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.

 

 

Sushi Katsuei

May 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Another day, another sushi spot. This time at the new Sushi Katsuei on 6th Avenue in the West Village, which is the second location of chef Aung Ko Win (the first location is in Park Slope) and focused on offering more affordable omakase options. I opted for the open omakase on this initial visit to see the scope of the menu and was impressed with the quality given the lower price point compared to other temples of sushi. Win is also not super wed to tradition so appreciated having certain pieces dressed with decidedly un-Japanese garnishes (e.g., a light squeeze of lemon and sea salt) which nevertheless enhanced the fish and never really overwhelmed.

Ocean trout – continues to be one of my favorite types of fish for its richness

King salmon

Fatty toro

Medium fatty toro

Herring with kombu – I’m still not really sure how this dish was prepared but it was slightly bitter and a nice palate cleanser between courses

Shima aji with yuzu kosho

Horse mackerel – stunning to look at as well

Cuttlefish – actually not the biggest fan of cuttlefish due to its tendency to be overly chewy. That was the case here.

Scallop – supremely sweet and accentuated by the lemon and salt

Baby squid – obviously interesting to look at but overly fishy in flavor to me

Orange clam – one of my favorites. Toothsome texture and nice and briny

Hokkaido uni – no skimping on serving size here

Cherry-marinated black snapper – a special from Chef Win. Incredibly floral with hint of shiso underneath

Striped pigfish

Overall, I’m very happy to have another sushi option in the neighborhood, especially one that’s reasonably priced but still delivers in terms of variety of fish and quality. As far as I can tell, they’ve been pretty busy from day one (and I only managed to get my seat because it was 5:30 P.M. that day) but it seems like, if you call ahead, that they try to be as accommodating as possible.

Solo Dining at the Bar

March 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of solo bar dining when I get a lazy and quiet Saturday or Sunday. Some people are tentative about dining alone but it can be really enjoyable to take some time to oneself with a good book or even your phone. Usually, I try to go to a restaurant during off hours, around 3pm (assuming the restaurant remains open between lunch and dinner service), so I can take up my little slice of the bar and chat with the bartender or other patrons without having to yell. Below are some places I’ve gone to recently where I really enjoyed my experience:

Via Carota: Spicy shrimp pomodoro atop a super flavorful, slightly cheesy polenta. I also always start with the fried olives wrapped in pork sausage…the perfect bar food.

Aquagrill: Oysters and littlenecks with house cocktail sauce, horseradish and mignonette. This place has been open for 20+ years and tends to get pretty packed during prime lunch, brunch and dinner hours but around 3pm, you can usually snag a seat. My usual approach is ordering 6 west coast and 6 east oysters – I leave the particular details to the awesome shuckers – and then some sparkling white wine and maybe french fries on the side.

Union Square Cafe 2.0: The new space is gorgeous and definitely evocative of the original. Service was, as expected, incredibly friendly, and I really enjoyed my spontaneous lunch here when I took a day off. There’s a small bar on one of the upper levels as well so will definitely want to go back and get a seat there next time.

Fried calamari with peppers and anchovy mayonnaise

Rainbow trout with roe, rye, leafy greens, buttermilk and fingerling potatoes

Babbo: I came here for an early dinner after skipping lunch. Vibe at the bar is super casual and low-key even though the food is a bit more high end than Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s more casual places in the neighborhood like Lupa and OTTO. Here, a fantastic roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and black truffle honey that was the right balance of sweet and savory.

Chianti-stained pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Excellent for the early cold evening.

Augustine: There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this place (it’s Keith McNally’s most recent restaurant) but have to say the food and the ambiance lived up to expectations. It really does feel like you’re in an old school Parisian bistro (also…the way to the bathroom takes you through the incredibly beautiful Beekman Hotel lobby that’s perfect Instagram fodder) and my cheese souffle with cave-aged gruyere and parmesan and horseradish fondue was absolutely insane. Rich and cloud light at the same time.

I also ordered the sea urchin spaghettini with king crab and pickled jalapenos with my main and they did not skimp on the ingredients. So damned good, and at 3:30p on a Wednesday, so quiet compared to what I’m sure is a madhouse on a Friday night!

The lobby inside the Beekman Hotel

Finally, the NoMad Hotel: Excellent cocktails and a sandwich version of their famous roasted chicken dish, with black truffle and foie gras on brioche and a side salad (because I guess you need some green every once in a while). The cocktail was called the Start Me Up, a super tasty concoction of bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon bitters. A great Saturday afternoon.

So even if you’re tentative about dining alone at the bar, I really do think it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-releasing things you can do for yourself. It’s probably easiest to go to a restaurant you’re already familiar with so you feel comfortable and just remember to bring a good book (or your iPad) and open yourself up to conversation with the bartenders or other customers. Sometimes you meeting really fascinating people!

Sushi Nakazawa

October 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Dinner at that temple of sushi, Sushi Nakazawa (and as you’ll see below, it really did feel like a temple). I’d been wanting to go ever since it opened to rave reviews but was always too lazy to bother scouring reservations for a decent time at the bar. Finally, near the end of the summer, when I had a serious sushi craving and work was slow, I managed to snag an 8:30 p.m. spot at the 10 seat counter. The reservation was on a Saturday evening, which meant that Chef Nakazawa (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame) wasn’t in, but the quality of the food and service was still at the highest level (as it should be, given the price of the omakase).

While the overall experience was wonderful, the general atmosphere seemed a bit stiff to me – the interior was very sleek and modern (almost sterile-feeling), the chefs behind the counter didn’t seem particularly keen to make conversation (even more noticeable since there was no music playing) and the other guests were mostly a well-heeled crowd that seemed to hold the restaurant in such reverence that they weren’t willing to let loose and relax (also, there was a super hip woman wearing a fedora throughout the entire dinner, which I just didn’t understand. I must be getting old). I’m still very glad to have had the chance to go, but given the choice, I’d much rather go to Shuko for dinner, where the food is still perfectly executed (and honestly, more interesting – especially when doing the kaiseki menu) and everyone, guests and chefs, is having a fun time making conversation in a warm and inviting room with Top 40 or old school hip hop blaring in the background.

On the other hand, in addition to the pristine fish, Nakazawa’s sake pairing for $45 is an absolute steal. Compared to some high-end, tasting menu pairings which can set you back another $150 or so (which includes the pairing at Shuko), this was so affordable and I really enjoyed the choices (and the obscenely generous pours). Anyway, see below for the actual courses:

Chum salmon, smoked sockeye salmon, soy marinated salmon

Chefs hard at work

Scallop

Squid

Sea bass

Barrel fish

Spanish mackerel – this was a favorite of mine.

Horse mackerel

Unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of this particular type of fish.

Dungeness crab

Preparing the botan ebi…look at those dimples

Spot prawn – seriously delicious

Skipjack

Trio of tuna from leanest to fattiest

California and Hokkaido uni – always a crowd pleaser

Unagi and the infamous tamago

A lighter sorbet and tea to round out the meal

 

Misc. Eats

June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Remembering when I still had it easy at work and weekends were free…just need to make it through June 30. Here – a lazy Sunday lunch at the Via Carota bar, starting with fried green olives with pork sausage and a superb negroni

A huge, hands-only kamayan feast featuring banana ketchup ribs, longanisa sausage, whole head-on shrimp, braised lamb, etc. at Filipino gastropub, Jeepney, in East Village with Cahill friends. Total gut bomb.

The Macho Man sandwich from a new favorite, Court Street Grocers – heritage pork shoulder, cabot cheddar, coleslaw, pickled jalapenos and duck sauce on garlic bread. Between this, the Delight and the Cubano, I can order from here about 4 times a week. So dangerous.

Dinner with Artemis at Mario Batali’s new restaurant, La Sirena, in the Meatpacking District. Bucatini with braised octopus in spicy pomodoro sauce and then ravioli all’amatriciana with spring onion butter…quite tasty but wasn’t crazy about the atmosphere, the service or the scene

Lunch at Legend near Washington Square Park with the family. We ordered our usual dishes – spicy lamb with cumin, spicy beef tendon with chili vinaigrette and a seriously delicious whole braised fish with spicy bean sauce – and went for a really long walk afterwards to recover

Sunday night shellfish bake at North End Grill – half a Maine lobster, head-on prawns, clams, new potatoes and corn in an addictive garlic butter and then sweet gem lettuce and blue cheese dressing on the side. Not pictured: duck fat fries and a lot of white wine.

The famous, substantial duck carnitas at Cosme…’nuff said.

Late night eats at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken…my ultimate weakness.

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.

Eats around town

March 21, 2016 § Leave a comment

Blue Ribbon Sushi at Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place

Favorite dishes – bombolotti all’Amatriciana (sauce of spicy tomato and guanciale) and roasted sunchokes with almonds and brown butter – at Maialino during a leisurely lunch while between jobs

Introducing Laura to Toro‘s grilled corn and bone marrow (look at those gorgeous colors!)

Sadelle‘s pick up (sesame bagel with smoked Scottish salmon, chive cream cheese, red onion, tomato, capers). I was obsessed with their bagels for a while but now the lines have gotten too long and I’m pretty sure they upped their prices.

Matcha latte at Chalait – gorgeously prepared but not sure I’ll be getting on the matcha trend train any time soon

Spaghetti alla vongole at Rafele Ristorante, my parents’ favorite restaurant whenever they come to visit (though we introduced them to OTTO the last time they were here so now they may have a new favorite Italian place)

Lovely Sunday brunch with Bohee at the beautiful Untitled at the Whitney

Booze-free dinner at Balthazar with Cindy (clearly not skimping on French fries though)

Delicious and super spicy spread at Pok Pok lunch (finally tried it after years of wanting to go) with Wes

More Sadelle’s – this time dining in with the full-on smoked fish tower and endless bagels (much better than just picking up)

Eats around town

January 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

A delicious brunch with Bohee at Claudette, right by Washington Square Park, consisting of their chicken liver mousse with soft, squishy pain Tunisien and a super juicy lamb burger

Another solo visit to Via Carota in the middle of a day of errands. The bartender highly recommended the lemon grilled chicken and though it didn’t sound particularly thrilling on the menu, I was impressed (and it’s so cute!)

Craftbar with co-workers – delicious burrata, kale (meh) and winter squash salad, duck hearts and dumplings and of course, the oozy pecorino fonduta, my favorite item on the menu

Lunch at old reliable, Charlie Bird – diver scallops with brown butter and Sicilian lemon and mezze paccherie with suckling pig and saffron ragu (and their addictive house-made chili oil). I should probably start trying more new places but am a huge creature of habit.

Out and about

October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Family dim sum at Chinatown classic, Jing Fong:

Drinks at Dead Rabbit right by the office:

More dim sum, this time while working from home and ordered from Nom Wah:

A lunch of white wine and fresh, grilled seafood at Via Carota before my trip to Croatia:

Square pizza at Harry’s Italian as my first meal back in the U.S. after Yacht Week:

Simple summer meal at home with tomatoes and basil from the Union Square Greenmarket, Murray’s Cheese ricotta and Blue Ribbon country bread:

Late-night drunken eats at Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s:

Ordering in Xi’an Famous Foods for Laura’s birthday meal:

The #1 at Black Seed Bagels in Nolita (so good):

Here and there

June 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Scotch eggs and steak tartare with Christine at Dead Rabbit, where she first told me she was going back to California 😦

A relaxing night in with Spunto

My first time at i Sodi with Artemis – an enormous steak with arugula and rabbit prepared porchetta-style with spinach

Enjoying a beautiful plateau and more oysters at John Dory with Christine and Laura

Trying a new dish of scallop and ham crudo at Momofuku Ssam Bar to celebrate Laura’s decision to attend Yale’s architecture grad program

An old reliable while dining solo – steak tartare and red wine at Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen

El Luchador – a new lunch option near the office with outdoor seating

Hot pot during a brief trip back to Edison, NJ

More solo dining while on staycation – the omakase meal at Blue Ribbon Sushi and lunch at the Lupa bar

Shots from the beautiful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (GO)

Pork belly appetizer from Han Dynasty

Christine’s good-bye, hosted by Artemis and one of my favorite wines of the night

Excited about the next few posts coming up…whenever I manage to get to them.

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