pink donuts: expensive meals
glazed donuts: inexpensive meals
5 donuts: transcendent experiences
4.5 donuts: extremely awesome meals
3.5 donuts: good eats
2.5 donuts: food I could have made
1 donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs
• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)
My five-star reviews:
Last year, I spent a week on a yacht touring some of the islands of Greece with my boyfriend and three of his friends. One of those friends was visiting NYC last week from Romania, so I wanted to take her someplace new and well-rated. A co-worker happened to mention Bowery Meat Company to me that very week, and not only had the New York Times given it two stars, but it had meat right in the name.
The inside was all warm woods and mid-century designs with space age sconces on the walls and Chef Josh Capon waltzing around the dining room in shorts and a chef’s coat, holding a slab of meat in his fist. When I’d looked at the menu before making the reservation, it somehow seemed reasonable, someplace you would just go with three of your friends on a Thursday night to catch up. But faced with the choice of what to actually order, it suddenly seemed insane. Two deviled eggs for $18? A burger for $24? A side of onions for $11? How could I have forced my friends into this?
But then the food started arriving, and it was really, really good. My boyfriend had the wagyu meatballs, which were sitting atop a cheesy polenta that I gave myself permission to have one bite of. And then three more. My Chinese sesame pork belly was sweet and crunchy, the plate full of everything I’d need to make spicy lettuce wraps with pickled vegetables. The New York strip was topped with a shallot that melted under my boyfriend’s fork, while my 14oz ribeye was piled with blistered shishito peppers. I pay about $20 for 14oz of organic grass fed ribeye from my local frou-frou grocery store and didn’t want to be okay with this $48 version . . . but then I was. It was just delicious, with all of the fat rendered perfectly and a nice char on top. I had to admit that dry-aging does matter, and it turns out I don’t have a temperature-controlled room set aside in my apartment for that. Fine, Bowery Meat Company. You win.
Plus, I have to say, the $11 onions were mouthwatering. It was truly just a dish of grilled spring onions, but they were buttery and browned and so salty I forgot I was supposed to feel bad about not ordering one of the more classic artery-clogging sides like the sour cream & onion hash brown that sounds so, so delicious, someone please get that and let me watch you eat it.
Throw in a few $17 cocktails and a complimentary salted caramel ice cream bon-bon on top of it all, and you have a really, really expensive casual dinner. But one that you won’t regret, at least until you get that dry-aging room in your house.
I try to avoid carbs and sugar in my day-to-day life, so I never let myself have cereal for breakfast. I can’t tell you the last time I ate it, but I’m guessing it was in college, and it was probably something with “fiber” in the name so I could feel like an adult. But I secretly love cereal and was delighted to learn that Kellogg’s NYC opened in Times Square and that I’d need to eat a huge bowl of the stuff in the interest of reviewing it. The sacrifices I make, you know.
Surrounded by the massive M&Ms and Hershey’s stores, the Kellogg’s store is a tiny sliver of a thing that looks like a real NYC diner. Only without the fake plants in the corner, the booths still there from the 80s, and the old waiter in the wifebeater growling at you for trying to make a substitution. The employees let me sit down even though my friend hadn’t arrived yet, and they actually offered me a glass of water while I waited. Maybe I need to spend more time in the touristy parts of NYC.
You can get your cereal without the ice cream, but you’d be a fool. So, start with a bowl of vanilla Blue Marble ice cream out of Brooklyn, and then add all the toppings you want. Corn Pops, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Crispix, toasted coconut, dried cranberries, cocoa powder, coffee grinds, pecans, pistachios, Pop Tart crumble, chai tea powder, and so, so many more. You can also choose from the store’s premade concoctions like Berry Me in Green Tea or You’re Cracklin’ Me Up.
Then follow your nose to the row of cabinets on the wall,
where you’ll find your bowl of cereal waiting for you inside with a spoon and napkin.
I got ice cream, Frosted Mini-Wheats Chocolate, strawberries, peanut butter, marshmallows, white chocolate chips, malted milk powder, and Pop Tart crumble. It was a $12 bowl of cereal and worth every cent.
I ate this more than a month ago, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t dreamed of going back to eat it again. They should probably put my mix on the menu to make it easier for you to order it, because it was basically perfect.
And they even give you a token to get a toy from the machine on the counter at the end of your visit! Come on!
Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.
It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?
I lived for the many loaves of bread that came out between courses and love a chef who makes me unable to resist ordering sweetbreads even though I sort of can’t believe that’s something we choose to eat as humans. But I mean, these were fried in duck fat. The sturgeon and sauerkraut tart is a must-order just for the dramatic smoke-filled dome presentation, and my blackberry chocolate dessert actually made meringue seem like more than just crunchy air. The flavors were bold, and there was always just that ~something~ on the plate–a celery leaf or a sprinkle of pancetta–that I wouldn’t have thought to put there.
Creams and pinks and golds! Did I design this restaurant in my dreams?
(Someone doesn’t know how to focus her camera, sorry.)
Last week, I was surprised by a visit from to Tom Szebeni, the CEO of Duran Sandwiches with a huge box of his handmade European-style open-faced slices of wonder. I knew I was getting a complimentary taste of his creations, but I never expected that the President himself would walk over from their first U.S. location in NoMad to deliver them. But after talking to him for ten minutes, it made perfect sense. The guy just oozes passion for what he’s doing. He explained to me that he worked on the Budapest version of the reality TV show “Big Brother” for years and used to leave the dark studio (and his 48 monitors showing people stuck in a house doing the most mundane things) to get sandwiches across the street at one of the Duran locations. He wanted something more, though, so he decided to leave TV and spend weeks in the shop learning to make the sandwiches so he could bring them to NYC. He kept emphasizing how this is real food. Food that someone cared about when they made it.
I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve eaten sandwiches before, buddy.” And then I opened the box, and a light shone down from heaven.
They were ~so beautiful~. My friend said they looked mid-century modern. And not only were they gorgeous, but they were all so different and exciting. Shrimp with tomato and lemon, goat cheese with cucumber and olive, Black Forest ham with horseradish cream, Hungarian paprika sausage with pickles and egg. The breads were soft and chewy but had substance enough to hold the toppings without buckling. Everything was so delicate: a subtle smear of cheese under the sausage, a sprinkling of chives over the roast beef.
The hot pepper and egg salad was my favorite because I’m addicted to spice, but the best thing about these sandwiches is that they’re light enough that you don’t have to eat just one. I was able to share several with my friend and nibble at a few more throughout the afternoon without ever feeling heavy or grossly full. I can imagine picking up a box of these before a summer tea party, especially the ones with a spread of cucumber and farmer’s cheese, and letting my lady friends ooh and ahh over how artful they are.
Having taken a trip to Prague, Vienna, and Budapest last fall, these sandwiches transported me back to my time in Europe. They’re like nothing else I’ve seen in NYC, and I feel lucky that I live in a city where I can eat a little slice of the world.
Luksus, the Nordic tasting-menu-only restaurant hidden behind a door in Greenpoint’s Tørst beer bar, has been on my list for a long time as a Brooklynite who’d love to never have to leave the borough for her fine dining. I was scheduled to go see my family in Ohio over the July 4th weekend, but when my flight got canceled despite clear blue skies, I consoled myself by booking a table for two there in the hope of getting to sit at the bar and watch the chefs work. The OpenTable reviewers had given Luksus a 4.5, and Eleven Madison Park, which I would call one of the standard-bearers in the city, had a 4.8, so I congratulated myself on my good choice. But when I started talking to my friends, the consensus was that Luksus was good but probably not somewhere they’d return to. I thought about changing my reservation, but then I remembered the optional beer pairings and just had to try it for myself.
My boyfriend and I awkwardly stood around the back of Tørst, near enough to the secret doorway that someone would ask us if we were there for Luksus, for five minutes or so until the hostess relieved us of our anxiety and slid the door open. The restaurant hidden inside was teeny, and the bar was reserved that night for friends of chef Daniel Burns (of the Fat Duck and the Momofuku test kitchen), but they seated us right by a window that looked out onto their backyard garden and gave my pictures some lovely lighting.
Radish with a lobster roe creme fraiche and garlic bread crumble. Our server encouraged us to eat everything on the plate, so we picked those suckers up with our hands and tried to cram a full foot of radish greens into our mouths.
If I could make these for myself at home, my low-carb diet would be much more successful.
Danish flatbread with pickled kohlrabi and mackerel soaked in licorice.
I’m not the world’s hugest fan of mussels, but these were so briny and acidic. And also came with ~that bread~.
Better than pork rinds!
I never tell a restaurant that I don’t care for oysters, but I’d decided that night that I would finally speak up and try to get something I really like instead, but our server asked me to try these. She called them “an oyster taco” and said they were a nod to the neighborhood, so I gave them a shot. The oyster looked like a miniature whole chicken and didn’t really taste anything like an oyster to me, because all I was tasting was sauce gribiche, that sort of tartar-sauce-like French mayonnaise-y concoction that I love so much, only this one was made with celery to give it even more flavor.
The sourdough bread service was amazing, partly because the yogurt butter was in that state where it would’ve been a puddle had it been one degree warmer in the place. That’s a restaurant that cares about its bread.
This was like eating springtime with all of the green, including some cool, sweet cucumber and a lovage sauce. The tough, fibrous garlic ramps were too much for me on their own but added nice texture when eaten with the rest of the elements.
At this point, we were like, “Oh . . . another salad.” The powerful onions made this interesting, along with the mint puree. It probably just needed something rich alongside it for my taste. A little piece of fatty meat.
Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien, my favorite of the beer pairings with its strong cherry and sour notes.
We’ve been making a lot of ribeye at home lately, so I was excited to see what a real chef could do with the piece of meat. And he definitely did something I would never do at home, which was to roast it instead of getting a thick crust on the edges. So it was fully raw in the middle and just kind of floppy on the edges like it had been microwaved for a minute, which I’m sure is a really unintelligent description of what went into this dish, but that’s how it seemed to someone who wasn’t in the kitchen to watch. Like, whyyyyy would you do this to a piece of great meat? The only redeeming factors were the way the fat was nice and tender and the big chunks of salt on top.
I was just kind of tired of leaves at this point and at least wanted them to be herbs, but I did love that all of the vegetables were pickled. And no one’s complaining about potatoes in ramp butter.
This whey sorbet with ginger cordial was a combo of super zingy ginger and funky milk flavor in one spoon-sized little scoop.
Who doesn’t love a fine dining Fruit Roll-Up? My boyfriend and I had just been marathoning “The Great British Bake-Off”, where rhubarb features prominently in nearly every episode, so this dessert seemed so timely to us. Pine needle sauce and a bay leaf crumble that I could’ve eaten pounds of completed the off-kilter concoction.
This little two-bite treat is called a flødebolle and is a cookie topped with marshmallow meringue and covered in chocolate. I would buy these by the truckload if the restaurant was selling them.
I think the sensibility of Luksus can best be described as, “Here, I brought the entire garden for you.” I loved the freshness of all of the ingredients and felt like they were coming from a kitchen that really respects them, but it just didn’t seem like quite enough effort to me for $125 each. I’m fine with a concentration on vegetables, but I want something to be done to them. Make a sauce, make a jam, put them in a consommé. The whole radishes were actually novel when we got them, but then the whole meal that followed felt like it was just brought it from the garden when I want my Michelin-starred food to be a little more fussy. There were moments of greatness, though, particularly in the snacks at the beginning. In the end, I’m glad I visited and would recommend Luksus to someone who really loves greens and has a lot of money to spend on them. Once was probably enough for me, although I’d be sad if I never had beer pairings again.