• 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)
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.
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.
There’s nothing a New Yorker loves more than feigning disinterest in other cities. We have everything worth having here, and Chicago can take its sparkling blue lake and shove it. But somehow, when it comes to food, New Yorkers have a fascination with everything from everywhere. Maybe it’s just that we want to say we’ve had it. Maybe it’s just that we want to be able to intelligently naysay it. Maybe it’s that we want to put it on a cronut.
In any case, I found myself at the made-famous-in-L.A. Umami Burger on its fourth day in NYC. Partly because I had planned to go to the park and it was raining, and partly because I figured not having to stand in the dinner line was one gift I could give myself as an unemployed lady. It turned out that the rain had dissuaded all of the half-hearted burger-eaters and left my friends Kim and Jack and me with a mere ten-minute wait for a table during what should have been the lunch rush.
We were seated in a not-quite-as-cramped-as-you-would-think booth in the corner and greeted by a super-friendly server who told us our burgers would be half-off because the buns that day weren’t as “pretty” as the Umami Burger standards would dictate. The unemployment gods were smiling upon me. Sadly, they weren’t serving the special five-spice duck burger only available at the NYC location that day, but they made up for it with a pastrami burger with an inch of spicy, smoky, herby lunchmeat on top of the hand-ground steak burger:
You can tell these things aren’t coming off some truck frozen because of the way they fall apart when you cut into them; they’re not the homogeneous rounds of your traditional fast food burger joints. The patty was seared to a crust that was only dwarfed by the dried exterior of the pastrami. A sour relish countered the deep, rich flavors of the burger but the cheese added to them, so there was no escaping the umami. I’d heard complaints about the $12 price tag on these burgers, but I wasn’t so offended; with fries, they’re just a dollar-ish more expensive than, say, 5 Napkin Burger, and a whole lot less expensive than the burgers at The Spotted Pig and Minetta Tavern. And this was just plain delicious with that pastrami so thick and spicy it became the whole point of the burger.
Kim is a lady and ordered the tuna burger with sprouts, avocado, ginger-flavored carrots, and a little wasabi kick. It was basically the exact opposite of my burger with its light sear and its freshness.
Jack took one for the team and ordered The Original, which was topped with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a big round of crisp Parmesan. The Parmesan was the thing I was most excited about, but he acted like it was mainly there for texture.
For starters and sides, we got the complex House Pickle Plate with sesame ginger wax beans (who would think to care about beans at a burger joint?, but these were super lemony and tart), spicy green beans, smoked okra, bread and butter pickles, and beets,
the Truffled Beet Salad with arugula, smoked almonds, and truffled ricotta spread,
tater tots filled with cheese,
and shoestring fries served “manly” style with beer-cheddar, thick chunks of bacon, and onion strings. Aside from being supremely offended that cheese, pork, and onions are apparently for men, I loved these fries. Even more than Kim’s fries dripping with truffle cream.
My Mexican Coke tasted like American Coke but with less flavor,
but my ice cream cookie sandwich with its gigantic gingerbread rounds, vanilla ice cream, and gloopy lemon curd was the perfect spicy-bright note to end a mega rich meal.
Owner Adam Fleischman says this isn’t a Shake Shack ripoff, and he’s right (even if there was a smashed burger a la Shake Shack’s on the daily specials menu the day I visited). Shake Shack is a fast food burger you eat in the park or squeezed in between tourists at whatever table space you can manage, and this is a leisure burger you enjoy with a beer and your friends with the biggest stomachs. Shake Shack is perfect in its simplicity, while this is the whole kitchen piled on a bun. There’s definitely room for both types in NYC and in my mouth, but which I’ll choose on a given day comes down to whether I’m in the mood for the best-tasting patty possible or a really great sit-down meal with appetizers that are just as strong as the main event.
My boyfriend and I have long had Bouley on our radar, but when we wanted to try a David Bouley restaurant, we went for his newer, Japanese kaiseki one, Brushstroke, and had a 4.5-donut experience. We’ve been trying to cover some new ground lately, though, and thought maybe it was time to pay respect to his eponymous restaurant that was so huge in the 80s and recently saw a facelift in the late 00s.
We booked dinner simply because we saw a reservation available on OpenTable, but as we looked into visiting, we wondered if we hadn’t made a very costly mistake. Dinner at Bouley is $175 for six courses, $280 with wine. Lunch is five courses for $55. So the darkness and that one extra course cost you $120. We thought about trying to switch to lunch. We thought about canceling our reservation completely after reading some of the unflattering reviews floating around the Internet. But we ultimately decided to go for the full dinner tasting menu and judge for ourselves, expectations appropriately set.
Bouley (pronounced “boo-LAY”, just in case you’re like me and assume every name has an American pronunciation) is opulent. It’s like a country home where everything has been coated in gold leaf. Heavy drapes, tall candles, fresh flowers everywhere. Wood, iron, vaulted ceilings. Bathrooms the size of most NYC apartments and laden with enough tapestry to dress every diner for life. Private dining rooms where every inch seems to be covered in red velvet. Even the picture frames are upholstered in purple velvet. And the foyer is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of apples so that the room smells like an orchard.
Very beety, with plenty of blue cheese flavor and nutty sweetness.
Japanese flatbread, truffle, potato and cheese sauce. Yes.
On top of and inside this cold aspic (savory gelatin) was uni made extra sweet by broiling. The complex ocean flavor of this dish was balanced by the cream and caviar underneath.
If you knew me just a few years ago, the idea of my ordering an all-mushroom course would be hilarious to you. I remember being at Cafeteria in Chelsea one night on one of my first dates with my boyfriend and piling millimeter-long chips of mushroom from my risotto on one side of my bowl and hoping he wouldn’t notice. But ever since I had the wild mushroom salad with jalapeno puree at Momofuku Ko forced on me and found it one of the most unforgettable dishes of my life, I’ll give any mushroom a try.
These were sweet, a little spicy with something like cinnamon or nutmeg, and so umami with that Parmesan foam and black truffle. There were so many textures on the plate, including an entirely different one from the grilled tuna.
The bread man with his cage full of fresh loaves came to our table and offered us slices of anything we wanted. The flavors were varied and interesting: saffron, sourdough, black currant, French onion. I loved how different and personal the service was.
Our server described this as a chawanmushi, but all of the chawanmushis I’ve had have been thick, broth-less custards. This was more like a creamy crab soup with a broth flavored like yuzu and cardamom. They sure didn’t skimp on the crab, though.
Sweet, with perfectly-cooked langoustine and scallops. The sauce was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it could have been more spicy and salty for my taste, but it really let the natural flavors of the scallops and langoustine shine through.
Flaky fish, smoky almond milk, and so much sweet ginger.
Tender, buttery lobster with a crunchy black truffle julienne. I enjoyed the texture contrast between the slice of turnip on top and the puree underneath.
We’ve had a lot of Kobe, a lot of Wagyu, and a lot of Kobe and Wagyu that were probably not actually Kobe and Wagyu, so we wanted to try this “true Kobe”. Just to be sure. We were both entirely underwhelmed. The point of eating a really good piece of beef for me is to cut through it and notice how tender it is, but with the way this was sliced so thin, any cut would have been tender. Although I liked the crunchy texture with the beef, the watery frisée completely diluted the taste of the Kobe. Having just had the much-better calotte de boeuf at Per Se last month, this was an unfortunate let-down, and one that came with a hefty price tag.
Delicious crispy skin aside, the star of this was the date “paper” spread on the bottom of the dish. When heated, it became like a sauce, and it formed such an interesting new flavor when eaten with the lima beans. I loved the black pepper chunks in the polenta and the buttery fingerling potatoes served on the side.
Light and fluffy on top, a little icy on the bottom, and milky throughout. When the server put this down, my boyfriend and I immediately went to work imagining how it was made, and when the woman next to us tried to ask her date the same thing, he said, “Let’s wait for our neighbors to figure it out.” Food nerds!
This very sweet and lychee-ful sorbet made the accompanying fruits VERY tart. This was a complex dish that I secretly wanted to simplify by just eating a big, ol’ scoop of that delicious sorbet.
Mmm, grain-flavored gelato. I wasn’t a huge fan of it on its own, but the creamy soup and strawberries (which were such a treat out of season) were so pleasant with it, and my boyfriend actually liked that it was like eating a field.
Not a souffle in the molten cake sort of way but more like a meringue. “Pineapple egg foam”, we called it. So many things were good about this, from the warm pineapple chunks throughout to the sugar granules on the bottom to the unexpected pistachio core. The “10 exotic flavor sorbet” was really just two flavors for us: pineapple and yuzu. But it was very intense and delicious.
This was the souffle I was expecting, with a liquid center and a little crunch to the exterior. I liked the semi-sweet mousse and the crumbled cookie crisp, but the coffee ice cream really made the dish.
Truthfully, the food at Bouley was only okay. It looks like it should have three Michelin stars, but it only has one, and the reviews about it wavering from delicious to just decent were spot-on. Date paper duck? Delicious. Kobe that should be pretty hard to not make amazing? Just decent. For the price, which is well above a lot of the better tasting menus in the city, I would either expect plenty of off-menu courses (think Eleven Madison Park, where you could almost make a meal of all of the amuses they bring you) or at the very least, much more complete courses; two langoustines and three bay scallops does not a complete dish make. This was the same complaint I had about the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, though, so perhaps the protein with very little else is just the mark of a really French-y restaurant.
And yet, we left Bouley talking about what a great time it was. Despite not loving all of the food, we loved the experience of eating here. The decor is completely different than in any other fine dining room we’ve seen in NYC–not modern and simple but full and almost flamboyant. When I asked the sommelier, who was excellent, if I could take photos of the bottles, he said, “You SHOULD!” The guy on the bread cart joked with us every time he wheeled by, while the more serious servers would slide the food down in front of us, rattle off the ingredients in their French accents, and turn on a dime to go back and stand in their corners. It didn’t feel stuffy here, just professional and special. Maybe I’m not dying to go back for the food, but the overall dinner was something I’ll talk about.
Tom Colicchio is special to my boyfriend and me, and not just because we’ve considered basing vacation plans solely on being able to visit the restaurants of “Top Chef” contestants. (Really just Michael Voltaggio’s.) Not only did we spend our last anniversary at Craft, but our first tasting menu there held the title of The Best Meal of My Life for the longest time. My first Craftbar pork belly is the standard by which I’ve judged all others, and we celebrated Valentine’s Day 2010 at Colicchio & Sons shortly after its opening. (My pictures from that were used in an NPR article making fun of food bloggers’s awful pictures. YES!) Since Chef Colicchio has expanded his empire, like, tenfold since then, we decided to go back, this time to try the tasting menu at $135 and $95 for wine pairings.
Loved the sour uni with the char of the puffed rice. A feast of textures and acids in an unexpectedly interesting dish.
The beginning of this meal was really fast-paced, so we can’t remember much about this aside from the fact that we really liked it. We think it was a cucumber custard topped with flying fish roe. There may have been some wasabi in there. Trust me.
Can’t go wrong with sprouts and crazy-crispy pork, especially when the sprouts are shaved this way.
The buttery, salty, sweet rolls calling to me from across the table.
Creamy, starchy, sweet soup, a crispy little chickpea cake with the dark flavors of black truffle, and a very cheesy gougere.
As regulars of Momofuku Ko, we’ve had the tube of potato souffle with caviar amuse bouche more times than I can count, so this was very familiar in a way. Except that it was cold. The fluffy potato and cream were so texturally good with the burst of brine from the caviar and the crunch of the fingerling potato chips, but I sure wished they had been warm.
This take on carbonara was so rich and homey with its barely-cooked egg that spilled all over the plate and its smoky hunks of pig face. We unfortunately didn’t get any flavor of the barolo it was soaked in despite the barolo wine pairing for reference, but I still have no complaints about this dish thanks to its very al dente pasta and that sprinkling of chives and cheese.
A really well-composed dish where every forkful revealed more and more interesting components. The blood orange reduction was SO SWEET to complement the natural sweetness of the well-seared scallop but was balanced by the spicy sliver of jalapeno. The salty slices of heart of palm on top added seasoning that the scallop needed, as well. I’d come back for this.
This was a dish rich in savory flavors and umami. The crisp edges of the oyster mushrooms mirrored the spicy crispy skin of the almost beefy duck. The springy chew of the plump farro and juicy, pliable huckleberries in their jus seemed made for each other.
So tender! And that stiff sear! The kale underneath was made memorable by the salty rock-hard slabs of pork lardon, but the salsify and kabocha were just okay.
This dish was the entire reason we made our Colicchio & Sons reservation. A few years ago, our friend Anthony introduced us to Époisses de Bourgogne cheese, and it quickly became our go-to for stinky creamy washed-rind goodness. This creme brulee did absolutely nothing to mask the pungent flavor of the cheese and instead made this a true cheese course with mostly savory flavors and then just an inkling of sweetness from the layer of caramelized sugar topping and the sticky pecan crumble on the fennel-rich shortbread pieces. This was better than a normal creme brulee, though, because as soon as you took a spoonful of the creme, the huckleberry puree underneath filled the bottom of the vessel.
We liked this so much that we were taken back to the kitchen to tell pastry chef Stephen Collucci to his face. But even more than the creme brulee, we loved the dessert that was still to come.
(Very nice but not quite sweet enough for the dessert it was paired with.)
I’m usually impressed by the skill behind fancy desserts but don’t usually gape and gasp at them. Not because I don’t love dessert but because I love dessert too much, and no one ever gives me the big sugary gloopy gloppy affair I’m looking for. But this. Dessert. Was. AWESOME. My boyfriend said it reminded him of a Christmas ham with its pineapple and cherry flavors, but the point of the dish was the brown sugar cake, which actually had a sugar center so buttery that it was making the cake translucent from the inside. It was the texture of heavily syrup-soaked pancakes. The sticky cherry sauce, extra-sweet crispy-chewy pineapple shards, and milk chocolate ice cream were just the cherries on top. So to speak.
I gave my boyfriend the bigger pate de fruits, because that’s how love works. Also because he pays for dinner.
There are two ways of thinking about Colicchio & Sons:
1) It doesn’t have to be as good as it is. It’s owned by Tom Colicchio, so it’s automatically going to be packed. It’s in the Meatpacking District, so it’s automatically going to be packed. It’s dark and romantic and has a separate Tap Room full of cheaper options, so it’s automatically going to be packed. And yet the restaurant never acts like you need it more than it needs you. All of the employees seemed flat-out excited to be there the night we dined, and our server might have been embroiled in a full-on love affair with most of the dishes from the way he described them. Every plate was really good and some were really excellent.
2) It’s price is on par with some of the better tasting menus in town–Momofuku Ko, Atera, Le Bernardin, wd~50, Torrisi–but the level of creativity isn’t quite there. The soundtrack sometimes ventured into 80s glam, and the decor is more cigar bar than sleek. It’s not quite refined, not quite boundary-pushing.
That said, the food at Colicchio & Sons is nothing short of delicious, and the familiarity will actually be a boon to those who love the idea of a tasting menu but don’t want course after course of unpronounceable ingredients. They’ll still have a little uni and puffed rice forced on them, though, and that’s a good thing.
When we’re not enjoying gut-busting tasting menus, I keep my figure girlish with a low-carb diet, while my boyfriend eats low-calorie to remain a bronzed glamorboy. And since we don’t cook, much of our evenings together are spent laboring over what to order for dinner. I want burgers on English muffins; he wants sushi. I want steak; he wants salad. I want comfort food; he wants adventure. It’s not fun. But luckily, his adventure-seeking led him one evening to find on our favourite delivery app, Seamless, a brand new restaurant called 7 Green and Grain.
I’ll admit that I basically had to be forced to order from the place. It seemed too light, too healthy, not at all comforting. In the end, it was exactly light enough, so delicious I forgot how healthy it was, and as comforting as a bowl of pasta. It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious.
You start with one of their “Be the Chef” meals, a create-your-own-entree sort of thing where you select from proteins like cage-free chipotle chicken, char-grilled chile lime shrimp, turkey meatballs, and General Tso’s tofu. Next, you choose a base grain like couscous, wild rice, or quinoa. Then, you add what they call a “tasty texture”–stuff like roasted corn and edamame, hot pepper and onion relish, or dried fruit and nut chutney. You also get a side vegetable like steamed kale, golden beets, or caramelized cauliflower, and then you top it off with a dressing like ginger soy, yogurt mint, or miso peanut.
Here, I had the turkey meatballs with quinoa, hot pepper and onion relish, caramelized cauliflower, and the yogurt mint garlic dressing. It doesn’t look like much when it arrives, but once you stir it all together, it becomes this saucy, spicy, vegetal, meaty mix that’s interesting but comforting, hearty but not so dense that you’ll need a nap when you finish it. I have quite the appetite, but this always satisfies me and actually leaves me feeling good about what I’ve eaten.
My boyfriend and I agree that the turkey meatballs are the thing to get. They’re really well-seasoned–when you cut them open, onions and herbs stare back–and I like the way you can crumble them into the grain (or healthy low-carb seed, in the case of quinoa) and make sure every bite has meat in it. We also agree that the hot peppers and onions are the #1 Tasty Texture, because they’re finely chopped, mix in easily, and ensure that the grain won’t be bland. When you mix the spicy peppers with the cool mint yogurt dressing, it’s a delight.
Our second or third time ordering, my boyfriend decided to branch out and got the chicken with quinoa and kale. The chicken is flavorful without being too spicy and isn’t dried out at all. For me, the kale is pretty boring and needs salt, but he seems to be able to forgive that because it’s so healthy.
The vegetable bean chili is great when dumped all over the grain like a sauce, but it doesn’t cut it as a stand-alone dish. It’s almost entirely beans, and doesn’t have any of the deep, rich, developed flavor you expect from chili. They should probably call it a bean soup so you expect the brightness and thinness of the broth.
• Steamed vegetables are pretty awful when you know sauteed vegetables exist.
• The dinner portion is $13 to $17, which is waaaaay too expensive for what mostly amounts to grain or seeds. The lunch portion is much more reasonable at $9 but is also smaller.
• The number of choices in each category is bound to please nearly every palate.
• It’s healthy.
• It’s complex and delicious.
When I wrote in my Torrisi Italian Specialties review that Italian food in NYC is terrible, bland, and uninspired, the good people of the Chowhound message boards went crazy, telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about if I hadn’t been to Del Posto, the Joe Bastianich/Lidia Bastianich/Mario Batali behemoth with one Michelin star.
So in the name of knowing what I’m talking about, my boyfriend took me there for the $165, eight-course Captain’s Menu for a tasting of Chef Mark Ladner’s finest. Our first impression was that the place was gigantic and cavernous, decorated in dark, heavy fabrics that made it seem like the perfect setting for cigar smoking, back door dealing, and hiding mistresses from wives. The staff was friendly despite the ominous feel, we were seated at the most perfect banquette that allowed for plenty of people-watching, and our server treated me like I was the first blogger to have ever entered the place once she saw my camera. Likewise, the sommelier kept talking up the special bottles he was opening up for us and even introduced us to this new contraption called a corovan or coravan or cordovan that separates the cork from the wine bottle without puncturing it so that the wine can be enjoyed without fully opening the bottle; he said that it was invented by a heart surgeon and that Del Posto is the only restaurant on the East coast to have one. Ooh-la-la.
Now, on to the food!
Cauliflower and leek vellutata in the little cups
Bacalao (cod) on a very crispy cracker
Chicken salad tea sandwich with chicken cooked for five hours, which made all other chicken salad sandwiches seem classless
secondi assaggi (second samples):
Like eating truffle hummus.
A beautifully diverse bread basket that was replaced halfway through the meal when it became cold. Our server also switched out our napkins at that point, which I loved.
For the bread. In case you thought it was just for spooning.
They call this vegetable salad brutte ma buone–ugly but good. I didn’t even think it was ugly, but it certainly was good. The sugary carrot cake crumble under this was almost candy-like and really worked with the super-acidic apple cider vinaigrette. The dressing was so sour that I felt like I was choking when I encountered too much of it resting in a little cup formed by the curve of an onion slice, in fact. But hey, what’s a little choking amongst friends?
The many crunchy elements–watercress, water chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms–made the dish what it was. I’ve never cared at all for watercress, but it was welcome and almost necessary here to add just a touch of freshness. This was also the first time in a long time that I’ve thought truffles really added something more than just an extra $50 to the bill. All in all, I think this was my favourite of the night, and I say this as someone who still totally thinks of fish as poo-drinkers.
I think the name of this dish literally translates to stinky tortello, which is entirely correct. I’m not used to such a strong cheese in my ravioli, so the juxtaposition between the creeeeeamy, buuuuuttery texture of the cheese gushing from the broken tortello and its pungent taste was intense. In a good way.
My boyfriend thought this was a little too one-note, especially following a dish that really was quite simple, but I actually found it complex with plenty of depth of flavor. The pasta was of course cooked perfectly, and then the spicy lamb sauce so complemented the sweet dollops of carrot puree and the dark, rich rye crumble.
A plate of assorted sea creatures arrived,
a broth was poured over them,
and the result was a seafood soup with tons of garlic and super-bright, super-acidic tomato flavor. The tender seafood was complimented so nicely by the citrusy marjoram in the broth.
A veal medallion surrounded by beef deckle was placed in front of each of us,
and then a ragu of tongue was added tableside. I was more excited about this dish than any of the others because of its familiar beefiness, but the lack of seasoning on it was a real letdown; both the veal and potato torta seemed to be entirely lacking salt. However, the deckle (fatty brisket) was perfectly seasoned and perfectly crusted, and the tongue stew was both tender and spicy. Cosa viene prima translates to “what comes first”, which I took as a play on the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg–or in this case, the baby veal or the adult beef.
I had never had Chartreuse before this. It’s a monk-made herbal liquor from France, and it made my mouth pucker worse than any lemon ever could. It’s interesting. And beautiful. And vegetal.
This was like a cheesecake rolled in thick, crispy breadcrumbs, paired with the most celery-flavored and refreshing sorbet and a fig dried as sweet as a raisin.
This was Del Posto’s take on s’mores, and while it seemed simplistic to me at first, I thought it was a really nice take on a cheese course in the end. The La Tur was really funky, but the sweetness of the chocolate balanced it so nicely, and their flavors were so complimentary. I always love the difference in flavor between raw cheese and melted, so I was pleased to find this gave me an idea of both states of a La Tur.
This semifreddo was like a thick, rich, brightly sweet dulce de leche with a crunchy crumble. I thought the fruits on the side seemed like such a weird, uncomplimentary addition, but I actually loved them–particularly the melon. And I’m not a person who cares about melon.
My boyfriend got the raw end of the deal with this course. Instead of the semifreddo, he was served this pumpkin cake that was a little too dry, a little too simple, a little too not-at-all pumpkin-flavored. The sage gelato, on the other hand, was so overwhelmingly sage-y that I didn’t care much for it, either. It sure was pretty, though.
To end the meal, our server brought a drawer full of small bites, this chocolate sculpture, a cookie jar, and a plate with a giant almond cookie on it. She held the cookie up to show how delicate it was while my boyfriend and I secretly thought, “Why are you touching our cookie?” She explained to us that this type of cookie is commonly passed around the table after a family meal so each person can take a piece for dessert. The Del Posto version of this involved our server smashing the cookie down on top of the cookie jar so that cookie chunks went all over the table. It was quite the spectacle. And quite the delicious, crisp cookie.
The contents of the cookie jar, dumped out onto the table for us.
Little tastes of things like Campari grapefruit, apricot cookies, and lemon curd doughnuts. We were too full for any of this, so it was wrapped up and left at the coat check for us to take home.
Del Posto was solid on all fronts, from food to decor to service. It’s clear why the restaurant has a Michelin star, and it’s clear that the staff are working hard to make it a destination, a place where you can expect a special bottle of wine to be opened for your special dinner. If this was an up and coming restaurant, I’d bump it up half a star, but I expected a little more wow from the food of the Bastianiches and Batali; I didn’t feel creative boundaries being pushed here, and I realize that’s probably because the restaurant is known amongst out-of-towners who don’t want any surprises, just traditionally good food. The better choice for dinner here for us probably would have been the five-course menu, which focuses more on pasta–the thing Del Posto is doing so well. I think this is the sort of place you only have to go to once to get the full experience, and I’m happy to have had mine.