Rebelle and Bowery Meat Company

September 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

Dinner at  the lovely Rebelle, on the Bowery, with Vanessa way back. We’d tried to eat at another restaurant in the East Village but the wait was too long and we were famished for some good food and wine. Upon arriving, we were seated immediately and dug right into some crusty miche with ramp butter, raw oysters with a punchy mignonette and a glass of nice, crisp champagne. Bread, butter and oysters…a great meal in itself.

But, per usual, we didn’t stop there and ended up ordering a slew of other dishes, including the beef tartare; white asparagus and seared scallops. The beef tartare was a wonderful mix of textures – chewy, high-quality beef with a smooth sunchoke cream, spicy, pungent kick from the horseradish and garlic combination and salty crunch from sliced fried sunchokes. The seasonal white asparagus with beurre blanc and summer truffle appeared rather simple but was a highly finessed, earthy dish and the scallops with uni, turnip and squid ink balanced marine briny-ness with a pop of sweet apple.

Finally, even after all that, we were still hungry and decided to share a main course of roast duck with frisee, pistachio and pickled pearl onions. It was cooked to pink perfection with crispy skin (and just the right amount of fat left) with a delicious glaze and crunch from the nuts. The service and ambience were also all-around good, so will definitely try to come back some time, especially during the winter when the menu has changed and I’m craving a fat glass of red wine and even richer, heartier dishes.

 

Same neighborhood, different restaurant – Bowery Meat Company for an impromptu dinner as a break from work. Given how giant and rich portions were during my first visit, we decided to stick with oysters (raw and broiled) to start as opposed to any of the other appetizers and then our separate mains. Our beau soleil oysters came with pineapple cucumber salsa and the kumamotos with wasabi leaf and lemon. Refreshing and perfect for the summer. The broiled oysters with garlic, romano cheese, bread crumbs and parsley were a totally different take and though I usually prefer my oysters raw, these were so cheesy and indulgent that I kind of forgot about the beau soleils and kumamotos.


For our mains, I ordered the Bowery steak with salsa verde and whipped potato – a nice medium-rare with crusty char and a offset by the herbaceous salsa and Chris got the bone-in filet mignon au poivre. Sides were the memorable sour cream and onion hash brown we got during our first visit and then spring peas because, you know, green. A nice, quiet meal right before my summer got insanely busy, at a restaurant that’s normally quite packed, noisy and to be honest, too scene-y for my taste.

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.

Santina and High Street on Hudson

May 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

From a while back: dinner at Santina, right next to the Whitney Museum and the High Line, with Cahill folks and then two separate visits to hit bakery/restaurant High Street on Hudson for dinner and breakfast. Completely different restaurants but great experiences at both (Santina was surprising since I think the Torrisi restaurants tend to be over-priced and too hip for me and generally avoid them).

At Santina, we sat in the atrium outside under heat lamps, which was actually nice and almost felt as if we were outside in the middle of winter. We started with squash carpaccio with honey agrodolce – my favorite dish of the nice and completely new. The squash was thinly sliced and tasted almost as if it was bruleed, a wonderful mix of textures and savory against sweet.

Cecina pancakes with lamb tartare, green olive and aioli.

Family-style mains – rice of guanciale e pepe, spaghetti with blue crab with tomato and chili, lobster catalan with garlic and anchovy butter, grilled lamb chops, spicy fried potatoes. The rice was underwhelming and didn’t pack as much flavor as one would hope but the spaghetti stood out with its bright and briny notes. In the end, I was happy to try Santina but don’t think I would ever choose to go again given all the great restaurants constantly popping up in the neighborhood (as well as all of my time-tested favorites).

Turning to a totally different restaurant – High Street on Hudson. The original location is in Philly and ever since the owners announced that they were opening a NYC version, it’s gotten a lot of press and well-deserved love. Artemis, Cindy and I went for dinner during the week not too long after they opened and it was packed. We started with an addictive dark bread called vollkornbrot with creamy charred rutabaga hummus and long hot chermoula and black sesame oil and perfect, crispy fried razor clams with habanero buttermilk, which made me wish for summer.

Next, another (and in my opinion, superior) lamb tartare with burnt celery root, sunflower, cultured cashew and malted rye and tripe diavola with sunchoke and grilled cucumber (kind of an oddly textured element that I wasn’t crazy for). Both absolutely gorgeous on the plate and wolfed down within seconds.

Highlights of the meal were the main courses of seawood bucatini with njuda, lobster bottarga and breadcrumbs and Happy Valley beef with sweet potato and fermented broccoli. Stellar examples of dishes from the earth and sea…I was in such a happy place by the time our dinner came to a close.

And for good measure, Cindy and I went back to High Street not long after for breakfast to try their super-hyped sandwiches and they did not disappoint. We got the bread basket (so ambitious), the bodega sandwich of malted breakfast sausage, egg and aged cheddar on a giant sage-black pepper biscuit about the size of my head and old bay fried potatoes that I kept popping into my mouth even after I felt completely stuffed. I don’t think I ate another meal for the rest of the day but it was completely worth it.

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).

 

Pasta tasting at Babbo

December 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

A second visit to Babbo during the early fall, but this time to sample their pasta offerings and wine pairings. So delicious (the casunzei and the garganelli were probably my favorite dishes of the night) and so nice to ignore work for an evening:

Black tagliatelle with charred corn and castelmagno paired with Acari e Danesi, Dosaggio Zero NV

Casunzei with poppy seeds paired with Bastianich, Ribolla Gialla 2011

Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati paired with Crivelli, “Collina La Mora” Barbera d’Asti 2013

Agnolotti al Pomodoro paired with La Mozza, “I perazzi” Morellino di Scansano 2013

 

Pappardelle Bolognese paired with Masciarelli “Marina Cvetic” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010

Olive oil cake and gelato paired with Santa Vittoria, Vin Santo Valdichiana 2009

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 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”

Back to the NoMad

July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Visited the NoMad for the second time back in late May and had an even better experience than the first! Started with the fruits de mer “le grand plateau”, a beautiful selection of prepared raw seafood and the chicken liver mousse with pickles and rye bread, which was a favorite from the previous time. At this point in our meal, we got to meet Becky Quan (!), one of the NoMad pastry chefs who I’d spoken with online after my first post on the NoMad and who brought out their highly addictive potato-onion-caraway bread and butter. Such a small world! And the in-person introduction made the rest of our meal even more fun and memorable.

We then progressed to the mackerel cured with buttermilk, peas and nasturtium, which looked absolutely stunning on the plate and tasted so bright and clean. I hadn’t really eaten much mackerel before but since this meal, I’ve actually ordered it more often when on the menu because this dish left such a great impression (and only a few other versions have been as good). We also ordered the foie gras with rhubarb, celery and pistachio, which had everything you could possibly want in a foie dish. There was creamy and smooth against crunch, sweet and tart against fatty and herbaceous. So predictable of me but I really enjoyed this dish (and I dare anyone else not to). Our sommelier of the night also gave us a great wine recommendation – a Sicilian red with dry ripe fruit notes and hints of spice and tobacco – that paired well with all our courses and never overwhelmed.

For our main dish, we ordered the roast chicken for two (duh). Just as great as the first time – the combination of black truffles and (more) foie is so heady and I can never understand how they manage to keep the breast meat so juicy. And that “stuffing” of dark meat was just as outrageous and rich as I remembered.

For our dessert, we ordered the milk and honey with shortbread, brittle and ice cream and were also surprised with a complimentary strawberry cheese cake dessert courtesy of Becky Quan, Pastry Chef. While I loved both, I preferred the classic and simpler milk and honey, which had nice savory elements as well, which worked out perfectly because Ameya had basically finished the strawberry cheesecake by the time I looked up again from my plate. Can’t say enough how much we enjoyed our dinner here (thanks not only to Becky but also to James, our wonderful server who answered all of our questions and even shared the name of the artist who crafted all of the NoMad’s beautiful ceramics that I’d been obsessing over throughout the course of our meal). I’m already dreaming of the next time!

Also, even if you’re not able to stop by for a meal, I would highly recommend the NoMad bars (I like the Elephant Bar that’s connected to the restaurant itself but there’s also a separate, larger bar with its own entrance on 28th street that serves slightly more casual food). Well-crafted cocktails and though I don’t drink too much brown liquor, I’ve heard from various sources that they serve the best Manhattans in the city. 🙂

Rouge et Blanc

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.

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