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
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
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
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!
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.
March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
The lunch at Bouley in Tribeca may be one of the best deals (five courses for $55) in New York City, especially since it happens to be in one of the most beautifully decorated and ornate restaurants I’ve seen. To start – some complimentary amuse bouches that I honestly don’t remember too much about (except that the cracker looking bite had caviar and some kind of black truffle cream). For the first course, I chose the “blini” of Scottish smoked salmon with roe and white truffle honey. The dish was topped with some sort of apple meringue that was a bit too sweet for my taste, especially since the truffle honey was already sweet, but the roe provided some necessary saltiness.
Next, one of Bouley’s most famous dishes, the porcini flan with golden princess crab and black truffle dashi. This was amazing – it came to the table with a cover and when removed, all one could smell was black truffle and brininess from the crab. Really warm and comforting, like a Japanese chawanmushi or egg custard, the portion initially seemed kind of small but was so packed with flavor and richness that it turned out to be just the right amount. I would go back to Bouley just to have this dish again. Also, what I forgot to take a picture of was the amazing bread cart that they wheel to each table after this course. I think there were about twelve different varieties (the usual sourdough all the way to a pistachio and apricot version) and you could potentially try every one of them, but we had to keep in mind that we had more courses coming.
The main dish, a slow braised Kobe-style beef cheeks with blue kale gnocchi, also hit the spot. I don’t have beef cheeks very often but always love how tender and unctuous they can be when done well and the sauce that came with was super savory and just this side of being over-seasoned. Also really enjoyed the perfectly cooked gnocchi (because who doesn’t love some butter soaked starch with their beef?).
For a palate cleanser after our savory dishes, a chilled coconut soup with pineapple granite, 10 exotic fruit sorbet, passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Really refreshing with a good balance of sweet and tart – this almost punched you in the face with its coconutiness. Around this time, we were struggling to stay awake, so a cappuccino was in order. My dessert was the hot caramelized Anjou pear with Valrhona chocolate, biscuit Breton, hot toffee sauce and huckleberry and Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which was a bit too sweet for me and since I was so full, I was only able to take a couple bites. However, when the tower of mignardises and petits fours came out, I had no problem popping a few chocolate bonbons in my mouth.
So there you have it – one of the best lunch deals in the city. At some point, I’d like to go back and try everything with their recommended wine pairing, which brings the meal to $110 before tax and tip. I think this would be a great place to bring parents when they’re in town and or a special date. Here’s a shot of the entryway, which is lined with apples to greet you and say farewell with the most heavenly smell (we kept wondering how often they have to check and change them out). Oh and I almost forgot to mention that when you leave, they send you off with not one but two individually wrapped cakes (lemon pound cake and stollen) for you to peck away at as soon as you’ve recovered from your lunch food coma. 🙂
January 14, 2015 § Leave a comment
Started an Italy-centric Sunday at Charlie Bird, conveniently just down the street from my apartment, for lunch with Cindy. Both of us had only ever been there for dinner, when it’s usually packed, bumping with old school hip hop and you have to wait around 30 minutes to get a seat at the bar, but the restaurant was pretty calm when we arrived around 1 pm. We both ordered a Bloody Mary, which unfortunately wasn’t as strong and spicy as I would’ve liked.
For my main, I stuck with the classic crisply roasted half chicken and herb salad. The portion is always very generous; if you’re a fan of family-style, which I am, you could probably order a pasta dish, this and a side or two to share with another person) and though you can’t see it in the photo, the juicy chicken, which by the way has the most insanely crispy skin ever, is perched atop a huge shmear of rich and creamy chicken liver pate and accompanied by an herb salad that I just forked around for a bit.
Cindy ordered the poached egg with polenta, charred onions and a duck crackling crumble (!) and we also shared a side of the Roman-style artichokes, nicely seasoned and crispy with a romesco sauce.
After Charlie Bird, I tried to work off lunch by doing some window shopping in Soho but most of the time was spent fetching things for the evening, a Nebbiolo tasting at Artemis’. Each of us brought a bottle of either Barbaresco or Barolo (nothing younger than 2010) and we went from the youngest wines (which included some surprisingly smooth Barbarescos) to the oldest, including a standout 1985 Ceretto that Chris generously shared with all of us. What started out as a fairly civilized affair eventually devolved, per usual, into a wine-cheese-salumi-pizza 6-hour eating and drinking marathon that ended with us all pretty tipsy and dreading work the next day (compare photo directly below with the last one). A super fun, gluttonous night with a great group of people that led to a somewhat painful Monday morning, especially since yours truly had wisely decided to sign up for a juice cleanse that day. C’est la vie…
December 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
An impromptu brunch with Cindy at Seamus Mullen’s Tertulia on 6th Avenue in the West Village, one of my go-t0 casual spots in the city. Our conversation earlier that day (which resembles about 80% of our conversations period) basically went: “Have you eaten yet?” “No” “Brunch?” “Meet you at Tertulia at 1pm” “OK, yayyyy.”
Tertulia is known for its traditional and modern tapas, and the interior does make you feel like your inside a bar in Barcelona. I’d only ever visited for dinner and didn’t really know what to expect for brunch. As it turns out, our meal, though enormous and probably difficult to finish for two much larger-sized males, admittedly didn’t include your typical brunch fare, but it was perfect for someone like me who isn’t big on sweets. The nuestras patatas – crispy potatoes with pimenton and garlicky aioli – were spud crack. So addictive that I kept going back until the large pan was empty. I’m also always a sucker for fried shishito peppers (you’ll see that fried is a theme here, despite it being a veg-heavy meal), sprinkled with sea salt at the last second before serving. Although the tortilla espagnola (eggs, potato, onion and olive oil cooked in a small skillet) was delicious, it wasn’t as exciting as the other dishes.
Probably the best dish were our brussels sprouts (again, fried to crispy) with smoked sobresada, pork belly and sheep’s milk yogurt. I had this the first time I ever went to Tertulia a few years ago and went bonkers over it, but since then, I never saw it on the menu during subsequent visits and figured it was a seasonal item. Super savory, with fatty chunks of pork belly and a creamy yogurt dressing, it’s a dish I would order at the bar with some red wine on a solo visit (if I ever actually did that kind of thing).
Our last dish – a seasonal dish consisting of grilled broccoli, lamb bacon, olive oil fried egg and some peppers – though good, paled in comparison to the potatoes and the sprouts. The broccoli was a bit raw for my taste and the dish overall seemed a bit dry to me and could’ve used some kind of sauce or dressing. All in all, however, a really satisfying, fry-tastic not-really-brunch that reminded me why Tertulia is one of my favorite restaurants in New York City.
December 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Caught up with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years at Empellon Taqueria, right off Christopher Street in the Village, and had a bit of a taco-fest. After moving to a table further away from a bunch of obnoxious Santa-con participants, we started with a very generous dish of guacamole, a creamy smoked cashew salsa and a spicier, more vinegary arbol salsa (my favorite out of the three) with just-fried corn tortilla chips to whet the appetite. For our mains, we avoided the sweeter, more traditional brunch dishes and ordered a trio of tacos. Probably would’ve been fine with just two, but as former tennis players, we fell into old gorging habits as we reminisced about school and figured…oh, why the hell not?
The tacos were the chicken, black kale, crema and salsa verde; fish tempura, cabbage and lime mayonnaise; and lamb barbacoa, cucumber and salsa borracha. Of all of them, the classic fish taco was my favorite (something about the combination of cooling cabbage and lime mayo with crunchy, crispy fish), though I was surprised by how much I liked the chicken version, which was very juicy and flavorful. Really satisfying (probably even a bit excessive) and definitely warranted a super long walk afterwards.
Also had a rare chance to cook myself a meal this past weekend and went with the classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with butter, which made the entire apartment smell like heaven. So easy to make, all this requires is a white onion, 5 tablespoons of butter and a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (all of which I usually have in the pantry and fridge). Let it simmer gently on the stove for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, cook your pasta (I like to use linguine or some noodle-y pasta) during the last 10 minutes the sauce is cooking, and you have a homemade, seriously banging bowl of pasta. I usually grate a bunch of good Parmigiano-Reggiano, add some fresh basil if the flimsy plant on our kitchen windowsill has a couple fat leaves and maybe even some red pepper flakes to add a bit of kick. If you’re a cooking novice or just want to make something that doesn’t require a ton of work, this is a perfect recipe to start with. Go make it!
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…
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…
Late night drinks and steak tartare with roasted tomato mayonnaise at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar…
December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
A late Friday night dinner at Cosme – Enrique Olvera’s new Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron and one of the most-hyped openings this year since it’s his first restaurant in the States. It was still pretty busy by the time we arrived for our 9:30 reservation and it’s definitely a very hip setting but service was friendly and the vibe was casual. We were actually seated at a communal table with plenty of room and started off with some single-origin, just-fried corn tortillas and two salsas (the red one was super spicy even for me) and house cocktails, including a refreshing Paloma with homemade grapefruit syrup and ginger-packed El Ninja (mezcal, gin, vermouth, shiso shrub, lime, ginger and dehydrated pineapple).
Cold appetizers were thinly-sliced raw scallops and poached jicama in a wasabi-cucumber-lime vinaigrette as well as a ripe avocado half piled high with raw seafood and horseradish to add a little bit of zing. Though I’m usually a sucker for anything avocado (see below), the scallops were my favorite of the two due to the clear, bright flavors of the sea and citrus.
Our hot appetizers were actually two vegetarian choices: enfrijoladas with ricotta, hoja santa, creme fraiche and onion as well as the mushroom and squash barbacoa, chilpachole and hoja santa. The enfrijoladas had a lot of familiar Mexican flavors but the mushroom and squash dish was definitely an example of Mexican cuisine that none of us had really eaten before.
Standouts of the night, however, were our entrees. I ordered the black garlic rubbed NY strip with shishito peppers (one of my favorite things) and avocado-tarragon puree (see?). Super flavorful, tender beef balanced with raw onions and crunchy, sweet peppers and then mellowed with a creamy, smooth avocado sauce.
The duck carnitas to be shared was the favorite dish by far – it came out in its own cast iron skillet, enormous and amazing-smelling, perfectly cooked (crispy skin with just the right amount of fat and meat) with spicy radishes and a punchy salsa verde. I’d definitely go back to Cosme with a friend and sit at the bar (which just started serving the full menu) with a glass of wine and order just that dish. The red snapper with thai curry, plantains and scallions and the half lobster pibil, chorizo, black bean and avocado leaf puree also got glowing reviews.
Somehow, even after drinks, appetizers and entrees (and we’d actually come from a coworker’s going away party chock full of bar food), we still had enough room for four desserts (definitely took a looooong walk after this meal). Having read early reviews of the restaurant, we all agreed that we’d get the popular and somewhat strange looking husk meringue with corn mousse dessert, which proved to be a good choice. Definitely a unique dish with strong corn flavor without being too sweet. I also really loved the carrot cake riff with cream cheese ice cream and the lemon cake with quince sorbet.
Word is that reservations for Cosme at prime dinner time are currently hard to come by, but if you can get even a late seating around 9:30 or 10:00 PM or a place at the bar and you have the time to indulge in a long leisurely meal, I’d definitely recommend getting the scallops appetizer, the duck carnitas to share (though honestly, I could probably finish this dish on my own because it was so frikkin’ delicious and I eat like a baby dinosaur) and then a husk meringue to finish.
Two posts within a week! Trying to be better about keeping up with this blog…
December 6, 2014 § Leave a comment
After eleven years, on November 29, WD-50 had its last night of service at 50 Clinton Street and thanks to Wes who managed to snag tickets, some of us were lucky enough to experience Wylie’s Dufresne’s last 12 course tasting menu of his greatest hits with wine pairings. Having been here two times prior, this final meal was definitely the best of the three and I was also surprised by how much I loved the white wine pairings with certain dishes.
It was definitely a bittersweet night…Wylie was walking around talking to customers and our server was nice enough to arrange a kitchen tour and photo with the man himself. WD-50 was actually the first place where I ever ordered the tasting menu and I’ve always loved it for its refined, oftentimes whimsical take on classic dishes and flavor combination, served in a super casual and friendly LES setting with exemplar service.
Now, to the courses…
Small bites with bubbles. Favorites were the beef tongue that was skewered with a ball of deep-fried mayonnaise (yes, you read that right) and the cold fried chicken that came with a tiny scoop of caviar and some fried chicken skin.
A comforting bowl of pasta, except the noodles here are made of shrimp instead of typical flour, eggs and water. Classic Wylie.
One of the most popular dishes of the night…tiny little pearls of foie gras with chocolate covered crispies and a film of vinegar on the bottom to balance out the richness of the foie.
Ingenious “ravioli” where they used egg yolk as the pasta to encase the fluffiest scrambled eggs after. Also loved the tiny tiny crispy potatoes and super-fresh hamachi.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening – pasta in a briny broth thanks to the clams, topped with these insane crispy kimchee chips that I found myself wishing WD would just mass manufacture so I could buy bags and bags of them. The wine pairing for this course was also ridiculously good and smelled very similar to white peaches.
Another standout – small, perfectly cooked scallops with a smoky sauce from the sable fish. We were all trying our hardest to scrape every last bit of that sauce out of our bowls.
A very playful dish and totally unexpected when thinking a classic steak with bearnaise sauce – three fluffy, kinda cute looking bearnaise gnocchi in a very rich beef consomme bath.
Probably the most traditionally prepared dish of the evening but a still amazingly delicious lamb with a really savory, umami-bomb black garlic romesco.
At this point in the evening, things start to get a little fuzzy from all the cocktails and wine pairings, but I definitely remembering busting into this marshmallow-looking, raspberry powder encrusted scoop of ice cream only to find a gorgeously dark and syrupy balsamic vinegar oozing out. Everyone freaked at this dish, which looked so simple from its presentation.
I had this dessert the first time at WD-50 and it was probably one of the most memorable courses from that meal because it was so refreshing and new. A layer of cucumber ice on top with this almost bacon-y cashew crumble and once you cracked through the top, a dreamy custard below.
“French toast” that was black-out good. Super crusty and crispy on the outside and almost custardy in the middle paired with a raisiny and not-too-sweet dessert wine.
Our last course at WD-50 (though we really, really didn’t want it to end) – an assortment of mignardises, including these little balls of gjetost, a Scandinavian whey cheese covered with a layer of white chocolate, that I had at my first time at WD-50, mini churros and something like a pate de fruit. We were all definitely kind of depressed to realize we’d never be back in this particular space, eating this kind of food. To cope, we hilariously (and very drunkenly) decided to drown our sorrows in some Disney-focused karaoke at nearby Karaoke Boho. A super hi-low and perfect kind of night.
Thanks so much to Wylie and the entire team at WD-50 for treating us so well over the years and consistently delivering course after course of amazing food…it was truly one of, if not the most delicious meals I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to see what you do next!
November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
A first look at the new West Village, Italian-French bistro-esque eatery by Jody Williams of Buvette and Rita Sodi of I Sodi. The new place is definitely much roomier than Buvette, except they crammed as many tables into the space as they possibly could, and though the fluorescent lighting is a bit strange, the food, friendly and attentive service and casual, neighborhood atmosphere more than make up for it. We started with a bottle of reasonably priced, toasty and surprisingly, slightly funky, Montepulciano, the black kale + pork sausage (always good to get some roughage) and winter vegetable lasagna, which tasted like a delicious cross between a potato gratin and a lasagna and really hit the spot for a cooler night.
On the mains, we’d already heard great things about the chopped steak, or svizzerina, which Grub Street described as a bunless burger, but it seemed to both of us to be more like a beautifully seared beef tartare, basted in softened garlic (which you can also rub all over the grilled bread that comes to the table), rosemary and olive oil. Pure, unadulterated beef flavor and definitely straight up rare on the inside (as a warning to those who are a bit on the squeamish side). My mussels over grilled bread were just this side of over-salted but again, exactly what I was craving from the brisk weather. Comforting, saucy and a great balance of sweet and acid over lovely charred crusty bread. It was also refreshing to see that the entrees were decent sized portions and from what I remember of the menu, all under $20 (more in the $15-$16 range). I will definitely be going back to sample more of the pastas, vegetable dishes and a fried rabbit that looks ridiculously tasty.
There’s no website for Via Carota (53 Grove Street between Bleecker and 7th Avenue) just yet and they don’t take reservations, but if you happen to be walking around the West Village on a cold winter night, it’s a great place to stop by, sit at the bar, order a couple dishes and just dig in.