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Where to find the best crispy charred brussel sprouts

I haven't had them for probably three years but still remember how good they were at Frankie's. It doesn't look like 457 has them on the menu right now, but 570 does!

Feb 12, 2015
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Cosme Review + Photos (practically the entire menu)

(All of my photos in order are here:


Eater called it “One of NYC’s Most Relevant New Restaurants“. The New York Times gave it three stars the very day I went. Chef Enrique Olvera has what’s considered Mexico’s best restaurant and just guest-judged an episode of “Top Chef: Boston” filmed there. This chef is hot, and you know he knows it the moment you walk in the doors of Cosme to find a bar crowded with people not there to eat but just to be. The decor is mostly black, punctuated by little pots of succulents and a direct beam of light on every table strong enough to make professional photographers and hardcore Instagrammers alike swoon. The tables are spaced so widely that you get the idea the restaurant’s more concerned about your comfort than making an extra buck–although maybe that’s why they do charge an extra buck (or ten) for everything–and I can’t remember ever hearing the conversations of anyone around us even though the electronic-tinged soundtrack wasn’t overbearing at all. It’s borderline clubby, the kind of restaurant a non-New-Yorker thinks all New York restaurants are like, but it never felt pretentious nor snooty. And the food? Well, it was tiny and very expensive, but that sure didn’t stop us from eating a lot of it.

Most things we tried sort of tasted the same in that they were like, “Here’s something with onions and cilantro and avocado! And here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado! And now here’s a different thing with more onions and cilantro and avocado and did we also mention onions and cilantro?” But those are the flavors I most associate with Mexico, for one, and for two, who cares when the food is so good? The first thing I tried was the mussel tostada, and I don’t care a lick about mussels in my regular, non-Enrique-Olvera life, but these were plump and tender atop a tortilla crisp and coated in that creamy chipotle mayo given even more of a kick by the sliced peppers. The hamachi, so humbly presented, was actually deep layers of sour and umami with fish sauce, bold black lime, and fermented chilis. Acids were everywhere, lemons and grapefruits and tomatoes and pineapples. One of the stunners of the night was the cobia al pastor, served with a gloopy pineapple puree that I had a notion to scoop right out of the bowl with my finger, and fresh warm tortillas for making tacos. A review I read said that the tortillas were almost flavorless to provide a blank canvas for the proteins, but my group entirely disagreed and thought that the things the chef was doing with corn were his best things.

Unfortunately, we had to fight for those tortillas. Even though we were a table of six and were ordering all but four dishes off the entire dinner and dessert menus combined, our cobia came with two tortillas. Our plate of hamachi came with five pieces. The one dessert we didn’t order never showed up at the table for us to try with a wink from the chef like it would have in the NYC restaurants with the best front of house service. I’m not really complaining about the service–our server came back to talk with me about our bottle of Riesling from the Finger Lakes that I was really enjoying–but it seems like some communication must have been lost between the server and the chef along the way. Or maybe the chef really couldn’t spare one more piece of hamachi for us.

But back to the food. While most dishes did have similar intense, punchy flavors, there were two that tasted like nothing else on the menu: the burrata and the enfrijoladas. The burrata was so light, with herbs that tasted so green and fresh it was like the cheese and all had just been dug up from the garden. The enfrijoladas, which were kind of like enchiladas but with a bean sauce that reminded me of a mole in color and texture, had this hoja santa herb in it that imparted an anise flavor I didn’t find on the other plates. I would order both of these again for sure, along with: the sepia, where thick strands of the cuttlefish acted like noodles; the octopus cocktail, where someone who loves pickled red onions as much as I do was in heaven; the eggplant tamal with its wildly acidic topping; the posole, where rich ingredients met bright broth to make for one of the most complete dishes; the cobia, the hamachi, and of course that mussels tostada.

Up for debate is the duck carnitas, which was a hefty $58 for the amount of meat you’d find in a measly four tacos but had the most beautifully rendered fatty skin over succulent dark meat. We had to add the really, really excellent hot sauce from the chicharron and some salt flakes to the duck to make it perfect, and you can obviously get great duck for a tenth of the price all over the city, but if you’re already at Cosme and spending $19 on half of a stuffed avocado, just get the duck.

Not up for debate are the desserts, which ranged from very good to I’m-never-going-to-stop-thinking-about-this. Pastry chef Jesus Perea has worked everywhere from Chef Olvera’s acclaimed restaurant in Mexico, Pujol, to Del Posto under Brooks Headley to Le Bernardin to too many of the very best restaurants in NYC to name. The brioche smothered in ricotta was almost savory at first bite and didn’t seem very special, but then suddenly the smear of fresh peanut butter took over and made it this incredibly craveable thing. The sweet potatoes in the flan gave it natural sweetness, and coffee syrup somehow didn’t overpower the potato flavor, making this a great choice for someone who likes a simple, not-sugary dessert. The lemon cake was this entire bowl of citrusy brightness, all kinds of lip-puckering in different textures. The cinnamon cake was spicy to the point that it overpowered the cream cheese ice cream, which really needed to be eaten alone to appreciate it, and appreciate it I did. The tender carrot was nixtamalized, which is apparently the same process used to make corn into hominy. (That is, it makes it softer and more delicious.) Despite the interesting preparation, though, it didn’t have enough “pop” for some of our group, which we attributed to a lack of acid in the bowl. The chocolate ganache was a table favorite, on the other hand, with its perfect sphere of beet sorbet that made it look like a delicious spaceship. The mezcal lent the chocolate this almost funky flavor, like it had gone a little sour, but we somehow wanted to keep eating it; I’m guessing it’s the kind of dessert that you either absolutely love like we did or think is semi-disgusting. (And borderline disgusting is some of the most exciting food, right?) The star of the night, though, was this beautiful cracked husk meringue with corn mousse seeping from it. All of the reviews will tell you that this is the dessert to get, and they are correct. This will probably become the dish Cosme’s known for with its naturally sweet corn whip and meringue that immediately sticks in your teeth like wet cotton candy and then melts away just as quickly. I’ll never forget you, husk meringue, no matter how fleeting you were.

So is this the most relevant food in NYC right now? Well, in a way. It cemented my love of Mexican food and reminded me that the best flavors are often the simplest: a well-placed fresh herb or a slice of pickled red onion can so easily bring a dish to new levels. And the great news is that those things can be found all over the city in hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints where a taco costs two dollars instead of twenty. (Two of my favorites right now are Tacos El Bronco in Sunset Park, introduced to me by my friend Kim, and The Original California Tacqueria, introduced to the same friend and me one Friday night when we were drunk and wandering Cobble Hill.) But you’re probably not going to get chipotle mussels there, nor noodles of smoked sepia, nor that corn meringue. Cosme is the Mexican flavors you love in ways you never imagined.

Nihonryori Kanda - 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu (Review + Photos)

Interesting! I wish I'd known that at the time; I'm sure we would've come back to try all three.

Nov 05, 2014
plumpdumpling in Japan

Nihonryori Kanda - 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu (Review + Photos)

(Photos can be seen in context here:


I visited Japan at the end of last month, and on our last night, my friends and I wanted to try a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars in Tokyo. Obviously the French restaurants like Joel Robuchon and Quintessence held particular appeal for me so I could compare them to the French-inspired restaurants I’ve been to here in NYC, but we really wanted some serious Japanese cooking. In the end, we chose Kanda in Minato, and I’ll admit that I was a little afraid of our decision. All of the reviews I read said that this was true Japanese cuisine with all of its subtleties and nuances and that American palates wouldn’t be able to appreciate its beautiful simplicity. I didn’t want us to spend ¥15,000 to ¥25,000 (~$150-$250 US) and walk away feeling like we’d had a couple of flavorless vegetables and three slices of fish, but we wanted to challenge ourselves. Plus, I’ve loved the very delicate dishes I’ve had at Japanese restaurants in NYC like Kajitsu, Brushstroke, Sushi Yasuda, and Kajitsu again.

Making the reservation at Kanda was my first reminder that we were traveling to the opposite side of the world. I waited until the middle of the afternoon to call . . . only to realize that the middle of the afternoon here is the middle of the night in Japan. Most foreigners ask their hotels to make dinner reservations for them, but we were renting out a private home, so when I called back later at 2 a.m. our time, I had to make the very kind and patient reservationist suffer through my English. In the end, she helped me decide on the private room and their ¥20,000 chef’s choice menu for Saturday night.

Addresses in Japan aren’t at all like addresses in the U.S., because they use a grid system that divides the city into districts instead of using actual street names. You’d say, for instance, that you were going to building 2 on block 5 of such-and-such city district instead of saying that you’re going to 138 Main Street. It’s very easy when you’re typing it into Google Maps, but it’s not so easy when you’re trying to direct your cab driver who doesn’t speak any English. So we ended up at a curry restaurant called Kando and had to call the restaurant via Skype to let them speak to him in Japanese, but a half an hour late, we finally made it to the deserted and sort of haunting street where you’ll find Kanda.

It was so nondescript that our friend Nik started to try to convey to the cab driver that he was wrong again, but then we spotted the sign for Kanda hidden next to a sliding wooden door completely devoid of any windows. Inside, though, it was bright and beautiful, all clean white walls and simple light wood. The hostess recognized us immediately as the wild-eyed, lost Americans and led us to our private room, decorated with a wooden cricket in a cage for good luck.

We admired our simple place settings, and then Chef Hiroyuki Kanda came in to introduce himself. I’d read that he speaks English and would ask us about our preferences for the meal, so we’d decided beforehand that I’d tell him we were “semi-adventurous eaters” who were up for being challenged “a little bit”. Instead, I got nervous and exclaimed, “We’ll eat anything!”

And then my friends gave me death stares until the chef left.

• sake
Kanda is known for their sake list, but it was entirely in Japanese, so we just told our server that we prefer sweet to dry, and she brought us this. I have no idea what it was, but even our non-sake-liker liked it.

• egg custard
Our amuse was this elegant egg custard with Japanese vegetables in contrasting textures and varying levels of sweet and salty. Shiso leaves are something I’ve had many times at Japanese restaurants, but I’d only ever had the tiny purple flowers from the plant for the first time earlier in the week at the foot of Mt. Fuji; in this preparation, they were much more balanced and less assertive than when we ate them off the stem.

• pike eel
We thought we were off the hook. Egg custard followed by eel! We could all handle this. The plum sauce on top added sweetness, and the eel itself was so tender it fell apart under the force of our chopsticks. And not just because we’re bad with chopsticks.

• whole ayu
Luckily, I’d trained for this. The week before I left for Asia, I went to the Sun Noodle ramen dinner at Louro in NYC, where I was fed whole mackerel. I was squeamish and reluctant, but after flailing about for a minute, I went for it and became a fish-head-eater for life. This ayu was served with a glass of beer and had a lot of delicious charred flavor. Its crispy tail was like eating a potato chip, and I didn’t even notice those teeth as I was crunching through them.

• tuna sushi
I ate a lot of wonderful things in Japan, but this was the single most memorable. The tuna belly was the fattiest, most tender piece of fish I can ever remember eating. The black truffles were pure earthy luxury. The salt scattered around the plate made sure every flavor was fully pronounced. But the best part was weirdly the rice. The rice! I think it had to have been made with butter, because it left a little oil slick behind when we picked it up. We were all going crazy over the salty, buttery rice and almost ignoring the giant piles of black truffles on our plates.

• clear soup
This looked like such a simple dish, but it left us with so many questions. What was the fish dumpling made of? Tofu? Egg? What was the round vegetable? Cucumber? Apple? We felt like our eyes were fooling our tastebuds. My palate was so confused by what I was seeing versus tasting that it wasn’t until I finished the soup that I realized it had been flavored with yuzu. (I later saw a yuzu in the grocery store near our rental apartment in Japan and died from how cool it was. Foreign produce!)

• swordfish
Flanked by a slice of sweet lotus root and what I think were ginkgo beans, the swordfish took a backseat to its accessories for a while as we tried to figure out what they were. Once we finally got to focus on the beautiful piece of fish, I realized that it seemed to be coated in roe. I don’t know how common this preparation is–I’ve only had grilled roe once before, at Tori Shin, but it’s a neat alternative to salt.

• eggplant
Tender and perfect with the sting of the shichimi spice mixture following the enticing smell of those little chive-like onions.

• Miyazaki beef
Apparently Miyazaki is on par with or better than Kobe beef, which explains why the three of us were falling over ourselves to out-compliment each other about this dish. It was so, so tender, which probably doesn’t need to be said. And then the crunch of the panko coating provided such a nice contrast. The mustard was flavored with matcha, which is used to make green tea, and even the seaweed salad somehow seemed new and necessary to balance the dish. My boyfriend wondered how much it’d take to convince Chef Kanda to bring us another round of this.

• sea eel
We ended where we began but this time with a sea eel. We were told to cut it in half with our chopsticks, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. It was so sweet, with a side of miso soup with taro

• miso soup
and green tea made with roasted rice water.

• matcha green tea

• watermelon jelly
Our palate cleanser was a refreshing watermelon jelly dotted with balls of fresh watermelon.

• barley tea ice cream
Dessert was a simple scoop of barley tea ice cream, which tasted like coffee but with a hint of grain flavor. It seemed like a play on after-dinner coffee.

We lounged around in our private room for a little longer, my boyfriend picking things out of my teeth and wiping deodorant off of me with his hand towel without anyone out at the counter in the main part of the restaurant knowing, we used the Japanese toilet, because it’s not like you’re not going to use the Japanese toilet, and then we went back out to that deserted street, with some of the staff following us out to wish us a good night.

After five days of eating nothing but ramen, katsu, and double-decker Wagyu burgers, Kanda was the perfect way to end our trip to Japan. It was subtle, and it was nuanced, and I think we were able to appreciate every bit of it. But it was also wildly delicious food that I don’t think any American would have a hard time grasping. And it was definitely worth the money with that tuna, spread of truffles, and incredible A5 beef. Certainly I’d miss the opulence of the French-inspired 3 Michelin star restaurants in NYC if I didn’t have access to them ever again, but Kanda was so unpretentious in a noticeable way. There were no stacks of white plates under each dish, no little plush stools to put your purse on. The service was helpful and sweet, and everyone made us feel super welcome instead of super foreign. Such a memorable meal in a wonderful country.

Nov 04, 2014
plumpdumpling in Japan

Per Se's Extended Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Thanks for your comment! I'd pick Per Se over Jean-Georges any day of the week, so I hope you're happy with your decision. Six people! Hope you didn't have any other plans for your next paycheck.

Sep 28, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Per Se's Extended Tasting Menu Review + Photos

I know this post is ancient, but I happened to look back on it tonight, and I realized that I eventually did have the non-alcoholic pairings. If you'd like to have a look at them, I included them in this review:

Sep 11, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

Oooooh, looks like they have multiple egg pies on the weekend. Thanks!

Apr 30, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

Interesting! Love that place. Thank you.

Apr 30, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

Thank you! I've been wanting to go there for forever, anyway.

Apr 30, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

I think it was trendy here but is over now? The Otto and Motorino ones have been around forever, and when I was Googling, it seems like restaurants that used to serve one have since closed. I missed out!

Apr 30, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

I can't believe I didn't know about An Underground Pizza; that's one of my favorites. Thank you!

Apr 30, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Pizza with an egg on top?

I know about the one at Otto and the one at Motorino, but who else is serving an egg pizza?


Apr 29, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

One of my friends had the venison the other night, too, and we were blown away by the texture. So unbelievably tender. I think the chef said it was from Australia; it was clear he tried a lot of venison before settling on this one.

The desserts were so good the other night, too. I love the pine needle ice cream, but the "vanilla" ice cream on the Hemingway was my favourite. It tasted like toasted marshmallow to me.

Jan 26, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

Thanks for weighing in! Looks like I doubly have to try it.

Jan 24, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

I went back again last night and still didn't hit all of the dishes you mentioned! Mizuna tempura sounds so interesting, and I've been dyyyyying for the farro salad but keep choosing something else at the last minute. I got to try a bite of the pumpkin salad last night and also loved the skate, but the hot pot is so out of place on the menu that I've always wrinkled my forehead at it. Glad to hear it's not to be missed! I think the menu is changing really soon, so hopefully I get back before it goes away.

Jan 24, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

Thanks for the heads-up. That sounds delicious. And the pear-in-the-bottle is so neat!

Jan 24, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

Thanks! Someone in my group has to get the octopus; we can't resist. Maybe we're a bunch of wimps, but the three of us who tried the lobster larb thought it was incredibly spicy. Delicious, though. I had the piri piri shrimp again last night but didn't notice an iodine taste. How strange.

Jan 24, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

I'd do everything in my power not to share those carrots, too. That's why I tried to convince all of my friends to order the dish for themselves!

Jan 23, 2014
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Louro at the moment: review + photos

Louro has been open in Greenwich Village for over a year now and is still surprising me with its robust flavors every time I go. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at a happy hour spot closer to home, and I’ll think, “Yeah, I could be at Louro right now instead, but what’s the big deal?” And then I’ll actually go to Louro and am like, “Why have I been wasting my life?” Chef Santos has let me come photograph his food several times, so I didn't Louro a score so as to avoid looking like a shill, but I thought you might want to see some photos of what's going on there right now.

• Whiskey in the Jar: Irish whiskey, grapefruit, ginger, spices

I went with five of my friends, so we basically ate the entire menu. But first we started with many, many rounds of half-price happy hour drinks. This was the table favourite.

• beef tartare, caraway sauce

Off the menu and so bright with those pickled onions but then also earthy and pungent with that caraway spread. Caraway isn’t the first spice I think of for anything, but I loved seeing Chef Santos use it in a non-Indian, non-Middle-Eastern context.

• heirloom carrot salad, miso

This was a special the night we visited, and THANK GOD, because this is my favourite thing at Louro. I encouraged my entire table to get it, and everyone outright ignored me. Not that I blame anyone for scoffing at carrots, but these are not only incredibly visually beautiful but also unexpectedly Asian-flavored. I never even thought I cared that much about miso until I had this dish for the first time. And then there’s the rice wine vinegar, the mirin, and the scallions. Incredibly, the New York Times just published the recipe for the heirloom carrot salad this week, so now I’m going to be eating it every night at home when I can’t get to Louro. Every night, I said.

• bone marrow, mussels, red curry, crisps

This had the same flavor as a big hunk of steak but melted in my mouth even more.

• piri piri shrimp

My other favourite thing at Louro. The chili is so surprisingly spicy that I feel like its name is an onomatopoeia you might see in a comic book. “Piri piri!” the superhero shouts as he delivers a one-two punch to the villain’s gut. It somehow manages to not overwhelm the shrimp at the same time, though. It seems so simple, but it’s so simply perfect.

• smoked tomato soup, pork grilled cheese

I had made grilled cheese the night before for my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/boyfriend, so I asked him how mine compared to this one, and he had to very, very gently put me down.

• lobster larb salad, chopped lobster, bibb lettuce, thai dressing, cilantro, peanuts

I’m not sure what to think of this. The common thinking with lobster is that it should be broken down as little as possible, right? But we were Googling larb as we were looking at the menu, and it’s a minced meat salad that’s apparently the national dish of Laos. So I guess you either mince the lobster or you’re not making larb. This was super, super spicy and herbaceous.

• pork & beef ragu, anson mills polenta, Parmesan

Wish I had tried this.

• biscuits & gravy, soft poached duck egg, duck sausage, gravy

Really, really wish I had tried this.

• gnocchi Parisienne, cipollinis, wild mushrooms, Parmesan, thyme butter

I only tried one of these little pillows, but I’m convinced they were more gnudi than gnocchi. All cheese, not enough flour to even matter. Just how I like it.

• octopus bolognese: hand cut tagliatelle, goose pancetta, parmesan

It’s been on the Louro menu for as long as I can remember, and for good reason. It’s like beef bolognese but with a little chew from the octopus and then the deep flavor of the bacon as contrast.

• lobster lasagna

I love Chef Santos for throwing us a little extra lobster here and there, but most of us thought that this lasagna was so good on its own that the lobster didn’t even matter. Take THAT, ocean.

• kibby goat & falafel, cucumber, parsley, lemon mint cream

I actually met this dish one afternoon while taking pictures for the Louro website and haven’t stopped eating it since. The combination of the super-light cucumber and rich goat is too much for me to resist, and I could have the minty sauce on just about anything, including my own hand.

• The Hemingway: key lime curd, gingersnap crumble, vanilla ice cream, toasted meringue

I only tried a bit of the lime curd, and it was not shy about the lime.

• A Walk in the Woods: pine needle & porcini ice creams, pine nut puree, maple “dirt”, Maine blueberries

I needed to have this just for the pine needle ice cream, and it was everything I wanted it to be. i.e. like chewing on a forest. The maple dirt was crunchy and sweet and as if I’d stuck a tap on a crispy tree. I love that a restaurant that’s partly food the way your mama makes it can also put out a dish this wild.

All of the photos in context are here:

Bouley Dinner Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Photos in context are here:

My boyfriend and I have long had Bouley on our radar, but when we wanted to try a David Bouley restaurant, we went for his newer, Japanese kaiseki one, Brushstroke, and had a great experience. We’ve been trying to cover some new ground lately, though, and thought maybe it was time to pay respect to his eponymous restaurant that was so huge in the 80s and recently saw a facelift in the late 00s.

We booked dinner simply because we saw a reservation available on OpenTable, but as we looked into visiting, we wondered if we hadn’t made a very costly mistake. Dinner at Bouley is $175 for six courses, $280 with wine. Lunch is five courses for $55. So the darkness and that one extra course cost you $120. We thought about trying to switch to lunch. We thought about canceling our reservation completely after reading some of the unflattering reviews floating around the Internet. But we ultimately decided to go for the full dinner tasting menu and judge for ourselves, expectations appropriately set.

Bouley is opulent. It’s like a country home where everything has been coated in gold leaf. Heavy drapes, tall candles, fresh flowers everywhere. Wood, iron, vaulted ceilings. Bathrooms the size of most NYC apartments and laden with enough tapestry to dress every diner for life. Private dining rooms where every inch seems to be covered in red velvet. Even the picture frames are upholstered in purple velvet. And the foyer is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of apples so that the room smells like an orchard.

• amuse: blue cheese foam, beets, pecans

Very beety, with plenty of blue cheese flavor and nutty sweetness.

• amuse: kuzu, black truffle, aligot

Japanese flatbread, truffle, potato and cheese sauce. Yes.

• fresh Malibu sea urchin terrine

On top of and inside this cold aspic (savory gelatin) was uni made extra sweet by broiling. The complex ocean flavor of this dish was balanced by the cream and caviar underneath.

• forager’s treasure of wild mushrooms, sweet garlic, special spices, grilled toro, black truffle dressing

If you knew me just a few years ago, the idea of my ordering an all-mushroom course would be hilarious to you. I remember being at Cafeteria in Chelsea one night on one of my first dates with my boyfriend and piling millimeter-long chips of mushroom from my risotto on one side of my bowl and hoping he wouldn’t notice. But ever since I had the wild mushroom salad with jalapeno puree at Momofuku Ko forced on me and found it one of the most unforgettable dishes of my life, I’ll give any mushroom a try.

These were sweet, a little spicy with something like cinnamon or nutmeg, and so umami with that Parmesan foam and black truffle. There were so many textures on the plate, including an entirely different one from the grilled tuna.

• bread service

The bread man with his cage full of fresh loaves came to our table and offered us slices of anything we wanted. The flavors were varied and interesting: saffron, sourdough, black currant, French onion. I loved how different and personal the service was.

• porcini flan, Alaska live dungeness crab, black truffle dashi

Our server described this as a chawanmushi, but all of the chawanmushis I’ve had have been thick, broth-less custards. This was more like a creamy crab soup with a broth flavored like yuzu and cardamom. They sure didn’t skimp on the crab, though.

• live Scottish langoustine, bay scallops, some sort of mango sauce

Sweet, with perfectly-cooked langoustine and scallops. The sauce was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it could have been more spicy and salty for my taste, but it really let the natural flavors of the scallops and langoustine shine through.

• pistachio miso marinated fresh black cod

Flaky fish, smoky almond milk, and so much sweet ginger.

• Chatham day boat lobster, turnip, black truffle

Tender, buttery lobster with a crunchy black truffle julienne. I enjoyed the texture contrast between the slice of turnip on top and the puree underneath.

• Japanese true Kobe mille-feuille, toasted garlic, frisée, carrot, turmeric ($50 supplement


We’ve had a lot of Kobe, a lot of Wagyu, and a lot of Kobe and Wagyu that were probably not actually Kobe and Wagyu, so we wanted to try this “true Kobe”. Just to be sure. We were both entirely underwhelmed. The point of eating a really good piece of beef for me is to cut through it and notice how tender it is, but with the way this was sliced so thin, any cut would have been tender. Although I liked the crunchy texture with the beef, the watery frisée completely diluted the taste of the Kobe. Having just had the much-better calotte de boeuf at Per Se last month, this was an unfortunate let-down, and one that came with a hefty price tag.

• organic Long Island duck, black Nevada dates, Hudson Valley organic hand milled polenta, Washington huckleberry

Delicious crispy skin aside, the star of this was the date “paper” spread on the bottom of the dish. When heated, it became like a sauce, and it formed such an interesting new flavor when eaten with the lima beans. I loved the black pepper chunks in the polenta and the buttery fingerling potatoes served on the side.

• white chocolate cloud, green tea foam

Light and fluffy on top, a little icy on the bottom, and milky throughout. When the server put this down, my boyfriend and I immediately went to work imagining how it was made, and when the woman next to us tried to ask her date the same thing, he said, “Let’s wait for our neighbors to figure it out.” Food nerds!

• tangerine, clementine, Mandarin parfait, lychee sorbet

This very sweet and lychee-ful sorbet made the accompanying fruits VERY tart. This was a complex dish that I secretly wanted to simplify by just eating a big, ol’ scoop of that delicious sorbet.

• chilled fall rhubarb soup, Santa Barbara organic strawberries, buckwheat gelato

Mmm, grain-flavored gelato. I wasn’t a huge fan of it on its own, but the creamy soup and strawberries (which were such a treat out of season) were so pleasant with it, and my boyfriend actually liked that it was like eating a field.

• tree ripened golden Hawaiian pineapple soufflé, pistachio melting core, 10 exotic flavor sorbet

Not a souffle in the molten cake sort of way but more like a meringue. “Pineapple egg foam”, we called it. So many things were good about this, from the warm pineapple chunks throughout to the sugar granules on the bottom to the unexpected pistachio core. The “10 exotic flavor sorbet” was really just two flavors for us: pineapple and yuzu. But it was very intense and delicious.

• hot Valrhona chocolate soufflé, white coffee cloud, coffee ice cream, chocolate mousse

This was the souffle I was expecting, with a liquid center and a little crunch to the exterior. I liked the semi-sweet mousse and the crumbled cookie crisp, but the coffee ice cream really made the dish.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Truthfully, the food at Bouley was only okay. It looks like it should have three Michelin stars, but it only has one, and the reviews about it wavering from delicious to just decent were spot-on. Date paper duck? Delicious. Kobe that should be pretty hard to not make amazing? Just decent. For the price, which is well above a lot of the better tasting menus in the city, I would either expect plenty of off-menu courses (think Eleven Madison Park, where you could almost make a meal of all of the amuses they bring you) or at the very least, much more complete courses; two langoustines and three bay scallops does not a complete dish make. This was the same complaint I had about the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, though, so perhaps the protein with very little else is just the mark of a really French-y restaurant.

And yet, we left Bouley talking about what a great time it was. Despite not loving all of the food, we loved the experience of eating here. The decor is completely different than in any other fine dining room we’ve seen in NYC–not modern and simple but full and almost flamboyant. When I asked the sommelier, who was excellent, if I could take photos of the bottles, he said, “You SHOULD!” The guy on the bread cart joked with us every time he wheeled by, while the more serious servers would slide the food down in front of us, rattle off the ingredients in their French accents, and turn on a dime to go back and stand in their corners. It didn’t feel stuffy here, just professional and special. Maybe I’m not dying to go back for the food, but the overall dinner was something I’ll talk about.

Mar 15, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Wish I could read your blog! I definitely liked my second visit to Corton even more than the first; glad to know you had the same experience.

Feb 06, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

So glad to know I've had your favourite beef dish!

Feb 06, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Interesting! I can't remember ever having uni at Per Se. We had a similar bacon-wrapped rabbit that was soooo good.

I noticed a couple of similarities between what we had at Per Se this weekend and what we had at Corton the weekend before. I wonder if these guys are reading each other's menus.

Feb 06, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

So many memorable dishes! The calotte was outstanding, the foie gras with bananas was a strange and wonderful combination, and the lobster with radicchio was the right kind of bitter. My favourite dish of the day was the halibut, though, with a red pepper piperade and squid ink ravigote and fatty potatoes. I would definitely want it again.

I don't like olives, either! We thought our server said the cheese course had olives in it, but what looked like slivers of green olive turned out to be pear–weird. I need to look at the menu and figure out what we misheard.

Feb 06, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Thank you! So glad to hear you love the food, too; I guess I'm not surprised when people complain that they don't understand it, but I'm disappointed for them. I totally agree about the pretzel bread and was happy to see it at Per Se this weekend, too; I hope to see it everywhere now!

Feb 05, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Corton Tasting Menu Review + Photos

Photos in context are here:

My boyfriend and I were looking for a tasting menu for dinner two weekends ago. We mentioned Corton and then moved past it, figuring that there’s a whole world of NYC restaurants we haven’t been to. For days, we mulled over Gramercy Tavern, Corton, Scarpetta, Corton, Ai Fiori, Corton, Aldea . . . and then we actually read the menu on Corton’s website. SOLD. “Wacked-out modernist cuisine”, my boyfriend calls it. With two much-deserved Michelin stars to boot.

This is the $155 tasting menu with wine pairings also at $155:

• arugula Gorgonzola cake

Soft and slightly bitter, with a kick of blue cheese.

• lemongrass tuile and some fried balls of something

The tuile tasted like Froot Loops, and we seem to think the fried balls were cheesy, but don’t make this your sole reason for making a reservation just in case I’m wrong. They were served alongside a homemade XO sauce, and we love XO, but the fried ball was sadly the wrong vessel for the sauce, and I didn’t get the flavor of it at all.

• pretzel and candied chestnut brioche

Pretzels in the bread basket make me swoon. So did the candied square of chestnut at the center of this roll.

• black bean chawanmushi, confit citrus

There was about an eighth of an inch of custard in this pot, but it packed a salty flavor punch with notes of bacon and leafy greens. The confit citrus peel was a deliiiiicious crunchy addition. Black bean and orange–who knew?

• black truffle: classic foie gras and black truffle spiral, toasted buckwheat, kombu toffee

I love how the menu calls this a “classic foie gras and black truffle spiral”. I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling it before. The foie torchon (so smooth, so creamy) was surrounded by a gelee layer of black truffle that was unfortunately overpowered by the flavor of the liver, but the dish overall was really nice and really savory. For someone who likes the flavor of mushrooms but thinks they’re kind of weird-looking and weird-feeling, this completely homogenous sauce-like preparation was perfect, and the apple sliver and crisp kombu (kelp) strip added the necessary crunch. A scoop of radish added brightness and sourness. The toasted buckwheat roll on the side was perfectly soft on the inside but provided enough structure to make a great foie vessel.

• spirit of sweet potato: sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin seeds, warm Serrano ham consomme

The juxtaposition between the rich potato gnocchi and ham consomme and the fresh leaves and tiny romanesco (prettiest vegetable ever, right?) made this a much more complex dish than I expected at first glance. The egg nestled next to the gnocchi broke to spread a single drop of balsamic, making the consomme even richer.

• smoke and winter: flavors of smoke and winter–smoked cod cheek, smoked mackerel, ricotta whey, whole grain mustard and hazelnut, green olive paste

I was excited to try my first cod cheek (foreground), but the sliver of smoked mackerel (background) was actually more flavorful and more tender. This wasn’t the first fish in whey I’ve had recently, and I still love the tenderness and simplicity it lends to a seafood dish. I also liked the crunchy whole-grain mustard and the meringue-like texture of the triangular black . . . thing.

• kalamansi mandarin mochi, Persian lime

This little sweet and sour ball was delivered in a box dotted with ripe calamansi (sour citrus) fruits. I almost didn’t expect it to be sweet, coming so soon in the meal, but it was a whirl of orange-y, lime-y, yuzu-y ice cream wrapped in a mochi skin. I loved the little speck of gold leaf, because I am a glutton for luxury.

• Atlantic turbot, fine mousseline of white pine and black truffle, delicate puree of Winesap apple and pine, bergamot paste, creamy veloute of chestnut and mussel

Wonderfully gelatinous charred turbot belly (foreground right), a curry-like sauce, sweet apple gel, a tender mussel, cabbage stuffed with chopped chestnut and resembling a little brain (background left), a tiny caterpillar-like cylinder of something crunchy like a radish (background right). The “tarte rouge” served on the side was like a side salad with fresh beets and radishes and a cracker instead of croutons. The yuzu cream on the edge of the plate–heaven.

This dish was a huge mishmash of textures and sour and bitter flavors. I’m not sure how composed you can call a dish with so many elements, but I’m not sure I care about composition when everything is so delicious and interesting.

• buckwheat soup dumpling with oxtail, truffle, sweet bread

I’ve had a soup dumpling or two hundred in my time in NYC, but this sour-rich-deep-dark one was completely new to me. We debated about whether the oxtail, truffle, and sweetbreads were all necessary since none of those specific flavors came through, but we decided that the dumpling wouldn’t have tasted the same without each one of them, that the overall outcome was more important than the presence of individual ingredients. My boyfriend said it reminded him of a Persian beef stew with Persian lime.

Also: gold leaf.

• calotte de boeuf cooked in black birch, slow-cooked oxtail, turnip and white miso puree

Apparently the calotte de boeuf is the meat that forms that cap of a prime rib. This is either the best part of the cow or the part that butchers throw away, depending on which blog Google directs you to. Apparently this cut is sometimes called deckle but is different than the deckle used in pastrami. I’m confused. But I’m not confused about how totally tasty, totally homey, totally sausage-y this calotte was–completely at odds with the sour black miso and onion served on the side. I loved the tender artichoke slice (foreground right), but the best part of the dish was the little chilled cube of gelatinous tea (background left). Something about how delicious it was just sent me over the edge, and I had to stop eating for a second to keep from crying. WHAT.

• tartare de boeuf, delicate gelee of beef shin, green mango, hazelnut cream

Served on the side of the calotte was this tartare with chive and onion flavors and that sweet and fatty gelee underneath. The “bread” was a puffed beef tendon similar to the one we saw at wd~50 a few months ago. It’s like a packing peanut covered in movie popcorn butter. This one wasn’t as buttery as theirs, but I was happy to see it on another dish at all.

• Salers raw cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne region in France, lemon date gelee, sable of Malabar pepper

“These cows graze on shoots”, our server told us, “so it’s a very floral cheese.” What he meant was that this was going to taste like a really stanky barnyard. Luckily, it was diluted by the sweet fig and Malabar (Indian) spice-covered bread sliver that reminded us of gingerbread. The gelee was unfortunately unflavored, but overall, I thought it a well-composed dish.

• tarte a l’orange: blood orange tart, blood orange sorbet, blood orange dentil

This blood orange sorbet tasted like the white Smarties candies. My boyfriend observed this with his extra-attuned palate, and he was entirely correct. The tart was like an old-fashioned cream pie with a pink iridescent top, and the sorbet was almost too sour for how tame the flavor of the pie was, but both were delicious in their own right. They also made our glasses of Sauternes taste herbal. I can’t find any information about what a culinary dentil is that doesn’t involve Chef Paul Liebrandt, but its traditional definition calls it an architectural detail, so maybe the delicate slice of blood orange candy garnishing the sorbet is the architectural detail on this dessert in Chef Liebrandt’s eyes.

Also: gold leaf.

• fig: cremeux of Mast Brothers Moho River Chocolate, black mission fig ice cream, tarragon gelee

There was again no discernible flavor to this gelee, but the creamy dark Brooklyn chocolate with notes of peanut butter made up for that in spades. I loved the texture of the seeds in the fig and the fact that it was cold.

Also: gold leaf.

• mulled wine pate de fruits

Just as bursting with flavor as you want them to be.

• nougat

Is anything more seemingly-boring and yet actually-delicious than nougat? It was so good that I got distracted and have no idea what the pastry was. But I do know that the chocolate on top is Chef Liebrandt’s initials.

• banana and gingerbread French macarons


• assorted chocolates

Included a grapefruit one that we both agreed was straight-up gross, and I say that as someone who simply loves grapefruit. Luckily, I had saved the salty caramel one for last and made up for it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Even as someone who has given Corton a perfect rating both times I’ve visited, I can see why the reviews of it include extreme highs and extreme lows. It has, for instance, only three and a half out of five stars on Yelp but also two out of three Michelin stars on a list that only includes about fifty New York City restaurants. The “problem” with Corton is two-fold:

1) There are a LOT of ingredients on the plate. You can rarely taste all of them, which leads you to question how necessary they are.

2) The portions are extremely small. It’s not a matter of my being a glutton, because I always leave Corton satisfied with plenty of dessert left on the table. The problem is that I want to taste each element on its own and with the other elements on the plate. This just isn’t possible when there’s one bite of smoked mackerel, one petal of artichoke, a piece of turbot belly that isn’t even equal to a single forkful. Once you taste it, it’s gone. I think this could come off as too precious to someone who doesn’t have patience for rarefied food.

Despite these complaints, the overall effect of the dishes at Corton is still, for me, sheer bliss. To me, the preciousness feels special, not stupid. Because there’s so little of everything, every single bite has to be perfect. And I haven’t been anywhere in NYC that’s making this kind of tiny-yet-hugely-thoughtful food. But let me know if you do, because my life is pretty low on five-star dinners at the moment.

Feb 05, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Lobster Pot Pie at Pearl Oyster Bar -- Yowzers!

I went last night, and they weren't making the pot pie! So sad I didn't call ahead and happened to go on the one night they were taking off. Luckily, the lobster roll was killer.

Feb 05, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Looking for a splurge worthy of the price

Skip Brooklyn Fare if you want the service to match the price. They make you pay ahead of time, the dress code is strict despite the very casual setting, the seats are uncomfortable, and the chef won't answer any of your questions about the cuisine.

Momofuku Ko serves amazingly delicious and inventive food in a super hip environment. Per Se serves amazingly delicious food in a super luxurious environment. Nothing else is remotely as good as those two in my experience.

Feb 05, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Lobster Pot Pie at Pearl Oyster Bar -- Yowzers!

Great idea. MenuPages seems to think there are at least 11 lobster pot pies being served in the city. And they will be mine.

Feb 01, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan

Lobster Pot Pie at Pearl Oyster Bar -- Yowzers!

Thanks for the heads-up! I'm a pot pie fiend and have been wanting to do a pot pie feature on my blog. Thinking this would be an amazing one to start with.

Jan 31, 2013
plumpdumpling in Manhattan