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April Bloomfield’s Salvation Taco
Apr 11th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

Having eaten a whole suckling pig at Chef April Bloomfield’s The Breslin a couple of years ago, I was excited to see what she could do with one of my comfort foods: tacos. What made Salvation Taco even more appealing to me is that it’s on 39th Street, just south of my boyfriend’s apartment, in this part of the Murray Hill neighborhood that’s mostly filled with highrises and Irish pubs meant to attract the after-work crowd.

(It was ridiculously dark in the restaurant, so please excuse my heavily-lightened pictures.)

Salvation Tacos NYC
5 Island Rum, coconut horchata, cold-brewed coffee, Fernet Vallet, cinnamon and vanilla

I’ve secretly loved the totally-Americanized horchatas I’ve had with pounds of sugar and cinnamon mixed in, but this one tasted much more grown up with the coffee and spice-ful Fernet. You’d, uh, never know it by the vessel it was served in, though. It should be noted that my friend Kim‘s drink came in a totally normal glass, so I’m 100% sure they were trying to shame me for ordering a frozen drink at 6 p.m.

Salvation Tacos NYC
pork belly and pineapple salad

The textures of the pork belly and pineapple were so similar that I couldn’t tell which I was picking up in the near-dark of the restaurant, but I did love the pork-fruit combination and the spicy finish. This was the sort of thing I think of when I think of Chef Bloomfield: perfect meats and a flavor punch. I just needed something crunchy thrown in.

Salvation Tacos NYC
an array of tacos

From left to right: Moroccan lamb on naan, al pastor, skirt steak with pecan and chipotle, roasted cauliflower with curried crema, fried striped bass with Mayan mayo.

They were all flavorful and delicious, but the fish taco was the major standout, and I say this as someone who is almost 100% against the idea of fish mucking up my tacos. The mayo was just the right amount of spicy, and there was just enough citrus, and the fish was breaded just enough to give it some crunch without masking the flavor, and those pickled onions were the perfect accompaniment. On my next visit, I’d order five of these. And nothing else.

Salvation Tacos NYC
the perfect fish taco

Salvation Tacos NYC
other, less important tacos

Salvation Tacos NYC
burnt sugar and pumpkin ice cream

If I’m being honest, the burnt sugar ice cream was terrible. Truly, truly bitter and inedible. My perfectly classy dining partner and I were practically wiping it off of our tongues with napkins. BUT. When eaten with the pumpkin ice cream, it became like a caramelized sugar crust to a pumpkin creme brulee. I understand why they sell them as a set; they just need to come with a warning.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarBlank Star

Salvation Tacos NYC

Salvation Taco fits into the neighborhood perfectly. It’s using excellent ingredients prepared properly for the well-fed business type, but it also has ping-pong, a trendy lounge area, and plenty of pretty tourists stopping by from the attached hotel, Pod 39. It was loud and crowded, but that’s what I expect from a restaurant trying to pass itself off as a cheap taco joint. The only problem for me–and for everyone else, from what I’ve read–is that this isn’t actually a cheap taco joint. The tacos are incredibly small; two bites, and they’re finished. I ate only three because I am a lady, but you can bet I went home after this $50 meal and ordered some questionable-meat tacos from the local Chinese/Mexican place for a fifth of the price. They didn’t compare to that fish taco, though.

Salvation Taco
145 East 39th Street (in the Pod 39 hotel)
New York, NY 10016 (map)

Alice’s Tea Cup is Pretty Tea-y but Not So Alice-y
Sep 6th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

My friend Kim online-introduced me to her hometown-friend-with-a-blog Katie Qué (pronounced kay) a few months ago, telling me that she’s a much more interesting blogger than I am and that I’d love her posts about “Game of Thrones” and her many and varied photos of her much-personalitied cat. Within days, we had created a House Katie sigil and motto. (Sorry if that means nothing to you. Wait, no, I’m NOT sorry. Watch “Game of Thrones”. And also “Girls”. Mostly “Girls”, actually.)

Katie Qué came to visit her friend Patrick last weekend and was kind enough to invite me to be a part of her wallet-emptying/belly-filling/Alice-in-Wonderland-obsessing odyssey. My portion of the adventure included brunch at Alice’s Tea Cup, the beloved Upper East Side café with a Saturday morning waitlist far too long for me to ever bother with it. But Kim luckily lives mere blocks away and put our name in early so the rest of us could arrive an hour and a half later with none of those this-better-be-worth-it feelings that a long wait usually leaves me with.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

To put it bluntly, I don’t give a crap about tea and didn’t really even plan to order any, but then I decided on a dish that came ready-made with a pot, so the four of us ended up sharing pots of Alice’s Tea, a blend of Indian black vanilla tea blended with Japanese green tea and rose petals, and of Darjeeling Earl Grey, a Darjeeling flavored with bergamot.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

I was really, really surprised by how much I liked the tea. Especially the Darjeeling, which was just bursting with that deep, dark, depths-of-winter orange, both in smell and in flavor. The mismatched cups and saucers, the sugars and milk, the little spoons–I loved the shabby formality of it.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

Katie Qué looks so petite behind her giant cup, and Patrick appears as if he’s plotting a bergamot-fueled bank heist. In the 1950s.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

Kim just looks pretty.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

I ordered The Nibble, a two-tiered stand with a sandwich of my choice on top; a scone, a pot of clotted cream and preserves, and an assortment of cookies filled the bottom plate. My sandwich was the Black Forest ham and gruyere, and I was probably about as excited by the look of it as you are. It’s kind of a piddly thing next to the mile-high Katz’s pastramis of the world, right? But I soon forgot how flat and unadorned it appeared when I bit through the golden-raisin-studded bread to the whole grain mustard and then to the sweet and salty ham and cheese. It was more complex than I expected and also more filling.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

I couldn’t have been happier with my pumpkin scone, which was glazed crunchy on the outside but stayed warm and soft on the inside so as to melt the sweet, thick clotted cream. I wasn’t sure the berry preserves would go well with pumpkin, but together, they were this perfect end-of-summer/start-of-fall, warm/cool combination. If the wait wasn’t so unmanageable, I can see myself coming to Alice’s every weekend for their $10 two-scones-and-a-pot-of-tea deal just to have this again.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

Everyone else ordered the vegetarian egg white omelet to punish themselves or something, but this dish ultimately got the last laugh by including these roasted pears that the three of them couldn’t stop raving about. I think Katie Qué may have been inspired to write an entire cookbook centered on roasted pears that afternoon.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

My cookies, on the other hand, inspired me to remember to stick to the scones in the future. There was a chocolate chip, a sugar cookie with sprinkles, a cranberry, and a white chocolate-macadamia. As someone who only likes fresh, soft cookies so heavy with butter they can barely maintain their cookie form, these seemed old and stale to me. Between the four of us, we only ate half of each.

Alice's Tea Cup NYC

A good time was had by all, and I can certainly see myself coming back to Alice’s to have a chance to eat that preserve-laden scone and drink that orangey tea again. It’s a charming little café for people in the neighborhood. I have no idea why this is a destination for out-of-towners, though, in the same way I don’t understand why Serendipity 3 is. The Alice in Wonderland theme is minimal, unless you consider adding the word “Alice” to “eggs Florentine” a real nod to Lewis Carroll. The service is plenty nice, but we were taken aback when our server brought us our last pot of tea and told us we’d reached our time limit for taking up a table at the same time. I guess they know I don’t know where else to get clotted cream.

Alice’s Tea Cup
156 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10065 (map)

DBGB – French/American – East Village
Sep 7th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

When my friend Kim saw a four-person dinner at DBGB pop up on GiltCity for $150, the first thing she thought was, “SUNDAE!!” And the second thing she thought was, “Can I eat four sundaes by myself?” And the third thing she thought was, “Guess I have to invite Katie.”

I’d had a very so-so experience the first time around at DBGB, but my subsequent tasting menu at Chef Boulud’s flagship restaurant, Daniel, was so outstanding it changed the way I rate all other restaurants; naturally, I was interested in a second try at DBGB. So Dr. Boyfriend and I met Kim and her friend Kelly on Friday night to share what we’d read wouldn’t be enough food but turned out to be so much we couldn’t finish it all. Nor did we want to, in the case of the final course, but more on that later.

DBGB NYC

DBGB NYC
petit plateau de fruits de mer

Shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, snails, tuna tartare and a whole crab claw. All things I was completely terrified by a mere couple of years ago. And it’s not that I exactly salivate over any of them now, like my boyfriend does, but I was perfectly willing to try everything on this platter. Luckily, the fact that there were only two of some of the items meant that I only had to try a few.

The mussels were perfectly cleaned, which is a major issue for me, because eww, please don’t try to feed me sand and stomach leftovers if I’m already going out on a limb by eating seafood at all. The fact that they were covered in a cool, creamy sauce with herbs didn’t hurt anything, either. The tuna tartare was well-appointed with fresh herbs, and the crab claw looked so fresh I didn’t even bother dressing it with lemon. Wait, no, that was because the server took the lemon away before I could dress the crab. Anyway.

I tried one of the larger and one of the smaller oysters, but Dr. Boyfriend and Kim handled the apparently veeeery-oceany-tasting clams and the giant snails, a process which began with excited faces,

DBGB NYC

quickly switched to determined faces when the snails refused to let go of their shells,

DBGB NYC

and ended with whatever you call this face once they actually tasted the things:

DBGB NYC

I’m still not entirely swearing off trying snails drenched in butter sometime in my life, but I’m a little less sure after this.

DBGB NYC
Iceberg & Blue: tomato, walnut, bacon bits, herbs

Very classic, and an excellent palate-cleanser. The iceberg wedge is one of the only salads I actually enjoy, because:

a) it has bacon,
b) it has cheese, and
c) iceberg lettuce is basically water.

I like to think of it as a vehicle for moving fatty things to my mouth.

DBGB NYC
Beaujolaise: pork, mushrooms, onion, bacon, and red wine link, lentils du puy

I think we all agreed that though this was a rich, hearty sausage, the lentils were really the star. Which is good, since we ordered lentils, glazed carrots (undercooked for my taste and not nearly sugary enough), and ham and crayfish gumbo (flavorful but too thin) as our sides without anyone telling us we were already getting lentils.

DBGB NYC
Allemande: veal bratwurst, beer-braised sauerkraut

This one was too sweet for me. When I see beer-braised, I want the lingering stench of Guinness on my breath for days; I think this might have been soaked in O’Doul’s.

DBGB NYC
Coreanne: Korean-style pork sausage, cucumber-bok choy pickle, spicy kim chee coulis, shrimp chips

This was the most complete of the sausage plates in that there was a lot going on but that the theme was so evident. I loved the homogenous texture of the sausage, more like bologna than ground meat, and the crunchy pickle that was such a divergence from the cooked-until-mushy accompaniments on the other plates.

DBGB NYC
Espagnole: fresh chorizo sausage with piperade, basil oil

Easily my favourite, just because it had the most flavor. I was in need of some spice, and I might have liked the peppers more than the sausage itself because of that.

DBGB NYC
Boudin Basque: spicy blood and pigs head sausage, scallion mashed potatoes

I’ve always been scared of but interested in blood sausage, and after having tried it, I can’t believe I ever even considered it exotic. The texture was crumbly and dry, the taste earthy and rich. It was like eating fake meat, or textured vegetable protein, which I did for four years as a vegetarian. I wouldn’t say I liked or disliked it; it was boring enough that I was just sort of neutral about it. And that’s the last thing I ever thought I’d say about sausage made of blood.

DBGB NYC
Caramel-Pear: ginger marshmallow, roasted pears, shortbread cookie, brandy caramel sauce, whipped cream

DBGB NYC
Cherry-Chocolate: vanilla marshmallow, brownies, chocolate fudge, kriek-braised cherries, whipped cream

DBGB NYC
Blueberry-Mint: candied brioche, olive oil cake, blueberry compote, toasted almonds, whipped cream

We were there for the sundaes, and once again, they were so good they’d make me come back to DBGB again despite the otherwise just-okay food. I went for the blueberry-mint after my first wonderful mint-chocolate experience and again found the mint flavor so fresh and herbaceous. Dr. Boyfriend and Kim said it was like eating ice cream salad, but I loved the savoriness of the mint coupled with the olive oil cake. The candied brioche added crunch and sugar to the very natural-tasting berries.

I would’ve been equally happy with either of the other sundaes, though. Kim and my boyfriend both got the caramel-pear, which had the most flavorful marshmallows and pears that tasted like they’d just come out of a pie, while I almost got drunk on Kelly’s beer-soaked cherries. These were adult sundaes.

DBGB NYC
Grand Marnier soufflé, creme anglaise

I had another soufflé this bad once. The server asked us how we were enjoying it, and I said we weren’t, and he brought us another dessert. This time, the server was basically absent for all of our meal, so we just left it sitting.

I was the first to poke my spoon into it to make a hole for the creme anglaise, and I described the bite as “exactly on the edge of egginess”. Well, of course, the farther we got down into the soufflé, the eggier it became, so once everyone had a bite, the rest was inedible. It was the very opposite of the Grand Marnier soufflé we had at The Mark by Jean-Georges. Egg when you want cake is disconcerting.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarBlank Star

As with my last visit, this was a mixed bag. The sausages–which are of course supposed to be the focus of the restaurant–are good, but none of them had me mmming in disbelief like so many of the dishes at Daniel did, and for $13 to $15 per sausage, I should’ve been. The place is borderline hip (what we could hear of the soundtrack was all indie rock), but the noise level is obtrusive, and the service suffers because the servers can’t interact with diners. Not that they’d want to, apparently: our server seemed like the classic NYC wannabe-actor who’s annoyed by customers, and the waiter at the door who looked like a greeter was actually just waiting for us to move so he could leave. Luckily, the sundaes were incredible at $9, and I can see myself popping in just for dessert some night if I’m in the Bowery.

DBGB
299 Bowery
New York, NY 10003 (map)

Riverpark is Only Worth It for the Views – American (New) – Kips Bay
May 4th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

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.

Riverpark NYC
baby octopus, Manilla clams, shishito peppers, lime, cilantro

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.

Riverpark NYC
cavatelli, braised lamb, sweet peas, mint, horseradish

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.

Riverpark NYC
merluza (kind of like cod), clams, fennel, potato purée, Finocchiono (salami)

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.

Riverpark NYC
diver scallops, asparagus, spring onions, bacon-ramp vinaigrette

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.

Riverpark NYC
goat cheese soufflé, tarragon créme anglaise, beet sorbet, pistachio

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.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

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.

Riverpark
450 East 29th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)

Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. – Steak – Midtown East
Dec 21st, 2010 by plumpdumpling

If you can get past the fact that it’s owned by Michael Jordan and is called Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. (what?), this place is actually a decent steakhouse with atmosphere that beats the usual Harvard-crimson carpeting and gold-lacquered everything. My boyfriend and I talked casually about visiting The Steak House every time we spotted it overlooking Grand Central Terminal, but it took seeing Chef Michael Vignola on an episode of The Food Network’s “Chopped” to make us seriously consider a reservation. On the show, the chef was super-creative–quite the opposite of what we expect from someone just cooking steaks and lobster all day–and we were excited to see what sort of avant garde creations he was pushing out with Michael Jordan’s blessing. But alas, The Steak House’s menu mirrors every other one we’ve seen.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.

Never overestimate the power of assorted breads when it comes to getting an extra donut in your rating from me.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
lobster salad

I’m just starting to get into lobster after years of hating seafood, and this was just the right dish for a newcomer. It was lightly-dressed enough that the ocean flavor came through but included enough other ingredients that I was sufficiently distracted from the idea of eating, as my boyfriend says, the insect of the sea. The cabbage helped keep it fresh, while the spicy mayo on the side gave it a kick. Also: potato chips. Yeah.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
crab cake

Obviously this dish totally cheated by dressing itself with roasted corn. I didn’t particularly care for more cabbage slaw, but I suppose they don’t expect you and your date to be gluttons who order multiple apps on top of their filet mignons. I did particularly care for the lemony sauce the crab was swimming in, and the filler factor was slim to none in the cake.

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.
filet mignon, macaroni and cheese, creamed spinach

The mac & cheese is listed as Michael’s Macaroni & Cheese on the menu, which only furthered our belief that he would pop out of the kitchen at any moment in his tall chef’s hat, giving us a friendly “bork bork bork!” a la the Muppets’ Swedish Chef. But no. Both of the sides were oversalted to my boyfriend’s taste, but I’m a freaky saltfiend who likes to make the waterboy come over every two minutes to refill me, so they tasted great to me. The mac & cheese was definitely the better of the two, though, almost certainly because it’s Michael’s.

As for the steak–it was well-seasoned and cooked to my liking. It wasn’t Peter Luger quality, but it wasn’t Outback, either. (Sorry, Outback.) The problem is that the prices are more Peter Luger (and actually even higher than that) and less Outback, which means I was expecting the same quality.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C.

I love the view over Grand Central location so much that I’d forgive the lesser quality if it wasn’t for the higher price. I’d recommend The Steak House for impressing out-of-towners, clients, or anyone who hasn’t been to the city’s top-notch steakhouses like Peter Luger and Keens (which itself isn’t nearly as good at Luger, as you’ll see in my review). Come for the classy black-and-white action stills of Jordan hung on the walls and the menus that feel like the skin of a basketball, but don’t come expecting the best-quality steak.

Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.
23 Vanderbilt Avenue (inside Grand Central Terminal)
New York, NY 10017 (map)

Aquavit – Scandinavian – Midtown East
Dec 10th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Two days after Marcus Samuelsson won the second season of “Top Chef: Masters”, my dining companions and I settled in at the bistro of his restaurant Aquavit and prepared to be wowed. Instead, we were merely contented.

Aquavit
matjes herring (mild salt herring), roasted yellow beets, scallions, sour cream

Aquavit
herring sampler, boiled potatoes, Vasterbotten cheese

Aquavit
cherry and wild boar salad

Aquavit
sage-roasted Penobscot (Maine?) chicken breast, broccoli rabe, Swiss chard, snap peas, spring onion crème

Undersalted! Bland! Only slightly saved by the delicious sauce!

Aquavit
smörgåsbord!

Aquavit
cold-poached salmon, red quinoa, wax beans, chervil hollandaise

Aquavit
Nik and Kamran

Aquavit
Jack and Anthony (they’re single and like good food, ladies!)

Aquavit
chocolate pot de crème

Aquavit
cardamom pound cake

Aquavit
sorbet sampler

This was the best of the desserts, as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t think that’s a good sign.

Aquavit
no clue, but it looks yummy, huh?

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

I’m concerned this may be one of those cases–like Jean-Georges’ restaurants The Mark or Nougatine–where you just don’t get the same experience when the chefs are using less-expensive ingredients in their bistro/bar room/spinoff-restaurant-for-poor-people. For a New York Times 3-star chef to serve a $35 prix-fixe probably means some shortcuts were taken. Or maybe it’s just that this kind of food–a simple chicken breast, some salmon with butter sauce, a slice of herring–is inherently kind of bland to me. My boyfriend, for instance, thinks fondly of his smörgåsbord, because he loves lots of different flavors on a plate and was pleased to actually like the herring, which he was apprehensive about. I just couldn’t get over the fact that the vegetables on my plate were completely unsalted; even at $35, I expect basic technical skills to be mastered.

Aquavit
65 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022 (map)

The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges – French – Upper East Side
Jul 13th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

My boyfriend and I went to The Mark because the Times called it “unambitious” and the whole blogosphere was seemingly up in arms over the two-star rating they gave it despite that. I was prepared to be blown away, anyway, and to give it the many-doughnutted review it deserved.

The Mark by Jean-Georges
homemade cherry yuzu and ginger ale sodas ($5)

These sodas were sort of an afterthought, and they turned out to easily be the best part of the meal for me. Ever since the major ginger ale brand in the U.S. started advertising that they use real ginger, I’ve become way more interested in the stuff; I don’t know what I thought was in it before, but it sure wasn’t actual ginger.

If you like drinking that super-commercial style of ginger ale, this might be too much for you to handle, because it is so unbelievably flavorful that you’ll never be able to buy a 2-liter ever again. The ginger was actually settling in the bottom of the glass between sips, which makes me heart pitter-pat just thinking about it. I wish The Mark was closer to my work, because I’d convince all of my co-workers to have happy hour at the bar every day just to get faux-drunk on this stuff.

The Mark by Jean-Georges
black truffle pizza with fontina cheese ($21)

Obviously, this was good. A crunchy, airy crust with an earthy, umami middle and that fresh frisée on top. It wasn’t quite as earth-shattering as I expected, though, maybe because it was too easy. Or maybe because I’m becoming a snob who’s becoming too accustomed to black truffle.

The Mark by Jean-Georges
market beets, endive, walnuts, grapes ($13)

This was a dish I’d definitely order again. I had never tasted beets until my boyfriend took me to Jules in the East Village three or so years ago, so they’re still a little foreign to me and therefore exciting. Having three different kinds on the plate was like Christmas, and I was pleased to find that they all had distinctive flavors.

The endive with walnuts and grapes was heavenly, and we were sopping that crazy cheese sauce up with our breadbasket.

The Mark by Jean-Georges
branzino with couscous ($30-something)

The Mark by Jean-Georges
parmesan-crusted organic chicken with artichokes ($25)

I’d be a liar if I said I wouldn’t eat this every day, because come on, look at that crust. The chicken was so moist inside, and the lemony butter sauce only enhanced that, although I needed twice as much of it. When I compare chicken to pork and duck and beef in my mind, it’s so flavorless, and I’m always happy when a chef changes that for me (even if just for a moment).

The Mark by Jean-Georges
Grand Marnier souffle, mandarin sorbet ($10)

I’m as disappointed in us as you are for only ordering one dessert, but it was quite the dessert. I usually feel like souffles are more trouble than they’re worth, but this one was so crusty/creamy/orangey. My boyfriend was nice and let me clean out the ramekin, which I did with my finger when our server wasn’t looking.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

I liked the formal yet not overly-romantic atmosphere, and the professional service (though our waiter did a double-take when I ordered a Riesling to accompany our meal, but I will not feel bad about my dessert wine love), but for someone with three Michelin stars, it definitely felt like an easy venture rather than a super-passionate one. We left feeling like we’d eaten a nice meal by an accomplished chef, but we didn’t feel wowed. I’m not writing Vongerichten off, though, and I do hope to write an our-socks-were-knocked-off review of his other restaurant, Jean-Georges, soon.

The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges
25 East 77th Street
New York, NY 10075 (map)

Fig & Olive – Mediterranean – Midtown East
Jun 9th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Dr. Boyfriend and I were trying to decide where to book a dinner reservation last week and saw that Fig & Olive has nearly 700 reviews on OpenTable, which is more than everything else we saw by a long shot. After going there on Friday night, I understand why.

The place is just plain meant to appeal to a lot of people. The menu is interesting but not adventurous, the prices are high enough to keep out the riffraff but low enough that you wouldn’t feel bad about taking a date here even knowing she wasn’t going to put out, the lighting is low, the furniture is plush, the service is neutral, and no one’s pretentious.

We both ordered from the prix fixe menu, which is your standard 3 courses for $36. Even after I added a $6 supplement for my filet mignon, I thought it was a great deal. Here’s what we feasted upon:

Fig & Olive
chicken samosa with cilantro, Greek yogurt, bell pepper, scallion, cumin, and harissa oil

Wikipedia tells me that phyllo dough is sometimes used for samosas in the West, so I’m refrain from calling this dish blasphemous, and even if it was too soft to be the kind of samosa I’m familiar with, it was delicious, and the only thing wrong with it was that there was only one. The harissa oil and yogurt combo was spicy-good that I had to use our leftover bread from the complimentary olive oils they served us to sop it up.

Fig & Olive
steak tartar of ground filet mignon and NY steak, shallot, caper, parsley, mayonnaise, olive oil toast

My boyfriend’s favorite part of this was the big caper berry on top, which I had never tasted before. I don’t care that much about capers, but caper berries are delightfully pickley.

Fig & Olive
grilled beef tenderloin, Herbs de Provence olive oil butter, fingerling potatoes, snow peas, onions

We were scheduled to go to a steak house the next night, but after I finished this filet, I said, “I’m not sure I can eat steak without butter now.” The little pat of herbed cow juice melted all over my meat, soaking into it and leaving the herbs behind on the seared exterior. The potatoes and peas were an afterthought, but it didn’t matter. Steak snobs would be aghast at the fact that the server didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked, but it came out perfectly medium, and I sort of like a chef who refuses to cook food anything but the right way.

Fig & Olive
grilled shrimp and scallop paella in pimentón (Spanish paprika), saffron rice, eggplant tapenade, bell pepper, tomato, garlic

My boyfriend didn’t much care for this paella, to be honest. It was definitely delicious–the paprika-sodden rice alone was mouthwatering–but he expects a paella to be full of all sorts of treasures for the unearthing. This was rice with a few vegetables and sea meats sprinkled on top. The flavors were there, but the portion and presentation were off.

Fig & Olive
berries pot de crème

This was a very creamy, slightly-vanilla custard with a blanket of strawberries and blueberries cooked down to their sweetest point. A chunk of very crusty cake accompanied it and made for a nice texture addition.

Fig & Olive
dessert crostini with blueberries mascarpone on shortbread with microbasil

Dr. Boyfriend’s dessert looked a little too simple to me, frankly, and I was secretly glad that I’d been the one to get the pot de crème at first. But simple as it was, it was special. The creamy cheese with the crumbly bread, the syrupy-sweet berries with the savory basil? YUM.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

Overall, I wouldn’t say Fig & Olive is a place I’d send my pickiest foodie friends, but it’s great for casual dates, meeting with friends (as nearly everyone there seemed to be doing), and having steak covered in butter. Not a place you’d go if you only had a weekend in NYC but a place you’d go to take a break from the formality of more-expensive restaurants.

Fig & Olive
10 East 52nd Street
New York, NY 10022 (map)

and

420 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10014 (map)

and

808 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021 (map)

Buttermilk Channel – American (New) – Carroll Gardens
Jun 4th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I have so many old food photos in my queue that I’m drowning, so please excuse me while I just plop some of these pictures of my meal at Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn with my friend Beth down without much explanation.

Buttermilk Channel
maple- and bacon-roasted almonds

These are still on the menu seven months later, because they’re so crunchy, sweet, and bacony that you kind of just want to keep ordering them and forget about the rest of the meal. See the way the sugar is cracking off of them in some places? COME ON! It’s almost unfair.

Buttermilk Channel
sweet potato and goat cheese croquettes

Buttermilk Channel
scallops

Buttermilk Channel
duck meatloaf, creamy parsnips, onion ring

This is the dish everyone talks about, and for good reason. It’s intensely rich and intensely comforting.

Buttermilk Channel
peanut-chocolate tart

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half StarZero Stars

Buttermilk Channel
524 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231 (map)

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