April 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
Dinner at Batard in Tribeca a few weeks ago. The weather had been absolutely miserable outside that day (pouring rain, random winds) and work was crazy so to indulge in a really nice French meal before the weekend felt like a huge treat. I’d gone once before when they first opened a few years back and really enjoyed the experience but had basically since forgotten that this place is always a nice option for something a bit fancier. There are a number of options in terms of how many courses you can order but it’s actually a pretty good deal considering the amount and quality of the food. We decided to do three savory courses for $75 plus the cheese plate option since neither of us really likes dessert.
House breads and butter with sea salt on top.
Octopus “pastrami” with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes – a Batard classic and I think it’s always been on the menu. Really interesting way to showcase octopus that I haven’t seen anywhere else plus the meaty pastrami flavors really come through.
Steak tartare with brandy, egg yolk and sourdough batard
Celeriac tortellini with black truffle coulis, cashew and cured egg yolk – really loved this dish, especially given the shitty weather outside. Earthy flavors, wonderfully tender handmade pasta and a nice crunch from the cashews
Rabbit sausage with risotto, spigarello and meyer lemon – this was really delicious and satisfying as well. Don’t know that I’d ever had rabbit sausage before but it was surprisingly delicate against the creamy risotto.
Duck breast with braised salsify, cara cara orange and crispy quinoa – really powerful citrus flavor and perfectly medium rare duck with crispy skin. Nicely executed overall and stunning to look at.
Braised porcelet shoulder with savoy cabbage, cipollini onions and miso – definitely a bit more on the comfort food side in terms of presentation but I really enjoyed the tender meat with standard onions + cabbage + potato combo. The miso didn’t come across particularly strong for me and may have gotten a bit lost in all the other flavors but still a very solid dish.
Cheese plate of Little Napoleon (bloomy-rind goat’s milk from Ann Arbor); Epoisses (stinky, delicious cow’s milk from Burgundy); Annelies (raw cow’s milk from Appenzell and Crown Heights cave-aged); Queso del Invierno (aged sheep and cow’s milk from Westminster, VT); and Bayley Hazen Blue (blue-veined raw cow’s milk from Greensboro, VT). As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth and Batard had a fantastic looking cheese cart in the dining room, so we opted to get a plate instead with apricot preserves and aged balsamic vinegar. Standouts were the Little Napoleon, which was super spreadable and had just the right amount of tanginess; the Epoisses…because duh, it’s Epoisses and the Bayley Hazen Blue, which was surprising since I don’t really like the funkier blues.
Overall, a really satisfying dinner with friendly service and a knowledgeable sommelier (we’d ordered a bottle of white and then red burgundy but unfortunately I can’t recall anything other than they were delicious and paired well with our dishes). It’s a great place for a date or a special occasion, where they’re serving seriously first rate food but the dining room isn’t too hush hush and actually sometimes quite boisterous. The bar is kind of small and right at the entrance so I wouldn’t choose to eat your meal there but from what I can tell, it’s surprisingly easy to get reservations, even the day of. Enjoy!
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.
March 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
Blue Ribbon Sushi at Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place
Favorite dishes – bombolotti all’Amatriciana (sauce of spicy tomato and guanciale) and roasted sunchokes with almonds and brown butter – at Maialino during a leisurely lunch while between jobs
Introducing Laura to Toro‘s grilled corn and bone marrow (look at those gorgeous colors!)
Sadelle‘s pick up (sesame bagel with smoked Scottish salmon, chive cream cheese, red onion, tomato, capers). I was obsessed with their bagels for a while but now the lines have gotten too long and I’m pretty sure they upped their prices.
Matcha latte at Chalait – gorgeously prepared but not sure I’ll be getting on the matcha trend train any time soon
Spaghetti alla vongole at Rafele Ristorante, my parents’ favorite restaurant whenever they come to visit (though we introduced them to OTTO the last time they were here so now they may have a new favorite Italian place)
Lovely Sunday brunch with Bohee at the beautiful Untitled at the Whitney
Booze-free dinner at Balthazar with Cindy (clearly not skimping on French fries though)
Delicious and super spicy spread at Pok Pok lunch (finally tried it after years of wanting to go) with Wes
More Sadelle’s – this time dining in with the full-on smoked fish tower and endless bagels (much better than just picking up)
May 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Family dinner at Rouge et Blanc, an awesome French-Vietnamese wine bar and restaurant just a couple blocks away from the apartment, to celebrate Katie’s birthday back in March:
The menu consists of mainly small plates divided into vegetables, proteins from the earth and sea to be shared with the whole table and Tom, the owner and wine director, is super friendly and great at choosing the perfect wine to go with your meal. They have a killer version of brussels sprouts with Korean chili vinaigrette and corn nuts and crispy broccoli and kale with sesame, ginger and yuzukosho, which adds a hit of umami.
We also ordered the grilled duck hearts with ponzu, celery and scallion – very tender and surprisingly refreshing due to the herbs – and the special of fried chicken skins (yes, just skin) and honey scotch bonnet sauce, which was so hot it basically melted my face off. For some more veg, we also got the slow roasted carrot with maple chipotle glaze, goat feta, sunflower seeds and dill, sweet and smoky with some tang thanks to the cheese.
The larger plates were the pork belly pho and the Vietnamese beef cheek with rice cakes, green papaya and roasted enoki, my favorite dish of the meal. Both were really comforting and savory and I really loved the roti and the rich sauce that came with the fall apart beef cheek.
We also split a couple desserts with the port that Tom generously shared – I don’t remember exactly what these were but the chocolate covered cake with burnt marshmallow was amazing. As someone who doesn’t usually order dessert, I was pretty blown away by this one. Definitely recommend Rouge et Blanc as either a romantic date spot or place for special occasions if your group is the type that likes ordering a bunch of dishes to share.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
The lunch at Bouley in Tribeca may be one of the best deals (five courses for $55) in New York City, especially since it happens to be in one of the most beautifully decorated and ornate restaurants I’ve seen. To start – some complimentary amuse bouches that I honestly don’t remember too much about (except that the cracker looking bite had caviar and some kind of black truffle cream). For the first course, I chose the “blini” of Scottish smoked salmon with roe and white truffle honey. The dish was topped with some sort of apple meringue that was a bit too sweet for my taste, especially since the truffle honey was already sweet, but the roe provided some necessary saltiness.
Next, one of Bouley’s most famous dishes, the porcini flan with golden princess crab and black truffle dashi. This was amazing – it came to the table with a cover and when removed, all one could smell was black truffle and brininess from the crab. Really warm and comforting, like a Japanese chawanmushi or egg custard, the portion initially seemed kind of small but was so packed with flavor and richness that it turned out to be just the right amount. I would go back to Bouley just to have this dish again. Also, what I forgot to take a picture of was the amazing bread cart that they wheel to each table after this course. I think there were about twelve different varieties (the usual sourdough all the way to a pistachio and apricot version) and you could potentially try every one of them, but we had to keep in mind that we had more courses coming.
The main dish, a slow braised Kobe-style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi, also hit the spot. I don’t have beef cheeks very often but always love how tender and unctuous they can be when done well and the sauce that came with was super savory and just this side of being over-seasoned. Also really enjoyed the perfectly cooked gnocchi (because who doesn’t love some butter soaked starch with their beef?).
For a palate cleanser after our savory dishes, a chilled coconut soup with pineapple granite, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Really refreshing with a good balance of sweet and tart – this almost punched you in the face with its coconutiness. Around this time, we were struggling to stay awake, so a cappuccino was in order. My dessert was the hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, hot toffee sauce and huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which was a bit too sweet for me and since I was so full, I was only able to take a couple bites. However, when the tower of mignardises and petits fours came out, I had no problem popping a few chocolate bonbons in my mouth.
So there you have it – one of the best lunch deals in the city. At some point, I’d like to go back and try everything with their recommended wine pairing, which brings the meal to $110 before tax and tip. I think this would be a great place to bring parents when they’re in town and or a special date. Here’s a shot of the entryway, which is lined with apples to greet you and say farewell with the most heavenly smell (we kept wondering how often they have to check and change them out). Oh and I almost forgot to mention that when you leave, they send you off with not one but two individually wrapped cakes (lemon pound cake and stollen) for you to peck away at as soon as you’ve recovered from your lunch food coma. 🙂
December 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
Horribly late with this post, a birthday dinner in July for Laura and Jackie at ABC Kitchen in Flatiron, a beautifully-designed restaurant inside/adjacent to ABC Carpet and Home. Possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life (whole wheat with mushrooms, parmesan, oregano, and a fresh farm egg), a roast carrot and avocado appetizer that made me view “salads” in a whole new light, and some really gorgeous and tasty seafood – fried, steamed, roasted, you name it. This is a great restaurant for special occasions – friendly service that doesn’t hover, gorgeous interiors and wares, excellent, fresh food that doesn’t leave you feeling grossly stuffed.
35 E. 18th Street
New York, NY 10003
September 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
One of the most memorable, delicious meals of the summer took place at Jesse Schenker’s Recette in Greenwich Village. The place had been strongly recommended to me by the same co-worker, Artemis, who said I had to visit Fatty ‘Cue, so after that meal, I knew to trust her completely. Laura had just finished a grueling exam for her summer engineering?architecture? class and we decided to take our time at dinner, ordering a number of small and large plates and 2 desserts…
The meal started with a cocktail, the J’ardin d’Eden – Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, basil, and ginger syrup – perfect for the summer and so refreshing when paired with all the rich, flavorful food we were about to dig into. Plus, anyone who has had drinks with me knows how much I love the gin and cucumber pairing.
For our “snack” plates, we ordered the salt cod fritters with lamb sausage ragu and curry aioli, the “buffalo” sweetbreads with pickled celery and blu di bufala dip, and the foie gras terrine. Each dish was so different yet all of them tasted amazing…The sweetbreads were cooked just right, with a crispy exterior and creaminess inside and the slightest offal flavor to remind you that you weren’t simply eating fried “stuff.” I, being the comfort food obsessive that I am, also really loved the genius riff on the classic wings and blue cheese combo. The cod fritters (which I usually associate with Spanish tapas) sounded the most interesting of the three, mainly because they’d been paired with lamb and curry of all things, and somehow, all the elements came together to create yet another fried food that I find myself craving at the most random times. The star, by far, however, was the foie gras terrine. It looked absolutely gorgeous on the plate, with this crazy gloss and tiny flakes of sea salt, and tasted even better…everything that foie gras is supposed to be – smooth in texture and uber-rich in flavor…drool.
Our next three plates (yes, we went a bit overboard) were the fresh cut spaghetti with sweet shrimp, stewed tomato, chili, and sea urchin, a duck breast with confit leg, spring peas, and arugula (I think?), and the Berkshire pork belly with rock shrimp, turnips, romesco and sherry caramel. It really was a meal where every, single effin’ dish blew our minds…and we managed to really slow down and take our time savoring every bite. The pasta was sweet from the tomato and incredibly luxurious due to the sea urchin, the duck breast (my favorite of the three), had the required crispy skin over a thin layer of fat and the meat was cooked medium-rare – it really didn’t even need all the other garnishes and accompaniments in my opinion because it was so flavorful, and the pork belly may have been the best of many, many pork belly dishes in the city.
But amazingly, we weren’t done yet. I think our waiter must’ve been a bit shocked by how dedicated we were to this dinner. For dessert, we ordered the “s’mores” – graham cracker ice cream, toasted marshmallow, and hot chocolate ganache – and another dish that’s unfortunately no longer on the menu but included passionfruit creme with pastry, diced mango, and orange (?) sorbet…this took place so long ago that my memory’s a bit foggy. Anyway…as much as I tend to like savory food more than sweet, these were both excellent and perfect conclusions to our long, super-indulgent meal.
328 W. 12th Street
New York, NY 10014
December 27, 2011 § 4 Comments
Balthazar in Soho was always one of those restaurants I’d always walk by and think, “maybe next time.” I’d heard good things about the place but prices were pretty steep for someone on a student’s budget and I figured, it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Last week, Laura and I were in a celebratory/holiday mood and hungry after walking all over downtown, so we finally decided to treat ourselves to an all-out meal at this beloved bistro.
Although it doesn’t look that big from the outside, the interior of the restaurant is almost cavernous, with high ceilings and booths that stretch deep into the restaurant. Despite the huge space, we felt instantly at home either due to the cute Christmas decorations or the fact that even though it was 4 pm, there were a lot of people enjoying their food.
Bread and butter came first. I always take this as a small indicator of how much a restaurant pays attention to detail. First, is the butter salted and soft? There’s nothing more annoying (ok, maybe an exaggeration) than warm, crusty bread (another detail) and a frigid chunk of tasteless butter alongside it. Happily, Balthazar passed this test and Laura and I ate almost the entire thing before stopping ourselves to save room for the starters.
We ordered the onion soup gratinee, one of Laura’s most favorite dishes in the world. It might possibly be one of the best French onion soups that I’ve had, no doubt because they top rich, caramelized onions with a giant slice of bread and cheese and torch the thing so it becomes almost like a savory brulee.
We also ordered the chicken liver and foie gras mousse with onion confit and grilled country bread (this is where saving some of the bread basket did us good). Fatty and smooth – it was the holidays after all – with chunks of coarse sea salt on top, this dish becomes a meal in itself. It’s perfectly balanced; the mousse is creamy and flavorful, the onion confit has a bit of sweetness, the greens add bite and rawness and the bread has that slightly burnt flavor and crunchy texture. Even though it didn’t seem like much initially, the mousse is very rich and a lot to finish, but we didn’t really have a problem with that.
For our entree, we split the Balthazar bar steak with bearnaise sauce and frites. It’d been a while since I last had steak and I had to get used to its pure beef flavor. The fries – apparently Bobby Flay’s favorites – were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside and even though I was getting full, I kept nibbling at them until they were basically all gone.
And finally, to round out our classic French bistro meal, we ordered the warm chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream. That’s right, white chocolate. Not your typical vanilla. The cake itself fell into the “crisp on the outside, molten on inside” category and the usual contrast between warm cake and cold ice cream brought an end to a truly wonderful time. I’ll definitely be returning to Balthazar, even if it’s just for some bread and a latte.
80 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment
A couple weeks ago I visited the National Gallery for an assignment (btw, if you’re in the area, the Art of Power exhibit is definitely worth looking at) and ate at a Languedoc restaurant called Bistro D’Oc.
I don’t remember too many of the details, but the duck confit that I ordered had an extremely crisp exterior and there was just enough fat (yum) left over with really tender meat. And of course, anything with mushrooms and fried potatoes is going to be that much better than without them.
Emily ordered a basil, crepe-wrapped salmon that I wasn’t too crazy about, although the cream pepper sauce that it came with was out of this world – rich and filling on its own. Our creme brulee was a nice, light dessert and the lavendar flavor did a good job of cutting the sweetness of the custard.