• 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)
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.
We started off with a bottle of Riesling
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:
And then, the food:
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.
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 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.
This Arctic char roll hit us with jalapeño first, then cucumber to cool it down. The freshness of herbs finished off every bite.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mackerel sushi with lots of ginger and scallions. A layer of fermented sunflower added a grainy texture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More lobster! The super fresh sugar snap peas gave this a bright crunch next to the rich, buttery seameat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a hard time explaining Mile End to people. I’m inevitably hanging out with hungry friends in my neighborhood, and when I call it a deli, they inevitably say, “Oh.” So then I have to explain that it’s a hipster deli, but no one likes that, either. So then I have to explain that it’s a really cute East-Village-meets-Cobble-Hill kind of place that happens to serve the most delicious meats in the style of a New York deli. And also has plated entrees and wine.
That usually wins them over.
The cured and smoked brisket is the thing to get. The burger is always awesome. The entree special of the night is indeed always special. But the brisket is the thing I keep coming back for. It has that spicy crust, those thick cuts laced with fat that could be chewy but is always melty. And then the mustard adds another level of spice, the bread adds a little stability to the tower and soaks up the mustard, and then there’s just no stopping it.
Try to resist this.
This is one of those plated entrees I was talking about. I was going to get the brisket but saw this written on the chalkboard above the counter one night and had to have it. The meatballs were so juicy and well-seasoned that it was clear they came from a restaurant focused on meat, and then a flavorful hummus and crunchy pomegranate seeds made it a complete dish.
These Brussels sprouts with chunks of apple and candied walnuts were on the menu for the longest time and will be back, if I have anything to say about it. Everything’s better with an egg on top.
French fries covered in roasted chicken gravy covered in cheese curds. This was actually the first place I ever had poutine. I’m not the hugest fan of gravy and wish this was covered in Cheez Whiz and cheese curds instead, but I understand that I have the palate of an elementary school child.
Fresh, tangy, less sweet, less fake, thicker. We tried a side-by-side taste test of the Sir Kensington’s and the national brand ketchup that was right beside it on the table, and this had a much more full-bodied flavor.
There are 30+ beers on the menu, a couple of ciders, a handful of wines, and some interesting sodas. I always order the Farnum Hill Dooryard #1310 cider and let the waiter try to talk me out of getting 750mL of beer. Like I can’t handle it.
The food at Mile End is comparable to or better than that of the most famous delis in NYC. The portions are smaller than at Katz’s or Carnegie or 2nd Ave, but so are the prices, and the atmosphere here is miles (pun!) ahead of those places. I know there’s something special about getting barked at from behind a counter by an aging butcher with a Brooklyn accent and a love of half-sour pickles, but I don’t mind my deli meats being served by a friendly bearded hipster when I’m out for the evening. The only beef (pun! sorry) I have with this place is that it’s tiny and that the tables are communal. There are three shared picnic tables (read: no back support) to sit at, and if you come as a twosome, you’ll likely have strangers at your table. (Nice, considerate Brooklyn strangers but strangers all the same.) There’s also a table for two by the window and four counter seats. I don’t go here as often as I’d like even though it’s just down the street from my apartment, because it fluctuates from nearly empty to OMG CHAOS at random intervals, and I’m never sure what I’m going to get when I go. But I do love to go.
Here’s a secret about me: though my blog is called donuts4dinner, I find most donuts disappointing. The idea of them is always perfect in my head. They always look perfect when I see them. Even the sight of the simplest glazed donut makes me drool like a bulldog. But most of the time when I actually taste one, I realize that the idea of a donut is usually better than a donut itself. And then there’s Holey Donuts.
When they found me on Twitter and invited me to their grand opening here in NYC, I was super mega skeptical. Low-calorie, low-fat food is exactly the opposite of what I’m all about. But I’m all about donuts in any form and am always trying to find this perfect donut unicorn, so of course I planned to line up after work with stars in my eyes.
I went to the grand opening event with my friends Kim and Ash, where we were promised a box of free donuts to sample, a Holey Donuts tote bag covered in pictures of the most ridiculously good-looking donuts, and other gifts that were completely unnecessary, because they had me at “box of donuts”. The line was long, but the people surrounding us were nice, as people are wont to be where donuts–free or otherwise–are involved. When a woman wheeled out a waist-high container of juices for us to sample while we waited and accidentally spilled the entire thing, ice and all, all over the sidewalk, people came from all directions to help. And no one took advantage and stole extra purple carrot juice, as far as I could tell.
Halfway through our wait, a man from the store brought around a tray of these cinnamon bun middles, which were outrageously large for supposedly only being the middle of the bun, but we weren’t complaining. I think we all bit into them apprehensively, expecting the worst from something meant to be gluttonous but with all of the delicious fat and calories removed. And they were . . . The Best! So chewy and moist and with just the right amount of glaze to leave some to lick off our fingers when the bun itself was gone. We couldn’t believe they were just giving these things away. They ended up being Kim’s favorite thing we ate that day.
Once inside, we saw why the line was so long and slow-moving. The donuts were cooked plain and kept warm in heated racks behind the counter. When you ordered one, your pink-clad donut artist grabbed a plain donut and then topped it for you while you watched. Of course there was one large old white guy who left his place in line to yell at the girls and their manager for how long things were taking and then stomp out of the store in an old white guy huff once he was already inside and mere moments away from getting his free donuts, but for the most part, people were excited and happy to wait for fresh donuts. Sure, it took a little longer than your Dunkin Donuts, where they just grab a pre-frosted donut from a display case, but the experience of watching my donut being built was incredibly satisfying.
The counter was lined with vats of different kinds of filling,
which naturally I wanted to dunk my whole hand into a la Veruca Salt in the “Pure Imagination” scene of Willy Wonka.
They had little nozzles in front that the donut artist would shove into the center of the donut for filling. (I plan to buy one of these contraptions for my home and fill it with Trader Joe’s cookie butter.)
Next, she would bring the tray of donuts to vats of frosting and lightly press the top of the donut down into it. Then, she would scrape the donut against the side of the container to wipe most of the frosting off. This part, of course, physically hurt me to watch, but I guess that’s how they keep these things low-fat and low-calorie.
Then, she would press the frosted donut down into the topping of your choice. Finally, she would drizzle more frosting over the whole thing.
The results were BEAUTIFUL.
AND SO DELICIOUS.
Seriously, this was my unicorn donut. Where yeast donuts are so fluffy they collapse and cake donuts can be crumbly and dense, this was the perfect marriage of fluffy and substantial. What I loved most was that the donut base was more savory than sweet, adding some complexity to what could have been otherwise overtaken by the sugary frosting. I described it as a frosted dinner roll, but Ash and Kim said that didn’t do justice to what we all agreed were some of the best donuts we’d ever had.
I tried the Strawberry Frosted with pink sprinkles, a Raspberry Vanilla Truffle, and a Lemon Chunk Vanilla Frosted.
1) The strawberry was sheer fruity perfection, and I would’ve never guessed that I’d just seen half of the frosting scraped off the donut before my eyes; the proportions were exactly what I would have wanted.
2) The Raspberry Vanilla Truffle was delicious but my least-favourite of the three because of the filling. Usually the filling is the point of a donut, but this fruit filling was too chemical-y and fake-tasting for me. I couldn’t wait to finish the middle so I could go back to eating the edges made of just the regular batter, which is something I’ve never said in my life. That’s a testament to how much I liked the batter.
3) The Lemon Chunk Vanilla Frosted was my favorite, because the chunks of lemon topping started out crunchy but then immediately melted into this tangy tart liquid.
Although my friends and I agreed that these were some of the best donuts we’d ever tasted, we were all put off by the price, and that’s really the only complaint any of us had. At $21.95 for a box of 6, they come out to about $3.66 each (and don’t even look at the shipping charges if you’re ordering them online), which is way more expensive than even your most beloved NYC donut shops like Doughnut Plant. I guess sticking to your diet has its cost.
My relationship with Eleven Madison Park caused a little bit of a ruckus once. The first time I dined there, I thought the meal was generally fantastic but not as life-altering as I’d expected. I gave it meal 4 out of 5 donuts without an ounce of malevolence intended. But the restaurant wanted me to be completely happy, so they invited me back for a meal on the house and the opportunity to be wowed. People on the food-related message board where I posted the review called me a whiner, and donuts4dinner got mean comments for the first time in its history. But I didn’t care, because my second meal at EMP was so phenomenal that I regretted my first review and became an EMP fan for life. My third visit was also excellent and had me asking if this was the best restaurant in NYC.
I went back for the fourth time almost a year ago and had a meal that easily bettered my third and may have been more delicious than even my second. I had decided after my third time at EMP that while I loved it, it wasn’t the best fine dining experience in all of NYC. My fourth meal there changed my mind. Everything was so exciting and new, so amazingly delicious, and coupled with such perfect service that there was no question anymore. I never posted a review back then, but feeling the effects of EMP withdrawal recently, I pulled my pictures out and decided I at least wanted that much of a record of the meal here. I’ve heard that the menu is totally different at EMP these days, so don’t use this as any indication of what you might see there now, but you can bet the food is still just as incredible.
Whole carrots, ground tableside.
What’s more exciting than a whole tray of fresh ingredients to play with?
The kitchen tour always includes a liquid nitrogen cocktail.
They presented the 140-day aged ribeye to us and then took it back to the kitchen to prepare it.
J.J. Prum is my absolute favourite wine, and it just appeared at our table out of nowhere. I wouldn’t put it past EMP’s amazing customer service to have researched the wine we liked.
At the time, EMP was known for its magic trick. The server brought our dessert plates to us and then asked us to pick a card from a deck. Each card had a different ingredient printed on it, and I chose a card with a rose. When I lifted my plate, the top separated from the base, and underneath was a rose-flavored chocolate that had been there all along. I’m weirdly a fan of magic tricks, so I thought this was the coolest. Other people thought it was gimmicky, but other people are curmudgeons.
So now you see why I can’t wait to go back.
My boyfriend was in Providence, Rhode Island, for a couple of weeks on business, and people kept telling him how up and coming the food scene was. I was skeptical, because everyone from everywhere loves to tell me how comparable to NYC their town’s food scene is, but Jack took me up there to find out for myself. There were two restaurants everyone seemed to be talking about in Providence, and one of them was North.
Honestly, despite the reviews, I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it. I wanted to fine dine, and this sounded like some hipster hole-in-the-wall with a teeny menu where nothing looked interesting and nothing sounded delicious. The only thing on the menu that resembled an entree was fried chicken for two, and I didn’t want to waste one of my meals on something I can find all over NYC. Even the ramen, which I usually crave, had clams in it that made it less appealing to me. I was sort of being a sadsack.
And then I loved it.
North totally was a hipster hole-in-the-wall. There was a bar where maybe four people could sit and then a smattering of tables that were a mishmash of built-in wooden booths and the kind of laminate tables and metal chairs you see in old pizzerias. And yet I found it totally charming. There was a sort of nautical theme, and the way-too-cool servers were also really friendly and chatty. When I accidentally left the lens cap for my camera behind at the table, they were holding it behind the bar for me and seemed so relieved when I returned for it five minutes later. The witty drink menu pretty much sums up the place.
Damn. Delicious. Who knew.
I forget what they had concocted the night we went, but it was being mixed up in one of those machines you see in gas stations up by the bar. Apparently the drink changes on a daily basis and is always the thing to get.
Tiny but powerful. I love a biscuit, and I thought it was cool that they were using a Virgina ham rather than an Italian or Spanish one. But it was the mustard that really had all the flavor.
So deliciously porky, and I actually thought the chew of the clams added to the bowl! The broth was heavy with miso and so flavorful.
Everything about this dish was my dream.
1) Most of the pieces were chicken breast that they had wrapped chicken sausage around, just like the duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar here in NYC. And then they were deep-fried. So there was this perfect white meat chunk in the center of every slice, then the more flavorful sausage, then the crunchy crust.
2) A couple of the pieces were bone-in, though, so I got the best of both worlds.
3) There was a big pile of herbs to eat alongside the chicken.
4) There was also a huge spread of one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, everything bread.
I saw the “everything bread” on the menu in the description of the chicken, but it meant nothing to me. I actually thought there might be a word missing or something. Even though I live for the everything bagel. Even though one of the most memorable things I’ve eaten in NYC was the everything bagel ice cream at wd~50. Even though I have a jar of everything bagel spice in my spice cabinet. And this was actually even better than any everything bagel I’ve ever eaten. Because this was brioche from a local bakery, Foremost Baking Company, buttered and grilled so that it became a little crisp, with everything spices on the outside.
We were supposed to make little sandwiches with the bread and chicken, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I just kept eating the bread on its own and dying a little bit more with every bite. One of the most painful parts of existing in this world is the way the first bite of something is always the best bite, and every bite after is a little less exciting. This never got less exciting.
Okay, okay, the food scene in Providence is up and coming. Mostly because it reminds me of some of the best parts of the food scene in NYC. The next restaurant I went to in Providence actually reminded me of another David Chang restaurant I love, so apparently the restauranteurs of Rhode Island came to NYC one weekend, ate at all of the Momofukus, and then went back to open their new joints.
OH! OH! Stop the presses! I was actually just looking at North’s Tumblr, and it turns out that the cook and owner, James Mark, was at Momofuku Ko, my favourite of the Momofukus, when it first opened. And there’s a Momofuku Ko collaboration dinner being hosted at North next Monday as I type this. Hilarious.
And lucky for the people of Providence. This was the kind of meal you want to eat with all of your best friends, at a big table surrounded by mismatched chairs, with lots of Coke & red wine at the ready. The specifics of the dishes seem to change nightly, but the main ideas remain the same, and for good reason.
If you’ve been reading donuts4dinner since its inception, you know that the original purpose of this blog was to chronicle my rise from a farmgirl to a three-Michelin-star dining powerhouse. Well, since I became a full-time resident of a new Brooklyn neighborhood and also unemployed at the same time, I’ve been focusing on local restaurants and healthier living. It’s been great for the most part–there’s not a lot that’s more satisfying than finding delicious food that’s a short walk away–but part of me has missed the beautiful plating and mindblowing bites of the finest eateries. But then, thanks to my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/boyfriend, I found Brucie in Cobble Hill.
The menu changes nightly at Brucie, so expect to be surprised when you visit.
We were seated at the bar in front of the window looking out onto the street, where our good friend JFK the Woodprint sat watch over us. We felt like we saw him give us a thumbs-up after we placed our order.
My boyfriend ordered this because he said the version he had the first time he visited a couple of weeks ago was so good. The funny thing is that halfway through the dish, he remembered that one of his friends had actually ordered it and that he’d only had a bite or two. It’s not that he didn’t like the calamari, but he didn’t really want to eat a whole bowl of squid. The extra funny thing is that I sort of did want to eat a whole bowl of squid and actually might order this myself when we return to Brucie. It was classic Mediterranean with the capers, lemon, dill, and tomato, and just really fresh and light. The dill especially was a knockout. And not a drip was wasted thanks to the fresh bread served with it.
Nothing against neighborhood eateries, but I was a little shocked when this gorgeously plated appetizer showed up at the table. I was dying to dig into it thanks to all of those colors and textures, but I composed delicate forkfuls for myself like a lady. I actually ordered this dish specifically because I don’t like olives and wanted to challenge myself, figuring that making them into a jam would temper the sour flavor a bit. But no, these were straight-up oil-cured olives, no tempering to be had. And I actually thought they added to the dish next to the charred flavor of the crisp lemon peel. The lentils weren’t much more than a textural element, but the taste of the sweet Marcona almonds and the savory herbs made this such a complete dish.
Just showing off that charred peel that I loved so much.
In the reviews I read of Brucie before our visit, so many of the commenters recommended the chicken “in whatever form”, so even thought the brisket and porchetta were calling to me, I’m so glad we listened to the reviews and tried this dish. The chef delivered it to our table and told us it was a “funky” chicken, and we weren’t sure if she was referring to the ingredients in it or the fact that James Brown was playing over the speakers. I didn’t necessarily find this chicken very funky, but I did find it REALLY, REALLY DELICIOUS. It was a half a chicken, skin crisped and dripping butter. The risotto fritter was all butter and cheese and creamy. The apple was butter-browned and tasted like it might have just been plucked from a pie. But it was the Brussels sprouts that really got us. They were confit, the server told us, and boy, were they. They were just soaked in fat, nearly mushy because of it. My eyes were rolling back into my head as I ate them. I love Brussels sprouts, but these were just so beyond what I’ve eaten. Only the supremes of fresh Meyer lemon and the zing of the red onion kept this from being too rich.
Honestly, the meal I had at Brucie was a five-star meal of the inexpensive variety. It was some of the best local food I’ve eaten in a long time, and I have absolutely no complaints about it, only accolades. But I hesitate to give it five donuts just because I didn’t try any pasta and I didn’t try any dessert there, and those seem like kind of a big deal for an Italian place. I can’t wait to go back and try another preparation of chicken, though, so this won’t be my last Brucie review. And Wednesday nights at Brucie are Italian ramen nights, which I won’t be able to resist much longer. The restaurant had a cool Brooklyn vibe with its novelty wallpaper, 60s soundtrack, and hipster waitresses, but the food was totally serious and careful and could stack up to some of the finest meals I’ve eaten in terms of flavor.
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.
You can sell white people anything with a little woodgrain and some bold graphic design.
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.
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.
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.
The best part about these was the curry sauce underneath, which everyone loved and wanted to spoon onto everything else.
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.
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.
The little “tail” on these was the end of a crab claw. (Have you noticed yet that practically every dumpling has eyes?)
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.
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.
Very tropical. Again, I thought the texture of the shrimp was the stand-out.
A meeting of the land and sea.
One of the most complete bites I had: crunchy lotus, sweet fresh fruit, seared smoky duck.
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.
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.
This should scare you.
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.
I happen to live in the midst of all of the cutest parts of Brooklyn, so a night out to one of my favourite neighborhood restaurants usually involves passing four more that I want to try the next night. Char No. 4 is one of the places I’ve always noticed with its dark tones, ceiling full of lanterns, and bar bustling every night of the week. I remember looking at the Southern-inspired menu once and thinking it was too small, but when my friend Kim, her cousin, and I decided to go on a recent weekend, I realized that the menu’s actually too big, because I wanted every single thing on it.
Like chicken nuggets, only more flavorful. With spicy mayo.
I didn’t try this because I’m still anti-tomato after all this time, but my dinner companions were surprised and pleased by the shrimp flavor.
As a land-animal-favoring person, I tend toward the bacon side of deviled eggs, but the whitefish was a great addition to these. It was like tuna salad and egg salad in one.
Having recently had a really excellent lamb pastrami, the kind that’ll stick in my memory for quite a while, I was interested to see if Char No. 4’s version could compare. Resto‘s was just a big wallop of pastrami flavor, while this one was more subtle as part of a more composed dish meant to highlight several flavors. I like to be hit in the stomach by my food, so the Resto version will stay at the top of my list, but the aioli and onions from this version made it a real contender.
I was in the mood for a burger that night, and this one hit every spot for me. It wasn’t breaking any of the rules and it wasn’t trying anything fancy, but it was cooked right and made the bun soggy with its juices. I’d go back for it.
Char No. 4 is just the sort of neighborhood restaurant you become a regular at when you’re childless and dual-incomed in the swanky parts of Brooklyn. Our server was hip but very friendly, and you can’t beat the deep, comfortable booths with their low lighting and dark woods for a date night. The whiskey and whisky menus are extensive, the cocktails are expensive but composed and strong, and the food is solid enough that you want to eat it again but pricey enough ($25 for brisket is more than I’ve ever paid in Manhattan) that you’d have to sacrifice a week’s worth of diapers for it.
I’ve read recently about how hard it is for a restaurant in NYC to survive after the initial buzz is over. A place opens, every blogger in the tri-state area rushes to review it, it gets no press after the first few months, and it dies. Naturally I accept all of the blame for this, because I’ve never been to any of the old Chef Harold Dietrle restaurants, but I’ve had my eye on The Marrow for months now. I watched him and cheered for him as he won the first season of “Top Chef”, and then I was so excited to live in New York City when he opened Perilla and Kin Shop. I probably looked at the menu on the Perilla website twenty times in the five or so years I was hardcore fine dining every weekend, but I never went. Of course Perilla and Kin Shop are doing just fine without me, but just to be sure The Marrow doesn’t fail on my account single-handedly, I took five of my friends there one Friday night after work.
Reposado, pink grapefruit, lime, and ginger beer. With a side of water.
Pretzel bread should be in every bread basket, everywhere. And not those pretzel rods, either. I want it soft, hot, and buttery.
I am ruined for kale any other way. This was super acidic, very vinegary. Since it was deep fried, it was partly so crisp it was falling apart with every ravenous jab of my fork and half becoming soft again under the dressing. And then there were the cashews to add even more crunch, along with the sour snap of those red onions.
I was forced into trying this, and even as a tomato-phobe, I found these tomatoes so mild, almost roasted to the sweet flavor of a sauce, but they still had plenty of texture for those at the table who eat tomatoes like apples. The burrata was all mozzarella on the outside but creamy and fresh inside, just as it should be.
One of my friends had this and told me it was “delicious”. Nothing but the finest in-depth reporting here at donuts4dinner, folks.
Likewise, I didn’t get a bite of the bone marrow. You know, the dish that’s in the name of the restaurant. Because who would ever share their bone marrow with uni?
I also didn’t try this. I have terribly selfish friends. I think this was duck liver pate on brioche with gooseberry compote. Don’t quote me. You’re just here for the pictures, anyway.
My friend Chantee described this as unctuous and melt-off-the-bone. My friend Nik didn’t care for the amount of fat on the lamb but loved the cabbage, which he said brightened up the rich neck meat.
I love dill to begin with but thought this potato salad made particularly great use of it, adding even more freshness to the cucumber to combat the heaviness of the schnitzel. The wolfberries were soft and sweet (but maybe a little overpowering), while the curd spaetzle had a brilliant crunch from the hazelnuts.
When my friends Jack and Andrew discussed sharing this, I didn’t want to dissuade them, but I also thought they were sort of silly to order a steak in a non-steakhouse. Turns out I was the silly one, because this sort of random restaurant that doesn’t at all need to prove it can do a steak is doing a super-tender one with so much flavor, so much butter, and such great texture. It was just really, really well-seasoned. The corn absorbed all of the truffle butter, beef juice, and onion flavor and was therefore perfect.
Butter on perfectly-cooked steak. YES.
I never, ever need lettuce with my meat (okay, maybe the exception being creamed spinach at a steakhouse), but I loved the way these peppery greens complemented the black pepper flavor in the rest of the dish, the slightly spicy crust of the pork, and the bright pickled onion slivers.
This was the dessert special the night we went, and I have no idea what it was. You’re welcome.
Eating this was like eating a piece of warm, soft gingerbread. Easily the most-beloved dessert at our table.
A very light semifreddo, very milk chocolatey, with a thick, dense, frosting-like dollop of darker chocolate. The torrone was a chewy nougat-like confection that added a textural component, and that’s weirdly all the cherries were, too–they just weren’t very flavorful despite all of the visual impact.
This didn’t come with any of our desserts, so we just ordered bowls of it on the side. Because
ice cream. It was brown buttery and made me feel like I was wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day.
One side of The Marrow’s menu is Italian food to honor Chef Dieterle’s mother, and the other side is German food for his father. We were all over the menu and couldn’t find much at all to complain about. Everything was homey and comforting but elevated enough to make it clear that these aren’t just family recipes but a professional chef’s take on them. The decor is basically what would happen if a zoot suit threw up in a cigar bar, and by that I mean it’s all pinstripes and red leather. The service is laid-back, friendly, personal and makes the place almost seem quaint until you remember that you’re eating caramelized white chocolate ice cream. The menu changes often, though, so get there before everything I’ve mentioned here is gone.
It only took seeing “gochujang wings” and “Momofuku Noodle Bar veteran” in an article about Distilled to convince me. Our friend Colin had already visited and said the wings were “weird”, but they apparently weren’t weird enough that he wouldn’t come back, so he joined my friends Nik and Tim and me there one day after work to share what felt like a whole lot of food at the time but turned out to be just a little bit of southern comfort food and a whole lot of wine, mead, and cocktails made of wine and mead.
These wings are not weird. Well, unless you consider it weird that they were exactly as over-the-top crunchy as you’ve always wanted wings to be but never are. And unless you consider it weird that the sweet/spicy fermented gochujang sauce was so sticky I could peel the batter off in two-inch strips and eat just that if I wanted to. And I wanted to. The chicken was fine, too. But GOCHUJANG.
Tim insisted that we order this because he cares about health and bowel movements, and you can bet I was loudly protesting in my head, but there was so much going on in this dish I couldn’t be mad. Namely duck bacon in thick slabs. The crunch of the peanuts, the tang of the watermelon, the zesty little greens. I wouldn’t have been offended had this been my main dish.
I almost want to just let you read the components of the dish and leave it at that, because this was exactly as good as you think fried duck over a waffle with spicy maple syrup would be. The interesting part was that the duck was boneless and had the texture of pulled pork, like it had been cooked, torn apart, and then reassembled before being fried in that thick coating. I didn’t notice anything French toasty about the waffle, but it may have been that I was too busy licking honey butter off of everything in sight, including myself.
The meat slid off these bones in one big hunk, disappointing those in our group who enjoy slathering their entire faces in sauce while trying to awkwardly nibble a rib, but those of us who will take a knife and fork to soup if given the chance really appreciated the opportunity to slice through these suckers. The jalapeno was just spicy enough to offset the sweet sauce but not spicy enough that a heat-hater would even take note of it. I expected the watermelon salad with its herbs and dressing to be very savory, but it was still a sweet watermelon salad, just a very dense one thanks to the compression.
If there’s one thing I took away from dating a Persian guy, it’s a love of black garlic. His mom had homemade jars of the sweet and sour fermented stuff in her garage, and I wanted to order this based on it alone. Oh, yeah, and the bone marrow. Also the onion ring. The steak was overcooked for my taste, but I’m not in the habit of expecting a perfect medium-rare at a non-steakhouse. It was still plenty tender and made all the more luxurious by that rich, silky butter.
Sitting on the raised patio outside Distilled, eating this southern food with an Asian twist and watching the fine people of TriBeCa with their dogs and on their longboards, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that particularly New Yorky. The food was delicious and hearty if not challenging and delicate, and the cocktail menu with mead from upstate NY reflected that same dedication to solid, unfussy pub fare. I stepped inside only to check in with the hostess, so I can’t comment on the interior atmosphere, but I can say for sure that the patio will be one of my go-to places this summer.