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97Sperss's Profile

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5 days in Chicago - Lots of tasting menus, want advice.

Went to Sixteen last night. I agree, good but not great, especially at the price.

Many of the courses were excellent, but the wine pairings definitely left something to be desired, I would say at least half of them didn't really elevate the food.

One of the highlights was the 2003 Bionic Frog that they had in the Coravin from the spring tasting menu. It was pretty awesome.

Going to Next tonight, we'll see how that goes.

Chris

Aug 04, 2014
97Sperss in Chicago Area

5 days in Chicago - Lots of tasting menus, want advice.

Tru is amazing, been twice and super choked that I'm not going this trip. L2O was also fantastic, but is very seafood oriented, so keep that in mind. I'm going to sixteen tonight. There are so many awesome places in chicago that it's nearly impossible to go wrong.

Chris

Aug 03, 2014
97Sperss in Chicago Area

5 days in Chicago - Lots of tasting menus, want advice.

Thanks for the suggestions Nxstasy and Gonzo, I was hoping you'd both chime in.

The Boka+Balena suggestion is a very interesting alternative to Sixteen, I'll have to look at the menus and consider this for sure.
I'd now really prefer Moto, but I don't think I can do it, as I don't want to miss any of my other four meals and none can be swapped because not much else is open Sunday. Moto will have to be next time I guess.

I've been to Topolobampo twice, both times for lunch, and not really overly impressed either time. I may get in line for Frontera this time and give one more shot.
Also loved Purple Pig last trip, so will return there for a lunch this trip.
Other lunches will probably be Eataly, pizza at some point, and going to try to make it up to Hot Doug's since they are going to close in October.
I'm trying to keep the lunches less intense given all the tasting menus for dinner.
I also keep reading about Naha for lunch, and will consider that for sure.

I tend to stay on a night time schedule because of work, but if I wake up before noon, I'll definitely go to Jam, it sounds awesome.

Thanks for all the input, this is going to be tough.

Chris

Jul 23, 2014
97Sperss in Chicago Area

5 days in Chicago - Lots of tasting menus, want advice.

Hey CHers,

The wifey and I are hitting up Chicago for another 5 night trip in a couple of weeks. This is my 3rd visit, and wifes 2nd. I've previously done Alinea x 2, Schwa, Tru x 2, L2O, Sprout, Purple Pig, Publican, GATG, Les Nomades and a few more I can't think of right now.

Alinea is awesome, but not going to re-visit as press has been less positive of late. I'm happy to remember Alinea as the best meal ever if they're on the decline.

We are huge Modernist/MG fans and think this is Chicago's strongest area, so we want a ton of tasting menus and are good with contemporary american every night. Here's the lineup and a couple questions at the bottom:

Sunday - Sixteen
Monday - Next
Tuesday - Grace
Wednesday - Goosefoot
Thursday - EL Ideas

Next, Grace and Goosefoot are set in stone for me, as we've never been to Next, and Grace and Goosefoot seem like the hottest places in town. Plus we've already paid for the non-refundable tix at Next.

Here are the Qs

1-Would you change out Sixteen or EL Ideas for Moto?
It seems like there's been a huge improvement at Moto in the past 2 years, and like I said, we love molecular cuisine.

2-Is there anywhere else you'd switch out for Sixteen? If so, why? I've looked at and probably wouldn't do L2O, Boka, Acadia, 42 grams instead, though I do love those restaurants. The only place I really still love is Tru (was blown away by Chef Martin on my most recent visit), would you do Tru or Sixteen?

3-Do Sixteen or Grace allow BYOW? I know Goosefoot/EL Ideas are BYOW, and Next isn't, but no reply from Grace/Sixteen when I emailed.

4-Any other places that I may be totally missing?

5-I'll be going for another 5-7 days next June, so there will be time for Balena, Boka and Tru again then.

Thanks,

Chris

Jul 23, 2014
97Sperss in Chicago Area

Licence to Eat Review - Estiatorio Milos Lunch Special (with pics)

Hi CHers,

Here's my most recent review of the fantastic lunch special at Estiatorio Milos in the Cosmopolitan. This is an amazing deal and one that you should definitely check out. Go here for the review with pics, text only review is below.

http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Cheers,

Chris

Estiatorio Milos

June 10, 2013

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas

Website here

Originally started in Montreal, Estiatorio Milos is a Greek restaurant franchise also found in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. For what it’s worth, I consider The Cosmopolitan to have one of the best collections of on strip restaurants, also including Scarpetta, Jaleo and the secret E by Jose Andres.

Milos’ is famous for two things, octopus and its lunch special. This was my 4th time (Camille’s 3rd) having lunch here, and as always, we opted for the $22.13 three-course lunch special. This is an amazing value anywhere, especially center strip.

However, some of the courses incur a supplemental charge, including the grilled octopus ($10), the lobster pasta ($15) and a few others. That said, you MUST try the octopus, it’s mind-bottling awesome.

We started with a pair of wines by the glass, one Assyrtiko and one Assyrtiko-Sauvignon Blanc blend. Both were very good, with the straight Assyrtiko being full bodied with pronounced stonefruit, apple and minerality. The Sauv Blanc blend was bright with crisp acid, gooseberry, citrus, and mineral flavours. The blend paired perfectly with Camille’s Lavraki (sea bass), while the straight Assyrtiko paired best with the lobster. Both paired well with the grilled octopus.

Aside on Assyrtiko: This is an indigenous grape to the Greek island of Santorini and is quite phylloxera resistant. It is used to make Retsina and other Greek white wines. It is medium-full bodied (think Chardonnay) and maintains good acidity and minerality.

We both started with the grilled octopus ($10 supplement) as our appetizer. Flown in daily from Portgual, the octopus is tenderized (AKA beaten back and forth in the sink) and then oven poached in red wine vinegar, olive oil, bay leaf, peppercorns and sea salt. It is then removed, cooled to fridge temperature and portioned. Before serving it is grilled over a high heat flame, basted with olive oil and tossed with red onions, capers and lemon. This results in amazing flavour and a texture not found in any other octopus that I’ve had. Quite simply, this is a MUST EAT IMMEDIATELY dish!

For our main courses, Camille chose the grilled Mediterranean bass (Lavraki), while I went with the lobster pasta ($15 supplement). Seared, salted and served simply with capers, olive oil and lemon, the Lavraki was rich, fresh, and buttery. Bass is a delicious but neutral fish, and generally will not whack you over the head with flavour. This was no exception.

The lobster pasta is composed of spaghetti served with one pound of fresh lobster meat, plus the entire crustacean carcass on the plate, which looks awesome. The lobster had a rich, meaty texture, and was amazingly tender (better than Per Se) while the al dente spaghetti was topped with a light tomato sauce. An excellent combination and great value considering the amount of lobster served.

For dessert there are three options, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and walnut cake. Having had all three in the past, I decided to re-visit the yogurt while Camille chose the fresh fruit. The yogurt is uber-thick and topped with an apricot drizzle, a very good full fat Greek yogurt. The fresh fruit was fairly standard with a few cherries, raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and blueberries. The desserts are decent, but definitely the weakest point of the meal.

Overall, the Estiatorio Milos lunch is one of the best in Vegas, both from a quality and value perspective. While it does ring in at $47 if you order both the octopus and lobster courses, many 3-course options can be had for the $22.13 price. The room is beautiful, service is solid and the octopus is killer. If you haven’t been, add a Milos lunch to your next Vegas visit.

Cheers,

Chris

Jun 18, 2013
97Sperss in Las Vegas

Tojo's - Detailed review with pics

Hey JS and LR,

Agree 100% with both of you. Sushi in Vegas at Yonaka or Kabuto is far better than Tojo's and it's in a frickin desert.

Cheers,

Chris

Jun 11, 2013
97Sperss in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Jean-Georges Lunch - Detailed Review with Pics

Thanks Ellen,

JG was surprisingly awesome, we enjoyed it more than our other two 3 stars of the trip (Per Se and EMP). We were both shocked by this.

Cheers,

Chris

Jun 09, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Jean-Georges Lunch - Detailed Review with Pics

Hey CHers,

Here's a review of a fantastic lunch at JG in NYC from our trip there in February. Full review with pics can be found here: http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Text review below. Cheers.

Jean-Georges

1 Central Park West, New York, NY

Feb.27 2013, Website here

Following our dinner at Eleven Madison Park the night before, we fancied ourselves up for the final 3-star Michelin experience of the trip at Jean-Georges. As our dinner schedule was already jam-packed, we decided to do JG for lunch. Located on the ground floor of the Trump Tower, and only a stone's throw from the Time Warner Center and Per Se, Jean-Georges would end up being one of the most outstanding meals on our trip.

After dropping off our jackets, we were seated at a secluded table tucked into an alcove near the back of the restaurant. Ultra-cute and private, this table was perfect for us to take photos and write notes without disturbing other diners or staff.

Having already eaten multiple tasting menus on our trip, we went ahead with the 3 course Tastes of Spring Menu, rather than the 6 course lunch tasting. We were also given a complimentary additional course, and with the trio of amuses, mignardises and dessert, we were thoroughly stuffed after this 3+ hour lunch.

Soda

Amuse Trio

Starting with the 6 o'clock position on the plate was beet, walnut, microgreen and creme fraiche served on a small piece of rye bread. The sweetness of the warm beet combined well with the walnut to provide a clean start to the meal.

Next was fluke with citrus snow. The tangerine, elderflower and buttermilk snow was bright and clean while the fluke had great texture. Fabulous balance of salinity and acidity from the citrus.

The final amuse was sweet potato puree with dashi foam and parmesan. Good flavour, this was a warm and comforting dish on a cold, rainy day in New York.

Although not intended (we asked the server), this amuse trio felt like a progression of seasons with the fall beets, wintery sweet potato and bright citrus in spring/summer. This was a great start to our meal.

Bread

Pierre Peters Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru MV

Seeing a seafood heavy menu in our future, we decided on a Blanc de Blanc to pair with our meal. A super light style, this Champagne was nearly transparent. Fine mousse, lemon, slate, clean and with massive acidity, this paired well with the lighter fish courses and also cut through the creaminess of later ones. Stylistically this is like Lanson and other very light Champagnes.

Egg Caviar

The egg, caviar, creme fraiche, gold leaf dish at Joel Robuchon is easily one of our top 5 dishes of all time, and thus we always have to choose any combination of egg and caviar when it appears on the menu. This version featured lightly scrambled egg topped with vodka/cayenne whipped cream and American sturgeon caviar. The creamy sweetness of the egg and whipped cream were balanced by the salty caviar and the cayenne provided a lingering touch of heat on the finish. Excellent.

Left: Sea scallop, caramelized cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsion.

Right: Peekytoe crab dumplings, celeriac-meyer lemon tea.

Halved and seared, the scallops were topped with crunchy caramelized cauliflower. The curry and Indian spices in the caper-raisin puree provided pop to this well balanced, rich dish.

The Peekytoe crab dumplings were rich and buttery with a lovely, thin wonton wrapper. Small pieces of julienned meyer lemon, apple and celery again gave great acid to the dish, while the tea base was light and delicious.

Left: Seared Gulf Shrimp with Kabocha squash

Right: Parsnip ravioli, beet jus, olive oil

These courses were complimentary (seems to be common when you take notes) and were both unique and unexpected in flavour profile.

Cooked perfectly, the Gulf shrimp had great texture and were amazingly sweet while the Kabocha squash was infused with curry, cajun and chipotle. Sweet, rich, spicy, one of the best dishes of the day.

The parsnip ravioli was an off menu course with a sweet flavour profile from the beet, parsnip and small pieces of coconut jewel scattered throughout. The brunoised white beet was infused with citrus, but overall I found this dish needed a bit more acid to balance the multiple rich/sweet components.

Left: Black sea bass crusted with nuts and seeds

Right: Arctic Char, spiced jade emulsion, tender white asparagus

The sea bass was cooked perfectly, flaky and moist. The maitake mushroom broth was rich with earthy mushroom flavour and cut by the acidity of citrus infused pearl onions. There were also squash, potato and celery pieces in the broth, again cooked just right.Overall a lovely dish, though I found the bites without the citrus onion to be overly rich.

One of my favorite fish, the massive piece of arctic char was served with celeriac, microgreens and a jade emulsion. The vibrant green of the emulsion was visually stunning, and the flavour was unexpected and awesome. Infused with spicy chili peppers, shrimp base and celery, the sauce provided great heat and bite to balance the rich char. The ratio of fish to sauce was excellent, such that every bite was enjoyable. Fantastic!

Winter dessert: Poached pear and butterscotch caramel with green apple granite

Part one of the dessert duo was a poached pear coated in rose petal and crushed pistachios. The presentation before the warm caramel was poured over the pear was beautiful, and about half of the pistachio pieces fell off with the caramel. The caramel and poached pear were good, with the highlights of the course being the whipped cream center of the pear (where it had been cored) and the crunchiness provided by the pistachio coating. Overall solid, though not spectacular.

The butterscotch caramel w/ green apple granite was less successful, with the buterscotch tasting grainy and a little bit burnt. The green apple granite was acidic, light and improved the butterscotch.

Fresh Marshmallow and Mignardises

One of the famous JG items is the fresh marshmallow cart. Trolleyed around on a cart, one server cuts the large marshmallows into four for each guest. Soft and delicious, I could eat a lot of these.

The mignardises tray was also above average, with nougat, a gelee, chocolates, and macaroons.

Service:

The service was excellent at JG, with our Captain being very gracious and interested in our experience and particularly how JG compared with other places on our NYC food tour. We told him JG was excellent, especially compared with Per Se.

Water and wine were refilled quickly and quietly, plates were cleared immediately and other than one snobby server, it was great.

Overall:

Jean-Georges proved to be one of the most consistent meals of our NYC dining experience, and falls in with Bouley, Momofuku Ko and Jungsik as a top 4 meal of the trip. Highly recommended.

Cheers,

Chris

Jun 09, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Tojo's - Detailed review with pics

Hey CHers,

Just got back from a trip to Vancouver and had the opportunity to try Tojo's. The review with pictures can be found at: http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

The review without pics is below. Cheers.

Tojo’s

1133 West Broadway, Vancouver, Canada

June 3rd 2013

www.tojos.com

As part of the U of S CAEP 2013 expedition, the staff docs took all the residents out for dinner at Tojo’s. One of the most highly praised Vancouver sushi restaurants, this was a generous and much appreciated gesture from the staff.

The six course omakase began with a bowl of mixed tuna and hamachi (yellowtail) marinated in a sauce of mirin (rice wine), wasabi, soy sauce, sesame seeds and green onions. The regular tuna texture was a little on the soft side, while the hamachi was much firmer and fresher. The sauce had great balance from the sweet mirin, salty soy and heat of the wasabi. Overall this dish was great but could have been even better if the regular tuna were omitted in favour of more hamachi or toro.

Next up was a tempura course consisting of piping hot shiitake mushroom and stuffed zucchini leaf tempura. The thick piece of shiitake mushroom was perfectly cooked and kept a nice level of chewiness. The zucchini leaf looked beautiful and was stuffed with chopped scallop, herring roe, raw carrot and yuzu. The crunchy carrot and pop of the herring roe was a great foil for the soft scallop, while the yuzu provided lingering acidity on the finish. However, this dish still could have used a bit more “pop”, something to elevate it to the next level. Overall I loved the originality, presentation and attention to detail of this dish, but it lacked the flavour explosion and depth of an excellent course.

Seared Sockeye salmon served on vegetables with Kyoto miso (light yellow) and freshwater eel sauces (dark brown) came next. The fish was cooked perfectly and combined well with the light Kyoto miso sauce. The eel sauce was richer and heavier, and helped balance the sweetness of the miso. Apparently Kyoto miso is sweeter and less salty than typical miso. The bed of snap peas, yellow peppers, enoki mushrooms and carrots were solid but unspectacular. Overall this dish was solid, but had the feel of something I could cook at home. If I couldn’t, Camille certainly could without much problem.

The 4th course picture is partially eaten, it started as 3 albacore tuna rolls, not just the one seen above. The albacore roll was tempura battered and deep fried briefly, topped with plum sauce, shiso and basil, and served on a mushroom, long bean mixture. This was my least favorite dish of the night. The deep frying had cooked too much of the tuna, while the plum sauce was a bit out of balance with its spice and acidity. Furthermore, the long beans were slimy and flavourless. Bland tuna, strange sauce and slimy long beans, not a good mix.

Left to right (top row): Spot prawn, hamachi (yellowtail), salmon + avocado roll

Left to right (bottom row): Herring roe roll, Spicy tuna roll, Scallop/tuna/salmon wrapped in egg crepe

The penultimate course was a 6-piece sushi course. Overall, they were all average/good, but nothing earth shattering in the group.

For dessert we had a sesame panna cotta with sesame crisp. For those of you who don’t cook with sesame oil, it is an extremely powerful ingredient; generally one or two drops will flavour an entire dish. This made for an interesting and tasty dish, great if you love sesame. As expected it was still one dimensional due to the power of sesame.

Wine

There were a pair of sakes to begin the meal, one cloudy, one clear. I tried the clear, Tojo’s Choice Dai Ginjo sake. Clean, with floral and stonefruit flavours, it was on the alcoholic side for a sake. A few at the table were not sake fans, so we ordered a 2009 Inama Vin Soave and a Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir. The Soave was clean with stonefruit, pear, great minerality and good acid. It was great with most courses of the omakase. The Pinot was a full bore, round, new world style with huge cherry-berry fruits and ample oak. As we say, a good chugging wine.

Service

Despite the large group size (16), the service was attentive and informative, with our server informing each section of the table of the ingredients in each course as it was served. Water and wine refills were timely.

Overall, Tojo’s was a good, but unspectacular dinner. A similar experience can be had for much less in most cities, including Vancouver. There were a few dishes that had potential for “wow factor”, but they always missed the extra ingredient or texture to elevate them to the next level.

Cheers,

Chris

Jun 09, 2013
97Sperss in B.C. (inc. Vancouver)

Eleven Madison Park (EMP) Review - Feb. 26, 2013

Hi all,

Here's a review of my recent meal at EMP in February. It is very long, and the full review with photos can be found at:

http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Text review is below.

Cheers,

Chris

Eleven Madison Park
Feb. 26, 2013
11 Madison Avenue, New York - www.elevenmadisonpark.com

When we initially decided to go on our NYC culinary adventure, Camille and I emailed Scott Weingart, the only person we knew in New York. In addition to being a famous medicine podcaster over at EMCrit, Scott is also a big time foodie. A little known fact is that Scott did a few years of culinary school prior to medicine. We first met Scott in Las Vegas at Essentials of EM, when we went out to Lotus of Siam with Scott and a slew of other famous bloggers/podcasters. He is a hilarious and down to earth dude who likes to have a good time, eat great food, and make dirty jokes. Pretty much the same as us.

On this occasion we had the pleasure of meeting his wife, who is a double boarded Pediatrician and Peds Anesthetist. In keeping with the typical anesthetist, she is a little calmer and less ADD than Scott, and overall just a super nice person.

After discussing a few possible restaurants, we decided on Eleven Madison Park (EMP), one of three Michelin 3-star restaurants on this trip, along with Per Se (review here) and Jean-Georges.

First some background on EMP. Situated on the main floor of the Metropolitan Life North Building, EMP has a massive amount of space (much of it kitchen) because the Met Life building was originally intended to be 100 stories tall. Designed by Corbett and Waid in the 1920s, the Met Life building would have been the world's tallest building at the time, were it not for the stock market crash of 1929. Looking at it from the outside, you can see the original intent to be a monstrosity towering over Manhattan. Unfortunately, it looks a little stumpy next to the South Met Life Tower.

To start the evening we had a bottle of 1996 Fleury Champagne. Fleury is a biodynamic producer making a small amount of predominantly Pinot Noir Champagne. Coming from the legendary 1996 vintage, this 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay Cuvee was fantastic with baked apple, lemon, toast and cinnamon on the nose. There was also an oxidative quality on the nose and palate, somewhat like the 1986 Krug Clos de Mesnil we had at Richard's birthday. The most striking characteristic was the intense acidity, almost at the level of an extra brut. Fermented in stainless steel, this was like pure malic acid, which gave it a medium-plus finish. In a good spot right now, this versatile Champagne could be paired with anything from fish to pork.

Onto the food.

A primary theme of our menu at EMP was "New York". How novel.

We would both start and finish the meal with a traditional NYC snack, the black and white cookie. Typically, the "half and half" is a sweet cookie composed of half vanilla fondant and half chocolate fondant. In this meal, we would begin with a savory black and white cookie, and complete the meal with the sweet version.

Cheddar - Savory Black and White Cookie with Apple

A delicate cookie with ample cheddar flavor and soft crunch, these were filled with crab apple chutney. Having had the Per Se gruyere gougere a few days earlier, I wished for a bit more richness and depth of flavour. Akin to a glorified Goldfish cracker, this was a decent palate cleanser to begin the meal.

Oyster - Sorrel, Buckwheat, and Mignonette

The next course was presented beautifully, a Duxbury oyster topped with Champagne vinegar mignonette, puffed buckwheat and sorrel. While a lovely presentation, this dish was a total miss for Camille and I, for different reasons. Camille's oyster was too heavy on the mignonette, while mine was ridiculously over peppered. In both cases, the entire mouthful was overwhelmed by a single flavour, acid for Camille and black pepper for me. In hindsight, this was the single biggest miss of any dish during the trip, which encompassed well over 100 individual dishes during the 7 days. Harsh words to be sure, but this dish really failed due to its lack of balance.

Shrimp - Marinated with Olive Oil, Horseradish, and Fennel

Next up was a taste of sweet Maine shrimp, with fennel and horseradish used to highlight the natural flavour of the shrimp. Creamy and rich, the shrimp was good, though a bit gelatinous in texture from having multiple pieces so close together. Reminiscent of a Chinese shrimp dumpling in texture, if you like those, you would enjoy this. For me a good, but not great dish.

At this point you're probably like "Wow, this meal sucked"! In hindsight, the first three courses were pretty weak, though it would improve from here.

At this point we opened a Riesling alongside the Fleury, to pair with subsequent courses. At the suggestion of our Sommelier, I went with a 2002 Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling Kabinett. Pure kerosene on the nose initially, with honey and lemon notes, this was on the sweeter side for a Kabinett, and a bit lacking in acidity. Overall a solid wine, but more acidity would have added balance and improved it immensely. For the same price point, I should have gone with the 2002 Karthauserhof Kabinett, a far superior wine.

Note: The 2002 vintage in Germany is vastly underrated, and wines can be had at bargain prices from this vintage. The Germans are meticulous about their viticulture, and almost always make great wines, even in the toughest vintages.

Sea Urchin - Custard with Apple Gelée and Scallop

This dish was light and balanced, the softness of the panna cotta and uni contrasting with the firmer scallop texture. Lemon juice and tart apple gelee provided acidity and brightened the fish flavour. While very good, this was nowhere near the caliber of a similar Uni dish we would have at Bouley later in the week.

Clam - Surf Clam with Morcilla Sausage and Celery Root

The first "wow" course of the meal, the crumbled morcilla sausage provided depth and richness, while the light and airy celery root espuma was a perfect foil to the heavier sausage. There were also sweet tiny pieces of pear, celery root and chive to complement the clam. An excellent course.

Clam - Clambake with Whelk, Parker House Roll, and Chowder.

One of several elaborate multi-part courses of the dinner, this began with the great aroma of the hot water poured over the rocks to ignite the senses. The whelk (snail) was light and balanced by the freshness of lemon and fennel, with a slight crunch from the couscous. The radicchio and pear were a classic pairing to match with the clam, and again were fresh and vibrant. The best part was the clam chowder. Rich and deep, this was the essence of clam.

Parker House rolls: Rich, buttery and delicious and topped with great finishing salt. Nuff said.

Bread and Butter

The second bread course was a light, flaky roll paired with two different butters. The first was from the Chef's favorite creamery, while the second contained some of the beef fat from out upcoming rib eye course. Both were superb.

Scallop - Seared with Radish, Caviar, and Apple

Creme fraiche, caviar and scallop, how can you go wrong? This was an elegant presentation and had clean flavours with multiple textures of scallop (fresh and steamed). The apple and radish provided crunch, sweetness and heat. A well composed and balanced dish.

Carrot - Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments

The next course would be another interactive and memorable one. A play on the traditional tartare course, lightly blanched carrots were ground tableside and served with a variety of garnishes including (from top left): apple mustard, sunflower seeds, pickled quail egg yolk, smoked bluefish, chives and broccoli flower, pickled mustard seed, grated horseradish, pickled apple, and Amagansett sea salt. There were also two squeeze bottles which contained spicy carrot and mustard oil, respectively.

Mixing all of the accompaniments with the carrot, this dish was a spectacular success, with huge depth of flavour and balance. The sweetness of the carrot was offset by the spicy oils and horseradish, acidity of the pickled apple and mustard seed, with all the flavours tempered by the rich egg yolk. This had all the components of a 5/5 dish, great flavour, originality and creativity, while simultaneously being visually impressive and interactive.

Lobster - Poached with Citrus, Tarragon, and Daikon

Another beautifully presented course, the sweet lobster was elevated by subtle flavours of daikon radish, dehydrated citrus (grapefruit and blood orange) and tarragon. Licorice from the fennel, acidity from the citrus and a touch of heat from the daikon, this was a well executed and balanced dish.

1999 AR. Pe. Pe Sassella Rocce Rosso Riserva

From Valtellina in the Northern province of Lombardy, this 100% Nebbiolo (known as Chiavannesca in Valtellina) was chosen to pair with the upcoming beef and cheese courses, though it would do fine with many fishes as well. Garnet in color, a traditional Nebbiolo nose of cherry, tar, and mushroom, this had racy acidity on the palate and improved over the evening. A great, less expensive alternative to Barolo/Barbaresco.

140 Day Aged Rib Eye

The piece de resistance of the meal at EMP, the 140 day aged rib eye was the oldest I've ever tried. Brought out two courses before it would be served, it was fascinating to see the extent of the mold development after almost 5 months of hanging. The mold extended at least 3/4 of an inch deep around the cap, and probably a good 1/4-1/2 inch around the bone. The marbling of the rib eye was impressive as well, though it has to be in order to be capable of dry aging for this long.

Potato - Baked with Bonito Cream, Shallot, and Pike Roe

A contrast of textures, this course included smashed fingerling potatoes, a crispy russet skin and a potato cup. This was effectively still a fish course, with the strong Bonito cream and black shellfish sauce being tempered by the velvety potatoes. Another very good course.

Beef - Beef Broth

The multi-part beef course began with beef broth made from the delicious 140 day aged rib eye. Deep, rich, and closer to a demi glace than a jus, this was unctuous and amazing. A perfect broth.

Beef - Grilled with Mushrooms, Amaranth, and Bone Marrow

This was another of the standout courses at EMP, and typically we find beef courses to be overrated. The grilled beef was perfectly cooked over charcoal, and amazingly deep in flavour due to the extended dry aging. There was also an exquisitely tender morsel (beside the hen of woods mushroom in the photo) which may have come from the cap, though I'm not sure. It was sublime. The accompanying bone marrow was soft and rich, while the amaranth and black garlic were a crispy contrast. The Hen of Woods mushroom was charred nicely and the dish was reminiscent of the "burnt forest mushroom" course from Alinea last year.

Beef - Braised Oxtail with Foie Gras and Potato

The final part of the beef course was similarly excellent. The ultimate custard, this was a perfect dish of deep oxtail, rich foie gras and topped with potato foam. I could eat a vat of this.

Greensward - Pretzel, Mustard, and Grapes

Another playful course, we were next presented with a picnic basket containing everything we would need for our "Picnic in Central Park". The cheese was a soft, nutty, cow's milk with a washed rind. There was also a pretzel bread, mustard, grapes and a craft beer from Ithaca Brewery. The beer was a high acid, "food beer", much like the Jolly Pumpkin or Jose Andres ales, and paired awesomely with the bread, cheese and mustard.

Malt - Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer

Another New York tradition, this was our first experience with egg cream, a carbonated vanilla drink. This was good, but nothing special.

Maple - Bourbon Barrel Aged with Milk and Shaved Ice

The first of two plated desserts, this was like the French-Canadian tradition of shaved ice with maple syrup. Except that was picked up with popsicle sticks instead of a spoon. The bourbon gave it a little extra oak and spiciness, and this was a delicious, if somewhat nostalgic course.

Earl Grey - Sheep’s Milk Cheesecake, Honey, and Lemon

This was a well balanced dessert with a rich but not overly heavy cheesecake, loads of bergamot from the Earl Grey, and some nice acidity from the lemon and creme fraiche. Very enjoyable.

Magic Trick - Chocolate

At this point our server came out with a deck of cards and performed a magic trick, in which we selected a point in the deck and she then flipped four cards, each with an ingredient symbol upon it. They lifted an upside down cup previously placed on our table to reveal the exact chocolates we had selected (different for each person). The server did a good job from the illusion standpoint, though Camille didn't listen to her spiel at all, and watched for the obligate deck switch during the trick. Overall, I thought it was well done, and about as good an incorporation of magic as could be expected.

The chocolate itself had a thin crispy outside and creamy hazelnut center.

Tea Service - Oolong

Quite simply, this was the best tea service we've ever had.

EMP offers a tableside Manhattan cart to begin the meal, and optional tableside coffee/tea at the end. Being major tea lovers, we opted for an Oolong from The Pursuit of Tea.

This was served Gongfu cha style, with a rinse followed by three steepings. We asked for a fourth steeping, preferring the delicate flavors of later steepings. A separate server came to do the tea service, he was caring, meticulous, and timed each steeping.

It was a high quality Oolong with medium oxidation and still fairly green. The first two steepings were earthy, spicy and had good astringency/tannin, while the third and fourth steepings were subtle, with delicate floral notes and virtually devoid of tannin. A fantastic tea service, something we should adopt at home.

Pretzel - Chocolate covered with sea salt

The penultimate dessert was a large chocolate pretzel. We love pretzels, and these were great.

Chocolate - Sweet Black and White Cookie with Apricot

The final dessert brought us back to where we started, with a sweet black and white cookie. This time a butter cookie filled with apricot chutney, these were more enjoyable than the savory version at the start of the meal.

Apple Brandy Eau de Vie

If you need an after dinner drink, their Eau de Vie is complimentary.

The EMP-Alinea Connection

In September 2012, Alinea and Eleven Madison Park traded locations for 1 week each. A crazy idea, it was apparently conceived by Chefs Grant Achatz of Alinea and Daniel Humm of EMP over a few drinks one night. And thus, Grant Achatz brought his team to EMP and Daniel Humm's staff traveled to Chicago. Video footage of this monumental event can be seen here on YouTube.

This meal had a definite Alinea feel to it, particularly with the interactive courses, opening of boxes and baskets to see what was inside, and the presentation/flavors of the rib eye and clam dishes. I am not sure if these were conceived before or after the Alinea exchange, but in any case, they were the highlights of the meal at EMP. I am curious what techniques were adopted over at Alinea.

After our dinner, Camille and I toured the EMP kitchen and had a nice 5-10 minute chat with the Chef de Cuisine. The most notable things about EMP's kitchen were:

1)It is massive. Being the base floor of a proposed 100 storey building allows for a huge amount of space.

2)The atmosphere is happy. Most kitchens of this caliber are very business-like. At Per Se and Alinea, the kitchens are nearly silent, save for the voice of one person at a time. EMP actually had a few people talking, joking, and they seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.

The Chef de Cuisine gave us some insight into the EMP/Alinea exchange, and apparently the kitchen environment at Alinea is just a tad more militant than it is at EMP. That's putting it mildly. If you read Achatz's autobiography, I think you'll get a sense of how things run at Alinea.

Service

Overall excellent.

Only gripe was that they did not tell us what was in the course a few times because we were talking amongst ourselves. This is a matter of personal preference, but I like to be gently interrupted when a course arrives so that I can hear the details. A few times they just put it down and walked off, without waiting for even a second for us to stop talking. Eventually we decided to shut ourselves up whenever they came with a new course.

Overall

EMP had several spectacular courses, and has the potential to be a 5/5 meal. The carrot tartare, clam espuma and rib eye courses were memorable and were "wow" dishes in conception and execution. The playfulness and interaction also added to the overall experience. Unfortunately, the first 4 courses underperformed, and the oyster with mignonentte was a huge miss. Because of this, based on this meal, EMP does not fall into the pantheon of our greatest meals, and I'm unsure that I would re-visit on my next NYC trip.

Special thanks to Fooder from Chowhound and ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot.com for many of the pictures for this dinner. You can read his take on the same meal at his blog, linked above. It was very dark in EMP, and some of my photos did not turn out that great.

Thanks for reading,

Chris

Mar 31, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Kabuto Review with photos

Don't miss out on Chada Thai either, it is Bank Atcharawan's (former GM at Lotus of Siam) new place in Chinatown. Amazing Thai food. I'll be there next month and have to go to Kabuto and Chada Thai.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 29, 2013
97Sperss in Las Vegas

Kabuto Review with photos

Hi CHers,

As usual, you can see the full post with photos here: http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Text only review below.

Cheers,

Chris

Kabuto Sushi
Las Vegas
Nov. 2, 2012

Kabuto is a new addition to my favorite Vegas dining district, the area of Chinatown near Spring Mountain and Decatur. The strip mall at Spring Mountain and Hauck may be home to the best collection of restaurants in Vegas. On this night, we had the opportunity to try out Kabuto, a Sushi restaurant that opened about six months ago.
After landing an hour late due to inclement weather, we picked up our rental car and drove straight up the I-15 to Kabuto, and made it there about 5 minutes late for our reservation.

As you can see, Kabuto is a quaint, clean atmosphere, and a reflection of the precision and attitude of its chef. The menu is succinct, with only 4-5 options, one of which is the Omakase for $80. This includes the following courses: aperitif, appetizer, sashimi, grill, nigiri (4-5 pieces of edo-mae (read: small) style sushi), miso soup, hand roll and dessert. Additional sushi can be added at your leisure, and we added many extra pieces.
Fish is flown in from Japan daily, 7 days per week. Chef informed us it was initially 4 days per week when they opened, but doing just ~30 covers per night, they were running out of fish regularly. As a result, they had to add three more flights per week out of Japan.

Onto the food.

For our drink, we chose a Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo Sake. This is a cold sake with tremendous floral character and a clean, refreshing palate. Being more familiar with wine, sake is always an interesting contrast, as it is very light, but does not have the acidity of many white wines. Sake is actually very dangerous because it goes down so smooth, despite being 16-20% alcohol.
This was a very nice sake and it complemented most of the dishes well over the course of the evening.

The aperitif was house-made fuji apple sake, but only about 2% alcohol. It is aged 200 days, and was a refreshing, though straightforward, start to the meal.

The first course was marinated Benito, tiny cucumber, Waikiki seaweed and one of their special soya sauces. The Benito was topped with fresh horseradish. This was a beautiful first dish, with tremendous depth of flavor. This was our first time having Benito in non flake form, and it has a great firm texture. Camille, who despises all things cucumber, actually said she “loved the cucumber” which is high praise. My only complaint about this dish was that there wasn’t more of it.

An aside about their sauces, they use multiple excellent soy sauces, including a 3 year aged soy sauce imported from Japan.

Next up was the sashimi course, which consisted of two pieces each of: Bluefin tuna, rainbow runner (menada), jack mackerel (ma-aji) and striped pigfish (isaki). Though all were very good, the highlights were the menada and isaki, both of which we’ve not had before. Again, high praise, considering the quality of Bluefin (Camille and Chef’s favorite fish).

A trio of grilled items came next, Kobe beef with soft daikon paste, grilled otoro (tuna belly) with ponzu and flankfish with yuzu salt.
The otoro was the highlight here, and the grill gave it a slight crunch and texture that balanced beautifully with otoro’s typically soft texture. The Kobe beef and flankfish were two of the more disappointing courses of the evening. Though I didn’t ask the grade, Kobe beef never really does it for us, and this was no different. The flankfish was unfortunately slightly overcooked and dry. The yuzu salt was awesome though, I could definitely add that to the salt collection.

Now came a tiny bowl of roe served on rice with a delicious sauce I cannot recall. This was a refreshing intermezzo before the heavier courses that followed.

The saltwater eel (anago) was next. A large piece of anago, this was smoked, topped with sauce and served on rice. This was one of the best textures of the evening, with the dense eel center surrounded by creamy, fatty eel on the outside.

Next up came the Nigiri course, which is generally 4-5 pieces of Edo-mae style sushi. Edo-Mae is a sushi style originating in Tokyo with very small pieces, and can actually be eaten in one bite, as opposed to the giant pieces often served in North American sushi restaurants. The nigiri on this night included flathead (kochi), gurnard (houbou), marbled rockfish (kasago), trout belly (harasu) and medium fatty tuna (chu-toro). All of these were flavourful and delicious, particularly the eel and trout belly. Also included was a piece of sweet omelet nigiri to finish this course.

At this point we added extra nigiri courses. Additional choices included fresh sea urchin (uni) from San Diego, premium fatty tuna (otoro), a second piece of sea eel, and marinated blue fin tuna (zuke), which is marinated for seven minutes in 3 year aged soy sauce. All were wonderful, but the otoro and uni were particularly excellent. Easily the best uni and otoro I’ve had, though this was likely a function of freshness (having been flown in that day).

Next came an otoro hand roll. I think this was a special option available to us, as the other choice was a blue crab roll, which is not nearly as flavourful. Camille opted for the blue crab, which was good, though somewhat bland. I chose the otoro, which was fantastic and the size of about 4 pieces of otoro nigiri.

Along with the hand roll came their miso soup. A very good miso soup, this came with the option of fish or mushrooms. We both opted for the mushrooms.

The final course was dessert. I decided on the strawberry and crepe layer cake with strawberry coulis. This had layers of thin crepes separated by strawberry mousse with about 12-13 crepes in total. I particularly liked the chef’s inspiration for the dish, which came from the layered rocks of Red Rock Canyon outside Las Vegas. Pretty and delicious, though not mind altering. Camille chose the pear ice cream, which was excellent and better than the layer cake.

Overall, Kabuto was fantastic, and a great addition to the Las Vegas dining scene. Though I’ve not eaten at Bar Masa or Sen of Japan, by all accounts, Kabuto is comparable to them at a fraction of the cost. It is definitely worth a trip down Spring Mountain, and is a formidable addition to this great foodie area. Getting great sashimi and sushi in the middle of a desert is difficult, thanks to Kabuto, it can be done at a reasonable price.

Mar 25, 2013
97Sperss in Las Vegas

E or L'Altelier for anniversary dinner?

E by a landslide.

Have done both a couple of times, and E really has interaction with the chefs and staff at a much higher level than almost any restaurant. It's private, fun and delicious. The food is also more inventive and better than Atelier. Our first meal at E is easily in my Top 5 of all time, in May of 2011. Second meal was only a couple of months later, in July, and was a bit less impressive because most menu items were the same, and the chefs had more difficulty with seasoning. Also, Edwin Robles was cooking the first night, and he is a wizard in the kitchen.

Atelier is very good, but there isn't much interaction with the chefs, and the menu is less creative than E. That said, it may be a bit more consistent than E, which has the possibility for the occasional "miss" dish.

Enjoy wherever you decide to go and Happy Anniversary!

Chris
licencetoeat.wordpress.com

Mar 23, 2013
97Sperss in Las Vegas

A Thorough Review of the New Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu (very long)

Thanks. I'll certainly link your blog.

It sure did seem a lot brighter in your shots than mine.

It would make sense that the carrot was slightly cooked, thinking back on the texture/flavour.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 20, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

A Thorough Review of the New Eleven Madison Park Tasting Menu (very long)

Thanks for the great and very detailed report. I recently ate at EMP as well, and enjoyed it immensely.

While I took pictures at EMP, they are much darker/dimmer than yours, would you mind if I used some of those on your website and gave you credit for them?

Thanks,

Chris

Mar 19, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 1 Reviews: Katz's Deli and 15 East

I'm not sure about the commercial, I've never seen or heard of it. I think it's awesome that you're all trying so hard to explain where sammich came from.

For me, sammich actually just comes from patients in the ER (generally lower SES ones) who ask for a sandwich, but just don't speak very good English. That's where it comes from for me. No commercials or anything.

That said, it does sound like something Rachel Ray would say :)

Mar 13, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 1 Reviews: Katz's Deli and 15 East

Our reso was for 930, which is the latest seating. About 10 people can sit at the counter.

Mar 12, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 2 Reviews: Per Se

Hey Ellen,

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to hear about Alinea for you.

Wine is actually my main area of expertise anyway, and Per Se's list presents a pretty serious challenge due to crazy mark-up. Riesling is where it's at!

Nice cat picture :)

More reports to follow on meals at Bouley, Jungsik, Babbo, Jean-Georges, Shopsins, EMP, Momo Ko and more from this trip. Jungsik, Bouley, JG and Ko were the favorites, but I think either Jungsik or Ko would be my overall #1.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 10, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 1 Reviews: Katz's Deli and 15 East

I believe you are right. Kabuto is definitely grilled, I'm not 100% on 15 East, though they had a similar sauce with some smoke flavor in both cases.

Mar 10, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 2 Reviews: Per Se

For a complete review of Per Se with photos, visit http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Text review below.

Cheers,

Chris

Per Se

4th Floor Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, New York

www.perseny.com

The single biggest reason for our visit to New York was to dine at Per Se. Unfortunately, it would be the biggest disappointment of the trip.

*Scroll to bottom if you want to see meal summary now.*

Having overtaken Alinea and newly appointed as the number one restaurant in America, the anticipation for this meal was comparable only to my excitement for my two previous meals at Alinea. Opened by Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) in 2004, Per Se is now the flagship restaurant in his empire. In addition to being ranked the #1 restaurant in 2012, there were two other storylines adding to the excitement for this meal.

First, Thomas Keller is Camille’s favourite chef, and his cookbooks have led to many delicious meals at our home. I look forward to dinner for 2-3 days every time she begins one of his elaborate recipes.

Second, Keller trained Grant Achatz of Alinea (pronounced A-linea, not Al-in-ea) in Chicago. Achatz (pronounced Ak-ets) was Keller’s sous-chef at The French Laundry and the two are great friends. In my eyes, Achatz may be the greatest chef in the world. Having dined at Alinea twice in the past two years, and both times having the greatest meals of my life, I was looking forward to Per Se blowing my f***!ng mind.

Regardless of this review of Per Se, and the outcome of the Obi Wan Keller-Darth Achatz Jedi battle, it is an amazing feat that mentor and pupil helm the two foremost restaurants in the United States. The list of chef’s trained under Keller and Achatz is also awesome, and run many other fantastic American restaurants.

*Unfortunately, this review will not have pictures of every course, as it was very dark at our table, and many pictures were of poor quality without flash. I’d rather not show pictures at all when they don’t truly represent the presentation, it’s unfair to the chef. I was able to take some good pictures, and will use a few others from the internet and credit the websites.

Per Se is located on the 4th floor of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle. The false set of blue doors pay homage to The French Laundry, the real entrance is the set of automatic sliding glass doors next to them.

Upon entering we passed through the salon area, which is a no reservations area where you can order The prices are reasonable, and the setting is less formal than the dining room. It’s a great option for those who have an unexpected visit to NYC, and can't make the requisite 30 day in advance reservation.

Speaking of which, getting a reservation at Per Se is no easy feat. Their website says reservations are available both by phone and on OpenTable exactly one month in advance at 9 AM. In order to get ours, I needed two phones, two laptops and tried for two days to secure a 5:30 PM reservation. It sounds kind of like the rule of 2s for Meckel's diverticulum. (Google it if you have no idea what I'm talking about) I was on hold for a total of 120 minutes before finally getting through to obtain the reservation, about $30 worth of U.S. minutes from Canada. OpenTable doesn't seem to actually have reservations except last minute ones, so it could be pretty rough trying to make a reservation from overseas.

Onto the food.

The menu at Per Se changes daily. The only constants on the menu are the two amuse bouche courses and the "oysters and pearls" course. However, many ingredients are used frequently because of the relationship Keller has with his purveyors. As a sign of gratitude (I think) a manual containing information about each purveyor is given to guests at the end of the meal.

The meal came in three acts: two amazing amuse bouche courses, the disappointing courses before the truffle pasta, and the excellent courses thereafter.

The first amuse was the Gruyere gougere, a perfect fluffy pastry ball stuffed with Gruyere cheese. Soft pastry, warm cheese, delicious.

The second amuse is the famous salmon tartar cornet. Sashimi grade salmon, finely minced chive and shallot, red onion creme fraiche, and wrapped with a wafer-thin, buttery tuille. Absolutely explosive flavour, I could eat dozens of these.

The two amuse courses were everything we expected. Awesome!

Wine

After looking through the extensive wine list (on iPad), we ordered a half bottle of the 2001 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel. A stunning wine, this had great petroleum, peach and sultana raisin notes, with lively acidity and a long finish. 2001 is such a brilliant vintage in Germany, you cannot go wrong. The wine paired wondefully with almost every course.

This brings up the point that white wines are nearly always the way to go when pairing with tasting menus. There are usually no more than 1-2 red meat courses, and viscous wines like German Riesling (Kabinett-Auslese) pair with everything from fish to foie gras to light red meats.

Unfortunately, we did not order or get our wine until after the first or second course. This is one of my major peeves when dining, being rushed to choose from the wine list. If you are a restaurant with a 100 page wine list, how the hell do you expect a wine crazy person to read and choose within 2 minutes of sitting down. We enjoy perusing the entire list and finding something that is a relative bargain. This is especially important when the wine list is marked up 4-500% such as at Per Se or Charlie Trotter's. Several times on this trip we felt rushed to order our wine, and sometimes food would begin coming before we had even ordered the wine. Just slow the f#$k down already.

The first course of the meal was Keller's other signature dish, "Oysters and Pearls". A "Sabayon" of pearl tapioca, a heaping spoonful of white sturgeon caviar, and two Island Creek oysters. The tapioca had great texture, and just enough firmness to offset the medley of other soft textures within the dish. Nice salinity from the caviar, though overall the dish seemed a bit round and lacking in acidity. The acidity in the wine complemented the dish very well.

*No pics for next few courses, sorry.

For the second course we both chose the Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm “Bavarois”. (A foie gras dish was available for an additional supplement). This was a lovely presentation of thin heart of palm ribbons surrounded by rhubarb, sorrel, Kishu mandarins and drops of preserved black walnut puree. The heart of palm itself did not have much flavor, but was very creamy in texture, and balanced by the acidity of the rhubarb and peppery sorrel. The puree was rich like aged balsamic. Overall this was the most creative and beautifully presented course of the night. However, the appearance was the best part of the dish, and there was no wow factor with respect to the flavour profile. If you click here you'll find a similar appearing heart of palm dish.

For the third course, we had a pave of Meditteranean Turbot. The fish was well cooked and had a shrimp mousse sandwiched between the fish and golden brown outer crust. This was accompanied by a green garlic confit, two small pieces of romaine lettuce and caramelized salsify sticks which had a tasty buttered potato fry flavour. The beurre rouge (red butter sauce) was forgettable and did not contribute to the overall dish. The turbot and mousse were both quite dense, and like the Oysters and Pearls this dish lacked balance, mostly due to a lack of acidity. The Auslese did pair excellently though.

The next course was the low point of the meal. Butter poached lobster tail with parmesan mousse, broccolini florettes and chanterelle-toasted barley potage. The description sounds amazing, but unfortunately the combination of thick chanterelle sauce, parmesan mousse and lobster was overly heavy and rich. For the third time in four courses, too much butter and a lack of acidity led to an unbalanced dish. The highlight of this dish was the toasted barley which gave a crunchy textural contrast to the rich sauces and buttery lobster. If anyone remembers wheat crunch from mid 1990s grade school, that's what this tasted like. This dish would have been much better with less chanterelle sauce, and an acid or heat component. I literally said to Camille "maybe I should ask for a lemon". Yikes!

Thankfully we would be pulled from depression to mania at this point, as we had opted to supplement a black truffle course. Camille is a truffle eating fiend; we also did an 8 course black truffle tasting at Bouley and a truffle pasta at Babbo this trip. I'm pretty sure she'd train our kids to sniff out truffles if she could. Though white truffle season was over, we were in the heart of black truffle season.

The truffle pasta was a perfect al dente hand cut tagliatelle covered in a massive load of black truffles. They shaved truffle until the pasta was completely covered, and also generously added more truffle midway through the course. If you look at the above box, one of those whole truffles was shaved for our two plates. Nutty, earthy and beautifully aromatic, this was easily the dish of the night (DOTN), pretty much pure heaven.

Up next was the lamb course (Option for Wagyu beef supplement) which was a sous vide piece of Elysian Fields Farm's loin and smaller piece of tenderloin. The tenderloin was amazing, rich and melt in your mouth soft. Served with Meiwa kumquats, braised pine nuts, and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms the bright acidity of the kumquats helped to cut the richness of the meat and sauce. The mushrooms were perfectly cooked and earthy, while the pine nuts added little to the dish. I noted here that the flavours in the sauce were less developed than the demi-glace Camille prepares at home using Thomas Keller's French Laundry recipe. A bit shocking. However, this was still a great dish, though the pine nuts could have been left out. The tenderloin piece was reminiscent of the perfect sous vide lamb cooked by Chef Bear at the Marcus Whitman Hotel 3 years ago.

A prepared cheese course of Andante Dairy's Musette came next, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from California sitting on a potato millefeuille and coleslaw. The spiciness of the slaw and acid of Burgundy mustard balanced the nutty cheese. There were also two sweet and delicious dehydrated red onion rings, which tasted more like beet rings than red onion.

Next came a refreshing Champagne mango sorbet, with papaya, coconut cream and coconut merignue. Light and airy, this exploded with floral and tropical flavours with great interplay between sweetness and acidity. It was balanced without any hint of being cloying. Simple but superb, an outstanding dish.

The final course on the menu was a Calvados "Parfait". Granny Smith apples, hibiscus puree, vanilla custard and maple syrup gelee. The Calvados ice cream ball was covered with oats (I think) which gave crunchy contrast to the soft ice cream. Great textures, all flavors were well integrated and everything belonged on the plate. Another outstanding dish.

At this point the Mignardises began with a tiny mandarin orange ice cream sandwich. This was a great bite, bursting with orange.

The house made chocolates came next, an assortment of 24 varieties. Camille had the smoked black tea chocolate, while I chose a smoked and cinnamon chocolate. Both were of excellent quality, probably the best house made chocolates we've had in a restaurant.

The last mignardises came in a three tiered apparatus; the bottom tier contained lime, milk and dark chocolates, the middle tier was two types of macaroons, and the top tier contained toffees and nougat. The lime chocolates were fantastic, while we were too full to finish the other chocolates. One of the macaroons was very good, while the other tasted strangely like Uni. The toffee and nougat were also great.

As a final gift from our server Kevin, we were brought the famous French Laundry "Coffee and Donuts" dessert. Cappuccino semifreddo and cinnamon-sugar donuts, the warm donuts were like super awesome Timbits and the semifreddo had an amazing soft and velvety texture. You can find the recipe online or in the French Laundry cookbook. This was a great way to finish the meal.

After finishing our meal we visited the kitchen and witnessed the team in action. Most remarkable was the near silence despite the flurry of activity at the various stations. No yelling, no clanging of pots and pans, just silent efficiency. Also of interest was that there are no walk-ins in the Per Se kitchen, so no ingredients can ever be stuffed on a shelf behind others and spoil. They have a tight system of labeling and accountability for prep as well.

After much discussion and analysis, these are my final thoughts on Per Se:

1)On this night, Per Se was a letdown. It was not in the same league as Alinea, and it unfortunately was only the 5th or 6th best meal we had on this New York visit.

That is disappointing, as we both love Thomas Keller and respect him greatly for all his contributions to the world of food. He was not in the kitchen, and we didn't expect him to be. At this point in his career, I would be impressed if Keller still made it to the kitchen regularly or even conceptualized the dishes. In Grant Achatz's "Life, on the Line" he spoke about doing most of the work for the cookbook with the other sous chefs at the French Laundry, and that was over a decade ago.

2)The meal came in three acts: the two amazing amuse bouche courses, the disappointing courses before the truffle pasta, and the excellent courses thereafter. Two technical criticisms were the lack of balance in several dishes, and unnecessary ingredients in completed dishes. Every item on the plate should contribute to the overall dish.

3)The most lacking element of the meal was "wow factor". When dining at restaurants of this reputation and quality, perfect execution and technical skill does not cut it. There needs to be something more, flavours should explode, there should be depth and evolution across the palate, and dishes should be memorable. Several dishes had wow factor, including the salmon cornets and truffle pasta. However, at $125 for the truffle supplement, I'm pretty sure anyone can make a wow factor dish.

4)We will give Per Se another chance next time were in New York, especially because the menu changes daily. Maintaining a standard of excellence while changing the menu daily is a huge challenge, I wonder if it would be more intelligent to keep each dish for a few days or a week in order to perfect them.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 09, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 2 Reviews: Public Brunch

For a complete review with pictures, visit http://licencetoeat.wordpress.com/201...

Cheers,

Chris

Public
210 Elizabeth Street, New York City, February 24 2013, www.public-nyc.com

Public restaurant opened in the NoLita/Soho area in 2003 and since that time has won multiple awards, including a Michelin star in 2009. The chef, Brad Farmerie, has also appeared on Iron Chef: America, and beat Cat Cora in Battle "Maple Syrup". Public serves dinner as well as a first come, first serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday. As it's a popular spot, showing up before 11 AM or after 2 PM will greatly reduce your wait time.

Public is a beautiful space, designed by the AvroKo design group. In addition to its culinary awards, it has also received a James Beard foundation design award. The space can be best described as a chic industrious-modern design, with brick, warm woods and clean lines. One of the cool aspects is an old fashioned library card catalog that contains their old menus from each date. There is also a cool horse head on the wall, which even Camille loved (She rides/loves horses). Ok, ok, enough with the design comments, this is a food blog.

As it was already almost 1 PM by the time we were seated, we decided to stick with a light menu. Dinner at Per Se would be in 4 hours, so we couldn’t fill up too much. Having a myriad of brunch options in NYC, I chose Public based on its diverse menu with more esoteric brunch items.

To start I had a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, while Camille had a Jasmine tea. The OJ was a spectacular burst of summer, but I guess it should be at six dollars per 8 ounce glass. The tea was aromatic and light, a standard Jasmine. We were also given two small scones to start, one cranberry, the other fennel seed. Both were good, but a bit dry.

Camille decided on the tropical fruit bowl with rosewater and sweet tahini yogurt, while I chose the coconut pancakes with fresh ricotta, mango salad and ginger-lime syrup.

The tropical fruit salad was a bit of false advertising, containing only grapefruit, orange, grapes and pineapple. I wouldn’t really consider the first three to be tropical fruits. Regardless, the salad was a pretty dish, with great aromatics from the rosewater and chiffonade of mint. The flavours were bright and clean, with the mint and rosewater adding an element not found in a typical fruit salad. The tahini yogurt was thick and delicious. The two gripes about this dish were the lack of tropical fruits (eg. guava/papaya/mango) and that the rosewater somewhat overpowered the other flavours.

The coconut pancakes were light and fluffy, with a definite coconut flavour. The mango salad and ginger-lime syrup were excellent, and made for a more tropical topping than Camille’s salad. The ricotta was great as well. As a big fan of coconut, I was hoping for more coconut flavour, but I think that the texture would become too fibrous if more was added. In order to make super coconut-y pancakes, you’d likely have to add the flavour elsewhere, either in a cream, drizzle or extract. Overall I still enjoyed this dish very much.

Our server was knowledgeable about all menu items, and service was efficient and attentive.

Public is a visually stunning restaurant and serves a unique brunch. The food was great, with only minor critiques. We unfortunately couldn’t order more due to our dinner at Per Se a few hours later, but the egg dishes seen at other tables looked wonderful. They also had a table with 3-4 types of scone and various preserves, which guests were welcome to grab at their convenience. Again, we didn’t try these due to belly space restrictions.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 09, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Day 1 Reviews: Katz's Deli and 15 East

For complete reviews with pictures, check out my new food/drink blog at

www.licencetoeat.wordpress.com

For text reviews only, look below.

Katz' s Deli
205 E Houston Street, New York City, Feb 23 2013

The first stop on our culinary adventure was Katz's (pronounced Cats) Deli, a New York institution since its opening in 1888. We are conveniently staying on the Lower East Side only two blocks from Katz's, so it was no problem to walk over for a sammich. To understand why I call sandwiches, "sammiches", you may have to look over here at and algorithm from my medicine blog.

Katz's is famous for both their pastrami sandwich, and their history of being a backdrop for movies. Two of the more famous scenes filmed in Katz's are the "I'll have what she's having" scene in When Harry Met Sally, and the meeting scene in Donnie Brasco. The Meg Ryan scene is embedded below and linked to here. If you haven't seen it, you may not want to turn it on at work, lol.

When you walk into Katz's, you get a meal ticket, which you are instructed not to lose. All your purchases go on the ticket, and you have to present it upon leaving, regardless of whether you eat anything. I'm not sure what the penalty is if you don't present the ticket.

I decided to try the famous Pastrami sandwich on rye, while Camille went for an order of potato latkes.

First, the bad. The latkes are heavily deep fried at Katz's, and this unfortunately gives them the consistency of medium density fibreboard (MDF). Think of a potato+glue+sawdust mixture thrown in a deep fryer. Not good! Latkes should be fried with a crunchy exterior, but still maintain a soft, fluffy texture on the inside. They should not be a homogeneous mass. Plus, these sit like a brick in your stomach.

Next up was the sammich. Fortunately, this did not disappoint. Two thin slices of light rye, dijon mustard (not sure if commercial or proprietary blend) and a heap of pastrami. The meat was ultra tender and moist, and shockingly was not salty. The flavors were reminiscent of childhood, and somehow reminded me of hot dogs and bologna, which was pretty unexpected. There was also a mild smokiness to the meat, and a good ratio of meat to fat (about 25-30% fat). You can order extra lean if you want for a dollar extra. Overall, this was an excellent sandwich, and we ranked it near the top of our pastrami/smoked meat sandwich pyramid.

Sides

Pickles: When you order a sandwich, you get 3 half sour and 3 regular pickles. They were solid, but nothing spectacular.

Beer: I chose a Katz's Ale to go with the meal and it was better than expected. Nice molasses and honey flavors, smooth and easy drinking.

Overall, Katz's is as much about experience as the food, as there is a great deal of interesting history on the walls of this NYC establishment. Stick with the classic pastrami and don't "have what she's having" if it's potato latkes. It'll sound a lot more like a beached whale than an orgasm.

15 East

After Katz's earlier in the day, we headed to Pouring Ribbons for a few drinks before dinner. Our first dinner would be at 15 East, the beautiful restaurant of Masato Shimizu, who wins my award for most personable and hilarious sushi master ever. The highlight of the meal was interacting with Masa, as well as the party of 3 next to us at the sushi bar.

Background: 15 East is one of the consensus top tier sushi restaurants in Manhattan. It was opened by Masato Shimizu 6 years ago, and Masato (Masa for short) came from Japan. Regarding reservations, you can book online through Open Table, but in order to sit at the sushi bar (which I'd highly recommend), you must call and request by phone.

As an aside on sushi in NYC, Masa (Run by Masa Takayama) in Times Square is the only Michelin 3 star (BTW, I'm not a big fan of the Michelin Guide) sushi restaurant in NYC, but this has more to do with extravagant luxury ingredients used in every course than anything else. A meal at Masa will run you $400-1000/pp, while Omakase at 15 East is $65-95 and a full Kaiseki meal is $120.

15 East is a lovely space; after entering you may go left to sit in the main dining room, or right to sit at the sushi bar. This separation of the two areas is great as it offers an intimate option for couples in the main room, and a more interactive environment at the sushi counter.

Sitting down at the sushi bar, we decided on the sashimi and sushi Omakase. Having had a drink already at Pouring Ribbons, we chose a roasted tea to go with dinner. Much like at Raku in Las Vegas, this was a roasted and fermented tea, and paired great with the fish because of its heavy body, bite and moderately tannic finish. It was also replaced with fresh glasses 3 times during the meal, even when we had yet to finish it. This was a nice touch, as the tea was always hot.

To start we had an amuse bouche of pickled daikon radish (not pictured). Simple, clean and palate cleansing.

The first course was slow poached octopus with sea salt. Buttery, good texture and mild in flavor. A solid octopus dish.

The sashimi course was composed of two pieces of six fish, plus one ebi (shrimp). The highlights were the arctic char, gruntfish and bluefin otoro. Surprisingly, our consensus #1 was the arctic char, which had great texture and flavour. The gruntfish was seared with a blowtorch, giving it great textural contrast between outer seared portion and the soft, inner flesh. The otoro was extremely marbled, with the appearance and texture of Kobe beef. The others were all above average, but again did not blow us away. We will have to start seeking out more arctic char. At this point in the meal, I was a bit underwhelmed, but things would improve from here.

The sushi course began with a Japanese sea perch (not pictured), cherry salmon and the cooked shrimp head from our earlier sashimi course. The sea perch was excellent, and the cherry salmon was the first "wow" bite of the meal. It has a supple texture and is much lighter/less oily than any regular salmon. According to Masa, cherry salmon only grows to about 18 inches in length, so is completely different than other salmon. Truly a delicacy. We ordered a second piece after our set nigiri course was finished. The ebi head was very good. Mmmm, tasty brains.

This was my first time with golden snapper, and it is much softer and creamier in texture than it’s red cousin. Chu-toro, which comes from the back of the tuna, is a less expensive and less fatty version of otoro. This chu-toro was still more marbled than most, and tasted great.

There were three types of uni available on this night, Santa Barbara, Maine, and Hokkaido. The Californian sea urchin was fresh, with typical ocean and salt flavors. Camille is not super fond of uni, which is understandable given its polarizing texture and flavour profile. However, the Hokkaido uni was a revelation for us both, as it is much milder, with a creamier texture and more delicate flavors than the North American varieties. It is also much more expensive, unfortunately. For those out there who dislike uni, you should definitely give Japanese uni a chance. It is exquisite. For the last bite of the tasting, I had anago (saltwater eel), which was good, but not quite to the standard of Kabuto. Camille had salmon roe, which had great pop and salinity.

At this time we were quite full, and Chef Masa was in a great mood. It was the end of the night on Saturday, meaning another week of hard work complete. One girl in the party of three next to us knew Masa well and was a frequent guest, so Masa pulled out all the stops by making ridiculous hand rolls with scallop + uni, monkfish liver + uni, and an ultimate roll of scallop + monkfish liver + uni. These were massive hand rolls and probably were worth about $30-50 each, but he was giving them away. We had complimentary otoro hand rolls with a full handful of otoro in each. They were awesome. He also made this disgusting looking but awesome tasting concoction of scallop, uni and quail egg mixed together on a plate and served over rice. He said it was what his grandpa made for him as a child. That’s quite the childhood.

At one point in the hand roll making, Masa, broke a piece of seaweed and said “Ah, fuck” in a hilarious way that cracked the five of us up. He has a great personality and was very interactive with everyone. He also makes a point to educate his guests, which is much appreciated.

Though we were too full for dessert, we were comped two desserts by the chef. Both were delicious, light and refreshing. The Mineoka tofu is a house made cow's milk tofu set in kuromitsu syrup, it was creamy and the kuromitsu had deep, buckwheat honey like flavour. The trio of sorbets were all potently infused with their respective flavours.

Service: The service at 15 East is professional, courteous and efficient. Water and tea were refilled constantly, drips and drops wiped up promptly, and overall was unobtrusive once the meal began. After initially taking our order, there was really very little interaction with the service staff, as Masa himself chatted with us regularly.

15 East was a great experience, primarily because of Chef Masa. The sashimi course could have been a bit better, but the sushi course was fantastic. My biggest recommendation would be a late reservation on a Saturday night, as Chef Masa gets hilarious and generous when he knows the weekend is coming.

Cheers,

Chris

Mar 09, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

1st Trip to NYC, input/suggestions needed for Michelin stars, ethnic food and bars

Great suggestion to put tea before dinner at Per Se. My wife wants to do tea days anyway, but it looks like the tea hours are all 3-6 PM. Does anyone know of tea that starts early on a Sunday?

Feb 05, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

1st Trip to NYC, input/suggestions needed for Michelin stars, ethnic food and bars

Thanks,

So where would you recommend for a lighter breakfast/brunch on Sunday? We have Per Se at 530 PM, is Public's brunch lighter? We are eating a late dinner at 15 East the night before.

The Nomad sure looks good.

We have pretty much booked most things and it looks like this:

Saturday - Bouley late lunch (5 course Prix Fixe), 15 East late dinner

Sunday - Minetta Tavern Brunch (?Change to somewhere lighter), early dinner at Per Se

Monday - Breakfast at Russ+Daughters, away for lunch, dinner at Babbo

Tuesday - Lunch at Yasuda, dinner at EMP

Wednesday - Lunch Jean Georges, Dinner at Momofuku Ko with Ssam
Bar as back-up. Possibly make dessert only reso at WD-50

Thursday - No breakfast/lunch chosen (Shopsins/Katz's possible), dinner at Jungsik

Friday - No breakfast/lunch chosen (Shopsins, Katz's possible), dinner at Kyo Ya

Saturday - Brunch at Public, fly out at 6 PM, so may need a quick East Village/LES snack before we leave.

Bars
PDT
Pegu Club
Pouring Ribbons
Booker and Dax
Mayahuel
Death and Co

Late night eats in EV/LES - Luke's Lobster rolls, Tacos Morelos cart, Motorino pizza

Feb 04, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

NYC Itinerary: Michelin, Bars and more, help finalize/critique

Hey CHers,

Thanks for all the help with planning so far in the other thread. The 53 replies were super helpful.

Now that we're less than one month out, we have booked up everything except Momofuku. We still have some finalizing to do, so we would love to hear your suggestions. We're staying in the East Village for 7 nights. We are a couple of young foodies and this is our first trip to NYC and we're crazy psyched.

Here's the itinerary, please help us balance it out with breakfasts/lunches.

Saturday - Bouley late lunch (5 course Prix Fixe), 15 East late dinner

Sunday - Minetta Tavern Brunch, early dinner at Per Se

Monday - Breakfast at Shopsins, away for lunch, dinner at Babbo

Tuesday - Lunch at Yasuda, dinner at EMP

Wednesday - Lunch Jean Georges, Dinner at Momofuku Ko with Ssam
Bar as back-up. Possibly make dessert only reso at WD-50

Thursday - No breakfast/lunch chosen (Russ + Daughters, Katz's, Empellon Cocina possible), dinner at Jungsik

Friday - No breakfast/lunch chosen (Russ + Daughters, Katz's, Empellon Cocina possible), dinner at Kyo Ya

Saturday - Brunch at Public, fly out at 6 PM, so may need a quick East Village/LES snack before we leave.

Bars
PDT
Pegu Club
Pouring Ribbons
Booker and Dax
Mayahuel
Death and Co

Late night eats in EV/LES - Luke's Lobster rolls, Tacos Morelos cart

Is there a go to late night pizza place in the EV/LES near our bar areas? Other late night eats?

I know our itinerary is super heavy on the French/New Am, so other stuff is great.

Thanks for all the advice.

Cheers,

Sperss97

Jan 29, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

1st Trip to NYC, input/suggestions needed for Michelin stars, ethnic food and bars

Hey Lavendula,

Are you talking The Nomad hotel? Where do you eat, atrium, parlour, etc.? I looked at the menu and it looks great. Maybe we will add it as a brunch the day we leave (Saturday).

We were planning on skipping Veselka anyway.

Would you still recommend Yasuda now that the chef has left? The reviews have looked brutal since then.

So far we have locked up
Saturday - Bouley lunch, Babbo dinner
Sunday - Minetta tavern brunch, Per Se dinner
Monday to Saturday are still > 1 month out so will be booking up as the days come.

Finally are there any other great brunch recs, esp. if in the LES/EV?
We missed out on Public (they're all booked for the next 8 weeks, damn!) I'm thinking Minetta Tavern and NoMad right now for our two brunches.

Thanks,

Chris

Jan 25, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Manhattan dining adventure: Is Brooklyn Fare a must go or not?

We live in Saskatoon right now, so there's no asian food at all. NY Noodletown sounds great.

Any other good late night suggestions?

Jan 12, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Manhattan dining adventure: Is Brooklyn Fare a must go or not?

Hey all,

Thanks for the feedback. Foodwhisperer, the reason I started this post was your review of CT@BF, so thanks for that. We both loved E by Jose Andres in Vegas, and this sounds to be a similar style of dining to that. ie: multiple courses, rapid pace, direct interaction with chefs.

I agree with famdoc that it is not the responsibility of chef's to talk to us at all in the restaurant. They cook, we eat, that's the agreement. It is a bonus when they are fun and personable in addition to being great chefs.

Also, money does matter to us, but out #1 priority in life is food, so that's where all of our money goes. Into our bellies!

I think after all the feedback, it is probably better to stick with Babbo and pass on CT@BF for this trip.

Thanks for all the feedback.

Sperss97

Jan 12, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

15 East - Is lunch that much worse than dinner?

Hi CHers,

Planning an upcoming Manhattan chow trip with my wife from Feb. 23rd-Mar 2nd.
We want to do 15 East as well as Yasuda and Kyo Ya, but some reviews seem to say 15 East is not nearly as good at lunch as at dinner?

For those of you who have done lunch and dinner, can you comment on this?

Thanks,

Sperss97

Jan 11, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan

Manhattan dining adventure: Is Brooklyn Fare a must go or not?

Hi all,

I have another thread located here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/885107
and am wondering if Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare is a must go on my trip, or if it can be missed?
The reason I ask is that if I want to try booking it, I have to start calling tomorrow AM, as I'm in NYC Feb. 23-Mar. 2nd.

The rest of my itinerary looks like this:
Breakfasts
Shopsins
R+D
Public Brunch

Lunches:
Jean-Georges
Bouley
Yasuda
Katz's
Mission Chinese (possible
)Empellon Cocina

Dinners:
Momofuku (Ko with Ssam back-up) followed by WD-50 desserts
Per Se
EMP
15 East (Considering it as lunch)
Kyo Ya
Jungsik
Brooklyn Fare vs. Babbo

Late Night:
Minetta Tavern
Tacos Morelos cart

Thanks for looking

Sperss97

Jan 11, 2013
97Sperss in Manhattan