Tuesday, November 04, 2008
176 Perry Street
NY, NY 10014
Went to Perry Street on Sunday night for a 5:30pm dinner. The restaurant is all the way over on the West Side Highway in a hotel. It's very isolated with bumpy cobblestone streets and I can't imagine many people going out of their way to get here. Inside is dark and very sleek and modern. The place was absolutely empty, which isn't surprising for a 5:30pm early bird special. I started with a Cherry yuzu soda and found it to be nicely tart with a delicious cherry flavor. Payton started with a mojito.
The starting amuse was a sweet potato soup with Parmesan - delicious, warm and perfect on a cold day - salty, rich and smooth. Payton started with Calamari with chili and yuzu dipping sauce - lightly fried and perfectly cooked with a lemony garlic spiced dipping sauce. I chose to go with Poached eggs coated in panko and covered in caviar and on a buttered toasted brioche with a cream. This was rich and perfect and I wondered how they so perfectly poached the eggs and then managed to coat the eggs in the panko coated as if it was bonded through frying. The yolks oozed out of the eggs and I sopped this up with the small, buttery pieces of toast. The caviar lent a pop of saltiness to each bite. Perfect and very filling.
Payton went with the Chili crusted rack of lamb. It was accompanied by a chinese style BBQ sauce and haricot vert beans. The lamb was cooked perfectly and I enjoyed the asian, smoky flavor of the BBQ sauce and thought it went well with the lamb. I went with the butter poached lobster with plum vinegar and crystallized ginger. The lobster was covered in a foam and they were quite generous with the portion. The butter and lobster went well together as usual, but I also enjoyed the subtle ginger and vinegar flavor of the sauce. Both dishes were a good sized portions and thought they were very well cooked.
Saving room for dessert, Payton went with the roasted figs with creme fraiche and cumin ice cream. The cumin ice cream had a very distinctive taste and after having endured the scent and flavor of cumin all over my kitchen it was so nice to finally see it in a new and different fashion that might have actually made me stop hating it again. I chose the pear cobbler with fig sorbet and caramel sauce. The dessert was well done with a crisp tart crust underneath and not overly sweet. Payton enjoyed a nice glass of Port with her dessert and I had a glass of Sauternes.
By time we finished dinner it was 7:30pm and there were only 12 diners in the restaurant. There was plenty of staff and while service was relative good, they seemed to congregate together a lot and not be as attentive as they could. While the food was very good, I don't think we'd go out of our way to return here.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
We've been to a lot of places since my last post and unfortunately I haven't written about any of them. So, because of my horrible memory (that was the point of this whole blog) I cant really write anything. Let me at least try to remember where we've been (we've been to and I've written about some of these places already):
- Momofuku Ko - wasn't very impressed and nothing was very memorable - I'd rather go to Ssam.
- Blue Hill NYC - enjoyed it very much and want to go to the one to the north of NYC
- Four Seasons - very expensive and mediocre
- Babbo - always amazing - duck egg with white truffles on perfectly grilled bread is well worth the $80 in the Fall
- Jean Georges – this place and Babbo have to be my favorites in the city. One dish: egg shell filled with caviar and an egg cream inside is amazing – I'm not even a huge caviar person.
- Topolobampo – Chicago – Mexican food sounds so much better in your head and on the menu – the result is just muddled flavors
- Charlie Trotters – Chicago - phenominal
- Aureole – service and food were mediocre – it's a shame because I've had better experiences in the past
- Peasant – pretty good
- Santon Social – I really enjoyed the whole small plates of good food concept
- Spotted Pig – ate at the bar – food was OK – salty and fried – maybe a little too salty in some cases
- L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - Four Seasons Hotel New York – costs and arm and a leg – thats why the 2nd time I went back for lunch and had Payton's ex-co-worker pay it tasted a lot better
- Centro Vinoteca – I really like to concept of inexpensive small, Italian 'tapas'
- Casa Mono - always a pretty tasty experience - wish they could get access to some of those 'illegal' Spanish hams
Sunday, November 11, 2007
What’s in a star?
Babbo, Avenue Q, Annisa, Teodora, Esca,
I’ve gotten to the point where the Zagat guide is no more than a useful address guide and now I’m beginning to wonder about the Michelin guide as well. 2 and 3 star restaurants are understandably very good places. Most of the ones that I’ve eaten at here in NYC seemed well worth the rankings they received. The problem seems to be in that larger 1 star category. I have a copy of the 2007 Michelin guide that I got for free from Opentable and while reading it the other day I realized that they claim that the star system is not a relative system; meaning, a 1 star restaurant, regardless of cuisine, is judged against all others. This can lead to some confusion as there are many more 1 stars than 2 and 3 stars and when you dine at some of these, you really notice how vast the differences can be in the quality and execution of the food. Service and comfort in the restaurant is another matter and Michelin has an equally odd system of fork/spoon symbols that can be black or red. Recently, in the span of a month or so, I went to four 1-star Michelin restaurants and had a wide range of experiences. Mind you, this mostly due to personal preferences, but my wife’s opinions pretty much mirrors my own. It really makes it hard for me to believe that the system is unbiased and isn’t grading on a curve almost to benefit cuisines that traditionally have not executed in as sophisticated a manner in NYC.
Since the beginning of October 2007 and the second week of November I’ve gone to Babbo (1 star), Annisa (1 star), Teodora, Esca, Mesa Grill, Devi (1 star) and
Fat Black Pussycat
I went here for one of my closest friend’s birthday party. His girlfriend arranged the event and she was told she’d get a table for 15 people and the dedicated space for the event could accommodate 25 people. More like, the table and surrounding benches / couches / stools could reasonably accommodate 10 and the space 15-20. When we got there at it was relatively crowded, but to a reasonable level. The waitress was very friendly and asking if everything was alright. Fast forward to and she was unable to keep up with the hordes and masses of animals they pack into that place. You go to a place like that to hook up with potential people to mate with, right? Don’t try and tell me it’s for the food or ambiance because the music is blaring and loud and I didn’t see many signs of people eating. I don’t know how anyone could hook up because you cant even hear the person
My wife had been raving about this place and I figured I might as well go so that I could establish my restaurant credits with her. Basically, for every one place I go that she likes, I get to go to like 10 or 20 places that I like. Trust me, it works better this way. Anyway, she kept saying how all the people here were from
I go downstairs and they ask my wife where she wants to sit – there are tons of open tables. She wants privacy and doesn’t want to be cold – so where does she sit? Up front, near the drafty door and near a table of three loud, idiot brokers / financial service workers. Go figure. If I had picked that table I would have had to hear about it all night. So, I don’t remember much because this was the middle of October, but I ordered a special of a long, wavy, think noodle with crab meat, asparagus and a red sauce. She got her magically lasagna that reverses the aging process. I started with a soup in a veal broth with tortellini of cheese and meat. It was pretty good (Cappelletti In Brodo Di Cappone Homemade Dumplings, filled with Veal and Parmesan Cheese, In Capon Broth). I had some doubts about whether the tortellini were fresh, but they may have been. If remember correctly, she got the Sformato Di Parmigiano (Parmesan Cheese Souffle with a Porcini Mushroom Ragout). This was also pretty good – it was creamy with the nice taste of parmesean cheese and the earthy taste of nice porcini mushrooms. So far so good. Then they bring the entrees. My entrée is a big pile of pasta and I can hardly see any crab. I have a bad feeling about this. She has her lasagna and I try some – yes the pasta is light, maybe too light for my taste, but the sauce isn’t that great. It reminded me of that overly kind of cheesy / sweet chef boy-r-dee kind of taste. My pasta was just pretty gross. There were little flakes of crab in it. They were so small they must have been those little hermit crabs that populate the shore early in the morning as the tide recedes. The combination of an immense amount of pasta and weak flavors left me able to only have 3 bites. I couldn’t do it. For dessert, I think she got Tiramisu and I think I got some sort of Crème Brulee. Total bill with tax and tip was $129.
Babbo and Avenue Q
I went to Babbo the week before I went to Teodora. One of my best friends and his wife was in town and we had been trying to go to Babbo together for a very long time. We planned to go see the show Avenue Q afterwards. Babbo was of course awesome. We sat upstairs and each got different apps, pastas and entrees. I don’t think I’ll have many problems remembering how much I enjoy this place when I get older, so I’ll write about Avenue Q. Avenue Q is an unfunny plan where liberals tell crappy jokes, sing bad songs, praise liberal tendencies and bash republicans and conservatism. The
Btwn 7th Ave S &
My wife and I went with two other couples. The four other people also enjoy fine dining and we had all wanted to go to Annisa, so everyone was really looking forward to it. I’m always game for New American – a twist on familiar American food with fresh ingredients and new ideas. The restaurant is located in the
Grilled Australian Lamb Tenderloin with
Overall, Annisa is a very nice place and the food is quite good. I can sort of understand the one star. The flavors are all very fresh and you can tell a lot of thought goes into the preparation. The service is kind of awkward and even though that isn’t part of the star equation, it is a part of the restaurant experience for me and my companions. Our portion of the bill with tax and tip, the 5-course menu and 2 or 3 bottles of wine was $255. I’m glad I had the chance to go with my friends; I don’t know that we’d go back on our own.
You know, the more I go to Esca, the more I realize that I really enjoy the place primarily because of one utterly amazing pasta dish. I’ve gone a few times in the last few years and other thank that dish, it is just pretty good. Once I went for lunch I think and I got halibut cheeks with a meyer lemon sauce. Sounds great in concept but it was just very salty, fried fish chips with lemon sauce. Then I went back a few weeks ago with a long time friend and she ordered Nasello, a white fish dish and it had almost no flavor. Now I understand that some fish can be very subtle and that can be a good thing because you are just enjoying the clean taste of the fish. But this was bland and flavorless. My started of white anchovies with condiment was also unexciting and with little flavor going for it. However, I went with Maccheroni Alla Chittara with lump crabmeat and sea urchin as my main – probably the best pasta dish I have ever had. It is always, for the last several years been this good. The thick, perfectly cooked maccheroni combines with the full, meaty pieces of fresh, sweet crab and creamy, buttery, pungent and oozing sea urchin sauce. Desserts were also very nice – my friend ordered affogato, a personal favorite of mine – gelato with espresso poured over it.
The crudo is always very good here and I always seem to enjoy my meal, but I cant help but feel they serve up some weak dishes a little too often. I wont stop going though as long as they keep serving that pasta dish. That only is worth the price of admission. I should just sit at the bar and order that dish and save myself the rest of the tab. Total bill was $177 with tax and tip for 2 startes, 1 pasta, 1 fish, 2 desserts and 2 glasses of wine.
I don’t know why I bother going out to eat Indian food and even more than that, I don’t know why I bother taking my mother-in-law out to Indian restaurants. She always wants to go to Indian restaurants (and Italian I learned during this meal) but she is never satisfied. I’m usually unsatisfied by the corny décor, clumsy service and eating the same food that my MIL (no, not MILF) cooks at home. I chose Devi because it received a Michelin star and I was curious to see how ‘refined’ Indian food would taste. Let me just say that I keep forgetting Michelin stars don’t have anything to do with décor and service (even though I think one should sort of correlate with the other) and I now wonder about how absolute they are as opposed to being doled out on a ‘relative’ basis.
I entered little Devi and was greeted by three youngish goofballs at the maitre d’ stand. By maitre d’ stand I mean the counter behind which they stuff everyone’s bags and jackets. My wife and MIL weren’t there yet so I sat at the awkward bar nearby two women. The bar is a small space situated very close to the table I was ultimately seated at. If I had known how popular the bar was and how near the people hanging out there would seem to my table I would have requested another one – oh, trust me, I’m no wilting violet - keep reading – I make a much better request of the staff.
So my MIL has this thing where she wants to order a million dishes and taste everything. I agree with her in concept but at most restaurants you’re asking for a huge tab if you do that. So we suggested the tasting menu to her and after a bit of explaining on the concept she agreed. They actually had a few choices for each serving so we would have an opportunity to try a lot of the menu. As for wine, if you don’t get a bottle then the wine by the glass selection is murky – they don’t serve WBTG from the wine menu – they have some ‘other’ bottles behind the bar. Not that I know anything about wine, except how to get drunk off of it, but I kept asking them to show me the bottles from which I was ordering glasses. I ended up having a pinot noir and a Riesling during my meal. I figured the pinot would be light and go with the rich food and that the sweet Riesling would help cut through the spicy offerings.
Here is what we had:
Dahi Batata Puri - wheat crisps, potato-chickpea salad, tamarind and mint chutneys, yogurt, chickpea noodles – this was fine and tasted exactly like what my MIL makes at home – my wife and MIL got this
Shakarkandi Ki Chaat - crispy sweet potatoes, toasted cumin, lemon juice, chaat masala - I ordered this. It was okay. The sweet potatoes combined with these Indian flavors were interesting for the first bite or two but I really cleaned my plate more out of hunger than because it was a wonderful dish.
Grilled Scallops - roasted red pepper chutney, manchurian cauliflower, spicy bitter-orange marmalade – I ordered these. The scallops were fine – not overcooked – I wished there was some more flavor though and that they hadn’t used the Manchurian cauliflower that comes with the other dish that is part of this segment. You are most likely eating with a companion and they will probably get that dish so you end up seeing too much similarity on the table – boring and not very imaginative. The bitter orange marmalade lives up to its name – I don’t know that it complemented the scallops very well.
Manchurian Cauliflower - spicy garlic-infused tomato sauce, scallions – this was very nice. It kind of reminded me of a refined version of some take-out Chinese food. My MIL swore she made the same exact thing at home. I don’t remember 1 time in 10 years that she ever made such a thing. I love Cauliflower and would be very happy if I could eat it this way more often. The spicy garlic and the sweetness of the tomato sauce formed a sticky sauce that coated the vegetables making it into a treat. Make Cauliflower this way and you wont have trouble getting the kids to eat it.
Ragda Chaat potato cakes, white peas, tamarind and mint chutney, chickpea noodles – I ordered this for course #3 – it was ok flavor wise – sometimes I feel like with Indian food there is too much going on flavor wise and this was a good example. Also, I’m so used to the spices and flavors of Indian food and it seems the same ones get used again and again making things taste similar.
Masala Fried Chicken buttermilk brine, bone-in-chicken, warm mustard-oil potato salad, spicy slaw - My wife got this and it also wasn’t anything very special. I know that the flavors all sounds wonderful but just because you use the flavors doesn’t mean it results in a wonderful dish.
They also had Veal Brain And Liver Toasts veal with quail eggs and cilantro, liver with onion-tomato sauce and cinnamon as a course #3 option, but I wasn’t brave enough to try it here.
Four curse #4 my MIL ordered Jackfruit (Kathal) Biryaani basmati rice, potatoes and whole spices, kararee bhindi, raita and we had a lot of fun trying to find the supposed Jackfruit in the dish. I don’t like Jackfruit because it reminds me of the crappy American canned peaches. I couldn’t taste any sweet Jackfruit in her rice.
I ordered the Tamarind-Glazed Short Ribs warm mustard-oil potato salad, okra chips. The ribs had a nice crust, a good amount of meat on them on them and pretty good flavor from the spices.
My wife ordered the SIGNATURE dish of the restaurant - Tandoor-Grilled Lamb Chops sweet & sour pear chutney, spiced potatoes . She was brought out the most pathetic, wretched piece of lamb I have ever seen. The bone was about a foot long and on the end was a shriveled, unappetizing piece of lamb. She tried to cut into the yellow mush of lamb and it was either raw or just super fatty. It looked so gross. I jumped on the grenade and took a bite. I called the serve rover and demanded he take it back. Then the manager came over and was apologetic / offended that we didn’t like it since it was the chef’s signature dish – OK, so maybe it is, and it tastes like garbage, so maybe he was saying that this place is garbage then. He asked if she wanted another lamb but we told him to bring the ribs. She ended up taking the ribs home.
For dessert my Mil got the Emperor's Morsel (Shahi Tukra) crispy saffron bread pudding, cardamom cream, candied almonds. It was weird. Some little scrap of bread with cream on top. Not great. But my Fig Cake wine macerated figs, ginger caramel sauce, goat cheese ice cream wasn’t much better. The goat ice cream tasted a little more sour than I am used to goat cheese tasting. The figs were ok and the ginger caramel sauce helped them to go down.
The total bill was $254 for the three of us with 3 tasting menus, tax and tip and 4 drinks. I wouldn’t go back here not because it is bad, but because it isn’t that great. I’ll just eat Indian food at home or from a casual Indian joint in
Btwn Duane & Reade St
We decided to go with the tasting menu and take things that sounded really interesting from the Austrian, Modern Eclectic and Chef Weekly Market Choices Menus. Without having a bite I told my wife I wanted to come back because there were so many things that sounded good on the menu. I knew if it was D. Bouley that the food had to taste good (my wife’s bad lobster experience at Bouley notwithstanding…we are going back there soon too).
Some things we didn’t get but that sounded great were Beef Tartare in a beef consommé gelle with wasabi mousee; honey glazed organic breast of Long Island duck with red cabbage, chestnuts and armagnac plum sauce; sea scallops with crabmeat in a coriander and lemon thyme sauce; lamb with chanterelle gnocchi, fennel and lamb jus and venison with autrian pretzel dumplings and sour cherries…so many good things I didn’t get to try!
We were served an amuse of a potato soup with shrimp at the bottom. I used a spoon for some and just downed the rest as a shot. It was warm and fresh and a great way to prep my palate for the good ness to come. For my starter I had a wonderful Waltz of Appetizers – several delicious little bites of food. There was one that was a play on a bloody mary (one of my favorite drinks) and in it was a fresh oyster. There was also an oyster with apple mint gelee, a crawfish cromesquis (kind of like a spring roll) with avocado mousee, a piece of smoked salmon trout with wasabi tobiko and a crisp portugese sardine. All very good. My wife had the seared
Next, I went with
For our mains, she went with baby pig with lentils, onions and caviar. I went with a dish my Mom made when I was growing up – Beef Goulash and Spatzle with a poached quail egg. My wife pork dish was good but my Goulash and Spatzle was amazing. She ended up exercising her Wifely Execute Veto privilege and forced me to switch plates with her. Goulash is thick, meaty pieces of beef with a sweet tomato sauce and spatzle is a pasta-ish type of item – these little shapes of dough with just the right amount of chew to complement the meat.
Before our dessert we were served a refreshing grape soup and elderflower gelee and sorbet. I almost forgot – I order an elderflower and sparkling wine concoction to start - it was great and recommend it to start the meal.
I don’t remember what she ordered for dessert strangely enough…I want to say it was a crunchy caramel and pear strudel. I do remember that I ordered off-tasting menu – the butternut squash – vanilla parfait with pumpkin seed oil, quince, pomegranate granite and apple cider sorbet. Basically like fall in a parfait glass. All wonderful, fresh fall flavors in a dessert with cold, crunchy, smooth and fruity flavors and textures.
Overall, the bill with tax, tip, 2 drinks, and 2 glasses of wine came to $290. Well worth it and as I said, worthy of a repeat visit. Downstairs they even have another private dining room. It looked very nice and cozy if you wanted more privacy, but it was really nice being upstairs in the beautiful main room with the crowd and their energy. It dining experiences like these that validate dining out as more than just a meal and elevate it to an entertaining evening where you are server, pampered and treated to a special experience.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Sushi of Gari
402 E. 78th Street, New York, NY 10021
Friday, September 28, 2007
Today was my last day with a job I'd been at for about 28 months. I start a new job on Monday - no rest for the weary. Even though I didn't really want to go out to eat, my wife was dropping some hints and I knew she had wanted to go back to SOG for some time. We've been to Yasuda, Poke, all the Nobu's in NYC, Seki and Sen-Nin (uptown), as well as some others (including a nice one in the Lake Success shopping center on Long Island and another one out on LI somewhere...). Some are good, some were garbage but Sushi of Gari is one of my top two favorites. I decided to commemorate the occasion of my leaving my job and make her happy at the same time. I called the restaurant and was able to get a seat, but alas, Chef Gari wasn't available. Being that we didn't sit with him the first time we came and still thought it was some of the best sushi we ever had, we figured that sitting with any of the master sushi chefs at the bar would be a fantastic experience.
I wish taking pictures of food while eating wasn't tacky - and yet tons of people still do it - because these pieces of sushi are as beautiful as they are delicious. We decided to just let the chef prepare pieces for us at his discretion. At a place like SOG where there is such a variety of fish, if you try to do it on your own you might miss something truly wonderful. My thinking is that if you trust the chef, he will give you what he likes best and come up with some really wonderful combinations - or he might just use it as an opportunity to unload some fish that really hasn't moving all week. Oh well....
While I don't recall the exact pieces and combinations, I will say that SOG is amazing in that the quality of the fish is akin to the buttery perfection of a perfectly dry-aged piece of Prime grade steak. The fish just melts in your mouth and you taste the sweetness, the natural fattiness, the creaminess - all so amazing. In addition, they pair each piece with some kind of condiment. Most sushi places don't do this at all and unless your a place like Yasuda, where the fish is perfection, these lesser places could probably use some cover for their fish. However, other places that I've been that also use condiments with their fish don't seem to do it as well as SOG does. Jalapeno with a marinade, a humus-like sauce, a ceviche like marinade, roasted tomatoes - these are just to name a few of the condiments that are paired with the fish. Each condiment only goes with certain fish. These guys are amazing at what they do. The condiments never overpower and only seem to accentuate and enhance the flavors of the fish.
The one thing that we had - which my wife ordered, surprise, surprise - was a soft-shell crab roll. I love soft-shell crab, but in a roll it is a huge and unwieldy thing. It falls apart and you don't truly get to enjoy the soft-shell crab. They put some mayo-like substance in it and this reminds me of garbage like Philadelphia rolls and other crap that people waste their time eating at sushi places when they should just be sticking to sashimi and sushi. If I do rolls, I'd rather just do plain, clean cucumber or tuna rolls. For that matter, I'd rather just eat the raw tuna.
My wife also insisted on ordering dessert - her beloved Mochi. I had a feeling it wouldn't be so great here and I was hoping she'd pass. Maybe I'm just used to the awesome Mochi that Momofuku serves and don't think that anywhere else will surpass theirs. Well she ordered it and it wasn't great. Just unnecessary fluff for the tummy after a great meal and unnecessary fluff for what was already going to be a big bill. I would say that we had about 10-12 pieces of fish each, the crab roll and one dessert and with tax and tip it was $250. Maybe we had more fish but I'm pretty sure we didn't have less than 10-12 pieces. Overall, I would like to try some other sushi places in the city, but I really don't think they will be nearly as good as SOG is.
Family Outing to Mesa Grill
Sunday, September 23, 2007
102 Fifth Ave
NY NY 10011
My wife and I decided to take our family out for brunch this past Sunday. That's a picture (from left to right) of my Mother-inlaw, Dad, me, my nephew, Mom and brother-in-law. My sister and wife aren't in the picture. My wife isn't allowed to be named or shown in this blog and I don't want my sister taking any fame away from - this blog is only big enough for one of us.
My wife and I have eaten brunch at Mesa Grill a few times before and we took my sister there for dinner a few years back, but this was a first for the rest of our family. The menu is American food with Southwestern accents. Most of the food has bold flavors and some have a nice spicy kick to them. I started with a Spicy Bloody Mary. This drink is a great way to begin brunch and to set the tone for a Sunday. It is a very peppery concoction and very refreshing in its own way. Definitely opens up the palate and surprisingly the spice doesn't kill your taste buds. I went with BA R B E C U E D PO R K + OA X A C A CH E E S E QU E S A D I L L A with Hot + Sweet Cabbage Relish as a starter. Not only is the dish very tasty, but it is very filling. It's a big portion, full of pork and cheese. You could probably have this and skip a main if you wanted. I chose to also order the BL U E CO R N BU T T E RMI L K WA F F L E with Blackberry Bourbon Syrup + Vanilla Creme Fraiche as my main. I was full from the quesadilla but I liked the savory sweet mix of my dishes. I already had it in my head that I was going to skip dessert (which I hardly ever do) so this combination, with the waffle being so dessert-like, was a good one. The waffle was light and crisp with an almost invisible, but flavorful amount of syrup and the light, foamy and sweet creme fraiche. I ate what I could and then had to stop because the creme fraiche made the rest of the waffle too soggy to be enjoyable. Not a problem because I was full.
My wife ordered “RO U G H CU T ” RAW T U N A NA C H O S with Mango Hot Sauce and Avocado Crema to start. These are pretty good, with large chunks of raw tuna and a sweet and hot sauce to complement the meaty and tender fish. Again, it is a large portion and could pass for a main.Mesa Grill is one of her favorite restaurants because the food is straight-forward and has bold flavors, but she was disappointed with her main of SP I C Y SC R AMB L E D EG G S
with Green Onion, Jalapeno, Goat Cheese and Apricot Mustard Glazed Ham Steak and Buttermilk Biscuits. She thought the eggs were plain and nothing special, the ham steak was just like bland ham and she didn't really touch the biscuit too much. She told me later that she wished she'd ordered the SP I C Y CH I C K E N + SWE E T POT A TO HA S H with Poached Eggs + Green Chile Hollandaise, which is one of my favorites; but once again, her inability to make a decision and treat ordering from the menu as if she was entering launch codes for nuclear missiles led her to ultimately make a bad decision - typical.
Everyone else seemed pretty happy with their dishes. My Dad was hoping the SI X T E E N SP I C E CH I C K E N with Roasted Garlic-Mango Sauce, Blue Corn Tamale with Basil Butter was going to be spicier, but he was happy with how it tasted. He had a CHILLED CARAMELIZED GRAPEFRUIT with Blackberry-Mint Salad to start and commented that he would like to do something like this at home. My Mom had SO P H I E ’ S CH O P P E D SA L A D with Her Own Special Dressing + Crispy Tortillas as a starter and the ME S A BU R G E R with Double Cheddar Cheese, Grilled Vidalia Onion and Horseradish Mustard on a House Roll + Southwestern Fries as a main. These have to be two of the largest dishes on the menu and even though my Mom is a small woman she polished everything off.
Over the last few years my wife and I have tried to take our parents out to eat in the city more often and I think they really appreciate the food at the places we bring them. It makes me really happy to see them enjoy themselves. They are very modest people who have worked hard their entire lives to provide a good life for their children and it makes me feel good to do something nice for them. A brunch with the entire family is not just chance to let them try some good food, but to have a memory to last forever.
My nephew didn't have a starter but he tried some stuff from our dishes, including - if I remember correctly - my wife's raw tuna dish. It's always funny to hear my sister say how he won't try something and then he goes and eats something like raw fish, which many adults may not ever take the opportunity to try. I hope his adventuresome palate stays with him as he gets older. He also had the waffle like his uncle (me) and he ate most of it. I remember driving with him the week prior and as he saw the big buildings in the distance he got excited. I told him I was going to take him to the city the next weekend and when I called my sister the night before she told me how he'd been asking about it, just to make sure we were still going to take him. Again, I'm happy the family had a chance to spend quality time together and give my young nephew a happy memory.
Overall, Mesa Grill doesn't disappoint. Some dishes may not be 1st place winners, but nothing is really bad. The service is always good and the atmosphere friendly. We've gone here many times and I would say we will continue to go in the future. The total bill for all 8 of us, with tax and tip was $270. I was shocked at how modest the bill was - 2 alcoholic drinks, 4 non-alcoholic drinks, 4 sides of bacon/sausage, 6 starters and 8 mains.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I found this book to be very entertaining. I like to cook and eat out, but I could never be a chef. Running a good restaurant takes a lot of work - way more than I'd be willing to commit. Boulud writes the book from the perspective of giving advice to an aspiring young chef by highlighting events from his life and career. The discipline, hard work and challenges he recounts are evidence as to why he is the best. I may not aspire to be a chef, but his writing inspires me to be a better cook, enjoy and appreciate cooking and fine dining more and even provides some advice for success in life regardless of one's field.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The Vegas Experiment – Joel Robuchon, Mix, Emeril's New Orleans Fish House and Babbo for good measure
NYC is my world. I’ve lived here for all of my 30 years and attended school up through grad school here. I don’t really like to travel outside the city when I take vacations, but I realize this is kind of limiting in terms of my view of the world and is frustrating to my wife. So, since I was just voted Husband of the Century I figured I might as well live up to my rep and take her somewhere outside of the city. Mind you, I let her decide where she wanted to go during our week off and said Vegas would be our fall back. Somehow, despite doing tons of research for Scottish castles and
By this point, over one week later, it is going to be hard to remember everything. I write this blog for the very fact that I have a bad memory and want to capture everything before I forget. I should have brought a laptop but I didn’t think I'd have time to type – I would have. Now because I drank so much wine with every meal and a week has passed, I really don’t remember things very well. This is further compounded by the fact that I’m drinking a glass while I write this.
The flight there on JetBlue was okay. I saw these strange circles outside the plane when we got to the corner of
The bread cart was brought over. They have over 2 dozen different types of breads for you to try. Partly because I love good bread and partly wanting to get my money’s worth, I asked for a few to start and took more every time the server asked if I would like more. The servers here were very friendly and accommodating. The restaurant does not have a stuffy, pretentious feel to it. There were many times during the meal that we were chatting away in normal tones and even laughing. No one seemed to mind and everyone seemed to be having a nice time.
My memory is failing me – I don’t remember my amuse or my first course really…I do remember the next course. It was a ‘ravioli’ of sorts – it was lobster in a sweet and sour turnip ravioli type skin, flavored with nutmeg and rosemary. It was amazing. I say ravioli of sorts because I remember the pasta skin was soft and translucent so I thought it was their take on ravioli. I don’t think it was traditional flour based pasta dough. Another thing I really appreciated about Robuchon was when it came to wine; they had bottles at all price points. They even had bottles and half-bottles below $100. I pointed to a bottle for $100 and asked the sommelier to pick something in that general range to go with the meal. He asked us both about what flavors and types of wines we liked and after a few minutes of talking he went away with a smile. The white wine he brought back was excellent (I’m ignorant when it comes to wine – I just like to drink it) and only cost $115.
The next course was a soup of sorts. It was an onion custard that same with a shot of light pea puree on the side. You were to pour the pea puree over the custard. So we did and it was a wonderful mixture. The savory onion and light creamy custard with the fresh pop of pea puree went together in a wonderful way. Next was a turbot dish but I can’t really remember what that was like. This isn’t because the food wasn’t very memorable or anything, it really is all my fault. I do remember that next was a piece of wonderful
Finally, we were done, full and extremely happy. Total bill came to $832 with tax and tip. As we were leaving they gave us a bag with a take away. I’ve received muffins, macaroons and other small but nice goodies before, but Robuchon gave us an entire loaf of pound cake with candied fruits on top. The buttery loaf lasted me an entire week!
I picked Mix because it was an Alain Ducasse place and even though I didn’t have a great experience at his flagship in NYC, I figured I’d give it a try. This place is at the top of the hotel called theHotel (next to
Many things on the menu sounded good, but my wife was really drawn to the tasting menu and demanded that we do wine accompaniment. I agreed even though I knew it would mean we’d be full before the end and overly drunk. At least I wasn’t driving. I remember that the menu was also broken down into Mix entrees as well as some classic Ducasse entrees. Even though we were doing tasting menu, it didn’t include any foie gras dishes so she ordered an additional preserved duck foie gras terrine with apricot chutney. It came and like most FG of good quality it was like a thick, meaty, buttery spread. FG is actually growing on me a bit, but I could live without it. My wife eats it so much she is becoming a goose.
I don’t know what else I can say about Babbo that I haven’t already. It’s obvious that I love the place. We sat at the bar and surprisingly, my wife really wanted the pasta tasting menu. Last time she agreed to do it because I hadn’t had it in a long time. I thought for sure that she’d demand the Traditional Menu, but she was in the menu for several nice servings of perfect pasta – and that’s what Babbo does best. She also wanted to do wine accompaniment. When you dine at the bar and do wine accompaniment with the bar tender as your server, you are in for a treat. These guys and gals know the wine extremely well and they also know the food very well. The bar is just a great place to eat and really makes Babbo my favorite place to dine in the city.
Friday, August 31, 2007
The premise of the book was that the 'restaurant critic' and food lover was going to provide insight on how to get the best experience when you eat out and provide all sorts of inside secrets. I didn't get any of that from the book. I did enjoy some of the profiling he did on chefs from around the country and things that they accomplished and were currently doing. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the processes and daily routines successful restaurateurs go through to maintain their operations.