The Back Room at One57 – Foie Gras for Breakfast?!

The title just says it all, doesn’t it?

I’ll quickly set the scene so I can get you to the good stuff without too much delay.

20150510_092116 The Back Room at One57 is the NYC Park Hyatt’s flagship restaurant. It’s modern and elegant with a cool, open exterior that feels upscale but not cold.  20150510_092123 Details like these sweet flowers and a huge display of fruit in the middle of the room keep the space from being too antiseptic. There are a fair amount of hotel guests eating here but I think that it will be popular with NYC dwellers too.

20150510_094117 Shakshuka with baked egg, merguez, and ciabatta

Excellent. Well spiced and fragrant with harissa and cinnamon-scented merguez. The eggs are ideally baked so the yolks are still runny and the only thing that you need is some more ciabatta to soak up that delicious sauce.

20150510_094137 Fruit plate

Not your standard melon and green strawberries. Sweet lychee, plump and taut blackberries, beautifully supremed grapefruit – this is worth ordering. Especially because you need something to lighten up your main dish.
20150510_094124 Seared foie gras with poached egg, creamy mushrooms, and black truffle butter
20150510_094322 Take that in for a minute. That’s fat atop umami atop buttery atop creamy. That’s thickly seared and salted foie melting into buttery egg yolk and some of the best mushrooms I have recently enjoyed. The truffle is subtle – it doesn’t overwhelm the foie, it accentuates it. If it isn’t for the tangle of vinegary greens, you might just have a heart attack then and there.  20150510_094653 What a way to go.

The Back Room at One57 is officially the most decadent breakfast spot in the city. It’s pricey but the service is great, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is impressive. Sure, you need a Lipitor and a nap at 9 am if you dine here, but it’s SO worth it. 

Wasabi Doesn’t Bring the Heat

My sister and I checked out Wasabi for lunch the other day.


It’s a cool, easy concept – pre-wrapped sushi, miso soup, katsu, and other assorted Japanese-y dishes that you put together to make your own inexpensive lunch or dinner. It’s very minimalist and modern without being cold – IKEA would do well here, and so would your co-workers.

Unfortunately, there was a weird, fishy smell to the place which turned us off trying any of the sushi.

20150312_112831 Vegetarian gyoza

Surprisingly delicious. I haven’t ever had room temperature dumplings, but these are surprisingly delicious! Served atop baby greens and drizzled with a sweet and spicy glaze, these are crispy and stuffed with soft vegetables, toothsome soybeans, and a healthy dollop of spice. The gyoza are crispy outside and because they are both room temperature and vegetarian, they are refreshing – not often a word hat I associate with gyoza!

20150312_112932 Chicken katsu

Nothing revelatory, but fine. A little dry, a little undersalted, but I love katsu of any sort. I actually also love cold friend chicken, so this pseudo-warm stuff works for me. The dipping sauce is a little too sweet for my liking, but the chicken is tender and tasty enough to enjoy all on its own.

20150312_112334 I had high hopes that Wasabi would be the cheap sushi holy grail, but it really isn’t. It’s cheap, clean, and serviceable, but not much more.

It’s okay that I ate lightly, though, because I’m headed to New Orleans this weekend. LORDY, please help me maintain some cholesterol stasis there.

Meat Hook Sandwiches at Culture Espresso Raise the Sandwich Bar

I found some amazing sandwiches.

I mean, I didn’t find them – Culture Espresso found them.

And Midtown Lunch publicized them.

But then…THEN I found them.

Or at least I ate them


The Meat Hook is known for excellent meat and kick ass sandwiches in Brooklyn. And now, at one tiny coffee shop in NYC, you can get them for lunch.

But you had better get there early because they sell out, there is a line, or both but the time that lunch rush is underway.

20150309_115315 Roast beef with cheese and hash browns

Oh yes. YES. Though the beef is a little browner than I prefer, it’s INCREDIBLY tender and well butchered It’s all soft, juicy meat with no tendons or strange fatty parts. Some crispy hash browns are whimsical and delicious – who doesn’t love potatoes in a sandwich!? The cheese is important here – it adds a sharpness, a creamy soft texture, and compliments the crisp lettuce. A swath of spicy horseradish mayonnaise completes this traditional, really delicious sandwich.

20150309_115251 Vegan sandwich

SHOCK O’ MY LIFE! How does somewhere called The Meat Hook school every single place on the planet on how to make an animal and animal product free sandwich? This is extraordinarily good. I know what’s not in it, but I don’t know what is. All I know is the taste and the texture. Crunchy, soft, snappy, silky. Creamy, tangy, spicy, fragrant. Eggplant and beets for sure. Maybe walnuts? Sprouts? PERFECT bread that soaks up the punchy vinaigrette but doesn’t disintegrate at all. This absolutely DANCES on my tongue. Yes, I’m being a little hyperbolic.

But not that much.

This kicks falafel’s ass. This is so much better than cheese-free pizza. I would never crave a burger if I could eat this every day.

And if I was in midtown every day, I would wait on-line for these sandwiches. I would leave work early. I would even ask for one more week of winter to disguise my overeating under heavy jackets.

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But these are some outstanding sandwiches.

Zuma – Bring the Black Card and Expect Fabulous Food

I have been to Zuma in London and Hong Kong, so I knew what to expect.


1)Wear your trendiest duds.

2) Have a reservation.

3) Leave your cash at home, just bring your credit card and prepare to pay a LOT.

4) The vibe is sexy. The drinks are really well made. And the food is mother-freakin’ fabulous. This is the perfect place for a blow out birthday meal or bachelor/bachelorette experience.

20150209_191953 Old fashioned

Whistle Pig bourbon and an entire shaved iceberg in the glass. I don’t even like old fashioneds and this was excellent. Side note – they need to stock their bar with all of the booze that’s on the menu. The one murky spot in otherwise awesome night.  20150209_195543 Soft shell crab

Where the hell do they get soft shell carb so great in the off season?  Creamy, crunchy, and buttery with the slightly salty taste of the sea. Flash fried and greaseless, well salted and served with a tangy yuzu dipping sauce.  20150209_202229 Wasabi scallion scallop sashimi

Light, soft, velvety and punctuated with sharp scallions and a tiny hit of wasabi. One tasty sashimi dish.  20150209_202647 Negitoro maki

Excellent, though for the price, I would get another fusion dish, like the excellent miso black cod. This is really great, don’t get me wrong – I just prefer to do my sushi eating at the bar. I know, I know – I’m snobby and I like it that way.
20150209_204303 Ginger-ponzu asparagus

Oh yeah, this was the night’s sleeper hit! Who would have thought that some simple, char-grilled asparagus could be so satisfying?! Meaty, fresh, crispy, and topped with a tangy-sour-sweet sauce that was so good that we ended up drizzling it all over everything else at the table.
20150209_211208 Steak

A HUGE portion and a really satisfying steak. Grilled to a succulent medium – totally pink with no bloody red or overdone gray. Cut into bite sized pieces and served in a sweet teriyaki marinade. This really satisfies those red meat cravings.

Zuma is super pricey but also super beautiful with great service and an interesting, utterly crave-worthy menu. Think Morimoto with a location that’s more convenient to uptown with a sexier, darker decor. I would come here again as soon as I could either apply for another credit card or at least justify the expense.

How does tomorrow sound?

Jukai – Uni Donburi and So Much More

Many of my favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC are hidden in plain sight. Sakagura. Abiyura Kinnosuke. The sushi place which-shall-not-be-named.

And add to this list Jukai.

Down a small set of stairs on a busy Midtown East street, Jukai is like a lunchtime trip to Tokyo. It’s small and dark, with a light sushi bar and partitioned tables that offers ultimate privacy – so very Japanese.

I ordered the set lunch, which came with these lovely dishes:



Simple, thoughtfully comprised, well executed. Tomatoes so sweet that I swear that they must have saved them from last summer. Crispy lettuce, a few salty shavings of Parmesan, and a tangy, shallot and soy dressing. An ideal amuse bouche.


Uni Donburi

Swoon. A jewel box treasure trove of delicacies. I upgraded – for a pretty penny – to the Santa Barbara uni. This did NOT disappoint. Multiple tongues of uni, each fresher, creamier, and cleaner than the last. They are truly the foie gras of the sea – fatty, luxurious, and the more I eat the more I want. It’s scattered with briny salmon roe, fluffy cubes of tamago, and various pickled vegetables.


Atop warm, sticky rice…it couldn’t be more delicious. A mosaic of tastes and textures that is – in a word – perfect.


Crème brulee

Dense, rich, vanilla-y. A surprisingly delicious French dessert to a decidedly traditional Japanese meal.

Jukai is a lovely sanctuary of Japanese delicacies. The service couldn’t be more lovely or Japanese, nor could the food and surroundings. The prices range from bargain to quite a splurge, but I feel confident in recommending anything in this charming hidden restaurant.

Cha Pa’s – Vietnamese in the Theater District


I hit up Cha Pa’s because I was in that part of town. And, of course, because I love Vietnamese food. When I lived in Tucson, there was the BEST pho restaurant  – Pho 88. I spent many happy calories there. Sadly, I have been less lucky with pho here in The Big Apple. So, I headed to Cha Pa’s to see if I could get my fix. 
The restaurant is tiny and casual – come here in jeans and a t-shirt and you will feel totally at home.  20141122_182808 Spring rolls

Lovely! Crispy and light, but filled with a dense mixture of cabbage, beanthread noodles, and ground pork. Dipped in a light, citrusy-sweet sauce, it’s just what you want when you crave spring rolls. They are fragrant, well-balanced, and addictive.
20141122_183101 Vietnamese coffee soda

Like a coffee flavored egg cream. Not my style, but if you like egg creams and coffee, this will be right up your alley! Sweet, creamy, and lightly fizzy!
20141122_183540 Shaking Steak

WOW! I have never had shaking steak before, but this is outstanding! Flank steak that is so tender that it might as well be filet mignon. It’s coated in some sort of VERY light, crispy coating and then dressed in a sweet and salty glaze. It’s served over wilted watercress and pickled onions, which add dimensions of bitterness and tang. The steak is SO tender that you can cut it simply with your teeth. It’s sticky sweet, beefy, and very rich. I would eat this again tomorrow and simply have to try making it at home.

Cha Pa’s isn’t too expensive and I love the food. However, the service is abysmal and my co-diners were less than pleased with their entrees. So, I would come here if you are in the hood and the lunch specials are cheap. Or I would order in in my pajamas.

And I’m still searching for the pho of my dreams here in NYC.

Melt Shop – More Than Just an After-Tot

Sometimes, you want a good grilled cheese.

And other times, you want to go to a grilled cheese restaurant after you have already eaten dinner and indulge in some tater tots.

I didn’t plan on it, it was a total after-tot…get it?

I know, my dad humor is wasted on you foodies.

I went to Melt Shop after dinner but before seeing the inimitable Aaron Lazar in “The Last Ship” especially for these:

20141122_191416 Loaded tots

Do you see anything wrong with this photograph? Because if you do, you should probably find a different blog – this one just ain’t for you. These are decadence personified – Yeah, Amurrica! Crispy tater tots positively LOADED with creamy cheese sauce, crunchy bacon, slightly spicy pickled jalapenos, and a generous shower of garlicky Parmesan cheese. This is too much and yet just enough. It’s over the top and low end. It’s crispy bacon and salty parmesan cheese. It’s wonderfully rich nacho cheese and tart, none-too-limp jalapenos. It’s just about perfect.

20141122_191307 Heath Bar crunch and Nutella-fluff milkshakes

As if you couldn’t guess…these are also exemplary. The Nutella-fluff is almost intimidatingly sweet, with ribbons of smooth Nutella and the sugary, sticky backnote of marshmallow fluff – only serious sweet tooths need apply to this one. The Heath Bar crunch is more my style – floral vanilla milkshake studded with chocolatey, crunchy bits of Heath Bars. Both shakes are thick but still sippable, which I like – I hate a milkshake that is too thick to sip with a straw. 

I have to go back for the sandwiches, I know this. But for quick counter service, a friendly and clean dining room, and a location literally at Broadway’s doorstep…you can’t do better than Melt Shop for a delicious snack.

Don’t make it just an after-tot. 

That Time I Got to Go to The University Club

I went to a wedding the other night, and the bride knew that I was going to remark on the food.

I mean…how could I not? I’m not getting back in here anytime soon!

This shindig was held at The University Club…ultra fancy, ultra swanky – the kind of place that Jay Gatsby would risk hell and high water to frequent. It’s an immense building on 5th Avenue and the look is all dark wood, heavy tapestries, and gilded fixtures…you know the type.

I was SO glad that I put on deodorant…this isn’t the type of spot where stank will go undetected.

When we got upstairs to the ornate dining room, we were starving and I have to say that I didn’t know what to expect. Could a place this fancy and old school have food that would be appealing to the couples’ food savvy friends?

In a word – yup!

20140920_202337 Mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes

This is as delicious as something that I would make at home, after carefully sniffing tomatoes at the farmers market and schlepping downtown to get tender mozzarella. This tastes like it was made by hand by someone who really cares about ingredients – who chose tart cherry tomatoes and sweet heirloom ones to compliment each other. Who dressed the room temperature mozzarella in a spicy olive oil and plenty of pepper. This is simple and delightful. The last of summer’s tomatoes to usher in the first of the new couple’s tomorrows.

Wow…when I am good, I am GOOD.
20140920_212800 Rack of lamb au jus with wilted spinach and roasted potatoes

This lamb isn’t just wedding good…it’s RESTAURANT good! I don’t think it was the 2 martinis (because who DOESN’T love an open bar, amirite?), I think that it was just an excellently made plate. The lamb is medium rare -pink almost to the edges but not bloody or raw. It’s deep and robust, with peppery, rosemary scented jus that just cries out for those roasted potatoes. The lamb was really spectacular – I’m telling you that I couldn’t stop eating it.
20140920_222001 Dessert buffet

The piece de resistance was the entirely gluten free dessert buffet. Creamy creme brulee, vibrant macarons, airy chocolate mousse, and more. As much as you wanted, all in tiny, bite size servings.

Actually, this whole meal was gluten free and prepared and presented so well that if I hadn’t known ahead of time, I wouldn’t have even guessed it. The pacing and service is excellent, the setting is stunning and the food is modern and delicious.

Unfortunately, you have to be a member to have your wedding there, but if you are or if you get invited there…I highly recommend dieting the week before. Because this is one wedding meal thta you will want to eat.

Off the Chain at Hillstone

I never think chain restaurants are going to be good. It’s that weird, uppity NYC thing of being a foodie in the age of locavoreism and popups. It’s stupid – sometimes places are just chains because they appeal to lots of people and make money. And why? Because they are delicious!

Case in point…Hillstone. Which used to be Houston’s. And in some places, still IS Houston’s…I think it has to do with those calorie counts that chains are required to print in their menus.

I had a very tasty lunch there. Expensive, but PERFECT for a business lunch or dinner. Oh yeah, and it’s the darkest restaurant in which I have ever dined.

20140917_142511 Peruvian corn

Not the wonderfully plump, buttery, sweet kernels of corn that I expect when I read this on the menu, but tasty all the same. Somewhere between southwestern and Indian, it’s tossed with firm zucchini and spicy jalapenos in a buttery, cumin and coriander dusted glaze. It’s actually a great appetizer – grab that corn while you can, because pumpkin season approaches.
20140917_145052 Ahi tuna salad with mangos, tomatoes, and avocado
20140917_145059 This is legit – too legit to quit, in fact. The ahi tuna is excellent quality – meaty in texture and mild in taste, crusted in a salty, slightly spicy rub that is complemented by scallions and tart ponzu sauce. The salad alongside is filled with sweet mangos and the butteriest avocado imaginable. It’s healthy but satisfying thanks to the myriad of flavors and textures. If you like Asian fusion – which I do – you will love this.  20140917_145121 Fries

Shoestring. Hot, crispy, not too salty. Served with spicy mayo and standard ketchup. Just get them, already.

Please come here if budget isn’t an issue and you are on the Eastside. Or the middle fo the country. This is LEAGUES better than what I think of fast food as being. Service is great and so is food…don’t worry, I promise to still be snobby about most things.

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.