Friday, January 28, 2011

Tasting Hour at Japonais

After an incredibly exhausting week of work I came home Friday to find Mr. T in bed, sick as a dog. I had been dreaming of a wonderful nap all day but those plans shattered once I saw how sick he really was. So instead I spent my Friday and Saturday cleaning up tissues, cooling fevers, running out to this store and that for whatever he needed at the moment whether it be medicine, juice or some sort of food item. By Saturday evening I was pretty tired of being the personal nurse and needed a break. Luckily right about 5:00 Mr. T went off for a nap and I seized the opportunity for a little fresh air and some food.



I knew I didn’t have too much time but I did want to relax a bit and enjoy myself. I happened to be walking by Japonais and noticed their Tasting Hour menu listed outside. I had been trying to decide whether I wanted sushi or some sort of meat- this menu had $7 appetizers of both- easy decision! I went inside and was the sole diner at the bar.

Japonais is absolutely beautiful inside with bright red walls and velvet seats. I came here for dinner once years ago when it was the new hot restaurant in town. I remember loving the sushi but feeling everything else was overpriced. This is the main reason I was so curious about the quality of the Tasting Hour treats (btw tasting hour is actually 3 hours 5:00-8:00).



My first appetizer was the sashimi of the day which was tuna and ebi. When this dish came out I have to admit I squirmed a little bit. I’ve eaten shrimp heads before and they weren’t awful but for some reason I just hate seeing them. Luckily I was able to move the sushi grass over and covered them up quite nicely!

As far as the sashimi went it was pretty good but I’ve had much better. The tuna was average- cut well and fresh. The ebi were super sweet, almost too sweet for me, four small guys were more than enough flavor that’s for sure.



My second appetizer was much better the Wagyu Skirt Steak Robata with pearl onion, shishto pepper and smoked spicy ketchup. The meat was excellent. It had a nice char on the edges and a beautiful moist red middle that was incredibly juicy . At first I didn’t understand the ketchup but it actually went really well. The smoky, spicy bite really gave a nice kick to the sweet marinade of the steak.

Obviously another draw to the Tasting Hour was the $4 cocktails. I was certainly in need of one of those so I ordered the Japonais Startini made of stoli citrus vodka, citronge, passion fruit juice and cranberry juice. After I finished the first one the friendly bartender came over and refilled me right away without me even asking. I finished the second and he did it again! I wonder if I could have kept going all night! Lol! After the third I got the check and left. It was very nice the bartender didn’t charge me for the extra drinks but you know what- I wasn’t affected by them at all! In fact I felt more sick than anything from all the fruit juice.

So apparently there is little to no alcohol in the “tasting hour” drinks at all. I mean three cocktails and I’m usually pretty looped. However it was a good deal and once my stomach calmed down from all the sugary juice I decided I would go back again but next time I’d stick to a wine.

Japonais

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caffe Lavazzo at Eataly

As I continue my tour of all things Eataly I decided to go back to the start where Caffe Lavazzo serves up some very tasty coffee drinks. They have everything that you would expect espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, etc. but also some really unique twists. My current favorite is the Piedmonte.



They take a double espresso, stir in a little bit of cocoa powder, throw on a hefty dollop of whipped cream (note how much I got and I said light on the whip) and then top it off with some freshly grated dark chocolate flakes.



I love this drink. I’m not a big whipped cream fan but here it doesn’t matter too much. The whipped cream they use is firm and doesn’t melt easily. As a result each sip of espresso kind of ran through the cracks of cream allowing the bitter espresso flavor to stay true with only a hint of frothy cream.

The cocoa power simply gave the drink more depth and really didn’t add too much sweetness. As soon as I finished my first I contemplated getting a second. Would four espressos be too much in one sitting? Probably.

I had been obsessing so much about the wondrous Piedmonte last time I went I decided I had to take a break from it and try something new. This time I got something with a very long name but essentially an espresso with hazelnut mousse.



This time I didn’t say light on the mousse and man I was given a ton! My father would have been thrilled as he always takes the whipped cream off my desserts and adds it to his. The hazelnut mousse was very tasty but I didn’t really enjoy it with the espresso as much as I wanted to. After having the Peidmonte so much this drink just felt very one dimensional and boring.

Listen to me…one awesome coffee drink and I’m a coffee snob! That's just the way I roll. I’m excited to go back and check out their Bicerin. What a perfect warm wintery drink!

Monday, January 24, 2011

MLK at ABC

You would think after a decadent and wonderful lunch at Bouley Saturday, followed by lots of beers and a giant cheese steak during football Sunday, that the last thing I would want to do Monday afternoon is stuff myself with more food and drink…Well if that’s what you think you don’t know me very well.

I woke up on Monday feeling like a million bucks. Sunday I spent the entire day inside watching football and barely moved off the couch. All the energy I stored up doing nothing seemed to be pouring out of me and I was anxious to spend the day being active. I spent most of the morning shopping- everywhere from SOHO up to Times Sqaure when hunger finally struck me around 1:30 and I decided to head back near home for lunch.

Since it was a Monday I figured I would have no problem just walking in for a bite. Man was I wrong! I opened the door only to be greeted by a packed restaurant filled with noise and multiple parties waiting for a table. I almost walked out after being quoted at least an hour wait when the wonderful host spotted a corner bar seat that had just opened up. It was perfect for me! I only had neighbors to my left and I had a view of the entire restaurant.

For those of you that don’t know ABC Kitchen is Jean-George’s newest restaurant located inside of ABC Carpet and focuses on locavore sustainability. The theme of this restaurant was immediately apparent upon sitting down. The placemats and menu were made out of recycled paper, the napkins nothing more than a dish towel and the wait staff had a slight urban hipster look about them.



I was having trouble deciding what to order when I noticed the lunch pre-fix. Appetizer, entrée and dessert for $25- decision made!



This is the Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast with Ricotta Cheese and Apple Cider Vinegar. The first thing that struck me about this dish was the wonderful smells of autumn that came from the fresh squash and cider on the plate. The toast itself was on the sweet side. At first I really enjoyed the flavors, the squash almost tasted like it was drizzled with honey. Then about a quarter of the way through the sweetness started to get to me. Was that honey or was that the vinegar that was starting to bother my taste buds? This dish would have been good as a starter for two people to share maybe but for me alone the sweet flavor was overpowering and it was hard to get through even half.



For my main course I chose the Grilled Portobello Sandwich with arugula and parmesan, lemon mayo and jalapeños. When this plate came out I was excited about two things- the fabulous looking sage fries and the thick meatiness of the mushroom.



Close up you can see all of the components of this sandwich and just like the Squash Toast I loved it at first. The tangy lemon mayo went perfectly with the parmesan and arugula and I really enjoyed the flavor of the earthy shroom. However after a couple bites I began to become overpowered taste again. The pieces of pecorino were huge and soon that was the only flavor I was tasting. I tried to take a chunk of two out but then the dish became unbalanced. It was weird honestly- I couldn’t decided if the pecorino was destroying the dish or the only thing balancing it out. I got a little spice from the jalapeños but not a ton (later on when I ate some as leftovers I found most of the jalapeños had been regulated to the other side of the sandwich. I think I had about 4 jalapeños in one bite- Holy Hotness!).



The French fries were also interesting. These guys look like my favorite kind of fry- long and crispy with a bunch of fried sage. However the flavor was a little bit different. I couldn’t put my finger on it but they didn’t taste very good. I’m not sure if it was the kind of oil they used or if the oil itself had been used too much but they tasted a little stale.

I was so conflicted with my first two courses I was looking forward to just a straightforward delicious dessert. Imagine my surprise when this enormous bowl arrived with the ABC signature sundae!



There is no way to describe how big this thing was! Let’s just say this- everyone up front waiting for a table proceeded to turn around and stare as it was walked over and the two ladies next to me at the bar each gasped in shock as it was set down in front of me.

I have to say I was excited. I have no problem finishing dessert! There were three scoops of salted caramel ice cream with candied popcorn and peanuts all drenched chocolate sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Much like the two courses prior, I loved this at first. The salted caramel ice cream was insanely creamy and had just the right amount of sea salt, the peanuts had a nice crackly shell and the chocolate sauce was ridiculously thick and rich. However as I was finishing the second scoop of ice cream I began to realize how insanely sweet this dessert was. My stomach started to ache and I realized finishing the dessert would probably put me out of commission for the day. I put down my spoon and asked for the check.

So I’m completely conflicted about ABC Kitchen. I love the concept but the food just kept being too much. I’m not going to close the door here but I’m going to give them some time before I return.

ABC Kitchen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy Saturday Cocktails!

It’s the weekend and after the week I had at work I really need two or three cocktails! And what better place to tipple at than Temple Bar. This place is definitely one of my favorite bars in the city. The gorgeous wooden bar up front is perfect for some romantic conversation. Head to the back for some more lively conversation with friends at one of their round wooden tables. Anywhere I sit makes me feel like I’ve been transported back to the New York of 50 years ago.



I was there last Saturday and enjoyed a lovely Kir Royale with some friends. It’s not exactly an exciting drink but I wasn’t feeling any of their other cocktails that night. However they do make a pretty mean Old Fashioned which I’ve been known to enjoy. The other drink in the picture is the Riviera Spritzer that looked delicious as well.



They also have some fabulous little snacks but don’t pass up the free popcorn! I have no idea what makes it so tasty, maybe some sort of beet chip mixed in with the kernels? I’m not sure- all I know was that whole bowl was gone before I even realized what happened last. Luckily they replenish them quickly.

Temple Bar is simply fabulous. It’s almost never too crowded to get a seat, the cocktails are wonderful and once again- free popcorn!

Temple Bar

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lunch at Bouley

Bouley was one of the first fine dining establishments I ate at in New York my first year here. I remember loving everything about it- the food, wine and atmosphere. Fast forward to last week when ten years later I finally had a chance to return for a lovely lunch with friends.

The whole experience actually started out pretty shaky. At first we somehow walked right past the restaurant without even noticing. Then once we backtracked the door wouldn’t open. Seriously! We pushed, pulled, pounded- nothing. I was beginning to freak out a little- did they close down and not inform of this? Another older couple walked up as well and had no luck. Finally someone exited the restaurant and we ran in before the door shut. Apparently their door was locked by accident. Well that’s certainly not a way to bring customers inside!

Anyway- once inside the door we were greeted by the amazing smell of apples lining the inner corridor. I felt like some one had slapped me in the face with some autumn love. It was as intense as it was beautiful. We checked our coats and were seated at a table towards the back of the restaurant. Once we chose a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc we were presented with an amuse bouche from the chef.



Pumpkin Soup with Crème Fraiche. This soup was just delightful. Pumpkin is one of my favorite foods and I loved the subtle spices and velvety crème fraiche. It was a fabulous way to start the meal and a sign of good things to come.



For my first course I ordered the Chatham Blue Fin Tuna with Marinated Japanese Turnip, Spicy Radish and a Yuzu-Miso Dressing. When this dish showed up I was excited how visually simple and perfect it looked. When I think of French food I think of lots of creams and sauces. With this dish they simply let the fish be the star of the show and did little besides show casing this beautiful and luscious piece of tuna.



For my second course I had the Porcini Flan, with Alaska Live Dungeness Crab
And Black Truffle Dash. First of all I loved the little copper pot this came in. I really wanted to take it home with me. Then I tasted the contents and I was really blown away. The broth was incredibly rich with enormous mounds of fresh, sweet crab meat and little truffles floating around making each bite more complex and tantalizing than the one before.

Well apparently the richness of the flan did me in a little because somehow I didn’t get a shot of my next course Organic Long Island Duckling Roasted with Truffle Honey, Puree of Nevada Organic dates with Turnips and a Julienne of Local Beets. I think I had been ordering another bottle of wine for the table and the picture just slipped my mind. Suffice it to say though the dish was excellent! The duck was a perfect medium rare and the dates and honey gave it an interesting and sweet balance that worked perfectly with the fatty meat.



No picture of the duck but I remembered to get a shot of our mashed potatoes! Each of us received our own little bowl of these guys and they were tasty but nothing special. I’m kind of ruined on upscale mashed potatoes. Nothing has even come close to the ones I enjoyed at Joel Robuchon.



Onto our palate cleanser for the day a Chilled Coconut Soup. I did not enjoy the coconut flavor or icy, crunchy texture of the fruit at all. However it did cleanse my palate a bit for what came up next.



Dessert! Believe it or not this is all for me. This is called Chocolate Frivolous. It contained a Chocolate Brulee, Chocolate Parfait, Hazlenut Daquoise, Chocolate Walnut Spice Bread, White Coffee Ice Cream and Prune Armagnac Ice Cream. This was way to much dessert for one woman to handle but I managed to try a little of each bite and polished off the Hazelnut Daquoise and Prune Ice Cream with no problem.



I didn’t take a picture of any one else’s food that day but last minute I snapped a picture of my friends cheese course. I just thought the cheese flower in the middle was absolutely gorgeous!



After all of that food they ended by bringing up an array of petite fours. I was so full at this point I thought I was going to burst. I tried to muster down a couple of bites but it was too much- I physically couldn’t put another bite of food into my body.

The best part about this meal besides the fabulous food, gorgeous décor and wonderful service- the price. This four course meal with lots of freebies added in was only $36 a person. That is a ridiculously good deal. I would seriously dine here once a month if I could afford all the bottles of wine. Bouley was a wonderful way to wine and dine away the afternoon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Il Pesce at Eataly

I am currently on a quest to eat at every single restaurant inside Eataly. I’ve had all the desserts, espresso, meat and cheese in La Piazza; I’ve ordered take out pizza from Rossopomodoro and focaccia from the bakery; but now it’s time to try out the sit down restaurants and I decided to start at Il Pesce.



Il Pesce is the seafood restaurant in Eataly and has a rotating list of daily specials as well as a nice open kitchen to watch all the cooking. I got a seat at the bar and started out with a nice glass of the Bollicine Rose and some bread and oil.



The specials that night didn’t excite me so I went for a regular menu option the Insalata di Mare (steamed seafood salad). When this bowl arrived I was shocked at how big it was. Mussels, Clams, Calamari and Octopus had all been steamed in a white wine broth and various other herbs. The Mussels and Clams were wonderful- I ate those right away. However the octopus became a bit much for me. There was just so much of it! I don’t know anyone who could eat that much in one sitting. I wish they had balanced the seafood a bit more but overall I did enjoy the broth.

One of the best things about Il Pesce was the atmosphere. As a semi-regular single diner Il Pesce is a perfect place to eat. I could watch all of the excitement from La Piazza as I ate, the food came out within a matter of minutes and I never felt uncomfortable or out of place. Il Pesce is done, maybe Manzo will be next.

Il Pesce

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year- Restuarant Week!

Just a reminder that Restaurant Week starts on January 24th- February 6th this year. Reservations are already available on Opentable. Your old Tasty Trekker was interviewed this year by DNAinfo and you can check out the article here .

As I said in the article I'm really excited about the new Tom Colicchio restaurant Riverpark being a part of the list. I have reservations there already for dinner and I'm hoping to make it to at least one or two more places if I can. I have to tone it down a little this year. I gotta save up some money for February and Mexico!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tood English Food Court

I have a Café Sabarsky gift card that expires soon so I figured I could use it last week when my friend came to visit. She got into NYC around 3:00 and we immediately headed uptown to Sabarsky. I was expecting a line but not one as long as we encountered. It was almost out the museum door! She didn’t feel like waiting so we trudged back out into the wet, puddle filled streets and ended up down at the Plaza inside Todd English’s new food court.

Things started off a little rocky. The manager told us it would be a 5 minute wait but then we stood for almost 20 minutes. Then they seated us in the very last section where the door kept opening and closing. I seriously contemplated just leaving but we were really hungry at this point and decided to stick it out.



I wasn’t feeling any of their wine selection so I started off with a safe but boring Hoegarden. The only reason I mention this at all was because of the price. My Hoegarden was a reasonable $7.00. This was a nice surprise since the Oak Bar upstairs I remember paying upwards of $10.00 for a beer. So the service stinks but at least the prices are slightly lower.



This is the Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread. Thank Goodness we decided to split our order! This thing was enormous! The flatbread had big airy pockets on the end and a wonderful thin crunchy char in the middle with a dusting of rosemary. Unfortunately some of the components needed work. The cheese on the flatbread was gorgonzola and it wasn’t distributed very evenly. Some times I would be overpowered by the cheese and sometimes I wouldn’t get any at all. A well spread out goat cheese would have been better. The fig jam was also a little strange as it wasn’t a jam at all. Whole figs were strewn about and again it made it difficult to have one uniform bite of all of the components. That aside this was a tasty flatbread. If they smooth the toppings out this would be a nice option for two to share.

I love the vibe and energy in the Plaza but they really need to work out the kinks still. We had four different waiters over the course of our meal but no real service. At the end I had to flag someone down for our check and I still don’t think it was any one of the four we had. I’ll give it another try outside the holiday season and see if that makes a difference.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas Wrap Up and a Surprisingly Great Meal

So after a few wonderful days of great beer and wine at Mr. T’s parents we flew into Buffalo to visit my family on Christmas Day. We dined and relaxed at the usual places except for one day when we drove into Fredonia to visit an old friend. I wasn’t expecting much from this lunch. Fredonia is a college town, not exactly known for its dining options.

We walked inside the Brick Room and I immediately loved the polished wooden floor, big front windows and cozy brick walls. If I was surprised about the space I was even more surprised at the wine list. They had some of my favorites!



We ended up settling on a lovely bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir which suited our mood perfectly. For my entrée I chose the Crabbie Pattie Sandwich (partly because I like crab cakes and partly because I like Spongebob)



The oven baked crab cake had wonderful crunchy edges and a decent amount of crab meat with little breading. The meat itself was slightly over peppered but I enjoyed the chipotle aioli on top.



My friend chose the special that day of Grilled Tilapia with Couscous and Greens in a Buerre Blanc sauce. The Couscous brought an earthy depth to the dish and really stood well alongside the delicate fish. The buerre blanc sauce was wonderful and I kind of wished I had ordered the dish myself.



Mr. T went for the Chicken Pot Pie. I never enjoy these but this one was actually fantastic! Inside the flaky crust were huge pieces of chicken, fresh spinach and a very light gravy that had a spicy kick. Everything tasted so fresh and well constructed I was truly blown away by the flavors.

So we really enjoyed quite an amazing lunch in the tiny town of Fredonia. The rest of our trip was filled with our regular Western NY dining destinations. We almost had to stay another week when they cancelled our flight back and didn’t reschedule it for 5 days! We called very airline, rental car place and Amtrack but nothing was available. Finally we got a seat on a Greyhound Bus and made it back into the city. Not exactly the best travelling mode but it did the job. So that was it. Another wonderful Christmas in the books!

The Brick Room

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dining Room of Gramercy Tavern Lunch

I’m slightly behind on my posting so please bear with me. Between the holidays, blizzards and guests I’ve been pretty wrapped up. So let’s go back to the very start of all this madness with our first day off for the holidays. Mr. T’s brother and wife were in town so we met up with them for a lovely lunch at my favorite place- Gramercy Tavern.

I frequent the Gramercy Tavern a good amount but I hadn’t eaten in the back dining room in years! It was nice to have a totally different menu than I’m used to albeit more expensive. They offered a fantastic looking tasting menu for $58 but we were heading up to Mr T’s parents house that afternoon and I was pretty sure that we would be stuffing our faces up there all night. A la carte seemed to be a much better option.



For my appetizer I ordered the Red King Crab with Sunchokes and Apples. The crab meat was so sweet and delicious I would have enjoyed this purely on its own, however I really liked the tart apples slices in contrast to the meat.



For my entrée I had the Braised Lamb Shoulder with Heirloom Beans, Wild Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts. This dish was wonderful. The lamb was intensely rich and incredibly moist due to the braising. I always love brussel sprouts but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the mushrooms. There must have been about 4 or 5 different kinds on the plate and each one brought a whole new flavor to the dish that was exciting.

We skipped dessert and enjoyed the free petit fours at the end of the meal instead. It was simply a lovely meal. I didn’t think the holidays could start off any better but then we threw in a quick drink at Rolf’s and some wine at Eataly before heading out! Now that is an awesome start to Christmas!

Gramercy Tavern

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Meatball Shop

How in the world it took me this long to finally try out the Meatball Shop I have no idea. Now that I have, I’m obsessed. The Meatball Shop is a cozy little restaurant down in the LES that specializes in one thing and one thing only- meatballs.

Meatballs are something I never really think of that much. However I realized something Saturday night- I love meatballs! Mr. T and I arrived at the Meatball Shop around 6:30. The place was already packed and the wait for a table was an hour and a half. Luckily for us they just opened up a take out window so we ordered up our food and headed over to Local 138 to indulge.



I ordered the Meatball Smash which is your choice of any two meatballs on a brioche bun served with any sauce or cheese you would like and a side salad. That’s a pretty great deal for $8. I went for the Beef Meatballs with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.



As soon as I opened up my box the meatballs literally poured out with steam. I tried to pick my sandwich up but the brioche bun had become quite soggy from the tomato sauce so I just used a fork. I dove right in and I have to say my first bite of meatball was almost intoxicating. I was so in love with everything having to do with this sandwich I literally felt drunk from happiness. The beef wasn’t spicy but full of flavor and incredibly tender. The mozzarella had melted and oozed cheesy goodness all over the balls and sauce. I don’t know what they put in these sandwiches but it may be illegal. These meatballs were so incredibly delicious! I didn’t want to stop eating! I have woken up every day since thinking about going back to get them again! I’ve turned into some sort of meatball junkie, just bidding my time till the next fix. Oh Meatball Shop you absolutely rock. This is one of the best cheap eats joints to come to NYC in a long time.

The Meatball Shop

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So Long Stoned Crow

Just wanted to give one last shout out to one of my favorite bars- the Stoned Crow, which served its last beer on New Years Eve. This place was awesome. Mr. T and I came here regularly for cheap beers, awesome burgers and some of the best atmosphere going.



The bar was always filled with amazing pictures, great music and a wildly diverse and quirky crowd. That was as true on my first visit as it was on my last when we stopped in for one last beer on Friday. This bar always felt like classic New York to me and it deeply saddens me to have it close.



It seems like so many great places keep shutting down. Is New York going to be completely devoid of character soon only for the ridiculously rich and boring? I hope not.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a joyous night out last night and is looking forward to the coming year! As always I have a Wish List of places to dine at in the coming year. Last year I had 16 places on my list and I made it to 8- exactly 50 %. The list was way too long and aggressive so I’ve been a little smarter about choices this year I hope. I’m also assuming Mr. T and I will have enough money to go on a honeymoon to Paris and London which is why you’ll see some international places in there as well. So here goes nothing- my 2011 Wish List of new places to check out!

ABC Kitchen (completed 1/24/11)
Flex Mussels
Riverpark (completed 2/1/11)
Il Trulli
Kin Shop
Lot 2
Bouley (completed 1/20/11)
Lupa
Compose (closed)
Frenchie (Paris)
St John Bar & Restaurant (London)

And these two I’m bringing over from last year:
Locanda Verde
Bonnie’s Grill (wings)

We’ll see how I do! Cross your fingers for some good eats this year!