Dos Caminos and Tertulia (again)

May 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s been a whirlwind first week at work (in only a very good way), and between all the firm lunches and receptions, I still managed to explore some restaurants in the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

First, YJC and I dined al fresco at Dos Caminos on W. Houston Street after she had a long day at work. We weren’t too hungry since it was pretty late, so we shared a huge bowl of guacamole, a trio of salsas ranging from mild to scorchingly hot, and freshly-fried tortilla chips and a side of crispy sweet potato fries (though I’m still partial to the ones at Maxie’s Supper Club in Ithaca).

Dining al fresco at Dos Caminos Soho

I also ordered the chicken taquitos – pulled chicken rolled in crispy corn tortillas with shaved lettuce, queso fresco, and a tomatillo-avocado sauce and YJC got the Mexican chopped salad with a heap of tasty things like grilled corn, poblano chiles, green olives, and toasted cumin vinaigrette. No complaints – I like to think that I make a pretty mean guacamole and the version at Dos Caminos hit all the right notes of creamy from the avocado, sharp acid from the lime, and pungency from the onion with a good seasoning of salt. My taquitos, though on the small side, were filled with tender spicy chicken and the fried tortillas were fresh as can be. We’ll have to go back soon for their margaritas…the frozen prickly pear rendition sounds particularly intriguing.

While walking up 6th Avenue the next day, I happily discovered that Tertulia, Spanish tapas heaven, is only a couple blocks down the street from my summer apartment, so I rounded together some other food-obsessed summers for a dinner because I figured the more people we had, the more dishes we could try.

Radish salad and grilled prawns

We ordered my favorites from the last time I visited – the brussel sprouts with pork belly and mojo picon, the flash-fried shishito peppers and sea salt, and my favorite, the roasted potatoes with pimenton and garlic all i oli, and rounded out the meal with the radish salad with baby rainbow carrots and anchovy vinaigrette and grilled Mediterranean prawns.

Forever favorite dishes at Tertulia

Everything was insanely delicious, from the super crispy taters to the acidic and pork-coated brussel sprouts to the prawn heads, out of which we enthusiastically sucked out the brain juices. I was reminded of Mark Bittman’s quote, “the juice in the head of the shrimp can only be described as God’s soup.” Add two bottles of the house red wine (we are still law students after all) and great conversation, and it was a pretty awesome, noisy night.

The next day, while work was slow, we created a huge Excel spreadsheet of all the NYC restaurants (I think the current tally is around 80) we wanted to visit, so prepare yourselves for a summer of epic eating and good company.

Dos Caminos Soho
475 W. Broadway at Houston Street
New York, NY 10012
212.277.4300

Tertulia
359 6th Avenue
New York, NY
646.559.9909

Gelato and Osteria Morini

April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dessert before dinner. That’s how Laura and I started this evening of eating, which turned out to be all about Italian flavors. We actually stumbled upon this outpost of L’Arte del Gelato by accident, tucked away into the corner of 7th Avenue and Barrow Street, and after a long afternoon of wandering downtown on a sunny day, we couldn’t wait until after dinner for a sweet bite. Laura had the mixed berry and amaretto (my new favorite) and I had grapefruit campari with budino di riso (rice). What I always love about the gelato here is the incredibly bright and intense flavors – grapefruit is slightly bitter but sweet and bursting with citrus, amaretto tastes like the purest form of almond aside from eating the nut itself.

After more walking, we were completely exhausted and starving once again (no surprise there). Luckily, we were very close to Osteria Morini, Michael White’s more casual Italian restaurant, and sat down to a very leisurely meal of cured meats and insanely good pastas.

We began with a selection of meats and cheese – prosciutto di Parma, sopressata (a sweet cured pork sausage), and quadrello di Bufala (a semi-soft cheese made from buffalo’s milk). Our selection also came with a generous side of accompaniments and bread. There was grilled bread, bread studded with currants, and a puffy bun-like bread along with dried figs, roasted almonds, and a master-fat-like spread tasting strongly of pork and herbs. I can never really find complain about good quality cured meats and these were superb, and as someone who usually doesn’t care much for cheese, this buffalo’s milk choice was quite good, not too funky and quite creamy and smooth.

The pastas, however, were the hands-down highlights of the meal, and I finally got to see what all the Michael White fuss is about. If he make a seemingly simple meat sauce this great, I can’t wait to see what he does with the bone marrow and baby octopus fusilli dish at Marea. We ordered the cappelletti, a truffled ricotta ravioli with melted butter and prosciutto, and the gramigna, macaroni with pork sausage, peas, cream, and black pepper.

I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but these dishes were among the most comforting, yet most intensely flavored, pastas I’ve ever had, and you could tell that they had been made fresh. The cappelletti especially hit you on the head with its truffle and ricotta filling – creamy, earthy, and out of this world – and didn’t even need the extra prosciutto to make a strong impression. The gramigna was equally packed with flavor; the pasta had the perfect texture and wasn’t overwhelmed by the pork sausage and cream sauce, and that extra sprinkling of Parmiggiano didn’t hurt either.

So, another Italian food gem in Soho. This, like OTTO, is a place that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day at work or school. You could just pull up a chair at the bar, order a glass of red wine or a cocktail and one of the amazing pastas, and just take your time savoring each bite.

L’arte del Gelato
75 7th Avenue S (Barrow Street)
New York, NY
212.924.0803

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
212.965.8777

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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