Momofuku Ko is probably my favourite restaurant in NYC, so it was no surprise when my group of dining friends loved the whole rotisserie duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar and wanted to follow it immediately with the fried chicken dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar.
It was approximately an entire year ago that we did this, so my review will consist solely of photos and drool sounds spelled phonetically. Get ready.
With hoisin, scallions, and cucumber. Because you’re not going to Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar and not getting the buns. In fact, you might go to Noodle Bar after Ko just to get the buns.
So much sweet white meat! I can’t actually choose a favourite between the lip-smacking saucy Korean wings and the crunchy Southern wings with their spiced batter. The mu shu pancakes are simple enough, but somehow that oily fried bread ends up being the part of the meal I most look forward to when it comes to the large-format Momofuku meals. I barely touched the lettuce but plowed through the fresh herbs and hoisin sauce and filled up on just a few pieces of plump chicken; even with eight of us, there was no shortage of birdmeat to be had. The rest of the restaurant, on the other hand, looked on droolily as they stood reservationless, waiting in the perpetual Noodle Bar line for not even fried chicken but ramen. Ramen, people. Make your reservation, and get your fried chicken.
So I forgot to charge my camera battery before we went to One if by Land, Two if by Sea for Restaurant Week, and I was reminded that what photographers always say about great pictures coming not from great cameras but from great photographic eyes is entirely untrue. I had to use this seven-megapixel Sony with the tiniest LCD, and it just didn’t compare in any way to my Canon S90. Of course my Canon doesn’t compare in any way to a real DSLR, so now I’m wondering how different my pictures would be if I went crazy and decided I’m willing to lug ten pounds of camera around with me everywhere. Anyway, there’s your explanation as to why these pictures are decidedly funky.
This amuse bouche smelled like it was going to be really meaty, like maybe it was flavored with bacon. Though it was plenty rich, the smell was actually better than the taste, which we found a little bland. More salt (or some actual bacon!) would’ve fixed it.
This was such a nice wintry salad, with layers of flavors provided by the slightly fruity radishes and the slightly stinky cheese. The popcorn, which wasn’t listed on the menu, provided a pleasant surprise crunch and added a little whimsy.
Though not as good as the bacony Métrazur squash soup, this bowl had plenty to offer with its crunchy nuts, smooth cheese, and herbs (tarragon, my boyfriend said). The goat was maybe a smidge too strong for the delicate squash flavor, but it’s not like I’m really going to complain about too much cheese.
I really considered ordering this but decided I’d be dumb to pass up steak for a dish with no protein, so it was my boyfriend who ended up with the best dish of the night. The initial flavor was just plain super-buttery risotto, with the beet taste trailing as the bite hit the back of my throat. The green tint around the edge of the plate is the hint of beet greens, and the slivers of orange on top are what tasted to us like sweet potatoes. Those and the fennel added a nice crunch.
This was an $8 addition to the $35 Restaurant Week menu and was worth every penny. The strips of bread were exceptionally soft and buttery in the middle with crunchy ends crisscrossed with melted cheese.
The bavette (or flank) steak comes from the stomach muscles of the cow, so while it wasn’t as tender as a filet mignon, it was a great cut for the price and cooked just to suit me. The beef jus tasted like mushrooms to me and added a nice depth to the barley. Some bites of the steak were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the whole dish was such a comfort on the blustery night.
I’ve had a thing for soufflés lately, so my boyfriend asked if I could substitute the restaurant’s chocolate chip soufflé for the regular Restaurant Week desserts. Our server agreed to it with a small supplement in price, so I spent the meal feeling ecstatic about dessert. When it came time, however, our server had to break the news that the kitchen hadn’t prepared any soufflés, thinking no one would be ordering them during Restaurant Week. I was disappointed for sure but really appreciated the effort and was plenty pleased with this chocolate dessert in its place.
The chocolate and hazelnut mousse was formed into a cylinder and rolled in a flaky crust that provided a nice contrasting texture. The bananas had been sous vide(-ed?) in caramel that the banana bread sopped up the remainder of, giving it moistness that would’ve been missing otherwise. I loved that the ice cream was plated on top of the bread, as there’s nothing I hate more in a dessert than melted ice cream hanging out alone on one side of the plate.
My boyfriend’s dish was again the superior one with this barely-sweet mascarpone cheesecake. The super-crunchy cookie bits were much better than some plain, old graham cracker crust, and the nutty foam reminded me so much of Christmastime. This was the perfect winter dessert. I mean, other than a chocolate chip soufflé.
With the ultra-low candlelight, the fresh roses, the live piano, and the windows that displayed the terrace out back piled feet-deep in snow, I can see why One if by Land, Two if by Sea is considered one of NYC’s most romantic restaurants. The decor was rich, the service professional but not uptight, and the food well-executed if not wildly inventive. I’ll be talking about that beet risotto for weeks and thinking about that soufflé until I can finally get a taste of it.
It’s Restaurant Week Summer 2010 here in NYC, and my boyfriend and I finally made a reservation for a place I’ve been eyeing for a couple of years now. Depending on the season, it’s called Park Avenue Summer, Autumn, Winter, or Spring, and the decor changes entirely with the seasons. Appropriately, all of the dishes we had on the first night of Restaurant Week were incredibly summer-y and some of the best we’ve had in all of our years of Restaurant Week-ing.
Does this look like a chunk of pineapple or what? 10 points for surprising me, and another 10 for serving me cream cheese and herbs with fruit. My boyfriend ate the pink hunk and said it was spicy, so another 10 for that. Not that these points mean anything or can be redeemed. Sorry.
I kind of got this against my will. It was an extra $5, I hate tomatoes, and I wanted the corn soup. But whew, boy, if the menu had explained in detail what this was, I would’ve ordered two. The cheese is regular mozzarella on the outside, but the inside is a blend of mozzarella and cream, making it this dreamy texture. And also making it funky. It was at once the youngest-looking and oldest-tasting cheese, and it paired so nicely with the fresh cucumber. And the tomatoes? They were actually not as gross as I expected, because there was this rich tomato sauce under them that drowned them out.
I hear chefs talk about how important acid is, especially when it comes to raw fish, but I never got it until this tartare. The first thing I tasted was CITRUS!, and it was glorious. This was probably my favourite dish of the night, just because I’m usually not a fish person, and this made me want to be.
This was an extra $10, and my boyfriend made me get it just to be nice, but I secretly wanted his chicken. I’m really bad about not getting all of the meat off anything served on the bone, so I thought it was going to be a waste of good meat. And then I took one bite and realized I’d be picking up the bone and gnawing on it later. (There are pictures.) Super-chargrilled on the outside, super-pink on the inside.
The funny thing was the side. Now, I love corn like nobody’s business, but do you know what I tasted with the first forkful of succotash? PIZZA. I swear, it tasted exactly the way green peppers on a pizza do. And my boyfriend said the exact same thing without me telling him that’s what I was thinking! They must have used a lot of oregano in that salad or something.
The peaches were really the highlight here and almost overpowered everything else, which is not a complaint, because the chicken, in my opinion, really would’ve benefited from some spice. I really loved the crispy edges, though, and the crunchy pine nuts. My boyfriend liked the sweet sauce and was reminded of zereshk polo, a Persian dish from his childhood made with chicken, rice, and barberries.
Grace Kang from Serious Eats said this was like eating frosting and was “so decadent I could never finish one by myself”. So obviously I didn’t even look at the other desserts. I would say that she was right about the goat cheese being frosting-esque, but I could’ve eaten a whole mixing bowl of it easily. I loved the thin yet moist wafer and the lemony sauce under the raspberries. This dish was so un-sweet that my boyfriend said it was like having a cheese course for dessert, but the honeyed fruit added just enough natural sugar that it completely satisfied me.
You know how the best part of a Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Carvel ice cream cake is the uber-crunchy layer of chocolate bits? Now imagine a whole glassful of those, drizzled in banana-flavored butterscotch. WHAT? YES. Delicious.
Charlie Palmer’s Métrazur was an obvious Restaurant Week choice for my boyfriend and me: we’ve passed by it a million times inside Grand Central, we’re interested in Palmer’s restaurants in general, and I wanted the Sichuan spiced pork tenderloin on the Restaurant Week menu.
As far as atmosphere goes, not much beats Métrazur. Located on Grand Central’s East Balcony, it overlooks all of the chaos of commuters rushing to their trains, but the immense space overhead captures all of the noise and leaves the restaurant cozy and quiet. It was definitely unlike any other restaurant’s decor.
Crab is literally the only seafood that makes my mouth water, and this was one of the finer crab cakes I’ve had. The breading on the cake was thick and crunchy, as was the brioche. The nage (or broth) was super intense and basically overwhelmed all of the other flavors, but it was a lemony, buttery, and rich as all get-out. The cake was good enough on its own that it didn’t need the nage, but lemon and lobster go so well together.
Hands down the best butternut squash soup I’ve had, but how could it not be with all of the bacon hiding on the bottom of the bowl? After one bite of this, I understood why everyone makes such a big deal about squash soup, and I was still thinking about it two courses later and wishing I could have more of it instead of my dessert. And I don’t not eat dessert.
When I ordered this, the waiter asked me how I wanted my pork cooked, and I said to him, “No one has ever asked me that in my life.” HOW DO I WANT MY PORK COOKED?! I WANT IT COOKED THROUGH, THAT’S HOW. I asked for medium well so it wouldn’t come out grey, but it came out completely pink, and I didn’t die, so I guess the chef knows best. There was definitely not any bok choy on my plate, and the squash puree was more texture than flavor, but the maple soy glaze was sweet and yum-MY. And the pork itself was spiced to perfection.
Maybe you can’t tell from the photo, but this was a giant portion, especially for Restaurant Week. My boyfriend had to share part of it with me, and even then, he was packed full. Now, if you really love the sort of gamey taste of lamb, this was not the shank for you, but if you love a slow-cooked beef roast, this was the best lamb shank you’ve ever had. My boyfriend found one big pocket of lambiness, but the rest of it was delightfully mild enough to showcase the other flavors on the plate.
The best things about this for me were the smear of super-sweet passion fruit and the whipped cream (whatever “clubber” means). The torte itself was creamy, slippery chocolate with a crispy cookie crust, and it was nice, but it was another in a long line of desserts meant for non-gluttons.
This was a light, refreshing finish to a rich, heavy dinner. I don’t usually care for light and refreshing and am a huge chocolate person, but this was the superior dessert. The pie was very well done, with a nice key lime custard and a crunchy shell. The crisp tasted like sesame seeds to me, oddly, but maybe my palate was still recovering from the passion fruit in my dessert. I did really like this pie in the end, but I didn’t feel like the same care that had been put into that crazy-delicious soup was evident.
Aside from our completely indifferent and slow server, we were extremely happy that we finally tried Métrazur and that the food exceeded our expectations. I’d go back for the atmosphere and the squash soup any time, and with their every day $44 prix fixe menu that includes a bottle of wine, I can.
The Craftbar winter 2010 Restaurant Week menu is huge! Most restaurants have three to four choices in each of the appetizer, entrée, and dessert categories, but Craftbar has at least ten. If that isn’t reason enough to go, check out some of the offerings we sampled at lunch yesterday:
I ate head cheese. There. I said it. I ate headcheese. I’ve been interested in it but never interested enough to actually order it, but I thought, “Hey, it’s Restaurant Week. This meal is going to be incredibly cheap, so even if I end up vomiting it up all over my shoes, I don’t have to feel bad about it. Plus, if anyone can do pig head meats right, it’s Tom Colicchio.”
It tasted like a lightly-smoked bacon and had the consistency of week-old ham. I know that sounds kind of gross, but it was delicious. The fat wasn’t chewy like I thought it’d be, and the slight gelatinous feel of it was about a hundred times less jellyish than any other head cheese I’ve seen. It was firm enough to sit on top of the bread but also soft enough to be spread, and the sweetness of the mostarda of lemon and orange peels went so well with the spices on top of the terrine and the sweet mustard seeds on the side.
I would order this again and again from Tom, but I’d still be a little scared to try it anywhere where it looked like this.
Just before he met me for lunch, my boyfriend came out of the subway and saw Bobby Bacala (aka Steve R. Schirripa) of “The Sopranos” fame walk by wearing a track suit. (A track suit! So perfect.) Call him nerdy, but he couldn’t resist ordering the salt cod croquettes, because he knew that the Italian word for salt cod is bacala. (Isn’t he so smart?)
The croquettes themselves mostly just reminded us of fish sticks, but the piquillos were especially sweet and marinated. He liked them, but in the end, he wished he’d ordered something more adventurous.
Our friend ordered the bruschetta, not realizing it came with anchovies. Luckily, she’s a fish person and didn’t mind them, but she did seem especially willing to share.
I was especially excited to try the pipérade after just learning what it is recently, and as deliciously tomato-sauce-y as it was, the fried chicken definitely didn’t require it. We had a to-die-for pan-fried chicken during a previous visit, and this one might have been even better. The batter was thick enough that I got to really enjoy all of the rosemary flavor in it but thin enough that it didn’t overpower the succulent chicken. The potatoes were creamy, salty, and thick, making this a true comfort dish.
We’d also had craftbar’s pork belly once before, and just seeing it on the menu made my mouth water. You’d think something that fatty would be tough to eat, but it all just falls apart as you cut it and disintegrates when it hits your tongue. The grits were fine, but I prefer the dark and earthy richness of the black currant puree that accompanied the pork last time. Still, um, this is the best pork belly ever.
Our friend ordered the salmon, which looks totally lame next to all the lard in the last two dishes, but I guess you can’t hate a girl for trying to play it cool. I didn’t try this, but she said she liked it aside from the abundance of onions.
I got this solely for the maple whipped cream, and it did not disappoint. It was only lightly maple-y, but that was enough to satisfy me. The sugar topping was so thick and chunky, and the apples, cranberries, and golden raisins all had different levels of sweetness that really complimented each other.
The best thing about this brownie is that it has a really thin, really crunchy top layer and then a thick fudgey layer below. The caramel ice cream was much better than the banana ice cream that used to come with this dessert, but I’m a bit biased against bananas, so think what you will.
Who ever actually orders the dessert cheeses? My boyfriend, that’s who. I sort of talked him into it, actually, and while he genuinely liked them, he was obviously in pain when he sampled my apple crumble and then had to go back to his coagulated milk. Sorry, Kamran.
Craftbar remains one of my favourite NYC restaurants because of the way the chef uses such basic ingredients but makes them taste better than they ever should. At $25 for lunch, it’s a total steal, and if you can’t get there in the next few days for winter Restaurant Week, you’d better be prepared for the next one.
5 donuts: transcendent experiences
4.5 donuts: extremely awesome meals
3.5 donuts: good eats
2.5 donuts: food I could have made
1 donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs
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• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)