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.

Marta at the Martha Washington Hotel

February 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

Had a great dinner at Danny Meyer’s new pizza-focused place, Marta, a couple weeks ago with Caitlin, Tommy and Cindy and it seems like everything that man touches turns to gold (or in the case of the Shake Shack IPO, about $155 million). Located in the Martha Washington Hotel in Murray Hill, the restaurant has high ceilings and a good amount of space between tables so patrons don’t feel like they’re on top of one another. And as expected, the service is warm and friendly without being overly hover-y. Started off with a various assortment of wines and cocktails, including a glass of Brachetto, a wine I’d never heard of  before but turned out to be quite delicate and floral.

We ordered the green risotto croquettes with mozzarella and mixed herbs as well as the rabbit meatballs with black olives and meatballs for our starters. Both were amazing. The croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside, followed by a layer of well-seasoned creamy rice (hate bland arancini) and gooey melted cheese on the inside. And I don’t usually even like olives but really enjoyed the meatballs, which were very tender and an interesting twist on the classic pork and beef classic.

The pizzas, however, were the highlight of our meal and we actually eschewed ordering any mains. Of the red varieties, we had the amatriciana (pecorino, guanciale, onion and chili) and then of the whites, the funghi (fontina, hen of the woods mushrooms, chanterelles, red onion and thyme) and the patate alla carbonara (potatoes, more guanciale, black pepper, pecorino and egg). So. Frikkin’. Delicious. The crusts of these pizzas are cracker-thin, making them taste a lot crispier than your garden variety pizza. I think the only similar versions I’ve had are the ones at Spunto or maybe Mario Batali’s OTTO by Washington Square Park. One notable benefit of the thinness of these pizzas is that you can eat considerably more without feeling like you need to be wheel-barrowed out the door at the end of your meal…

I had a really hard time deciding on a favorite between our three choices, especially since they were all quite different. The amatriciana is pretty classic and the red sauce hit a good balance between tart and sweet. On the other hand, I’ve never really had anything like the carbonara version anywhere else, which was super indulgent with all that creamy yolkiness, guanciale and pecorino. But the mushroom pizza also proved to be standout and tasted quite meaty despite being completely vegetarian. I also seriously loved our side dish of sunchokes (our feeble attempt at incorporating at least some vegetables into our meal), which were super sweet and creamy on the inside.

With all the great hype this place has been getting lately, I think it’s becoming harder and harder to get a reservation during prime dinner hours, but if you can manage to snag a spot at the bar or go late at night, I’d definitely recommend doing so.

Check out that amazing spread (and the cute Italian grandma-style dinnerware)

Recently…

December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Xi’an Famous Foods hand pulled noodles with pork for the 25th birthday, thanks to sister Laura (in Chinese culture, noodles symbolize a long and prosperous life when you eat them on your birthday)…

Another hearty dinner at Via Carota with Cindy, including a cheesy cauliflower gratin and a ridiculously large slab of pork belly with almost candy-like cipollini onions…

Cauliflower gratin and brussels sprouts with parmesan

Fried rabbit, Berkshire pork belly with cipollini onions and pappardelle with wild boar ragu

Willamette Valley pinot noir and Bluepoint oysters with a college friend at 8th Street Wine Cellar right by Washington Square Park…always so nice to catch up over some vino…

Belated birthday dinner at Do Hwa, an old favorite in the West Village for Korean food, with my sisters. We always order the same thing here – the salmon sashimi and avocado salad, seafood pancake and the spicy pork BBQ ssam…

Escaping the office for an impromptu pasta-filled dinner at Andrew Carmellini’s Bar Primi in the East Village…

roasted beets gorgonzola, walnut, frisee and truffled mushroom crostino

octopus alla griglia patate, red hots, oregano

bucatini lamb amatriciana; short rib raviolini tomato sauce, basil; fiore di carciofi smoked bacon, pecorino

Late night drinks and steak tartare with roasted tomato mayonnaise at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar

Brunch at Maialino

November 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

First, I just want to say that my thoughts go out to all those affected by Hurricane/Superstorm/Shitshow Sandy (if you’d like to make a donation to the Red Cross and relief efforts, here is the link).  In light of all the destruction, it’s been amazing to see how people have come together and persevere through such difficulty. NYC in particular, hang in there! You’re still the best city on earth.

On a more positive note, I’m continuing with restaurant posts from this summer. This time, a brunch at Danny Meyer’s Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel with some Georgetown friends who’ve relocated to New York City. We ordered three snacks to share: potato skins with pecorino and black pepper, tomato risotto croquettes and mozzarella, and fried shishito peppers with lemon. All of them were well-executed; crispy potatoes that were well seasoned, creamy, comforting croquettes, and nicely charred and blistered peppers.

I wasn’t really craving anything sweet that morning, so I went with the spaghetti alla carbonara. It’s not a typical brunch dish but it includes creamy egg yolk and bacon-y guanciale, so it still hit the right note for me.

The other entrees were simple scrambled eggs with potatoes and mixed greens, ricotta pancakes with market fruit and fresh ricotta, and the daily omelette with a garden salad.

More than anything, this was a good meal accompanied by great conversation and lots of catching up. Maialino’s atmosphere and service is really casual and friendly, with lots of natural light during the day and rustic accents, and it’s the type of place where I’d love to have brunch with my girls every weekend, a la Sex and the City.

My hopes are with the NYC restaurants, especially those downtown, that were hit particularly bad by Sandy. Know that your patrons are rooting for your recovery and look forward when you’re able to open your doors again.

 

 

Maialino 
2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
212.777.2410

Brunch at Dell’ Anima

June 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

A couple weekends ago, I met up with two family friends at Dell’ Anima, a jewel box of an Italian restaurant in the West Village. The place was tiny but we managed to beat the brunch rush and took our time catching up and enjoying some refined, yet down to earth breakfast favorites with an Italian twist.

Below we have the pappardelle integrale – with oyster mushrooms, scallions, and pecorino romano – and the uova in purgatorio – baked eggs with pancetta, shallots, rosemary and tomato, which both earned raves.

And because I can never resist any version of shrimp and grits, I ordered the gamberi alla amatricciana, shrimp and polenta with pancetta, spicy tomato sauce, and poached eggs. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, well seasoned and tender, and the polenta was flavorful and creamy. The two poached eggs and heavy sprinkling of cheese were the ideal oozy, golden finish and when mixed with the spicy tomato, shrimp sauce, and polenta, created the perfect combination of savoriness, cheese, acid and sweetness.

So if you’re looking for a smaller, more intimate brunch place that takes a well-executed Italian approach, Dell’ Anima does a fine job.

 

Dell’ Anima
38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014
212.366.6633

Gelato and Osteria Morini

April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dessert before dinner. That’s how Laura and I started this evening of eating, which turned out to be all about Italian flavors. We actually stumbled upon this outpost of L’Arte del Gelato by accident, tucked away into the corner of 7th Avenue and Barrow Street, and after a long afternoon of wandering downtown on a sunny day, we couldn’t wait until after dinner for a sweet bite. Laura had the mixed berry and amaretto (my new favorite) and I had grapefruit campari with budino di riso (rice). What I always love about the gelato here is the incredibly bright and intense flavors – grapefruit is slightly bitter but sweet and bursting with citrus, amaretto tastes like the purest form of almond aside from eating the nut itself.

After more walking, we were completely exhausted and starving once again (no surprise there). Luckily, we were very close to Osteria Morini, Michael White’s more casual Italian restaurant, and sat down to a very leisurely meal of cured meats and insanely good pastas.

We began with a selection of meats and cheese – prosciutto di Parma, sopressata (a sweet cured pork sausage), and quadrello di Bufala (a semi-soft cheese made from buffalo’s milk). Our selection also came with a generous side of accompaniments and bread. There was grilled bread, bread studded with currants, and a puffy bun-like bread along with dried figs, roasted almonds, and a master-fat-like spread tasting strongly of pork and herbs. I can never really find complain about good quality cured meats and these were superb, and as someone who usually doesn’t care much for cheese, this buffalo’s milk choice was quite good, not too funky and quite creamy and smooth.

The pastas, however, were the hands-down highlights of the meal, and I finally got to see what all the Michael White fuss is about. If he make a seemingly simple meat sauce this great, I can’t wait to see what he does with the bone marrow and baby octopus fusilli dish at Marea. We ordered the cappelletti, a truffled ricotta ravioli with melted butter and prosciutto, and the gramigna, macaroni with pork sausage, peas, cream, and black pepper.

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but these dishes were among the most comforting, yet most intensely flavored, pastas I’ve ever had, and you could tell that they had been made fresh. The cappelletti especially hit you on the head with its truffle and ricotta filling – creamy, earthy, and out of this world – and didn’t even need the extra prosciutto to make a strong impression. The gramigna was equally packed with flavor; the pasta had the perfect texture and wasn’t overwhelmed by the pork sausage and cream sauce, and that extra sprinkling of Parmiggiano didn’t hurt either.

So, another Italian food gem in Soho. This, like OTTO, is a place that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day at work or school. You could just pull up a chair at the bar, order a glass of red wine or a cocktail and one of the amazing pastas, and just take your time savoring each bite.

L’arte del Gelato
75 7th Avenue S (Barrow Street)
New York, NY
212.924.0803

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
212.965.8777

Lunch with Laura at OTTO

October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yeah, yeah, another lunch at OTTO. But this time it was necessary, since my sister Laura is currently going to school only a couple blocks away and she’d never been before. We started with an antipasti of shrimp, chickpeas, and chiles. Spicy and surprisingly flavorful for a cold dish.

Antipasti

Then for mains, we stuck with my favorite pizza, the prosciutto arugula, and ordered the pasta alla norma, which may be my new favorite dish. Eggplant, bufalo mozzarella, and tomato might not sound that exciting on paper, but OTTO executed this pasta wonderfully. I loved mixing all that delicious gooey cheese with the crispy but tender eggplant and tomato until it emulsified into a creamy, rich sauce and the pasta was perfectly al dente, with just a little bit of bite.

Pasta alla Norma

Prosciutto arugula pizza

And of course, a meal at OTTO isn’t complete without a taste of the olive oil coppetta. This dessert is seasonal, so every time I come back, the components have changed. This time, accompanying the olive oil gelato we had figs stewed in red wine, fennel brittle (which I didn’t really like because of the strong anise flavor), Concord grape sorbet, and orange curd. Divine.

Olive oil coppetta

So, Laura’s verdict? She absolutely loved it and said she’d come back again and again for a relatively inexpensive but refined pasta. Lucky for her, she can do that.

Pizza at Co.

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.

Menu at Company

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.

Interior

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.

Popeye

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.

Boscaiola

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.

Co.
230 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10001
212.243.1105
http://www.co-pane.com/

Lunch at OTTO

May 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

OTTO is probably one of my favorite places to eat in NYC. The service is always friendly, ambiance is casual, and the food is great. Yesterday, I went with a friend and we ordered the classics – spaghetti alla carbonara and the prosciutto arugula pizza – and also indulged in a bottle of 2006 Kuenhof Sylvaner, recommended by the waiter. The white wine was very dry and very mineral-y and went well with our food.

2006 Kuenhof Sylvaner

I’ve always wanted to make spaghetti alla carbonara, but a lot of the recipes that I’ve seen online seem to be modified versions, using cream or bacon or whatever. At some point this summer, I’ll probably be using this recipe, from Batali himself, to attempt a homemade  dish. Anyway, the one at OTTO was creamy from the egg yolk and very savory, with lots of crunchy pancetta bits.

Spaghetti alla carbonara

The prosciutto arugula pizza was excellent as well.  Whenever I go to OTTO, I always tell myself to try the other choices but never fail to order this one. Something about the richness of the prosciutto against the bitter and freshness of the arugula always pulls me back.

prosciutto arugula pizza

Pasta and pizza, together

Finally, for dessert, we got the olive oil coppetta (possibly my favorite gelato dessert in NYC) and this time, the gelato came with lime curd, tangerine sorbet, a pineapple rosemary marmaletta, and kumquats. I really really love the pop of the sea salt on the olive oil gelato and although I thought I wouldn’t care for the pineapple marmaletta, aside from the gelato itself, it was probably my favorite element.

Olive oil coppetta

So, if you’re ever in the West Village with some friends and looking for a casual place to eat that also happens to have a very, very extensive wine-list, I highly recommend trying OTTO. You won’t regret it.

A Voce with Quans 2 and 3

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Katie, Laura, and I capped off our spring break weekend with a splurge at A Voce at Columbus Circle. The view, the quiet ambiance, and the refined but delicious food were everything I needed to conclude a great week of relaxation before coming back to law school. We started off with the homemade foccacia and ricotta spread, which unlike the bread basket in other restaurants, was most definitely not an afterthought.

Menu at A Voce

focaccia with ricotta

As an appetizer, we got the cassoncini with prosciutto. The cassoncini were absolute heaven, essentially crispy fried Italian wontons filled with Swiss chard and creamy cheese and then dusted with Parmesan, and the fat on the accompanying prosciutto di Parma melted between your fingers as you tore it into bite-sized shreds. We could’ve ordered 3 servings as a meal and still be just as happy.

cassoncini and prosciutto

For our entrees, Katie got the fried egg, pecorino, and pickled fennel on grilled country bread, Laura ordered squid ink orecchiette with lobster, chickpeas and chilies, and I ordered the pappardelle with veal shank, fennel sofrito, and bone marrow. My pasta tasted just as good as the last dish I ordered at A Voce (loved the addition of bone marrow that richened the rest of the sauce), and Laura’s orecchiette, though very new to me, definitely had a unique taste imparted from the squid ink in the pasta that could only be described as “ocean-y.” Katie seemed to have a difficult time eating her dish just because of the crustiness of the grilled bread, but I noticed that there wasn’t a single crumb left on her plate at the end of the meal.

Laura's orecchiette

Katie's nduja

My pappardelle

The original plan was to order the famous bombolonis (Tuscan doughnuts) for dessert, but we were pressed for time and had to leave to catch our train back to Jersey, meaning we’d simply have to go back another time.

This weekend was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while, and it was so relaxing to just walk around in NYC, shopping and eating, with my two sisters. As it turns out, both of them will be in NYC next year (Katie will be a sophomore at Columbia and Laura will be attending Cooper Union), and though I’m a bit jealous that they will be hanging out sans yours truly, at least it means I have not one, but two, free places to stay when I visit!

A Voce Columbus
10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor
New York City, NY
212.823.2523
http://www.avocerestaurant.com/index.html

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