santorinii's Profile

Title Last Reply

For lunch: Mia Dona or Grayz?

For real huh? I didn't know that. Thanks for the heads up. I guess I have my answer now. Mia Dona it is.

I always bring food back to Miami. Why do you think I fly to NYC just to eat? Ok, so you didn't know that until now. But yes, I do. I agree, Miami has a terrible food scene. I wish I could live in NYC.

Dec 03, 2008
santorinii in Manhattan

For lunch: Mia Dona or Grayz?

Hi,

I'm going to be heading to Manhattan next weekend and have mostly finalized my itinerary for the meals. Just figuring out the final meal which happens to be lunch on a Monday...Should I go with Mia Dona or Grayz? I like the menu options at Mia Dona a lot but Grayz is equally intriguing but in a more refined way. I'll be taking a friend with me and she is not a foodie, so I don't want her to feel lost with an unfamiliar menu or feel gyped if the portions are too tiny. So based on your experiences, which would you recommend?

BTW, this is my itinerary:

Saturday
__________
Lunch: Bouley
Dinner: Blue Ribbon Brasserie

Sunday
__________
Lunch: Essex House (Per my friend's request, not mines)
Dinner: Perilla

Monday
__________
Lunch: Mia Dona or Grayz
Dinner: Ippudo

Dec 03, 2008
santorinii in Manhattan

50 Best Dishes in New York

I'm not sure if these would be considered "The Best" but they have certainly become my most memorable in the city thus far...

-Babbo: Veal Loin wrapped in Pancetta
-Bouchon Bakery: Cheese and Bacon Scones
-Craft: Roasted Quail, Hen of the Wood Mushrooms
-David Burke & Donatella: Pretzel Coated Crab Cake
-Degustation: Seared Scallops in a Mussel Broth w/ Sea Beans, Grapes and
Dehydrated Cherry Tomatoes
-Jean Georges: Squab "à l'Orange" with Crystallized Tamarind
-Momofuku Noodle Bar: Berkshire Pork Buns
-Morimoto: Kakuni, Banana Chocolate Mousse w/ Toasted Coconut Meringue and Rum Raisin Ice Cream
-Thor: Crispy Gnocchi w/ Wild Mushrooms
-Veselka: Stuffed Cabbage and Pierogis
-Yakitori Totto: Totto Chicken Soup, Seaweed Salad

Here's to hoping to many more great eats when I return to the city!

Jul 28, 2008
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

Wow,

Thanks for all the feedback!

Perry St. is on the list as one of the restaurants I'll be going to. I plan to go for the prix fix lunch, which sounds really good. Very much like Jean Georges Main restaurant ...I was happy just reading through the menu.

I was just checking out Degustation on Savory New York (My favorite go to website for NYC food) and saw the video of the restaurant. It's gorgeous and so intimate! And the food looks amazing...so carefully prepared. And they have a 5 plate tasting for $50. I can actually go on my own if my friend cannot accompany me for dinner. I think this one's a go to for sure. Thanks for the rec Financial!

I'll haveta think about the seafood shacks. I'm not sure if I can squeeze those in at this visit but I'll consider them for the next one.

Oct 30, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Current, Best Prix Fixe lunch deal

Hi Leah,

Based on your recommendation, I checked out Asiate online and this place looks gorgeous. Beautiful view of Manhattan. If you don't mind my asking, but what dishes did you have there?

Oct 27, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

Oh that sounds so good! I wish I can have those right now... sooo hungry. BTW, I love, love, love pork belly. And pickled watermelon...that's so southern! I would really like to try the Chilli Crab...I'm not huge on getting my fingers dirty but I'll do it if it's worth it. I'm excited!

Why do you like Cafe Boulud better? Is it because the ambiance is less stuffy, the food better, both, or other reasons?

Oct 26, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

I've read about Telepan in the past. The current menu sounds good...very regional, seasonal type of cooking. What are the exceptional standouts at that restaurant?

Ianbro, I'm glad you had a good time at Fatty Crab. Even though I mostly go for fine dining in NYC, I like to throw in a restaurant that's got something spicy and unique to try. Fatty Crab seems to fit the bill. I think this is a for sure restaurant to add to the list. What were your favorite dishes there?

I've been playing around with the concept of pure seafood joints and have read up on both Pearl and Mary's. I'm leaning more towards Pearl's. I have a soft spot for great Lobster Rolls. :o) We'll see though. There are so many restaurants to try and I don't have a big enough stomach to try them all! I need to have my stomach stretched. :oP

Oct 26, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

Little Owl sounds great. I think I'll definitely have to try the restaurant then. Are there any dishes you would recommend to try there?

I usually am up on the food scene in NY but I was unaware of the new Market Table opening. You must report back on your experience!

My friend in NY went to Daniel recently and raved about how amazing the food was. So with your confirmation, I think I shall make it a go. What were your favorite dishes there at Daniel?

Oct 25, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

Great recommendations. Keep 'em coming folks!

First off, Sushi Yasuda...Trust me, I have been dreaming of a meal there. I would have eaten there but my cousin, who is a sushi fanatic, will be coming to NY with me in February so I want to hold that meal until then. But thank you for confirming how great that restaurant is. Makes me want to go there for sure.

I have read lots of good reviews of Little Owl and I like the concept of the restaurant. Blue Hill sounds great as well. Between the two, which is better?

Any branch of Boulud is a consideration. I have mostly held out on his restaurants because he has a Cafe Boulud down here in West Palm Beach. But I have been thinking about Daniel and may consider it for this visit.

I love brunch. I want to go to Prune or Clinton St but they don't accept reservations which is a problem since my visits to NYC are short and I can't afford to stand in line for 1-2 hours. I found out that Five Points is on OpenTable so I'm going to try to make a reservation through there. Blue Ribbon Bakery also has a good menu. Hmm, choices, choices...

I'm curious about Fatty Crab and A Voce. Have y'all gone to either? If so, would you recommend a meal there?

As for Bouley, I had contemplated going there for the tasting menu. Have any of you done that? If so, is it worth it?

Oct 24, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

Thanks Reap and Kathryn for the heads up. I've been to both the Noodle bar and Ssam Bar to pick up food to go but I've never actually had a sit down dinner there. I would love to someday if I could find someone who'd do it with me. And the new Ko...have you heard what kind of food will be served there? I know there are many people that think David Chang and his restaurants are overrated but I think he deserves his spot on the culinary scene for taking a chance and branching out with his own brand of style. So kudos to him.

Thanks for the recs for the cocktails. I've heard of Death & Co but haven't heard of the other ones yet. I think I will have to venture out and try a few of those soon. Like mama always said, there's always room for another cocktail...shrimp? :oP

Considering I don't live in NYC, I think I've really only skimmed the surface of the culinary scene. I wish I lived there so that I could really immerse myself in that food. You all are extremely fortunate to have such fantastic food at your beckon call. There is so much food everywhere and much of it is actually good. I live in FL so you can clearly see why I go to NYC to eat. Thank goodness the flight is short from here!

That said, my most memorable dining experiences thus far has to be at Jean Georges and Yakitori Totto. Both could not be farther away from each other but both brilliant in their own right. For fine dining at its best, Jean Georges is it. Lovely restaurant, polished service, classic French technique with a nouveau French flair ...This is Jean Georges reflected at his best. Yakitori Totto gives you authentic yakitori in its purist form. Food is unadorned and presented simply. Everything is delicious. My favorite there are the Chicken Meatballs, the various grilled chicken parts, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, the incredible Seaweed Salad composed of mutiple kinds of seaweed, and the best Chicken Soup I've had outside of my own home. Both restaurants challenged my palate in ways none has done so before.

That said, I enjoy all the other restaurants as well. For Italian, I love Lupa for the pastas and Babbo more for their meat dishes. If you ever go to Babbo, I highly recommend you ordering the Veal Loin wrapped in Pancetta. The most superb piece of Veal I've ever tried. As for breakfast, I enjoy Sfoglia a lot. It's quiet during the morning hours so it is easy to get a seat. Enjoy a Fritatta and a pot of hot tea at your table and you'll feel like you're somewhere in Tuscany.

For Japanese, I have yet to experience the best restaurants so I cannot vouch for much except for what I've tried. I recently went to Morimoto, admittingly for the scene. Surprisingly, the food was actually pretty good even if it's overpriced. I loved the Kakuni, Rock Shrimp Tempura, and Halibut there. If there is the dessert of Banana Mousse coated in chocolate served with a macaroon, order it. That dessert is outstanding.

For Brunch, who can beat East Village? I would love to try Clinton St. someday when the line isn't too long. :oP What I've tried so far is Stanton Social. It's fun here because you can try many little dishes. I loved the Lobster Benedict and the Monte Cristo there the most. The fried Pierogies with the Truffle Creme Fraiche is also pretty awesome. Thor at the Hotel Rivington has a ridiculously inexpensive brunch-- 3 dishes plus two drinks for like 25 bucks. If you go there, I highly recommend ordering the Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms. It is really good.

For pastries, Bouchon is great. I love the Cheddar and Bacon Scones there the most. But I think the Croissants with the various fillings are delicious as well. If you just want to indulge is sweet excess, Cafe Lalo will give you that and more. So many things to choose from, you won't know what to pick. It's definitely a fun place to visit if you're in the UWS.

What about you? What are your favorite places to dine at in the city?

Oct 23, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Recommendations for another weekend in NYC...?

I've enlisted the chowhound guidance for my past trips to NYC and have thoroughly appreciated all the info posted. I just wanted to say thank you!

I have been making a regular visit up there very 3-4 months over the past year and I admit, I can never get enough NY. My last trip was in August and as hot as it was, I dragged my little brother with me to all the restaurants on the itinerary and we ate readily. Every meal we had was memorable in its own unique way. My brother, who is only 17, had fallen in love with NY and thinks the food there tops all (We are native Californians so that is saying a lot). I think I've just spoiled him for all the dining experiences to come :o)

That said, I'm itching to return back to NYC in early Dec for another weekend of eating (unfortunately, no brother this time). Below are all the restaurants I've visited over the years up until now. I would like to enlist y'alls opinion as to what other restaurants to add to the list/to try for this upcoming trip. As a given, I would like to try Masa, Sushi Yasuda, Le Bernadin, Daniel, and Per Se someday. But not until I find dining companions who would be willing to shell out the dough. For now, something along the lines of those below would be fantastic, both for food and for drinks. Any cuisine and/or concept is welcomed. What would you recommend?

Places I've tried....

Food
______________

Aquavit
Babbo
Bar 89
Bar Masa
Bond St.
Bouchon Bakery
Cafe Lalo
Craft
Jean Georges
Lady M's Bakery
Landmarc
Lupa
Mercer Kitchen
Momofuku
Morimoto
Noho Star
Nougatine
Olives
Payard
Pommes Frites
Sfoglia
Spice Market
Stanton Social
Thor
Veselka
Yakitori Totto

Drinks
______________
Angel's Share
Buddakan
Chocolate Bar
Campbell Apartment
Gama
Pegu Club
Red Bench
Tao

Oct 21, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

The Next Food Network Star

Just to affirm, I've made fondant for cakes. The classic fondant method consists of confectioner's sugar, glucose, glycerin, vegetable shortening, and indeed gelatin. Gelatin comes in different forms...the most common form found and used is derived from animal connective tissues. However, gelatin can be derived from other sources as well. Easily obtainable from Asian markets (I'm Vietnamese and we use a lot of this in our desserts) or scientific laboratories (Go figure, my background is in science), is Agar. Agar is the gelatinous substance obtained from the cell walls of red algae or seaweed. Thus, this is the type used when one needs to keep with the vegetarian status.

Jun 19, 2007
santorinii in Food Media & News

Miami - looking for good recs

I just got back from NYC and indeed, the food down here is just not as respected as it is up there. There was so much food and everything was fabulous. Man, I miss NY...

I second the options listed above. I haven't dined as extensively as the folks on the board, but these are some of my favorites that I think gives Miami the distinction it deserves...

---Tap Tap...If you haven't had Haitian food, this place is great to check out. Good food, great prices, and right in Sobe.
---Le Bon...We all love this place down here. You can't beat the food for the price, along with the Lincoln Road vibe. Great for people watching too.
---Lario's...Ok, some may argue with me on this, but I think that this is probably the only place that serves edible food on Ocean Drive. They do great Cuban here. Good food and price for the location (it's right across the beach). Perfect for having lunch with a Mojito after a lazy morning at the beach.
---Joe's Stone Crab...You've heard it many times before, but this is truly quintissential SoFla seafood dining. You come for the Stone Crabs, you come for the classic, continental style dining. It's a landmark down here. We all have been.
---Social Miami...This place is all about the scene. Portion size is minute but it is good (think trendy Tapas). Book a meal for late at night (9-11pm) since that's when the crowd is liveliest. Afterwards, enjoy a drink at the bar or outside around the pool. And then lounge hop to the Delano, Shore Club, and Setai up the road. At least that's what I like to do :o)

For fine dining, it is recommended to try Table 8, Prime 112, or Evolution. I have not yet gone to them, but will hopefully soon.

Enjoy your trip in Miami!

Jun 15, 2007
santorinii in Florida

Mount Pleasant, SC

Hi everybody,

Thanks for responding to my post with so many recommendations! I have checked out and read reviews on the places recommended. I would check out the Wreck, but my friend isn't too fond of fried foods. As for the Blvd. Diner, I will have to pass since we'll be having some southern comfort food in town already. I have narrowed it down to the Mustard Seed or the Post House. I checked out the Post House's menu online and I like what I see. But I've also heard great recommendations on the Mustard Seed.... Choices, choices. Who said life was easier with more choices? :o)

As for the points of interests recommendations, I will try my best to check what out what I can. Everything sounds great! Can't wait to visit!

Mount Pleasant, SC

Hi,

I'm heading to Charleston for the first time next week. I've been reading up on the reviews of the restaurant in Downtown Charleston and based on the recommendations, I have already made my pick. On one of the afternoons, my friend and I would also like to head to Mount Pleasant. I've searched the board but haven't found many good postings on MP. I was wondering if you can give me an idea as to how the town of Mount Pleasant is like, what the point of interests I should check out, and in your opinion, what is the best restaurant to try there. I have one meal to eat there and I would like to find a place that serves that best food. I'm open to any type of cuisine and price range. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

East Village

I would say do the Momofuku. Definitely good grub.

Since you mentioned Tapas in the East Village, Stanton Social isn't so bad. I think there is a consensus to go there for brunch than to go to dinner. I've only been for brunch and I really enjoyed it. Food is served in small portions and everything was pretty good. Dinner may be different. Anyhow, just thought I'd throw that one out for you. Hope you have a good time wherever you go.

Jun 08, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

sfoglia

Hi Jason,

I went to Sfoglia only for breakfast 3 weeks ago and I enjoyed it. I ordered the Frittata which was very good. I think it's very quaint and cute for breakfast since it isn't crowded, there's beautiful sunlight that shines in, and the prices are inexpensive. Good chance to try some of the food without having to wait for a table. See if you like it.

Jun 08, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Craft...

Hi BW and Nux,

Thanks for reading my posts. I admit, I'm an amateur Craft eater. This was my first time there so I have no basis to compare this experience to. It's very likely that the cooking was more refined back then when TC was more focused on his flagship. If that was the case, then I wish I had the chance to try his food then. Alas, I didn't. But I did enjoy what I tried. Again, my palate may differ from everybody else and admittingly, probably not as refined because my experiences have been limited, so there may be people that won't agree with me. I'm hoping that's not the case cuz then that means my palate is totally outta whack. Oh the horror! :oP

Again, thanks for the feedback! Always love to hear everybody's opinions.

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Craft...

Kobetobiko,

Before I continue, I just wanted to say that I've read many of your postings and have gotten lots of information from you. So thanks for all the informative details. It has enriched my mind with lots of tidbits on NYC dining. BTW, you're so lucky to be living there. Food is so respected and appreciated up there. If only, if only I could be there too...well, keep up the wonderful reviews and I shall enjoy living vicariously through you and everybody else. I don't know how I survived without chowhound for all these years :oD.

To proceed, I'm honored by your kind words. Heck, just the fact that you read my posts makes me happy. I never think anybody reads my postings. I just like to write and I love food so put the two together and you get my ramblings. You think I can get a job at the NYM? :oD

I agree with you that Craft is best experienced with a group of friends, not alone. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to try the various dishes on the menu. That's no fun. It'd be neat to do the tasting the next time. I'll definitely ask about it.

I read up on The Stanton on here and found that it was almost unanimous across the board that dinner was not the time to visit the restaurant. So that's why I didn't even bother considering that as an option. I found some mixed reviews on brunch as well, but after checking out the menu online, I just liked the way it sounded. So in the end, I went with my gut (literally!) and it fortunately turned out well. Of couse my palate may differ from everybody else, so others may not agree with me. But I hope they do cuz then they'll have a good time. Here's to hoping!

Anyhow, thanks again for responding to my posts!

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Brunch at The Stanton Social...

Hi Kathryn,

Thanks for reading my post! Before my trip to NYC, I made sure I had reservations set to all the places I wanted to try because I didn't want to deal with the hassle of waiting for a table. BTW, I RSVP'd for The Stanton through Opentable. My reservation was at 11:30am for a Sunday brunch. I think it was still early because by the time I got there, half of the restaurant tables were still available. So maybe you can snag a table if you walk in early enough.

The total cost of the meal is certainly not cheap. With drinks, the cost was sixty something, not including tips. My friend and I have big appetites but we were really stuffed after all of that. I think we could've forgone a dish or two and maybe even skipping out on the drinks (we hardly ever drink--extra unecessary calories to fill one up for the most part ). That would've made the meal more reasonably priced.

Well if you go, it would be great to hear what you thought. Perhaps your taste may be different from mine. Hopefully not cuz I want you to have a good experience if you do go there. Here's to hoping!

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Brunch at The Stanton Social...

Instead of going for a restaurant with a more local, Bohemian flair, I went for one that was a bit sceney for the East Village setting. I couldn't resist. The brunch menu sounded amazing. I was struck. I needed to go to The Stanton Social. (BTW, many thanks to LFeinberg for the rec!)

I love Brunch with a passion. It's the perfect grouping of items, in portions small enough to eat, and at a time when our minds are sober enough to appreciate the food that enters our mouth. It's the perfect meal, the morning after...

The brunch items at The Stanton are small in portion, like a Tapas style meal of sorts. It is designed to encourage sharing among friends. Since we were sharing, that meant we could eat more right? Oh, how I love to delude myself to justify my gluttony. Isn't it interesting how we make up excuses to justify our incorrigible behavior, just because we don't want to accept the truth? :oP

My friend and I toasted our meal with blushing Pomegranate-Peach Bellinis which were tart and fruity. Then we went hog wild with our pickin's.

I love Eggs Benedict and was immediately drawn to the Fancy Benedict, which I had to order. It consisted of Lobster and grilled Asparagus served over toasted Brioche, topped with a poached egg and drizzled with Bernaise Sauce. On the side was a pile of perfectly dressed baby greens. The Lobster tail was moist, the asparagus sweet, the toast buttery, and the egg...ah, the yolk was oozy and perfect, coating everything that laid beneath it and further enrichening the Bernaise. The dish was amazing. It was sooo good. I was in love.

Our meal proceeded on with the Breakfast Bruschetta, which consisted of slabs of crusty bread, toasted and topped with oven dried diced tomatoes, soft scrambled eggs, and shavings of Asiago cheese. It was a nice, light intercession before the courses ahead.

Next came the Brie and Apple Quesadillas, drizzled with Honey and dusted with chile powder. Sweet but not too sweet, counterbalanced by the savory Brie. It was really good.

And then came the Sliders. Maybe it's because I'm small, but I love dishes that are little. They're so cute. Ok, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I'm aware that it's blasphemy to describe food as cute. The cute factor should be reserved for rating the boys, i.e. Bobby Dean...oh he's so dreamy! Anyhow, getting back :oP... I just think that little burgers and sandwiches are adorable. They fit in one hand and can be devoured instantly. It's all about instant gratification I say.

We ordered two sliders: The first was the Kobe Beef Burger and the second was the Monte Christo. The Kobe was cooked to medium rare, which is how I like my meat. Only downside was that the outside was underseasoned and too charred, which imparted a bitter taste that overpowered the sweetness of the meat. Quite umimpressive. As for the Monte Christo, it was a hit. The sandwich was filled with slices of ham, turkey, and swiss, soaked in a an egg custard and cooked until set. What made it extra luxurious was that it was steeped in a bath of lightly sweetened maple syrup and honey. The eggy bread was soft and succulent, dripping with maple and perfectly balanced with the savory, oozing filling. A sandwich this perfect has now set the bar for all the sandwiches that is to come. I just can't go back to a standard sandwich after this one. I'm spoiled!

To round out the meal, my friend wanted to try the Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogies, which I let her have full reign over. I'm a sucker for pierogies, especially fried ones like these. I could only sample a bite, but It was really good from what I can tell. My friend loved them. I think these were her faves. The pierogies were served with a pile of caramelized onions and a pool of Truffle Creme Fraiche. It's one thing about not eating the pierogies, but it's another thing when it comes to the creme fraiche. I dipped my finger, my spoon, and any other food item I had on my plate into that creme because it was wickedly just...that...good. How can you go wrong with truffles and creme fraiche? You just can't. It's perfection.

Perhaps some may beg to differ, but I thought the brunch at The Stanton was amazing. The food was good, the service quick and attentive, and the setting lovely. I would definitely return back for another round of brunch. Indeed, this girl can eat. :oD

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Craft...

I know there have been countering opinions about Craft on the board--one either appreciates it for its craft of simplicity or one finds it overrated and overpriced for items that you can cook "equally well at home." I've kept an open mind and listened to both sides of the argument but in the end, I realized the only way I would know what answer fit me best was to try it myself. So I did.

The evening was raining and cold but the moment we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by a beautiful warmth. The restaurant is so lovely, lit faintly with multitude of light bulbs, individually dangling from the ceiling. The amber leather-lined walls, the large vases of fresh cut flowers, and huge tables were perfectly complimentary. There was indeed an understated sexiness about the place. Maybe it was the lighting. Then again, isn't it always about the lighting? :oP

The three of us settled on three proteins: Soft-Shelled Crabs, Braised Short Ribs, and Grilled Quail. Sides were: Gnocchi, Soft Polenta, English Peas, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms. Before the meal proceeded on, we were given Amuse Bouche of Mini Pate Choux filled with Lobster. Tasty little things. The dishes came out soon after. Everything was served in their individual cooking vessels, which created a very charming table setting. Of course, not to be outdone by the food, which was in my humble opinion, amazing in its purity. I absolutely fell in love with the quail, gnocchi, and mushrooms. The quail was seared to perfection--caramelized on the outside yet retaining sublime moistness. The gnocchi, wow. They were so tender, they exploded with flavors of Parmagiano and butter before melting in your mouth. No mastication needed. As for these mushrooms which I've never eaten before, I was very pleased with the end result. The mushoom is huge and resembles an acorn in appearance. Here, it was cut into wedges and seared in butter until the edges were crispy and caramelized. Hearty and with such of depth of flavor, they were so good. The English Peas cooked in a touch of cream and butter were also superb. Undoubtedly the freshest peas I've ever tasted--vibrant and crisp in texture like an edamame, it hardly resembled the dull mealy peas we remember from our youth.

Everything else was great, though a little slight alteration was needed. The short ribs were meltingly tender, though a touch underseasoned. Same with the Polenta. The crabs were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, but on the other hand, they were a little overseasoned. Those were the only quibbles I had.

As you all can gather from my review, I ended up loving the restaurant. Indeed, the prices may be steep and the items, stripped down and bare. But sometimes, after having meals focused on reforming themselves and/or masked in layers of complexity, you need a meal that will bring you back to the roots of comfort through its devotion to purity and simplicity. Indeed, I can go to the greenmarket and bring back produce to recreate these items, but then again, I can say that about a lot of things in life. Sometimes, we just want to be pampered and have a meal cooked by others who know their food and can exemplify them in the way they think highlights the food best. But in the end, eating out is about the experience as a whole...sharing a meal in a beautiful setting with great friends is often enough to pay for the meal itself. And indeed, this was one of those moments.

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Lunch at Aquavit...

Even though I've known of Marcus Samuelsson for many years and even seen him in person multiple times, I've never had the opportunity to try his food. So with this trip, I decided it was about time to try Aquavit.

The restaurant is lovely. The decor is indeed very Scandinavian chic--Blonde wood, minimalistic design, soft lighting. We decided to dine in the Cafe up front, which was quaint and cozy, though a bit too quiet. Some soft background music would've been fitting. Another thing that distracted us was that the upholstery of the chairs--the fabric was scruffed up and scrappy in corners. These chairs definitely need to be replaced. Ok, enough diva talk. Let's get on with the food.

We began our meal with appetizers: My friend Dar ordered the Shrimp Salad on Brioche and I ordered the Herring Sampler. The shrimp salad was refreshing and flavorful, but unfortunately the brioche toast was dry and tough. You could barely cut a knife through it. My herring plate on the other hand, consisted of herring prepared four different ways: Curry, Vodka Lime, Matjes, and Pickled. The flavor of each style was alright except the Matjes, which turned out to be very sweet and liverlike in texture. The sampler was decent but it wasn't fantastic. I don't think I'd order it again if I returned.

For the entree, Dar ordered the Calf's Liver Pate Sandwich. It was a deconstruction of a sandwich on a plate. Each corner of the plate held a different item: pate wrapped in dark rye bread, a deconstructed potato salad, mixed greens, and a pile of Lingonberries. The dish was visually stimulating. Flavorwise, everything complimented each other well. Dar was pleased.

My entree were the Swedish Meatballs served in a cream sauce with a side of mashed potatoes and a pile of Lingonberries. Oh boy, were there a lot of meatballs on my plate. So much food, so little stomach room! Everything tasted good, like homemade comfort food you'd get at a Swedish grandma's home. However, it wasn't mindblowingly amazing like you would expect at an upscale restaurant. Then again, what was I expecting? Meatballs filled with Foie Gras and potatoes swirled with truffle butter? Is that too much to ask?!? Don't answer that. :oP

Even with all that food, we still managed to squeeze in dessert. Dar ordered the Arctic Circle, which was a frozen Goat Cheese cylinder filled with Passion Fruit Curd, and topped with a scoop of Blueberry Sorbet. I'm not a goat cheese fan so I let her do the eating on this one. She seemed happy with her choice. My dessert on the other hand, was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which I liked a lot. The cake was a flourless cake filled with a scoop of creamy peanut butter. On the side was a scoop of coconut ice cream served over chocolate/coconut flakes and a shmear of blood orange concentrate. Indeed, an unexpected set of flavors. I particularly appreciated the blood orange. Like a gourmet Lifesaver, it was concentrated, tangy and sweet. Mmm...

Even with the quibbles I mentioned above, I did enjoy the meal. I mean, you can't really complain much considering the meal was only $24 and it was on a Saturday. Can't beat that price for the experience.

Jun 03, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

My meal at Jean Georges...

Glad you enjoyed Toot! Prices are very reasonable for lunch. A prix fix price of $28 for two courses. Each additional course you add on is another $12. Desserts are all $8 each. Cocktails and juices range from $6-$8. Wines are in a league of their own. More than bargain for the amazing experience and amount of food you get.

May 29, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

The long awaited meal at Babbo...

BW,

I had chosen to go to Babbo on a Friday evening, so I had anticipated a large crowd. My friend and I arrived at the restaurant door at 4:45pm and there were 5 couples already ahead of us. I would recommend arriving at the restaurant by 4:30pm just to be sure you get a table for the first dinner service. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the next turn around, which will probably be at 7:30.
-We did not have to wait too long before being seated. I'd say, the door officially opened at 5pm and we were seated at 5:30pm. Food came out pretty quickly after that.

As for which meal I enjoyed more, I'll have to veer more towards Jean Georges. Every dish I had was cooked, seasoned, and served perfectly. The overall experience was polished. This is not to say that Jean Georges is better than Babbo but it just happens that my palate matched Jean Georges style of cooking more than Babbo's. Babbo's is a fantastic restaurant. I enjoyed the food greatly but there were some flaws here and there that set it apart from being perfect. The dining experience there is more cramped and hurried, but much more casual, sceney and trendy. Though a little stiff, dining at Jean Georges is better paced, unhurried, and definitely more of a pampering experience as a whole.

You know, I was ready to pop in some Pepcids but with all the walking I did after each meal, I was able to digest the food pretty steadily. Oh, I forgot to mention that I also did breakfast at Sfoglia just two hours prior to my lunch at Jean Georges. :oD

BTW, here's a mini review of my breakfast at Sfoglia...
The restaurant is a tiny hidden gem, the kind that you would often find amongst the beautiful lush greeneries in the countryside of Italy, or so I believe it to be. The one room is filled with warm glowing lights from the charming chandeliers and brightness of the skylight shining through the large windows. Filled with a few long wooden tables unadorned with nothing but big metal vats filled with fresh picked lemons and flowers, the restaurant is warm and inviting, and perfect for a gathering of friends mulling over great literature, history, and art. Indeed, I believe that was what was happening over in the corner table when I walked in. Greeted by a handsome waiter, I was brought to the other long table where a pot of Chamomile Tea and a plate with slices of a Frittata and Croissant style bread greeted me. Ok, so I had to order it first....but it sounded so much better saying it the other way. Oh, the internal struggles of my mind as I write. But I digress...:oP The Frittata I had at Sfoglia was soft, fluffy, buttery, filled with Spring Onions, Carmelized Shallots, and Parmagiano. It was heavenly. A perfect little breakfast for a perfect day.

May 29, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

My meal at Jean Georges...

Thanks for the compliment BW! You should definitely consider maybe making a day worth of eating for your birthday if possible. I really enjoyed Jean Georges for lunch because of the incredible prices, but more so, for the visual experience dining during the day. Because the restaurant is surrounded by glass, it leaves everything illuminated in its path. The food just looks beautiful in natural sunlight only to be enhanced of course, by how delicious it all is. This is truly the best meal of all meals.

May 29, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

The long awaited meal at Babbo...

After the incredible 2 hour lunch at Jean Georges, my stomach could not fathom being further fed but my mind had other plans. Since I was unable to get reservations at Babbo (which you all know), my friend and I hustled to the restaurant before opening time to secure one of the six tables available for the walk-ins. When we got there, there was already a line forming outside. Fortunately we were the sixth couple in line and was able to secure the final table available. Woohoo! We were excited!

I had initially wanted to order the tasting menu but after having perused the list, there was just too much food to eat so Dar and I opted to form our own smaller menu by ordering a la carte. We started off with the recommended Antipasti of Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette served with the 3 minute Egg. The tongue was thinly sliced and tender like a filet. Enriched by the luscious yolky egg but cut by the tart vinaigrette and sweet roasted tomatoes, the concoction was well balanced.

The antipasti was followed by two types of pasta: Pasta Lune filled with Sweet Potato and served with Sage Butter and Amaretti, and Beef Cheek Ravioli served with shaved Truffles and Crushed Squab Liver. The Pasta Lune was filled with silky squash and the Raviolis were filled with a stewed beef cheek that tasted like it was cooked for hours. I found the pasta dough to have been a little too al dente but otherwise, the dishes were very good.

Ok, quick tangent...While we were eating, Luke Wilson came in with his blonde date and stood at the bar behind my friend. I was shocked to see how handsome he was. Tall with a trim, lean build, he was very striking and his date seemed very smittened. Cute couple. Apparently the bar at Babbo is the place to be...lots of trendy folks and stars flock to this small, elegant restaurant. I definitely need to come back here. :oD

Though pasta is often recommended on here over the other dishes at Babbo, we went with an entree nevertheless. We ordered the Roasted Veal Loin coiled in Sage and Housemade Pancetta and served with Caramelized Cauliflower. The loin was perfectly roasted with a salty bacony crispy crust and soft, moist rare center. Hot damn, this was the dish that rocked the night. It was incredible.

After all that food, we still managed to squeeze in dessert (Yes, the miracles of having a stretched stomach. Be jealous kids, be jealous...). Dar ordered the Lemon and Blueberry Crostata served with Buttermilk Gelato, which was delish. The crostata crust was so flaky and buttery, I was greatly impressed. It was my favorite part of the dessert. I had ordered the Gelati and Sorbetti tasting, which consisted of Hazelnut, Almond, Chocolate, Expresso Gelatos and Mango and Blood Orange Sorbets. Gosh, I love good ice cream and these were exceptional.

A plate of Petit Fours marked the ending to our meal. It was fabulous and it was fun. Thanks again for all the recommendations!

May 29, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

My meal at Jean Georges...

A meal at Jean Georges was going to be the meal of all meals. I knew this was big but I never imagined how big this experience could possibly get. I had reserved a spot in the Main Dining Room, which I felt would give me the most brilliant experience overall. Fortunately, I was also given the best table in the house in my opinion...the corner table overlooking the whole room. It couldn't have turned out better. It was perfect.

The moment I was brought to my table, I was pampered like a princess. Such flawless service, it was like a symphony perfectly orchestrated to produce the most beautiful experience possible. The floor managers, the servers, the busboys...all worked in harmony with nothing but a glance to each other. Not a word spoken. The mood at times can be interpreted as somewhat stiff and pompous, but everyone was doing a fine job keeping everything running superbly smooth, so this was graciously appreciated. Hands down, the best service in a restaurant period.

As I sat down, the floor manager brought me my requested libation...the Gewurstraminer Grape Juice. I know, ordering juice at a fine establishment like this?!? Indeed it was only 12:30 and I had drinks planned for later that evening and did not want to be passing out while walking the streets of NYC. I shall save my narcoleptic episodes to amuse the children and grandpas another day. Once again, I digress... The juice was amazing. Floral and lightly sweetened, it was like a taste of springtime in each sip. Beautiful prelude to the meal ahead.

The meal began with the Amuse Bouche, a rectangular plate adorned with three separate items: Salmon Tartare and Roe, perfectly seasoned atop Garlic Crostini, Warm Parsley Soup sipped slowly only to be spectacularly surprised by the intense Lime Gelee hidden at the bottom of the thimble bowl, and a spoonful of Blood Orange Segments hidden by shavings of a hard cheese (name escapes me) and topped with a leaf of Tarragon. An absolute incredible tease of the palate. I was smittened.

My first entree was the Arctic Char roasted to perfection. Piping hot yet still medium rare and succulently moist inside, brown and salty on the outside, and topped with a piece of cracklin' skin...ooh, the fish was amazing. The fish was served with King Oyster Mushrooms, Jalapeno, and garlic steeped in a tart citrus vinaigrette and spooned onto the fish by the waiter tableside. Beautiful presentation and service.

Second entree was the Roasted and Smoke Squab a L'orange, served with medallions of Asian Pear and tiny wedges of Tamarind Candy. The squab was barely bathed in a sauce of anise and sesame oil vinaigrette, which poured tableside, immediately sent out a release of aroma that teased your senses. Indeed, it was a visual and olfactory feast. The squab was exquisite. The skin, perfectly crisp and seasoned, appropriately complimented the medium rare flesh hidden underneath. Drippingly moist and tender, I've never enjoyed a game bird more than I had at that moment. This is truly the best dish of the meal.

Dessert had four options to choose from: Citrus, Rhubarb, Spring, and Chocolate. I had chosen the Citrus plate. My rectangular plate came with two different desserts, each set on either side of the plate. The first was a parfait layered with Lemongrass Sorbet, topped with Candied Grapefruit, Crispy Tangerine Merengues, and Lemon Curd. The other dessert was a thin chocolate cake shell filled with Lemon Curd and topped with a Hot Chocolate Foam, served over an Earl Grey Tea Caramel and a dusting of crumbled cookies. Everything from hot to cold, sweet to bitter, crunchy to soft was experienced in harmony on this plate. It was indeed a complex and very enlightening lesson for the palate. Damn, it was good.

To think that I've eaten enough for my small frame, there was still more to come. The meal ended with Petit Fours...we're not talking about a little plate with a few cookies; we're talking about plates of different items of sweets to leave a memorable lasting impression. First came pieces of Chocolate truffles served on a rectangular glass plate. Each chocolate was filled with a different ingredient: Green Tea Ganache, Cinammon, Coconut, and my favorite, Banana Cream. Second plate was hand cut, homemade marshmellows: Expresso, Strawberry, Vanilla. Third plate held the Macaroons: Pistachio, Strawberry, and Vanilla. Everything was delicious but my favorite had to be the Macaroons...crispy and filled with flavored cream, it was, dare I say it, "Yummy!"

A perfect meal on a perfect day, there was indeed nothing more I could have wanted. Life was good.

Thanks to all for the recommendations!

May 29, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

My Trip to NYC from SF-Bay area

Is it me, or do Viets have a huge appetite for good food?!? Such little people with big tummies and a sophisticated palate to go with it... I'm really not referring to myself...really! :oD Your tour of NYC sounds fabulous. Great review! Love reading the details of each dish ordered...makes us feel like we're there eating the food with you. Mmm, food...

I was planning to do Sushi Yasuda and WD-50 for my upcoming trip as well but unfortunately, my friends aren't terribly interested in a fine sushi meal nor anything too daring either, so I had to alter my list a bit. Oh well, there's always next time. But I'm hoping to make a little pit stop at Momofuku Ssam Bar before I head home so I can't wait to try those dishes out. Have ordered the Berkshire Pork Buns from the Noodle Shop on my last trip and fell in love with it. Pork fat glistening in all its glory is a good thing. :o)

Anyhow, glad to hear you had a great trip!

May 08, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan

Mercer Kitchen after Bruni

Perhaps my opinion may not be considered with much value because I'm not a NYer, but a few months ago, I had gone to Mercer Kitchen. I didn't have dinner but did have lunch there and it was actually good. It was not out-of-this-world amazing but I didn't really have anything to complain about either. So if you cannot score any other reservations and have to take Mercer Kitchen, hopefully the food will be good enough to make your dinner enjoyable.

May 04, 2007
santorinii in Manhattan