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Elan--anyone been yet?

uggh. don't bother. the food was horrible and the service a joke.

Aug 16, 2015
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

élan was so not good

i feel for a chef who chooses to open a restaurant near park in the 20's; with two of the cities best nearby (cosme and upland) even if you are pretty good, it is still going to be difficult to compete. if you are not, i hope you have a life preserver under your seat, because you are going to go down fast.

it was a saturday night, still when we walked into élan near 8pm, the bar was completely empty and there was no palpable energy coming from the lovely dining room. a waitress quickly appeared to explain the specials and take our drink orders. then, oops, a rather wacked out waiter showed up five minutes later attempting the exact same thing. when i declined a cocktail (i'd just returned from lima where i'd not heeded advice to skip the ice cubes and was recovering from a little bit of pisco overindulgence and a whole lot of food poisoning) the waiter countered with, "you'll save a lot of money that way." ummm, i'm pretty sure i can afford a cocktail if i want one and my budget is really none of anyone's business, thank you very much.

though the restaurant's website described the place as american with a slight french flair, the menu leaned very asian which i found a bit confusing. even more confusing was how adamantly the waitress explained this and that sauce would come on the side "not on top of the food" as if they were anticipating most of the guests to be on a diet. i'm not in la for god's sake.

though the middle of august, there were no salads among the starters, so we chose a kimchee taco and a special, zucchini blossoms. ten minutes later our enthusiastic but clueless waiter plopped down two completely different dishes and looked confused when we said they were not what we ordered. he lifted them up, went back into the kitchen and came out with the exact same dishes he'd presented to us and put them in front of two other guests. he returned to explain, "the chef told me the wrong table number." umm, too much information.

before i blast that terrible taco, you should know i spent 26 years in los angeles, thus am always surprised when east coast chefs prepare tacos with flour tortillas.
for me, tacos always belong on homemade corn tortillas, period. choice of grain aside, what i was served here, if you can call it a taco, was the single worst version i have ever had. there were layers and layers of doughy raw tasting flour tortillas wrapped quesadilla style around a few bits of meat and what tasted like jarred hoisin sauce. there was a puff of kimchee on the side and a few pickled bean sprouts. absolutely disgusting.

if possible, i hated the zucchini blossoms more. turns out, there's a reason chefs for centuries have stuffed the flowers and fried them because when steamed, they are just bland, limp and boring.

i love the word insipid, but often feel silly using it. except to describe the silly steak frites i was served for my entree. undercooked and slightly limp fries were piled on top of what again seemed like jarred hoisin sauce smeared all over the plate. exactly six tiny slices of tough cold meat were carefully arranged in a semi circle on the other side. the only delicious thing on the plate was a dollop of roquefort butter. a side of pea leaves we'd ordered was served steamed saltless and bland.

that said, my husband thought his duck was fine.

my husband is in the restaurant business and many of our friends are chefs. i know the pain and sweat it takes to open a restaurant in new york city and it is hard for me to believe anyone laid awake at night dreaming of opening a place with such passionless, dull and frankly horrible food.

Aug 16, 2015
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

dimes nyc yuck

was so excited to see a new restaurant in the chinatown/les neighborhood, but this place is not going to see me again any time soon. for twenty bucks, i got a bowl of barley and a few pickled veggies, sliced apple with hot chicken on it and an iced tea. did i mention the few slices of chicken for which i paid extra were hot? on a cold salad.

i went to school in boulder, so i'm no stranger to healthy food, but surely in the twenty or so years since i graduated someone has figured out how to properly cook a vegetable so it tastes good and is healthy.

this place is for the birds. and this chick ain't no bird.

Sep 11, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

oops, annisa was fancier than we were dressed

annisa was our plan b last night, but that is an absolutely ridiculous way to get to such an amazing place.

my husband and i are both very stylish, but we were casually dressed and felt it seated at the lovely bar. i'm pretty sure the bartender thought we were tourists from the land of nontippington, but he was kind and attentive throughout our gigantic meal despite his fears. (i say this with some degreee of certainty because when we'd finished, we told him we'd not expected such a lovely meal and after he counted his tip, our standard 30ish percent he actually told me he was quite surprised, as well.)

i could have gone home satisfied after the foie gras soup dumplings, so good i could seriously consider having them again tonight. the chicken liver amuse, presented as a "gift" was fantastic. didn't get to try my husbands mackerel, for which they substituted another fish. they told us upfront, but nothing nothing replaces mackerel, so i didn't even bother to take a taste.
my chicken with pig foot gravy peas and asparagus was amazing. i wish the skin would have been a bit crisper, but it just kept on giving, lovely spring veggies, amazing stuffing under the skin and, oh, that gravy.

on the way to the restroom, i ran into our bartender with plates of bread in his hand and he said, "oh." i realized he was about to serve our cheese plate dessert. i love a restaurant refined enough to hold the food if one of the diners is absent from the table and this place was just that; we were not served until i returned. nice touch. the cheese place had eight or ten selections arranged in order of sharpness. it was a lovely presentation and i loved the raisins on the vine served with.

the drinks were tasty,including one of the best negronis i've had in a while. ii liked that the service was a bit casual--it took the edge off such a grown up room. the bartender must have been the som, too as he was often off serving wine to tables in the dining room. however, the host looked bored most of the evening and i wondered why he wasn't helping out more.

i put annisa in the same category as aldea, elegant restaurants priced well under the quality of their food and service. you could get engaged here just as easily as you could have a lovely business dinner. just don't wear sneakers, even fashionable ones, without socks as you'll wish you were better dressed.

Apr 26, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

last night we went to alder

funny, i've had two average meals at wd-50, much preferred tailor the short lived molecular place his ex-pastry chef opened. perhaps it is the casualness of alder that makes it work. nothing felt like it was trying too hard and despite some glitches a magazine reviewer would probably find unforgivable, i can't wait to work my way through the rest of the menu. funny, just "ran into" wylie getting coffee near my business downtown and, yes, he seemed nice.

Apr 12, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

Gourmet fruit jelly candies in NYC?

i think maison du chocolate has the best pate de fruits in the world and they just happen to have a store in manhattan. i've eaten a lot of them in my life (they are my fav) and i've not found anyplace that can top mdc here or in paris.

Apr 12, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

last night we went to alder

yea, there were some glitches, but we loved alder.

who'd have guessed we'd walk in on a thursday night at a rock star chef's new restaurant and be shown right to a table? a table with cubbies under the bench so i could stash my purse and bulky jacket. bonus points for that.

complimentary sparkling or still water. so much classier than pushing the profitable and expensive stuff then adding, "or we can give you, pause, tap water." more bonus points.

i like to drink boulevardiers, basically a negroni made with bourbon. not only is it hard to pronounce, but nine times out of ten the bartender has never heard of it. the waitress wrote careful notes then came back with a perfect drink--clearly the bartender needed no instruction. the rocks glasses were the best i've seen in new york. clean modern lines, big enough to grab, and full of cold draft ice. a big thumbs up.

our gigantic food order came coursed one or two dishes at a time and we were given plenty of time to enjoy. our waitress was a bit awkward on her clearing the plates timing--a couple of times she tried to take food we were still eating but when my husband explained it was only the first week, it was completely understandable. one caveat. several times during our meal, she asked us if we were still "working on" our food. yes, this is a casual place, but with food this sophisticated, the staff should have been trained to never ever ever say that. it reeks of diner. and alder ain't no diner.

the food was smashing with a few little glitches. the giant smear of creamy cheese served with ultra crunchy crackers and nut brittle was delicious though the purpley gray color was a bit unappetizing. i like my brittle crunchy and this wasn't so i don't know if they didn't bring the sugar up to hard ball temperature (candy making 101) or they were aiming for something more chewy. the portion was out of control big and i'm guessing will get sized down in the weeks to come.

the only miss of the evening for me was the sausage filled kumquats. they were tasty, but everything had the same mushy texture and it just didn't work for me. we left more than half the portion on the plate.

the foie gras was amazing. but i'm not sure who was expediting (wylie kept coming out of the kitchen to look over the dining room) and missed that our english muffin was cooked well to the point of burnt. still, it was amazing.

the quail was served boneless which nearly brought me to tears. even though i love quail, generally i am too lazy to deal with all the teensy tiny bones. smiley face for the quail.

the salmon tartare was the best i've ever had. i loved opening up the avocado shell to expose the lovely pink flesh. yum. wish there would have been more fish.

the rye pasta with pastrami was the best pastrami sandwich i've ever eaten.

my husband loved the pork rib, but for me it was a bit of a meh. the meat was cut into cubes, which, to me, reeks of school cafeteria and gives the meat a just out of the package texture. since i'd not read the menu and just ate what was served to me, it took a moment to realize i was chewing on spaetzle not scrambled eggs. it was tasty, but not something i'd order again.

i have no idea what we had for dessert. the waitress named it but it was hard to hear, so we just ate what arrived. it was some sort of delicious tart. i think it had chocolate in the crust. it reminded me a bit of delicious indian milk sweets, if they were served on a bit of a leaden crust. i'm knit picking here, but the crust could have been flakier. actually, it could have been flaky at all. but i'd still order it again.

my overall impression? nice room. nice mixed crowd, not too young, not too old. cleared out kind of early, which surprised me. the drinks were spot on and served in most beautiful glasses i've seen at any restaurant in the last year. the food was inventive. and delicious. and did i say delicious. funny, because at our house, we've kinda moved away from the whole food as science thing because sometimes all the weirdness just gets in the way of us wanting to eat. but here, it was playful and fun and not at all annoying. just delicious. and did i mention, it was delicious? can't wait to go back.

Apr 12, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

per se advice, please (dinner coming up on Friday)

we left about 100 dollars extra because they deserved every penny. the service made the meal we wanted them to know how much we appreciated their casual yet not at all intrusive or push style.

Apr 07, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

Need trendy/cool meatpacking district lunch recommmendation


Apr 07, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

Pearl & Ash, The Marrow, Le Philosophe, or Lincoln?

i thought the marrow was fine, but not great. i've eaten there twice and enjoyed my meal, but there are so many places i've eaten better--i can think of several restaurants in the neighborhood i'd recommend over the marrow for a meal with good friends: recette, barbuto, spotted pig to name just a few.

Apr 07, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

willow road what i liked and what i didn't

my first time at willow road, i hated it. my 18 dollar drink was so small i mentioned something to the waiter (something i rarely do) and he argued with me that it was just the right size. last night, needing somewhere close to grab dinner, we ended up back, strangely, in the exact same seats at the communal table. it was a saturday night and the place was crawling with groups of girls ordering everything without sauce before they went out husband hunting. despite just such a demanding group to our left, our waiter was attentive and i hardly noticed the awkwardness of trying to converse across a wide table sandwiched between two very loud parties. we ordered mussels and charred beans to start. both were delicious, though my husband decided he would have preferred the former served in a broth with bread. tomato. tomato. next we shared the grilled skirt steak which came with a bowl of delicious but supernaturally green sauce and a lovely marrow bone. perhaps i didn't read the menu carefully, but the bone was an unexpected and much appreciated surprise. the meat was cooked perfectly but they got demerits for not serving bread until i asked. really, what are you meant to do with all that fatty drippy delicious marrow if not slather it on some grilled bread? for me, the star of the evening was the mashed chick peas with chorizo. boy food i'd dismissed as "not interested" when my husband ordered it but in the end reality nice, really comforting, really delicious. our neighbors had ordered the sticky toffee pudding, so that was a must, but it was hard to hear the waiter recite the other desserts, so when he said something i could hear, i latched onto it and ordered. peanut butter chocolate cheesecake was a bust. it was watery and bland and not anywhere near as good as the rest of what we'd eaten that night, sorta like they'd ordered it premade from the diner at the corner. our bill was a bit of a shock. we were having such a good time we'd ordered a second round of drinks forgetting the elephant sized price tag from our first visit. yea, there are places where the drinks are worth eighteen bucks. but, not here. as i told the manager/host/don't really know what his job was when he asked about my impressions, "your cocktail program isn't sophisticated enough to warrant a nearly twenty dollar drink."
there are places where an artful bartender will spend ten minutes handcrafting a mini masterpieces for the same price and at willow road my husband got a glass of campari and soda. not fair. and, in my mind, not good business. i eat out a lot. and i don't mind shelling out good money for a good meal. but if leave feeling gypped i might come back, but i'm more likely to return to one of the dozens of neighborhood places where they notice i know my food and appreciate it, where they top off my wine glass because it costs them hardly anything to do so and it builds such good will with regulars, where they don't seem desperate to fish every last dollar out of my pocket. all in all, i really liked the food at willow road enough to come back often, but the casual down home decor seemed at odds with the size of the bill, mostly pumped up by the cost of those damned cocktails. not by a lot, but just enough that i noticed. shame.

Apr 07, 2013
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

help food loving new yorker in mumbai alone where should i eat?

not my first time in mumbai, but my first time alone and i don't want to fall into the tourist trap of eating at my hotel. i'm a woman alone, so need to be a bit careful, but looking for a must eat for dinner tomorrow.

Jan 14, 2013
jrnlmkr in India & South Asia

tell me where to go

that is possibly the greatest chowhound reply ever. thanks so much. i'm in india now, trying to figure out what to eat tomorrow, but i'll let you know where i went once i get to japan.

Jan 14, 2013
jrnlmkr in Japan

tell me where to go

not my first trip to tokyo, but this time i want to eat.

i live and eat well in new york and would like a greatest hits tour for my four days in tokyo.

i'm coming off a month long trip to india and thailand, so money isn't endless.
and i'll need to be a bit careful.

i'm a woman traveling alone, so i can probably skip the drunk salarymen places, but i'm not at all afraid to be the only girl in a place.

duh, i love ramen, would like a nice sushi meal, and perhaps an alternative to maisen for tonekatsu (although i could go back there if it is the best.)

i love architecture and modern design, so bonus points for pretty modern places by adventurous architects. i also love sweets of all kinds, ice cream especially. i'm staying is asakusa, but any neighborhood is a possibility. nothing too touristy, however, i have exactly zero japanese under my belt. my must stops are the ando ometesando because i think it is the most beautiful building ever and tomorrowland because i think it is the coolest shop ever.

Dec 30, 2012
jrnlmkr in Japan

Prune review

I've been to prune a couple of times before and never liked it as much as others do. I have friends who call it their favorite restaurant, but my first two visits were fine, nothing to rave about. So, recently, when my boyfriend and I found ourselves hungry and walking by prune, i decided to be open minded and give it another shot. we had a great meal and i can't wait to go back.

we sat at the bar and were promptly ignored by the bartender who was fawning over a friend seated at the next barstool. (note to servers and bartenders everywhere: if you are going to give someone the vip treatment, try not to let the guests in the next seats feel like second class citizens. they notice. i promise they notice.)

i am now addicted to the fried chickpea bar snacks we were served while we waited for our apps. the bread we were served was delicious. the buttery head-on grilled shrimp was possibly the best thing i've eaten all year. our salad was better than anyone can expect a salad to be. a fred flintstone sized pork chop came instead of the mackerel we ordered. ( i told you the bartender was distracted.) luckily, it was absolutely delicious and a thousand times better than the same pork chop i'd had the last time that came dry and tough.

when the bill was offered, our entree was left off--the bartender apologized for her mistake and despite our protests insisted we not be charged.

(on one of my earlier two visits, i ordered the best pimm's cup i've ever had. it was big and gin-y and sweet but not too sweet. it tasted faintly of cucumber and ginger just as it should, but unlike a lot of mediocre pimm's cups, it packed a punch from a generous pour of good gin. i dream of prune's pimm's cup and if the bar wasn't so small, would probably find myself there, drinking one more often.)

Jul 15, 2012
jrnlmkr in Manhattan


My boyfriend and I are suckers for brunch at a hotel restaurant; i guess, after a hard manhattan week, it is nice to feel like we're on vacation when we are so, so not. this week, we went to maialino, our second visit, and if it is up to me, our last.

There are a lot of things that go into making a restaurant one that i like to frequent. Delicious food, an intriguing and well-thought out menu, service that matches the style of the restaurant. For me, maialino fails on the last two and the food just isn't good enough to make up the difference.

However, before i jump into describing the things i absolutely detested, I would like to enthusiastically recommend the honey butter glazed pork biscuit. it was sweet and salty and fragrant and everything a morning pastry should be. my boyfriend, who eats faster than i do but is always considerate enough to leave me the last bite, well, i could see the muscles in his fork hand twitching, like it just might spontaneously reach out and grab the piece he'd politely left for me on the plate.

What I didn't like is a much longer list:

I found the menu difficult. I'm not an egg lover, and though there were lots of other choices, nothing really spoke to me. (To be fair, I should mention on both visits I had a really hard time finding something to order. My boyfriend, on the other hand, dreams of the soft scrambled eggs and would walk across town to have them.) I think it is weird how they mix sandwiches and salads in the same menu section with slightly vague descriptions; on our first visit, we actually had to ask which ones were on bread and which ones were salads.

the food was fine though i thought the portion sizes were just a bit, well, petite. i don't mean to sound like an unsophisticated diner that expects a family sized portion of pasta for $23--i'm not saying i wanted double or triple what i got. it's just when i saw the man next to me at the bar served his steak and egg, i actually heard myself say out loud, "geez, he's going to have to go have lunch after his lunch. there's no way that's going to fill him up." oh yea, and the bread was cold, soggy and tough.

food and menu aside, what really killed me about maialino was the service. as i write this, i'm waffling between nonexistent and horrible and can't decide which describes the experience better.
both times we visited, we sat at the bar, our preferred dining location in any restaurant. maialino doesn't have a huge bar and since most of the seated bar guests were eating, there should have been plenty of time for the two bartenders to take care of guests properly. Except they didn't.
When we arrived, I sat with a dirty place setting in front of me for a while before the bartender removed it and brought a clean one. She didn't change the one next to me, nor did she wipe it off before she plopped down a napkin and silverware for my boyfriend. We were never offered drinks.
At a bar. Never were asked. (I should mention both my boyfriend and I have tended bar at highly regarded chef run restaurants in manhattan, so we tend to be a bit forgiving when it is busy, we tip exceptionally well, and we know what is reasonable to expect from a server or bartender.)

Before we ordered, the lead bartender came over and asked the service bartender to handle a couple of bar patrons which she named by seat number. i can count. oh, she means us. then she proceeded to describe to him another bar guest, a vip, and right in front of us as we were being ignored, implored him to give the visiting chef really good service. we finally ordered and for the next fifteen minutes or so, while the service bartender flirted with the handsome gay guys next to me, i tried to catch his eye so i could order a drink. fifteen minutes. and a bartender standing right in front of me never noticed he'd not asked me what i wanted to drink, that i had no glass in front of me, nor that i was trying to get his attention.

The food came, we ate. And then, for the second time, there was the pesky problem of the dirty plates that sat in front of us forever. Gross. But not as gross as the red headed server who re-pony tailed her hair, smoothing it, twirling it and coaxing it into a rubber band. on the floor. in front of guests. then went back to serving tables without washing her hands.

It's weird. someone took great care with so many of the details in this place. pretty room. great location. so, why stop before you properly train your staff? especially in a hotel restaurant, why wouldn't you hire friendly, service oriented bar tenders who make guests feel at home and welcome?
and teach your waiters about basic hygiene practices.


Jul 15, 2012
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

m wells, so so so worth the trip

i was in no mood to go out, already in my sweat pants, under the covers and craving delivery food; looking for a bartending job in nyc will do that to you. but, my boyfriend, who without too much complaint has rented a tux and will attend a wedding this weekend where he'll know no one but me, well, he wanted to go out and i guess i kinda owed him.

m. wells reminded me a lot of florent, a much missed and oft mourned go-to place in the meatpacking district before it turned into a suburban mall. diner vibe? check. hipster staff? check. big crowd? check.

after a false start ordering the grilled cheese with foie gras, which was not available, we settled on marrow bones with escargot, just one bone, but full of lux marrow and plump juicy snails and served with one fat piece of buttery grilled bread. the steak tartare was a huge hamburger patty sized pile of meat topped with a poached egg and seasoned so it tasted, to me, a bit like a fourth of july burger with relish. the menu alluded to egg salad, which makes sense in hindsight. it was pickle-y and smooth and crunchy at the same time and came with a lovely little toss of greens on the side. we also tried the blood sausage and sea snails. it was a lovely glob of salty goodness, full of potatoes and served on flatbread so every bite had a bit of crunch.

for dessert we tried maple pie which wasn't all together successful for me. it looked a lot like milk bar crack pie, but the texture was a bit wet and though the crust was quite burnt, i wanted the filling to have a few more moments in the oven. that said, my bf practically licked the plate and announced he'd easily eat a second piece.

i was quite charmed by everything about the place, the goofy bathroom tile, the counter stool that goosed me throughout my meal, the super passionate cooks, the waiter who offered me the magnifying glasses right off his face. however there was one misstep which grossed me out so much i feel obligated to mention it.

as we were paying our bill, a large table, perhaps the staff sitting down for a post-work snack, ordered several large plates. and please note, when m. wells calls something large, they mean circus fat girl large. we were seated right in front of the cooks station so watched, mesmerized as each dish was plated. when the cook got to the third and final dish, he ladled out sauce with a large metal spoon, then dipped the spoon into the pot to confirm it tasted right. i watched in horror as he wiped the spoon, the one that had just been in his mouth, on a kitchen rag, then used the same spoon to ladle out the rest of the dish onto the plate. yuk.

the best part? our bill barely came to forty dollars. astonished, my always good tipper boyfriend left 50% and we giggled all the way home.

M. Wells Diner
21-17 49th Ave, Queens, NY 11101

Apr 01, 2011
jrnlmkr in Outer Boroughs

just my opinion dbgb, porsena, peels, 5 points, etc

i've now lived in new york for nearly four months and my eating adventures continue. all in all it was not a very good eating week for my bf and i.

my boyfriend was craving a hamburger and after going to market table where we were told the kitchen was closed and minetta tavern, where the door was locked, we ended up at dbgb, where we sat at the nearly empty bar and ordered two burgers and some brussel sprouts.

if you've read any of my reviews before, you know i'm not a big fan of dbgb. i want to love the place, but each of the three times i've visited, it has let me down in one way or another. here's how our meal went down:

there was a couple, seemingly vineyard owners from california, seated at the end of the bar. they were quite demanding of the bartender and he must have thought he was going to be rewarded handsomely because i'm pretty sure he licked them when no one was looking.

i ordered the burger and asked if i could have greens instead of fries. my bf ordered the top of the line burger and added some brussel sprouts for good measure. when the runner placed the food at the end of the bar, the bartender looked at it, grabbed one of the burgers and took it back to the kitchen. the other burger, mine, was left on the end of the bar, for at least five minutes, maybe more, until he returned. Turns out he'd noticed my bf's burger was made without cheese and had run back to the kitchen to get some melted on top. great. except anyone who has worked in the restaurant biz knows, at a high end restaurant, if you return one thing to the kitchen, you return the whole table's food, so guests don't have to sit and watch their meal grow cold.

My burger was served at room temperature, with fries, not a salad and it was full of gristle. ick. and kind of hard to believe that such a our sausage is homemade kind of place would serve sub par meat. meanwhile, the folks at the end of the bar were enjoying mini tasting glasses of nearly every beer on tap courtesy of the bartender who was handily ignoring us.

i'd like to think we live in an egalitarian world where waiters and bartenders treat everyone the same but, alas, that is not the case. i do, however, enjoy watching the face of the person who has ignored us hard during our visit when he looks at the check presenter and sees my boyfriend has tipped 30%, his standard. I love watching the "oops" creep across his face as he realizes he goofed, underestimated us, and bet on the wrong horse.

last night, we went to porsena where i've been dying to go for a bit now. at 7:45 on a saturday i called to see if we could pop in and the hostess graciously invited us to get there quick as a table had just opened up.

we were seated immediately which was great since we'd told her we'd be there in fifteen but in reality it had taken us closer to thirty.

for me, the room was a bit spare and cold, though i loved the cork covered tables and the potted rosemary was a lovely touch. I felt like i was sitting in a really long tube with a really interesting piece of art way down at the far end that i could sorta kinda see, but not quite. on the long wall, there was an odd collection of random framed things hung with seemingly no thought given to spacing or proportion or style, as if right before opening night someone said, "hey that wall looks kinda empty, grab a hammer and some nails and see if you can find a couple of posters at the thrift store down the street."

turns out, the table next to us was VIP, so most of our meal was spent looking at the ass of the chef, who stood talking to them for what seemed like forever. as we waited for our food, we heard her offer to cook up something special for them, offer to handpick the piece of meat they were to be served and describe every item on the menu in minute detail. nice because lots of sexy italian was flying back and forth and i love that, not nice because our waiter was so busy taking care of them, we were nearly forgotten.

i won't go into too much boring detail, but everything really. needed. salt. (mr vip next door asked for a shaker and added his own.) the pasta was cooked well, but the ragu was dry and under sauced. on the positive side, the lasagna had a really nice herbal quality. i can't speak to the desserts because by the time a menu was brought to us, my boyfriend declined mouthing to me, "i can't wait another 45 minutes. let's get out of here."

this week, we also went to five points, a sister restaurant to cookshop, one of our favorites.

i absolutely loved the ceiling height flowers and spent most of the night trying to figure out how i could replicate the effect in my apartment on my budget of negative five dollars.

we were surrounded by three sets of regulars at the bar and like our above described dinner at porsena, we really felt, well, not special. between being ignored by the bartender, we ate a nice salad with dates, some overly chewy octopus, and a pizza with greens, i think spinach, that i'd go back for. often. which might surprise you after i describe the things that happened during our visit. the spinach pizza was really that good.

at one point, trying to get a pickle out of the pickle jar, the bartender stuck his whole ungloved hand in the plastic tub, fished around, grabbed a pickle, then put the lid back on. gross.

but even grosser considering a a few moments before he'd sliced a piece of burger off the guest to our left's plate. she had complained it wasn't as good as usual and pushed it away half eaten when he hacked off a hunk and popped it into his mouth with his fingers.

reminder to self. do not eat pickles at five points.

to my right, the conversation turned to weddings and the guests and the bartender loudly discussed the difference between people's behavior at christian and jewish weddings. "at christian weddings," the guest said, "when the ceremony is over people are lined up six deep at the bar," then added, "at jewish weddings they are six deep at the food table. ha. ha. ha." while a bar guest can talk about anything he wants, i was kind of offended to hear the bartender join in.

during the time we were seated at the bar, perhaps an hour, or an hour and a half, every single dish brought out from the kitchen was presented to us. seriously, even in the middle of our dessert, the runner came out with some sort of appetizer and asked if we'd ordered it. once. ok. twice. amusing. but come on guys, you are professional restauranteurs, it isn't that hard to put a seat number on the tickets going to the kitchen. and if you can't handle that, give the food to the bartender who will place it in front of the proper guest.

oh, but that spinach pizza.

ok, now that i've gotten that off my chest, i did have two really nice meals this week. the first was at hung ry which although i'd heard such great things about the place, absolutely went above and beyond my expectations.

i arrived nearly 45 minutes before my bf and sat at the counter with a glass of wine which was generously topped off by the bartender and which, by the way, got me quite tipsy. as i waited, chefs and waiters both conversed with me, answering questions about the food, offering to get me a snack. it wasn't intrusive, but i certainly wasn't ignored and given my experiences earlier in the week, i really really appreciated that.

when my bf arrived, we ordered a fish appetizer, i think mackerel. as we were eating, the noodle puller started to do his thing and i leaned over to my boyfriend and whispered in his ear, "i bet that guy gets laid a lot." seriously, who knew noodle pulling was so sexy?

the wine haze makes it difficult to remember exactly what kind of noodles i ate, but i'm thinking oxtail with baby carrots and macadamia nuts, though i seem to remember the menu listing brazil nuts. either way, the broth was nice, the noodles nice, the meat nice and the nuts, yes, a nice touch.
a small scoop of ice cream for dessert was a perfect foil to the salt and we left completely happy.

my other nice meal of the week was at craft bar, fast becoming a fav.

the bartender remembered what kind of bourbon i'd had in my manhattan the previous week and checked to see if i wanted to stick with that or try some rye instead. the drink was delicious, as usual, but i do wish their pour was a bit more generous.

when i was a kid in detroit, we used to have lunch often at a place called the st clair yacht club where they had the best bread sticks in the world. i'd make a meal of them with salty butter and a salad coated in sweet poppyseed dressing.

the breadsticks at craft bar are so so so much better and we all know it is hard to top a childhood memory. they are salty and buttery and crunchy with the perfect crumb and, though you have to ask for butter, when they bring it the pat comes with a generous crumble of sea salt. those breadsticks make me so happy, i actually think about wrapping some in a napkin and sneaking them into my purse.

for me, a meal of those sticks, and an open faced sammie of melted fontina cheese on toasted bread with pan fried mushrooms that are so greasy good they might as well be deep fried and a scoop of apple celery sorbet can make the sun shine on even the shittiest day.

today, i'm going to barbuto. i'll let you know how that goes.

900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

21 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

Hung Ry
55 Bond St, New York, NY 10012

Mar 27, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

looking for chef driven restaurants with great bars

hope you can suggest a bunch of places with fantastic food and a great bar. examples would be barbuto, minetta tavern, fedora. eat out a lot, new to the city, and need to start making a list of potential new places to go. any part of the city is fine.

Mar 08, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

red rooster. how do they get the bathrooms to smell like caramel?

if you've read any of my reviews before, you know my boyfriend and i lead a charmed life as far as walking into a crowded, popular restaurant and snagging a table instantly. i'm not exactly sure how we do it, but last night was no exception, two minutes after we'd been told the dining room was fully committed and there would be an hour and a half wait for a table in the lounge, the hostess ran up and grabbed my bf, wiggled her finger in a come hither sort of way and asked us to follow her to a table.

ok, the chairs were wobbly and the table moved this way and that with the slightest amount of pressure and drinking bar patrons, more than once, slammed their drink down next to my food and the pos computer was right behind me, but let me repeat myself, within two minutes of practically being told, "you ain't gonna eat any time soon," we were nibbling on the best cornbread i've ever had.

clearly, this place is about more than the food, so i'll start with the incredibly nice bouncer/doorman who greeted us warmly and was so handsome he made me swoon just a bit. the crowd was a mix of middle aged foodies and, from the way the waitress knew everyone's name, what seemed like neighborhood regulars. The crowd was dressed to impress, natty, and in a few cases, WHOO, superfly. The soundtrack was a mixture of good ole detroit motown (music to this detroit girl's ears) and 70's disco hits. The place was designed with a bit of a heavy hand for my taste; there were lots of nice details, but mostly things were a bit too slick for me and despite the handwritten bathroom signs, and display of ms's personal items, it faintly smelled of wanting to be a chain.

the food was good, some things great, but some things strangely bad. the afore mentioned cornbread was sweet and cakey with a salty crust that almost made me order a second round. (as it went, i ate the whole cube put on the salad that came with the mac and cheese, which my boyfriend noticed and commented on. i still feel guilty) the portion was huge, though not as big as the one the regular customer with the mini tv sitting next to us was served. the duck liver mousse? with pastrami'd duck breast was up and down. Just couldn't wrap my head around the liver texture, but the taste was fine, the duck breast pastrami slices were delicious.

for dinner, bf ordered the fried chicken which was unlike any southern fried chicken i've ever had. i'm not much of a fried food girl, but i could have eaten nothing but the thick crunchy coating and gone home happy. i had red snapper which was sweet and so tender, i couldn't get it to stay on my fork. it was served sitting in a broth, but the small amount of cold (was it supposed to be that way) liquid was impossible to get into the spoon, something about the bowl shape just didn't work so i was left frustrated and confused. we shared a mac and cheese which was delicious and cheesy and not really at all like mac and cheese. instead of the creamy, gloppy slightly orange colored mess i was expecting, we got something that reminded me of the delicious cheesy mess that is onion soup if you took away the onions and the broth and substituted my favorite ear shaped pasta.
it was served with a small salad, which neither of us took more than a bite of, though i was curious about the hard marble shaped orange blob on top. i guessed kumquat, my bf an onion, but i couldn't stab it with my fork and at some point it rolled under my plate and was forgotten.

we had pudding for dessert which came on a plate full of fruity surprises. it was good but not earth shattering. and to be honest, after the waitress gave a several minute speech/lecture about the godliness of the tea, i was a bit disappointed to be served a cup already brewed with no pot to
allow me to refill or adjust the strength.

a few random notes. our tablemates ordered oxtail and it looked like the winning dish, though i didn't get to taste it. and if you get the blondish waitress from somewhere in the midwest, clearly here in nyc chasing a career in musical theater, watch out. she is overbearing, annoying, and prone to calling her customers "you guys."

Red Rooster
310 Lenox Ave, New York, NY 10027

Mar 06, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

what happens when was only sorta happening for me

this is a copy of an earlier post, oops, i forgot to put the name of the restaurant and it was to late to edit it.

s a designer who often creates things on the fly, i'm a big fan of temporary installations; i love the rough edges and the lack of self consciousness that is often a part of something spontaneous. however, what happens when was lacking the very quality that begged me to visit opening week and a quite expensive dinner just didn't seem worth the trouble we took to slog through the snow to get there.

everything came off as trying too hard and though i liked certain aspects of the decor, particularly the lamps made using upward reflecting light bulbs and cook book pages, we were never able to relax and just enjoy our meal. No one explained to us where to find our silverware. One of our plates of amuses (and our neighbor's) came missing crucial bits. And in a teensy tiny space, a very annoying dessert cart was constantly being pushed through the aisles. Nothing on it was jaw droppingly beautiful, so I just didn't get why it was being paraded around like a pageant kid.

Before I describe our meal, I should note we had lunch two days before at Dovetail. Being restaurant week, for half the price of our What Happens When dinner, we had a very similar meal albeit in a much more polished and elegant surrounding.

My potato skins were fine, but frankly needed salt. (I should also note I am not a salt fiend, find most of new york restaurant food over salted, so if i'm begging for salt, it really needs it.) My boyfriend's roasted cauliflower looked fantastic but halfway through, I noticed him picking through looking for a promised ingredient that just wasn't there. My lamb came medium as I'd requested and was tasty, but a bit tough at the edges. My bf had some sort of breast of poultry, maybe guinea hen and it looked great. It was topped with a lovely roasted carrot I almost reached over to grab. But, after noticing our neighbor pushing food onto her fork with her fingers, I decided to use my company manners and kept to the food on my own plate. When it was our turn for a spin on the dessert cart, I noticed a chocolate tart with beer foam and candied pretzels with caramel, nearly the same dessert I'd just had a dovetail. I'd really really liked it at Dovetail and really really liked it here, but come on, if you are only doing three apps, three entrees, and three desserts, can't you come up with something unique for opening week?

We left what happens when full and having enjoyed our meal, but could have eaten much better at dozens of other places we often frequent (Casa mono, craft bar, The Harrison, Hearth, aldea) for much less. Based on the premise of the place I was hoping for an experience that opened my eyes, or my mind or one that took me on a journey but what I got was a perfectly adequate not very original meal. For me, that's just not good enough

What Happens When
25 Cleveland Pl, New York, NY 10012

Jan 27, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

now that i've moved to nyc, if i'm not careful, i'm going to get fat

it has been exactly a week since i traded los angeles for new york and i'm hoping the walking is going to make up for the eating.

really, in all my years of multiple trade show visits to manhattan, i had no idea people really eat like this every night.

although for most of the saturdays i've spent in new york since august have been reserved for late lunch at cookshop, yesterday my bf and i went to peels. it had a very similar vibe, albeit with a much younger and lest touristy crowd, and except for the waitress forgetting to bring me milk for my tea, our meal was lovely.

the place was packed, but somehow, with no wait we got ushered up the stairs to an open table with exactly zero wait time. it was new year's day, so some of the staff looked a bit on the ragged side and our waitress never managed to get her apron tied the entire time we were there, but the room was lovely, filled with natural light from huge windows down two walls.

my bf ordered a melted cheese and bacon sandwich on brioche. it came centered on a huge white plate and looked a little lonely with no garnish, but he ate every bite. we shared a fruit salad, which was gorgeous. in LA, a fruit salad would be chunks of fruit in a bowl, but this was beautifully sliced bits of apple and pear and grapefruit and banana in a lightly sweet sauce arranged like a still life. i had the smoked fish sandwich. it came with just sweet homemade pickle slices and well done potato chips and was quite a filling meal. the bread was chewy, the fish just salty enough to be flavorful, but not so much so i needed a trough of water the rest of the day. we finished with tres leches cake with dried cherries. my bf declared it the best he's ever had.

we took an intermission from eating to see the illusionist which i highly recommend, then went to dinner at ssam. once again, packed, but we were seated immediately, which for some reason always happens to me there. nice.

we started with crispy pork buns. they were ok, but the dough was tough like they'd been cooked for someone else, then sat around for a while. the filling was nice, but the bun itself reminded me of the steamed bums i've bought, forgive me for this, in 7/11 in malaysia and bangkok. they look like steamed buns, and they'll do in a pinch when you are hungry and there is nothing else to eat, but they are hard and tough and doughy and not at all ethereal like a bun should be.

we moved on to apple kim chee which was a nice combination of two favs, baked apples and kim chee. nothing earth shattering, but a nice, interesting couple of bites.

we shared oxtail for our main and it was great. rich and warm and really savory. my bf told me he wished he was at home so he could pick up the bones and gnaw at them.

for dessert, we had the apricot sorbet with thyme accessories. it was a giant plate with apricot tapioca and thyme shortbread and thyme tuille and it was sweet and sour and crunchy and soft all at the same time. i wished the apricot tapioca had been sweetened a teensy bit, but otherwise it was perfect. perfect. i loved it.

Jan 02, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

need help for birthday dinner

got the reservation. will let you know how he likes it.

Jan 02, 2011
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

need help for birthday dinner

that is so funny, i just popped on to make a reservation, but my day is not yet open. i was thrilled, however, to see several open times, so maybe i will get lucky and score one on the 5th.

Dec 28, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

need help for birthday dinner

my bf works at a famous restaurant, so we get the royal treatment at lots of places i'd consider special if i didn't know him and that makes picking a place to take him for his bday especially difficult.

in august, we had a spectacular meal at aldea; i'm hoping wherever we end up can top that.

we're downtown types, but i'm open to a great restaurant anywhere. we both loved tailor even though we didn't know each other when it was open. he hates shellfish. we've gushed about meals at casa mono, the harrison, hearth, market table, and the breslin. we really enjoyed lunch at the bar at craft bar, even though the room itself seems tired. we love sitting at the bar or at a kitchen counter. we hated apizz, were lukewarm about marlow and sons and he really disliked otto. he tends to like to go back to the same places over and over, but i want to show him something new. i was going to take him to etats unis, but i guess i missed that it closed. similar for l'atilier as it is closed that week.

help, please.

Dec 28, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan


after trudging through the cold to hearth, which was closed for a private party, my bf and i decided it was time to give apizz a try. we both wished we'd gone to casa mono instead. nothing was bad, but nothing was any better than what I, an ambitious but not very experienced cook, could have whipped up in my tiny studio apartment kitchen.

we started with an octopus salad. it was filled with chunks of, i think, potato, and pieces of celery so uneven a first day cooking school student could have done better. the dressing was strangely sweet. the whole thing reminded me of a salad i'd make on a night when i was hungry but too lazy to go to the store. often i chunk up anything i find in the fridge and mix up a dressing with whatever i grab from the cupboard. it is hard to believe a chef thought it up.

we shared a steak and veal ragu. the steak was tasty, but a smidge thin and so tough it made me wonder if the kitchen was saving money by buying way less than prime meat.

as i was eating, i couldn't but help thinking this was what a friend would cook for me. it wasn't bad, but my friends aren't chefs and i'd certainly not pay them $160 for what they can whip up.

as we were finishing, at almost the same time, my bf and i looked at each other and said, "this reminds me of diner food" enough said.

on the positive side, the cocktails were delicious.

217 Eldridge St., New York, NY 10002

Dec 16, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

restaurant suggestions, downtown please

i'm back in la, stuffed and having a hard time buttoning my jeans.

once again, i ate myself silly and here's what i thought:

hearth. we had no reservations, but managed to score seats in the kitchen which was really fun and romantic and much prettier than the hum drum decor in the main room. my bf declared his pasta the best he's ever eaten. i guess because we were sitting in the kitchen, we were given a complimentary plate of gnocchi which were buttery and really yummy. the staff was super attentive, the somm very smart, the chef friendly and funny and the food really good.

the harrison. again, without reservations, we strolled in and were about to be shown to our table, when my bf discovered one of his customers seated at the bar. we were invited to sit and the next thing i knew a parade of cocktails and things we didn't order appeared before us. again, we were given gnocchi. and again it was delicious. two really strong drinks keeps me from remembering specifics, but everything tasted great, especially the giant dessert. robert, the sweet bartender makes a wicked manhattan and was nice to us even though we hogged two prime barstools until closing.

aldea. i'm embarrassed to say we showed up at 5:30 pm and were the only non white-haired customers in the place for several hours, but we'd not had breakfast or lunch. the hostess, who we'd met several months before at otto remembered us from there and offered us seats in the kitchen which we loved. the place is beautiful, so no seat is bad, but the chef is so intense and focused, it was a huge treat to watch him. we started with foie gras and octopus, accidently quite a contrast to each other which we really enjoyed. the plates were so so lovely i barely wanted to dig in, but screw art, i was hungry; i'm thinking the scene looked a bit like lions feeding on the animal planet and though i can't quite remember, i'm hoping neither of us licked our plate. the pork belly was the most beautiful presentation of food i have ever seen. i loathe foam, but made friends with it here.. again, lucky choice, the duck was lusty and earthy and a direct opposite to the pick ethereal pork.

cookshop. i confess, we have friends who work there, but we go because we like it and this trip i went three times.

casa mono. damn, i really like that duck egg on potatoes.

casa. my man is brazilian so for my last night, we went to casa in the west village so i could see what he grew up eating. after being seated i heard a lot of portuguese, then some chicken wings and some spicy green sauce were placed in front of me. we had yummy shrimp in coconut milk and a plate of assorted brazilian stuff, rice beans, meat, garlicky greens, tomatoes and onions and yucca flour. it was very homey, delicious and filling.

murray's cheese. the grilled cheese sandwich was only four bucks, but the bread was kinda stale and the cheese grained up as soon as the thing began to cool. not horrible. just not grand.

hearth harrison aldea cookshop spotted pig casa

Oct 24, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

restaurant suggestions, downtown please

bummer, still dream of my meal there. the food was so good i had a great time despite being the only eating customer in the restaurant for the full two hours i was there.

Oct 10, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

restaurant suggestions, downtown please

oops, typo, i meant xian where, by the way, i most liked the celery salad, super simple and delicious.

Had an icky meal years ago at Prune with my then-husband. He was just about the only man in the room and we felt really, really out of place and I never feel out of place.

I also may be the only foodie on the planet who didn't love degustation. It was fine and fun to watch the chef artistes do their thing, but a bit to precious for me.

I am a huge fan of maison du chocolat, but what i thing they do amazingly well is their fruit gels. all the bakeries in paris do them, but maison du chocolat, let's just say here in la, i used to make up excuses to stop at neiman marcus just so i could buy a fruity gel square. the counter was right next to the shoe department, another one of my weaknesses, so it was a good thing when they stopped carrying mdc.

of course, been to katz's--i'm a big fan of new dills, i think you call them half sours in ny and there is nothing like a brisket sandwich a a plate full of salty cucumber pickles. i'm puffy for a week afterward, but so worth it. And Russ and Daughters, of course, though i prefer to dig in the cold case and get a tub of baked fruity farmers cheese.

Been meaning to get to Perilla, but have wondered if it is cheesy and hyped or solid and good.
Coming from Los Angeles, I'm just not all that into the "I was on TV" thing. Here, it seems everyone is famous for something (a friend recetly reminded me I used to be, too) and not always for their talent.

Looking forward to a week of delicious. Of course, will have to stop at Barbuto for some of that delish chicken.

Any thoughts on, i think it is called the little owl?

9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

Oct 10, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan

restaurant suggestions, downtown please

thanks to everyone who made suggestions about where i should go during my month in new york last august. now, i'm coming back to visit the man who joined me on all my eating adventures and i'd like to have a few tricks to pull out of my hat.

last trip, we went to:

market table
casa mono
spotted pig
num pang
xian xian
milk bar

i'm sure there were more, but it all melts into a wine soaked distended stomach romantic haze.

so here's what i'm looking for:

places to eat with a guy i'm crazy about with really good food, maybe a bit romantic, but not cheesy and not too uptown. i love fashion just about as much as i love food, so i'll be dressing, more martin margiela than coco chanel but he's pretty casual and i need him to feel comfortable, too.

fish isn't his favorite, me, i'll eat just about anything if it is delicious.

and to further give you an idea of what i like, until it closed, tailor served me just about the best meal i've ever had, yet i don't love wd50. i loved alias back when it didn't have tacos on the menu.
and i absolutely hated my dinner at dbgb, though the time i went to his midtown place with the foie gras burger still tickles me because martha stewart was sitting at the next table. no, i'm not star struck, i live in la and here everyone is a star, but she, in public, picked food out of her teeth with her finger. i saw it. my friend saw it. and it still makes me laugh.

Oct 05, 2010
jrnlmkr in Manhattan