EN Japanese Brasserie
September 29, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’ve lived in Soho for about four years now (damn, has time flown by) but only recently tried EN Japanese Brasserie for the first time, even though I’m at Lelabar across the street probably more often than I am home. Friends who have been going for years kept recommending it and we finally found a time to go together for dinner. Everything about the meal – the beautiful space; friendly service and delicious yet not-too-heavy Japanese fare – was superb and I can’t wait to go again.
The famous house made soft tofu with wari-joyu, a light soy sauce. I’ve never had tofu this fresh in the U.S. and it was so damn good. Slightly warm and full of toasty soybean flavor with the texture of a creamy ricotta. The wari-joyu adds just the right amount of seasoning.
Below is the momotaro tomato with homemade miso mayo. This gift from the kitchen is apparently a fancy tomato grown in California? I dunno…it was very good and pretty as tomatoes go but…again, it was literally a tomato cut into wedges with a dipping sauce (that was very good because duh…mayo) with some needed sea salt on the side. I wouldn’t actually pay for this particular dish, especially when there are still great tomatoes to be had at the greenmarket.
O-banzai, small Kyoto style dishes, to start the meal. We got the fried eggplant and zucchini with katsuobushi; the shoyu-braised pork belly sliced and served with lotus root and the assorted Japanese mushrooms with sun-dried daikon in yuzu. Although they were all delicious, the pork belly and lotus root was the best. You can get 3 of the o-banzai items for $16 instead of $6 each and next time, as Paul and Gakii suggested, I’d probably do 2 servings of the pork belly, it was that good. Sweet fatty pork with the nice crunch from earthy lotus root, it reminded me of one of my mom’s braises that she used to make for us at home. We also got the Big Eye tuna salad with avocado and wasabi dressing that, while not life-changing, was very good and nicely seasoned as tuna and avocado salads go.
We ordered additional small dishes for our main course and these were definitely the highlight of the evening. From the get-go, our server asked if we were fans of uni and mentioned that they’d just gotten a very small delivery of really prized uni from a specific area in Hokkaido (sorry, I don’t remember the name. I heard “uni” and was like, “yes, please”). We asked how she suggested we’d eat it and she said the kitchen recommended just eating it straight with a spoon to make sure we got pure uni flavor. It came out in the tray, as you see below, looking beautifully orange and super plump and we just went at it. Super sweet, slightly briny and the loveliest buttery texture, I was in heaven. Will be remembering that for a long time, which is crazy because it’s literally raw uni presented without any manipulation.
We also ordered the grilled salmon and yellowtail collars (pictured below), both further examples of how simplicity is usually the better way to go when the raw materials are high enough quality. I preferred the yellowtail, which was a bit more tender and was surprised by how much meat you could actually cull from each of those portions.
For our dessert, we ordered some really delicious black sesame and earl grey ice creams but the indisputable show-stopper was this giant mountain of green tea shaved ice with red bean hidden at the bottom. Doesn’t it look like one of those Chinese calligraphy paintings? Not too sweet and super refreshing, it was a great cap on a relatively light and satisfying meal. I couldn’t believe it’d taken me this long to finally visit EN but I’m excited to go back soon. And of course, we ended up going across the street to Lelabar for some more wine afterwards.
April 26, 2017 § Leave a comment
Dinner at Batard in Tribeca a few weeks ago. The weather had been absolutely miserable outside that day (pouring rain, random winds) and work was crazy so to indulge in a really nice French meal before the weekend felt like a huge treat. I’d gone once before when they first opened a few years back and really enjoyed the experience but had basically since forgotten that this place is always a nice option for something a bit fancier. There are a number of options in terms of how many courses you can order but it’s actually a pretty good deal considering the amount and quality of the food. We decided to do three savory courses for $75 plus the cheese plate option since neither of us really likes dessert.
House breads and butter with sea salt on top.
Octopus “pastrami” with braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes – a Batard classic and I think it’s always been on the menu. Really interesting way to showcase octopus that I haven’t seen anywhere else plus the meaty pastrami flavors really come through.
Steak tartare with brandy, egg yolk and sourdough batard
Celeriac tortellini with black truffle coulis, cashew and cured egg yolk – really loved this dish, especially given the shitty weather outside. Earthy flavors, wonderfully tender handmade pasta and a nice crunch from the cashews
Rabbit sausage with risotto, spigarello and meyer lemon – this was really delicious and satisfying as well. Don’t know that I’d ever had rabbit sausage before but it was surprisingly delicate against the creamy risotto.
Duck breast with braised salsify, cara cara orange and crispy quinoa – really powerful citrus flavor and perfectly medium rare duck with crispy skin. Nicely executed overall and stunning to look at.
Braised porcelet shoulder with savoy cabbage, cipollini onions and miso – definitely a bit more on the comfort food side in terms of presentation but I really enjoyed the tender meat with standard onions + cabbage + potato combo. The miso didn’t come across particularly strong for me and may have gotten a bit lost in all the other flavors but still a very solid dish.
Cheese plate of Little Napoleon (bloomy-rind goat’s milk from Ann Arbor); Epoisses (stinky, delicious cow’s milk from Burgundy); Annelies (raw cow’s milk from Appenzell and Crown Heights cave-aged); Queso del Invierno (aged sheep and cow’s milk from Westminster, VT); and Bayley Hazen Blue (blue-veined raw cow’s milk from Greensboro, VT). As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth and Batard had a fantastic looking cheese cart in the dining room, so we opted to get a plate instead with apricot preserves and aged balsamic vinegar. Standouts were the Little Napoleon, which was super spreadable and had just the right amount of tanginess; the Epoisses…because duh, it’s Epoisses and the Bayley Hazen Blue, which was surprising since I don’t really like the funkier blues.
Overall, a really satisfying dinner with friendly service and a knowledgeable sommelier (we’d ordered a bottle of white and then red burgundy but unfortunately I can’t recall anything other than they were delicious and paired well with our dishes). It’s a great place for a date or a special occasion, where they’re serving seriously first rate food but the dining room isn’t too hush hush and actually sometimes quite boisterous. The bar is kind of small and right at the entrance so I wouldn’t choose to eat your meal there but from what I can tell, it’s surprisingly easy to get reservations, even the day of. Enjoy!
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.
Spanish mackerel belly – this was a standout and a great example of how aging can firm up the texture of fish.
Horse mackerel – again, such a pretty piece
Medium fatty tuna
Hokkaido uni – always a favorite and super generous with the uni
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.
February 6, 2017 § Leave a comment
Another stellar meal at Shuko, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. The chefs and staff are always so warm and welcoming, practicing their craft to perfection, and I love that you can eat pristinely prepared sushi and kaiseki dishes in an environment that’s casually blaring old school hip hop or Justin Bieber at any given time. Dress is as casual or formal as you want it to be and it’s not out of the ordinary to strike up a conversation with your neighbor at the counter. Plus, even though the kaiseki tasting menu consists of a long procession of dishes, I never feel like I’m about to burst out of my jeans by the time the meal has ended…which has happened before at dinners with a French or New American emphasis on cuisine.
Highlights of the cooked dishes from this visit include the crispy fried oyster with hollandaise, black truffle and pea shoots (a wonderful mix of textures and earthiness against fresh greenery); cumin-inflected squid with carrots and fennel and a meltingly tender braised veal cheek with crispy fried sunchoke, sunchoke puree and fresh Asian pear.
Sushi-wise, the first toro piece was beautiful as always…perfectly rich and unctuous. Also really loved the amber jack; ocean trout (which I didn’t get to have the last time I visited but remember loving); Spanish mackerel; sweet, sweet scallop; baby shrimp; uni (of course); a mini roll of grilled toro with chiles and scallion that was completely out of this world; the matsutake and truffle tempura that was super light for something fried; and finally, the charcoal-grilled tuna we ordered as a supplement that I will never be able to forgo ever again. Amazing to see our awesome chef Andre prepare it in front of our eyes and hand it to us seconds later, still smoking and glistening from all that fat. A couple bites of the famous apple pie and I was ready to (blissfully) call it a night. Can’t wait til the next time!
May 16, 2016 § Leave a comment
Still catching up on posting…these are from a few months back when I knew I was leaving Cahill and started scaling back on work to take some off-campus lunches and catch up with old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Dinner at Untitled at the Whitney. We started off with Carolina rice fritters that came smeared with chicken liver and pickled carrots and lamb meatballs with peanuts and guajillo pepper. A super fancy, farm-to-table version of bar snacks.
Instead of ordering heavier main dishes, we shared the beef tartare with chestnuts and winter squash; cauliflower, cardamom custard and lemon; and sunchokes with bacon and cloumage cheese, which was my favorite of the three.
And because we’d decided not to drink any booze, we justified ordering two desserts – the hot fudge truffle cake with creme fraiche which I could only handle two bites of, it was so rich, and the ridiculous, giant banana hazelnut praline cake with concord grape sauce. Not bad for a weeknight meal.
I also got lunch with Bert and Artemis at Tribeca favorite, Little Park, conveniently located right outside the Chambers Street subway stop. Here are the charred broccoli with radish, blood orange and pancetta with the roasted carrots with sesame, dukkah and honey. I normally don’t really care for carrots but this was an interesting sweet and savory take thanks to the dukkah, which I’d never really tasted, and honey.
A favorite dish from a previous visit – the crispy brussels sprouts with parsnip and apple cider. These taste a lot like the sprouts from Rouge et Blanc…mainly in that they’re both hella fried and have a nice acidic bite to them. I could eat bowls and bowls of these no problem.
My main of rainbow trout, fingerling potato, dill and celery. A nice, light take on the fish salad combination. Which was good considering I was meeting up with old high school friends at Khe-Yo later that evening.
Aforementioned dinner with Lucy and Steph at Khe-Yo, also in Tribeca, although a totally different cuisine. It was one of the few times I’d ever had Laotian and man, is it addictive (and spicy). Here is the smashed green papaya salad with fried pork rinds on top and their two famous sauces (one of which basically just singes all your tastebuds off if you’re not careful).
A gout-tastic dish of steak tartare hidden underneath just-fried shrimp chips served with bone marrow and a bunch of uni heaped on top (no big deal).
Super succulent, tender and slightly sweet Berkshire pork spare ribs with a smashed long bean salad that I didn’t really care for.
And the day’s special and indisputable show-stopper, half a roasted pig’s head served with accoutrements like herbs, noodle salad and peanuts, all of which you wrap with sauce in rice paper that’s soaked and softened at the table. Unsurprisingly, I was really struggling by the end of this meal and took a painful hour long walk to feel somewhat back to normal.
April 30, 2016 § Leave a comment
My favorite restaurant, without a doubt, is Momofuku Ko in the East Village, and lately, I’ve been lucky enough to visit multiple times. Everyone there is so warm and friendly (they remember your name and your favorite dishes by your second visit), the food that chef Sean Alex Gray and his hard-working team are putting forth is as creative as any I’ve ever had (and absolutely gorgeous on the plate, without being too fussy) and the interiors and details at the new location on Extra Place are as particular and unique as the food that’s coming out. All of the accolades and praise they’ve received since their relocation and revamp are well deserved (though the only downside is that it’s now harder to get those already super-coveted counter seats). Below are the dishes (note some are older and might no longer be on the ever-changing menu) that I’ve had recently, some in their final form and some in development. One cool thing about multiple visits is seeing how specific dishes are conceived, initially executed and then refined over and over again until they’ve reached their final iteration, which still sometimes undergo changes depending on ingredients and season. That being said, I’ve never had a dish, work in progress or otherwise, that’s disappointed. Below are some standout dishes…but because I’m lazy and it already took me forever to get this post up in the first place, all you get are minimal notes from what I remember:
Bites of potato waffle, pommes soufflees, lobster paloise and millefeuille. Super high end finger food. The lobster paloise, which I’ve had multiple times now, is my favorite of any of their amuse-bouches offered so far.
Madai – consomme, shiso and finger lime…a relatively newer dish that’s now one of my favorites for its pure flavors. Lately, they’ve been serving it with sea bass instead of madai, which is a bit firmer and stands up really well.
Raw scallop with tonburi (a Japanese herb known as “caviar of the fields”) and citron. Here, paired with Kaika “Tobindori Shizuku Daiginjo” from Togichi, Japan.
An old favorite and Ko staple: uni with chickpea and hozon. I love everything about this dish – the colors, the slightly different textures and the olive oil and sea salt that make everything pop.
Razor clams with apple and basil seeds, paired with two 2014 wines from Peter Lauer. Stunning.
Oh my god…this. Caviar with potatoes that would make Joel de Robuchon cry they’re so buttery and addictive and hidden fermented radish on the bottom to cut through all that richness, served with sourdough bread and cultured butter and Tarlant champagne. Just look at those velvety potatoes and the way they’re draped in the bowl. Ugh.
Monkfish with a sauce of its liver and a sauce of poblano. Love the heavily white presentation accented by the green (also I need to figure out where the dishware came from). I was never really interested in monkfish prior but damn if this didn’t change my mind. So tender and ingenious to serve it with its own liver. Now I try to see if anywhere else has a better version. So far…no.
Crack pasta. Actually, pyramidi with broccoli and aged cheddar with just a little black truffle shaved on top. Who knew broccoli pasta could be so exciting? If they figured out a way to freeze and package this, I’d eat nothing else, carbs be damned. Paired with Andre et Mireille Tissot Cremant du Jura “Indigene” NV rinsed with Tissot “Chateau-Chalon,” Vin Jaune, both from Jura, France.
Venison with kale and olive berry, paired with 2011 Chateau Moulin de Tricot from Margaux, Bordeaux.
Another Ko favorite: foie gras with lychee, pine nut brittle and riesling jelly. Don’t really have anything to say about this other than it’s always wonderful.
Ko’s version of a creamsicle – carrot cardamom and meringue, paired with a 2013 pear cider from Cidrerie de Vulcain from Switzerland.
Chocolate cake with mint and fernet branca, paired with Zucca and root beer (?). Not typically one for desserts but the above creamsicle and this were just sweet enough without being cloying. Also, any dessert with fernet is OK by me.
And on visits that followed, some new dishes included:
Happy Valley beef with accoutrements I can’t recall that was perfectly cooked and beautiful to look at. I think the green is some kind of parsley puree. Ko also started my obsession with MUD Australia ceramics that has by now cost me a pretty penny.
New amuse-bouches: fried chicken oysters with dried honey mustard (take that, Wendy’s!), potato waffles, Ko Cheez-its and a shot of kimchi granita to offset all that fried goodness. On a following visit, we ordered another 6 pieces because we are crazy and the people there are awesome.
Lobster “bouillabaisse” with new potatoes and aioli. Just look at those colors. That sauce is one of the most shellfish-y (in a good way) sauces I’ve ever had and each time, I use their new flatbread to mop it all up.
Duck pie and greens. Can’t imagine the technique and time that goes into making this dish come out as great as it did but it was gone within 30 seconds.
An early version of the chocolate mousse and olive oil ice cream dish that’s now on the counter menu. Again, slightly bitter and barely sweet, with a nice contrast from the bergamot sauce drizzled on top.
Happy Valley beef again with a fried potato churro. That’s right. Potato. Churro. Think on this visit we had way too much wine (including a 1997 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino…life was not bad that day) so when I was hungover the next morning, 50 more of those churros delivered to my bed would’ve been really nice.
So if those above photos don’t make you go straight to the Momofuku Ko website and try to make a reservation (by the way, they’re actually open for lunch now as well), then I don’t know what will…Just do it and I can guarantee you’ll have a meal of a lifetime.
Paris, Part 1
April 17, 2016 § Leave a comment
Vanessa and I recently went on a dream trip to Paris and by the end, neither of us wanted to come back. Both of us had visited before so our main objectives this time around were simply eating and drinking as much great food and wine as possible, wandering aimlessly a la flaneur, meeting cute French guys and getting in some serious shopping, all of which we handily accomplished and then some.
We stayed in a seriously gorgeous AirBnb 2 bedroom apartment on the left bank in the St. Germain area, a neighborhood I fell in love with the last time I visited, full of charming boutiques and bistros and of course…the department store, Le Bon Marche. Assuming that I get to visit Paris more regularly in the future, I would stay here again and again.
We had our first lunch at Cafe Varenne, just down the street from our apartment and a sentimental favorite from my last time in Paris. A bottle of red wine (by the way, we couldn’t get over how inexpensive great red wine was in Paris…it made NYC prices look like absolute gouging), steak and frites and we were super happy campers, despite the lack of sleep.
Dinner at the super hip, draped-in-velvet Hotel Costes…where you could smoke on the terrace and all the servers were beautiful. We shared a bottle of champagne and then I had a lighter dinner of sweet, freshly grilled langoustines with some greens.
Another epic meal of the trip at L’Avant Comptoir, the standing-only bar next to the famous bistro, Le Comptoir. We had SO much fun here just drinking and eating small bites and shocking the bartender, Baptiste, at how much we could stuff down our gullets over the course of about six (yes, that’s right, six) hours. I really loved the communal Bordier butter (Vanessa became obsessed) and bread as well as the giant jar of cornichons (NYC DOH would have fainted). Also…there were a lot of cute, friendly French men here which may have contributed to why we stayed so long…
Menu items hanging from the ceiling
Some of the 16 dishes (again…it was an epic meal) that we ordered over the course of several hours – duck sausage hot dog, blood sausage with brandied apples, shishito peppers, giant slab of Bordier butter, gratineed scallop and oh…just our third bottle of wine…
One of the most special meals we had was a lunch at L’Arpege, a 3-Michelin starred restaurant with a focus on vegetables (which we were actually thankful for after our meat-heavy binge at L’Avant Comptoir). We started with more champagne (a habit we eagerly adopted during the rest of our trip) and the lightest black pepper and onion pastry.
Some other highlights of the tasting menu were the perfectly cooked Dover sole with charred cabbage and their version of bouillabaisse. Such bright and clean flavors and again, surprisingly light. Just look at those pops of color!
Some non-food related activities: a visit to Sacre Coeur in the Montmartre neighborhood and then seeing Dita von Teese (one of my ultimate girl crushes) perform a seriously amazing show at the famous club, Crazy Horse.
Stayed tuned for more in the next post!
January 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
My last dinner in San Francisco took place at industry favorite and late night spot, Nopa. Multiple people had recommended it to me (both recent visitors and locals) and after a super fun but tiring day at a 49-ers game (my first NFL game ever!) in the brand new Levi’s Stadium and a nice long nap, I was ready to eat a ton of delicious food. We managed to get some seats at the bar after a half hour wait around 10 p.m. I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shirdoo got one of their whisky cocktails and we started with their fusilli with lamb sugo, scallions and toasted fennel. Comfort on a plate…so warm and flavorful and perfect for a chilly evening.
We also got the wood oven-roasted mackerel with pickled beets, egg salad, radishes and rye toast, which was my favorite dish of the night. Again, I am a sucker for mackerel and this was a really nice version that reminded me of traditional offerings at your classic New York Jewish delis. The skin was slightly charred and crispy and the meat lightly cooked and complemented by the pickles and rye. Being a total potato-whore, I also really enjoyed the french fries with ketchup and red pepper feta aioli but didn’t really pay much attention given how good our other dishes were.
Last dish of the night was also a show-stopper: grilled squab with marinated potatoes and Mediterranean salad. Seriously beautiful to look at and served with all the nasty, innard-y (and yummy) bits of the bird. The flavors from the accompanying salad were also really bright and fresh, with a slight sweetness from the pomegranate seeds. We finished our meal with a couple glasses of dry sherry that the bartender recommended (service, by the way, was outstanding throughout the night) and left around midnight super full and sleepy (will also note that the restaurant was still buzzing when we were leaving). A wonderful ending to my first time in California and I will definitely be back soon.