It's always sort of a struggle to get through these local blogs, but they are part of the adventure so here we go. But... NEW YORK CITY is always a special blog for us because it brings back a lot of good food memories. But first we'll get a couple non-food items out of the way as we always do. Since the little guy was born we have definitely made it into the city less and less. We still try but it is harder so most of the time we only make it in for a nice dinner date checking off the restaurants on our list. Hopefully this will change as he gets older.
So to start it all out. We got tickets to a Seth Meyers show. Something to do and a neat experience. You get herded and wait for a while before getting seated. Something to do, but for me once was enough. Next up the METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE at LINCOLN CENTER
. Even if you are not the music/artsy/opera kind this is something to do once at least. Get all dressed up, make your way to the theater early enough where you can stop by Bar Boulud
(just across from the Lincoln Center). We
It's a pretty spectacular view!
like this place and have this running joke that we have to stop here if there is a parking spot right in front of the restaurant - almost impossible to happen, but the very first time we went there we parked right in front. We also did have one of the best desserts here. We had the Canard aux Figues (duck pate w/ fig), the Rillions Croustilliants au Poivre (hot, crispy and tender pork belly, Dijon mustard, cracked pepper) and a couple glasses of champagne. This is the opera so we were dressed-up and champagne and duck just sounded appropriate. As you walk in the TRIUMPH OF MUSIC MURAL AT OPERA HOUSE BEHIND THE GLASS FACADE greets you. The Tales of Hoffman was our opera. A loooooooong affair as with most operas, but entertaining none-the-less and a fun night out dressing up.
Next up you have to cross the bridge to those most unholy of places in the eyes of any true Manhattanite - BROOKLYN. The BROOKLYN BOTANICAL GARDENS
is high on the list of places to visit for the cherry blossoms. This was the main reason for our visit and yet we were greeted with no cherry blossoms. Apparently we
Starting off with an amuse-bouche and some champagne
were too early or they just decided this was not our day. Either way this is still a pretty cool place to kill a day on a nice warm spring day. The SHAKESPEARE GARDEN was not much to speak of, but a nice little stroll with some Shakespeare quotes in between some flowers. The JAPANESE GARDEN definitely was a lot more impressive and scenic with the trees in full bloom over a nice quiet little pond. Just around the corner (ok it's a little further than a corner) is JUNIORS
- one of those places you just have to go to. This is the mothership of cheesecake. It took some time convincing Nikkie to go and it became this sort of game/joke between us. Finally on one of my birthdays I pulled the birthday card and said I wanted to go and how do you deny a birthday boy his wishes? So we went to JUNIORS FOR EGG CREAM (what I consider a very unusual drink with milk, carbonated water and flavored syrup). We also had a piece of strawberry cheesecake. I would definitely recommend to just stick to the normal plain cheesecake. Once you get into all these other
flavors it just loses its appeal.
I'm just going to keep going with the food and finish up Brooklyn. GRIMALDIS
is one of our favorite pizza spots. As always be ready to wait. The pizza shops where you can get huge slices for little cost is a dime-a-dozen. One night while on the way back to Connecticut we stopped at Pizza Pete's for a couple slices. Decent New York pizza.
Another Brooklyn spot we have just randomly gone into was MyMoon Restaurant
in Brooklyn which is a Spanish tapas style restaurant which was actually pretty good (weird name though for a Spanish restaurant). We had:
• brocheta de Cordero (lamb tenderloin skewers, scallion relish, crispy taro and hummus on toast) (good)
• pato (pan seared duck magret with apricot and pistachio relish, caramelized pearl onions and tomato marmalade) (good)
• tabla de Quesos y Embutidos (Spanish cured meats and cheese, quince membrillo, Marcona almonds, guindilla peppers, Valenciano crackers and tokettis (a mouth full and really good)
• boquerones (marinated Spanish white anchovies, fried plantains and bell pepper vinaigrette (good)
• alcachofas fritas (deep fried artichokes in chickpea breading, spicy yogurt and lemon zest (really good)
• hongos salteados (assorted wild and organic mushrooms,
One of the best desserts we've ever had
crispy garlic, dried guindilla pepper flakes (good)
• nuestras bravas (confit and deep fried potato edges, spellet brava sauce and lemon aioli (ok)
For some action of the athletic variety you can hike back across to one of the other boroughs hosting the evil empire (Yankees) - the Bronx. For this though it is not baseball but in fact what they call soccer over here and the rest of the world calls football. Soccer/ football fever is catching on in the states so an NYCFC
game in Yankee stadium is some fun entertainment.
And so here we get to the food again. We definitely have some interesting items to discuss and probably something that definitely could start a heated debate, but I guess let's get going. At the top of the list and what was a very recent visit is L'ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON
. It was in January of 2018 and I was scrolling through the list if usual suspects on opentable
to see if I could get a last minute reservation for a nice weekend meal. Nothing was there and yet something caught my attention.... Robuchon in New York? I definitively did a double take and started searching and
Wow - welcome to winter!
yes. He was back in NYC. When we moved here in 2010 he had a restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel, but it closed in 2012 and I was deeply disappointed because he is one of the legendary chefs. Well he was back and there was tables open so we booked it. Down in the meatpacking district on a shivering cold night we hurried in through the doors and was seated at the bar counter that runs around pretty much most of the kitchen. If you get a table for two this is where you will sit. An awesome view of the kitchen where you can just sit and watch how they go about their business preparing all the food - quite fascinating. Usually when we sit down we play this little game of "well are we really getting the tasting menu", but there really is no question of doing the tasting menu since that is our joy and what we love to do even though it comes at an astronomical price and this is probably where I can start the thing/ debate that I will raise later in. Yes these meals tend to be extremely expensive. This one is
probably around $270 - $300 for a tasting menu per person which consists of 7 - 8 courses (usually you get a couple extras so it could go to 10 courses) so it comes down to about $35 per serving. When you see the portions (first couple courses tend to be 2 - 3 bites) it definitely can be mind-blowing how they can charge that much for the portions, but it is also something we have come to accept as the price for great food. This restaurant is part of a more recent trend where the gratuity is included in the price which helps with the price.
We were seated and the bread arrived soon which was of a really good variety. We started off with VeuveClicquot-Ponsardin champagne and then I had a glass of Chenin Blanc from South Africa and Nikkie had a Bordeaux blend. The courses were:
• parmigiano foam amuse bouche (great - we always joke that the amuse bouche is the best bite)
• salmon tartare w/ French Imperial caviar and shiso (really good and they literally made it in front of us)
• black truffle w/ duck foie gras, artichoke, shaved Parmigiano (really good and
Love the cheesecake
• sea scallop w/ seaweed butter (perfectly cooked and well-seasoned)
• Maine lobster w/ black pepper and bok choy (awesome broth and really good)
• black bass w/ lemongrass, young leeks and curcuma (good and it even had more black truffle on it)
• grilled "snake river farms" wagyu ribcap w/ shallot confit (good)
• caramelized free-range quail stuffed w/ foie gras and potato puree (really good)
• pear sorbet w/ lemon foam, cardamom, cassis coulis and rum gelatin (really good and you definitely knew there was rum in there)
• Araguani chocolate cremeux w/ white chocolate ice cream and Oreo cookie crumble (really sweet and pretty presentation)
Nikkie ended it all with espresso. Awesome meal that definitely broke the bank. The service was great, we were able to talk to the sommelier for a while, and we had a front row seat watching them make our food. Welcome back Mr. Robuchon. Thank you for a spectacular meal.
Next up is another celebrity chef restaurant - MORIMOTO
. I love Asian food and yet for some reason we have just not done that many great Asian restaurants so we booked it and off we went. MORIMOTO FOR SUSHI is a must but
as usual we did the omakase. Very similar to Robuchon we were seated at a bar-type seating where we could see the kitchen. We had some champagne and drinks and Nikkie also had some sake. For the meal we had:
• Toro tartare w/ freshly-grated wasabi paste, crème fraîche, nori paste, chives, avocado paste, and rice crackers w/ caviar and a dashi-soy dipping sauce (the tartare was almost "packed" onto this standing plate with various dipping sauces/ toppings - really good and awesome presentation)
• salad with trout, radishes, various small leaves, sprouts (good, light, flavors worked well)
• fish salad with spicy/ peppery leaves w/ dried orange skin and dried fish skin (jerky like) (flavors was a lot more sharp and defined)
• deep fried balls of some kind of meat with a custardy/ frothy liquid (really, really good)
• ginger drink palette cleanser
• nigiri sushi - tuna, kampachi, and red snapper garnished with a radish chiffonade, whitefish with scallion, and Firefly squid (really good)
• lobster and wagyu strip - Wagyu beef in a ginger/soy sauce, lobster with Indian spices, and a lemon crème fraîche (ok, but lobster was very disappointing since killed it with spices). Nikkie got the upgrade on the
First visit after having lived here for many years! She had to - it was my birthday!
meat and you could definitely taste the difference in texture)
• madelein on top of an ice cream mango mousse lollipop, granadilla and pistachio gelato (really good)
• raspberry ice cream / mousse with berries and sugar (good)
• mochi (ok)
Another really good meal. The salad dishes was not really our favorite, but otherwise a really, really good meal.
Moving on to JEAN-GEORGES VONGERICHTEN CHEF'S RESTAURANT and his flagship restaurant JEAN-GEORGES
. We finally bit the bullet since we had a 15 year work celebration at Starbucks so that was definitely a cause for celebration. We do love the Jean George restaurants so we made our way into the city and sat down at JEAN GEORGES FOR AN 8 - COURSE TASTING MENU. This is one of the few restaurants with two tasting menu options and to make it even better they allowed us to each try one. So I went with the signature dishes and Nikkie did the spring menu. We were started off with an amuse bouche of asparagus and a green tea drink. Always nice to get those.
• egg caviar (really good)
• diver scallops w/ caramelized cauliflower and a caper-raisin emulsion
• young garlic soup w/ thyme and sautéed frog legs (my favorite dish of the night which is probably weird to hear. The frog legs were really crispy and good and the garlic soup was a major surprise in taste)
• turbot w/ Chateau Chalon sauce (really good)
• lobster tartine w/ lemongrass and fenugreek broth and pea shoots (good)
• broiled squab w/ onion compote, corn pancake and foie gras (really interesting dish with textures and a crispiness not expected)
• chocolate dessert tasting (looked like an art piece)
• softly poached organic egg w/ oscetra caviar, whipped yogurt and herbs (really good)
• madai sashimi w/ pastel radishes and nasturtium vinaigrette (really clean dish)
• green asparagus w/ morels and asparagus jus (good and fresh)
• slowly cooked Black Sea bass w/ crunchy oats and herbal lime dressing (really good)
• Maine lobster w/ spring herb raviolini and Gruyere broth and green chili (good)
• rack of lamb crusted w/ herbs, fresh chickpea puree and Aleppo pepper sauce (really good)
• strawberry dessert tasting (same here - looked like a Jackson Pollock painting thrown together with colors)
And we were finished off with a chocolate tray of various items.
We also had champagne and various wines throughout the meal. A meal with a price-tag not for the faint of heart, but well worth it. It's always an interesting discussion at these meals - "was this the best meal we ever had? Was it right up there with the best?" And to be honest it is a very loaded question. We are always blown away by invention, weird flavors that works, amazing presentation, etc. And yet Jean George does not fall into that and is none of that. It's just clean, simple, well-presented, fresh, classic French cooking. Well worth the experience if you can afford it.
Next we'll go to SCARPETTA
. An Italian restaurant where I've just had the hardest time getting reservation so finally we made it. Getting the SPAGHETTI was a must but as always ... yes you guessed it - we did the tasting menu.
• raw yellowtail w/ olio de zenzero, sea salt and pickled red onion (fairly basic but good)
• creamy polenta w/ braised short ribs of beef (the polenta was really good)
• spaghetti short ribs agnolotti (really good)
• short rib and bone marrow agnolotti w/ garlic and horseradish (really good)
• black cod
caramelized fennel and concentrated tomato (good)
• moist roasted carpetto w/ broccoli rabe, pancetta and potato (good)
• various deserts (great variety and really good)
Surprisingly this was a really good meal and one of the better meals we've had in the city. The variety was great and the dishes were all really good. BABBO
is next. A Mario Batali restaurant where we got reservations one Sunday afternoon (the way things look now you better get a reservation quick). And yes we did the testing menu.
• chickpeas on a crostini (ok - not my favorite)
• Babbo Coppa with “Verdure alla Caprese” and pecorino (good and fresh)
• Pappardelle with Chanterelles and thyme (probably my favorite dish of the evening, rich but really good)
• duck tortelli with “Sugo Finto” (good)
• hanger steak with wild mushroom fregula and black truffle vinaigrette (the steak was really well cooked)
• pecorino ginepro with wildflower honey (cheese, honey and baguette - really refreshing)
• bignè with strawberry gelato (good)
• "Torta Caprese” with “Fior di Latte” and vincotto (good)
• latte (good)
• espresso (good)
• truffles (ok)
A good meal. This was Batali after all so it had to be good.
in the MANDARIN hotel was a splurge one night. I've always wanted to do it. I got a reservation and we were lucky enough to be seated at a table right at the window over-looking Central Park. Tasting menu it was. An amuse bouche was again served, we had some Spark Pointe Brut and then...
• ahi tuna w/ uni (sea urchin), yuzu and trout roe (awesome - such a great tasting dish)
• seared Hudson Valley foie gras w/ hickory, strawberry umeboshi and smoked duck (to be honest at the time this was the best foie gras we've ever had)
• turbot w/ jasmine, baby squid, and mushroom consomme (really good)
• Maine lobster w/ escargot, Meyer lemon, spiced carrots and white beans (awesome lobster, but beans was just ok - to me the combination just did not work)
• Wagyu beef w/ smoked potato puree and a sherry wine reduction (really good)
• foglie de noche w/ fig cake, sunchokes, and local pear (take on a cheese platter, tastes like eating cheese and yet it is ice cream so really cool)
• almond dacquoise w/ white chocolate mousse, almond praline (phenomenal - one of the best deserts we've ever had)
• anniversary cake w/
macaroon (really good)
As you can see two of these dishes were some of the best we've ever had so this was a really good meal for us. It helps to go into a meal with low expectations which is harder for us, because we know a lot about these restaurants and their chefs and we generally have higher expectations knowing their backgrounds.
Continuing making our way through the celebrity chefs. Next up Mr. Nobu Matsuhisa. So NOBU
we did and the obligatory omakase.
• roll in seaweed with sprouts, veggies (refreshing and a good and different dish to start off everything)
• bigeye and Bluefin Toro tartar (good, but lots of soy)
• Kumamoto oysters w/ Maui onion salsa (was a little fishy and not the greatest oysters)
• sashimi (one of the better dishes of the meal)
• sashimi salad w/ Matsuhisa dressing (very, very saucy - dressed in sauce and I love sauce, but this was too much)
• play on orange chicken with lobster (really good)
• BLACK COD w/ miso (the signature NOBU dish and as always awesome)
• mushroom soup (very odd to get this at this stage of the meal but actually really good)
box w/ warm Valrhona dark chocolate fondant cake and imperial matcha gelato w/ shiso syrup and white chocolate sauce (good dessert)
I love Asian food and was really looking forward to this. It was very much hit and miss. The cod and sashimi was really good. Still a really good meal, but I guess we just expected a little more and our expectations are just sky high generally so when I say hit and miss I think in general it should still be considered a really good meal. Just comparing it to the rest of the places in NYC this was lacking a little bit to be put at the top.
Next is kind of where our "issues" and debates start. Over the past couple years we started to follow "the world's 50 best restaurants". They actually rate a 100 of them. It's a fun list and what seems like a fairly legitimate list. Let's face it though - this list is almost impossible to put together because food is such a subjective thing and there are thousands and thousands of restaurants (if not millions) in this world. So yes we have slowly been checking off
some of these restaurants on our travels and they have hit the mark for the most part. So here we are in New York and 2 of the restaurants on the list we were just not as familiar with. So very recently we decided to try COSME
. Reservations was not that hard to get. The portions were small and no tasting menu which was the first turn-off for us. But as we discussed afterwards - not every nice meal has to be 3 hours so this kind of opened our minds and got us talking and discussing. This was more a tapas style meal where you order 4 to 5 items for a party of 2. First I'll list the items we had quickly and then continue the conversation.
• Nikkie had the Paloma Cimarrón Reposado w/ house made grapefruit syrup, lime, soda, grapefruit salt (good). She also tried the Striptease w/ Vida Mezcal, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, guanabana, lime, absinthe salt (ok)
• I had the Telenovela Pisco 100 w/ pineapple, Suze, St. Germaine, lemon, achiote bitter (good)
• we started with crackers w/ salsa (fine)
• next the uni tostada, avocado, bone marrow salsa, cucumber (this was good)
• next up
Kabocha squash tamal, ha’sikil p’ak, castelrosso (now Nikkie's family has been making tamales for a very long time and she said this was really, really good so that has to count for something)
• they recommended we order the mole rojo, nut butter, quelites (really, really good) and the flat iron steak, nixtamalized celery root, herb mojo (ok w/ the tacos) together and mix the two dishes. Overall really good tacos with the meat and the mole.
• we concluded with the husk meringue (really good)
So here is really where our issues were, where the conversation started and our realization and conclusion afterwards. Our meal was done in pretty much one hour which really was a major negative for us. The 4 tacos we made from the mole and steak ended up costing roughly $70. The tamal and tostada was about $25 each (pretty small portions). That seems outrageous. Also the quantity on each dish was sort of lacking. But... the quality of the food was really, really good. As I said the tamal got Nikkie's approval and the mole was really good too. So we can't complain about quality. So we left paying more than $200 for
a meal where we were still hungry and really just did not feel like we had a true dining experience. As mentioned above when you do these sit-down tasting menus you end up paying $30 to $35 per portion regardless so our view and thought-process definitely changed when putting it in this perspective.
After talking about this for a while we came to the realization that obviously not every meal has to be a long sit-down affair - point taken. That said - this was a really, really quick meal and continues to be a negative about this restaurant for us. We left hungry. Well we probably could have ordered more food so we realized that. Yes $200 is a lot of money, but then again for a good NYC restaurant that is pretty average. And then we realize for a good tasting menu you are looking at a much, much larger bill. So all in all we probably over-reacted a bit. Afterwards we also watched a show on the chef and what goes into creating the mole and the husk meringue and seeing it definitely gave us a much better appreciation for what we ate. But was it
Sunset over the east river
a top 100 restaurant? Now that is the question.
Next up Estela
which is also in the top 100. Once again not a tasting menu and more of a tapas-sharing style meal.
• we had the governor's fizz and spice trade as drinks (both were actually really good)
• cured fluke with sea urchin (good)
• summer squash with pine nuts and miso (the surprise dish - very, very basic and yet the highlight of the meal)
• scallops with mojama and potato (good)
• lamb ribs with charmoula and honey (good)
• ricotta dumplings with mushrooms and pecorino sardo (good)
• chocolate cake (this is not your normal chocolate cake but was good)
Decent meal. Nothing that vowed us except the summer squash. Definitely not a top 100 meal.
The remaining meals are just general casual city dinner spots. DB Bistro Moderne
is one we have been to a couple times now. Nikkie got the squash soup w/ spaghetti squash and pumpkin seeds (it was good) and the endive salad w/ Bartlett pear, house cured pork belly, hazelnuts and buttermilk dressing (it was a pretty bad dish - not much taste and the pork was pretty raw). I got the true
Soccer at Yankee stadium!
and trusted DB burger w/ a patty of sirloin and braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffle on a Parmesan bun and pommes frites (this is an awesome burger but at the $30 price tag it better be). Definitely would recommend this spot.
We decided to start exploring the NYC "cafe" scene. CAFE GITANE
seemed like a fun little spot for dinner with friends. We shared a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and for an appetizer had the Dukkah which is an Egyptian blend of ground nuts, spices, sesame seeds with dipping bread and olive oil. It was very hard to eat and not really appetizing - it's pretty much nuts with spices on bread. I got the organic spicy meatballs with a turmeric sauce with boiled egg, cucumber yogurt and cilantro (definitely was very different from just regular meatballs, but the sauce was different and very sweet and tomatoey). Nikkie got the pomegranate glazed salmon w/ citrus salad of mixed greens, watercress, oranges, radish and black olives in a pomegranate vinaigrette (it was ok but the salmon was definitely overcooked). All in all a decent meal and a nice little ambiance but can get very loud. GCOB
(Grand Central Oyster Bar) has become one of our go-to places in the city for a quick meal. The Manhattan CLAM CHOWDER (I am more of a New England clam chowder man) is good and the combination pan roast is a must-have. We've tried the whole bronzini (good with very soft flesh). Most of the time we go we just get champagne and oysters. Their selection is quite impressive so we have tried oysters from all over the place. This is an awesome place for bubbly and pearls.
After the Seth Meyers show we stopped into the newly opened Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
. We got a whole baked cauliflower w/ roasted chicken salt (surprisingly good and a huge portion which was pretty odd for a wine bar). We also got a short rib skewer w/ fried shallots, mashed potatoes and a red wine reduction (really awesome and great potatoes). We also did the truffle pasta w/ aged Parmesan (really good, but pretty truffly). The wine was pretty pricey but really good. A decent hang-out place for a quick drink and a snack. The food was not crazy expensive but the wine was. JOE ALLEN
FOR HAMBURGERS is kind of an institution establishment
Movie in the park - Ghostbusters!
in the city. This is the kind of place where the vodka for the dirty martini was served in a little pour glass in a glass of ice to keep the vodka cold - awesome. Nikkie got the beet salad with carrots, cheese, jicama (very average, but then again who orders a salad at a place like this). She also got the chicken w/ mashed potatoes (ok) and I got the obligatory burger w/ bacon and cheese (well-cooked and really good). A.G. Kitchen
is a restaurant close to where Nikkie gets her haircut and generally her appointments are later at night so we generally are hungry afterwards and have been here a couple times. With a couple cab/ IPAs to go with a green chili burger (hatch green chili with American cheese and mustard - ok) and a Manhattan Latin burger with guacamole, bacon, cheddar and A.G. sauce (ok) it's a quick and easy meal. I would say there is no better place in the world to get bagels and lox. Barney Greengrass is a stones-throw away. Just go. It is expensive, but oh so worth it.
Try the Plump Dumpling
for some bbq buns (ok), pho (really good), and
wonton and noodles in curry soup (good). Then again this is New York you can find this at hundreds of hole-in-the-wall spots.
For brunch we have tried Friedman's
, but we were pretty disappointed. We had coffee, blueberry pancakes (not the greatest) and chilaquiles (ok).
Right by the Rockefeller building is Bouchon Bakery
which is always a good stop for a quick bite for lunch (don't forget the macaroons).
Last but not least we'll get to the sweet stuff. MAGNOLIA BAKERY
is our favorite spot for a cupcake. Anything from a chocolate cupcake w/ vanilla frosting, caramel cupcake, and a winter spice cupcake to some really good COOKIES. Four and Twenty Blackbird
in Brooklyn is also one of our favorites for some really good pie. The grapefruit custard pie with a saltine pie crust is one of the more unusual pies you will see here. Likes
As I have noted before we love the food in this city. You can eat for as cheap as you want ($1 pizza) or spend as much as you want. We love that there is always something. We love that there is art, expression, photo-ops, and creatures all hours of the day. It's hard not
Really good mozzarella and tomatoes
to like this city. Going on 8 years and still peeling back the layers of this fascinating place and its history. Dislikes
Not really too much to dislike. The people can be crazy and rude. All the tourists can drive you crazy. Things generally can be pretty expensive. It all is a part of the experience though. Advice
Eat the food. Try everything. Try the hole in the wall places. Splurge on at least one good meal. Walk. Walk. Walk. Explore this city. There is a lot to see. Don't forget about Brooklyn. Going over to Brooklyn and looking back to NYC is one of our favorite things to do. It is a majestical view.
And that concludes another state blog. Crossing off three things over this multi-year period including Magnolia bakery, Jean-Georges von Richteren chef's restaurant, and the Oyster Bar. So 295 down and 5,486 to go.
Til' next time from the empire state
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