• 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)
Had you asked me a week ago if I had any interest in Nordic cuisine, I would’ve given you something like a polite, “Sure, I’m interested in all cuisines!” And then, you know, gone back to eating my tacos. But if you’d prefaced that question by mentioning that the chef at Agern, the restaurant inside of Grand Central Terminal, has a restaurant in Iceland called Dill, I might have thought differently. I LOVE dill. And it doesn’t hurt that the owner of Agern is the same guy who helped found Noma in Denmark, which has been named the best restaurant in the world, oh, I don’t know, four times?
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I’m not sure people think of creative fine dining when they think of Poland, so it’s not surprising that Warsaw’s Senses restaurant only has one Michelin star, even if that’s a crime. My boyfriend and his family are from the area originally, so he took me there last month to see where he grew up, and naturally, I checked the Michelin guide. There are only two Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole country, and one just received its star this year, so we decided to give the new kid a try.
I emailed the restaurant for a reservation two weeks before our trip and was able to get us in at 8pm, although we admittedly were trying for a probably-not-so-popular Monday night. They offer 7- and 9-course tastings, which my boyfriend’s family all laughed at the impossibility of. They were super skeptical about their ability to eat so many courses and for so many hours, especially when his dad doesn’t even like seafood. But I basically forced them to forge ahead, and it ended up being one of the very best meals and experiences I’ve had anywhere.
In NYC, this meal would’ve been on par with Eleven Madison Park or Brooklyn Fare. It would have easily had three Michelin stars, and it would have cost $300. In Warsaw, it cost $99 and included about 20 extra treats not listed on the menu. And even value aside, the service was phenomenal. The servers spoke in English to me and then repeated everything in Polish for my boyfriend’s family, and just like at our two-Michelin-starred dinner in Vienna, everyone was hilarious. Just always anticipating what would delight us and making us laugh through every course. Having just visited Eleven Madison Park last month, I noticed a huge difference between the polite professionalism of the servers there and the way the Polish servers made us feel like we were guests in their home. Which might make sense when you remember that Chef Andrea Camastra is Italian and French.
Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.
It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?
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.
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.
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.
Texture on texture on texture!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Early last year, my friends and I were planning a trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Athens, so I pulled up the ol’ San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best list to see if that part of the world had anything to offer. Lo and behold, #15 was smack-dab in the middle of Wien (that’s Vienna in German, see; I’m getting you ready for your future trip there), a modern Austrian restaurant perched on a canal of the Danube River in the middle of a 19th-Century park. Steirereck promised the white gloves and unnecessary decorative plates stacked beneath each dish that I love but also tons of fresh local ingredients that I would have never heard of. Adventure!
I was able to request a reservation through the English version of the Steirereck website and received a confirmation the next day with the exact date and time I’d hoped for (this was four months in advance of our travel date), but I had a question. Four of us were sure we wanted to try the tasting menu, but one friend didn’t think she was ready for five hours of eating and wanted to order a la carte. I replied to the confirmation email and basically told them, “Don’t worry, we’re going to be drinking enough alcohol that you won’t mind if one person isn’t eating.” They didn’t reply. A week before our dinner, though, they wrote to reconfirm my reservation, so I took the opportunity to ask again. The reservationist replied,
Thank you for your confirmation!
Don’t worry you can all order on stage.
We are looking forward to your visit.”
Thank you for your confirmation!
Don’t worry you can all order on stage.
We are looking forward to your visit.”
My friend imagined herself on a stage at the front of the restaurant, ordering samples from the cheese cart over a microphone. But we just let it go, because adventure!
Having crammed two weeks of vacation clothes into one carry-on bag, I was woefully underprepared for our fancy dinner and arrived in the 60-degree evening wearing sandals, no tights, a sleeveless dress, and a Gap hoodie. The hostess still totally took it from me like it was a real coat and gently folded it over her arm to hang for me without any hint of judgement, god bless her. Aside from the lingering fear of the stage-ordering, things were going great.
Steirereck seems to be set up like a clover, with each leaf representing a different room with rounded edges overlooking the park. It meant that even with the restaurant completely full, we were only sitting in a room with a handful of tables. Which was lucky, because while the other tables were full of austere Europeans, our table was doing wine pairings and having a really good time of it. It was the staff’s fault, though! They seemed to take great joy in seeing if they could entertain the Americans and kept making jokes about carrying us out to our cabs after the wine pairings and telling us to let them know if we found worms in the salad because it was so fresh. Their humor was so dry that we would all laugh, wait for them to leave the table, and then ask each other, “Wait, he was joking, right?” It was the perfect kind of service for us, a bunch of normal people faking like we were fancy in a different country.
We all ended up going for the tasting menu with wine pairings, so we never found out what ordering “on stage” was like, but we started off with cocktails in case nine glasses of wine wouldn’t be enough. Mine was this celery cocktail with housemade vermouth, an “Arabian mountain herb” grown on their roof, and rosemary.
The bread cart was overwhelming to a carb-lover such as myself, but there was a nice blood sausage loaf for the one person at our table who wanted to balance his carbs with protein. I chose the white bread with lavender and the double baked sourdough.
After our first wine pairing was served, a huge spread of tiny dishes arrived:
Apparently Austria has 40 different allergens that have to be displayed on a menu lest someone die from eating hidden mustard, so the restaurant cheekily decided to make dishes featuring all of them. We each received a card naming all of the dishes, the allergen they contained, and a description of who the allergy generally affects. (Eggs: It is possible to be allergic to just the yolk or the white. Most common in children under the age of five, most people grow out of it after a couple of years.) We had things like wheat cracker with pericon, crayfish tomalley with salsify and lovage, peanut with sweet corn, and the worst offender of all,
CELERY. Which we got a whole plant of. The little ribs dangling amidst the stalk were soaked in verjus & vermouth salt, but we were told to eat as much of the stalk as we wanted to. (We did not.) Other highlights were the duck egg with tons of chive, and the sour milk dip for the cucumber.
Glazed young carrots, carrot and fennel salad, marinated wild fish (reinanke, a kind of salmon, spicy carrot and fennel juice. Lots of fruity, sweet flavor in a savory course.
Grilled preserved yellow peppers, roasted muskmelon, braised Jerusalem artichoke, Taggiasca olives, Venus clams cooked with tamarind, ginger, and lemongrass.
Confit young celeriac with peas, pea shoots, and hazelnuts, sautéed salad hearts, celeriac-citrus sauce with pepperoncini, and wild celery herb. So much lime flavor!
Sauteed chanterelles, barbecued and steamed redondo courgette (zucchini), avocado and plum marinated in lemon, roasted cashews, spiced green tomato jam, and French sorrel. I loved the spiciness of this one.
Raw “branded” alpine salmon, Mexican pepperleaf inflorescence, verjus-infused radish, grilled porcini, cucumbers with mustard seed and dill, borretsch leaf, passion fruit cucumber juice with pepperleaf oil, fried pepperleaf pearls. We liked the layers of cucumber with dill and porcini with lemon, accented by those crunchy pepperleaf balls.
Pan-fried amur carp, kohlrabi marinated with balsam vinegar & panda oil, Job’s tears crisp, sourdough bread creme with crunchy Job’s tears seeds. Standouts included the crispy fish skin and the way the creme broke up the acidic dish.
I failed to record more detail about this, but it was quail with this wonderful sesame sauce.
Roast Hochschwab venison, butternut squash cooked in brown butter with orange blossom and rosemary, baby artichokes glazed with Madeira and thyme, red onion and radish chutney with horseradish. The chutney was the favorite element of everyone at the table, and isn’t this just about the prettiest plate you’ve ever seen?
For those who didn’t opt for the plated cheese course, a cheese cart came loaded with everything from the mildest hard cheeses to the stinkiest washed-rinds. My boyfriend had the restaurant choose a progression of four for him, but you can have the whole cart if you like.
Unpasteurised “fresh cheese”, preserved and dried “Little Buddha” physalis, frozen “fresh cheese” whey with toasted hemp seeds, black sesame, amaranth, and coconut. The server plated this in front of us at the table, cutting into the cheese so the whey would drip through the mesh. The physalis (or cape gooseberry or Peruvian cherry, depending on where you’re from) came in preserved and freeze-dried forms to provide different textures.
Drunk Katie can’t keep her camera still!
Peach poached with lemon agastache flowers and verjus, basil and sorrel creme, marinated peach, and basil beignets with basil sugar.
Raspberries marinated with rose-vinegar, set sesamy milk, fig leaf snow, rose petals preserved in apple vinegar, “weinviertler” water leaf, and baked raspberries with sesamy.
Crispy deep fried crepe with Japanese medlar (or loquat fruit) and violet jam and powdered candied violets, strawberry mint, lemon verbena, and violet petals marinated with violet syrup and medlar juice, medlar kernel and violet ice cream. This was an extra course the restaurant brought us just to try, in case our stomachs hadn’t exploded already.
Another gift from the restaurant, these were traditional poppy seed noodles that were too savory for me for dessert, but my Polish boyfriend with all of his poppy seed desserts at family holidays loved them.
We’d seen this cart at other tables in the restaurant, with a distinctive buzzing sound emanating from its core. BEES! I was so sure it was just a recording but wanted so badly for a restaurant to just be casually wheeling a live hive around the place. The lady at the table closest to us was so scared of being attacked, though, that her server had to show her the little speaker inside to get her to calm down.
Our server pulled out the honeycomb to scoop a bit off for each of us onto little wooden spoons and then offered us tastes from each of six jars of honey made from the nectar of different flowers from different regions of the city. There was also nougat, little jars of watermelon that tasted like cubes of honey, and honey covered in white chocolate.
At seven courses for $142 and $75 for the wine pairings, Steirereck felt like a steal. The food all tasted so fresh and so full of exotic things we’d never tried before (physalis! medlar! crunchy pepperleaf balls!), and the service was somehow exactly what we wanted all of the time. When I sneezed, I was handed a package of luxurious Relais & Chateaux tissues, and each dish was accompanied by a card with the title of the dish, a description of the ingredients in it, and then notes about elements like reinanke that we may not have seen before. But when we wanted to have a drunken good time with the staff, the white gloves came off. The allergen spread is one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten, and I loved the way the restaurant had plenty of those novelty moments to delight our eyes but also made sure the food stood up to the experience. All in all, this was just what I would expect from a many-Michelin-starred restaurant in the U.S., only everyone had great accents and we were sitting on the Danube.
You wouldn’t know it from reading my blog, but Momofuku Ko is the restaurant I’ve been to most in NYC. I only ever reviewed my first meal there, because their no-photo policy meant that my reviews would just be words, and my dearest friends have let me know that no one cares about my writing. But I loved Ko for its creativity, its super-relaxed atmosphere where jeans were recommended and the soundtrack included everything from 70s prog rock to 80s alternative to current hip hop, and the way its counter seating allowed you to talk to your chef as he used tweezers to top your miso ice cream cone with puffed black rice. It was my favorite restaurant in NYC, so I was understandably worried when what everyone is calling “Ko 2.0” opened with its much-much-huger space, its revamped menu with a higher price and no extended lunch option, and its attempts at wringing that third star from Michelin.
The first big change I noticed when I walked in with my boyfriend is that service seems to be a bigger deal at the new Momofuku Ko. Someone was there to hold the door open for us when we entered, and it wasn’t a long-bearded hipster who would also act as our sommelier for the night. The general manager, Su, then checked the computer for our reservation (there’s no more printing out your confirmation at home and having to show it at the door), led us to our seats at the counter, and made friendly conversation with us.
At the old Ko, the seats were small wooden benches with no cushion and no back. They looked streamlined and minimalist pushed under the counter, but they didn’t seem so cool after twelve courses. The new Ko has tall stools with comfortable seats and leather backs that you can melt into with your after-dinner cocktail and your full belly. There’s also a gorgeous dark-wood counter now that looks richer than the blonde wood at the old Ko, and you’ll now get a printed menu in a textured cover at the end of the meal. So that extra money you’re paying now is being well-spent, and Michelin is sure to notice that Ko is now way, way more comfortable than Brooklyn Fare is.
We started off with a bottle of Riesling
and then took in the sights of the new kitchen and chatted with the chef in front of us while we waited for our first course:
And then, the food:
A Ko classic that keeps evolving, this little fried potato tube was filled with creamy pimiento cheese. Imagine eating a Lay’s cheddar potato chip, only way more delicious. And where you can only have one instead of half the bag.
A sweet little beet ball with the lasting tang of citrus. Followed by a slice of apple with the sting of horseradish, topped with smoky, crunchy rice.
The tiniest “lobster roll” with an unexpected mint finish (though not unexpected if you, unlike me, know what a paloise sauce is) tasted so fresh next to richer–but not any bigger–Caesar salad boat filled with avocado mousse. The woman next to us told me to put my very small iPhone in the shot to show how incredibly, incredibly adorable these little dollhouse dishes were.
This Arctic char roll hit us with jalapeño first, then cucumber to cool it down. The freshness of herbs finished off every bite.
Like the teeniest triple-decker sandwich, this was miniature toasted bread with a little hint of brine. Our palates missed the green tea on top because of the overwhelming toasty taste, but I sure did like squashing the roe with the layers of cracker.
I always think of Ko when I have madai thanks to the plate of sashimi included in their old lunch service that inevitably included some brand new take on the fish every time. Chef Carey wouldn’t tell us what he was misting the bowl with before he served it to us, but the scent of shiso filled our airspace. It turned out to be a spray bottle full of “shiso essence” he had, which we should all inquire about buying from them as perfume. Little bits of jalapeño and lime caviar made for occasional bursts of flavor in an otherwise very subtle dish of consomme jelly.
This was one of the most memorable dishes of the night, which isn’t surprising, since it reminded me of the wonderful halibut in whey I had at Atera. That was back in 2012, and I still vividly remember the experience of eating it. This was a New Jersey(!) scallop with an almond milk sauce that was slightly starchy to give some texture to the dish. The bamboo was tender, not woody, and the little slivers of green pepper packed so much perfectly-paired flavor that I felt I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of them. I can’t wait to eat this one again sometime.
This was a razor clam for anyone who’s afraid of the way it looks in its long tampon of a shell. This is one of the main reasons I love fine dining: eating things I wouldn’t necessarily seek out otherwise but having them presented so beautifully that I can’t resist them. The little slices of clam had a little chew to them, while the basil seeds were super slimy. The overall effect was slightly fruity and sweet thanks to the pineapple, but it was missing the little punch of flavor I expect from a good Ko dish, and we would’ve been fine had this been a very small serving, like a shot.
Mackerel sushi with lots of ginger and scallions. A layer of fermented sunflower added a grainy texture.
This broth was made with the bones of the mackerel from the previous course’s sushi, with slivers of onion, king oyster mushroom, and Asian pear. It was really subtle, and we liked how the pear absorbed some savoryness from the other ingredients present in the bowl but a little sweetness sung through every now and then.
This sunchoke with its skin still on was dry-aged in beef fat and did indeed look like a little morsel of meat. It was very sweet, like it was covered in a marmalade. We guessed the flavor to be apricot, but it wasn’t distinctive, just fruity and sweet next to the earthy interior of the choke. It turned out to be blood orange sauce, but we blame the restaurant for not making the flavor pronounced enough, not our own palates for not being able to discern it, OF COURSE.
Sweet soft eggs with an even sweeter dollop of potato, cut with a pop of savory caviar and with crunchy wisps to contrast all of the creamy texture.
This ricotta cavatelli was rolled in a sauce made with stinging nettles to keep it very fresh and light despite the aged cheese flavor. I sort of felt like I was eating mossy caterpillars, but please ignore my imagination.
We got a little overexcited for pure carbs and took a big hunk out of this butter for our bread before I could get a picture. The combination of the bread and black radish butter made this a sour and funky interlude.
More lobster! The super fresh sugar snap peas gave this a bright crunch next to the rich, buttery seameat.
I’ve had this every time I’ve been to Ko and hope to have it every time for life. The foie gras is shaved cold into the bowl and then melts as it mixes with the jelly, pine nut brittle, and whole fruit slices. I thought it was better than ever, and the chef told me it might be because they’re not plating it using cold bowls anymore. I love the idea that something like the bowl temperature could affect the taste for me.
When I got this slice of duck breast, the lady next to me at the counter learned over and told me to savor it. It was sweet and sour, peppery, and had a thick crunchy top and bottom, like there was a piece of brittle on both sides. I never got used to the pungent lime pickle, in that every single bite was as delicious as the first. The side of XO vegetables reminded me of the first time I ever had XO sauce, which also happened to be the homemade one at the old Ko. This dish was maybe the best thing I’ve eaten at Ko yet, and you can bet I did savor it while that lady watched me in envy.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d taste like if you stuck an entire garden in your mouth, this is the dessert for you. The sorrel ice cream tasted exactly as green as it looked, but its savoryness was offset by the sweet diced rhubarb, which also added texture. The cake had a slightly crunchy, caramelized exterior, and it was entirely unfair that they hollowed out the middle of this for the ice cream, because I needed every last crumb.
I had no idea what bee pollen was before I ate it, and I’m not sure I could even fully explain it to you now. It’s pollen, nectar from whatever the bee was collecting the pollen from, and bee spit, all made into a little pellet by the worker bees for some reason. I have no idea why we would ever eat this, except oh wait, yes, I do–because it’s delicious. It was crunchy and tasted like honey, and this dessert would’ve been nothing without it. The funky creme fraiche made this a challenging dessert if you’re someone who wants ice cream and frosting after a meal, but the huckleberry sorbet was just sweet enough with the bee pollen to top it off.
To finish, we had chocolate cookies that tasted like the herbal liqueur Fernet-Branca and a sunflower macaron that tasted like buttered popcorn. And then we got a little drunker and hung out, just enjoying the sights of the kitchen.
So did I need to be worried about missing the old Momofuku Ko? Well, not really. I did miss some of the cutesy things that Ko used to do, the novelty things like the miso ice cream cone, the bento with the pork fat rice ball, or the lunchbox with fried chicken. It was fun to reminisce with Executive Chef Sean about the soft shell crab sandwich I once had in the early days, and even he seemed a little nostalgic about the magic they made over in that tiny kitchen on 1st Avenue. But Ko 2.0 is legit fine dining now. It’s comfortable, it’s beautiful, and all of the extras–from the printed menu to the mignardises you’d get at Per Se or Eleven Madison Park–are included.
Plus, with the huge kitchen upgrade, so much more food is being made right in front of you now. We watched a duck being carved, fruits being juiced, fish being finished on a Japanese charcoal grill–all things that would’ve happened behind the scenes at the old Ko. Ko used to be about watching beautiful pre-prepared things being plated from little boxes, but now it’s about also watching things actually get cooked.
And the bones of the old Ko are still holding the place up. You’ll still hear Radiohead, The Cure, and Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, and you’ll still get really delicious, sort of Asian, very tiny, extremely imaginative, wildly well-composed plates of food. And hey, with all of the extra space, you can actually get a reservation now.
My relationship with Eleven Madison Park caused a little bit of a ruckus once. The first time I dined there, I thought the meal was generally fantastic but not as life-altering as I’d expected. I gave it meal 4 out of 5 donuts without an ounce of malevolence intended. But the restaurant wanted me to be completely happy, so they invited me back for a meal on the house and the opportunity to be wowed. People on the food-related message board where I posted the review called me a whiner, and donuts4dinner got mean comments for the first time in its history. But I didn’t care, because my second meal at EMP was so phenomenal that I regretted my first review and became an EMP fan for life. My third visit was also excellent and had me asking if this was the best restaurant in NYC.
I went back for the fourth time almost a year ago and had a meal that easily bettered my third and may have been more delicious than even my second. I had decided after my third time at EMP that while I loved it, it wasn’t the best fine dining experience in all of NYC. My fourth meal there changed my mind. Everything was so exciting and new, so amazingly delicious, and coupled with such perfect service that there was no question anymore. I never posted a review back then, but feeling the effects of EMP withdrawal recently, I pulled my pictures out and decided I at least wanted that much of a record of the meal here. I’ve heard that the menu is totally different at EMP these days, so don’t use this as any indication of what you might see there now, but you can bet the food is still just as incredible.
Whole carrots, ground tableside.
What’s more exciting than a whole tray of fresh ingredients to play with?
The kitchen tour always includes a liquid nitrogen cocktail.
They presented the 140-day aged ribeye to us and then took it back to the kitchen to prepare it.
J.J. Prum is my absolute favourite wine, and it just appeared at our table out of nowhere. I wouldn’t put it past EMP’s amazing customer service to have researched the wine we liked.
At the time, EMP was known for its magic trick. The server brought our dessert plates to us and then asked us to pick a card from a deck. Each card had a different ingredient printed on it, and I chose a card with a rose. When I lifted my plate, the top separated from the base, and underneath was a rose-flavored chocolate that had been there all along. I’m weirdly a fan of magic tricks, so I thought this was the coolest. Other people thought it was gimmicky, but other people are curmudgeons.
So now you see why I can’t wait to go back.
My 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.
The drink menus at Resto are pasted into old catalogs and text books
and are divided into categories with saucy descriptions:
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.
Oniony and salty.
Buttery, crispy bread. The flavor of scallions hit last, but then the lingering flavor seemed almost chocolate-like to me. Strange but delicious.
Smoky, with a crusty exterior. So much like eating a steak.
Spicy, with a crispy skin and arugula salad with pickled onions to counter sweet and spiciness.
So lemony sour, with crispy-chewy thick lamb bacon.
Fatty and spicy, with grease that ran down my hands in the best way.
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.
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.
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.
Having first met Chef David Santos at his home supper club, Um Segredo, I felt a sense of pride when he opened his first restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, Louro. As he sold out his Monday night themed dinners (like the truffle feast) and received a star from the New York Times two months in, I was already telling people that “I knew him way back when”.
The restaurant is a little bit of everything: a rustic floor and seating, nature-inspired lighting, and black and white photos of highbrow book collections. The food is on the fancy side, but the service makes you feel comfortable. I get the feeling that Dave’s tasting menu varies from night to night like the Per-Se-trained chef he is, but here’s the five-course, $65 chef’s tasting from the night my boyfriend and I visited recently:
The Portuguese “butter”–actually lard–is basically reason enough to ever visit Louro. Chowhound even wrote an article solely devoted to people’s devotion to it. In the Um Segredo days, it was a gloopy, drippy, melty concoction. Now it’s a homogenized spread that actually stays on your bread. I’m not saying I like it one way or another, but it’s all grown up now and is certainly ready to be jarred and sold commercially. (Hint, hint.) The bread was just as ridiculously fluffy/crunchy as ever.
So much flavor, and not any one standout “this is definitely scallops” flavor but a meld of the whole sea, clean and fresh and bright. They didn’t even need the tangy sauce for me, and I live to cover up natural flavor with sauces.
Super spicy thanks to the piri piri pepper with the most perfect texture. I have to admit that I’m somewhat squeamish about touching shrimp tails still (and let’s not talk about the heads), but I could eat a lot of these. Like, a lot a lot.
My extremely observant impression of this: “very fresh for the most part but then sour pickled something”. You’re welcome. The mushrooms were salted and the whole dish was chilled.
I love when a simple dish really wows. Not that sauce gribiche is so simple, but presenting this white asparagus so purely made it seem more important and almost meaty, like a piece of steak. I loved the grainy texture of the sauce against the cool, tender asparagus. It was like eating a really good tartar sauce. With eggs.
The cuttlefish is a freaky animal, but it’s a pleasure to eat a singular thing like this with no bones/veins/any of the freaky stuff you find in land creatures. The sepia has a natural light oceany flavor that was compounded with grilling, and then the richer bacony flavor and bitterness of the greens created a contrast.
My boyfriend said he was worried that pork belly was too easy–bacon makes everything better–but we didn’t care once we tasted the fresh brightness of the uni against the richness of the pork. The spicy/sour cabbage cut its fattiness, and with the bright citrus, this dish became one of the lightest pork preparations I’ve had. But with just enough of that uni iron flavor to make things interesting.
Sour and sweet thanks to the pineapple and the onion, which for me, made the dish. Crispy skin and that tender but hearty hearts of palm texture.
So meaty and spicy with so many textures, from the crunchy onion ring with its delicate batter to the hominy, which was like eating a mixture of pasta and popcorn.
I don’t know why Dave’s pasta is so good. I half-expected this to be a pasta course simply for a pasta course’s sake, but this and the tagliatelle were two of the most memorable dishes of the night. The peas and garbanzos were so super fresh and al dente against the creamy, rich cheese.
Cheesy but not enough to hide the tang of the tomato, with the thinnest pasta and just the right amount of chewy texture from the octopus. I expected this to be on the seafood side of the flavor spectrum, but it was much more land meat than ocean.
Tender, oniony, and homey, like it was from a recipe passed down by your mom. The best part were the nuts that added to the crunch of the crust.
I loved the bold flavors of this, the intense spice of the peppers and chilis. Tender and rare, with hearty crushed potatoes.
I don’t really remember what was going on with this bread, because I was too focused on the amaretto cookie, which was suuuuuper buttery. It was perfect with the texture of the ice cream–just a little grainy, like the best homemade ice cream is.
The funky, fresh taste of asparagus with the cold and syrupy sweet strawberry chunks and a crumble for texture. This isn’t for the faint of heart with the asparagus flavor so evident and unexpected in ice cream, but Chef Santos seems to love to present a little challenge at the end of the meal (see: foie gras doughnuts).
I won’t rate this since I’m too biased toward Chef Santos’s cooking, but I can tell you that this is the best food I’ve had from him. He’s never been one to shy away from bold flavors, but these dishes were even bolder, even more complex, even more complete than what he was doing at his supper club. Clearly the new kitchen and the hands in it suit his ambitious style, and I plan to be so much of a regular at Louro that they get tired of seeing me.