Tag Archives: Fine Dining in NYC

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Before I start this review of Ayurveda Cafe, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Dena Cheng, and I am currently a first year student in Columbia College. For the culinary blog, I will focus on great vegan and vegetarian eats you can find throughout the city of New York. I am so excited to share my opinions and excitement for food with you this year. I hope you enjoy!

Ayurveda Cafe 

 706 Amsterdam Ave   New York, NY 10025

Monday thru Saturday 11:30am-10:30pm

Sunday 11:30am-10:00pm

Located just past 95th street, Ayurveda Cafe is a great location close (ish) to the Columbia campus. If you are looking for some delicious Indian food, look no further! With a serene ambience, delectable foods, and welcoming staff, the cafe does provide you with a wonderful eating experience.

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A dinner dish filled with beans, yogurt sauce, rice and more!

One of the most unique parts of the restaurant is that there is no set menu. The food constantly changes everyday, and you get to pick and choose from, essentially, a sampling platter. There is a range of different dishes within little bowls, so you can taste different types of beans, rice, and cooked vegetables. The price is very fair, with lunch at only $9.95 and dinner at $15.95. Moreover, one serving can feed more than one person. 

 

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The papadum (a crispy lentil treat)

I personally shared a dinner plate with two other people and was completely satisfied. The wonderful staff even offered papadum, lentil wafers, with various sauces beforehand. Servers also provided warm naan and a free chickpea dessert at the end. This was more than enough food for me.

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A very satisfying cup of mango lassi

I also ordered one of my favorite drinks, a mango lassi. Although it was not necessarily the best lassi I had ever tasted, it was quite delicious and sweet. The yogurt based drink was creamy and tangy without being overly syrupy.

Finally, I would probably rate my experience 4 Bobby Flays out of 5.

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Overall, my stay at the Ayurveda Cafe was pleasurable, and I would definitely go again. Check it out!

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A Vegan’s Heaven in the Village

This time when I chose a vegan restaurant to visit, I decided to stray a little further from campus and I found Red Bamboo on 140 W 4th Street in the Village.

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The restaurant has a very calming and cozy feel, making it a very nice place to go if you are stressed. I decided to get take-out from the restaurant and it only took them 10 minutes to make my food! So, if you are very hungry after making the trek from Morningside Heights, luckily, you will not have to wait long! And my trek was truly worth it!!

Popcorn shrimp
Popcorn Shrimp

I decided to start off my meal with an appetizer. I chose the popcorn shrimp because one of the things that I miss the most after becoming a vegetarian is shrimp. The vegan popcorn shrimp were absolutely amazing! The shrimp I got had the same texture and taste of real shrimp! The shrimp were fried perfectly and the sauce that came with them complimented them very well. I will definitely be going back to get more!!

Classic blt
Classic B.L.T.

I got the classic BLT for my entrée because I was really interested in trying Red Bamboo’s version of bacon. The tempeh bacon was also really good and it  had a very similar taste to real bacon. The sandwich also included whole wheat bread, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and vegan mayonnaise. The mayonnaise didn’t taste exactly like real mayonnaise, but in some ways it was actually better. It was a little less thick than real mayonnaise and had a little bit of a different taste, which actually went better with my sandwich than real mayonnaise would have. I definitely will have to get this sandwich again!

I loved everything about Red Bamboo and I will definitely be going back sometime very soon. Everything I tried tasted absolutely amazing and now I know that there is a place that makes great substitutes for the food that any vegan or vegetarian misses. I will definitely be recommending this restaurant to everyone I know, whether or not they are vegan or vegetarian!

Mouthwatering Malaysian Cuisine in the Meatpacking

I got into Barnard around the same time that I started working in a kitchen. So when it came time to visit for admitted students’ weekend, who better to ask for a restaurant recommendation for the weekend than an actual chef?

My boss recommended the Fatty Crab, a “Malaysian street-fare” restaurant in the meatpacking district, and said that their pork buns were better than Momofuku’s. My father and I went for a lovely, spicy, speedy lunch before hurrying up to 116th and Broadway. The restaurant reminds me of the way I felt that weekend—breathless with excitement, with all the unknown thrills of college just ahead.

Pork Buns
Pork Buns

The pork buns are served with some sort of hoisin-like sauce, 7-minute eggs, and a variety of herbs (cilantro, for one). The meat was tender, fatty, and sweet, lacking what I like to call the “barnyard edge,” that distinct animal-y edge which often accompanies pork and lamb. Unlike the buns at Momofuku, there were no pickles to directly cut the fat, but the meat was so perfect that it didn’t matter.

Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork – pork belly, fresh herbs, sweet ginger
Watermelon Pickle and Crispy Pork – pork belly, fresh herbs, sweet ginger

Continue reading Mouthwatering Malaysian Cuisine in the Meatpacking

Los Sabores de Yucatán or: How I was Converted to Love Tacos

I’ve never been a huge fan of tacos. I know, I know. How could I not love tacos? I guess I never really saw the point. But I’ve been converted—I haven’t stopped thinking about the tacos I ate last week.

Tacombi’s website says “Born on the balmy beaches of the Yucatan, Tacombi began selling tacos out of a converted VW bus in Playa del Carmen. Now, comfortably parked in Nueva York, Tacombi on Elizabeth street transports people from the streets of Nolita to the streets of Mexico, offers a piece of the Mexican beachside lifestyle and shares with them the diversity of Mexican street food culture.”

This describes it. It’s a loud, relaxed atmosphere which, if you didn’t know, could be just off the beach somewhere tropical. Prep is done in the back, but the actual tacos are, I believe, cooked in the original truck, pictured below.

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The original food truck still has a place in the restaurant.

I’ve been meaning to go here for a long time—one of the co-owners is the brother of the chef I work for in Boston—but I hadn’t gotten around to it until last week, when, after an art history trip to the Met, a friend and I decided to take the 6 down to Nolita. I didn’t realize the restaurant takes reservations, so when we got there (7:15-ish) we had to wait for about 10 minutes.

But onto the food, because who wants to read about the wait?

Corn equites, lime & chipotle mayo
Corn esquites, lime & chipotle mayo

The corn esquites comes in a cup, with the toppings heaped on top. This is so delicious; sweet, spicy, savory. If you like sweet corn, mayo, cheese, and lime, this is the dish for you. Be sure to mix it up—this is a dish where it helps if all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Don’t be afraid to ask for more limes if you want them.

Tacos!
Tacos!

The restaurant recommends three tacos, but each comes with two soft taco shells, and diners are instructed to put half of the filling in each—so really, you’re getting six tacos.

From left to right:

Crispy fish: fresh cod tequila battered and topped with cabbage

Close up of the crispy fish.
Close up of the crispy fish.

This is a Tacombi favorite, and rightly so. Fried fish, more of that mayonnaise, and crunchy, (pickled?) cabbage? Squeeze a little lime on it, and maybe some salt, and you’re good to go.

Barbacoa: roasted black angus beef

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I’m not a huge fan of beef, in general, but I am a fan of tender, slow-cooked meat. This is tender and flavorful, and the toppings cut through the richness of the meat.

Pork belly: slow roasted berkshire pork

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Pork belly is my favorite food. This was incredible; again, the tender meat and great toppings. In general, I find that pork belly, despite its buttery, smoky taste, can often be too rich to eat much of. It’s a food that I often find myself needing to sit down after eating. This, however, was rich without being overpowering, filling without being heavy, buttery without being oily.

All in all?

Go to Tacombi. Go hungry, and order the corn esquites for me.

Ambiance
Ambiance

Tacombi at Fonda Nolita:

267 Elizabeth St; (917) 727-0179

Atmosphere: Open, casual, upbeat, young.

Sound Level: Loud.

Recommended Dishes: corn esquites, pork belly taco, crispy fish taco

Price Range: $$

Hours: 11am-12am Sun-Wed, Thurs-Fri 11am-1am, Sat 9am-1am

Reservations: OpenTable

 

All About the Culture: Tremendous Tapas at Toro

On April 12, 2009, I ate at Toro for the first time. It was Easter, and my family was in South Boston, and my mom had seen it as we drove by. Six years later, and I have met and interviewed Chef Jamie Bissonnette, cooked with a chef who used to work at Toro, and eaten at Toro many, many more times.

Now, a confession: I haven’t actually eaten at Toro NYC (though I have been to the space), Chefs Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer’s latest venture (an offshoot of the original Boston Toro). However, most of the dishes are similar, and I trust these two chefs enough to recommend the New York location. I trust Pete Wells, too, who reviewed Toro NYC for the New York Times and wrote “I can’t remember what we were eating at Toro, the new tapas restaurant in far western Chelsea, when one of the people at my table looked up in wonder….But I remember his smile and his question: ‘How can a place this big have food this good?’”

Wells is right. The food is damn good. When I talked to Bissonnette, he remarked that he thought “good art” (in terms of food) was if someone returned from Toro saying “Oh my god, the food at Toro was so good; I ate too much.”

What he didn’t know is that this has happened every time I’ve gone to Toro. Bissonnette and Oringer have a touch for these Spanish-inspired tapas that is just brilliant. The combinations of flavors showcased on Toro’s instagrams, both Boston and NY, are just brilliant: schnitzel with Serrano, idizabel, mustard, and pea greens. Whipped foie butter with tangerine and chestnut mostarda. The DTF.

Bissonnette also mentioned that a restaurant wasn’t just about the food; “It’s about the dining room, it’s about the culture.” Toro has drawn crowds from its opening night in New York, bringing a young, lively, hip group of eaters to the former Nabisco factory in Chelsea. And while it may be all about the culture, in his mind, it’s all about the food in mine.

I like to think I know a fair amount about food—and I do. But talking to Jamie Bissonnette, it became clear how much I have to learn. I left the Toro NYC space—which is gorgeous—feeling like I knew nothing about food. It wasn’t as if Chef Bissonnette had made me feel stupid; in fact, quite the opposite. However, the way he pulled extremely specific examples—at one point, he cited a “stew of chickpeas, chorizo, and blood sausage” as if that was everyone’s go-to example—from thin air showed a level of expertise with food I can only hope to achieve someday. And it is this expertise which allows him to create such incredible combinations of food, and hire chefs and cooks who will as well.

The food is also incredibly colorful and photogenic. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. My mind is blown every time I eat there. Here are some of my favorites, all offered at Toro NYC:

Hamburguesas - Grass fed mini burgers with smoked tomato, aioli and pickled red onion
Hamburguesas – Grass fed mini burgers with smoked tomato, aioli and pickled red onion

Oh, these are so good. Small enough so that you don’t get tired. The aioli, tomato, and pickled onion are incredible complements.

Atun Crudo - Yellowfin tuna with white soy, spicy cucumbers, citrus and avocado
Atun Crudo – Yellowfin tuna with white soy, spicy cucumbers, citrus and avocado

Another classic. Sometimes the citrus is yuzu, sometimes it’s lemon, but it’s always good.

Tartar de Atun - Tuna tartare with stuff that we really like
Tartar de Atun – Tuna tartare with stuff that we really like

I can never tell exactly what the “stuff” is, but they’re right to like it.

Pato Con Albaricoque - Smoked duck drumettes with apricot mustard glaze
Pato Con Albaricoque – Smoked duck drumettes with apricot mustard glaze

Sweet, tender, duck-y (duck is my favorite poultry) these were just amazing.

Boquerones - Marinated‎ white anchovies in vinegar and olive oil
Boquerones – Marinated‎ white anchovies in vinegar and olive oil

I’m usually not even a fan of anchovies, so I’m not sure why we ordered these.

I am now a fan of anchovies. These were not fishy or bony, and the spices complemented the fish perfectly.

Patatas Bravas - Fried potatoes with aioli and spicy tomato sauce
Patatas Bravas – Fried potatoes with aioli and spicy tomato sauce

You can’t go wrong with fried potatoes, and even for fried potatoes these are really, really good.

Jamon de Pato - Aged duck ham
Jamon de Pato – Aged duck ham

I’ve never heard of duck ham. This is just plain great.

When I went over spring break, I had one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve eaten in a while: Asado de Huesos; roasted bone marrow, served with oxtail marmalade and toast, with citruses and radishes. At Toro NYC they make this with beef cheek instead of oxtail.

Asado De Huesos - Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade
Asado De Huesos – Roasted bone marrow with radish citrus salad and oxtail marmalade

That is just art, both visually and gustatorily.

Chef Bissonnette, Chef Oringer: I don’t know how you do it. But what I do know is this: at your restaurants, you make good art.

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Toro:  

85 10th Ave; (212) 691-2360

Atmosphere: Open, casual, upbeat, young.

Sound Level: Loud.

Recommended Dishes: Hamburguesas, asado de huesos, patatas bravas

Price Range: $$

Hours: 5:30-11 Mon-Wed; 5:30-12 Thurs-Sat; closed Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable

Restaurant Week at Red Rooster Harlem

Marcus Samuelsson is not the first chef who inspired me. However, his story is unique— he is not another restaurant emperor who cooked his (yes, his; it’s a deeply sexist industry) way up through Lyon, Paris, and currently dominates New York with various eponymous eateries. Instead, born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson was adopted to a Swedish family after his birth mother died. After cooking his way through much of Europe, meeting friends and experiencing a surprising amount of death, he ended up in New York, where he became, I believe, Sous Chef and then Chef de Cuisine at Aquavit. He eventually re-opened Red Rooster (long a Harlem staple, but it had been closed for years when Samuelsson rejuvenated it), which I chose as a restaurant week destination.

Red Rooster is known for Southern-inspired food, but Samuelsson has inserted, among other cuisines, Swedish touches. I ordered gravlax, followed by “Helga’s Meatballs,” followed finally by sweet potato donuts with cream.

Lax, or laks, just means salmon in Norwegian. Gravlax is a Scandinavian curing preparation, which involves a cure of sugar, salt, peppercorns, dill, and some other herbs; these are rubbed onto raw salmon, wrapped, and placed under a weight in a cold space for several days. (How do I know? My father makes it every so often; there’s nothing quite like opening the fridge and finding all of the containers piled on top of a hunk of raw fish.) It ends up tasting quite like smoked salmon—but this is not a surprise, considering that smoked salmon, as well, is mostly raw.

I had read about the gravlax at Red Rooster in Samuelsson’s book, Yes, Chef, which I highly recommend. Maybe I’m a bit of an industry sap, but reading about Samuelsson receiving his first knife—this is a big deal for cooks—made me tear up. At any rate, I was excited to try the gravlax, and I wasn’t disappointed.

gravlax with house made green harissa crème fraîche and roasted carrot salad
gravlax with house made green harissa crème fraîche and roasted carrot salad

There could have been more salmon on the plate, but for the most part the dish was very good. The spices on the salmon were unusual and interesting; I believe Samuelsson originally tested many versions and ended up using espresso in the final one. The roasted carrots weren’t mushy, nor were they burnt; in fact, this might have been the most interesting part of the dish. It’s hard to roast carrots perfectly, and these were pretty close to perfection. I have also, recently, become a fan of pickled mustard seeds; the pectin in the seeds creates a very interesting gel, which sticks the seeds together.

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Samuelsson first learned to cook from his grandmother, Helga, for whom the meatballs are named. Of course, there is nothing at all southern about Swedish meatballs with cabbage and lingonberry jam. Anyone who has been to Ikea knows this. The dish was served with mashed potatoes, which added a southern feel, though potatoes are also a Scandinavian staple. The meatballs were lovely; tender in a way that I have never been able to accomplish, with a hint of a taste that was definitely not Italian or Greek (two of the Mediterranean cuisines which can tend toward meatballs).

helga's meatballs, with lingonberries and braised green cabbage
Helga’s meatballs, with lingonberries and braised green cabbage
buttermilk mashed potatoes
Buttermilk mashed potatoes

These were some of the best mashed potatoes I remember having in a long time. Buttery, soft, and smooth; the toppings added a bit of bite and crunch.

And then the doughnuts:

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Red rooster doughnuts – sweet potato filling, cinnamon sugar

Interestingly, I was more fascinated by the whipped cream – which was cold and thick. However, the doughnuts were a dream: soft and light, filled with a sweet potato filling which was not overpowering in the slightest. It was a rich dessert, but also a light one, and so the meal ended on a high note, rather than with all diners weighed down.

Now, the restaurant week experience can differ from the normal experience at a restaurant. The staff was not especially warm at Red Rooster; I suspect this is probably not the case for non-restaurant-week diners. I don’t know how Swedish-leaning the menu is in general. However, the meal was wonderful overall, and I will definitely be returning.

 

Red Rooster: 

310 Malcolm X Blvd; (212) 792-9001

Atmosphere: Open, casual.

Sound Level: Loud.

Recommended Dishes: Helga’s meatballs, Red Rooster doughnuts

Price Range: I went for restaurant week but google says $$$

Hours: Brunch: Sat-Sun 10-3; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 3:30-10:30, Fri-Sat 3:30-11:30, Sun 3:30-10; Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-3

Reservations: OpenTable; not crowded around 5 pm but full soon after.

The New French: Lafayette

Mesdames et Messieurs, the reviews are in: Lafayette you are juste magnifique!

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 If there’s one culinary bite of wisdom I’ve managed to chew off over my relatively short life it’s one thing: Taste is place. What first drew me to food was travel, that is to say when I experienced that one dish could so deliciously convey a history, a people, and capture the spice of most importantly, a culture. Food is no other than the expression of a land and of a certain terroir. When we savour a slice of Camembert, we’re tasting the beauty of the pastureland, plains and rolling hills that the creamy cows of the île de France and shores of Normandy are grazing on. In a glass of a really good Burgundy pinot noir, it’s the Jurassic period limestone soil and thousand year old vines unique to one of the world’s most geographically distinct regions that our palettes are really sipping on. And the best authentic French food, is of course going to taste the best in none other than the land of France. So what’s the point of trying to find “authentic” french restaurants in another country? Isn’t it all going to be a sort of sad copy, a nostalgic crusade for all deprived francophones, in search of their own culinary golden age? Well this week, Noho’s infamous Lafayette showed two staunchy traditionalists the beauty of culinary translation and of the American-French restaurant variation.There’s no going back to France, but there is a way to appreciate the value of cultural interpretation, and what American chefs might add to the interpretation of French flavors. This week we’re here to celebrate one of our new favorite culinary breeds: le nouveau style, “American-French.”Cher Lafayette, you are a beautiful hybrid.

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                                  Lafayette

DSC_0419380 Lafayette St.

Noho

So here’s the deal, Lafayette reigns currently as one of NYC’s top French restaurants and we’re stamping it with our wholehearted francophone seal of approval. And not because you’ll find the most authentic French food there, but rather because it offers innovative, delicious spins on traditional regional french classic dishes. Now we’ll be honest, we’re not on the “Boulud” bandwagon these days. Instead we’re joining “team Lafayette” for their ability to produce delicious, creative spins on the best of French cuisine. It’s that creamy quail egg on their “New Orleans” tabasco aioli beef tartare that really revamps original flavors and makes the classics, well, fun again! The quail egg is not a culinary face lift, but rather an inspired addition. Just like that refreshing layer of sweet sauternes gelée on good ole chicken liver paté done right on a light brioche was then “razzle dazzled” into the modern age with balsamic dressed frisée.  And the best New York-Franco translation of the night that we’re recommending: Duck au Poivre, a riff on French steak au poivre (filet mignon cooked with peppercorns) but reinvented with a meaty, double stuffed Muscovy duck breast and topped with vibrant bursts of orange candied kumquat, radishes, and smoked bacon. No disrespect to Duck à l’Orange, but Lafayette’s unique kumquat announces a new burst of tart citrus flavor with an added raw crunch to pair perfectly with your duck cooked to a perfect pink. It was one subtle ingredient that didn’t renovate one of my favorite dishes, but rather re-translated a transition.

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So why are we sending you on a date with duck at Lafayette next weekend? Quality, delicious dishes that fit a creative American-Franco fused menu. La service? Superbe. Lafayette’s waiters are well tasted and eager to talk you through their Holy Bible of a wine list. L’Atmosphere? It’s no comfy cave bistrot, but their art deco inspired interior and suspender strap wearin’ waiters will whisk you and your palette back to a time when dining was truly a celebration, an elegant affair, and a moment to shine your shoes for. A time when waiters still serve a “lady” first and will even delicately crack open your warm soufflé to pour in just the perfect amount of crème anglaise. Lafayette preserves the grace, tradition, and dedication to the craft of preparing and serving food in a way that embodies the very génie of the French Haute Cuisine. So come for cultural culinary innovation, but let yourself be transported back in time to a restaurant that preserves the very essence of Julia Child’s legacy.

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Menu Must Haves:

Winter Paté, foie gras, red cabbage, apple cider

Escarole Salad, pomegranate, hazelnut, parmesan, truffle vinaigrette

Prime Beef Tartare “New Orleans,” tabasco aioli, quail egg

Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano

Duck au Poivre, organic grains, radish, smoked bacon

Petite Orange Soufflé with earl grey crème anglaise, mandarin salad

*And supposively we hear the pommes frites sont divine!

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 French Check-In: An Afterthought from a Parisian Palette

What was your favorite Lafayette spin?

The French restaurant in NYC? Lafayette, definitely. And maybe because it’s not exactly a French restaurant serving very “typical” dishes that we don’t even really eat back at home.

The restaurant in NYC? Well, that’s a really tricky question obviously, but Lafayette could be in the top five, and considering that there are 16,251 restaurants in NYC (yes actual number), that’s something.

Seriously, this place is everything you can look for when it comes to food: simplicity and quality. I had the Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano (by the way, cheapest dish on the menu, 22 dollars, does it get better than that… ?). It’s a dish I regularly have, from time to time, at home or out. It basically contains pasta and rabbit, that’s it. But this version of it was the real thing because the pasta was perfectly cooked, the rabbit was tender and flavorful. Simple comme bonjour.

PS: Oh, and don’t even get me started on the bread.

-Jeanne Bernard

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 PARIS SUGGESTIONS: WHERE TO FIND JULIA CHILD OLD SCHOOL ROMANCE THESE DAYS:

Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)

 

 

Pigging out at the Spotted Pig

The Spotted Pig, the only Michelin-starred gastropub, famous for its burger and incredibly long wait times, has been on my restaurant list for a long time. I’m a big fan of Chef April Bloomfield, and last week I was finally able to go for lunch.

There were several requirements needed to achieve success:

1. I had to go for lunch, not dinner. Going for dinner there often means waiting for hours.

2. It had to be a week day, not a weekend—on weekends, the Spotted Pig serves a brunch menu, which didn’t have the gnudi I was dying to try.

3. I had to get there right as it opened; despite the fact that they say it’s less crowded on weekdays, I knew that it would fill up fast.

So we got there right at 12, on a Friday, and successfully got a table.

We ordered three plates: the gnudi, smoked haddock chowder, and cubano sandwich. Frank Bruni recommended the chowder, the cubano was rated one of NYC’s best sandwiches, and the gnudi held a personal significance.

About a year ago, I was working Saturday prep shifts at a restaurant in Boston. The restaurant was serving a pomegranate-braised lamb shank which was served with gnudi. Gnudi (coming from the Italian word for nude) are basically ricotta balls rolled in semolina flour; ravioli without the pasta. Nude ravioli. I made these gnudi week after week, sometimes tasting the filling, but I had never actually had one in its glory.

I also couldn’t wait much longer to try them. Last summer, the Spotted Pig changed the set with the gnudi—I believe they were served with some sort of pesto. The classic set is brown butter and crispy sage; that was back on the menu, it sounded divine, and I didn’t want to risk a menu change.

Smoked haddock chowder with house made crackers
Smoked haddock chowder with house made crackers

I’m a huge seafood chowder fan, and the smoked haddock chowder was no disappointment. The smokiness of the haddock and the pancetta complemented the cream and parsley perfectly. This may have actually been the best thing we ordered.

Cubano (served with arugula)
Cubano (served with arugula)

April Bloomfield’s spin on a cubano involves (as far as I could tell) prosciutto, pork shoulder, cornichons, and jalapeños. Pair that with super melty gruyere and you have a masterpiece. A masterpiece that drips (a stunning amount of) oil, but still a masterpiece.

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Sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with brown butter and crispy sage

As featured on the second season of Mind of a Chef, here are the gnudi. Super salty cheese contrasted beautifully with the brown butter (if you’ve never had brown butter, try it; it’s basically butter that has been cooked on super low heat for maybe 45 minutes until the proteins caramelize) and sage, my favorite herb, added a nice pop.

Overall? Highly recommend. One of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in a long time. I admire Chef Bloomfield’s ability to make a name for herself in such an incredibly male-dominated industry, and a unique name at that. I look forward to trying her other restaurants.

The Spotted Pig:

314 W 11th St; (212) 620-0393

Atmosphere: small, pub feeling; the dining room gets loud quickly and the waitstaff is very casual.

Sound Level: loud.

Recommended Dishes: gnudi, smoked haddock chowder, cubano.

Price Range: $$$; lunch plates run around $19 per plate. Dinner is more expensive.

Hours: 12 – 5pm, 5:30pm – 2 am, Mon-Fri; 11am – 5pm, 5:30pm – 2 am, Sat-Sun.

Reservations: None. Plan your travel carefully. Get there early if you don’t want to wait. For dinner, always be prepared to wait.

Bar Boulud

As I continue my fan-girl like obsession with Anthony Bourdain, I continue to get lost in the Internet sites saying, “This is Bourdain’s favorite restaurant”. The list goes on and on, and quite frankly it is very hard to weed out Bourdain’s authentic favorites.

As I visited the eighteenth site trying to choose my next Bourdain approved restaurant, I came to a conclusion that the only truly authentic recommendation would come from his mouth directly- or his keyboard. Thus, I turned to Twitter.

After “creeping” on his Twitter feed, I finally found his personal recommendations, once again for French cuisine.

This time, my Bourdain adventure took me to midtown, Lincoln Center to be exact. Well, across the way from Lincoln Center that is- Bar Boulud.

Being that it is the season of Restaurant week, I decided to order off the special pre fixe menu. I started with the Soupe De Topinambour, or sunchoke soup, the proceeded to the Epaule (pork), and finished with Entremet Chocolat-Cacahouete for dessert.

From the fashion week models strutting down stairs to the restroom in their dresses that basically condoned frostbite to the man in a tight scarf trying desperately to woo the blonde across from him with anecdotes of his house in the Hamptons, the atmosphere just screamed New York. Placed in between other high quality restaurants, the windows at the front have an impeccable view of Broadway, Hotel Empire, and of course, the Lincoln Center.

The meal itself was a warm welcome after the bitterness outside. The soup was the perfect way to begin my meal, taking away that last bit of chill still nipping at my toes. It was very thick, almost reminiscent of chowder, with a perfect circle of mushrooms and toasted hazelnuts in the middle. The hazelnuts truly brought out the nuttiness of the sunchoke, highlighting its root-like taste. At the same time, the mushrooms added a hint of sweetness to the soup to make it a truly well-rounded starter.

The main course itself was my personal favorite. Epaule is essentially pork from Raven & Boar that is braised for ten hours and then served with faro risotto and mushrooms. The dish itself reminds me of something my French grandmother would serve me after a terrible break up. The dish was very heavy, and delightfully delicious. The pork fell apart just by slightly prodding at it with the tongs of the fork, braised in a mild, buttery sauce, and lightly seasoned. The dish truly highlighted the distinct flavors of the pork, rather than that of the sauce, which I found to be very refreshing. The risotto was also a good compliment, with mild flavors to really accentuate the meat. The dish was very well done, and I understand now why the managers chose to highlight this particular dish on the restaurant week menu.

Lastly, the dessert was a great end to a great meal. Unlike the other aspects of the dinner, this dish reminded me more of a modern, upscale type of dish more than comfort food. In the middle of the plate there was a chocolate biscuit, topped with dollops of rice crispies. Served on the side was a peanut caramel that reminded me of a deconstructed salted nut roll, and a scoop of milk ice cream on a bed of cookie pieces and a sheet of chocolate. Each separate part was very light, and a nice end to a heavy, comfort food-based meal.

Bourdain said Bar Boulud was good, and after visiting the place in flesh this week, I can confirm that Bourdain still does in fact know what good food is.

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Boulud Brunches: Bar Boulud vs. db Bistro Moderne

Chef Daniel Boulud is nothing if not a culinary icon; a chef known for his extreme work ethic and his intense partying (after he won a James Beard award for Daniel, he apparently danced on tables all night).

I’ve now brunched at two: db Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud, and thought a comparison might be fitting.

I went to db Bistro Moderne with my parents and a friend, for only one dish, the burger:

THE ORIGINAL DB BURGER
Sirloin Burger filled with
Braised Short Ribs
Foie Gras and Black Truffle
Served on a Parmesan Bun
with Pommes Frites

Yes, this exists. I’d joked with the chef at the restaurant I work with about the “$40 burger,” but when the opportunity arose to actually eat it, of course I was going to.

We started with the Viennoiserie Basket, which was good—nothing particularly special. The croissant was delicious, the brioche a bit too charred for my liking.

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My mom got poached eggs with quinoa, charred tomatoes and scallions, swiss chard, and manchego cheese. I’m not a quinoa person, but I thought this was a particularly beautiful dish.

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My dad got the mushroom omelette, with gruyère, wild mushrooms, and French mâche. I didn’t try any of these dishes (save the pastries), so unfortunately I can’t report on taste.

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My friend got the croque monsieur…

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And the famed burger:

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It was excellent, though perhaps not as mind-blowing as a burger stuffed with short rib and foie gras ought to be.

I was impressed that, despite the fact that Daniel Boulud has a ton of restaurants and it’s completely unrealistic to imagine that he actually spends extended amounts of time in his kitchens (especially this one), the care taken to the food was great – one can tell simply by looking at the cheese on the omelette, or the whiteness of the eggs, or the perfect crispiness of the french fries.

Bar Boulud, on the other hand, is a different story. Eat the croque madame here if you want the cheesiest, richest sandwich you’ll ever eat.

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I first had this sandwich almost four years ago, when I came to the city for a weekend with my father. I don’t think I ate cheese for a month. This sandwich has smoky, delicious ham, creamy béchamel (THE mother sauce), and more gruyere cheese than is imaginable. Topped with a farm egg, it is a wonder to behold. Somehow (I honestly don’t know) I managed to finish it this time.

We also got a side of super green spinach. Sounds healthy, right? It’s not. It’s basically wilted spinach with butter and cream – and it may be the most delicious spinach ever.

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So, overall, if you want a nice brunch? Go to Bar Boulud. It’s closer, and you won’t need to eat for a week.

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(Though it is kind of hard to argue with this burger.)

db Bistro Moderne:

City Club Hotel, 55 W 44th St #1; (212) 391-2400

Atmosphere: It feels like a restaurant in a hotel, which is what it is.

Sound Level: Medium.

Recommended Dishes: the original db burger.

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $40 per person.

Hours: 7 am-10 pm Monday, 7 am-11 pm Tues-Fri, 8 am-11 pm Sat, 8 am-10 pm Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.

Bar Boulud:

1900 Broadway; (212) 595-0303

Atmosphere: Light wood; incredibly interesting wine storage downstairs; nice lighting.

Sound Level: Moderate.

Recommended Dishes: croque madame, super green spinach, charcuterie

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $50 per person.

Hours: 11:30-11 Mon-Thurs, 11:30-12, Fri-Sat, 11-10, Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.