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The Entire Dim Sum Menu at RedFarm UWS
Jan 6th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

There are no reservations at the Upper West Side outpost of RedFarm, so my group of five showed up at 6:30 on a Thursday night hoping to beat the usual 8 p.m. dinner crowd. Even though it’s apparently twice the size of the original West Village location, the place was packed, and even having called earlier in the afternoon to put ourselves on a waitlist wasn’t helping. But the staff was zealous in finding a spot for us, and soon enough, we were seated at the end of a communal table in the middle of the checkered-table-cloth and blond wood dining room, about to eat every single item on the dim sum menu.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum

You can sell white people anything with a little woodgrain and some bold graphic design.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
cucumber thyme cooler and blackberry ginger-lime soda

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
three color vegetable dumplings

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
Katz’s pastrami egg roll, mustard sauce

So spicy and everything I wanted it to be. How can you make the famous pastrami from Katz’s Delicatessen even better? DEEP FRY IT.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
crunchy vegetable & peanut dumplings

These were just what you expect–all earthy vegetables with just a hint of peanut–but something about them made them really memorable for me. Probably the fact that they were so simple and fresh amidst a mass of fried things.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
shrimp & mango fried wontons

FRIED THINGS.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
shrimp & snow pea leaf dumplings

The way these were shaped just like the shrimp inside did so much to highlight the seafood. This was all about the shrimp and its texture.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
five flavor chicken dumplings

The best part about these was the curry sauce underneath, which everyone loved and wanted to spoon onto everything else.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
lobster cheese sticks

I was the only person at our table who seemed so-so about these. The cheese tasted processed to me. And you know I usually love a processed cheese food, but I wanted to be wowed by what was accompanying my lobster.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
‘Pac Man’ shrimp dumplings

I know this was supposed to be all novelty, but it was one of my favourite plates in terms of flavor, too. The Pac-Man was made of tempura sweet potato, and the dumplings were shrimp with a heavy dose of lemongrass.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
crispy duck & crab dumplings

The little “tail” on these was the end of a crab claw. (Have you noticed yet that practically every dumpling has eyes?)

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
pan-fried pork buns, spicy sauce

I loved these mini pork buns because I love all pork buns ever, but everyone else complained that they were only big enough to tease us.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
pork & crab soup dumplings in individual bamboo steamers

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
pork & crab soup dumplings

I know everyone has her own idea of the perfect soup dumpling, and these weren’t mine. I liked the very tender meatball inside that made the guts easy to eat, but the thin skin made it too easy for the dumpling to fall apart while I was sucking out the soup. I prefer the thicker, chewy skin of the Chinatown soup dumplings I’m used to.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
pork & shrimp dumpling skewers

Very tropical. Again, I thought the texture of the shrimp was the stand-out.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
pan-fried lamb dumpling shooters, tofu, miso seaweed broth

A meeting of the land and sea.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
BBQ’d duck breast, grilled litchi (lychee), lotus chip

One of the most complete bites I had: crunchy lotus, sweet fresh fruit, seared smoky duck.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
shrimp-stuffed jalapeño poppers

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
soft & crunchy vegetable fried rice

Our friend Tiffany, who had visited the original RedFarm downtown, insisted that we order this despite its $14 price tag, and I secretly could’ve eaten the entire vat myself. Partly because the dim sum wasn’t nearly enough to fill me up, and partly because I loved the crunchy bits of watercress.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
chocolate pudding

Our server became ECSTATIC about this chocolate pudding when reciting the dessert menu to us. It was the kind of build-up that ensures you’ll be disappointed by whatever follows. But I wasn’t disappointed. It was simply some of the thickest, chocolatiest pudding around.

RedFarm UWS NYC Dim Sum
The bill. For dim sum.

This should scare you.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

RedFarm, most notably, is expensive. It seemed like nearly all of the comments I read on reviews before my visit were centered around how expensive it is, and rightfully so. We spent $80 per person, and then we talked about going to Shake Shack afterward to actually get full. It was strange to find a restaurant charging $14 for 4 dumplings you’d pay $1 for in Chinatown and then adding eyes to everything like it was meant to help children stomach shrimp for the first time. That said, I actually really liked the place. Some of the dumplings were unmemorable, but some of them were bursting with flavor and had me wishing I was getting more than one of each kind (Pac-Man, I’m coming back for you by myself). And that creativity was reflected in the price. So was the fact that this wasn’t some dim sum factory restaurant with food being served from carts but a friendly place for white people to bring their mothers who are afraid of cuisine that sounds foreign. This is the kind of casual, cute eatery I’d love to pop into on a whim whenever the craving for dim sum hits (which is about every other day for me), but the price point unfortunately makes it more of a destination than a whenever spot.

RedFarm
2170 Broadway
New York, NY 10024 (map)

Asiate Tasting Menu- American (New)/Japanese – Columbus Circle
Jul 11th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I only became interested in Asiate because someone recommended it in an old Chowhound post I happened to find about undervalued Restaurant Week restaurants. The tasting menu–with its uni cream and its butter-poached lobster–excited me so much that I gave up my three Restaurant Week reservations in order to get at it as soon as possible.

Thirty-five floors up inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel, it has a better view than Per Se and the other Columbus Circle restaurants. It also has an entirely different aesthetic: bright, white, stark, and airy. We were struck the moment we walked in the door by the giant silver entwined-twig sculpture hanging from the ceiling and the overall simplicity of the decor that let the floor-to-ceiling windows speak for themselves. Unlike the dark, plush surroundings of restaurants like Daniel, Asiate feels less stuffy and pretentious. And the food is just as simple and elegant.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
seaweed and cayenne gougéres

Compared to the gougéres we’ve had at Per Se and Tocqueville, these were sadly lacking. While I appreciated the spiciness that followed much later than the nori and cheese flavors, I found these crusty, too dry, and not nearly cheesy enough. My boyfriend reminded me of the liquid-center gougéres at Per Se, and we both gazed out the window with dreamy looks in our eyes.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
amuse bouche: melon

I’m not an egg-hater by any means, but I sure liked that this little egg-looking amuse was actually a spherification of melon. Its skin, so thin as to be almost indiscernible, burst open in our mouths, filling them with light, slightly-sweet melon juice. It would’ve been better cold versus room temperature, but maybe mine had just gotten warm while I tried to figure out how to use my new camera on it.

Tuna Dégustation: Schramsberg, Brut Rosé, North Coast, California 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna sashimi, cucumber salad

This preparation was too subtle for us; the cucumber “pasta” was surprisingly the standout flavor, and the remaining ingredients were almost entirely bland. I did love the play between the tender tuna and the crunchy cucumber but needed something spicy or salty to make the bite more about flavor than texture.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna tartare, uni

I decided recently that I either need to have some really awesome uni or give it up completely, because I keep being disappointed and sometimes even a little grossed out by it. This was the perfect preparation to bring me back around. The tuna was pleasantly chunky and imbued with a citrus flavor that managed to lessen the usual bitterness of the uni. I wrote in my notes that the roe was a good addition, but that can’t be right, can it?

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna tataki

This was again an unfortunately bland bite, but I think I need some more tataki in my life. Biting into this little hunk of tuna was like chewing on a piece of steak. I really mean that. And I swear I hated fish up until a couple of years ago. The crunchy little rice balls on top were also a plus.

Schramsberg, Brut Rosé, North Coast, California 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
“Buckwheat and Eggs”, soba noodles, osetra caviar, uni cream

When this dish was presented to us, my boyfriend said, “Look! All of your favourite things!” And it’s true that the sight of sturgeon roe, salmon roe, uni-flavored cream, and nori might have made me pass out in the not-so-distant past. The flavors in this dish were, in fact, all very oceany–the nori was the foremost one–but the pasta really brought it back to the land for me. I was concerned about being overwhelmed by the fishiness, so I secretly mixed all of the ingredients together and ended up with a perfectly-balanced, perfectly creamy bite every time.

Shirataki, “Sara Wind”, Junmai Sake, Japan

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
clam ceviche

On the restaurant’s website, this was listed as “blue prawn, scallop, Meyer lemon”. On one hand, I was excited about the prospect of shrimp, scallop, and lemon together. And I thought that as a twenty-five-year hater of seafood, it was a big deal for me to admit that. But then my boyfriend saw a picture of the dish in which the head and legs were still attached and warned me. I said, “Maybe I’ll just ask the kitchen to remove the head and legs before they serve it.” He said, “That would be embarrassing for you and offensive to the chef.” I offered that I’m paying for the meal, that I should get to eat what I want, and that having to see the head and legs would lead to a diminished experience for me. He countered that a chef’s presentation is a form of artwork and that I wouldn’t paint an extra nose on a Picasso. In the end–and it took a while–we agreed that I would have the dish served as-is for the photograph’s sake and that he would then remove the head and legs for me if they were bothering me.

And then of course we were brought an entirely different dish that turned out to be perfect. The texture of the clams was so pleasantly chewy and cut into just the right-size pieces. The bite and crunch of the radish next to the sweeter watermelon really stood out. The fruity, refreshing marinating citrus juices were so delicious my boyfriend wanted to drink them when he finished eating all the solid bits, and our Sauvignon Blanc–which I usually don’t care much for–tasted wonderfully grapefruity.

Kingston Family Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, “Cariblanco,” Casablanca Valley, Chile 2008

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
black cod, potato noodles, summer squash, miso broth

This was my first time eating pattypan squash, the fruit-vegetable with the cutest name ever. And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the fish itself was even delicious. It was super-salty but in the best way, and it just flaked so perfectly. (I don’t actually think I understood what it meant to describe a fish as “flaky” until that moment. The way it was breaking off into equal sections was impressing me so much that I looked to my boyfriend for a way to describe it, and he said, “Um, that’s what they mean by ‘flaky’.” Ohhhhh.) The potato noodles added a nice crunch but little flavor, but luckily, there was a giant pile of enoki mushrooms hidden under one end of the fish that had soaked up some of the miso broth and was earthy and flavorful.

Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France 2009

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
butter-poached lobster, white polenta, kaffir reduction

Whoever decided to pair vanilla with lobster long, long ago was a genius. And whoever in the Asiate kitchen decided to pair their vanillaed lobster with a sauce that tasted like Fruity Pebbles cereal should at least get shortlisted for a Nobel. The snap of the beans with the buttery chewiness of the lobster was nice, and I enjoyed the creamy-gritty texture of the polenta sprinkled with vanilla bean. I absolutely could have done without the rubbery mushrooms, but I understand some people actually enjoy the look of the common mushroom cap.

Hirsch Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Ngima’s Cuvée,” Sonoma Coast, California 2009 (this tasted like the smell of Band-Aids to us!)

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
wagyu beef tenderloin, smoked potato purée, yuzu koshou

You know how people are always saying, “Kobe beef is unmatched,” and “Oh, sure, my much more sensitive palate can totally tell the difference between Wagyu and traditional American beef”? And you know how you’re always like, “I’ll just stick to my big, fatty porterhouse, thanks”? Well, Asiate is doing something different than everyone else, because I actually felt like I was eating a more-delicious chunk of beef. It seemed more tender, more flavorful, more perfectly-cooked. Plus, there was visible salt on top of the hunk, which is the best steak topping next to butter. Everything else on the plate was just okay, but like anyone’s paying attention to you, asparagus.

Château Côte de Baleau, Grand Cru, Saint-Émilion, France 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
Kamran, lovely view

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
strawberry-rhubarb consommé with lemongrass froth, warm chocolate cake with some sort of crazy blue gel, Campari-grapefruit sorbet, coffee-cardamom parfait, red velvet cake

Whether it was because we were enjoying the savory courses so much or just because we’re gluttons, we weren’t ready for dessert yet. Having a giant dessert assortment placed in front of you is a pretty good way to take your mind off of that, though.

I’m glad we tried the grapefruit first, because it was the least-sweet element on the plate and would’ve tasted bitter after anything else. The little chocolate cake round was very rich and dark with a lovely gold-flecked liquid frosting. The coffee ice cream didn’t taste of coffee to us at all but of blueberry and yuzu. The red velvet cake was one of the more interesting elements with its lychee and celery topping; I just love celery in general but especially in dessert. The strawberry consommé looked very light and refreshing but was actually thick and viscous but for the lemony foam on top.

I wouldn’t say we disliked anything on the plate, and in fact, all of it was delicious. The problem with assortments like this one and the one at, say, Nougatine at Jean-Georges is that there’s just too much going on to ever seem like a well-composed dessert. As much as I like the novelty being able to sample the entire dessert menu, little bites only get my palate all excited for a big finish, and when there isn’t one, I feel unsatisfied. I think a better choice would have been to serve the consommé first (as the menu had indicated) and the follow up with a bigger version of any of these components.

Brachetto d’Acqui, Coppo, “Passione,” Piedmont, Italy 2007

At this point, we were allowed to sit for a while without any other sweet treats and may have started to murmur some misgivings about the 4.5-donut rating I had been considering. I mean, charge me whatever you want for your tasting menu, but wow me at whatever price point you set, right?

But then this little plate of mignardises arrived with the check, and everything was set right.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
mignardises

Chocolate cake (very moist), pâte de fruits (passion fruit or guava), macarons (lime!), peanut butter and jelly chocolates (with flavor that lingered well after we left the restaurant).

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

I don’t think I should’ve liked Asiate as much as I did. Asian flavors are interesting to me, but they’re usually too unfamiliar to provide that perfect balance of comfort plus ingenuity that makes for my favourite kind of meal. Yet in each one of these dishes, Chef Brandon Kida managed to combine something that may have scared me off in the past–multiple preparations of uni, roe all over the place, nori taking center stage–with other ingredients like steak and noodles that feel homey.

Plus, this tasting menu and wine was about half the price of those at places like Per Se and Daniel. Certainly we missed some of the service aspects of those restaurants that have made them the institutions they are–unexpected courses, take-home treats, personalized souvenir menus–but this made for an excellent alternative to those sometimes-pretentious, luxury-claustrophobic meals.

Asiate
80 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023 (map)

Nougatine at Jean-Georges – French – Upper West Side
Sep 23rd, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Dr. Boyfriend and I were convinced that we hadn’t gotten the true Jean-Georges experience at The Mark back in July and decided to try again with the tasting menu at the more established Nougatine.

Nougatine at Jean-GeorgesNougatine at Jean-Georges
homemade ginger-lemon ale and passion-fruit-lime sodas

Easily the best part of our last Jean-Georges meal, these proved to be a highlight at Nougatine, too. I cannot urge you enough to go to one of the Jean-Georges restaurants just to drink. I am so serious about it that I am not contracting the words cannot and I am. See the way the bottoms of the glasses are all dark? That is PURE FLAVOR, people.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
poblano and corn fritter with tomato soup amuse bouche

The poblano flavor was basically non-existent, but boy, do I love a corn fritter. Like, what’s more delicious than breaded carbs?

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
tuna tartare, avocado, spicy radish, soy-ginger marinade

The tuna and avocado were entirely unnecessary in this dish except to give something for the marinade to marinate. The sauce and radishes were so flavorful that we didn’t taste anything else, but they were so delicious we didn’t care. The crunchy radish was a wonderful contrast to the super-soft tuna and avocado.

Sorry about the terrible quality of the following photos, but it got really dark in the restaurant halfway through our meal.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
strawberry foie gras brulee, strawberry, balsamic microbasil

We considered this the first dessert course. It was SO SWEET. And I am not complaining. The crispiness of the smoky burnt top juxtaposed the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras, and the slab of bread underneath it all soaked up that strawberry-balsamic sauce.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
salmon, crispy rice, heirloom tomatoes, onions, miso broth, silky tofu

I’m a fish-disliker to begin with, and cooked salmon is one of my least-favourites, because raw salmon is actually halfway delicious! It’s such a shame. I hate–I mean, really HATE–tomatoes, too, so this dish was basically made to test me. And I’ll admit that I did like it. The miso soaking made the fish much better, the silky tofu made the miso better, and the crispy rice made everything better. Oh, crispy rice. Crispy rice, I dream about you. Seriously, it was like a crouton made of rice that I could make less-crispy if I wanted to by dunking it in the miso.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
beef, carrot top pesto, carrots

Suuuuuuuuper-spicy and crunchy pesto and a carrot puree that resembled sweet baby food? Yes, please. I think Kamran thought the pesto under the beef was too spicy, but I appreciated how opposite the puree it was. I’ve never had a legitimately crunchy pesto (pesto is made with pine nuts, in case you didn’t know), but I really enjoyed it with the tender beef.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
strawberry sorbet, molten chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream, fig tart

Individually, all of these desserts were fine, and I appreciate being able to try a wide range of a menu, but there’s a lot of be said for cohesiveness, and this had almost none. The figs, which are one of my very favourite things in the universe, were the least-interesting thing on the plate, and the chocolate cake, which I usually find boring, was the best.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges

These little gels are making the rounds at every restaurant I’ve been to lately, but the strips of bitter orange dipped in chocolate were treat.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarZero Stars

This was a solid half-star better than our first Jean-Georges experience, and I would go back for the tartare with the spicy radishes, the foie gras with the burnt top, the crispy rice in the salmon dish, and the crunchy pesto under the beef. AND THE GINGER ALE.

Nougatine at Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023 (map)

The Lemongrass Grill Curry Puff – Financial District – Thai
Aug 18th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

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.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Lemongrass Grill
84 William Street
New York, NY 10038 (map)

138 East 34th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)

2534 Broadway
New York, NY 10025 (map)

61A 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217 (map)

156 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 (map)

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