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Luksus Probably Deserves Its One Michelin Star
Aug 2nd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Luksus, the Nordic tasting-menu-only restaurant hidden behind a door in Greenpoint’s Tørst beer bar, has been on my list for a long time as a Brooklynite who’d love to never have to leave the borough for her fine dining. I was scheduled to go see my family in Ohio over the July 4th weekend, but when my flight got canceled despite clear blue skies, I consoled myself by booking a table for two there in the hope of getting to sit at the bar and watch the chefs work. The OpenTable reviewers had given Luksus a 4.5, and Eleven Madison Park, which I would call one of the standard-bearers in the city, had a 4.8, so I congratulated myself on my good choice. But when I started talking to my friends, the consensus was that Luksus was good but probably not somewhere they’d return to. I thought about changing my reservation, but then I remembered the optional beer pairings and just had to try it for myself.

Click here to read more ≫

The NoMad Restaurant: What I Tasted, and What I Immensely Regret Not Tasting
May 13th, 2016 by donuts4dinner

The little group of friends I eat all of my cow stomachs and whole suckling pigs with all love Eleven Madison Park but don’t want to necessarily drop $300 on a tasting menu on a random Wednesday night. Luckily, there’s The NoMad restaurant in the NoMad Hotel, where Chef Daniel Humm is serving the same elevated food for, you know, the same elevated prices, but at least you can only order two or three courses here if you want to save your pennies. The service was as kind and polished as you’d expect from a restaurant by this chef, the atmosphere as dark and cool as you’d expect from a hotel that’s as much known for its bar as anything. As with EMP, most of the food you get at The NoMad is a really great version of a thing you probably already like–I’ll never forget the “picnic” I had there once–but this is also the kind of place that’ll also make you like food you thought you didn’t.

Click here to read more ≫

Game of Thrones Season 6 Dinner by Chef David Santos
Apr 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

I’ve been following Chef David Santos around the city since he was doing secret dinners in his apartment on Roosevelt Island, and I can tell you that there’s no one in NYC doing more creative menus than this guy. There’s been Nashville hot chicken served in giant buckets, a Sun Noodle dinner with bowls of chilled and surf & turf ramen, and meals celebrating Dave’s Portuguese heritage, but I’ve especially come to love the themed dinners. Last week’s “Game of Thrones” pop-up at Noreetuh in the East Village is something my friends and I look forward to every year. Not only because the food is always boundary-pushing but because Dave’s menus are these masterful/hilarious odes to the characters on the show that proclaim this chef both an artist in the kitchen and a wordsmith on the page. None of us will ever forget the bacon-wrapped monkfish dish from a couple of years ago, where Dave said that the bacon protects the monkfish like the Hound protects Arya. Genius. If you want to see the entire explanation for this year’s menu, head on over to the Eventbrite ticketing page and prepare to be delighted.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
bread and butter

Dave’s bread is reason alone to come to one of these dinners and is worth the price of admission itself. Crusty on the outside and beyond smushable in the middle, and then he always makes some amazing butter to top it with. This time, the butter was sprinkled with thick salt crystals to make it even more delicious and more likely to kill you.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
black truffle fritter, asparagus puree, zahatar oil

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
fluke tartar with eel, avocado wasabi pudding, scallion, and puffed rice

Texture on texture on texture!

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
roots, celery, parsnip, peas shoots and tendrils, dirt

There was an asparagus granita on this that my friends refused to accept as a real thing in cooking, but they couldn’t deny how refreshing it was to get a little pile of savory shaved ice on top of a cool salad. None of us were okay with that carrot suggestively sticking up like that, but Dave is such the godfather of incredible carrots that the Times posted one of his carrot recipes, so you have to forgive him. The “dirt” was rye bread crumbs, just in case you were scared.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
smoked sable chowder, oyster, chicharron, nettles

I don’t care for oysters, but I care immensely for a huge crispy-as-hell piece of pork skin that I can dip into my chowder. Comfort food pushed to the max.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
malloreddus pasta, spicy wild boar ragu, house-aged ricotta

Apparently malloreddus is the national pasta of Sardinia, kind of like a gnocchi, that translates to “fat little calves”. Dave left his with quite a bit of chew, just the way I like it, and gave us just the right amount for being totally satisfied but not dying from the richness.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
steak and eggs, foie caramelized onions, emu eggs

The waitstaff passed around giant green emu eggs for us to all pretend to be the mother of dragons with before taking them back to the kitchen so Dave could make THE most intense scrambled eggs, loaded with foie and onions. They were so earthy I could’ve sprouted a tree in them, and then he had to go and top them with a piece of steak just for effect. The scallions gave the dish just the right amount of brightness to balance out all of that fat.

Game of Thrones Dinner by Chef David Santos
ice cream sandwich, meringue, strawberry puree

Representing the wall and the blood of Jon Snow, this ice-cream-sandwich-meets-baked-Alaska had just the right amount of novelty for such a fun dinner and just the right amount of elevation for a chef like Dave.

The Natural Gourmet Institute’s Friday Night Dinner
Aug 7th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

It’s rare that I leave a prix-fixe dinner wondering, “How did they do that?” But at most of the meals I eat, the chef doesn’t come out of the kitchen to explain exactly what was in each dish. That’s exactly what happened at the last Friday Night Dinner at the Natural Gourmet Institute, though, and I was left befuddled by how such simple ingredients were turned into such complex dishes. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

I was invited to dine on the house at the Natural Gourmet Institute by their marketing coordinator and, you know, immediately had my doubts about an all-vegetarian meal cooked by students. But once I saw the menu, I became a little intrigued. And then when my boyfriend and I figured out that bullet points under the appetizer, entree, and desserts sections weren’t “or”s (“pick this OR this OR this”) but “and”s (“you’re about to get this AND this AND this”), I was downright excited about getting to try all of these different tastes.

We were led to our table by a gentle, polite woman, and that was sort of the theme of the night when it came to the crowd there for the Friday Night Dinner series. Everyone was gentle and polite. A little free-spirited. Very knowledgeable about food. There to enjoy a delicious health-conscious meal and good conversation. We were seated at a communal eight-top, which shocked me a little at first, because ew, I don’t want to get to know strangers. But the couple next to us were lovely, foodies and wine lovers who were moving out west and wanted to visit one of their favorite places before they left. She was a vegan and he wasn’t, but he assured us we’d like the meal.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
the menu

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
appetizer

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
raw zucchini with pesto

This isn’t the first time I’ve had vegetables masquerading as pasta, and I’m a huge fan as someone who usually eats a low-carb diet. The zucchini was so fresh and crisp and light, and it was a neutral enough base that the macadamia nut(!) pesto could really shine. A leaf of Boston Bibb underneath provided a contrasting texture.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
green cabbage and grapefruit terrine

It sounded like as strange a combination to me as mushroom ice cream, but the sweet and savory flavors really worked. The cabbage was mostly a textural component, so the flavor of the grapefruit really came through. The carrot coulis was lost on me, unfortunately, but I thought adding the natural sweetness of carrots was a smart idea.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
spiced chickpea, brown rice, and vegetable stew

This hearty stew with Cajun flavors was filling enough to have been full of meat, and its flavor was rich enough for it, too; chef Hideyo Yamada told us later that it was the addition of trumpet mushrooms that fooled us. An earthy chia seed cracker, grilled broccolini, a dollop of cucumber and shiso leaf pressed salad, and eggplant and shishito pepper tempura with horseradish sauce completed the sampling. I loved the fresh cucumber with the delicate shisho flavor, the buttery broccolini that probably didn’t actually use any butter at all, and the light tempura batter made with quinoa flour (low-carb!) and seltzer water. The bright kick of the horseradish provided a juxtaposition to the richer flavors of the dish.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner
raw raspberry chocolate cake with a duo of sauces

Don’t even ask me what was going on here. The “cake” tasted like raspberry sorbet over a dense, chewy brownie, but it was raw and apparently made of cashews. What a feat. The tapioca pearls had a strong mint flavor and were dry, not slimy, so they stuck together and formed a solid mass. The fresh fruit was so summery with the mint, but the mint quickly gave way to the more forceful raspberry flavor. It sort of reminded me of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which is all about the fleeting beauty of natural objects. I loved the chocolate “tuile”, which was much too thick to actually be considered a tuile, and of course that’s just the way I wanted it.

Natural Gourmet Institute Friday Night Dinner

The Friday Night Dinner at the Natural Gourmet Institute was serious enough that I felt like I was getting an inventive tasting menu at an NYC restaurant, but it was casual enough that I could go there any Friday night. There’s no pretentious decor, no attire requirements, and your placesetting won’t include four unnecessary plates there just for looks. The tickets were about $50, including tip and beverage, it was BYOB, and 10% of the proceeds from each dinner are donated to a worthy cause. The night we attended was graduation night for the students, and they came into the dining room with Chef Yamada to talk about the food, the school, and how it’s changed their lives. One of the students told us about how sick she had been until she started eating a vegan diet and how she chose the Natural Gourmet Institute because they were open-minded about different ways of eating and didn’t force her to take butchering classes like other culinary schools.

You can read more about their history and philosophy here, and check out the menu for the next Friday Night Dinner while you’re at it!

Natural Gourmet Institute
48 West 21st Street #2
New York, NY 10010 (map)

The New Dessert Menu and More at The Chester
Jul 17th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

If you’re wondering where the pretty people in NYC are eating (or not eating, to maintain their girlish figures), it’s at The Chester in the Meatpacking District. The restaurant serves American food, but the crowd is a mix of world flavors thanks to its prime location, attached to the Gansevoort Hotel with its famous rooftop pool.

I happen to work right next door and looked longingly at the soft blue-and-white striped banquettes on the outdoor patio every morning at The Chester until I finally convinced my friend Kim to join me there for lunch one day. We ordered lobster Cobb salads with chopped lettuce and piles of hard-boiled egg, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, huge chunks of lobster, and pineapple(!) and haven’t stopped talking about them since.

Incredibly, The Chester contacted me recently to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their new dessert menu, and I jumped at the chance when I saw that one of the new offerings is served in a jar, which automatically makes everything taste like sunshine and butterflies in flight. The desserts were on the house, but of course Kim and I had to sample a little bit of the rest of the new menu on our own dime.

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC
dip duo

An appetizer big enough to be an entrée is a rare and beautiful thing in NYC. This duo of dips was extra satisfying in that it included both the savory part of the meal and a part I would’ve been happy to eat for dessert. The white bean dip was the salty portion, and I loved its strong red pepper flavor. The sweet honey came through in the ricotta dip so well that it tasted like candy next to the white bean. Both seemed extra creamy when paired with the crunchy toasted bread.

The Chester, NYC
prosciutto flatbread

Contrasting that was the soft bread of our other appetizer, this flatbread topped with prosciutto, fontina cheese, and arugula tossed in truffle oil. The prosciutto was so tender, not sinewy at all, and I loved the richness that the grilled flavor added to the bread.

The Chester, NYC
scallops

The thickly seared scallops were of course the star of this plate, but I couldn’t get over how the sweet slice of cornbread complemented the naturally sweet scallops. Everything was perfectly seasoned, and there was lots of complexity thanks to the buttery cream sauce, salty capers, and bitter greens on top.

The Chester, NYC

Plus, it was just plain nice to look at.

The Chester, NYC
kale Caesar salad with salmon

Kim’s kale Caesar was SPICY! Surprisingly so. The portion size was again really satisfying, and Kim didn’t even think she needed to add the salmon but thought it was a well-cooked piece of seameat and was glad she’d ordered it. The big slices of Parmesan were our favorite part, as a couple of cheese hogs.

The Chester, NYC
chocolate cake

The first thing I said was, “There’s liquor in here!”, which is always a great way to start a dessert tasting. The dark chocolate cake had just a hint of bourbon infusion, and I wanted to drape that thick velvety frosting all over everything I ate. The raspberry sorbet had a bright, fresh taste, like it was plucked straight from the raspberry garden. The cocoa nibs, by contrast, added a dark richness and crunch.

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC
panna cotta

The panna cotta is the very last dessert I would’ve ordered for myself because they’re usually too light and not decadent enough for my taste, but this was easily my favorite of the desserts we tried. It reminded me of eating a flower in the best way, the very perfumed flavor of cardamom filling my nose. The warm sensation of the cardamom and strong whiskey cream hit my throat first, but then the cooling burst of Meyer lemon and orange followed. I loved the textural differences of the cream, followed by the crunchy almond brittle, followed by the custard, followed by a layer of liquid on the bottom. The whole experience made me think of drinking a cup of Early Grey tea. Except, you know, it was a creamy cool dessert and not hot tea and therefore much, much more delicious.

The Chester, NYC
strawberry shortcake

My dessert in a jar, at last! Layers and layers of fluffy vanilla bean sponge cake and strawberry compote. I loved that there was plenty of saltiness in this lightly sweet dessert, which really brought out a lemon flavor in the cake. It was such a pleasure to dig through the cream down to the cake and strawberries and come up with a spoonful of different flavors and textures. The honeycomb candy added another reminder of summer with its sweet honey flavor, and it hardened in our teeth so we could continue to enjoy the dessert all of the way home.

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC

The Chester, NYC

The Chester
18 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10014 (map)

Eleven Madison Park in Pictures
May 13th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

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.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Bereche & Fils, Brut Reserve, Ludes, Champagne, France

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CHEDDAR: savory black and white cookie with apple

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
OYSTER: wood sorrel, buckwheat, mignonette

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SEA URCHIN: custard with apple, scallop, and chervil

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, Jerez, Spain

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SURF CLAM: morcilla sausage, pear, and celery root

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
LITTLENECK CLAM: clambake with whelk, Parker House roll, and chowder

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Francois Villard, Les Terrasses du Palat, Condrieu, Rhone Valley, France 2009

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
FOIE GRAS: terrine with bitter greens, pear, and achovy

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Pichler-Krutzler, Gruner Veltliner, Loibner Klostersatz, Wachau, Austria 2011

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Whole carrots, ground tableside.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CARROT: tartare with rye bread and condiments

What’s more exciting than a whole tray of fresh ingredients to play with?

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

The kitchen tour always includes a liquid nitrogen cocktail.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Schlossgut Diel, Riesling, Dorsheim, Trocken, Nahe, Germany 2010

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
LOBSTER: poached with rutabaga, pear, and lovage bisque

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Rouge Frais Imperial, Sciacarellu, Corsica, France

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SALSIFY: roasted with apples and black pudding

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Tenuta Sella, Nebbiolo, Lessona, Piedmont, Italy 2006

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

They presented the 140-day aged ribeye to us and then took it back to the kitchen to prepare it.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
BEEF: grilled with mushrooms and bone marrow, braised oxtail with foie gras and potato

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
Ithaca Beer Company, Picnic Basket Ale, Ithaca, New York

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
GREENSWARD: pretzel, mustard, and dried fruit

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
MALT: egg cream with vanilla and seltzer

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
J.J. Prum, Bernkasteler Lay, Auslese, Mosel, Germany 1998

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.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CELERY ROOT: creme cake with apple sorbet, walnut, and white pepper

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
SHEEP’S MILK: cheesecake with earl grey and honey

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.

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
PRETZEL: chocolate covered with sea salt

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC
CHOCOLATE: sweet black and white cookie with apricot

Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu, NYC

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

So now you see why I can’t wait to go back.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice Large-Format Dinner
Feb 21st, 2014 by donuts4dinner

I’m often made fun of for being a Momofuku fangirl, but up until a few weeks ago, I’d blasphemously never been to the most recent addition to David Chang’s assemblage of NYC restaurants, Ma Peche. But my friend The Pretender set up one of the large-format feasts for a group of 12 of us, the Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice dinner ($450), and now I can say that I’ve been to all of the Momofukus and that each one is just as amazing as the last.

My friends who’d rather spend their money on shoes than food were initially skeptical about the idea of a dinner involving chicken that wasn’t even battered and fried, and I’ll admit that I had lower expectations for this dinner than, say, the Momofuku Ssam Bar Whole Rotisserie Duck or the Momofuku Noodle Bar Fried Chicken Dinner. The website says that “the meal is comprised of your meat of choice, yellow rice, pita, and sides and condiments, including iceberg lettuce, wheat berry, chickpea, eggplant, tomato chutney, pickles, white sauce and red sauce”, so I was picturing a small assortment of condiments. What I actually got was bowl after bowl of Momofuku-quality sides that at times outshone the meat itself.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC

Before the meal began, we were shown the two deep-fried chickens and the lamb shoulder in their whole forms.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
Salty Dog

My boyfriend made the mistake of mixing the black salt into the drink. NO.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
horchata: rice milk, cinnamon

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
Midtown Collins: gin, calamansi, elderflower

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pork buns: hoisin, cucumber, scallion

Because at this point, we didn’t know that we were about to be treated to a tableful of side dishes. And you know, even if we had, we all probably would’ve ordered these. No one goes to Momofuku without eating these pillowy buns loaded with tender fatty pork and sweet hoisin.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
chicken

Sous vide and deep-fried, these thick slices of chicken were covered in a salty, spicy crust. The pile of herbs is a Momofuku staple and something I look forward to at all of their large-format dinners.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
lamb

Lamb shoulder, confited, smoked, and roasted. Most people thought this was the more consistently-delicious of the two meats. While the chicken had more of an initial impact with its layer of salt, the uncrusted center of each slice was pretty typical chicken. The lamb was flavorful through and through, so I guess I’d go with the lamb dinner for 6-10 people ($325) over the chicken dinner for 4-8 people ($175) if I had to choose just one, but getting both is really the way to go.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
chickpeas

My favourite of the side dishes. It was like eating some of my favourite spicy hummus. I evidently didn’t get a picture of the eggplant side dish, which other people argued was the best of the sides. Point is–the sides were so good we fought over which was best.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
curry rice

Of course a Momofuku restaurant isn’t going to serve you steamed white rice.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
crispy chicken skin salad

I think pork rinds are kind of weird, and yet I tried to steal as much chicken skin off of this as I could before anyone noticed it was on there.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
tomato chutney

I still can’t stand fresh tomatoes, but this was truly delicious. It hit all of the sweet/sour/savory notes, and I loved the chewy texture to boot.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pickles

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
pita

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
wheatberry salad

The one light and refreshing aspect to the entire meal. Which is just as I would have it.

Momofuku Ma Peche Chicken/Lamb and Rice, NYC
the whole shebang on one plate

What a meal. I know $45 per person for 10 people isn’t exactly cheap for a plateful of food, but somehow these Momofuku dinners always make you feel like you’re getting a steal. Maybe because there’s always at least one insanely delicious aspect of the feast that’s not even supposed to be the highlight. I dream about the scallion pancakes served with the Momofuku Ssam Bar Whole Rotisserie Duck and the sauces that come with the Momofuku Noodle Bar Fried Chicken Dinner; now I’ll dream about the tomato chutney at Ma Peche, too. Or the chickpea dish. Or the eggplant. You get the same friendly service at Ma Peche that you expect at the other Momofukus, but the space was clearly designed with its location in mind. It’s inside the Chambers Hotel, near MoMA and Carnegie Hall and Central Park. While the downtown restaurants are geared toward hipsters, Ma Peche is draped in fabric and colored orange in a way that brought to mind The Gates art exhibit by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that filled Central Park nearly a decade ago. And the food is just as sophisticated.

Ma Peche
15 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019 (map)

North Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, and One of the Best Things I’ve Ever Eaten
Feb 6th, 2014 by donuts4dinner

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 Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
red wine & Coca-Cola

Damn. Delicious. Who knew.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
frozen drink of the day

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
tiny ham biscuits: surryano ham, lemon garlic mustard

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
early autumn ramen: clams, miso, egg, wakame, pork broth

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
almost boneless fried chicken: everything bread, herb salad, grapefruit chimi

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
everything brioche

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.

North Restaurant, Providence, Rhode Island
Jack surveys the end piece, which was clearly the crunchiest and best piece of chicken, and which I graciously let him have.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

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.

North
3 Luongo Memorial Square
Providence, RI 02903 (map)

My Favourite Thing at Louro is Actually Everything
Jan 22nd, 2014 by donuts4dinner

Louro has been open in NYC’s Greenwich Village for over a year now and is still surprising me with its robust flavors every time I go. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a happy hour spot closer to home, and I’ll think, “Yeah, I could be at Louro right now instead, but what’s the big deal?” And then I’ll actually go to Louro and am like, “Why have I been wasting my life?” Chef David Santos has let me come photograph his food several times, so I won’t be giving Louro a score so as to avoid looking like a shill, but you’ll know that in my heart, it’s 5/5 all the time.

Louro NYC
Whiskey in the Jar: Irish whiskey, grapefruit, ginger, spices

I went with five of my friends, so we basically ate the entire menu. But first we started with many, many rounds of half-price happy hour drinks. This was the table favourite.

Louro NYC
beef tartare, caraway sauce

Off the menu and so bright with those pickled onions but then also earthy and pungent with that caraway spread. Caraway isn’t the first spice I think of for anything, but I loved seeing Chef Santos use it in a non-Indian, non-Middle-Eastern context.

Louro NYC
heirloom carrot salad, miso

This was a special the night we visited, and THANK GOD, because this is my favourite thing at Louro. I encouraged my entire table to get it, and everyone outright ignored me. Not that I blame anyone for scoffing at carrots, but these are not only incredibly visually beautiful but also unexpectedly Asian-flavored. I never even thought I cared that much about miso until I had this dish for the first time. And then there’s the rice wine vinegar, the mirin, and the scallions. Incredibly, the New York Times just published the recipe for the heirloom carrot salad this week, so now I’m going to be eating it every night at home when I can’t get to Louro. Every night, I said.

Louro NYC
bone marrow, mussels, red curry, crisps

This had the same flavor as a big hunk of steak but melted in my mouth even more.

Louro NYC
piri piri shrimp

My other favourite thing at Louro. The chili is so surprisingly spicy that I feel like its name is an onomatopoeia you might see in a comic book. “Piri piri!” the superhero shouts as he delivers a one-two punch to the villain’s gut. It somehow manages to not overwhelm the shrimp at the same time, though. It seems so simple, but it’s so simply perfect.

Louro NYC
smoked tomato soup, pork grilled cheese

I had made grilled cheese the night before for my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/boyfriend, so I asked him how mine compared to this one, and he had to very, very gently put me down.

Louro NYC
lobster larb salad, chopped lobster, bibb lettuce, thai dressing, cilantro, peanuts

I’m not sure what to think of this. The common thinking with lobster is that it should be broken down as little as possible, right? But we were Googling larb as we were looking at the menu, and it’s a minced meat salad that’s apparently the national dish of Laos. So I guess you either mince the lobster or you’re not making larb. This was super, super spicy and herbaceous.

Louro NYC
pork & beef ragu, anson mills polenta, Parmesan

Wish I had tried this.

Louro NYC
biscuits & gravy, soft poached duck egg, duck sausage, gravy

Really, really wish I had tried this.

Louro NYC
gnocchi Parisienne, cipollinis, wild mushrooms, Parmesan, thyme butter

I only tried one of these little pillows, but I’m convinced they were more gnudi than gnocchi. All cheese, not enough flour to even matter.

Louro NYC
octopus bolognese: hand cut tagliatelle, goose pancetta, parmesan

It’s been on the Louro menu for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. It’s like beef bolognese but with a little chew from the octopus and then the deep flavor of the bacon as contrast.

Louro NYC
lobster lasagna

I love Chef Santos for throwing us a little extra lobster here and there, but most of us thought that this lasagna was so good on its own that the lobster didn’t even matter. Take THAT, ocean.

Louro NYC
kibby goat & falafel, cucumber, parsley, lemon mint cream

I actually met this dish one afternoon while taking pictures for the Louro website and haven’t stopped eating it since. The combination of the super-light cucumber and rich goat is too much for me to resist, and I could have the minty sauce on just about anything, including my own hand.

Louro NYC
The Hemingway: key lime curd, gingersnap crumble, vanilla ice cream, toasted meringue

I only tried a bit of the lime curd, and it was not shy about the lime.

Louro NYC
A Walk in the Woods: pine needle & porcini ice creams, pine nut puree, maple “dirt”, Maine blueberries

I needed to have this just for the pine needle ice cream, and it was everything I wanted it to be. i.e. like chewing on a forest. The maple dirt was crunchy and sweet and as if I’d stuck a tap on a crispy tree. I love that a restaurant that’s partly food the way your mama makes it can also put out a dish this wild.

Louro NYC

5/5 all the time.

Louro
142 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10014 (map)

Resto’s Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Feast
Nov 13th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My mysterious food blogger friend The Pretender planned this large-format nose-to-tail dinner for us at Resto after much debate about whether we should do:

1) this version, which involves several courses made from parts of the animal, or

2) the similar dinner at the sister restaurant next door, Cannibal, where they serve charcuterie made from the animal and then the whole roasted animal itself.

Having already done the whole suckling pig at The Breslin, I was more interested in a host of interesting dishes, and so we opted for Resto with my friends Jack and Anthony and his friends Sanjay, Jesse, Angela, CB, and Mutsumi. The Resto feasts can be made from beef, pork, goat, lamb, or fish, and we went for the lamb to have something slightly funky. Of course this meant that some of our less-adventurous food blogger friends opted out, which we made fun of mercilessly, but the truth is that I didn’t have the highest expectations for that many lamb dishes in one meal.

FOOL.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner

The drink menus at Resto are pasted into old catalogs and text books

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner

and are divided into categories with saucy descriptions:

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
pastrami lamb belly

Buttery and tender with knockout seasoning. This is the thing I think about most from the meal, and it’s propelled me to eat a lot more pastrami in the day-to-day. Which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your view of an entirely meat-based diet.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
lamb liver with beer sauce

Oniony and salty.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
lamb rillette

Buttery, crispy bread. The flavor of scallions hit last, but then the lingering flavor seemed almost chocolate-like to me. Strange but delicious.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
mini t-bone

Smoky, with a crusty exterior. So much like eating a steak.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
BBQ ribs

Spicy, with a crispy skin and arugula salad with pickled onions to counter sweet and spiciness.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
kale salad

So lemony sour, with crispy-chewy thick lamb bacon.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
dry rub ribs

Fatty and spicy, with grease that ran down my hands in the best way.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
curried neck

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
confit shoulder with beets

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
confit leg

Ugh, this dish. So memorable. The lemony tzatziki was incredible, the best tzatziki I can ever remember tasting. The pita was so fluffy, the ends of the leg so crispy, the Brussels sprouts so everything. I wish I could have this over and over.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
THE HEAD

I had worked up the guts to try some brain all day, but by the time the head made it around to me, all of it was sadly gone. Including the EYEBALL.

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
mango and raspberry sorbets

Resto Large Format Nose-to-Tail Lamb Dinner
the aftermath

I loved this feast. I want to do all of the different animal feasts now. There’s something novel about getting to dig into the side of an entire pig, but I really preferred having the chance to eat all of these interesting, complete dishes for $85 per person. I can’t imagine the kind of effort that goes into planning a meal like this, and then each plate was delicious and diverse on top of that. We opted for the later of the two seatings the restaurant offers each night and were the last ones in the restaurant four hours later; the earlier seating only had three hours to eat, so I’d say we got the better end of the deal. And we still had leftovers for the next day to boot.

Resto
111 East 29th Street
New York, NY 10016 (map)

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