Momofuku Nishi and Blue Ribbon Federal Grill

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.

Momofuku Nishi

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.

Thanksgiving I and II

January 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday bar-none and this year, I got to celebrate it with good friends (though I’m not a huge fan of the term “Friendsgiving”) and family. For the first event, Artemis went all out (as she often does), rented a beautiful event space in her building and ordered the Momofuku Bo Ssam to-go deluxe package (pork belly buns, bo ssam with sauces and fixings, multiple side dishes and biscuits) to go along with all the other dishes brought by guests (Vanessa brought a huge vat of potato gnocchi with pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce from a mom-and-pop shop in Hoboken that we couldn’t stop eating despite it being such a carb bomb). Bottles of wine and pounds of pork later, we still managed to finish off the party with ridiculous ice cream sandwiches of Momofuku Milk Bar corn cookies and strawberry ice cream.

For actual Thanksgiving, our family goes out to Long Island to see long-time family friends every year and it’s a pretty big affair of three or four families. There’s all of the traditional American dishes (roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese) but also a healthy mix of Chinese dishes as well (braised beef and bean curd, my Dad’s stir-fried vermicelli, steamed whole fish). It’s a night where we really get to relax, slow down a bit and truly appreciate how lucky we are to have our family, friends and good health (which we then make a little bit worse by eating three pies and a Momofuku Milk Bar pumpkin pie cake – you’ll see that Momofuku offerings usually have some appearance at any celebration I attend).

Thanksgiving weekend is also one of the few times a year where going back to New Jersey is not an option, and this time around, I got to catch up with old friends and try some new eateries, including a hole-in-the-wall Baguette Delite in South Edison that serves $5 banh mi’s and super tasty summer rolls. Always nice to get out of New York City and take some extra time to enjoy the simpler things in life.

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

The Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle

August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

In early July, I was lucky enough to take part in an event called the Grand Gelinaz! Shuffle, a one-time only dinner where 37 of the world’s top chefs switched restaurants (and lives) for a single night. We wouldn’t even find out which chef drew Momofuku Ko (the venue we chose – other NYC restaurants included Mission Chinese Food and Blanca) from the lottery until the night of the dinner itself but I had chosen Ko out of the three New York locations due to its awesome interior and at-the-counter dining format. However, on the day of, some early sleuthing – Gelinaz had provided a posting wall for each restaurant and there were some hints (rainbow cookies from Carbone, red-white-green lasagna components) posted the morning of the event – as well as a too-conveniently timed Instagram post at Union Square Greenmarket had Chris, my co-diner, and me freaking out that it might just be Massimo Bottura, chef at Osteria Francescano in Modena, #2 restaurant on this year’s San Pellegrino’s best restaurants list.

Lo and behold, when we finally arrived at Ko, we were greeted with an enormous wheel of 27 month old Parmigiano Reggiano, a bottle of Massimo’s proprietary Villa Manadori Balsamico 2014 and refreshing spice-infused pink grapefruit and campari cocktails. And because I am lazy, below are photos of each course with just whatever notes I can recall months later but needless to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a meal chock full of intriguing, beautiful and above all, seriously delicious, food and Massimo was as charming, funny and warm as he seems on Chef’s Table (which I highly recommend you go and watch, available on Netflix):

Signed menu and personalized place settings

Massimo explaining his approach to the menu for the night and showing a component of his lasagna course

Corn off the Cob in Textures and Temperatures,
paired with Shimaoka Shuzo ‘Izumi’ from Yamahai, Junmai, Gunma, Japan
the essence of summer and so rich and flavorful

Wylie Dufresne of the dearly departed WD-50 joining us to explain his course, “Shrimp & Grits a la Wylie”

His “shrimp and grits”,
paired with Dom Perignon 2004

One of my favorite courses of the night: Naples to New York passing through Hokkaido,
paired with Villa Bucci Riserva 2010 from Marche, Italy,
pasta tossed in the richest uni sauce with smoked clams to evoke spaghetti alla carbonara and black-out good

The famous lasagna dish: Spaghetto wants to be the Crunchy Part of Lasagna with Bone Marrow and Bolognese
paired with Punta Crena 2013 from Liguria, Italy,
evoked the highly coveted corner piece of the lasagna which Massimo said was prized among children in Italy but ramped up with fatty, fatty marrow

Plating the lasagna with his trusty lieutenant, Taka

Beautiful Sonic Disco of Love and Hate at the Gate of Hell Painting with Wicked Pools of Glorious Color and Psychedelic Spin-Painted Lamb, Not Flame Grilled
paired with J.F. Mugnier 2006 from Burgundy, France
Yes, that is the name of the dish (the inspiration was art by Damien Hirst) and yes, it was as amazing to eat as it was to look at.

Massimo plating the Salad in Bloom course

Salad in Bloom
paired with Acqua Panna (a.k.a., fancy water) from Tuscany, Italy
Perfect palate cleanser and possibly the first dessert salad ever. Loved sommelier Jordan Salcito’s explanation for choosing water as the pairing and it made perfect sense.

Shaved Foie Gras, Three Cherries…Three Acidities
paired with Vollenweider 2008 from Mosel, Germany
Massimo’s take on Ko’s famous foie gras dish with pine nut brittle and Riesling gelee
(I actually liked his version more than the original thanks to the candied almonds and tartness of the cherries =X)

Oops I Broke the Cannolo as an Apple Pie
paired with Marco de Bartoli from Sicily, Italy
a mash-up of cannoli and apple pie, bringing together the best of American and Italian desserts

The super talented and hard working brigade who put up such an amazing meal

North wants to be South
A super refined version of pizza that we couldn’t get enough of!

All of the beverage pairings from the night along with Massimo’s book, “Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef”

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.

Momofuku Ko

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

vegetable roll

millefeuille

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

apple soda

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

mignardises

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!

Recent food snaps

November 23, 2014 § 1 Comment

Dinner at Drew Nieporent’s Batard in Tribeca – at 4 courses for $75, one of the best deals in NYC

Tete de cochon

Octopus “pastrami” with pommery mustard and new potatoes

Pork belly with onion and baby vegetables

Caramelized milk bread with blueberries and brown butter ice cream

The fried chicken large format lunch at Momofuku Noodle Bar – 1/2 Southern style, 1/2 Korean style with fixings and baby vegetables

After a long day of work, a dry Riesling and free oysters at Lelabar, which is slowly becoming my second, more booze-filled home

Brunch with old high school friends at home…a rare chance to cook up a storm, including this classic broccoli salad with bacon, slivered almonds, cheddar and grape tomatoes

Brunch at All’Onda near Union Square, with a small-portioned but highly flavorful spaghetti carbonara

Bordeaux Under One Roof event for City Harvest – a before and after (when people starting putting half-finished bottles in their bags)

A 2007 Etna Rosso (from the year I graduated high school) at Lelabar with their triple cheese panini, possibly my favorite grilled cheese in the city.

Momofuku whole rotisserie duck

August 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Three months later…another large format meal at Momofuku Ssam (I swear that I eat at places other than Momofuku).

This time, we had the whole rotisserie duck stuffed with duck and pork sausage (and served with chive pancakes, bibb lettuce and four flavorful sauces) with the broccoli salad (smoked bluefish vinaigrette and crisped duck skin), spicy rice cakes and sausage (because it’s too good to not order), pork belly buns (for the Momofuku virgins), and crispy fingerling potatoes (with crab mayo and chili). 

Yet again, so much food for the five of us (the maximum allowed is six), even with multiple rounds of eating, but we still managed to knock back a few Blood Mary’s (which had country ham in them) and dig very deep when it came to the dessert of Concord grape sorbet with black sesame and peanut crumble (in other words, the best iteration of the PB&J ever) and mint julep truffles (which were a little too dense and sweet for my taste). 

Afterwards, I wanted to pass out so badly but amazingly, an iced coffee from Third Rail and a 45 minute walk all the way downtown managed to keep me upright for the rest of the day. 

 

 

Momofuku Bo Ssam

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.

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