• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Gabriel Kreuther
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)
• Senses (Warsaw, Poland)
You wouldn’t know it from reading my blog, but Momofuku Ko is the restaurant I’ve been to most in NYC. I only ever reviewed my first meal there, because their no-photo policy meant that my reviews would just be words, and my dearest friends have let me know that no one cares about my writing. But I loved Ko for its creativity, its super-relaxed atmosphere where jeans were recommended and the soundtrack included everything from 70s prog rock to 80s alternative to current hip hop, and the way its counter seating allowed you to talk to your chef as he used tweezers to top your miso ice cream cone with puffed black rice. It was my favorite restaurant in NYC, so I was understandably worried when what everyone is calling “Ko 2.0” opened with its much-much-huger space, its revamped menu with a higher price and no extended lunch option, and its attempts at wringing that third star from Michelin.
The first big change I noticed when I walked in with my boyfriend is that service seems to be a bigger deal at the new Momofuku Ko. Someone was there to hold the door open for us when we entered, and it wasn’t a long-bearded hipster who would also act as our sommelier for the night. The general manager, Su, then checked the computer for our reservation (there’s no more printing out your confirmation at home and having to show it at the door), led us to our seats at the counter, and made friendly conversation with us.
At the old Ko, the seats were small wooden benches with no cushion and no back. They looked streamlined and minimalist pushed under the counter, but they didn’t seem so cool after twelve courses. The new Ko has tall stools with comfortable seats and leather backs that you can melt into with your after-dinner cocktail and your full belly. There’s also a gorgeous dark-wood counter now that looks richer than the blonde wood at the old Ko, and you’ll now get a printed menu in a textured cover at the end of the meal. So that extra money you’re paying now is being well-spent, and Michelin is sure to notice that Ko is now way, way more comfortable than Brooklyn Fare is.
We started off with a bottle of Riesling
and then took in the sights of the new kitchen and chatted with the chef in front of us while we waited for our first course:
And then, the food:
A Ko classic that keeps evolving, this little fried potato tube was filled with creamy pimiento cheese. Imagine eating a Lay’s cheddar potato chip, only way more delicious. And where you can only have one instead of half the bag.
A sweet little beet ball with the lasting tang of citrus. Followed by a slice of apple with the sting of horseradish, topped with smoky, crunchy rice.
The tiniest “lobster roll” with an unexpected mint finish (though not unexpected if you, unlike me, know what a paloise sauce is) tasted so fresh next to richer–but not any bigger–Caesar salad boat filled with avocado mousse. The woman next to us told me to put my very small iPhone in the shot to show how incredibly, incredibly adorable these little dollhouse dishes were.
This Arctic char roll hit us with jalapeño first, then cucumber to cool it down. The freshness of herbs finished off every bite.
Like the teeniest triple-decker sandwich, this was miniature toasted bread with a little hint of brine. Our palates missed the green tea on top because of the overwhelming toasty taste, but I sure did like squashing the roe with the layers of cracker.
I always think of Ko when I have madai thanks to the plate of sashimi included in their old lunch service that inevitably included some brand new take on the fish every time. Chef Carey wouldn’t tell us what he was misting the bowl with before he served it to us, but the scent of shiso filled our airspace. It turned out to be a spray bottle full of “shiso essence” he had, which we should all inquire about buying from them as perfume. Little bits of jalapeño and lime caviar made for occasional bursts of flavor in an otherwise very subtle dish of consomme jelly.
This was one of the most memorable dishes of the night, which isn’t surprising, since it reminded me of the wonderful halibut in whey I had at Atera. That was back in 2012, and I still vividly remember the experience of eating it. This was a New Jersey(!) scallop with an almond milk sauce that was slightly starchy to give some texture to the dish. The bamboo was tender, not woody, and the little slivers of green pepper packed so much perfectly-paired flavor that I felt I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of them. I can’t wait to eat this one again sometime.
This was a razor clam for anyone who’s afraid of the way it looks in its long tampon of a shell. This is one of the main reasons I love fine dining: eating things I wouldn’t necessarily seek out otherwise but having them presented so beautifully that I can’t resist them. The little slices of clam had a little chew to them, while the basil seeds were super slimy. The overall effect was slightly fruity and sweet thanks to the pineapple, but it was missing the little punch of flavor I expect from a good Ko dish, and we would’ve been fine had this been a very small serving, like a shot.
Mackerel sushi with lots of ginger and scallions. A layer of fermented sunflower added a grainy texture.
This broth was made with the bones of the mackerel from the previous course’s sushi, with slivers of onion, king oyster mushroom, and Asian pear. It was really subtle, and we liked how the pear absorbed some savoryness from the other ingredients present in the bowl but a little sweetness sung through every now and then.
This sunchoke with its skin still on was dry-aged in beef fat and did indeed look like a little morsel of meat. It was very sweet, like it was covered in a marmalade. We guessed the flavor to be apricot, but it wasn’t distinctive, just fruity and sweet next to the earthy interior of the choke. It turned out to be blood orange sauce, but we blame the restaurant for not making the flavor pronounced enough, not our own palates for not being able to discern it, OF COURSE.
Sweet soft eggs with an even sweeter dollop of potato, cut with a pop of savory caviar and with crunchy wisps to contrast all of the creamy texture.
This ricotta cavatelli was rolled in a sauce made with stinging nettles to keep it very fresh and light despite the aged cheese flavor. I sort of felt like I was eating mossy caterpillars, but please ignore my imagination.
We got a little overexcited for pure carbs and took a big hunk out of this butter for our bread before I could get a picture. The combination of the bread and black radish butter made this a sour and funky interlude.
More lobster! The super fresh sugar snap peas gave this a bright crunch next to the rich, buttery seameat.
I’ve had this every time I’ve been to Ko and hope to have it every time for life. The foie gras is shaved cold into the bowl and then melts as it mixes with the jelly, pine nut brittle, and whole fruit slices. I thought it was better than ever, and the chef told me it might be because they’re not plating it using cold bowls anymore. I love the idea that something like the bowl temperature could affect the taste for me.
When I got this slice of duck breast, the lady next to me at the counter learned over and told me to savor it. It was sweet and sour, peppery, and had a thick crunchy top and bottom, like there was a piece of brittle on both sides. I never got used to the pungent lime pickle, in that every single bite was as delicious as the first. The side of XO vegetables reminded me of the first time I ever had XO sauce, which also happened to be the homemade one at the old Ko. This dish was maybe the best thing I’ve eaten at Ko yet, and you can bet I did savor it while that lady watched me in envy.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d taste like if you stuck an entire garden in your mouth, this is the dessert for you. The sorrel ice cream tasted exactly as green as it looked, but its savoryness was offset by the sweet diced rhubarb, which also added texture. The cake had a slightly crunchy, caramelized exterior, and it was entirely unfair that they hollowed out the middle of this for the ice cream, because I needed every last crumb.
I had no idea what bee pollen was before I ate it, and I’m not sure I could even fully explain it to you now. It’s pollen, nectar from whatever the bee was collecting the pollen from, and bee spit, all made into a little pellet by the worker bees for some reason. I have no idea why we would ever eat this, except oh wait, yes, I do–because it’s delicious. It was crunchy and tasted like honey, and this dessert would’ve been nothing without it. The funky creme fraiche made this a challenging dessert if you’re someone who wants ice cream and frosting after a meal, but the huckleberry sorbet was just sweet enough with the bee pollen to top it off.
To finish, we had chocolate cookies that tasted like the herbal liqueur Fernet-Branca and a sunflower macaron that tasted like buttered popcorn. And then we got a little drunker and hung out, just enjoying the sights of the kitchen.
So did I need to be worried about missing the old Momofuku Ko? Well, not really. I did miss some of the cutesy things that Ko used to do, the novelty things like the miso ice cream cone, the bento with the pork fat rice ball, or the lunchbox with fried chicken. It was fun to reminisce with Executive Chef Sean about the soft shell crab sandwich I once had in the early days, and even he seemed a little nostalgic about the magic they made over in that tiny kitchen on 1st Avenue. But Ko 2.0 is legit fine dining now. It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful, and all of the extras–from the printed menu to the mignardises you’d get at Per Se or Eleven Madison Park–are included.
Plus, with the huge kitchen upgrade, so much more food is being made right in front of you now. We watched a duck being carved, fruits being juiced, fish being finished on a Japanese charcoal grill–all things that would’ve happened behind the scenes at the old Ko. Ko used to be about watching beautiful pre-prepared things being plated from little boxes, but now it’s about also watching things actually get cooked.
And the bones of the old Ko are still holding the place up. You’ll still hear Radiohead, The Cure, and Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, and you’ll still get really delicious, sort of Asian, very tiny, extremely imaginative, wildly well-composed plates of food. And hey, with all of the extra space, you can actually get a reservation now.
I’ve read recently about how hard it is for a restaurant in NYC to survive after the initial buzz is over. A place opens, every blogger in the tri-state area rushes to review it, it gets no press after the first few months, and it dies. Naturally I accept all of the blame for this, because I’ve never been to any of the old Chef Harold Dietrle restaurants, but I’ve had my eye on The Marrow for months now. I watched him and cheered for him as he won the first season of “Top Chef”, and then I was so excited to live in New York City when he opened Perilla and Kin Shop. I probably looked at the menu on the Perilla website twenty times in the five or so years I was hardcore fine dining every weekend, but I never went. Of course Perilla and Kin Shop are doing just fine without me, but just to be sure The Marrow doesn’t fail on my account single-handedly, I took five of my friends there one Friday night after work.
Reposado, pink grapefruit, lime, and ginger beer. With a side of water.
Pretzel bread should be in every bread basket, everywhere. And not those pretzel rods, either. I want it soft, hot, and buttery.
I am ruined for kale any other way. This was super acidic, very vinegary. Since it was deep fried, it was partly so crisp it was falling apart with every ravenous jab of my fork and half becoming soft again under the dressing. And then there were the cashews to add even more crunch, along with the sour snap of those red onions.
I was forced into trying this, and even as a tomato-phobe, I found these tomatoes so mild, almost roasted to the sweet flavor of a sauce, but they still had plenty of texture for those at the table who eat tomatoes like apples. The burrata was all mozzarella on the outside but creamy and fresh inside, just as it should be.
One of my friends had this and told me it was “delicious”. Nothing but the finest in-depth reporting here at donuts4dinner, folks.
Likewise, I didn’t get a bite of the bone marrow. You know, the dish that’s in the name of the restaurant. Because who would ever share their bone marrow with uni?
I also didn’t try this. I have terribly selfish friends. I think this was duck liver pate on brioche with gooseberry compote. Don’t quote me. You’re just here for the pictures, anyway.
My friend Chantee described this as unctuous and melt-off-the-bone. My friend Nik didn’t care for the amount of fat on the lamb but loved the cabbage, which he said brightened up the rich neck meat.
I love dill to begin with but thought this potato salad made particularly great use of it, adding even more freshness to the cucumber to combat the heaviness of the schnitzel. The wolfberries were soft and sweet (but maybe a little overpowering), while the curd spaetzle had a brilliant crunch from the hazelnuts.
When my friends Jack and Andrew discussed sharing this, I didn’t want to dissuade them, but I also thought they were sort of silly to order a steak in a non-steakhouse. Turns out I was the silly one, because this sort of random restaurant that doesn’t at all need to prove it can do a steak is doing a super-tender one with so much flavor, so much butter, and such great texture. It was just really, really well-seasoned. The corn absorbed all of the truffle butter, beef juice, and onion flavor and was therefore perfect.
Butter on perfectly-cooked steak. YES.
I never, ever need lettuce with my meat (okay, maybe the exception being creamed spinach at a steakhouse), but I loved the way these peppery greens complemented the black pepper flavor in the rest of the dish, the slightly spicy crust of the pork, and the bright pickled onion slivers.
This was the dessert special the night we went, and I have no idea what it was. You’re welcome.
Eating this was like eating a piece of warm, soft gingerbread. Easily the most-beloved dessert at our table.
A very light semifreddo, very milk chocolatey, with a thick, dense, frosting-like dollop of darker chocolate. The torrone was a chewy nougat-like confection that added a textural component, and that’s weirdly all the cherries were, too–they just weren’t very flavorful despite all of the visual impact.
This didn’t come with any of our desserts, so we just ordered bowls of it on the side. Because
ice cream. It was brown buttery and made me feel like I was wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
One side of The Marrow’s menu is Italian food to honor Chef Dieterle’s mother, and the other side is German food for his father. We were all over the menu and couldn’t find much at all to complain about. Everything was homey and comforting but elevated enough to make it clear that these aren’t just family recipes but a professional chef’s take on them. The decor is basically what would happen if a zoot suit threw up in a cigar bar, and by that I mean it’s all pinstripes and red leather. The service is laid-back, friendly, personal and makes the place almost seem quaint until you remember that you’re eating caramelized white chocolate ice cream. The menu changes often, though, so get there before everything I’ve mentioned here is gone.
Having eaten a whole suckling pig at Chef April Bloomfield’s The Breslin a couple of years ago, I was excited to see what she could do with one of my comfort foods: tacos. What made Salvation Taco even more appealing to me is that it’s on 39th Street, just south of my boyfriend’s apartment, in this part of the Murray Hill neighborhood that’s mostly filled with highrises and Irish pubs meant to attract the after-work crowd.
(It was ridiculously dark in the restaurant, so please excuse my heavily-lightened pictures.)
I’ve secretly loved the totally-Americanized horchatas I’ve had with pounds of sugar and cinnamon mixed in, but this one tasted much more grown up with the coffee and spice-ful Fernet. You’d, uh, never know it by the vessel it was served in, though. It should be noted that my friend Kim‘s drink came in a totally normal glass, so I’m 100% sure they were trying to shame me for ordering a frozen drink at 6 p.m.
The textures of the pork belly and pineapple were so similar that I couldn’t tell which I was picking up in the near-dark of the restaurant, but I did love the pork-fruit combination and the spicy finish. This was the sort of thing I think of when I think of Chef Bloomfield: perfect meats and a flavor punch. I just needed something crunchy thrown in.
From left to right: Moroccan lamb on naan, al pastor, skirt steak with pecan and chipotle, roasted cauliflower with curried crema, fried striped bass with Mayan mayo.
They were all flavorful and delicious, but the fish taco was the major standout, and I say this as someone who is almost 100% against the idea of fish mucking up my tacos. The mayo was just the right amount of spicy, and there was just enough citrus, and the fish was breaded just enough to give it some crunch without masking the flavor, and those pickled onions were the perfect accompaniment. On my next visit, I’d order five of these. And nothing else.
If I’m being honest, the burnt sugar ice cream was terrible. Truly, truly bitter and inedible. My perfectly classy dining partner and I were practically wiping it off of our tongues with napkins. BUT. When eaten with the pumpkin ice cream, it became like a caramelized sugar crust to a pumpkin creme brulee. I understand why they sell them as a set; they just need to come with a warning.
Salvation Taco fits into the neighborhood perfectly. It’s using excellent ingredients prepared properly for the well-fed business type, but it also has ping-pong, a trendy lounge area, and plenty of pretty tourists stopping by from the attached hotel, Pod 39. It was loud and crowded, but that’s what I expect from a restaurant trying to pass itself off as a cheap taco joint. The only problem for me–and for everyone else, from what I’ve read–is that this isn’t actually a cheap taco joint. The tacos are incredibly small; two bites, and they’re finished. I ate only three because I am a lady, but you can bet I went home after this $50 meal and ordered some questionable-meat tacos from the local Chinese/Mexican place for a fifth of the price. They didn’t compare to that fish taco, though.
Our first trip to Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Babbo was way, way back in 2010, before we had visited NYC’s Italian heavy-hitters like Torrisi Italian Specialties and Del Posto. At the time, I said that Babbo was doing Italian food better than anyone in its category in my usual superlative-laden way, and three years later, my boyfriend and I wanted to see how it’s holding up.
This is the four-course lunch tasting menu at $49 with an extra pasta course each for $20 and $35 for wine pairings:
Very appetizing thanks to the bright vinegar notes. Just a touch of sweetness, with chilies that were just spicy enough. Contrast between the tender eggplant slices and the crunch croutons. Relatively simple yet very complete.
Very green and spring-like. I loved the heartiness of the thick pasta and thought the cheese added a necessary depth but wished they hadn’t left off the salami that comes with the full-price version of this dish to give it even more of a bright/robust contrast.
So buttery with that hint of browned-butter sweetness. Little packets of tender, buttery lamb topped with sweet and sagey butter sauce. Did I mention butter?
Buttery pockets of tender beef that tasted as if it’d been slowly cooking for hours, with a fresh hit of parsley and the crunch of the truffle shavings.
Despite the sweet and sour preparation that made these cranberries even more flavorful than usual, it was the pork that really shone. This was JUST how a pork loin should taste, with that smoky edge and so much natural sweetness. The fennel gave the dish a little crunch and added to the sourness.
I’m an olive oil cake fiend, and this one was perfection. The crunchy exterior was soaked with butter, and the interior was asking to sop up the oil on the plate. The sorbet was pretty funk-laden, but Batali’s creme fraiche gelato is one of the best frozen things I’ve ever eaten, so I don’t shy away from funk. The candied lemon mimicked the candied texture of the cake and gave the whole dish a brightness.
This was served with Moscato d’Asti, Brandini 2010, which is the only wine pairing that matched what was printed on the menu. The other pairings were from the Bastianich wineries, and I kind of liked the idea of both of the owners being so well represented in the food and wine.
A dense, dark, moist flourless cake with the texture of a brownie. We were both convinced there were chocolate chips inside until we were picking nuts out of our teeth afterward. (Sorry.) The thick whipped cream on top had just the slightest hint of chocolate and was complemented by the sweet, barely-there fruitiness of the sticky vincotto.
With the way our lunch started, I was pretty skeptical that my feelings toward Babbo were going to remain consistent with my first review. We asked ourselves at one point if the place was actively trying to make sure we had a bad time. The service was polite but not anywhere close to polished, we had been seated at a table shoved up against a wall next to the door, and we saw all of the tables around us get the chickpea bruschetta amuse bouche we ate on our first visit but never got one ourselves.
But the food at Babbo more than made up for the otherwise so-so experience. From the very first course, we kept stopping mid-chew and saying, “Hey, this is really good.” It kept surprising us again and again, even after having been to the Torrisis and Del Postos of NYC. We wanted to be mad at the place for not having Michelin-quality service and decor like they do, but we couldn’t help ourselves. And I can’t wait to go back.
I called our first visit to Daniel back in 2011 “as close to perfect a meal as Kamran and I have had in NYC”. It was our first time at a restaurant with three Michelin stars and our first time eating one of these over-the-top, wine-paired, France-fueled tasting menus.
Since then, we’ve been to all but one of the three-Michelin-starred places (if anyone wants to put in a good word for Masa, I’m listening) and have basically had so much good food that we’ve started to question whether or not it’s been a mistake to ruin ourselves for mediocre food, so we decided it was time to go back to Daniel and see if our first time still holds up.
This is the six-course tasting for $195 (with an added cheese course for $50), paired with wine for $105:
Mostly salmony but with just a hint of that bitter rye flavor.
Creamy/crunchy/chewy textures, with chive oil at the bottom to add to and contrast with the flavor of the onion jam on top.
The most perfect, most singular bite of shrimp, with citrus flavor and the crunch of the confit parsnip chip below.
Pretty gamey-tasting with a ham-like texture that made this like enjoying a charcuterie plate, sour gelee, and a very fresh, almost vegetal-flavored pistachio oil swipe.
Sweet and creamy, with crisp brioche toast points. This was the gentler counterpart to the funky squab thanks to its sweet onions and crisp pears, which I love the texture of in any dish but especially in very homogenous ones.
This was one of my favourite dishes on both visits. Not only is crab just simply delicious, but Daniel knows just the fresh elements to pair with it to make it really sing, for lack of a better metaphor. Subtle and sweet with a vinegary celery sauce to make it bright. I don’t think anything was better for me all night than that first forkful of crab, celery leaves, and crisp apple.
These tender hunks of fish were served cold and had much stronger flavors than their crab counterpart thanks to a meaty mussel sauce and brunoise of bold chorizo. A combination of fresh and wilted leaves gave it differing textures.
My first frog! Except for the lollipop, which seemed more familiar due to its breading, I thought this had its own slightly aquatic flavor and didn’t just “taste like chicken”. The texture of the smaller bits reminded me a lot of sweetbreads with the way it was chewy and segmented. I loved the deep stew-like flavors of the this and the texture of the crispy kale.
Have I mentioned that Daniel really knows what they’re doing with shrimp? The sweet shellfish flavor was so strong in this despite the relatively bold flavors of fennel and olive. It was so buttery and familiar, less exciting than the frog legs but more comforting. I think I’m finally getting used to the taste of olives, too, because when I tasted them in this dish, it was more “that’s what an olive tastes like” than “eww, what is that weird gross flavor?” Grownup!
Our first time at Daniel, we were impressed by the way the kitchen made tuna taste like steak and sole taste like chicken, and this was another instance of their uncanny ability to bring the sea to land. It was just so much like eating a piece of steak, and the fava bean/chickpea cake was such the perfect starch to accompany it with its crispy exterior and dense middle. I loved the buttery Brussels sprout, the fresh garbanzos, and just the slightest heat from the sauce.
Not really a kale flan but more like a crumbly kale cookie, with fresh bitter kale leaves on top. Deliiiiicious little cylinder of creamy potatoes with a crunchy shell. Sticky, dark sauce. The only misstep for me was the lack of crispy skin on the fish; the other elements on the plate were simply much more interesting than the sea bass.
What’s more luxurious than a plate full of different kinds of baby cow? The tenderloin was tender, but the blanquette must have started cooking before that little veal was even born to have made it so buttery soft. The sweetbreads were very familiar inside, but the coating was this thick, flour-heavy batter I haven’t tasted before. Even the herbs themselves were salty and delicious; a lot of care was clearly put into this dish.
I loved that this dish and the veal were just pure hunks of meat, unadulterated but for some sauce. The sticky sweet tender shortrib was such the perfect juxtaposition to the hard-seared wagyu. The chestnuts provided just enough texture contrast to the purées but were still softened and sweet.
The frommelier (apparently this is a totally real word used to describe the fromage version of the wine sommelier) brought her cheese cart around to our table and named each selection. We knew we wanted the super-stinky Époisses de Bourgogne but otherwise left ourselves in her hands and received a plate with six different kinds ranging from firm to soft and sweet to stinky and goaty to sheepy to cowy. Slices of bread, apricots, cherries, and the sweetest red wine gelee accompanied them, and when we couldn’t begin to finish the plate, everything was wrapped up for us to take home.
I secretly think meringue is too simple and bland when anything else is available, but this dessert really worked for me. The layers of whipped cream and cold meringue were so creamy and sweet, and then the fruits on the side packed a sour punch. I loved the guava gel specifically as someone who’s into tart flavors enough to go around sucking on lemons.
served with Château Pajzos 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Tokaji 2003
This was the same chocolate cake I had back in 2011. The crunchy exterior gave way to a gooey molten center that oozed out onto the plate. Simple. But perfect.
served with Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon 1996
Last time, we were celebrating my boyfriend finishing law school. This time, we weren’t celebrating anything special, but the kitchen still sent us this extra dessert. We saw a lot of extra desserts going around that night, many with little notes written in chocolate on the plates. It’s little touches like this that make Daniel feel special. The fact that I especially loved this because of the super-sour lime gel didn’t hurt, either.
The Michelin Guide calls Daniel “luxury in the traditional style”, and I really think that’s the best description. It’s purely elegant here, not in the modern and simple Per Se way but in the over-the-top and grand Bouley way. The dining room is completely windowless, creating this very protected and intimate feel, and the sunken center means that diners on the perimeter have a view of what everyone else is doing. I’m sure it doesn’t compare to dining in the skybox overlooking the kitchen, but I felt pretty regal at my spot along the wall on a plush banquette lit only by a candle and being served by friendly-yet-professional Frenchies. Pretty close to perfect indeed.
Tom Colicchio is special to my boyfriend and me, and not just because we’ve considered basing vacation plans solely on being able to visit the restaurants of “Top Chef” contestants. (Really just Michael Voltaggio’s.) Not only did we spend our last anniversary at Craft, but our first tasting menu there held the title of The Best Meal of My Life for the longest time. My first Craftbar pork belly is the standard by which I’ve judged all others, and we celebrated Valentine’s Day 2010 at Colicchio & Sons shortly after its opening. (My pictures from that were used in an NPR article making fun of food bloggers’s awful pictures. YES!) Since Chef Colicchio has expanded his empire, like, tenfold since then, we decided to go back, this time to try the tasting menu at $135 and $95 for wine pairings.
Loved the sour uni with the char of the puffed rice. A feast of textures and acids in an unexpectedly interesting dish.
The beginning of this meal was really fast-paced, so we can’t remember much about this aside from the fact that we really liked it. We think it was a cucumber custard topped with flying fish roe. There may have been some wasabi in there. Trust me.
Can’t go wrong with sprouts and crazy-crispy pork, especially when the sprouts are shaved this way.
The buttery, salty, sweet rolls calling to me from across the table.
Creamy, starchy, sweet soup, a crispy little chickpea cake with the dark flavors of black truffle, and a very cheesy gougere.
As regulars of Momofuku Ko, we’ve had the tube of potato souffle with caviar amuse bouche more times than I can count, so this was very familiar in a way. Except that it was cold. The fluffy potato and cream were so texturally good with the burst of brine from the caviar and the crunch of the fingerling potato chips, but I sure wished they had been warm.
This take on carbonara was so rich and homey with its barely-cooked egg that spilled all over the plate and its smoky hunks of pig face. We unfortunately didn’t get any flavor of the barolo it was soaked in despite the barolo wine pairing for reference, but I still have no complaints about this dish thanks to its very al dente pasta and that sprinkling of chives and cheese.
A really well-composed dish where every forkful revealed more and more interesting components. The blood orange reduction was SO SWEET to complement the natural sweetness of the well-seared scallop but was balanced by the spicy sliver of jalapeno. The salty slices of heart of palm on top added seasoning that the scallop needed, as well. I’d come back for this.
This was a dish rich in savory flavors and umami. The crisp edges of the oyster mushrooms mirrored the spicy crispy skin of the almost beefy duck. The springy chew of the plump farro and juicy, pliable huckleberries in their jus seemed made for each other.
So tender! And that stiff sear! The kale underneath was made memorable by the salty rock-hard slabs of pork lardon, but the salsify and kabocha were just okay.
This dish was the entire reason we made our Colicchio & Sons reservation. A few years ago, our friend Anthony introduced us to Époisses de Bourgogne cheese, and it quickly became our go-to for stinky creamy washed-rind goodness. This creme brulee did absolutely nothing to mask the pungent flavor of the cheese and instead made this a true cheese course with mostly savory flavors and then just an inkling of sweetness from the layer of caramelized sugar topping and the sticky pecan crumble on the fennel-rich shortbread pieces. This was better than a normal creme brulee, though, because as soon as you took a spoonful of the creme, the huckleberry puree underneath filled the bottom of the vessel.
We liked this so much that we were taken back to the kitchen to tell pastry chef Stephen Collucci to his face. But even more than the creme brulee, we loved the dessert that was still to come.
(Very nice but not quite sweet enough for the dessert it was paired with.)
I’m usually impressed by the skill behind fancy desserts but don’t usually gape and gasp at them. Not because I don’t love dessert but because I love dessert too much, and no one ever gives me the big sugary gloopy gloppy affair I’m looking for. But this. Dessert. Was. AWESOME. My boyfriend said it reminded him of a Christmas ham with its pineapple and cherry flavors, but the point of the dish was the brown sugar cake, which actually had a sugar center so buttery that it was making the cake translucent from the inside. It was the texture of heavily syrup-soaked pancakes. The sticky cherry sauce, extra-sweet crispy-chewy pineapple shards, and milk chocolate ice cream were just the cherries on top. So to speak.
I gave my boyfriend the bigger pate de fruits, because that’s how love works. Also because he pays for dinner.
There are two ways of thinking about Colicchio & Sons:
1) It doesn’t have to be as good as it is. It’s owned by Tom Colicchio, so it’s automatically going to be packed. It’s in the Meatpacking District, so it’s automatically going to be packed. It’s dark and romantic and has a separate Tap Room full of cheaper options, so it’s automatically going to be packed. And yet the restaurant never acts like you need it more than it needs you. All of the employees seemed flat-out excited to be there the night we dined, and our server might have been embroiled in a full-on love affair with most of the dishes from the way he described them. Every plate was really good and some were really excellent.
2) It’s price is on par with some of the better tasting menus in town–Momofuku Ko, Atera, Le Bernardin, wd~50, Torrisi–but the level of creativity isn’t quite there. The soundtrack sometimes ventured into 80s glam, and the decor is more cigar bar than sleek. It’s not quite refined, not quite boundary-pushing.
That said, the food at Colicchio & Sons is nothing short of delicious, and the familiarity will actually be a boon to those who love the idea of a tasting menu but don’t want course after course of unpronounceable ingredients. They’ll still have a little uni and puffed rice forced on them, though, and that’s a good thing.
When I wrote in my Torrisi Italian Specialties review that Italian food in NYC is terrible, bland, and uninspired, the good people of the Chowhound message boards went crazy, telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about if I hadn’t been to Del Posto, the Joe Bastianich/Lidia Bastianich/Mario Batali behemoth with one Michelin star.
So in the name of knowing what I’m talking about, my boyfriend took me there for the $165, eight-course Captain’s Menu for a tasting of Chef Mark Ladner’s finest. Our first impression was that the place was gigantic and cavernous, decorated in dark, heavy fabrics that made it seem like the perfect setting for cigar smoking, back door dealing, and hiding mistresses from wives. The staff was friendly despite the ominous feel, we were seated at the most perfect banquette that allowed for plenty of people-watching, and our server treated me like I was the first blogger to have ever entered the place once she saw my camera. Likewise, the sommelier kept talking up the special bottles he was opening up for us and even introduced us to this new contraption called a corovan or coravan or cordovan that separates the cork from the wine bottle without puncturing it so that the wine can be enjoyed without fully opening the bottle; he said that it was invented by a heart surgeon and that Del Posto is the only restaurant on the East coast to have one. Ooh-la-la.
Now, on to the food!
Cauliflower and leek vellutata in the little cups
Bacalao (cod) on a very crispy cracker
Chicken salad tea sandwich with chicken cooked for five hours, which made all other chicken salad sandwiches seem classless
secondi assaggi (second samples):
Like eating truffle hummus.
A beautifully diverse bread basket that was replaced halfway through the meal when it became cold. Our server also switched out our napkins at that point, which I loved.
For the bread. In case you thought it was just for spooning.
They call this vegetable salad brutte ma buone–ugly but good. I didn’t even think it was ugly, but it certainly was good. The sugary carrot cake crumble under this was almost candy-like and really worked with the super-acidic apple cider vinaigrette. The dressing was so sour that I felt like I was choking when I encountered too much of it resting in a little cup formed by the curve of an onion slice, in fact. But hey, what’s a little choking amongst friends?
The many crunchy elements–watercress, water chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms–made the dish what it was. I’ve never cared at all for watercress, but it was welcome and almost necessary here to add just a touch of freshness. This was also the first time in a long time that I’ve thought truffles really added something more than just an extra $50 to the bill. All in all, I think this was my favourite of the night, and I say this as someone who still totally thinks of fish as poo-drinkers.
I think the name of this dish literally translates to stinky tortello, which is entirely correct. I’m not used to such a strong cheese in my ravioli, so the juxtaposition between the creeeeeamy, buuuuuttery texture of the cheese gushing from the broken tortello and its pungent taste was intense. In a good way.
My boyfriend thought this was a little too one-note, especially following a dish that really was quite simple, but I actually found it complex with plenty of depth of flavor. The pasta was of course cooked perfectly, and then the spicy lamb sauce so complemented the sweet dollops of carrot puree and the dark, rich rye crumble.
A plate of assorted sea creatures arrived,
a broth was poured over them,
and the result was a seafood soup with tons of garlic and super-bright, super-acidic tomato flavor. The tender seafood was complimented so nicely by the citrusy marjoram in the broth.
A veal medallion surrounded by beef deckle was placed in front of each of us,
and then a ragu of tongue was added tableside. I was more excited about this dish than any of the others because of its familiar beefiness, but the lack of seasoning on it was a real letdown; both the veal and potato torta seemed to be entirely lacking salt. However, the deckle (fatty brisket) was perfectly seasoned and perfectly crusted, and the tongue stew was both tender and spicy. Cosa viene prima translates to “what comes first”, which I took as a play on the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg–or in this case, the baby veal or the adult beef.
I had never had Chartreuse before this. It’s a monk-made herbal liquor from France, and it made my mouth pucker worse than any lemon ever could. It’s interesting. And beautiful. And vegetal.
This was like a cheesecake rolled in thick, crispy breadcrumbs, paired with the most celery-flavored and refreshing sorbet and a fig dried as sweet as a raisin.
This was Del Posto’s take on s’mores, and while it seemed simplistic to me at first, I thought it was a really nice take on a cheese course in the end. The La Tur was really funky, but the sweetness of the chocolate balanced it so nicely, and their flavors were so complimentary. I always love the difference in flavor between raw cheese and melted, so I was pleased to find this gave me an idea of both states of a La Tur.
This semifreddo was like a thick, rich, brightly sweet dulce de leche with a crunchy crumble. I thought the fruits on the side seemed like such a weird, uncomplimentary addition, but I actually loved them–particularly the melon. And I’m not a person who cares about melon.
My boyfriend got the raw end of the deal with this course. Instead of the semifreddo, he was served this pumpkin cake that was a little too dry, a little too simple, a little too not-at-all pumpkin-flavored. The sage gelato, on the other hand, was so overwhelmingly sage-y that I didn’t care much for it, either. It sure was pretty, though.
To end the meal, our server brought a drawer full of small bites, this chocolate sculpture, a cookie jar, and a plate with a giant almond cookie on it. She held the cookie up to show how delicate it was while my boyfriend and I secretly thought, “Why are you touching our cookie?” She explained to us that this type of cookie is commonly passed around the table after a family meal so each person can take a piece for dessert. The Del Posto version of this involved our server smashing the cookie down on top of the cookie jar so that cookie chunks went all over the table. It was quite the spectacle. And quite the delicious, crisp cookie.
The contents of the cookie jar, dumped out onto the table for us.
Little tastes of things like Campari grapefruit, apricot cookies, and lemon curd doughnuts. We were too full for any of this, so it was wrapped up and left at the coat check for us to take home.
Del Posto was solid on all fronts, from food to decor to service. It’s clear why the restaurant has a Michelin star, and it’s clear that the staff are working hard to make it a destination, a place where you can expect a special bottle of wine to be opened for your special dinner. If this was an up and coming restaurant, I’d bump it up half a star, but I expected a little more wow from the food of the Bastianiches and Batali; I didn’t feel creative boundaries being pushed here, and I realize that’s probably because the restaurant is known amongst out-of-towners who don’t want any surprises, just traditionally good food. The better choice for dinner here for us probably would have been the five-course menu, which focuses more on pasta–the thing Del Posto is doing so well. I think this is the sort of place you only have to go to once to get the full experience, and I’m happy to have had mine.
I looked at my blog yesterday and realized it’s been almost two months since I posted here. I skipped the entire month of November. And you know I’ve been eating this whole time–and how. I have an Eleven Madison Park to write up, a Jean-Georges, a couple of Momofuku Kos . . . but I’m lazy, so I’m just going to post some photos from a trip to The Dutch this summer with my boyfriend and our friends Nik and Marko. It was getting buzz from the second it opened thanks to its chef, Andrew Carmellini, not only being super but having another restaurant with Robert De Niro. And I wanted his fried chicken and biscuits. (Not a euphemism.)
I really loved the neighborhoody feel of this place. They’re not trying to invent anything new, and they spent a lot of time trying to not try too hard: the result is a restaurant that’s comfortable enough to want to spend your Sunday morning in but hip enough that you expect the $18 cheeseburger. I could definitely be convinced to come back for those honey biscuits, but I’d probably be more likely to go to closer-to-home decor-twin The Smith for my everyweek brunching needs. Still, The Dutch is a cute addition to the neighborhood and a must-stop for carbo-loading on your way to your lesson at the Trapeze School New York. (Yes, that’s real.)
My friend Ash, a food blogger in her own right, heard about Pig and Khao (get it? cow?) from her sister, who must have a Google alert for the words “pig face salad” to have found out about this place so fast. We detoured from our already-scheduled dinner in Ktown last night and headed to the Lower East Side instead to catch this Filipino/Thai collaboration between former “Top Chef” contestant Leah Cohen and the Fatty Crew (of Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue) on its second night in business.
The promise of bottomless tap beer in the garden was tempting, but I couldn’t resist this Phuket Punch, a blend of prosecco, grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, and mint. The first note was biting citrus, then came the warming cinnamon, and finally the light, refreshing wine.
The tap was having a tantrum when we arrived, so my friend Kim ordered a Tiger lager instead and sipped it from a bowl as instructed. (The tap began working later in the evening, and the staff offered to let Kim have at it, too. Bonus!)
Succulent, slightly charred chicken over a lemongrass slaw where mint and cilantro were the stars, with a little bit of lime and plenty of ocean flavor from the tiny dried shrimp that flecked the plate.
A classic Filipino dish that Ash called “pig face” but that the menu more delicately labeled “pork head”. Hot dishes with a raw egg to mix in happen to be a favourite of all three of us lady-diners, so this was an instant hit. It smelled like the barnyard, but it tasted like bacon wrapped in foie gras. I loved the blend of meaty chunks and melt-in-your-mouth fatty chunks.
We ordered this to have a dish with some sauce, but we might have been better off with the khao soi recommended by our server. The sauce was indeed the point of the dish with its extremely spicy red pepper flakes, but the steak itself didn’t quite work for me in the context of a wrap. It was too tough for me to tear with my teeth, so I ignored the bibb lettuce and ate it with fork and knife. This is the one dish I would skip next time.
This was another dish Ash wanted to compare with the ones back home in the Philippines, and we were all pleasantly surprised that it arrived off the bone and fit for rabid consumption with soy sauce and liver dipping sauces. There were juicy, meaty pieces and dessicated crispy pieces and crunchy skin with an inch of fat still attached. Heavenly.
The point of Filipino food for me is the halo-halo, and this one will keep my tongue lolling for a while. Ash pointed out that the ice in your everyday halo-halo is crushed and therefore a little trying to eat; this shaved ice went down smooth and became a nice sweet milk slush as it grew warmer. Ash also pointed out that this is a pared-down version of the halo-halo she’s used to with so many ingredients it can overwhelm the palate. The strips of macapuno (coconut) were sweet, thick, and chewy, and the pinipig (crushed rice) added a toasty flavor and a light crunch. The ube (purple yam) ice cream was sweeter and more flavorful that I’ve had it, but the thing that really amazed me was the leche flan.
I will never order flan for dessert, because it’s too weak for me, too thin and gelatinous and slippery. I like a hearty dessert. I like cookie dough. You know what I mean. Ash described leche flan to us as thicker and creamier than the flans we’re used to, but I had no idea. This was like cubes of cheesecake. Only they tasted better than cheesecake. And there were only TWO of them in my bowl! Next time, I’ll be requesting extra leche flan. Because there will be a next time.
The menu is set to expand in the coming weeks, but you can view the prototype we ordered from here:
• Pig and Khao Menu, side 1
• Pig and Khao Menu, side 2
wd~50 is one of the first restaurants my boyfriend and I visited once we agreed that while some couples exercise together and some couples vacation together, we were going to be a couple who ate really fantastically over-the-top meals together. We celebrated our second anniversary with a few savory courses and the five-course dessert tasting and then went back for the full tasting menu, which included dishes that we still talk about years later as iconic examples of molecular gastronomy.
When we heard that the menu format had changed to celebrate wd-50’s ninth anniversary, we knew it was time to go back again. The “From the Vault” menu is five of the most memorable courses from the restaurant’s past for $75, but we opted for the new twelve-course tasting menu for $155 with wine pairings:
Salsify, the root of a plant, as rice? It wasn’t unconvincing, and knowing that salsify is said to taste like oysters, using it as the base of a seafood dish is so clever. There was a heavy lime component to this, and the crisp texture of the sesame paired well with the springier fish and “rice”.
It seems like a bit of a cop-out to hide the lobster roe in the dough, but no one would mistake this for plain old pasta. Not only because of the color (lobster roe is called “coral” for a reason), but also it was funky–not just salty like fish roe is but a little organy. Sweet, light grapes and sour pickled onion cut the richness of the buttery lobster coins nestled below.
Pho, the Vietnamese soup, has never been of any interest to me despite my boyfriend’s attempts at tempting me with it whenever we order Vietnamese takeout, because a) soup in general is dumb, and b) drowning good beef in water is dumb. Plus, pho–this one included–is so cumbersome to eat between slurping the noodles and spilling the broth and losing the meat at the bottom of the bowl. But this one was worth it. The broth was so wonderfully belly-warming and anise-flavored that I suddenly wished it was cold winter night in front of the space heater (not quite as romantic as a fireplace, but good luck finding that in NYC). The dwarf bush basil added so much to the dish that any bite without it seemed wasted. We loved the spicy lime-hoisin sauce under the puffed tendon on the side of the plate, but the real star was the tendon itself, which was like eating a really buttery packing peanut. The foie fell apart under my fork and made the broth richer and creamier than any traditional pho’s.
The New York Times tells me that the “amaro” portion of this dish is the “yolk of a duck egg that’s been bathed in amaro, the strident Italian spirit, after having been cured for six hours in salt and sugar so that its texture thickens”. But that’s not important. What’s important is that the thick, gelatinous yolk at the center of this nest of carrot shavings mixes with the fatty chicken confit to make the richest, most flavorful chicken. The peas–made of compressed carrot covered in “pea powder”–were firm, almost crunchy, while the carrot “pasta” was tender and sweet.
If you’ve ever tasted honey mustard pretzels, you know what it’s like to eat mustard meringue. Meringue cookies are one of the least-satisfying desserts I can think of, but savory meringue cookies are an extra-interesting way to condiment a pile of lunch meat. The mustard was the perfect spicy compliment to the herbaceous za’tar and its sumac flavor that my boyfriend recognized from his family’s Persian cooking. The sweet plum added great texture, but all of the flavors of the dish muted the veal, which I wanted to have an even punchier, pastrami-like flavor.
Chilled crab made for such a nice contrast to the crisp saffron cake, which brought to mind the warmer climates the kaffir lime also suggested. Crab lovers may find the saffron overpowering, but saffron lovers will be salivating uncontrollably.
To be absolutely fair, this dish made me appreciate black licorice in a way I never have with Easter jelly beans. To be absolutely honest, I only remember this dish because of how unremarkable it was. The fish had been poached and was basically flavorless; I’m really not sure why it hadn’t been at least grilled. It became nothing more than a vessel for transporting the pil pil sauce, which was luckily very balanced and not at all overwhelmingly bitter. The fried green tomato mostly tasted like its breading, which was quite a relief to this tomato-hater. This was an unfortunate misstep in a restaurant we associate with bold flavors (foie gras with a passion fruit center!).
It was Chef Wylie Dufresne who first made me like sweetbreads back in 2008 with his fried version paired with beets, so I was expecting a lot going into this dish and truthfully wasn’t all that in love. I liked the sauce the sweetbreads were rolled in, but their texture was not only not what I’ve come to expect from them but also just not that pleasant. When I think sweetbreads, I think of the ones from Momofuku Ssam Bar, which I described as “sweet and creamy inside, spicy and crispy on the outside, with a kick from the lemon segments arranged on top . . . like fried chicken, if chicken had the texture of custard”. These were more like little pellets of dry, chalky meat substitute, smooshed together to form what looked like owl upchuck. The pistachio brittle and zucchini were a relief after that, as were the very peppery nasturtium leaves.
Thank god this dish arrived next and canceled out any disappointment I had about the previous two courses (and oh, just wait for the desserts!). We were expecting ribs: you know, meat still on the bone, sauce all over our hands and mouths, not enough wetnaps in the world to clean us. But this was bacony, smoky pork deboned, cooked overnight, and formed into this lovely little slab fit for fine dining. The root beer was evident in the sauce, its flavors highlighted by the spice in the apricot spread. The rye really tasted bitter and wheaty and desperately needed the sweetness of the spread; together, they were complex and hearty. The filling, homey components of this dish made for such a nice contrast to the lighter dishes earlier in the progression.
You know how people always say, “This dish was a revelation,” when they mean, “I’m too lazy to describe to why this dish was good”? This dish was actually a revelation for me. I only started eating cucumbers a few years ago, and I only started liking them even more recently, so the idea that I would not just like a cucumber dessert but love it and love it even more than the chocolate-marshmallow dessert is astounding. And in fact, I loved this more than I’ve ever loved any of the Per Se palate cleansers. There were little cubes of the sweetest honeydew under that thick, salty, frozen cucumber disc, mixed into a creamy Chartreuse custard. Tapping through the disc with my spoon was like cracking the top of a creme brulee. The celery leaves made the cucumber taste sweet, and the cucumber made the honeydew taste sweet, and I’ve never liked any of them more than in this dish.
wd~50 has taken away its a la carte menu option but is serving two dishes for $25 and every additional dish for $15 at the bar, so you can bet I’m going to see if I can order this there.
This beautiful cloud-like puff of ice milk deflated under my fork like a sponge cake would and melted into the crunchy crust underneath. Seeing yuzu on any menu perks me up, and its sour citrus flavor was such a complement to these sweet, sweet ripe berries. The basil puree, something I’d usually salivate at the idea of, was so salty that I almost found it too savory; I probably would’ve preferred some boring basil leaves.
With a smoky flavor throughout, especially in the edible cocoa stick, this was authentic as a s’more could be while still remaining totally frou-frou. The crispy chocolate wafer absorbed the rich ganache underneath, the thin ice cream melted and became a glaze for the browned marshmallow, and the very intense currant became another element of richness. It was playful, artful, and just plain delicious.
Tart raspberry, an element of crunch, and the taste of burned bread. Gjetost is a brown cheese made of caramelized cow and goat milk, and I’d seen pictures of the stuff, but I didn’t put two and two together as I was eating this. I also dropped it down my dress and had to fish it out while our server politely looked the other way, so . . . not a very successful end to the meal on my part.
Our impression leaving wd~50 is that the tasting menu just didn’t seem all that molecularly gastronomical. (I read an article recently where a critic said New Yorkers don’t embrace the really avant-garde culinary arts like Chicagoans do and wondered if Chef Dufresne was trying to cater to our stodgy tastes.) But then we started thinking about the menu and said, “Hey, but there was something special about that egg,” and “Remember those little yogurt drops on the crab?” Perhaps the newest techniques are still being used but in a more restrained, less showy way.
It seems that while wd~50 was busy growing up, so were my boyfriend and I. When we visited the restaurant in 2008 and then again in 2010, we had what were some of the most inventive, composed dishes we’d ever seen. Since then, we’ve been to all but one of the three Michelin star restaurants and most of the two stars. We’d never been to Per Se, and now we’ve been there three times. This weekend, we’re going to Momofuku Ko for the fifth time. After all of that, eating at wd~50 was like visiting an old friend, but it wasn’t as palate-inspiring as those places are. Even newcomer Atera was more playful, more can’t-wait-to-see-what-they-come-up-with-next. There were enough wow moments on this menu, though, that I’ll continue to be sentimental about wd~50.