SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
The Tasting Menu at Agern
Mar 30th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

Had you asked me a week ago if I had any interest in Nordic cuisine, I would’ve given you something like a polite, “Sure, I’m interested in all cuisines!” And then, you know, gone back to eating my tacos. But if you’d prefaced that question by mentioning that the chef at Agern, the restaurant inside of Grand Central Terminal, has a restaurant in Iceland called Dill, I might have thought differently. I LOVE dill. And it doesn’t hurt that the owner of Agern is the same guy who helped found Noma in Denmark, which has been named the best restaurant in the world, oh, I don’t know, four times?

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Senses – Warsaw, Poland
Nov 4th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’m not sure people think of creative fine dining when they think of Poland, so it’s not surprising that Warsaw’s Senses restaurant only has one Michelin star, even if that’s a crime. My boyfriend and his family are from the area originally, so he took me there last month to see where he grew up, and naturally, I checked the Michelin guide. There are only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole country, and one just received its star this year, so we decided to give the new kid a try.

I emailed the restaurant for a reservation two weeks before our trip and was able to get us in at 8pm, although we admittedly were trying for a probably-not-so-popular Monday night. They offer 7- and 9-course tastings, which my boyfriend’s family all laughed at the impossibility of. They were super skeptical about their ability to eat so many courses and for so many hours, especially when his dad doesn’t even like seafood. But I basically forced them to forge ahead, and it ended up being one of the very best meals and experiences I’ve had anywhere.

In NYC, this meal would’ve been on par with Eleven Madison Park or Brooklyn Fare. It would have easily had three Michelin stars, and it would have cost $300. In Warsaw, it cost $99 and included about 20 extra treats not listed on the menu. And even value aside, the service was phenomenal. The servers spoke in English to me and then repeated everything in Polish for my boyfriend’s family, and just like at our two-Michelin-starred dinner in Vienna, everyone was hilarious. Just always anticipating what would delight us and making us laugh through every course. Having just visited Eleven Madison Park last month, I noticed a huge difference between the polite professionalism of the servers there and the way the Polish servers made us feel like we were guests in their home. Which might make sense when you remember that Chef Andrea Camastra is Italian and French.

Click here to read more ≫

Bowery Meat Company is Weirdly Worth the Money
Sep 28th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

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.

Click here to read more ≫

Industry 1332 is All About That Avocado
May 10th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I get restaurants offering me free meals every now and then, and having no soul like I do, I’m usually wont to take them up on that offer. But Industry 1332 tried a different approach: they just asked me to come in. I was talking about empanadas on Twitter, as usual, and their social media person started up a conversation with me. There was absolutely no reason for me to visit a random Latin restaurant in the middle of Bushwick, but it did have great reviews, and their tweets to me were cute and personal, just pushy enough to interest me without turning me off. So I made a reservation for four on a random weeknight and took the G train with my boyfriend to an L stop I’ve never been to before. It was just seedy-seeming enough to be exciting to a couple from the family-friendly part of Brooklyn as we hurried down the dark street beside the building, which seemed to be surrounded mostly by warehouses. Inside, they had used some of that industrial feeling in their design, with exposed brick and beams. Our friends Jon and Lara like to order ALL THE THINGS, so we tasted a good bit of the menu, and the menu sure was good.

Industry 1332 NYC

Industry 1332 NYC
ceviche

I was trying to stick to my low-carb diet that night, so I was bowled over by the fact that this didn’t arrive with any chips. Most restaurants are like, “Here, fill up on these greasy things so you don’t notice we only gave you three spoonfuls of fish.” Industry 1332 was like, “Here, we made this giant bowl of fish for you and didn’t want to hinder the flavor with some dumb chips.” I don’t want to talk in superlatives, but let’s just say that this was an incredibly complex ceviche and is certainly the one I’ll hold up as my standard-bearer in the future. It was fluke marinated in citrus with onions, peppers, mango, cilantro, and fresh avocado. Sweet, sour, and spicy. The mango was sliced almost like a noodle to give the bowl some heft, and the avocado was this amazing creamy mousse that also popped up in some other dishes, because the restaurant must have realized it’s the bomb.

Industry 1332 NYC
tirado de atún

Fresh ahi tuna cubes marinated in a ginger ponzu sauce with an avocado mousse. Looks like watermelon, tastes like the ocean! Again with that avocado, because it should be on everything this restaurant serves.

Industry 1332 NYC
arepitas

Mini corn cakes topped with shredded braised beef, avocado, smoked gouda cheese and mushroom aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
baja fish tacos

Tempura fried sole filet, in a corn tortilla topped with pico de gallo and yellow aji aioli.

Industry 1332 NYC
empanadas de la casa

Pastry turnovers served with a chipotle aioli in beef, chicken, or vegetable.

Industry 1332 NYC
lomo saltado

Sautéed ginger marinated beef, tri-colored fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, pearl onions, green papaya slaw served with basmati rice.

Industry 1332 NYC
pechuga rellena

Chicken breast stuffed with manchego cheese, chorizo, roasted pepper sofrito and a cilantro pesto basmati rice. When you’re on a low-carb diet, meat stuffed in meat with a bunch of cheese is your dream. This was all of the flavors of Mexican pizza without any of the carb face the next day.

Industry 1332 NYC
pan seared tuna

Sesame ahi tuna, served with roasted vegetables and a mango sriracha chutney. Tasted as beautiful as it looked.

Industry 1332 NYC
churros

Fried pastry dough rolled in cinnamon sugar served with dulce de leche crème sauce. Tasted better than it looked, my dinner guests told me, although I’m never going to complain about a heaping mound of whipped cream no matter its appearance.

Industry 1332 NYC

What we initially heard was that the neighborhood was a little upset about Industry 1332 being there, evidently because it’s too “nice” and will attract too many people to one of the still-cheap-ish parts of Bushwick. But now all of the Yelp reviews are by people who live down the street and love it. I’m gonna say it’s all thanks to that avocado mousse.

Industry 1332
1332 Halsey Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237 (map)

Howl at the Moon in NYC
Nov 24th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Howl at the Moon invited me to bring a few friends to the grand opening of their new Times Square location, and as a person who loves singing her face off unabashedly in public, I gratefully obliged. It’s a massive (for NYC) open space with a bar at the center, pianos up front, and a wraparound balcony full of leather couches on the second level where you’ll get the best view and the most room to dance. The free drinks were flowing fast and strong that night, and the mini burgers and fried cheese cubes were hot and plentiful.

But what really stood out is how crazy friendly the service was. The servers who brought our drinks were overwhelmingly nice, and when some sloppy guy spilled a glass of wine where we were hanging out, it was about three seconds before someone came to clean it up. I don’t know if they were just trying to impress the grand opening guests or if they want to be known for good service in a city where indifference is the norm, but it was noticeable to me.

When the music began and the audience started writing their requests on slips of paper and putting them on the pianos, we heard everything from Adele to Michael Jackson to Eminem to Bruno Mars to (WTF) a song from The Lion King. Their rapping white guy left us speechless, and one of their piano players seemed to be able to sound exactly like anyone he wanted to. The mostly elderly people in the place were the first ones to start dancing, but the entire crowd was up and singing along by the end of the night, and I don’t think it was just the free drinks.

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Howl at the Moon NYC

Chef Dave Santos’s Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up
Nov 10th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Chef Dave Santos may be a free agent since closing his West Village restaurant, Louro, this summer, but he’s not taking any time off. I was lucky enough to get a reservation at his Nashville hot chicken pop-up in the Manhattan location of Bark Hot Dogs last week, where he was serving whole fried chickens using his special recipe that even the Tennesseeans in the room said was better than what they’ve had back home. My friends and I got two whole chickens with pickles, cole slaw, baked beans, and potato salad, but we also couldn’t resist Dave’s fried chicken sandwiches and Bark’s super cheap pitchers of beer. The people around us who hadn’t reserved the whole chickens were oohing and ahhing over our tray of crispy battered thighs and drumsticks, and some of them even asked to take pictures. The only complaint I heard is that this was only a pop-up and we can’t have Dave’s hot chicken every day.

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
so crispy and glistening

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
a line back to the entrance of people waiting for hot chicken sandwiches

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs
so good we had to take some home to eat later!

Dave Santos Nashville Hot Chicken Pop-Up at Bark Hot Dogs

Afternoon Tea at The Pierre Hotel
Mar 27th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

A couple of my ladyfriends and I decided to get really into tea recently. We read all of the articles about the best high tea services in NYC, prepared ordered lists of our must-visit teahouses, purchased embroidered silk gloves and dusted the mothballs off our party dresses. And then managed to go to exactly one tea service. But afternoon tea at The Pierre Hotel overlooking Central Park was exactly what we were picturing when we set out to drink some tea and eat some tiny sandwiches.

The Pierre hosts tea in its Two E Bar/Lounge every day from 3 to 5 p.m. with a couple of options so you can choose from expensive, really expensive, or extra expensive with Champagne. The three of us obviously opted for the Champagne, which was poured from individual bottles by our friendly yet extremely polished waiter,

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and then we admired the fine flatware

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and the posh crown-molded surroundings while we waited for our tower of treats to arrive.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

I chose a pot of the bergamot-scented Pierre Blend for my tea

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

and immediately made it unrecognizable with milk and sugar.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Three of each kind of finger sandwich, cookie and scone, and pastries arrived and wowed us with their imposing size, but we hadn’t eaten breakfast and eventually devoured every bit of it over the next four hours.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Here’s the complete menu:

Catskill Smoked Salmon on Rye Bread, Balsamic Onions & Sour Cream
Boursin Cheese & Asparagus Crostini with Tomato Jam
Spiced Chicken Tartlet
Dates & Babaganoush Crepes
American Caviar & Buckwheat Blinis
English Cucumber with Dill Cream Cheese
Deviled Eggs Brioche Buns with Red Sorrel

Cranberry Scones
With Devonshire Cream, Raspberry Preserves and Fresh-made Lemon Curd
Walnut Cream Sugar Squares
Lemon Apricot Sandwiches
Chocolate Sand Cookies

Fresh Raspberry Tartlets
Red Cherry Financiers
Fresh Blueberry Tartlets
Grand Marnier Chocolate Madeleines
Coffee Opera Cake
Lemon Meringue Tarts
Coffee & Strawberry Macarons

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

We eventually stayed so long that the lights dimmed and we decided some $18 cocktails were in order. None of us could resist the GinGin, a combination of Hendricks Gin, Canton Ginger Liqueur, mint, cucumber juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, and ginger ale.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

It was served with fresh fried potato chips and huge luxurious chunks of Parmesan cheese, which we certainly needed after that mere literal tower of food we ate earlier.

Afternoon Tea Service at The Pierre Hotel, NYC

There seem to be two kinds of afternoon teas in NYC: upscale English high tea and comfortable kitschy tea. Alice’s Tea Cup may be NYC’s most popular afternoon tea, and I love that I can pop in for a casual scone on a weeknight or wait on the scorching pavement with the dirty masses for 2 hours and 45 minutes on a weekend (actual Alice’s wait time when I last attempted to brunch there), but when I want fancy high tea with all of the trappings, I’ll forever think of Two E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre. It was just exactly what I expected, from the polished flatware to the caviar to being allowed to laze about for hours and slowly sip our Champagne. They make it feel like it’s worth the money. To complete the experience, there was an older couple sitting at the table next to ours where the man was wearing a suit and reading the Sunday Times and the woman was wearing pearls under her pale yellow blazer, and I didn’t see them speak a single word to each other. Nor even look at each other. So New York City!

The Pierre Hotel
2 East 61st Street
New York, NY 10065 (map)

Cosme: The Time We Basically Ate the Entire Menu
Feb 10th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

Eater called it “One of NYC’s Most Relevant New Restaurants“. The New York Times gave it three stars the very day I went. Chef Enrique Olvera has what’s considered Mexico’s best restaurant and just guest-judged an episode of “Top Chef: Boston” filmed there. This chef is hot, and you know he knows it the moment you walk in the doors of Cosme to find a bar crowded with people not there to eat but just to be. The decor is mostly black, punctuated by little pots of succulents and a direct beam of light on every table strong enough to make professional photographers and hardcore Instagrammers alike swoon. The tables are spaced so widely that you get the idea the restaurant’s more concerned about your comfort than making an extra buck–although maybe that’s why they do charge an extra buck (or ten) for everything–and I can’t remember ever hearing the conversations of anyone around us even though the electronic-tinged soundtrack wasn’t overbearing at all. It’s borderline clubby, the kind of restaurant a non-New-Yorker thinks all New York restaurants are like, but it never felt pretentious nor snooty. And the food? Well, it was tiny and very expensive, but that sure didn’t stop us from eating a lot of it.

Cosme NYC
Cosme’s menu

Cosme NYC
Tortillas, pumpkin butter

Cosme NYC
Stuffed avocado, seafood vuelve a la vida, horseradish

Cosme NYC
Mussel tostada, russian salad, chipotle mayonnaise

Cosme NYC
Uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber

Cosme NYC
Sliced raw hamachi, fermented serranos, fish sauce, black limes

Cosme NYC
Chicharron, radish, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce

Cosme NYC
Cobia al pastor, pineapple purée, cilantro

Cosme NYC
Scallop aguachile, poached jicama, fresh wasabi-cucumber-lime

Cosme NYC
Smoked raw sepia, salsa mexicana, avocado

Cosme NYC
Octopus cocktail, purple occidental corn chileatole, charred avocado, red onion

Cosme NYC
Mushroom and squash barbacoa, chilpachole, hoja santa

Cosme NYC
Eggplant tamal, fresh ricotta

Cosme NYC
Enfrijolada, ricotta, hoja santa, creme fraiche, onion

Cosme NYC
Burrata, salsa verde, weeds

Cosme NYC
Occidental purple corn pozole, pork jowl, lettuce, radish, Mexican oregano

Cosme NYC
Duck carnitas, onions, radishes, salsa verde

Cosme NYC

Cosme NYC
Cosme’s dessert menu

Cosme NYC
Chocolate ganache, mezcal, blood orange, beet sorbet

Cosme NYC
Nixtamalized carrot, cinnamon cake, cream cheese ice cream

Cosme NYC
Brioche, persimmon, ricotta, fresh peanut butter

Cosme NYC
Lemon cake, grapefruit, quince sorbet

Cosme NYC
Sweet potato flan, coffee

Cosme NYC
Husk meringue, corn mousse

Cosme NYC
2012 Riesling No. 110 Semi Dry, Boundary Breaks, Finger Lakes, NY

Cosme NYC
wall decor and A Day at elBulli

Cosme NYC
a lonely little succulent in the wee hours of the night

Most things we tried sort of tasted the same in that they were like, “Here’s something with onions and cilantro and avocado! And here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado! And now here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado and did we also mention onions and cilantro?” But those are the flavors I most associate with Mexico, for one, and for two, who cares when the food is so good? The first thing I tried was the mussel tostada, and I don’t care a lick about mussels in my regular, non-Enrique-Olvera life, but these were plump and tender atop a tortilla crisp and coated in that creamy chipotle mayo given even more of a kick by the sliced peppers. The hamachi, so humbly presented, was actually deep layers of sour and umami with fish sauce, bold black lime, and fermented chilis. Acids were everywhere, lemons and grapefruits and tomatoes and pineapples. One of the stunners of the night was the cobia al pastor, served with a gloopy pineapple puree that I had a notion to scoop right out of the bowl with my finger, and fresh warm tortillas for making tacos. A review I read said that the tortillas were almost flavorless to provide a blank canvas for the proteins, but my group entirely disagreed and thought that the things the chef was doing with corn were his best things.

Unfortunately, we had to fight for those tortillas. Even though we were a table of six and were ordering all but four dishes off the entire dinner and dessert menus combined, our cobia came with two tortillas. Our plate of hamachi came with five pieces. The one dessert we didn’t order never showed up at the table for us to try with a wink from the chef like it would have in the NYC restaurants with the best front of house service. I’m not really complaining about the service–our server came back to talk with me about our bottle of Riesling from the Finger Lakes that I was really enjoying–but it seems like some communication must have been lost between the server and the chef along the way. Or maybe the chef really couldn’t spare one more piece of hamachi for us.

But back to the food. While most dishes did have similar intense, punchy flavors, there were two that tasted like nothing else on the menu: the burrata and the enfrijoladas. The burrata was so light, with herbs that tasted so green and fresh it was like the cheese and all had just been dug up from the garden. The enfrijoladas, which were kind of like enchiladas but with a bean sauce that reminded me of a mole in color and texture, had this hoja santa herb in it that imparted an anise flavor I didn’t find on the other plates. I would order both of these again for sure, along with: the sepia, where thick strands of the cuttlefish acted like noodles; the octopus cocktail, where someone who loves pickled red onions as much as I do was in heaven; the eggplant tamal with its wildly acidic topping; the posole, where rich ingredients met bright broth to make for one of the most complete dishes; the cobia, the hamachi, and of course that mussels tostada.

Up for debate is the duck carnitas, which was a hefty $58 for the amount of meat you’d find in a measly four tacos but had the most beautifully rendered fatty skin over succulent dark meat. We had to add the really, really excellent hot sauce from the chicharron and some salt flakes to the duck to make it perfect, and you can obviously get great duck for a tenth of the price all over the city, but if you’re already at Cosme and spending $19 on half of a stuffed avocado, just get the duck.

Not up for debate are the desserts, which ranged from very good to I’m-never-going-to-stop-thinking-about-this. Pastry chef Jesus Perea has worked everywhere from Chef Olvera’s acclaimed restaurant in Mexico, Pujol, to Del Posto under Brooks Headley to Le Bernardin to too many of the very best restaurants in NYC to name. The brioche smothered in ricotta was almost savory at first bite and didn’t seem very special, but then suddenly the smear of fresh peanut butter took over and made it this incredibly craveable thing. The sweet potatoes in the flan gave it natural sweetness, and coffee syrup somehow didn’t overpower the potato flavor, making this a great choice for someone who likes a simple, not-sugary dessert. The lemon cake was this entire bowl of citrusy brightness, all kinds of lip-puckering in different textures. The cinnamon cake was spicy to the point that it overpowered the cream cheese ice cream, which really needed to be eaten alone to appreciate it, and appreciate it I did. The tender carrot was nixtamalized, which is apparently the same process used to make corn into hominy. (That is, it makes it softer and more delicious.) Despite the interesting preparation, though, it didn’t have enough “pop” for some of our group, which we attributed to a lack of acid in the bowl. The chocolate ganache was a table favorite, on the other hand, with its perfect sphere of beet sorbet that made it look like a delicious spaceship. The mezcal lent the chocolate this almost funky flavor, like it had gone a little sour, but we somehow wanted to keep eating it; I’m guessing it’s the kind of dessert that you either absolutely love like we did or think is semi-disgusting. (And borderline disgusting is some of the most exciting food, right?) The star of the night, though, was this beautiful cracked husk meringue with corn mousse seeping from it. All of the reviews will tell you that this is the dessert to get, and they are correct. This will probably become the dish Cosme’s known for with its naturally sweet corn whip and meringue that immediately sticks in your teeth like wet cotton candy and then melts away just as quickly. I’ll never forget you, husk meringue, no matter how fleeting you were.

So is this the most relevant food in NYC right now? Well, in a way. It cemented my love of Mexican food and reminded me that the best flavors are often the simplest: a well-placed fresh herb or a slice of pickled red onion can so easily bring a dish to new levels. And the great news is that those things can be found all over the city in hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints where a taco costs two dollars instead of twenty. (Two of my favorites right now are Tacos El Bronco in Sunset Park, introduced to me by my friend Kim, and The Original California Tacqueria, introduced to the same friend and me one Friday night when we were drunk and wandering Cobble Hill.) But you’re probably not going to get chipotle mussels there, nor noodles of smoked sepia, nor that corn meringue. Cosme is the Mexican flavors you love in ways you never imagined.

Cosme
35 East 21st Street
New York, 10010 (map)

The New Brunch Menu at Ted’s Montana Grill
Sep 29th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

If you’re like me, you probably think of Ted’s Montana Grill as a place for business deals, happy hours, and big, juicy bison steaks. The Midtown location in NYC is great for all of those things, with its hardwoods and low lighting and intimate booths, but when Creative Communications Consultants invited me in to try a complementary meal at Ted’s Montana Grill, they encouraged me to give the newly-revamped brunch menu a chance.

Because Ted’s is in a more business-oriented part of town, I would’ve never thought of it for brunch, and the massive space was pretty quiet when we arrived at 1 p.m. An hour later, though, things were filling up, so I guess it just takes people a little time to make their way uptown. The staff told my boyfriend and me that when designing the new brunch menu, they wanted to please the people who were there for breakfast foods and the people who wanted to eat the Ted’s signature items no matter the time of day, so we ordered a mix of the two.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

There’s a dim lamp in each of the high-walled booths and a map of the American West covering each table. It’s very handsome and atmospheric.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

We had just come back from a trip to the Philippines, so my boyfriend adorably tried to order a glass of pineapple juice. Ted’s doesn’t have that, but they do have fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices with thick paper straws.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Some nice half-sour pickles arrived for us to savor while we admired the gigantic bison head on the wall behind us. These were perfectly salty and still retained so much of their cucumber flavor. I wanted to put them on a burger immediately.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
bison short rib hash

They’re not lying when they say everything is made in-house here; we could tell that the sweet corn had been cut right off the cob for this dish. It was filled with tender, fall-apart bison short ribs with tons of BBQ flavor. They tasted so beefy, yet with just a hint of something extra. The rich flavors of the onion and peppers hit us first, but then a little brightness from the cucumber came in at the end. There was so much depth in this plate; certain bites had a combination of flavors that made me pause to enjoy the bliss.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
Absolute Best Fish sandwich

I’m a little bit skeptical when you start using too many superlatives, but this really was one of the finest fish sandwiches I’ve had. The breading was crunchy but not too thick, the cod was so flaky it didn’t want to stay contained in the breading, and the grainy bun added earthiness and made the sandwich feel more upscale. I’m such a tartar sauce snob, but this one was very flavorful with its chives and capers and totally passed my test. The coleslaw was so tangy, and I loved the green onion in it. And the fries–OMG, perfect. They were like county fair fries, super crispy and with the skin still on, extra salty and oily without being greasy. This wasn’t only a great fish sandwich but a great plate all around, where even the side dishes were stars.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
huevos rancheros

This isn’t usually something I’d order (I want carbs on carbs with extra meat for brunch), but the manager told us it was one of her favorites and that we’d want to eat the house-made tomatillo salsa on everything. Apparently the chef had a Latino friend consult on how to make it extra-authentic, and we did think it was a winner. It actually tasted like it had mango or pineapple added to it, but it turns out that was just the natural sweetness of the tomatillo. It gave us a slow burn in the back of the throat, tamed by the egg and crispy tortilla. It could’ve actually been spicier for my taste, but this was a really hearty dish, great for vegetarians who still eat eggs.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC
French toast

This is exactly what I want from French toast. It was like someone took the very best banana bread from their grandma’s kitchen to make this. The outside had a crunchy coating, and the inside was nice and fluffy, not too dense. The bananas on the side were cooked down to sugary-sweetness, and they imparted a little of their flavor onto the dollop of smooth whipped cream. Even the butter served alongside the dish somehow seemed exceptional, just because it was salted. I would order this every time, with a short rib hash to take care of the part of me that loves savory alongside my sweet.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

Growing up in Ohio, my family farm was down the road from a field full of bison, and my mom used to take my little sister and me to the field on summer afternoons to visit them. I have such fond memories of those times and remember how majestic I used to think the bison were, so it sort of warms my heart that Ted’s Montana Grill brought the bison back to the American table and made a market for bison farmers. On top of that, I loved everything I ate at Ted’s. I’ll think about that tender short rib, those county fair fries, and the crispy coating on the French toast for a long time to come, and with bottomless brunch cocktails, I know other New Yorkers are going to love this new menu, too.

Ted's Montana Grill, NYC

The Natural Gourmet Institute’s Friday Night Dinner
Aug 7th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

It’s rare that I leave a prix-fixe dinner wondering, “How did they do that?” But at most of the meals I eat, the chef doesn’t come out of the kitchen to explain exactly what was in each dish. That’s exactly what happened at the last Friday Night Dinner at the Natural Gourmet Institute, though, and I was left befuddled by how such simple ingredients were turned into such complex dishes. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I was invited to dine on the house at the Natural Gourmet Institute by their marketing coordinator and, you know, immediately had my doubts about an all-vegetarian meal cooked by students. But once I saw the menu, I became a little intrigued. And then when my boyfriend and I figured out that bullet points under the appetizer, entree, and desserts sections weren’t “or”s (“pick this OR this OR this”) but “and”s (“you’re about to get this AND this AND this”), I was downright excited about getting to try all of these different tastes.

We were led to our table by a gentle, polite woman, and that was sort of the theme of the night when it came to the crowd there for the Friday Night Dinner series. Everyone was gentle and polite. A little free-spirited. Very knowledgeable about food. There to enjoy a delicious health-conscious meal and good conversation. We were seated at a communal eight-top, which shocked me a little at first, because ew, I don’t want to get to know strangers. But the couple next to us were lovely, foodies and wine lovers who were moving out west and wanted to visit one of their favorite places before they left. She was a vegan and he wasn’t, but he assured us we’d like the meal.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
the menu

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
appetizer

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
raw zucchini with pesto

This isn’t the first time I’ve had vegetables masquerading as pasta, and I’m a huge fan as someone who usually eats a low-carb diet. The zucchini was so fresh and crisp and light, and it was a neutral enough base that the macadamia nut(!) pesto could really shine. A leaf of Boston Bibb underneath provided a contrasting texture.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
green cabbage and grapefruit terrine

It sounded like as strange a combination to me as mushroom ice cream, but the sweet and savory flavors really worked. The cabbage was mostly a textural component, so the flavor of the grapefruit really came through. The carrot coulis was lost on me, unfortunately, but I thought adding the natural sweetness of carrots was a smart idea.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
spiced chickpea, brown rice, and vegetable stew

This hearty stew with Cajun flavors was filling enough to have been full of meat, and its flavor was rich enough for it, too; chef Hideyo Yamada told us later that it was the addition of trumpet mushrooms that fooled us. An earthy chia seed cracker, grilled broccolini, a dollop of cucumber and shiso leaf pressed salad, and eggplant and shishito pepper tempura with horseradish sauce completed the sampling. I loved the fresh cucumber with the delicate shisho flavor, the buttery broccolini that probably didn’t actually use any butter at all, and the light tempura batter made with quinoa flour (low-carb!) and seltzer water. The bright kick of the horseradish provided a juxtaposition to the richer flavors of the dish.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
raw raspberry chocolate cake with a duo of sauces

Don’t even ask me what was going on here. The “cake” tasted like raspberry sorbet over a dense, chewy brownie, but it was raw and apparently made of cashews. What a feat. The tapioca pearls had a strong mint flavor and were dry, not slimy, so they stuck together and formed a solid mass. The fresh fruit was so summery with the mint, but the mint quickly gave way to the more forceful raspberry flavor. It sort of reminded me of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is all about the fleeting beauty of natural objects. I loved the chocolate “tuile”, which was much too thick to actually be considered a tuile, and of course that’s just the way I wanted it.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner

The Friday Night Dinner at the Natural Gourmet Institute was serious enough that I felt like I was getting an inventive tasting menu at an NYC restaurant, but it was casual enough that I could go there any Friday night. There’s no pretentious decor, no attire requirements, and your placesetting won’t include four unnecessary plates there just for looks. The tickets were about $50, including tip and beverage, it was BYOB, and 10% of the proceeds from each dinner are donated to a worthy cause. The night we attended was graduation night for the students, and they came into the dining room with Chef Yamada to talk about the food, the school, and how it’s changed their lives. One of the students told us about how sick she had been until she started eating a vegan diet and how she chose the Natural Gourmet Institute because they were open-minded about different ways of eating and didn’t force her to take butchering classes like other culinary schools.

You can read more about their history and philosophy here, and check out the menu for the next Friday Night Dinner while you’re at it!

Natural Gourmet Institute
48 West 21st Street #2
New York, NY 10010 (map)

»  Admin   »  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa and Katie Ett