• 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)
My mysterious food blogger friend The Pretender planned this large-format nose-to-tail dinner for us at Resto after much debate about whether we should do:
1) this version, which involves several courses made from parts of the animal, or
2) the similar dinner at the sister restaurant next door, Cannibal, where they serve charcuterie made from the animal and then the whole roasted animal itself.
Having already done the whole suckling pig at The Breslin, I was more interested in a host of interesting dishes, and so we opted for Resto with my friends Jack and Anthony and his friends Sanjay, Jesse, Angela, CB, and Mutsumi. The Resto feasts can be made from beef, pork, goat, lamb, or fish, and we went for the lamb to have something slightly funky. Of course this meant that some of our less-adventurous food blogger friends opted out, which we made fun of mercilessly, but the truth is that I didn’t have the highest expectations for that many lamb dishes in one meal.
The drink menus at Resto are pasted into old catalogs and text books
and are divided into categories with saucy descriptions:
Buttery and tender with knockout seasoning. This is the thing I think about most from the meal, and it’s propelled me to eat a lot more pastrami in the day-to-day. Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your view of an entirely meat-based diet.
Oniony and salty.
Buttery, crispy bread. The flavor of scallions hit last, but then the lingering flavor seemed almost chocolate-like to me. Strange but delicious.
Smoky, with a crusty exterior. So much like eating a steak.
Spicy, with a crispy skin and arugula salad with pickled onions to counter sweet and spiciness.
So lemony sour, with crispy-chewy thick lamb bacon.
Fatty and spicy, with grease that ran down my hands in the best way.
Ugh, this dish. So memorable. The lemony tzatziki was incredible, the best tzatziki I can ever remember tasting. The pita was so fluffy, the ends of the leg so crispy, the Brussels sprouts so everything. I wish I could have this over and over.
I had worked up the guts to try some brain all day, but by the time the head made it around to me, all of it was sadly gone. Including the EYEBALL.
I loved this feast. I want to do all of the different animal feasts now. There’s something novel about getting to dig into the side of an entire pig, but I really preferred having the chance to eat all of these interesting, complete dishes for $85 per person. I can’t imagine the kind of effort that goes into planning a meal like this, and then each plate was delicious and diverse on top of that. We opted for the later of the two seatings the restaurant offers each night and were the last ones in the restaurant four hours later; the earlier seating only had three hours to eat, so I’d say we got the better end of the deal. And we still had leftovers for the next day to boot.
For the longest time, I was saying that the best meal I’ve ever had was at Tom Colicchio’s Craft. And maybe it still is the best meal I’ve ever had. It was my first tasting menu, my first meal over $100, my first time eating bay scallops and sturgeon and cocoa nib. Since then, I’ve had meals that have blown my mind more, but there’s sure a lot to be said for almost being made to cry over some Brussels sprouts for the first time.
Since then, I’ve had pretty stellar experiences at Craftbar and Colicchio & Sons, so my boyfriend and I were pleased to get to try Chef Colicchio’s newest venue, Riverpark, which is situated aaaaaaaaaall the way over on 29th Street behind the infamous Bellevue Hospital, overlooking the East River. It turns out that the interesting views are really the only reason to go.
My boyfriend was a little surprised when an entire baby octopus was planted in front of him, but it was pretty impressive. Chargrilled and just slightly fishy, it had a great firm-but-not-chewy texture. We both loved the cilantro on top, but I thought the clams tasted of funk. In general, it was just a little overwhelming to be handed the whole mollusk; a thoughtful preparation of octopus parts is more our speed.
The dense pasta coupled with the thick sauce made for a rich, homey dish. I loved the crispy herbs in contrast to the soft peas, and the classic combination of long-cooked lamb and mint proved its worth once again. I was looking forward to what the horseradish would bring to the dish but unfortunately couldn’t taste it. If I think about one dish from this night, it’s this one, just for those paper-thin greens.
Served over super-buttery potatoes, this was mushy texture after mushy texture, so every bit of that crunchy fennel was welcome. I liked all of the flavors that were present but noticed almost immediately that something was missing: spice. For me, the dish really needed something to brighten it up.
I’m only now beginning to actually enjoy seafood a little, so it was a major step for me to order this as my main dish, and luckily, it didn’t let me down. The sear on the scallops was just perfect, and I loved the lemony flavor of them. The bacon on top was extra-crunchy, and the vegetables on the side were extra-tender. I love the onions, especially. It maybe wasn’t the most soul-satisfying dish I’ve had, but I pleased myself by enjoying it.
The entire dessert menu was impressive, but my boyfriend and I decided we had to go for the very craziest thing on it. We love soufflés, and we love beets, so how could it be bad? Well, it was bad, and we knew it was going to be from the very moment it hit our table. It just looked wrong. And then our server took a spoon to scoop the center of it out and pour in the créme, and it was clear that the thing was much less a soufflé and much more an omelet.
It was so eggy. So eggy that we couldn’t eat it. We tried the beet sorbet and liked the way it was not sweet at all on its own but actually tasted like dessert when eaten with the pistachio brittle. Still, we were so disappointed with the soufflé that we couldn’t even enjoy it.
To tell the truth, I was almost a little excited to write a negative review about it, because we’ve been going to so many great restaurants lately that everything has been four and five stars. But when I almost apologetically mentioned to our server that the egginess had turned us off a bit, he said that the chef would be happy for our feedback, because it was the first night the soufflé had appeared on the menu, and they weren’t sure how it was going to go over.
The restaurant entirely made up for it by sending us a plate of the most wonderful housemade sorbets and ice creams in creamsicle, brown butter, and pineapple.
It kind of pains me to give Riverpark such a low rating, but all of the dishes were just so-so. Nothing blew our minds, and nothing offended us, but we had such better meals at Craft and Craftbar that our expectations were high. The most my boyfriend could muster was, “It was amazing . . . that I ate a whole octopus.” And I think that about sums up my feelings, too. Go for the views of the water and the creepy old Bellevue buildings, but try one of the other Colicchio restaurants for the food.
The curry puff is common to Thai, Malaysian, and Singaporean cuisine, but none of those cuisines is common to me, so the first time I tried one, I was in heaven. Sort of like an empanada, sort of like a samosa, it’s pastry stuffed with a thick curry, chicken, potatoes, and onion and deep-fried.
Since that original curry puff, I’ve tried as many as I can find in NYC, but I always go back to the one at Lemongrass Grill.
It’s the flakiest, the curry-est, and the most way-too-delicious-to-last-more-than-two-bites. The puff isn’t hard like a samosa’s, so the filling gets to mingle with it.
But really, it wouldn’t be anything without the dipping sauce it comes with. It’s vinegar-based with chunks of cucumber that taste a little bit pickled and a little bit sweet. I didn’t even like cucumbers a couple of years ago, but I would still dig those things out of the little cup with my fingers when my boyfriend wasn’t looking.
And I always follow my curry puff up with their chicken pad thai (which is also my favourite in NYC), or the Gai Tom Kha soup.
138 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)
New York, NY 10025 (map)
61A 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217 (map)
156 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map)
The way that I defend chain pizzerias should give you some indication of how much I generally think New York pizza sucks. It’s not the style I mind–I’ve grown to love the huge floppy crust that you fold together so the grease can drip straight into your mouth–but I just find it so entirely flavorless.
Totonno’s is about as New York-y as pizza comes, with an owner who started at the famed Lombardi’s, a location on Coney Island, and a reputation known the world-over. And yet, I find myself somehow craving it. The crust is brick-oven-browned, a little crunchy on the outside to help it maintain its form. But more importantly, the toppings are so mountainous you rarely see the cheese through them.
And one of their available toppings is basil! Heaven. Indeed, Zagat said, “Only God makes better pizza.”
I have to admit that when I tried Totonno’s for the first time a couple of years ago, I thought it was just as bad as other New York pizzas. So either my tastes have matured, or my expectations are sufficiently lowered after five years of living here.
1544 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10075 (map)
The first time I saw a black and white cookie, it was at my best friend Tracey’s “Seinfeld”-themed bridal shower. Everyone else gushed over the cookies, but I thought they were stupid. The bottom was soft and fluffy like a cake, and if I’m going to eat cake, I want an inch-thick layer of frosting on top; the stuff coating these things was icing, the kind you see on a slice of cinnamon-raisin bread, and I don’t go to bridal showers for bread.
The black and white cookie is native to New York, though, so eventually I had to give in and eat one. My boyfriend and I were at one of the weekly summer street fairs last summer and happened by La Delice Pastry Shop, an 80-year-old bakery in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, with black and white cookies in the window.
Something just . . . took hold of us . . . and we found ourselves being dragged inside to purchase two of the oversized treats. And they were delicious! Like, really, really delicious! It turns out that the cakey cookie part is an invariably moist shortbread and that the vanilla icing forms this sort of crunchy layer to juxtapose the sponge cake. (The chocolate icing doesn’t, for some reason, and I always eat the chocolate first to get rid of it, because the vanilla’s so much better.)
Since then, we’ve had about a zillion black and white cookies from all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I haven’t had one yet that I disliked. Court Pastry Shop in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, has the biggest in diameter (like, monstrously huge). Flavors in Battery Park, Manhattan, has the moistest. Crumbs, the mighty cupcake chain, has the thickest (although The Lunch Belle thinks it sucks).
I know everyone has strong opinions about black and whites, and I’d love to hear where you buy your favourites. I’d also like to know if you think the vanilla icing is so much better than the chocolate, because it is.