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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.

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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.

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Gabriel Kreuther Probably Deserves More Than One Michelin Star
Aug 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.

It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?

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Luksus Probably Deserves Its One Michelin Star
Aug 2nd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Luksus, the Nordic tasting-menu-only restaurant hidden behind a door in Greenpoint’s Tørst beer bar, has been on my list for a long time as a Brooklynite who’d love to never have to leave the borough for her fine dining. I was scheduled to go see my family in Ohio over the July 4th weekend, but when my flight got canceled despite clear blue skies, I consoled myself by booking a table for two there in the hope of getting to sit at the bar and watch the chefs work. The OpenTable reviewers had given Luksus a 4.5, and Eleven Madison Park, which I would call one of the standard-bearers in the city, had a 4.8, so I congratulated myself on my good choice. But when I started talking to my friends, the consensus was that Luksus was good but probably not somewhere they’d return to. I thought about changing my reservation, but then I remembered the optional beer pairings and just had to try it for myself.

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Rocco Steakhouse Has the Big, Fat Bacon and the Schlag
Jul 11th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The only thing better than being invited to try out a complimentary dinner at a new restaurant is being invited to try out a steakhouse. Rocco Steakhouse is the mastermind of owner Rocco Trotta, who put together a staff of big names from old school NYC steakhouses, including the man who served as the general manager at Wolfgang’s for a decade. (And Wolfgang, of course, started his steakhouse after working at Peter Luger, so you just have to love all of the entanglement within the NYC steakhouse strata.) With another well-known steakhouse on the same block, I asked GM Pete Pjetrovic why he partnered with Rocco and beverage director Jeff Kolenovic to open the space on Madison Avenue; he said he knew they could create a better steakhouse with the best ingredients, the best chef, and the best head waiter.

It seems like the neighborhood agrees. When I sat down right after work, the completely enclosed dining room was nearly empty, but by the time my thick Canadian bacon with just the right amount of char arrived, it was full of regulars. Or maybe that’s just how the waiters treat everyone who walks in the door. I heard lots of “how are the kids?” followed by handshakes and pats on the back. The staff was warm and friendly and let me annoy them for a picture where they wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders like brothers. But of course when it was time to serve the steak, they were all business.

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The NoMad Restaurant: What I Tasted, and What I Immensely Regret Not Tasting
May 13th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The little group of friends I eat all of my cow stomachs and whole suckling pigs with all love Eleven Madison Park but don’t want to necessarily drop $300 on a tasting menu on a random Wednesday night. Luckily, there’s The NoMad restaurant in the NoMad Hotel, where Chef Daniel Humm is serving the same elevated food for, you know, the same elevated prices, but at least you can only order two or three courses here if you want to save your pennies. The service was as kind and polished as you’d expect from a restaurant by this chef, the atmosphere as dark and cool as you’d expect from a hotel that’s as much known for its bar as anything. As with EMP, most of the food you get at The NoMad is a really great version of a thing you probably already like–I’ll never forget the “picnic” I had there once–but this is also the kind of place that’ll also make you like food you thought you didn’t.

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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)

First Look at Beetle House, the Tim-Burton-Themed NYC Bar
May 3rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

When I found out that Beetle House, a Tim-Burton-themed bar and restaurant, was opening in the East Village, I immediately texted my best friend in Ohio and asked if that was catalyst enough to make her buy a plane ticket to come visit me. She said, “That sounds terrifying, actually.” So I made reservations right away with my other friends. Not to spite her exactly but because I was still sure it was going to be great. During the first week of soft opening, I was hearing about a man dressed as Beetlejuice leading semi-annoying renditions of “Jump in the Line (Shake, Señora)” and a background soundtrack comprised entirely of Danny Elfman songs. I told my boyfriend that it didn’t matter if the cocktails were expensive and the food sucked, because this was obviously just a novelty bar meant to pull in tourists for one night at a time. These are the same owners of the Will-Ferrell-themed bar, Stay Classy New York, after all. They surely aren’t meant to be taken seriously.

Beetle House NYC

Since Beetle House was still in previews when we went (and will be until May 6th), it was cash only, by reservation only, and serving a limited menu. The menu was pretty cheeky, though, with its disclaimer about their meat supply being innocent New Yorkers and its items like Edward Burger Hands, Charlie Corn Bucket, and Eggs Skellington.

After chatting with the super friendly (not even just by NYC standards) owner who was doubling as our server and finding out it was she who’d developed the cocktail menu, my friends and I ordered all of the available drinks to start:

Beetle House NYC
Alice’s Cup of Tea, Barnabas Collins

Alice’s Cup of Tea was their take on a Long Island iced tea and just as strong but with heavy notes of peach that made it perfect for summer. The Barnabas Collins was the whiskey cocktail, not so sweet despite the brown sugar thanks to two kinds of bitters.

Beetle House NYC
Beetlejuice

Tequila, blackberry, and lime made this really refreshing and easy to drink. All of the cocktails were very strong but well-balanced, so I could’ve had several of these but really only needed one to get to a good place.

Beetle House NYC
Jack Skellington

Our table agreed that this one was just weird. Bacardi rum, creme de coconut, lime juice, crushed ice, and orange zest. There was no reason it tasted so funny to us, except that we weren’t on a banana-shaped raft off the coast of a tropical island.

Beetle House NYC
Edward Burger Hands

A bison burger with bacon, pepperjack cheese, quail egg, sriracha cream, avocado, and tomato on a honey garlic bun. The table next to ours got a much better-looking one, but don’t let the mess on the plate dissuade you. My friend the burger snob was impressed that it was actually cooked medium-rare and loved that the quail egg was broken on the side for dipping. The menu didn’t mention that the burger came with a side of garlic whipped mash, which made the $16 price tag make sense.

Beetle House NYC
Victor Van Pork

Smoked BBQ pulled pork, jalapeño jelly, sweet slaw, and pickled egg on a honey garlic bun. It’s a summer picnic in a sandwich, with all of the spicy and smoky you’d expect.

Beetle House NYC
Love It Meat Pie

After reading the description of this–cornbread, sauteed chicken, romano garlic cream, peas, carrots, peppers, onions, and jalapeño jelly–I thought it sounded like a kind of chicken pot pie. But our server told me that it was “just everything in a bowl”. Not exactly crystal clear, but I asked my boyfriend to order it anyway so I could see. It turned out to be the best thing I tasted that night (and, you know, I tasted everything). It really was just all of the ingredients in a bowl together, with the cornbread absorbing all of the flavors rather than just sitting on top, as in a pot pie. I’m not sure what kind of magic they throw in there with everything, but it had the flavors of a bowl of Thai curry. Except with way more stuff and way less broth, which is sort of the dream.

Beetle House NYC
Cheshire Mac

I ordered this because I had to know what $24 mac & cheese looked like. It was seven cheeses (seven!), garlic and sea salt breadcrumbs, and sweet stewed tomatoes. It was a massive plate that took all four of us to finish, and it was just . . . special. Even without meat, I wasn’t sad to have spent $24 on it. (That said, I’d sure rather spend $18 on it if this became a regular place for me.) I loved the crunch of the breadcrumbs that added just the right amount of buttery sweetness to the pasta, and then the tomato sauce just put it over the top in terms of comfort food.

Beetle House NYC
cherry cheesecake

They had run out of the Wonka Bar Chocolate Cake with actual chocolate bars between the layers of cake, so we opted for the cherry cheesecake instead, which was not a mistake. One of the owners’ moms makes all of the dessert, and we could taste it. This version had big sour cream flavor and a thick, buttery graham cracker crust. It was $12, which was a bit of a surprise to us when we got the bill, but it was a good-sized slice, and YOLO.

Beetle House NYC

A lot of the initial Yelp reviews dock stars because this place is so small, which I find adorable. Is this your first day in NYC, Yelpers? Yeah, restaurants are small here.

Beetle House NYC

Beetle House NYC

In the end, I left Beetle House feeling like it was nothing I expected it to be and just what I want a good East Village bar to be. There was no costumed Beetlejuice (they tell me he’ll be there on the weekends, along with side show acts, magicians, and zombies). There was no Danny Elfman music. There wasn’t really a whole lot of Tim Burton, truth be told. It was actually, as their website says, “a bar and restaurant in the East Village of NYC with an atmosphere and menu inspired by all things dark and lovely”. I would’ve thought the Beetlejuice guy was kitschy and fun to take pictures of, but I wouldn’t have wanted him there pretending to levitate every time I wanted to casually drink a This is Halloween! cocktail with pumpkin liqueur, cinnamon liqueur, apple liqueur, apple cider, ginger beer, and lime. And hearing the Danny Elfman score for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure would have been charming, but listening to The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division was way cooler. It seems like the owners are making this a neighborhood bar during the week and a novelty bar for the weekend. Unfortunately the prices don’t make it the kind of place you can go every night, but I’m hoping they’ll work that out after the soft opening.

Beetle House
308 East 6th Street
New York, NY 10003 map

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark in Vienna, Austria
Apr 12th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Early last year, my friends and I were planning a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Athens, so I pulled up the ol’ San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list to see if that part of the world had anything to offer. Lo and behold, #15 was smack-dab in the middle of Wien (that’s Vienna in German, see; I’m getting you ready for your future trip there), a modern Austrian restaurant perched on a canal of the Danube River in the middle of a 19th-Century park. Steirereck promised the white gloves and unnecessary decorative plates stacked beneath each dish that I love but also tons of fresh local ingredients that I would have never heard of. Adventure!

I was able to request a reservation through the English version of the Steirereck website and received a confirmation the next day with the exact date and time I’d hoped for (this was four months in advance of our travel date), but I had a question. Four of us were sure we wanted to try the tasting menu, but one friend didn’t think she was ready for five hours of eating and wanted to order a la carte. I replied to the confirmation email and basically told them, “Don’t worry, we’re going to be drinking enough alcohol that you won’t mind if one person isn’t eating.” They didn’t reply. A week before our dinner, though, they wrote to reconfirm my reservation, so I took the opportunity to ask again. The reservationist replied,

Thank you for your confirmation!

Don’t worry you can all order on stage.

We are looking forward to your visit.”

My friend imagined herself on a stage at the front of the restaurant, ordering samples from the cheese cart over a microphone. But we just let it go, because adventure!

Having crammed two weeks of vacation clothes into one carry-on bag, I was woefully underprepared for our fancy dinner and arrived in the 60-degree evening wearing sandals, no tights, a sleeveless dress, and a Gap hoodie. The hostess still totally took it from me like it was a real coat and gently folded it over her arm to hang for me without any hint of judgement, god bless her. Aside from the lingering fear of the stage-ordering, things were going great.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Steirereck seems to be set up like a clover, with each leaf representing a different room with rounded edges overlooking the park. It meant that even with the restaurant completely full, we were only sitting in a room with a handful of tables. Which was lucky, because while the other tables were full of austere Europeans, our table was doing wine pairings and having a really good time of it. It was the staff’s fault, though! They seemed to take great joy in seeing if they could entertain the Americans and kept making jokes about carrying us out to our cabs after the wine pairings and telling us to let them know if we found worms in the salad because it was so fresh. Their humor was so dry that we would all laugh, wait for them to leave the table, and then ask each other, “Wait, he was joking, right?” It was the perfect kind of service for us, a bunch of normal people faking like we were fancy in a different country.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
austere!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We all ended up going for the tasting menu with wine pairings, so we never found out what ordering “on stage” was like, but we started off with cocktails in case nine glasses of wine wouldn’t be enough. Mine was this celery cocktail with housemade vermouth, an “Arabian mountain herb” grown on their roof, and rosemary.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The bread cart was overwhelming to a carb-lover such as myself, but there was a nice blood sausage loaf for the one person at our table who wanted to balance his carbs with protein. I chose the white bread with lavender and the double baked sourdough.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
double baked sourdough, white bread with lavender

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
bacon butter with hemp seeds, sage butter with chia seeds

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

After our first wine pairing was served, a huge spread of tiny dishes arrived:

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
allergens

Apparently Austria has 40 different allergens that have to be displayed on a menu lest someone die from eating hidden mustard, so the restaurant cheekily decided to make dishes featuring all of them. We each received a card naming all of the dishes, the allergen they contained, and a description of who the allergy generally affects. (Eggs: It is possible to be allergic to just the yolk or the white. Most common in children under the age of five, most people grow out of it after a couple of years.) We had things like wheat cracker with pericon, crayfish tomalley with salsify and lovage, peanut with sweet corn, and the worst offender of all,

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

CELERY. Which we got a whole plant of. The little ribs dangling amidst the stalk were soaked in verjus & vermouth salt, but we were told to eat as much of the stalk as we wanted to. (We did not.) Other highlights were the duck egg with tons of chive, and the sour milk dip for the cucumber.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
young carrots with fennel, coconut and reinanke

Glazed young carrots, carrot and fennel salad, marinated wild fish (reinanke, a kind of salmon, spicy carrot and fennel juice. Lots of fruity, sweet flavor in a savory course.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peppers & melon with olive herb & venus clams

Grilled preserved yellow peppers, roasted muskmelon, braised Jerusalem artichoke, Taggiasca olives, Venus clams cooked with tamarind, ginger, and lemongrass.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
celeriac & peas with hazelnut & verbena

Confit young celeriac with peas, pea shoots, and hazelnuts, sautéed salad hearts, celeriac-citrus sauce with pepperoncini, and wild celery herb. So much lime flavor!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
redondo courgette & chanterelles with buckwheat & plum

Sauteed chanterelles, barbecued and steamed redondo courgette (zucchini), avocado and plum marinated in lemon, roasted cashews, spiced green tomato jam, and French sorrel. I loved the spiciness of this one.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
alpine salmon with porcini, cucumber, passion fruit & pepperleaf

Raw “branded” alpine salmon, Mexican pepperleaf inflorescence, verjus-infused radish, grilled porcini, cucumbers with mustard seed and dill, borretsch leaf, passion fruit cucumber juice with pepperleaf oil, fried pepperleaf pearls. We liked the layers of cucumber with dill and porcini with lemon, accented by those crunchy pepperleaf balls.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
amur carp with Job’s tears, kohlrabi & pandan

Pan-fried amur carp, kohlrabi marinated with balsam vinegar & panda oil, Job’s tears crisp, sourdough bread creme with crunchy Job’s tears seeds. Standouts included the crispy fish skin and the way the creme broke up the acidic dish.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
quail

I failed to record more detail about this, but it was quail with this wonderful sesame sauce.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
venison with squash, baby artichokes & orange blossom

Roast Hochschwab venison, butternut squash cooked in brown butter with orange blossom and rosemary, baby artichokes glazed with Madeira and thyme, red onion and radish chutney with horseradish. The chutney was the favorite element of everyone at the table, and isn’t this just about the prettiest plate you’ve ever seen?

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

For those who didn’t opt for the plated cheese course, a cheese cart came loaded with everything from the mildest hard cheeses to the stinkiest washed-rinds. My boyfriend had the restaurant choose a progression of four for him, but you can have the whole cart if you like.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
sweetened vanilla “fresh cheese” with physalis & cereals

Unpasteurised “fresh cheese”, preserved and dried “Little Buddha” physalis, frozen “fresh cheese” whey with toasted hemp seeds, black sesame, amaranth, and coconut. The server plated this in front of us at the table, cutting into the cheese so the whey would drip through the mesh. The physalis (or cape gooseberry or Peruvian cherry, depending on where you’re from) came in preserved and freeze-dried forms to provide different textures.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Drunk Katie can’t keep her camera still!

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
peach with lemon agastache & basil

Peach poached with lemon agastache flowers and verjus, basil and sorrel creme, marinated peach, and basil beignets with basil sugar.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
basil beignets

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
raspberries with roses, fig leafes & sesamy

Raspberries marinated with rose-vinegar, set sesamy milk, fig leaf snow, rose petals preserved in apple vinegar, “weinviertler” water leaf, and baked raspberries with sesamy.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark
medlar, violets and crepes

Crispy deep fried crepe with Japanese medlar (or loquat fruit) and violet jam and powdered candied violets, strawberry mint, lemon verbena, and violet petals marinated with violet syrup and medlar juice, medlar kernel and violet ice cream. This was an extra course the restaurant brought us just to try, in case our stomachs hadn’t exploded already.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

Another gift from the restaurant, these were traditional poppy seed noodles that were too savory for me for dessert, but my Polish boyfriend with all of his poppy seed desserts at family holidays loved them.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

We’d seen this cart at other tables in the restaurant, with a distinctive buzzing sound emanating from its core. BEES! I was so sure it was just a recording but wanted so badly for a restaurant to just be casually wheeling a live hive around the place. The lady at the table closest to us was so scared of being attacked, though, that her server had to show her the little speaker inside to get her to calm down.

Our server pulled out the honeycomb to scoop a bit off for each of us onto little wooden spoons and then offered us tastes from each of six jars of honey made from the nectar of different flowers from different regions of the city. There was also nougat, little jars of watermelon that tasted like cubes of honey, and honey covered in white chocolate.

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

The Tasting Menu at Steirereck im Stadtpark

At seven courses for $142 and $75 for the wine pairings, Steirereck felt like a steal. The food all tasted so fresh and so full of exotic things we’d never tried before (physalis! medlar! crunchy pepperleaf balls!), and the service was somehow exactly what we wanted all of the time. When I sneezed, I was handed a package of luxurious Relais & Chateaux tissues, and each dish was accompanied by a card with the title of the dish, a description of the ingredients in it, and then notes about elements like reinanke that we may not have seen before. But when we wanted to have a drunken good time with the staff, the white gloves came off. The allergen spread is one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten, and I loved the way the restaurant had plenty of those novelty moments to delight our eyes but also made sure the food stood up to the experience. All in all, this was just what I would expect from a many-Michelin-starred restaurant in the U.S., only everyone had great accents and we were sitting on the Danube.

The New Momofuku Ko
Jul 27th, 2015 by donuts4dinner

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

We started off with a bottle of Riesling

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

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:

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

And then, the food:

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
pommes soufflees

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
apple, beet

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 Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
lobster paloise, tartlet

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
vegetable roll

This Arctic char roll hit us with jalapeño first, then cucumber to cool it down. The freshness of herbs finished off every bite.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
millefeuille

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
madai – consomme, shiso

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
scallop – bamboo, almond

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
razor clam – pineapple, basil

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
razor clam slime!

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mackerel sawarazushi – ginger, dashi ponzu

Mackerel sushi with lots of ginger and scallions. A layer of fermented sunflower added a grainy texture.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mackerel dashi – king oyster, asian pear

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
sunchoke – blood orange, tarragon

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
tamagoyaki – sweet potato, caviar

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
cavatelli – nettle, aged cheddar

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
bread and butter

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
lobster – snap pea, citronette

More lobster! The super fresh sugar snap peas gave this a bright crunch next to the rich, buttery seameat.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
foie gras – lychee, pine nut, riesling jelly

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
duck – lime pickle, xo

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
vegetables in XO sauce

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
sorrel – rhubarb, elderflower

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
huckleberry – laurel bay, bee pollen

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
mignardises

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.

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
old-fashioned

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC
a space to the side for larger parties

The Tasting Menu at Momofuku Ko, NYC

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.

Momofuku Ko
8 Extra Place
New York, NY 10003 (map)

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