• 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)
If you’re wondering where the pretty people in NYC are eating (or not eating, to maintain their girlish figures), it’s at The Chester in the Meatpacking District. The restaurant serves American food, but the crowd is a mix of world flavors thanks to its prime location, attached to the Gansevoort Hotel with its famous rooftop pool.
I happen to work right next door and looked longingly at the soft blue-and-white striped banquettes on the outdoor patio every morning at The Chester until I finally convinced my friend Kim to join me there for lunch one day. We ordered lobster Cobb salads with chopped lettuce and piles of hard-boiled egg, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, huge chunks of lobster, and pineapple(!) and haven’t stopped talking about them since.
Incredibly, The Chester contacted me recently to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their new dessert menu, and I jumped at the chance when I saw that one of the new offerings is served in a jar, which automatically makes everything taste like sunshine and butterflies in flight. The desserts were on the house, but of course Kim and I had to sample a little bit of the rest of the new menu on our own dime.
An appetizer big enough to be an entrée is a rare and beautiful thing in NYC. This duo of dips was extra satisfying in that it included both the savory part of the meal and a part I would’ve been happy to eat for dessert. The white bean dip was the salty portion, and I loved its strong red pepper flavor. The sweet honey came through in the ricotta dip so well that it tasted like candy next to the white bean. Both seemed extra creamy when paired with the crunchy toasted bread.
Contrasting that was the soft bread of our other appetizer, this flatbread topped with prosciutto, fontina cheese, and arugula tossed in truffle oil. The prosciutto was so tender, not sinewy at all, and I loved the richness that the grilled flavor added to the bread.
The thickly seared scallops were of course the star of this plate, but I couldn’t get over how the sweet slice of cornbread complemented the naturally sweet scallops. Everything was perfectly seasoned, and there was lots of complexity thanks to the buttery cream sauce, salty capers, and bitter greens on top.
Plus, it was just plain nice to look at.
Kim’s kale Caesar was SPICY! Surprisingly so. The portion size was again really satisfying, and Kim didn’t even think she needed to add the salmon but thought it was a well-cooked piece of seameat and was glad she’d ordered it. The big slices of Parmesan were our favorite part, as a couple of cheese hogs.
The first thing I said was, “There’s liquor in here!”, which is always a great way to start a dessert tasting. The dark chocolate cake had just a hint of bourbon infusion, and I wanted to drape that thick velvety frosting all over everything I ate. The raspberry sorbet had a bright, fresh taste, like it was plucked straight from the raspberry garden. The cocoa nibs, by contrast, added a dark richness and crunch.
The panna cotta is the very last dessert I would’ve ordered for myself because they’re usually too light and not decadent enough for my taste, but this was easily my favorite of the desserts we tried. It reminded me of eating a flower in the best way, the very perfumed flavor of cardamom filling my nose. The warm sensation of the cardamom and strong whiskey cream hit my throat first, but then the cooling burst of Meyer lemon and orange followed. I loved the textural differences of the cream, followed by the crunchy almond brittle, followed by the custard, followed by a layer of liquid on the bottom. The whole experience made me think of drinking a cup of Early Grey tea. Except, you know, it was a creamy cool dessert and not hot tea and therefore much, much more delicious.
My dessert in a jar, at last! Layers and layers of fluffy vanilla bean sponge cake and strawberry compote. I loved that there was plenty of saltiness in this lightly sweet dessert, which really brought out a lemon flavor in the cake. It was such a pleasure to dig through the cream down to the cake and strawberries and come up with a spoonful of different flavors and textures. The honeycomb candy added another reminder of summer with its sweet honey flavor, and it hardened in our teeth so we could continue to enjoy the dessert all of the way home.
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.
Having grown up on a diet that consisted entirely of American classics with a visit to The Spaghetti Warehouse thrown in every now and then for a little foreign culture, the croque-madame was an entirely new thing to me when I tried one for the first time a couple of years ago.
I mean, it’s basically a grilled cheese sandwich. Except with fancy cheese that happens to be melted on top. And a big, ol’ slab of ham in the middle. And an egg over the whole thing. It’s so savory and decadent that French law should prohibit their being eaten more than once a year.
I’ve had really excellent ones here in NYC at L’Orange Bleue and La Silhouette, but my favourite so far is from the brunch menu at Pastis in the Meatpacking District:
I was actually torn about ordering it, thinking maybe I should get one of the less-traditional egg preparations, but there’s really no messing with perfection, and perfection is bread with cheese, ham, and egg. Everyone at the table agreed mine was the best dish ordered, and half of it went to people needing to try “just a taste”.
It’s a little pricey at $16 with nothing on the side, and of course the place is ridiculous to get into, but well, sometimes I’m willing to suffer for food. Especially when that food is like the pizza of breakfast.
I love Tom Colicchio’s food and would travel to the ends of the earth to feast upon it, if necessary, which is lucky, because Colicchio & Sons is basically located there. Is it going to be the sort of place I visit so often that the waiters recognize me? Not a chance, if not for the location, then for the douchebags who eat there. Is it the sort of place I’ll want to visit every time the menu changes? For sure.
I know it’s supposed to be insignificant, but I make a lot of judgements about a restaurant based on its bread basket*, and the super-crunchy breadsticks at one of Tom’s other restaurants, Craftbar, have always been such a crumby, the-least-they-could-do-is-make-them-taste-like-pretzels disappointment to me.
But Colicchio & Sons has rolls! Soft, buttery rolls that glistened under the tungsten bulbs above our table! After pretending like I was just going to have a taste of one and then actually slamming three of them, I was ready for some fungus and bone butter.
I had bone marrow for the first time on one of my earliest dates with my adventurously-palated boyfriend at Blue Ribbon Brasserie, and at the time, it freeeeeaked me out; I scooped the tiniest bit of it possible onto my bread and tried my hardest to act like I felt fine about eating the insides of a cow bone. Years later, I was excited to try it again, especially when accompanied by gnocchi, one of my favourite foods in the entire world, and of course, black truffle.
I thought I’d had good gnocchi before, but this was different. I understand now why people talk about the little balls of dough being too dense sometimes; it’s not that heavy gnocchi is bad, but it’s that this light, airy gnocchi seemed to absorb more flavor, to complement rather than overpower the rest of the dish, and was just all-around more pleasant to chew on. The bone marrow melted like butter, the black truffle was so rich and earthy, and the chestnuts were sweet and hardy.
My boyfriend thought the foie gras had “a nice melt-in-your mouth texture, with a nice thin crispiness to the seared top”. It was more gristle-y than other foie gras he’s had, like it hadn’t been perfectly trimmed, but he still thought it was “a nice hunk”. The sauce was deeply-flavored, sweet, and aromatic, and he thought the apples were a nice complement, but the sassafrass was basically just there for color.
I was really torn between this dish and just about every other red meat dish on the menu. I like duck when it’s done right, but I think it can get really gamey and really tough really fast. But of course Tom wouldn’t do me wrong. The top layer was a breast piece with a crust of spices, and underneath was a roast of even more tender, more flavorful pieces. I liked the sweetness of the kumquat, but the rest of the dish was a throwaway for me. Still, it was worth the price for the duck.
My boyfriend called this rich, deep, and musty and said it had a nice sear but was soft and buttery on the inside. I thought the salsify had the taste and texture of more-flavorful French fries, so I was surprised to read that salsify is known as “oyster plant” because it supposedly tastes like bivalves. Surely there’s no chance I’d actually like eating oysters, right?
No joke–we’re still talking about this dessert almost a month later. The sugar-drenched dough sticks were bursting with coconut cream that glooped out all over the plate when I cut into them. The lemon marmalade was so sour on its own but so complementary to the sweet dough and savory nuts, and I loved its gel texture. The current menu says the marmalade is now being made of the fake-sounding limequat, which gives me a great excuse to go back.
I basically talked my boyfriend into getting this so I could relieve the last experience I had with Tom’s rosemary ice cream, and it was still the best part of the dish. My boyfriend thought the bread was “a little dense in a bad way”. He found it too hard and didn’t like the way it stuck to the plate, but he did think it was “cinnamony and sweet, like a really good cinnamon roll”. The rosemary and grapefruit surprised him with how complementary they were.
The kitchen sent out these complementary bites to end our meal and also sent us home with carrot cake muffins for the next morning’s breakfast. Which, you know, is the kind of thing that totally steals my heart.
The service was impeccable, of course, and the decor was sleek without being unapproachable. We were disappointed to not see Tom roving around the restaurant, as I’d read other reviews that said he could be seen everywhere from the kitchen to the hostess stand. I’m going to assume that since it was Valentine’s Day, he just didn’t want to distract me from my boyfriend.
*The best bread basket in NYC, in my opinion, are the buttery, salty, herby rolls served at Quality Meats.