Ichimura

April 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

Lately, when splurging on dinner, I’ve preferred doing omakase menus instead of European-style tasting menus since you come out feeling satisfied but not weighed down by super rich sauces and the like and Ichimura in TriBeCa has possibly the best omakase offering I’ve ever had in NYC. It’s 10 seats (two seatings each night at 6 and 9pm) in a minimalist setting and Chef Ichimura’s emphasis on aging fish to optimize flavor and texture results in some seriously delicious fish. Once again…too lazy to go into detail but I actually did manage to note what each piece was. It’s well worth the visit if you can manage to get a reservation and Chef Ichimura, who was literally doing all the fish preparation himself, was so adorable and soft-spoken that I wanted to adopt him as my grandpa.

Baby eel; roe and cod tartare; orange clam

Chawanmushi – perfectly jiggly

Sashimi of abalone; octopus; fluke; golden snapper; shima aji

Smoked bamboo shoot. Super clean flavors and a nice toothsomeness.

The beautiful bar and no surprise, Zalto glassware.

Needle fish – almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Golden snapper

Whiting

Amber jack

Spanish mackerel belly – this was a standout and a great example of how aging can firm up the texture of fish.

Tuna

Horse mackerel – again, such a pretty piece

Medium fatty tuna

Hokkaido uni – always a favorite and super generous with the uni

Scallop

Baby shrimp – super sweet and a new favorite of mine

Eel – just cooked and warm to the touch. Really enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t drowned in any sauces

Chef Ichimura doing his magic

Fatty tuna – oh snap. Three butterflied layers of the butteriest toro. I almost passed out.

Dessert – simple green tea ice cream with mochi and other fixings. Just the right amount of sweetness.

Flushing Food Crawl

February 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

Finally made the trek out to Flushing, Queens during a week off from work to sample some of the cheap, delicious ethnic food on offer. Wes (possibly the only white man in all of Flushing that day) and I started at Ganesh Temple Canteen, a cafeteria-style establishment in the basement of a Hindu temple, and helped ourselves to an enormous buttery Pondicherry dosa filled with potatoes, onions and spices as well as a spicy onion uttapam, both paired with sambar and chutney for dipping – perfect for the rainy, grey day ahead of us and just $7 for each dish.

Next, we walked back to the main thoroughfare in Flushing and began eating Chinese food in earnest. Our first stop was Golden Shopping Mall, a collection of food vendors off Main Street, where we dug into a giant bowl of hand-pulled noodles and beef from Lanzhou Handmade Noodles (again…just $7). So fucking good and made me realize how much I’d missed this kind of down-home Asian comfort food. Perfectly tender beef, super flavorful broth and addictive condiments in the pickled mustard greens and fiery chili oil.

Next, we wandered around for a bit to make room for our next meal and got lost in JMart, a giant Chinese supermarket with huge fish and meat counters, aisles and aisles of Asian condiments and one of the biggest selections of exotic fresh vegetables and fruit I’ve seen. The best part, though, was the small outpost of New Flushing Bakery, with its insanely good Portuguese egg tarts, slightly caramelized on the surface with a crazy flaky, fall-apart crust.

And because we are fatties, we then walked the few blocks from JMart back to Golden Flushing Mall and got a couple seats at Tianjin Dumpling House. For $6, we got a dozen of the lamb and green squash boiled dumplings (again, with a ton of chili oil), a combination I’d never seen before but really enjoyed. Normally, I like my dumplings pan-fried but these reminded me of the boiled pork and scallion dumplings that my mom always made at home growing up – guess it’s a Northern Chinese thing?

Needless to say, we were feeling stuffed from all the starch and meat we’d already eaten and decided to make a stop at Fang Gourmet Tea, a tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the street, for a charcoal roasted oolong tea tasting. The shop owner was super friendly and patient with our tea ignorance and after some browsing, we each ended up buying a tin of oolong tea that cost way more than all the food we’d eaten during the day.

After more than three years of living in Manhattan, was so glad that I’d finally made it out to Flushing (and to be honest, the train ride out there wasn’t even that bad) and couldn’t believe the amount and quality of food we’d gotten for so cheap. Really need to make sure I make an annual or semi-annual pilgrimage out there, especially when I’m missing food from home.

Eleven Madison Park

January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

The first and only other time I’d ever been to Eleven Madison Park, temple of gastronomy and world-class service, was as a Cahill summer associate, when the world of fine-dining was still brand new and, frankly, very intimidating to me. Cindy and I finally managed to get a 9:30 p.m. reservation towards the end of our summer and stayed until around 1:00 a.m., after finishing one of the most memorable meals ever.

So it was only fitting that, when Wes was deciding which restaurants he wanted to visit before leaving us for Austin FOREVER, he chose Eleven Madison Park as one of them and rounded up a crew of Cahill’s most delinquent current and former associates for one hell of a dinner. I arrived early and tucked into a Start Me Up – bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon, orange bitters – at the¬†cozy bar (where you can order a shorter tasting menu, first come, first serve) and then we were seated and started with these black and white savory cookie with apple and cheddar, basically a fancified version of Cheez-its (in the most delicious way possible).

Next, a tower of beautiful wooden boxes that slowly revealed parsnip pie; celery root with black truffle; rutabaga with celery and walnuts; salsify with garlic and thyme. The parsnip pie, with its super delicate crust, was particularly delicious.

Caviar Benedict with smoked sturgeon, ham and pickled egg yolk – a supremely elegant and expensive version of an Egg McMuffin, presented in the most beautiful tin, a replica of which we got to take home with us.

Bread course. Note also the Jono Pandolfi ceramics, all of which I wanted to tuck into my bag and take home with me.

Foie gras – seared with Brussels sprouts and lemon. You can choose between a cold terrine and the seared, though to me it’s a pretty obvious choice. It’s a small, perfectly cooked portion of foie jam-packed with flavor and a nice hit of tartness.

Lobster – butter-poached with rutabaga and pear. Gorgeous to look at and the lobster was super sweet and tender. I don’t usually care for fruit in savory dishes but liked the earthiness the pear lended to this dish.

Our next course was a vegetable course of celery root with truffle jus that was prepared table-side a la Paul Bocuse in an inflated pig’s bladder.

The plated celery root braised with black truffle. Deceptively simple looking but for a vegetable course, had all the richness and savoriness of a meat dish. The black truffle jus didn’t hurt either.

A classic EMP dish: duck, honey and lavender glazed with turnip and huckleberry. Stunning and served with some some of the lightest potatoes I’ve ever had. They tried to prematurely clear the dish and I had to reach out my hand to stop the server so I could finish the last couple bites.

Our cheese course of the cutest little cheddar tart with apple and mixed greens. Honestly, at this point, I would’ve been happy to end on this note since I don’t usually really care for dessert but we had a surprise waiting of us.

Baked Alaska, set aflame at the table, with citrus, vanilla and rum

Towards the end of our meal, we were taken on a tour of the kitchen and served the last dessert course – an ice cream with a honey-colored dessert wine made from noble rot (botrytis) grapes. Felt so lucky to have a chance to see the workings of the kitchen (which was beautiful and spotless) and the giant Miles Davis photographs they have hanging on the walls for inspiration.

Fancy food with fancy friends

The wines we’d had that night – we’d opted to order bottles instead of the pairing, which was the right decision. A Keller riesling to start and then two different, fantastic bottles of Clos Rougeard. Our meal finally came to a close with chocolate covered pretzels and a guessing game of which chocolate was made from which milk (cow, goat, buffalo or sheep), which I failed miserably.

No matter – in the end, we all came out feeling like huge winners. Such a wonderful experience, top to bottom, from the warm and friendly staff to the perfect pacing and explanation of each course to the food itself, which was beautiful, whimsical and most importantly, downright delicious. A huge thank you to the Eleven Madison Park for exceeding all expectations once again…I cannot wait to visit again.

The beautiful dining room at the end of the night.

Summer RW meals at Nougatine and Colicchio and Sons

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Better late than never, right?

The last week of work, Alice, Komal and I had a lovely dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Nougatine at Columbus Circle. Beautiful interiors, great service, and delicious and surprisingly light food. I really loved the tomato and avocado gazpacho (even though I don’t tend to like cold soups) and the salmon entree I had.

A bottle of Morgon 2010

Corn cucumber shooter

Tomato and avocado gazpacho

Roasted salmon, greens and sweet chili vinaigrette

Roast chicken dish

Summer dessert and poached fruit

The classic Jean-Georges molten chocolate cake

Cindy, Beth, and I also snuck out of the office during one of the last couple days of work to have a long, leisurely lunch at the Tap Room at Colicchio & Sons. Again, a great cold, corn vichyssoise, a wonderful meaty entree, and heavenly beignets to top off the meal. If only work life could always be like this.

Inside the Tap Room

Cold corn vichyssoise

Steak tartare and chips

Panzanella with burrata cheese

Steak with bone marrow butter, greens, and horseradish cream

Chicken with farro and mushrooms

Heavenly beignets

Think that finally might be the last of the summer 2012 posts. Now to get through Winter and Spring 2013!

Nougatine
Trump Hotel Central Park
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023
212.299.3900

Colicchio & Sons
85 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.400.6699

Tertulia

March 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Of all the places in the world, Spain is the country I want to visit most. Barcelona, San Sebastien, Valencia, Madrid – they all sound like food-lovers’ paradises to me, with their beautiful and vibrant markets, fresh seafood, and ubiquitous tapas bars and cider joints. Tertulia is a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. The chef, Seamus Mullen, has gotten great reviews from the New York Times and NYMag, and looking at the menu, I like that he sticks with traditional Spanish fare and does it very well instead of trying to twist it into something super modern. Another testament to the food? The fact that other chefs – like Mario Batali’s Iron Chef America sous chef, Anne Burrell (peeking at the camera in the first photo) – enjoy dining there on their off time. By the way, I was taking a picture of the interior and totally not being a creepster.

In an effort to eat (a lot) more vegetables lately, Laura and I started with the pimientos de padron – fried Shishito peppers with lots of sea salt – and the nuestras patatas – crispy potatoes with pimenton de la Vera and garlic all i oli. Holy crap, both of these dishes were so effing good. I would have been satisfied with these alone. The peppers were blistered and slightly sweet, and they had the crispness of a perfectly blanched green bean. Of course, tossing them in sea salt added exponentially to their flavor. Out of about 16 on our plate, I managed to get the only spicy one.

As for the spuds, I couldn’t figure out if they were fried or roasted, because these potatoes were expertly seasoned, super crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside without any grease, and the all i oli was out of this world – garlicky and rich. Laura and I scraped up ¬†every last drop.

Our favorite dish by far, however, were the croquettes de jamon. Chef Mullen mixes scraps of prized jamon Iberico into his creamy bechamel and then quickly drops them in oil to give these babies the texture of fried soup, velvety and lovely on the inside. To make them even better, they come served with membrillo sauce, made of the quince fruit, and the sauce’s tartness cuts the luxuriousness of the croquette.

Our final dish were the crispy brussel sprouts with pork belly and mojo picon, a Spanish red pepper sauce. Our one, very small, gripe with this was the almost excessive use of vinegar which had us occasionally puckering our lips, but this was still an excellent take on sprouts, and I would still order it again.

So there you have it – a Spanish gem in the Washington Square Park area. It’s good that I don’t live in the neighborhood (yet), because I’d come here all the time, especially after a long day at work when I need a good glass of wine and some soul-warming food. Next time I visit, I plan on just ordering the classics – unadulterated jamon Iberico, boquerones, and pan con tomate – but this was a great vegetable-oriented introduction to Tertulia and fueled us for an entire afternoon’s worth of shopping in downtown Manhattan.

Tertulia
359 6th Avenue
New York, NY
646.559.9909

Balthazar

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.

Balthazar
80 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
212.965.1414
Website

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