ABC Kitchen

May 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Sometimes on lazy Sundays, I really love walking up through Union Square and wandering through ABC Carpet & Home, which has kitchen supplies, decor, carpets, furniture, everything you’d need to decorate your dream home if you had no budget. Yes, the goods can get insanely expensive but the presentations always looks so goddamn gorgeous that I can’t help fantasizing about buying up all of their ceramics, objets d’art and wall decor. The store is also wonderful because of the well-known farm-to-table restaurant next door by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which is beautifully appointed with ABC Carpet & Home wares and offers a lot of vegetable-heavy dishes. It’s usually difficult to get reservations on short notice, but one night, Alice and I managed to get a table and dig into some of the lighter fare they had to offer.

Crab toast with lemon aioli with blood orange negroni and clementine mojito. A nice start that was a surprisingly large portion.

One of my favorite dishes from last time: roast carrot and avocado salad with seeds, sour cream and citrus. It may look like a mess of greens but it’s incredibly flavorful and full of different textures – crunchy seeds and croutons, smooth and creamy avocado, toothsome carrots spiced with cumin. Good for you but delicious too! I’ve tried to replicate this dish at home but there’s always something missing in my version.

Another favorite from my last visit: the insane mushroom pizza with parmesan, oregano and a farm egg – completely meatless but very satisfying and perfectly presented, with a runny bright yellow yolk and crispy, charred crust. We also ordered the roasted hake with crispy potatoes, broccoli and red chile garlic sauce, which was super delicate and fell apart with a fork and had a nice kick thanks to the sauce. All in all, a really lovely and light low-key meal in a beautiful venue. 

 

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Empellon Push Project

March 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

Photos from this winter’s Push Project (super behind on posting), an amazing and delicious collaboration between Albert Adria (of the now-closed El Bulli) and Paco Mendez of Hoja Santa in Barcelona and Alex Stupak of Empellon Cocina. It featured a great mix of Mexican and Spanish food, traditional and super-modern, and tons of booze (let’s just say we started and ended with shots of mezcal). Such a treat and afterwards, I made a note to add Stupak’s Kitchen Table at Empellon Cocina to my list of reservations to make.

Wellfleet blood clams (a little bit strange looking but delicious and briny) with frozen sangrita and the aforementioned mezcal shot. Woo!

   Pickled vegetables, crunchy hoja santa (literally tasted like a crunchy, slightly sweet leaf), cantina olives (an El Bulli classic…spherified olives that exploded in our mouths) and corn jicara with pipicha oil and chipotle with a giant, refreshing saffron margarita

Smooth and silky avocado gazpacho with a whole bottle of Allende beer (we ended up having two each actually)

Black truffle quesadilla

Mini Pueblan-style sandwich with fried abalone (a tiny po’boy)

Mixed seafood cocktail with spicy ketchup

Red onion x-ni-pek

Papantla-style pipian with Maine lobster (yes, we each had half a lobster for this course – so pretty and so good) paired with a cider

Pork ribs in Grandma Flor’s adobo (one of the more traditional dishes, but also one of my favorites)

Mole with sweet potato and fruit with a red wine

Milk-soaked sponge cake with kabocha squash and pecan ice with…sherry? I can’t remember and honestly, at this point in the dinner, with all the different kinds of alcohol we’d already had, I was feeling pretty lit.

Corn, chocolate and cajeta (the perfect dessert…not too sweet)

Chicory flan with duck egg yolk and orange sorbet with sal de gusanos

The Modern

March 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

From a while back: dinner at The Modern at MOMA with CGR girls. I’d been to The Modern only once before and that was a few years back in the Bar Room when Gabriel Kreuther was still chef and I couldn’t drink because I was under 21, so it was nice to see the improvements they’ve made since Abram Bissell took the helm. In the more formal dining room, where we were, you can choose between three, four or seven courses so we decided to go with four. Service throughout was warm and attentive and Chase, the sommelier, provided some really great wine recommendations. It was a seriously special night out and so much fun to catch up with girlfriends I see in the office every day without actually talking about work. Some of these dishes have since dropped from the menu due to the season so apologies for not being able to remember the details or other diners’ dishes.

Amuse-bouche to start

Complimentary butternut squash soup with truffle foam (one of my favorite dishes of the night) and a glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne (well, 2 actually)

Bread course – pretzel croissants and rolls…I think we asked for seconds of these.

My first course: lobster and beet salad with creamy sorrel dressing. Super tender and sweet lobster that matched well with the more tangy sauce. Chase recommended a bottle of 1992 Vouvray – very smooth with a great acidity and a nice finish.

My second course: roasted foie gras with lemons, red endive and quince. I wasn’t about to pass up a chance to eat foie and this was a stellar take. There was sweetness from the quince, slight bitterness from the endive and acidity from the lemon and then when paired with 1989 Sauternes (my birth year!) as recommended by our server, I was in heaven.

Another second course dish (unfortunately I can’t recall what it was).

Third course: roasted beef and bone marrow with truffle jus, new potato and radishes paired with 1998 Cahors. Earthy and, surprisingly, not too heavy considering it’s essentially meat and potatoes.

Other third courses: one, I believe, to be seabass and another, duck.

Mango + coconut shumai as a nice palate cleanser.

My dessert: sweet corn custard with blackberry and mozzarella sorbet. Any dessert with corn, I can’t really resist, and I was also intrigued by the mozzarella sorbet, which turned out to be very subtle. Chase also offered complimentary glasses of Chartreuse to go with our dessert, a very nice touch.

Another chocolate dessert and the cheese course for Vanessa, who like me, usually doesn’t like super rich sweets.

Since this initial visit, I’ve been back to the Bar Room a couple times and though the dishes are different and the setting is a bit more casual, execution and service were still so on point. I’d highly recommend the dining room for special occasions and the bar room for more impromptu visits, especially if you’re just looking to get a couple bites to eat (the crab fritters were super tasty) and trying some of the stellar cocktails.

Miscellaneous eats

January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

Girls’ night at John Dory Oyster Bar, where we loaded up on the lobster with tomalley vinaigrette, Parker House rolls and tons of raw oysters

A stop at Rouge et Blanc for a low-key dinner at the bar. Below are the Vietnamese beef cheeks with green papaya, rice cakes and roasted enoki mushrooms, an old favorite.

Charlie Bird for a late Saturday lunch

Cahill dinner at Polo Bar. Definitely don’t think you’d be missing out by not going, the high prices reflect the ambiance and pretentiousness more than the quality of the food or wine. If you’re looking to do a large format steak dinner (with much better service), I’d recommend Minetta Tavern or Bowery Meat Company instead, both of which are still pricey but not as ridiculous as here and so much better generally.

Eats around town

January 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

A delicious brunch with Bohee at Claudette, right by Washington Square Park, consisting of their chicken liver mousse with soft, squishy pain Tunisien and a super juicy lamb burger

Another solo visit to Via Carota in the middle of a day of errands. The bartender highly recommended the lemon grilled chicken and though it didn’t sound particularly thrilling on the menu, I was impressed (and it’s so cute!)

Craftbar with co-workers – delicious burrata, kale (meh) and winter squash salad, duck hearts and dumplings and of course, the oozy pecorino fonduta, my favorite item on the menu

Lunch at old reliable, Charlie Bird – diver scallops with brown butter and Sicilian lemon and mezze paccherie with suckling pig and saffron ragu (and their addictive house-made chili oil). I should probably start trying more new places but am a huge creature of habit.

Toro

January 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Lately, one of my favorite restaurants in the city has been Toro, the giant Spanish restaurant owned by Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette in the Meatpacking District, right next to the West Side Highway. They manage to do everything right here (which is impressive considering their extensive and varied menu) and the service is absolutely awesome. There have been many instances where I’ll go with a few friends after a late night at work, grab seats at the bar and order a bunch of tapas along with whatever wine/cider/cocktail the bartenders recommend that evening. Sometimes we end it after a couple bites but most nights (especially if it’s during the weekend or a special occasion), we’ll order multiple rounds and even partake in trying the porron, a traditional Catalan drinking vessel, or bone marrow luge. I even decided to have my birthday dinner here. Below are some of my favorite dishes after multiple visits and menu changes. If you ever have a chance to go, I seriously recommend it for a fun, casual night out.

Classic jamon serrano – rosier and less salty than its Italian counterpart, prosciutto

Grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette seasoning and aged cheese – super rich in the best possible way

Fideos with clams and peppers (I actually like this broken-noodle dish more than the paella below)

Grilled razor clams with piquillo pepper, garlic and lemon – briny with a touch of acidity and a good amount of meatiness

Caviar, sea urchin and quail egg with jamon iberico – ultimate indulgence in a single spoon and understandably, my friend Vanessa’s favorite dish of them all

Bacalao (salt cod) fritters with tempura lemon rings and aioli – a classic and exemplar of anything fried

A sea urchin crudo special with shiso strongly recommended by our favorite bartender, Ken

Seared foie gras with seckle pear and marcona almonds

Paella with shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo and chicken, complete with the required crispy and slightly burnt soccarat on the bottom

Mushrooms, cooked on the plancha (a sort of super-hot flattop), with a beautiful farm egg

Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad, beef cheek marmalade and grilled bread. This is probably my favorite (and one of the most gluttonous) dishes at Toro. It’s well-balanced between the fatty marrow and the tart and peppery salad AND it enables you to do the bone marrow luge (where you pour some dry sherry down the scooped out bone and take it like a shot).

 

The tasting menu at Semilla

December 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

Had a really lovely and vegetable-heavy dinner at the intimate, 18-seat Semilla in Brooklyn (yes, I traveled all the way out to BK) a few months back that surprised and lived up to all of the hype it’s been receiving since it opened. 10 courses with beverage pairings in an intimate setting with friendly, open staff and good Cahill company.

Tomato gazpacho with peaches, rat tail radishes and black olives paired with Cremant d’Alsace, Dirler-Cade, 2012 from Alsace, France. I’d just been telling Chris and Wes that I don’t really like fruit in savory dishes but this cold soup proved me wrong. So flavorful and clean. I also don’t like olives that much and was crazy about them in this dish.

Tomato salad with cucumbers and scallops and stuffed tomato with ricotta and basil with Dupont cidre, bouche brut from Normandy, France. I didn’t get a photo of the cute stuffed tomato but it was pure summer in a bowl and one of the most memorable bites of the night.

Sweet corn chawanmushi with matsutake mushrooms with Grimm, Rainbow Dome, from New York. Perfect balance of sweet and richness, with lots of umami and unctuousness.

Roasted eggplant with pepper leaves and grapes with Gamay, Les Chamins de Traverse, Bachelard, 2013, from Beaujolais, France. The most distinct characteristic of this course was the heavy smoke.

Bread course of Anson Mill’s grits sourdough with Cowbella butter and buttermilk…which I could not stop eating. Buttermilk with butter is a genius idea.

Tomato tart with Feints Cuvee Zero, Ruth Lewandowski, 2013, California/Utah. Also deceivingly simple but everyone really loved this dish. I have no idea what was in the crust but it reminded me of a Cheez-it (my favorite childhood snack) and was kind of mind-boggling to have it paired with floral shiso.

Lobster mushrooms with corn and mole with Chenin Blanc, Els Bassots, Escoda Sanahuja, 2013, Conca de Barbera, Spain.

Another reminder of childhood – peaches, saffron & bitter almond. Growing up in a Chinese family, the only dessert we’d ever serve (other than straight up fruit) was almond jello that came in a packet served with fruit cocktail. Think of this as a highly refined, delicious version.

Tarragon profiterole with wild blueberry and buttermilk with Chinato Americano, Vergano, from Piemonte, Italy. To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the tarragon/anise-y element but it was still a nice end to a meal that surpassed expectations and showed how creative cooking with vegetables can be (we really did not miss the meat at all). Would definitely visit again, especially since chefs Jose Ramirez-Ruiz and Pamela Yung change the menu according to the seasons.

Costata

November 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

Had a great catch up dinner with Tim, Sebastian and Christine at Michael White’s Italian steakhouse, Costata, in Soho. I always enjoy eating at two of his other restaurants, Marea and Osteria Morini, so had high hopes for this and wasn’t disappointed. We decided to share everything, starting with the heirloom tomato and burrata salad (this was during late summer when they were at their juiciest and most flavorful), the fusilli alla convivio with pork shoulder ragu, pomodoro and robiolina and the garganelli alla fiamma with peas, con speak and truffle cream (there is usually a similar dish on the menu at Osteria Morini). Amazing, amazing, amazing. The pastas at any of Chef White’s places never fail to satisfy and my favorite was the fusilli, which was cooked perfectly al dente and nicely balanced between the rich ragu, the slight sweetness of the simple pomodoro sauce and tangy creaminess of the robiolina cheese. Sometimes, when I’m at home and feel like splurging on delivery food, I order this dish on Caviar with some creamed spinach and it feels like such a treat. It was good that we’d ordered the tomato salad, which was a lovely, lighter compliment to the much richer pastas.

For our main course, we shared everything again and it turned out to be the perfect amount of food – not too much that there was a lot leftover but still pretty gluttonous. We ordered the enormous, beautiful Costata, a 40 day dry aged 44oz tomahawk ribeye, with the bearnaise, salsa verde and creamy horseradish sauces and then two sides, the creamed spinach and french fries. Everything was so well done – the beef was a perfectly cooked medium-rare with a slight bit of funk thanks to the aging (and flecked with sea salt, which makes a huge difference IMHO), all of the sauces were super tasty and I actually really liked the salsa verde since it was refreshing and lighter than the others. The sides, especially the creamed spinach, were great takes on classic steakhouse sides. Pair that with a killer bottle(s) of Brunello di Montalcino and I was in heaven. I’ve had a few large format beef dishes (Minetta Tavern’s cote de boeuf, Bowery Meat Company’s chateaubriand, etc.) but this was a great version and would be something really fun to order for a birthday dinner or when your parents are visiting (and paying).

We really got to take our time eating the ribeye and sides (service was super friendly and never hovered over us) and actually had interest in some light dessert by the time our table was cleared. We got the affogato (freshly brewed espresso with ramazotti amaro and vanilla gelato) and then a trio of flavor-packed sorbets – lemon-basil, which was my favorite and perfectly tart and herbaceous, blueberry-limoncello (another standout) and strawberry. A nice, low-key dessert to a super satisfying meal.

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.

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

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