled cider glaze. We were definitely struggling at this point; it was super late and we were among one of the last groups in the restaurants. Honestly, all I can really recall in my cocktail-wine-food-induced haze at this point is that everything was delicious, especially that spicy catfish, and each dish was unique and did not fit into any one particular category of cuisine. Chef-owner Aaron Silverman is doing a seriously good job of churning out great food in an environment that feels sophisticated but not stuffy.  The next time I’m back in D.C., I need to do a better job of planning my visit here because I will definitely be back.

Hank’s Oyster Bar, an old favorite

April 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Day 3 in D.C. started off with a leisurely lunch at an old favorite of mine, Hank’s Oyster Bar, in Dupont Circle. Fred and Joanna came down from Bethesda for the day (always so great to catch up with them) and we had ourselves an oyster and seafood feast. Started with a spicy bloody maria with tequila and an enormous assortment of raw oysters that Hank’s had listed on their blackboard. I don’t remember all the different types but Ameya and Fred did insist that we get extra Rappahannock oysters, which turned out to be a good call as they were sweet and buttery with a nice, crisp finish. Awesome.

Our other starters were the perfectly fried and well-seasoned popcorn shrimp and calamari with their crack house sauce that’s similar to a spicy remoulade and the BBQ’d oysters, Hog Island style. Lots of buttah, some white wine, garlic and Tabasco made for some scaldingly hot, albeit tasty bites.

Fred and Joanna shared the shrimp and grits, which looked enormous and delicious, Ameya ordered the smoked trout hash with poached eggs, potatoes and dill cream sauce, which came out smelling amazing and very rich and I tucked into their lobster roll (bursting at the seams with tender lobster meat lightly dressed with mayo and celery, the way I like it) with Old Bay fries. Everything was so fresh and the atmosphere was chill and casual that it just cemented my belief that Hank’s will always be one of my favorite D.C. restaurants.

By the time lunch ended, we were feeling pretty full and lethargic, and since the Phillips Collection was only a couple blocks away, I dragged our group to visit the Rothko Room and the Man Ray-Human Equations exhibit so we could get a bit of culture and a good walk in before our evening at new hot spot, Rose’s Luxury.

A day in D.C. and dinner at Proof

April 13, 2015 § 1 Comment

Second day of my DC weekend started off with a frigid visit to the Washington Monument and then some delicious raw oysters and fried seafood at old school restaurant, Old Ebbitt Grill, with Murphy.

Spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the Smithsonian and Georgetown. The Museum of Natural History was holding its annual orchid show as well as photographs from the annual National Geographic competition and I got to take in the Piero di Cosimo – Italian Renaissance exhibit at the National Gallery. Rounded out the day wandering around the intersection of M and Wisconsin and all over campus, which was still beautiful as ever, before heading to dinner at Proof, known for its refined American food and extensive wine list.

Orchids at the Natural History Museum

Monet at the National Gallery

Good ol’ Healy Hall at Georgetown University

At Proof, we started with a couple cocktails (super potent) and their complimentary crackers with house made labneh with olive oil and chives. Deliciously creamy with a bit of tang. Because we decided ahead of time that this would be one of those ridiculous marathon meals, we ordered three appetizers – the sauteed potato gnocchi with pumpkin and wild mushrooms accompanied with brussels sprouts, butternut squash agrodolce, sage, brown butter and parmesan, the crispy veal sweetbreads with hedgehog mushrooms (served atop creamy white polenta, scallions, bacon lardons and a honey gastrique) and then the pan roasted Hudson Valley foie gras on a sweet cherry short cake, pistachio, cocoa nibs and bing cherry jus. The potato gnocchi were golden brown and crispy on the outside with pillowy centers; the sweetbreads were perfectly cooked and tender and the foie gras, the best of these three awesome dishes, had the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Really lovely and could not get enough.

For our main dishes, we ordered the generously portioned sauteed lamb chops with ragout of nutty farro and tender lamb shoulder (served with pistachios, dried apricots, pomegranate, whipped yogurt, almonds and sumac) as well as the roasted Long Island duck breast with smoked ham hock & pumpkin risotto (served with toasted pumpkin seeds, duck cracklings, sage and crispy collards) and paired them with a delicious bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. It was probably too much of a good thing, especially after our three starters, but we just kept eating and eating until we realized we should probably try to save room for the cheese/dessert course.

Instead of ordering something sweet, we opted for a platter of three cheeses – a Jasper Hill cow’s milk cheese that was soft and floral; a creamy goat cheese called Leonora from Spain that tasted of lemon and herbs and finally, one of my all-time favorite cheeses, a pyrenees-brebis, a semi-firm, sheep’s milk cheese with hints of nuttiness and caramel. So amazing and even more enjoyable with a glass of 1990 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. It was the perfect, not-too-sweet ending to a relaxing, three hour meal and though totally different from the minibar dinner the night before, just as memorable and indulgent.

minibar by Jose Andres

April 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

Took a short vacation in DC at the end of February and got to enjoy a super-fun, whimsical meal at minibar by Jose Andres with Ameya, my dining partner-in-crime for the weekend. Just 6 seats at the counter, 4 hours and a slew of small courses and wine tastings. Once again, I’m too lazy to go into descriptions for each of the dishes but highlights were the almond tart with blue cheese, the “burger” with wagyu and uni, the crispy, fatty vietnamese pig ear balanced with pickled vegetables and chili oil, the andalucian tofu (which was really an almond garlic gazpacho treated to have the texture of silken tofu) and ultra rich shabu shabu, the iberico tendon, the refreshing palate cleanser called “first frost” and the gorgeous breakfast in hokkaido dessert. Favorite part was probably watching the chefs prepare each dish with perfect choreography and engaging with them and the other diners. For our dessert courses, they also took us into barmini, the swank cocktail bar next door, where Murphy joined us and we indulged in more tasty libations (such a smart move on their part). If you can get a reservation for either venue, you’re seriously one lucky (foie-gras stuffed, rubber) ducky.

The luxe entrance way, where we were greeted with a glass of cava and a book of dried edible flowers

hot and cold pisco sour; parmesan canele; pineapple shortbread; pizza Jose’s way – 2012 Dr. Herman Urziger Wurtzgarten Riesling from Kabinett Mosel, Germany

almond tart with blue cheese; rubber ducky – 2013 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosato from Randazzo, Italy

late-night chicken shawarma – bodegas hidalgo manzanilla la gitana “en rama” from sanlucar de barrameda, spain

burger

vietnamese pig ear – pain killer (dark rum, roasted coconut milk, pineapple and orange)

fusilli – 2013 abbazia di novacella pinot grigio valle from iscaro alto adige, italy

andalucian tofu + shabu shabu – sho-une junmai dai ginjo hakutsuru sake from kobe, japan

iberico tendon – 2013 domaine de roches neuves thierry from germain saumar champigny loire, france

espardenyes with bone marrow – 2013 guimaro mencia from riberia sacra, spain

squab and oysters – 2002 r. lopez de heredia vina tondonia from rioja, spain

bonne bouche cheese puff; first frost; breakfast in hokkaido – 2012 oremus late harvest tokaji

sesame pocki; raspberry chocolate bar; yuzu-mallow; raspberry wasabi bon bon; eat the rocks; doughnuts; boozy bear – amaro from montenegro, italy

A delicious cucumber gin-based cocktail at barmini; old friends

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.

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