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Per Se or Eleven Madison Park?

Like most of the responders, I prefer Eleven Madison Park. My most recent reviews of both:

EMP: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/978936
Per Se: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/968463

The general consensus seems to be along the lines of:
While both are excellent, Per Se seems to have peaked while EMP is still improving.

That being said, if you really enjoyed JG and Daniel, I think Per Se (and Le Bernardin) would be more similar to that type of experience than EMP would be.

about 19 hours ago
fooder in Manhattan
1

Costata: The Underrated Michael White Restaurant that Covers All the Bases

As usual, full review with all the photos (and bonus ones) on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

Chef Michael White is a well-known chef who, through the Altamarea Group, has seven restaurants in Manhattan. These restaurants are fairly wide in scope, ranging from his 2 Michelin Star flagship Italian seafood restaurant Marea, to his pizzeria Nicoletta, to his American supper club The Butterfly. My favorite of these is Costata, and while it is his steakhouse concept, I find that it combines some of my favorite things from his other restaurants as well. The majority of entree choices are various cuts of steak, but Costata also brings a great selection of crudo and pasta, comparable in quality to his more famous restaurant, Marea. And while the prices in general are on the high end, the portions are very large, giving off a sense of value much more like his rustic and casual Osteria Morini.

It's hard to call an expensive restaurant owned and operated by a well-known chef underrated, but it was relatively empty when we went on an early Friday evening. It could be because of the summer, although NYC restaurants may just be struggling in general, but the lack of customers may have contributed to us getting very friendly and attentive service.

FOCACCIA, WHIPPED LARDO
There are no dainty amuses here. This is a steakhouse and even the bread and dip sets the tone that it'll probably be a fairly heavy meal.

FLUKE CRUDO; STURGEON CAVIAR, GARLIC CHIPS, CREME FRAICHE ($21
)The composition of this crudo reminded me a lot of the marlin crudo at Marea, and this was just as excellent. I really enjoyed the relatively softer texture of the fluke here, as I often think of fluke as being too resistant when I bite into it.

SEA SCALLOP CRUDO; CELERY ROOT, BLACK TRUFFLE VINAIGRETTE ($23)
The truffle smell is evident as soon as the dish hits the table. Classic flavor combinations, and just so good with the sweet scallop. It's a pretty impressive plate in terms of portion, and felt like great value.

MARE; WARM SALAD OF OCTOPUS, SHRIMP, SCALLOPS, TOMATO CONFIT, FENNEL, OLIVES ($21)
This was perfectly executed, with great texture from the well cooked seafood highlighting the delicious marriage of simple flavors. At a comparable price point, I find this much superior to more common steakhouse seafood starter staples such as shrimp cocktail or crab cakes.

ROMAINE CACIO E PEPE; ANCHOVIES, AGED PARMIGIANO, CRISPY CAPERS ($17)
INSALATA VERDE; HARICOTS VERTS, PICKED HERBS, RICOTTA, LEMON ($15)
Two of my friends ordered salads and enjoyed them very much, while I was more surprised once again at the generous portion sizes.

CAULIFLOWER; LEEK PESTO
CRISPY RED BLISS POTATOES; GARLIC, ROSEMARY, CHILI FLAKES
HEN OF THE WOODS; PARSLEY BUTTER
ARTICHOKES ALLA GUIDEA; LEMON, PARSLEY
ASPARAGUS (NO LONGER ON MENU, SEASONAL)
(all vegetable sides $10 each)
All the vegetables were excellent, but my favorites were the very addictive fried artichokes and the nice crackly crispiness of the red bliss potatoes. I thought they provided better texture contrasts to steaks than mashed potatoes or fries.

FILET OF BEEF 10oz ($47)
If you happen to have a friend who likes a well done filet of beef, they do a perfectly cooked version.

FIORENTINA; PORTERHOUSE 40oz ($122)
All the steaks at Costata are aged a minimum of 40 days, and the minerally tang definitely comes through. The porterhouse had excellent flavor on both sides, and I really liked the small touches with the grilled lemon and bouquet of herbs.

AFFOGATO; ESPRESSO, RAMAZOTTI AMARO, FIOR DI LATTE GELATO ($10)
A tasty affogato, but I still prefer the one at Marea.

While Marea and Ai Fiore are probably the most ambitious of his restaurants, I find that I am more likely to recommend Costata to people over them. The food is delicious and well executed, the portions considerable, and while there may not be as many super highs, there's also a much much lower chance of a miss. It's also a great restaurant for many eaters with different preferences to dine together, as you can make a wide range of great meals from salad and steak to pasta and crudo or even just a combined selection of excellent vegetable side dishes.

206 Spring St
Manhattan, NY 10012

about 19 hours ago
fooder in Manhattan
1

Bouley Lunch Tasting Menu Review: Best Fine Dining Deal in NYC

Enjoy! Looking forward to reading about your experience.

Jul 16, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Bouley Lunch Tasting Menu Review: Best Fine Dining Deal in NYC

I went on a weekday, and I don't know if the service staff is any different because of it. Didn't know that they do this lunch on weekends too but that's great!

My friend had the duck, and I was very tempted to get the pear but the souffle won out.

Jul 16, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Bouley Lunch Tasting Menu Review: Best Fine Dining Deal in NYC

It may not be the best fine dining meal in New York City, but the lunch tasting menu at Bouley is definitely the best fine dining deal. I hadn't done the lunch at Bouley since my last visit almost five years ago. I had a disappointing meal then, but I believe that Bouley's restaurants have improved across the board since he came back and retooled his mini-empire, opening Brushstroke and other concepts.

In those five years, the lunch deal at Eleven Madison Park has gone from $28 for 2 courses to $54 for 3 courses to being non existent, the lunch deal at Jean Georges has gone from $28 to $38 to $48 for 2 courses, while the lunch deal at Del Posto has gone from $29 to $39 for 3 courses. The 5 course lunch tasting at Bouley, however, has only gone from $48 to $55, while the whole experience has improved since that last disappointing meal there.

Atmosphere: Bouley pretty much looks the same as it always has, giving off a rustic, old school countryside vibe. It's a nice oasis away from the hustle and bustle of NYC, but sometimes it can feel cluttered and clunky.

Service: Service has gone from disappointing to passable, although water refills were still scarce. Don't expect to get much in the way of answers regarding the food. There appears to be a staff tier structure, but if so the captains never asserted themselves. I honestly can't imagine how they would be able handle a full dining room for lunch with the staff they had.

Food: The online menu was representative of the available menu at the restaurant, with at least two options for each course.

AMUSES: LOBSTER WITH FRUIT FOAM, CRACKER WITH TRUFFLE AND KUDZU
I don't remember exactly, but I think the fruit espuma was either blood orange or strawberry. There was also some grain and chia seeds which provided a nice balance of texture, but the overall flavor was one-note of sweetness. The truffled cracker, on the other hand, was extraordinary, with a depth of truffle flavor and a wonderful balance of textures with the crisp toastiness of the cracker and the soft and sticky kudzu starch.

BREAD AND BUTTER
The meal structure felt a bit weird in that they served bread and butter with the first course, but independent of the big bread cart which comes later.

BIG EYE TUNA; GREEN APPLE, BERGAMOT, OSETRA CAVIAR
Both my friend and I chose the tuna for our first course, which was also our server's recommendation. None of the flavor combinations were particularly novel, and I was expecting a stronger smell from the bergamot, especially with the domed presentation. It was a good starter though, as the fish was fresh and there was a sizeable amount of caviar. I wish the fish was seasoned more as a whole, as the dish fell victim to the chef relying solely on the caviar to provide saltiness, a very common occurrence these days.

FORAGER'S TREASURE; WILD MUSHROOMS, SWEET GARLIC, GRILLED TORO, SPECIAL SPICES AND TRUFFLE DRESSING
My friend had the porcini flan which is a Bouley signature although I'm not a big fan of it. I had the forager's treasure, which sounded amazing and was quite wonderful, with earthy mushrooms and luscious fatty toro. The only thing that seemed out of place was that it was a little too sweet (I vaguely remember hints of either honey or coconut), although I couldn't tell whether it was from the sweet garlic, spices, or dressing. I would have preferred it if they had just focused on the rich earthiness of the ingredients.

BREAD CART
An impressive bread cart featuring over 11 different kinds of bread. Some were more traditional (sourdough) while others were chock-full of healthy nuts and grains. I tried a few, and they were all quite good, so I would just suggest being adventurous and going with whichever ingredient base sounds good to you.

SLOW BRAISED KOBE STYLE BEEF CHEEKS; BLUE KALE GNOCCHI
I've never really considered "Kobe-style" beef to be a particularly premium ingredient, but I would imagine putting those words there might help get ladies who lunch to order beef cheeks. Regardless of the provenance of the beef, this was just an absolutely delicious, sizeable mound of rustic, flavorful, tender braised beef and pasta.

TRISTAR STRAWBERRIES; AMARETTO ICE CREAM
Simple and delicious combinations of flavors, without being overly sweet.

HOT VALRHONA CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE; WHITE COFFEE CLOUD, COFFEE ICE CREAM, CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
A classic decadent, comforting dessert that reminds you that you've just had a luxurious and rich lunch.

PETIT FOURS

This is fine dining in its classical form, with rich entrees and desserts, generous amounts of luxury ingredients, and an overabundance of choices highlighted by the overindulgent bread cart. Just a tremendous value at $55+t/t. If you have the time to take in this lunch, I highly recommend this (barely a) splurge. However, I felt that the execution and service weren't at a level where I would rush to come back for dinner, when the prices get a huge jump.

163 Duane St (Tribeca)
Manhattan, NY 10013

Jul 15, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Long Gone But Not Forgotten! Manhattan Memories

The great, authentic Japanese lunch places in Midtown (Bryant Park area). They haven't been gone that long, and I no longer work in Midtown, but the stuff that is there now pales in comparison.

Chiyoda Sushi, which in addition to selling huge quantities of fresh sushi to go out front, had a sit down restaurant in the back of good quality, with a 12 piece lunch special that included anago, mirugai, and otoro. Now replaced with the dreadful Mai Cuisine.

Chikubu, which had a line out the door on Fridays for its ramen lunch special, well before the ramen craze took over. Also one of the few places in NYC that celebrated unagi day, offering a $5 unagi chazuke.

And more recently, Yagura Japanese market, which had great pricing on their hot food, and the after 4pm by the pound buffet had the best takeout katsu. I preferred it to both Cafe Zaiya and Sunrise Mart, although it was shabbier-looking.

Jul 10, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Jean-Georges' Tasting Menus

Most restaurants of JG's tier will have no problem changing courses between tasting menus if:
1. You're willing to pay any supplement
2. The two tasting menus have the same number of courses.

At JG, a lot of thought actually goes into crafting their dishes and menus. When I had a friend who couldn't eat a certain ingredient, they insisted on changing the entire preparation of a dish rather than providing the same preparation minus the one ingredient. I would imagine that more thought goes into the progression of the seasonal menu, and that substituting from the seasonal onto the signature would be easier than the other way around. Personally I just prefer the prix fixe to their tasting menus.

Jul 08, 2014
fooder in Manhattan
1

Hakkasan

My guess is that it's a mixed stir fry presented in a bird's nest (usually fried taro or some such), rather than the actual swallow's nest (saliva) because that would be too expensive to have a meaningful stir fry, even for Hakkasan.

I haven't been back in over a year, but from my recollection I would consider the individual dim sum dumplings to be large relative to traditional cantonese dim sum pieces.

Jun 27, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Eleven Madison Park: Spring 2014 Tasting Menu

Thank you. Re: menu change, a buddy actually ate there two weeks before I did and the menu was already quite different. We missed the mangalitsa pork entree, but I think the lamb was a better fit for the Spring theme.

Jun 16, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Shake Shack 10th Anniversary Special Celebration

Yes, but I think the Humm burger line on Thursday set the record as the morning line extended all the way to 26th Street.

Jun 16, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Shake Shack 10th Anniversary Special Celebration

As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

That is a picture of a burger that my friends and many others waited over 6 hours for yesterday. All throughout this week, the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park has been doing burger collaborations with famous chefs in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Yesterday's offering was the Humm Burger: Shack beef-blend gruyere cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, celery relish, Bibb lettuce, truffle mayo and shaved fresh black truffle.

So, what's the verdict? Honestly, I'm not sure any food is worth a 7 hour wait. But this was an absolutely delicious burger. The perfume of the truffle whet the appetite while the gruyere bacon cheeseburger provided an excellent base. What really made the burger for me was the celery relish, which worked beautifully to both highlight the strong ingredients and to make them work together in harmony. If they took out the truffle shavings to lower the cost and served the burger regularly, I'm sure there would still be a long line to get it.

I don't know what was more absurd. That people waited 6+ hours not for something free, but to PAY $9 for a burger, or that when new people joining the line were told that there was only a minute chance they would be able to get one of the collaboration burgers, they decided to stay and wait anyway.

Any other stories from this week of Shake Shack line-mania?

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Any restaurant in the city, $500 limit. What would you choose and why?

Someone once asked me for a recommendation for a client dinner asking for a Japanese restaurant and saying price wasn't an issue. I was going through the details of the top places and when I got to Masa, price was no longer not an issue.

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan
1

best fine dining in New York?

I just wrote a post about the latest Eleven Madison Park Spring 2014 menu here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/978936

I do think EMP is a destination worthy restaurant, but when you ask "is it really worth the expense that I would have to go through", it comes down to what is of value to you. To me, it is one of the most enjoyable dining experiences as a whole, but if you're more interested in food and in what's new and exciting, it may not be enough for you.

Yesterday, my friends waited 7 hours for their Daniel Humm burger at Shake Shack. It was absolutely delicious, but was it worth 7 hours of waiting in line? Is there any food worth waiting 7 hours in line?

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Eleven Madison Park: Spring 2014 Tasting Menu

As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

When it comes to recommending top tier fine dining restaurants, I find that the way a restaurant handles an overall seasonal theme is more important to me than individual dishes. Unless the dish is so spectacular that it becomes a "signature" item, the chances are not that high that one great specific dish reappears on a subsequent menu (although it'll probably appear later in a cookbook).

I also find Spring to be an especially difficult season to judge. It's not that the food is less delicious in the Spring. It's that when you're able to eat more luxurious ingredients during the fall and winter seasons, from truffles to foie gras to heartier proteins, it's easier to feel a sense of value. Not everyone appreciates that the costs for foraging and sourcing certain vegetables and herbs are expensive. As my friend fellow CHer plumpdumpling once wrote in her first review of Eleven Madison Park years ago, "When I think about the one thing that really, really gets my goat, it’s the sheer unimpressiveness of the ingredients we were served. Two of our main courses were vegetables."

I found the Spring 2014 menu at EMP to be truly special. Not only was it a celebration of the season from start to finish, it also managed to be both delicious and luxurious in a way that alleviated some of the aforementioned dissonance. I believe that this meal compared favorably to both my meals at EMP last year, and I highly recommend reading last year's http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892924 post first to get an idea of the foundation that they built and have improved upon.

ADDITIONAL THEME INGREDIENT
Interaction with the diner is one of the things they really enjoy doing at EMP. As the four of us sat down at the table, we noticed an envelope and a letter opener. Opening the envelope revealed four perforated chits featuring four different ingredients - cherry, coffee, celery, strawberry. It was then explained to us that we should punch out the ingredient we liked, and that ingredient would be featured multiple times throughout the meal. Since there were four of us, we decided to give all four ingredients a try, and I chose celery.

CHEDDAR - SAVORY BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE WITH APPLE
The first course was their savory take on a black and white cookie. I felt that this time the crabapple chutney was more pronounced, and played off well with the cheddar.

OYSTER - BAKED POTATO ICE CREAM AND CAVIAR
This could have been served as two separate courses, but serving both together was a brilliant touch that created a great balance. One of my main issues with single oyster courses (usually with some sort of mignonette) early in tasting menus is that it often leaves a mouthfeel that is too cold and/or too acidic while waiting for the next course. The baked potato ice cream and caviar managed to round out that bite of oyster, soothing the palate while still maintaining the chilled temperature of an early course.

MOREL - CUSTARD WITH MAINE SEA TROUT ROE
Between the morel custard, morel ragout, trout roe, and bonito broth, this was just loads of umami. There was great attention to detail with the use of borage flowers as garnish. The blue/pink color looked beautiful next to the brown and orange, which is not an easy color combination to make pretty.

ENGLISH PEAS - WARMED WITH MEYER LEMON AND EGG YOLK
Pure Spring in a little bowl. I love English peas and meyer lemon, so this was perfect. But even though it looked simple, it was a well-composed dish with great depth that also featured a lavender-pea puree, smoked fish gelee, miso cured egg yolk, and coriander and lavender flowers.

BEEF - PASTRAMI WITH RAMPS, RYE, MUSTARD, AND FLAVORED SODA
The first of the interactive courses featuring a tableside presentation. The pastrami was ridiculously good. Rich, tender, and beefy with the spices being noticeable but not overpowering. But what really made the dish for me as a whole were the condiments. It's common to have pastrami with rye and mustard and dill pickle, but the additional presence of ramp and dandelion greens in various forms (mayonnaise, relish, pickled) reinforced both the freshness and savoriness of Spring.

SODA - CELERY
I love Cel-Ray, and thought that this was the best version of it I've ever had. It was not as strongly carbonated, which I prefer, and contained additional hints of mint, apple, and lime. This course featured all the theme ingredients we chose at the beginning of the meal, and the coffee soda featured espresso powder, while the cherry soda had flavors of cherry, lemon, and apple, and the strawberry soda featured strawberry, lemongrass, and apple.

FLAVORED BUTTER
Similar to previous visits, the butter was flavored with drippings from our choice of main course, giving the butter additional warmth and lusciousness.

FOIE GRAS - CURED WITH ORANGE-CHAMOMILE, WHITE ASPARAGUS, BITTER ALMOND
As usual, there was a choice between hot and cold preparations of foie gras. I've always thought that EMP had the best seared foie in the city, but for the sake of completeness I opted for the cold prep (well, my dining companions all called dibs on the hot prep). Instead of horizontal layering, the layer of gelee was actually in the middle through the cross-section. It was interesting, but didn't really work for me. I tend to like foie for its decadence, and this just wasn't as rich as the one I had at Per Se http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/968463

WALDORF SALAD CART
The second interactive presentation was accompanied by a brief discussion on the history of the Waldorf salad.
APPLE - WALDORF SALAD WITH CELERY, RHUBARB, WALNUTS
While the original version contained only three ingredients, the version made tableside included a variety of ingredients commonly associated with the Waldorf salad, including apples, celery root, mayonnaise, cranberries, walnuts, blue cheese, and fresh celery leaf. It was delicious and so refreshing, and made me rethink, "Wait, this is a Waldorf salad!?"
VELOUTE
But that wasn't all! The bowl opened up to their modern take on a deconstructed Waldorf with celery root-apple veloute, celery gelee, dehydrated and pickled apples, candied celery root, garlic croutons, chives, and chervil. It was also delicious and refreshing, but I think I preferred the salad version.

LOBSTER - POACHED WITH BEETS, GINGER, NASTURTIUM
Over the years, quite a few of chef Humm's lobster preparations that I've had have included a sweet vegetal accompaniment. The latest one involved the use of beets, and it added a wonderful extra dimension. There's an innate meatiness to beets, which were further explored here with the use of a citrus beurre blanc and bone marrow sauce.

EN VESSIE
More tableside fun as they bring over the asparagus for our next course, still poaching while encased in the pig's bladder.
ASPARAGUS - BRAISED WITH POTATO AND BLACK TRUFFLE
The black truffle and potato puree was rich and earthy, complementing the asparagus and completing the Spring theme of vegetable from the ground. But what was unique about this dish was how they took that singular asparagus, that vegetable main course and made it truly special with not only luxurious truffle, but also the tableside presentation using a technique that one doesn't get to see too often nowadays.

LAMB - BROTH WITH CURED LAMB AND WATERCRESS
LAMB - ROASTED WITH LETTUCE, GARLIC, AND ONION BLOSSOMS
The broth was made into a gelee and served on a rice crisp, fitting for the season as it was a lighter preparation compared with the hot broth from last year's winter tasting. The plated main course featured roasted lamb loin, brioche-crusted torchon, and confit lamb shoulder. It reminded me a lot of the chef's work during the earlier days of his tenure at EMP. The flavors were concentrated without being dull, and the texture on the lamb loin was ethereal, tender without being too soft, and reminding me of tendon during certain bites. Some of the best lamb I've ever had.

DUCK - ROASTED WITH RHUBARB, SHALLOTS, AND SCALLIONS
The other protein option was Duclair duck dry aged two weeks and glazed with lavender honey, sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and cumin. I'm willing to bet that the duck will always be an option and never leave the menu.

FRESH CHEESE - PRETZEL, PARSLEY, STRAWBERRIES
The whimsical picnic basket course is always a grab bag, and this time around there were refreshingly tart pickled green strawberries, as well as a delicious parsley relish with honey that went beautifully with the fresh cheese and pretzel baguette. I also preferred the brown ale to the previous pale ale, but that's a very subjective preference.

WHEY - SORBET WITH CARAMELIZED MILK AND MILK FOAM
The cool thing about this dessert was that they utilized the whey that was used in the cheese-making process for the previous course. Unfortunately, while delicious, it wasn't a very memorable dessert.

ALMOND - BAKED ALASKA WITH RUM, CARAMEL, AND ADDITIONAL THEME INGREDIENT
Continuing the theme of celebrating iconic New York foods, the Baked Alaska featured another nice tableside presentation. Even though the dessert itself had been around long before, the name "Baked Alaska" originated at Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in 1876. Both the toasted almond ice cream and the cake were delicious, and the dessert once more featured our chosen ingredient from the start of the meal. While I liked this dessert more than the whey, I didn't think either of the two desserts were particularly novel or daring in combining flavors and textures.

PRETZEL - CHOCOLATE COVERED WITH SEA SALT

CHOCOLATE - SWEET BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE WITH MINT
The finishing sweet black and white cookie had a refreshing mint filling, providing one last note of Spring to send us off.

In a city filled with some of the best restaurants in the world and a culinary world where "chef personalities" are dominating more and more, Eleven Madison Park's most endearing trait to me is its humility. It may be ranked the 4th best restaurant in the world, but there's no, "you'll eat only what I want to make" mentality here. There's clearly a concerted effort that every dish be enjoyable to eat, not just interesting, cool, or thought-provoking to look at. To that end, EMP gives me the impression that they want to make the enjoyment of their dining experience accessible to as many people as possible, and not just pandering to already knowledgeable, jaded foodies in search of the new and exciting or rich folks who don't care how much they spend on a meal.

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

The NoMad Bar

Not a part of the f&f goings on, but took a peek at the space and it is gorgeous. I thought it was a stunner.

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

Dave, I left just as your first guest was sitting down. Yes the tacos were small, but even if you considered them half of a regular taco, the price was still slightly cheaper to inline with most of the tacos in the city now. Isn't the average non-food truck taco like $4 now?

Jun 13, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

15 East Question

But seriously, I find it amazing the number of posts I come across on CH where my gut reaction is, "Just call the restaurant and ask!"

Is this just how it is in the Opentable era which I refuse to participate in as I'm just a curmudgeon?

Jun 12, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

World cup games NON-Sports bar.. Latin place?

Louro is an excellent restaurant that will be showing all the World Cup games. The food is closer to Portuguese in nature (that's what they speak in Brazil anyway) and they will be rooting for Portugal (free shot for every Portugal goal)

Jun 11, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

For those who missed it the first time, Dave is doing tacos and tequila pop up at Louro today!

It should be less crazy than last time, but still plenty delicious! Details: http://www.louronyc.com/june-9/

Jun 09, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Help! TAKASHI (West Village) worth a visit?

It took longer than I thought, but my review is finally up here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/976278

I opened a new thread because I added a separate rant to it. Thanks valcfield for your recollection of the cuts, I think your list is correct.

May 20, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

The Cow Experience at Takashi

TRAVAILS IN RAMEN RESERVATION
So it all started about 4 weeks prior to when I wanted to schedule our group dinner. I showed up in person before dinner service figuring that speaking to someone in person would get me all the information I needed. I spoke with the hostess, who basically told me that noone had tried to do both dinner and ramen before, and that she wasn't even sure if they would have to kick us out during service change. She gave me further details about the cow platter (although one bit of information was wrong) and basically told me that the only way to get a ramen reservation was to go through the email process outlined on the website. Not completely satisfied with that response, I tried calling the restaurant a couple of weeks after and asked to speak to the general manager. The girl on the phone (probably the same hostess) suggested that she could answer my questions instead, but in the end basically repeated the same information.

So I accepted that I was going to have to go through the email process. The website said to submit reservation requests after 5pm on the Monday of, so I sent my email in at 5:01pm, explaining that I was trying to combine the cow platter with ramen. I was hopeful but realistic that reservations like these tend to go quickly. What I didn't expect was that I wouldn't get my reservation request rejected until 6pm the next day! I emailed back my frustration at the whole process and how I was now left with a 10:30pm reservation (and a midnight time limit) and I finally got to speak to the general manager on the phone.

It was finally explained to me that the ramen was treated as a separate business and so the hostess wouldn't really know much about it. It was confirmed that they would indeed have to ask us to get up as they changed service. It was also implied that the Friday midnight seating that I was trying for was actually their most popular, whereas I might have still been able to get something on Saturday night. It was too late by then, but I was finally given all the information that would have actually helped me make a reservation if I had been put in touch with someone knowledgeable on the matter to begin with!

In the end, we moved the dinner reservation up to 9:30pm, and confirmed that our whole party of 6 would do the cow platter. But this story doesn't end until I finally got to Takashi and had an exchange that completely epitomized my front of house experience up till then. After confirming that we were here for our reservation, I asked the host, "Is [name of GM] in tonight?" to which he replied, "Yes." And nothing else. ~Awkward silence~ As if I was just doing a survey and had no interest in actually speaking with the guy. Then again, I never did get to speak with the GM in person that night. By the way, since we left so late, we saw some of the ramen clientele. Most of them seemed to be Asian (Japanese specifically) and fairly chatty with the chef and staff as though they were regulars.

May 20, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

The Cow Experience at Takashi

As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

Takashi recently launched both a cow platter featuring 16 different cuts which they dubbed "the cow experience" and a limited late night weekend ramen. Doing both the cow platter and the ramen together seemed to me like an outrageous idea perfect for our foodie group, whose last few conquests included all the dim sum at Red Farm UWS http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/931161 and a whole lamb at Resto http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919465 Unfortunately, we weren't able to get a ramen reservation, and had to settle for the cow platter along with a la carte additions from the menu. In fact, I had a very unsatisfactory experience dealing with the front of house trying to sort out the ramen situation. I'll detail that experience in a reply below, so that it doesn't get in the way of those who are more interested in the food.

FOOD

THE COW EXPERIENCE (photo courtesy of CHer plumpdumpling
For $30 per person and a minimum of 3 people, the platter comes with 16 different cuts (1 piece per person) arranged on a platter that is the shape of a cow. I don't remember all the cuts, but there was tongue, cheek, shoulder, meat from in between the ribs, oxtail, sweetbreads, heart, liver, skirt steak, short rib, belly, two or three of the cow's four stomachs, and the large intestines. Like all of Takashi's offerings for the grill, you are offered a choice of Takashi's marinade or simple seasoning. Since we had 6 people, we actually had two of these platters, one with the marinade and one without. I don't know if they're willing to do it, but I would highly recommend the marinade for the chewier offal, such as the stomachs and intestines, while the meat and larger organs had cleaner flavors that worked well with simple seasoning.

While the cow platter had 16 cuts, it wasn't quite a complete nose-to-tail cow experience, so we added a few dishes.

CALF'S BRAIN CREAM IN TUBE W/BLINIS AND CAVIAR ($28
)The brain cream was very smooth and a bit mild in flavor. It was basically cream cheese with a very faint mineral beefy taste, and went well with the blinis and caviar. I did wish that it was seasoned more. I often find (in this case as well) dishes in restaurants where the chef assumes the caviar will provide enough salt for the dish but it ends up under-seasoned as a whole.

TESTICARGOT ($12)
No whole cow (well, bull) experience would be complete without the balls. The garlic shiso butter was delicious, although I would have preferred a hint of brightness (citrus). The texture was like eating grilled scallop coral, although a bit chewier. I enjoyed this dish quite a bit, although some diners in our group took a pass.

BONE MARROW AND CRAWFISH DUMPLINGS W/HONG KONG STYLE HOT PEANUT OIL SAUCE ($16)
No idea what about the sauce was "Hong Kong style", and I frankly didn't care for these. The crawfish flavor was evident but felt dull as opposed to fresh and sweet. Some of the diners in the group loved these, so it could be a matter of taste. I also thought they were very overpriced at $16 for two meatballs/dumplings.

FOIE GRAS STUFFED MINI KOBE BURGER W/CHOCOLATE BBQ SAUCE($24)
This thing was more like a mini meatball than a mini burger. It was so small I was surprised they actually managed to stuff something in it. The flavors weren't bad, but the chocolate bbq sauce, which they poured all over the "burger", muddled the flavors. If the sauce had been applied sparingly to the foie, and allowed the meat to still stand out for contrast, it would have been much better.

SQUID INK RICE & MISO-MARINATED SWEETBREADS WITH SPICY YUZU AIOLI, SERVED ON A MAGNOLIA LEAF ($20)
This, to me, was by far the best of the small bites/appetizers that we had. The small pieces of sweetbreads had a perfect crunchy chewy creamy texture, while the rice was full of umami from the squid ink. I'd never had squid ink with such short grain rice, but it worked beautifully, all cut with a bit of citrus in the aioli.

US KOBE MARBLED CHUCK-FLAT STEAK (6OZ, $35)
This is probably the best cut of meat that they offer at Takashi, and a must get. The only thing is that they cook it and slice it for you at the table as opposed to letting you cook it yourself.

MEGA SPARE RIB w/ BOURBON-FLAMBEED BARBECUE SAUCE (MARKET PRICE BY WEIGHT)
This was a special that night (they only started the night with three or four ribs) and definitely worth getting if it's available. I don't remember the exact cost, but we ended up with a 300g (bone-included) portion that felt reasonably priced. Just like the chuck-flat steak, they cook and chop it up for you at the table. The bourbon was very noticeable in the sauce, and once again I found the sauce ok but not necessary. At least this one wasn't poured all over the meat like the mini kobe burger.

SERVICE
Although I wasn't thrilled with my reservation experience, I did find service at the table to be quite good. The only issue I had was when we ended up with more calf brain cream than blinis and we asked for two more blinis. They brought them but didn't tell us the supplement cost for them. Not only that, they didn't even itemize them separately on the bill, but instead charged us $30 for the calf's brain cream (it says $28 on the online menu, which I assume is the actual price without extra blini).

OVERALL
It was a good thing that we managed to move up our reservation time a little. Despite the supposed two hour limit, we didn't end up leaving till around 12:30am. I do not recommend going with a group of 6 if you want a full yakiniku experience. You end up with the same grill as you would with 2 or more people, so while 6 people sat comfortably, they weren't all really able to grill their own meat. As far as the cow platter is concerned, it's a great way to try all the cuts they offer without spending too much money. But once you've tried all of them and have your favorites, I would recommend just ordering your favorites on subsequent visits. I found the appetizers/small bites to be very hit or miss, but the good ones were really good.

Overall, I would recommend Takashi to those who want to eat high quality grilled beef offal (either ordered separately or with the cow platter). I would also recommend them if you want high quality local beef for your yakiniku, but it probably works best if you have a small appetite or a big wallet (some of us ended up going to Grom after).

Takashi
456 Hudson St

May 20, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Marea or Juni

I think Juni and Marea are very different so it shouldn't be too hard to make a decision once you review all the suggestions here. And yes, CHers (including myself) have gotten a lot touchier about people holding multiple reservations so the sooner you make your decision the better.

Of the places on your "we've done" list, Marea is closest to Daniel. A large restaurant that does 200+ covers a night, it'll have a good buzz, with an emphasis on getting you fed really well (the prix fixe is suggested rather than a tasting menu), but not necessarily trying to impress you with inventions in gastronomy.

Juni, on the other hand, is smaller and quieter. The dining room is a lot less colorful (literally and figuratively). Hergatt really tries to wow with both the plating and the flavor combinations, and the emphasis is on the full tasting menu.

It really depends what you value more. In terms of food, the food at Juni has a higher ceiling to impress, but obviously that comes with risk. Marea is more consistent in terms of a great meal rather than a special meal, and the suggestion would be to focus on their pastas and whole fish rather than fish entrees. Another way to put it is that I think Juni tries to be a 3 Michelin star restaurant food-wise (not saying whether it will succeed or not) while I don't think Marea necessarily has that kind of ambition.

May 15, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Jean Georges still amazing

Glad you made it there and had a great meal! I was very impressed with JG during my meal last year. Both my dining companions had the asparagus and loved it.

There is one thing I'm noticing though in that most of the menu options seem similar to the ones I had last year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/900587

My favorite dish from last year that is on the current menu (as listed on their website) is the gently smoked squab. Might be the best squab I've ever had.

May 09, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Only Two Weeks Left for Live Jazz Upstairs at the NoMad

It never hurts to call them up and ask, but when I asked the GM on May 2nd he said it was going for two more weeks, which would be tomorrow and the one after.

May 07, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

It was a complete zoo. I was there at a booth at 5pm, then shifted to a two-top around 7-8ish. It's all pretty blurry to be honest. I think I have some taco photos that I'll try to upload.

I tried my best to taste all the tacos, although it was difficult since we ordered two of the 15 tacos + margarita combo and both came with the same three tacos x 5.

My favorites were the goat and lamb's tongue, both very tender and deeply flavorful. The short rib and potato ones were delicious too, though carb on carb isn't for everyone. All the sauces and crema were tasty too.

@Dave On my first order all the tacos had double tortillas. I wonder if he soon realized he couldn't keep doing that just from sheer volume.

Overall, I think he priced it too low. At a glance, it didn't seem like much of the crowd would return to the restaurant normally or actually appreciated just how good his tacos were. There was way too much of the NYU crowd and the deal-seeking, line up an hour early crowd for my taste.

May 07, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Only Two Weeks Left for Live Jazz Upstairs at the NoMad

As usual, full review with all the photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

Every Thursday for the past couple of months, the folks at the NoMad have managed to transform a meeting room on the second floor of the hotel into a fun venue for drinks, snacks, and live jazz. There are only two weeks left right now to experience live jazz upstairs at the NoMad, but it should return after the summer.

A regular meeting room gets done up simply but effectively. Each table is presented with a complimentary bowl of nuts perfect for drinks, the best being the round ones with a crispy coating, described to me as "like those Japanese snacks".

As there isn't a full kitchen or bar to work with on the second floor, only a limited number of drinks and snacks are available, with about 5 of each to choose from. Neither the fruits de mer platter nor the crudites are available due to the temperature constraint.

If you are lucky enough to snag a reservation, you can in theory have the table until they are finished for the night. The band plays throughout the night, but most of their guests tend to settle in for about an hour or two, usually as a pre- or post-dinner kind of thing.

Overall it's pretty cool, especially if you're already a fan of their food and drink. The live entertainment also provides more bang for the buck, if you happen to be generally hesitant about the NoMad's cocktail prices.

May 07, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

I'll be going to this today at 5pm. I'll probably be sampling all 9 tacos and taking pics.

Never really did a full review of Louro for various reasons, but was there for dinner a couple weeks ago and had another great meal.

I especially want to point out the cauliflower for two as a must get as it's leaving the menu if it hasn't already due to seasonal menu change. The cauliflower is first steamed, then roasted, resulting in an excellent texture that is super tender but not soft. The roasted char adds flavor and the addition of walnuts provides great texture contrast, while the pickled raisin puree (more sweet than sour) helps balance the flavor.

I also got the coconut lime braised fish head, which was kinda hiding at the very bottom of the menu. At $20 it's a great deal, and the broth was nice and soothing. It's delicious but the flavors are quite subtle.

May 05, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Atera - Really??

Make that four.
My review from 2.5 yrs ago that pretty much echoed this sentiment: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/879430

The only thing that is disappointing is that I'd been reading better and better reviews (CH and others) and was hoping they'd improved on that front.

Apr 21, 2014
fooder in Manhattan

Help! TAKASHI (West Village) worth a visit?

My complete review should come next week or so, but I have to disagree about the amount of food necessary. We had 6 people (the cow platter is portioned per person), ordered 7 extra special/small bites, the 6oz chuck-flat steak, a 300g (bone included) single mega short rib, and a couple of us still went to hit Grom after.

Apr 14, 2014
fooder in Manhattan