Weekday Breakfast at Le Grainne

This is a short and to the point write up:

Le Grainne is a lovely weekday breakfast spot.

It’s on 9th avenue, in that stretch of Chelsea just above Chelsea Market – you know, that street where there are still graceful brownstones and cute boutiques, like NYC wasn’t about to become one big shopping mall.

20140911_084538

There is a very small but pretty sidewalk seating area, and inside it’s cozy and Parisian-feeling. The perfect place to catch up with a friend over a bowl of cafe au lait and a crispy croissant.

20140911_093912 Goat cheese and leek crepe

Maybe this isn’t how Parisians do breakfast, but this is how they should do it. Because this is both delicious and wholesome – sure beats that chocolate croissant in the “keeping you full” department. The goat cheese is melty and soft, less dense than cream cheese and with an unmistakable tang. The leeks are a little crunchy for my tastes, so next time I might go with goat cheese au naturel. The crepe itself is expertly prepared – whisper thin and crispy, substantial enough to hold the goat cheese but not at all doughy. The salad alongside is lightly dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette – fresh and tasty.
20140911_093916 This place is charming! The food is lovely, the prices are fair, and the service is a little more laid back than I prefer, but hey…it’s faster than it would be if this place actually was in France!

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Dirty French – Dirty in All the Right Places

I’ll cut to the chase: I ate at what is probably the hottest opening of the (late) summer this weekend.

Dirty French, from the team behind Carbone and ZZ’s Clam Bar, among others, is on the Lower East Side and it couldn’t be cooler. It’s in The Ludlow hotel and the look is ultra cool Brooklyn meets Moroccan bazaar meets modern art gallery. It’s dark, it’s loud, and the hostesses are all impossibly beautiful. I felt pretty old and uncool, so don’t bring parents or an intimate first date here. This is prime real estate for business people with deep pockets, Euro-celebs, and – of course – foodies looking to see if Dirty French lives up to its elder siblings’ reputations.

The menu isn’t classical French – it’s made up of all of the foods of places that French cuisine has had influence – heavy on the Moroccan and New Orleans dishes.

Shall we begin?

20140906_204318 Oysters shown tableside

Honestly, it seems gimmicky. They are all East coast oysters, which I certainly enjoy, but there is nothing like a small, deep cupped, creamy West Coast oyster. I find East Coast oysters to – generally -be a little brinier and flatter tasting. These come in a variety of preparations, with spicy garnish or baked with garlic and butter, but we didn’t try any that night. Also, this raw bar selection is market price, which is always scary when it comes time for the check.
20140906_205820 Ludlow Gimlet

A refreshing, cooling citrus cocktail.None of that pine-y taste that gin sometimes has. It’s a little sweet from the apricot liqueur, which softens the tart lime juice and rounds out the edges. This is strong but not hit-you-over-the-head-powerful and it’s an ideal aperetif.
20140906_210330 Warm bread and herbed yogurt

One of the hits of the night. No kidding…what’s the last time that you can say that the complimentary bread was a better than the foie gras (which, by the way, was good enough to try but not to get again – a little greasy and lacking salt)? This arrives on a silver platter piping hot from the oven. It’s a naan/doughnut hybrid that is puffy, doughy, and slicked with butter and salt. It’s tasty enough to eat on its own, but when you spoon some sumac dusted yogurt over it and let it melt into the warm bread…well, then it’s a course unto itself. Cool, hot, creamy, tangy, soft, and buttery…I’m not writing a poem, I’m just eating bread. Really, stupidly, amazingly tasty bread.
20140906_210959 Beet and Roquefort salad

This could be so mundane, but the attention to detail makes it shine brighter than similar salads in town. The beets are clearly home roasted, with a toothsome texture and almost candy sweet taste that is echoed by the crunchy candied walnuts. Thinly sliced apples, miniscule slivers of chives, and some really creamy, salty Roquefort complete the dish. Everything is bite sized and easy to enjoy in one mouthful. Plus, it helps lighten up a meat-focused meal.
20140906_211007 Boudin with pickled onions and Creole mustard

Outstanding – a refined, subtle version of the down home original. This is what a great restaurant does – it takes something that you know and love, and honors it by putting its own stamp on the food. Dirty French succeeds here, with a sausage that is tender and rich with pork and liver flavor. It’s not overly garlicky or salty and really lets the minerally taste of the liver shine, almost like chicken liver pate. The outside is crispy and lacquered in an almost sweet glaze that works with the pickled onions and the spicy Creole mustard. If you like sausage, you just have to try this boudin…it is a show stopper.

20140906_211112 Lamb carpaccio with figs, yogurt, and pita

Unique and tasty, but not a must order. The lamb is beautifully butchered and sliced paper thin in sweet, mild slices, but it lacks a lot of taste. The figs and yogurt seem to overpower it. I prefer steak tartare to carpaccio, and perhaps if the lab was ground instead of slice, it would have been more to my liking, but here it just disappeared.
20140906_213545 Chicken with crepes

Shut. it. down.  (Thanks, Rachel Zoe). Get this. Moroccan chicken meets Peking duck. The breasts are seared and served with harissa, spicy mustard, and sweet chutney that you roll into thin crepes like Peking duck. The legs come later, barbecued under a peppery, lacquered skin that is the legal version of crack. The legs come fully intact with feet and claws, so order another cocktail if you are feeling squeamish.
20140906_213852 Or just eat another one or 2 of the white meat filled crepes.

I didn’t even touch on the salmon maison or the absolutely EXCELLENT, UNMISSABLE POMMES FRITES (do not leave here without getting these!). So, most of the food was excellent and the vibe was super cool – why am I not giving this place an unmitigated rave review? A few things brought down the general feel of the night:

Service: Aloof at first, then warmed up to excellent service by the end of the night. Still, the beginning was so reserved and slow (cocktails alone took about 20 minutes), that it was hard to shake that.

Price: It’s expensive and without many of the perks that you get from restaurants in a similar price range. No mignardises, no super personalized attention, no questions about allergies to certain foods.

Location: Wherever you live, this is not near it. It’s just a PITA to get down here, and while I might visit it a lot more if it was farther west or farther uptown, I’m unlikely to make another special visit here.

So, what’s my takeaway? This place is great, if expensive. It needs to iron out a few kinks, but the food is interesting and delicious – not to mention, much needed in the Moroccan void that is NYC. Its longevity will, I predict, be determined by how well it fine tunes its service and listens to the neighborhood’s demands, since few of us are likely to make this a weekly trip.

But, with pommes frites and bread like this…a trip at least once is well worth it.

Dirty French on Urbanspoon

Andanada 141 – Hidden Tapas on the UWS

In New York City, you have to look down or you will miss stuff.

You will miss a pile of dog poop you are about to step in, a dropped 20 dollar bill, or sometimes a hidden neighborhood gem.

I mean, have any of you even looked into the basement level of 69th Street near Broadway, into the charming restaurant Andanada 141?

It’s a tapas place with live flamenco dancers and music twice a week, a beautiful covered garden out back, and a jovial, upbeat atmosphere that is perfect for a date with a loved one or close friend. It’s lively but not too noisy and the by-the-glass wine list is varied. The rose cava is especiallydelightful.

20140826_193855 Patatas Bravas

Not the best version of the dish, but it fits the bill. The potatoes are peeled and very creamy with an exterior that could be a little saltier and crisper. The tomato sauce is weirdly sweet, but the mayonnaise is clearly homemade. It’s rich and eggy – the perfect foil for those hot potatoes.
20140826_193422 Cod Croquettes
On the money. Be sure to dip them in the accompanying red pepper sauce, which is smoky and a little sweet instead of spicy, or they will taste too fishy. The sauce eradicates any note of fishiness or funk. All you are left with is a thick, crispy crust and soft interior. Don’t miss the garlic shrimp either, which come snappy and swimming in garlicky oil that is the perfect bread dip.

20140826_191248 Fried Artichokes

Crispy and dense with a flurry of nutty Parmesan cheese. It needs some acid and salt – maybe a Caesar-like vinaigrette would help? But as it stands, I wouldn’t get these again.
20140826_191230 Ham Croquetas

Hit of the night. A thin, crunchy breadcrumb shell outside soft, mashed potaot-meets-Ibercio-fatty-porky-goodness inside. Steaming hot and the right mix of hot, soft, crunchy, and salty. We should have ordered another dish of these!

Andanada 141 isn’t going to win the best tapas restaurant of the year. But the food is very good, the prices are great, and the service is friendly. Sit there for hours or get out of there in an hour flat – it’s up to you. I would totally come back here, get the shrimp, potatoes, and both croquetas again.

See what happens when you look DOWN to smell the roses?

Bites to Savor This Weekend and Beyond!

Food I’m enjoying around town:

20140525_195750 Chocolate mint ice cream bar from Treat House

Generally, I find these gourmet Rice Krispy treats overpriced and dry – nothing beats licking the spoon of some still warm, freshly made treats. But this ice cream version does surprisingly well. The ice cream is what kicks it up the notch – it’s really, sharply minty 0 this is a grown up’s treat. It’s coated in a thick layer of crisp chocolate and the “cookies,” which are really Rice Krispy treats, provide a crunchy, chewy counterpart. This is a fun, light ending to a meal out on the UWS.
20140809_115858 Haul from Tucker Square Greenmarket

SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES SUNGOLD TOMATOES. This year, the sungolds are INSANE. Sweet, light, juicy, firm…they are perfect raw and even better slowly roasted. The peaches are just going out of season now, but you can still find some wonderful late season ones - yellow peaches;  the whites have been super mealy. Tiny bell peppers and sheep’s milk cheeses in pungent blue and tangy yellow. This farmer’s market is never too crowded and never too expensive – the vendors are lovely and invite you to try anything that looks delicious and the variety is usually excellent. Give it a go, and say hi if you see me! 20140819_184057 20140819_191126 Mexican food at Dahlia’s

Nothing groundbreaking, but there are strong margaritas, fair prices, and an adorable patio looking over Harrison Street – worth the price of admission! You have to savor this sunlight as long as you can – September is upon us and this lovely weather will be but a memory sooner than we can imagine. The guacamole is plentiful and not crazy expensive and the menu is full of lots of familiar Tex-Mex fare – order up and enjoy!

A Day in Heaven on Arthur Avenue

This weekend, I went to foodie Disneyland.

No, not Stew Leonard’s. Another, less suburban, grittier, and infinitely more charming Foodie-land.

I went to Arthur Avenue.

I religiously followed Serious Eats’ excellent suggestions. I tried all things yeasty, porky, and cheesy.

I came home and, with friends and family,  I cooked.

It was a foodie day for the ages.

In the middle of the Bronx is the real, live Little Italy. One small block, filled with shop after shop of salt packed anchovies, huge cans of olive oil, and sun dried tomatoes swimming with garlicky olives and vinegary peppers. Butchers selling everything but the moo, cluck, or oink. Old nonnas chatting up beefy young men making mozzarella right in front of you, huge men in neon track suits sipping espresso as children run around the pastry shop, and octopi the likes of which I haven’t seen since Greece. Come hungry, since every place you frequent will ply you with samples. Anything you see, you can try, and there is no pressure to buy – because everything is so tasty that the shop owners know that you will buy. And you want to patronize these stores. It’s totally different from shopping at a big box grocery store because you see where your business is going – it’s going to these men and women who make this food fresh every single day and carry on the tradition of their ancestors. It’s a privilege to see living history.

Let alone taste it.

20140816_135241 Vincent’s Meat Shop, where every kind of animal you can imagine is sold. Everything from meatloaf mix to obscure cuts like breast of veal to elegant meats like quail and whole lobes of foie gras. The staff is helpful, efficient, and more than happy to tell you exactly how to cook your purchase.
20140816_135704 Freshly shucked Kumamoto and Peace Passage Oysters, on a stand outside of Consenza’s. The Kumamotos are especially memorable – creamy and slightly citrusy; accented by a spritz of lemon. These require no sauce, though ample accouterments are supplied should you need some for your sidewalk stand up snack. Ice cream truck ain’t got nuthin on the oyster cart.  20140816_140428 Fresh mozzarella from Casa della Mozzarella. The shop is tiny, sweltering, crowded, and intoxicating. Hunks of garlicky roast pork, wedges of calcium crystal-studded Parmigiano Reggiano, pots of piquant pickled mushrooms, jars of fiery Calabrian chili paste…this narrow store is a treasure trove of all things delicious. The mozzarella, which will be offered to all customers as samples, is unparalleled. As rich and soft as burrata, it should be enjoyed room temperature and well salted. Get the big globe…you won’t be able to stop eating it. And don’t forget to sample EVERYTHING…you will want to buy it all.  20140816_152755 Yes, we took home our cheese from Calandra’s in the carseat…we had to. It was that precious. Though the burrino was a bouncy, tasteless round of cheese surrounding an unattractive globule of cold butter, the truffle cheese was the most potent I have ever had. The taste reverberates on your tongue up to your nose and down to your toes. It goes on and on way after the cheese has melted away on your tongue. The Prima Donna cheese, an award-winning mix of Gouda and Parmesan, has the semi soft texture of gouda with a sharp, nutty, salty Parmesan taste. And the house made ricotta is…unreal. Soft and creamy, it’s more like a milkshake than a cheese. We ate it with honey and truffle oil on bread, and it would be perfect with roast peaches and basil as dessert. Or on brioche with some bitter marmalade as breakfast. Or on a spoon at midnight as a secret, perfect snack.

You know, whatevs floats your boat.  20140816_164752 The parade of cheeses, with soft sundried tomatoes in oil and fruity, salty, and juicy olives.  20140816_164801 Warm mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes(not my own…it helps to have friends in high places) and basil. Salting the mozzarella is key…it brings out the pure, milky flavor. 20140816_164811 White bean salad with oregano, garlic and red pepper olive oil, and more of those sundried tomatoes. 20140816_185658 Rack of lamb for the cost of a single steak at most restaurants. Cooked by one of my culinary partners-in-crime with piquant chutney and a thick coating of herbed breadcrumbs. Notice the thick fat cap – hard to find that at the local grocery store, right?
20140816_185702 Fresh basil and regular spaghetti with beef and lamb meatballs and homemade tomato sauce. The pasta was cut to order to our thickness specifications. I don’t even have words to describe my joy at eating this light, fragrant pasta with those juicy meatballs and bright, oregano forward sauce. This dish was also prepared by that culinary partner-in-crime. You see why we keep him around…he is handy with a haul from Arthur Avenue.

Viva Arthur Avenue!

Turning 30 at Daniel

My 30th birthday was pretty much the biggest birthday celebration that I have had since my bat mitzvah. It was multiple days, surprise after surprise, tons of friends, and a meal I have looked forward to since I first read Garlic and Sapphires.

That’s right…I finally had dinner at Daniel.

Some people might call Daniel Boulud’s eponymous flagship restaurant over the top or antiquated. I find it neither. Rather, it fires on all cylinders, all the time – from the moment that you walk into the grandiose yet sleek space, with cavernous ceilings and stools for ladies’ handbags, to the moment that you leave, the taste of warm, vanilla scented madeleines on your tongue as the hostess walks into the street to get you a cab – you are treated as you should be.

As a dear friend who just so happens to be used to the finest things in life.

Even if this is a massive, once in a VERY long while treat.

Please note – because photography is frowned upon, there are no photos of this epic meal. So, for those who are not reading inclined, I do apologize, but who wants to incur the wrath of the chef making you one of the great meals of your life?

Tasting of Heirloom Tomatoes with Chilled Soup, Salad with Coomersdale Cheese Octopus Terrine, Chorizo Oil, Arugula Salad

The terrine was a miss (muddy tasting and dense), but everything else was a resounding hit. The gazpacho is rich and earthy and sweet and savory. Truly complex, highlighting every facet of the tomato’s flavor. The salad was light and acidic, with curls of sharp, salty cheese to round out the vegetable’s flavor. It’s tomato season, and the chef knows how to remind you of that in the most delicious way possible. It’s better than my gazpacho and better than any gazpacho I have ever had. It’s just the essence of tomatoes in the best way possible. 

Crispy Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Artichoke Purée, Pine Nut-Raisin Chutney, Pickled Jalapeño

Delicious. Shrimp at its best is sweet and tender, with a slight snap and a very barely salty hit. This is all that and more, with a crispy coating and rich sauce. The sauce is so very…artichoke-y…that it truly can’t be compared to any other taste. It’s smooth and vibrant with flavor that stands in startling juxtaposition to the shrimp. The pickled jalapenos add just a touch of vinegary heat and the chutney is sweet and chewy. Once again, this dish highlights the chef’s ability to play with textures and flavors on all facets – it’s masterful.

Seared foie gras

The best I have had since Paris. No exaggeration and no other reason for me to expand upon it. Melting, meaty, rich, and a tad sweet. Perfection.

Alaskan Red King Salmon Baked in Clay with Melilot, Roasted Fennel, Huckleberry Coulis
Marcona Almond Pommes Duchesse, Sauce Genevoise

This salmon is almost otherworldly. It’s brought the table in a thick, gray slab of clay. Then, tableside, the head server deftly removes the top layer of clay by tapping it with his spoon until it breaks off cleanly. The salmon is served medium are all the way through, as though it were cooked sous vide. It’s almost creamy in texture and the taste is just the cleanest, butteriest salmon you have ever had. The melilot is a sweet, grassy herb that adds some unexpected lightness to the  fatty fish and the huckleberry coulis is just groundbreaking. Berries and fish…who would have thought? It’s such an unexpected, delicious take on fish. This dish is sublime – King salmon is only in season a short time and  I can’t recommend this enough.

Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant Liquid Caramel, Fleur de Sel, Milk Sorbet

A down home, rich, moist chocoaltey cake with a liquidy caramel center. It’s such a familiar set of tastes after a meal of nouveau and unique tastes – sweet and soft with creamy milk sorbet.

Of course, some mignardises finished the meal.

This meal is perfect from start to finish. Not too much, not too little. The service is helpful but not overbearing – for example, when we ordered a glass of sauternes to share with the foie gras, our server graciously put it in 2 glasses without us asking. And the cocktail and wine list…extraordinary. Of particular notice is that sauternes – the most expensive glass of wine that I have ever ordered, but also the most delicious. It’s thick and tastes like raisins and heaven – it enhances the foie to no end. You can do a tasting menu or a prix fixe, which is what we chose to do, and then each added a course. This allowed us to try dishes like the spot prawns and my husbands delicious beet cured hamachi. 3 hours for 4 courses and it felt like I was in a dream the whole time.

This meal is a major splurge and a worthwhile one.

Here’s to turning 30 at least 5 more times.

Dinner at Juni is a Journey

Juni is not for everyone.

Which is not normally how I start the review of a Michelin starred chef’s (Shaun Hergatt’s) restaurant.

But it isn’t. You have to like fish. You have to like strange textures. You have to like being out of your element, and you even have to like sometimes not liking the food.

You have to love the journey.

And then you will love Juni.

The restaurant is located in a hotel – it has a modern, low key decor that could be any mid-upscale restaurant in any city. It’s nothing special.

And then the food starts to come.


20140809_192911 Baguette with green olive tapenade and saffron aioli

The saffron aioli is fragrant and reminiscent of paella – it’s heady and rich, to much for some people but just perfect for me. The tapenade is a wholly different experience. There is no taste of olives at all – it is salty, but not briny or slightly bitter like olives sometimes are. The tapenade is incredibly garlicky, salty, and is almost like a very smooth pesto. The warm baguette absorbs the savory flavors and the emulsion just sinks into the crevices of the bread, making it a flavor bomb before the meal even officially starts.  20140809_193851 Goat cheese and carrot chip

Yep. The cheese is dense and a little tangy, and the chip is extremely brittle, almost melting into a sugary sweet, carrot-y taste. It’s fun and unexpected – I have rarely had anything so simple yet so well-balanced to start a long meal.

20140809_194244 Raw zucchini with tomatoes and cucumber gelee

This man loves vegetables and it shows. Here, a pristine zucchini, no longer than my forefinger, is hollowed and filled with earthy, ripe tomatoes confit and jiggly cubes of light, almost sweet cucumber gelee. It’s all about the pure taste of the vegetables, which are at their peaks this time of year. It couldn’t be more delightful.
20140809_194703 Beets

A gelatin bonbon that is for all the world like beet jello. Earthy, tangy, extremely beet-y. Loved it.  20140809_195036 Chicken skin

But it’s vegetarian, made with oats. Tastes JUST like chicken skin. The best part of fried chicken. I could chomp this like popcorn.  20140809_195233 Ham and cheese sandwich

With crispy Iberico  ham and very sharp cheese spread. Cheese Whiz this ain’t!

For the tasting, I got the tomato tasting menu. It’s served though September and all that I can say is: GET IT!

20140809_195837 Tomato carpaccio with freeze-dried goat cheese

Soft, lush segments of tomatoes with the richness of sundried tomatoes but none of the salty flavor or leathery texture. The flavors of the earth and the powder texture of the freeze dried goat cheese work well together.
20140809_201603 Tomato gazpacho with toybox tomaotes

Well balanced – none of the abrasive, acidic punch of lesser versions. Smooth and thick, with tons of super sweet toybox tomatoes and a verdant, basil laden panna cotta in the middle.  20140809_202914 Halibut with tomato concasse

The best piece of halibut I have had in I don’t know how long. The flavors are simple and straightforward – fresh fish, sweet tomatoes, and a little hit of something spicy, but not overly hot. It’s light, it’s fresh, and it’s classic technique at its finest – no molecular gastronomy here, no smoke and mirrors. Just perfectly butchered and cooked fish that is mild and flaky, in a light tomato sauce.  20140809_204646 Braised lamb belly and tomatoes with pommes puree

Dish of the night. Shaun Hergatt himself came around to every single table and chatted with us about the dish. He was charming, jovial, and told us that we like it because it’s so much like American bbq. He started playing around with braising lamb belly until it is soft and melting in his 20s, and now finally got to put it on his menu. Layering it with bright and sweet tomatoes really gives it a bbq-sauce type of taste, and the cloud of potatoes is buttery and light – ideal with the fatty, tender lamb. This is dynamite.  20140809_211107 Goat cheese and caramel ice cream with tomato marmalade and candied pecans

Sweet and creamy. Like dulce de leche with a slightly piquant taste from the goat milk. Crunchy candied nuts and jammy, wonderfully sweet tomato marmalade. This tomato menu really fit the bill.

The whole meal was fascinating – I didn’t even show you the foie gras and cherry bon bon, the squid ink and truffle bites, or the burrata ice cream. Not everything was the best I’ve ever had, but it was all so interesting. I would totally recommend that a major foodie come here, because you have to want to try new and different things. Hyssop, lamb’s tongue, and oyster leaves (yep, they TOTALLY taste like oysters) were also on the table. The format has several different price points and the kitchen is super flexible. The staff is lovely, the chef himself is always in the kitchen (now, THAT’S a rarity, these days), and the food…I mean, we had bbq lamb in a fancy restaurant.

It really was one hell of a ride. 

Sushi Dojo – The Best Sushi Deal in NYC

Here’s the short version – if you want high end, expertly prepared, traditional sushi at a superb price, run, don’t walk, to Sushi Dojo. It isn’t the best in town, but it’s absolutely the best for your money.

Here’s the long version:

Sushi Dojo is somewhat of a renegade on the high-end sushi scene. It’s run by David Bouhadana, a young, Caucasian sushi chef who works behind the counter the whole night with his staff, kibbitzing with regulars and blasting current rock music that seems like it would be more at home at a hip Tribeca coffee shop than a hallowed temple of sushi and sashimi. The restaurant is quite small, with only a few tables and a long sushi bar, and the sushi bar’s seats are…wait for it…comfortable and wide, with tall leather backs. Now, this is something that I could get used to – how often have you emerged from an othewise delicious and luxurious sushi experience only to have a backache from the miserable, hard stools that the establishment provides?

The vibe was actually perfect for our girls night out – less so for a romantic date or quiet meeting. I’m telling you, the chefs were chatty  and jovial and we never once felt out of place with our boisterous laughter.

20140812_185944 Fried shisito peppers

Totally unnecessary but expertly made – the lightest, crispest batter I could imagine with very spicy, zingy peppers – these are only for lovers of spicy food. Some aren’t too spicy, but some are – so let’s not play Russian Roulette if you aren’t up for the game, okay?

And then the sushi begins – 10 pieces for $45. That’s right, 10 pieces of this glimmering, beautiful, sushi for $45. That is a fantastic price. Just look at this stuff: 20140812_190435 Snapper

Light, clean, with a melting texture. This is the ideal appetizing bite to start a meal, and the vinegar-y, barely warm rice highlights the fish’s individual tastes.  20140812_190614 Mackerel

Thick, richer than the fish before, buttery.
20140812_191127 Tuna

Lean, tender, mild. 
20140812_191710 Tasmanian trout

So much milder than salmon, with an almost sweet finish and buttery texture.  20140812_191848 Toro

Soft, lush, just rich enough without being too fatty. Beautifully cut.
20140812_192012 Uni

Santa Barbara Uni, the best in the world to my palate. Soft and airy, with the vaguest briny, sea-water aftertaste that leaves a clean, fresh finish on the tongue.
20140812_192431 Eel

Steak like and rich. I could have used a little more eel sauce, but then – I love that sweet stuff. This is an excellent, meaty cut of eel.  20140812_192802 Aji

Always one of my favorite fish. Very clean and pleasantly salty, in super thin slices that fairly melt into the rice.

20140812_193233 Fried shrimp head

The hit of the night! We got this after an (unpictured) excellent raw shrimp nigiri, and were instructed to eat the whole thing. So, we did. The best fish and chips meets crispy potato chip tentacles. Yes, that’s exactly what it tasted like. Tender, crunchy, buttery, and salty. I could snack on these each and every day! 20140812_193449 Anchovy

A little strong for my taste, but that’s just personal preference – the fish is presented beautifully and the wasabi is fresh and nasal clearing.  20140812_193851 O-Toro

As rich as they come. Almost white with fat and so incredibly rich that we just sat in shock for a few moments after eating it. The perfect way to end any sushi meal.

We went for the 15 course sushi menu, which is $80 per person, and not quite the steal as the $45 omakase. On another night, I would absolutely get the $45 menu. That’s where we got the uni, the eel, and the toro – they don’t give you cheap or ill cut fish on the less expensive menu. It’s a tremendous value for sushi that might not be the best in the city, but is heads and tails above most places that charge at least as much, if not more.  It lacks the innovation of Gari or the “je ne sais quoi”  quality of the holy grail of fish that is Nakazawa, but it is really right behind them. I would call this a wonderful place to take someone who is already a sushi enthusiast – the atmosphere is so atypical and the chefs are so talkative and friendly that anyone who has spent a kajillion dollars on high end sushi in the past will appreciate this unique and ultra delicious experience.

So, long story short: Sushi Dojo could easily become a somewhat affordable obsession.

Skip These Dishes at These Excellent Restaurants

I tend to only write about the restaurants I love. Because, unless the errors are really egrigious or a restaurant htat has been lauded is so not worth your time and money and I think that you should actively avoid it.

However, many good restaurants – even great restaurants – have one or two clunker dishes. Dishes that, if you orer them, may color your view of an otherwise excellent restaurant.

So, when visiting these restaurants, you should avoid these dishes:

20140601_182341 Red Farm fried lobster and cheese sticks

To be honest, this whole meal was kinda a disappointing. But these cheese sticks were by FAR the most miserable item that we ordered. Yes, miserable. Fishy lobster. I can’t even remember any other taste, because the lobster was so offensively awful. It tastes fake, rotten, foul…ugh. And maybe that’s why the rest of the meal was disappointing. I need to go back and enjoy a meal without the gross taste of bad shellfish in my mouth.
20140609_192830 Fabrick red snapper ceviche

Loved this meal – hated this dish. Weird, fishy, off taste (in case you can’t guess, anything less than totally pristine seafood is my major gustatory bugaboo) and the fish skin was not crispy enough so it turned rather soggy. By all means, skip this and order the lovely flatbread or the addictive candied bacon.
20140704_184348 Minetta Tavern oxtail and foie gras terrine

High end cat food. Bizarre, slimy texture that is so dense that the meat itself almost gasps for air. The flavors are muddied and it seems like a waste of excellent ingredients. Do yourself a favor and order a different appetizer from the excellent menu.
20140705_114241 Russ and Daughters Cafe new Holland herring

This just tastes like a big ole slimeball with a visually displeasing tail and some rather tickly bones. I so badly wanted to love this. I know that all over Asmterdam this is considered a delicacy and that these particularly tender and mild herring only come in for a few weeks every year. The lines can wrap around the corner of the Russ and Daughters shop when word comes in that this stuff is in stock. And…yet…I just couldn’t get into this. Oh well, more for you.

Breakfast at Maialino

I have wanted to visit Danny Meyer’s Maialino since it opened. It’s supposed to have sensational rustic Italian food, with homemade pastas, fabulous antipasti, and of course its namesake crispy suckling pig face.

So, of course, I ended up there for breakfast when none of these items are offered. 

What I found was a meal that was way too expensive and yet…so delicious that I could totally see myself going again. 

Rent can be late this month, right?

20140806_082144 The restaurant itself is lovely – very large and spacious by NYC standards, with a casual bar upfront that serves fresh juices for breakfast. There is a large dining room that is covered with homey checkered tablecloths that feel like grandmas house and small dishes of excellent salt flakes that remind you that you are not.  The vibe is somewhere between business and foodie casual – it would be the perfect place to take a business lunch with a colleague who just happens to love great food.

20140806_084529

Robiolina with pickled onions and roe

Okay, this is the smallest dish for the price that I have ever seen. I can’t call it a value. It just isn’t. What it IS is really delicious. The toast is crunchy but thick enough to have some give under the toasted surface. It’s topped with a thin, creamy schmear of robiolina cheese – like a tangier cream cheese with a lighter, more airy texture. Its crowning touches are a few vinegary pickled onions, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and some fresh, bursting with briny flavor trout roe. This is your bagel with novie gone high class and on a diet. It’s slim, it’s elegant, and it’s sophisticated. This is more of an amuse bouche than a whole meal, and it really is very pricey, but it’s delish.
20140806_084525 Scrapple ai Maialino

Now, THIS is fairly priced and something that I would order again and again. The hockey puck sized terrine looks dense, but beneath its thick, crackly crust is the loosely packed, sage scented, sweet and savory pork sausage of my DREAMS. It’s incredibly juicy and tender, with that pork flavor singing through, especially when lemon juice hits the patty, a la Wienerschnitzel.  20140806_084650 This stuff is as rich as a Kardashian and more enjoyable  as all of them put together. You won’t be able to eat a whole one unless you have a nap on the schedule immediately after breakfast – plan to share this with someone as a fabulous side dish.

I loved Maialino as much as I thought that I would, though I did get some sticker shock. I would love to go back for dinner and see if the portions make the prices a little easier to swallow – the food is surely delicious enough to warrant a second go-round.