Thalassa – It’s All Greek to Me

I went to dinner at Thalassa, recently. It is an upscale Greek seafood restaurant that incorporates some of my favorite things:
1)Fresh fish
2)Excellent Staff
3)HUGE portions
Do you feel a photo essay coming on?
If you didn’t understand that that was a rhetorical question…well, I just don’t know how to help you.
Nothing makes me hungrier than a gorgeous display of fresh fish…or the smell of Krispy Kreme donuts. 
Another story for another time.
Olive oil with capers, fresh and juicy olives, and fava bean-feta dill tip. This dip put hummus to SHAME. Creamy, salty, fragrant with dill and hearty with beans…it was just to DIE for.

House baked focaccia. Simply outstanding. Some might call it greasy, but let me tell you – it didn’t taste that way. It tasted rich, flavorful and just perfect. I mean, I don’t mind a little extra fat. Remember the lardo love affair?

Olive bread that was not baked in  house. Not as good as the foccacia – lacked that fresh-baked pliant texture and perfectly salty crunch.

Crabcake amuse bouche. All crab, no filler. With a lemon remoulade, it was just a burst of briny, sweet freshness. Definitely whetted the appetite.

Maine Diver Scallops wrapped in kataifi with sheep’s milk butter and Kalamata balsamic reduction.
A bit rich, even for me. The sheep’s milk butter was WAY richer and more creamy than cow’s milk butter – now, usually this is a GOOD thing. But it sank into the kataifi (like shredded phyllo dough) and made it soggy and a bit tough. It tasted cloying with those fatty, rich, sweet scallops…and the scallops were a little soft for my taste. I prefer a crispy sear on my scallops, and this was more of a velvety taste. I did love the raw scallions and tomatoes surrounding the dish, and the sweet, tangy balsamic was a great addition to the dish. 

Greek salad. So simple but so delicious. PEELED tomatoes. Have I told you how much I hate tomato peels? Wretched, vile things that have no taste and the weirdest texture…I just hate them. Peeled tomatoes are something I rarely do for myself, and it was a total luxury to have them peeled for me. That perfectly sharp feta with those sweet tomatoes, biting onions and crunchy peppers, with a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing…perfection.      

Head on African Shrimp. Thalassa has a HUGE menu of fresh seafood, delivered a few times a week. These were perfect – lemony, tender as lobster but with that unmistakable sweet-salty taste of shrimp. I just love to gnaw on those heads-love the creamy, rich, slightly funky taste of the brains.

And did I mention that they were humongous? The sauteed greens on the side were a perfect accompaniment.

Any time they make ice cream in house, you should get it. 
That was my wisdom for the day.
Especially baklava ice cream. Creamy vanilla ice cream with crunchy bits of honey soaked and nutty baklava. Yes. Oh yes.

A small plate of that delicious baklava and some house made dark chocolates finished off the evening well.
This is a wonderful place for fresh, well prepared seafood. Simple, delicious, and although it is not cheap, it is fairly priced. 
The service was great, the ambiance was lovely and serene and the food was delightful.
And in that case…all Greek is all right by me! 
*Note: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*
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Dylan Prime or Dylan Fine?

Dylan Prime is touted as a sleek, sexy restaurant with new twists on classic steakhouse favorites.  I hit the upscale, dark, and more trendy than formal dining space to check out the fare.  While nothing was bad, not everything was great.  We are going to break this review down into what was just Dylan Fine, and what was really Dylan Prime.
First…the so-so news:
The Bread.
Unheated Hawaiian rolls.  Cottony, cold, ordinary King’s Hawaiian Bread that I buy in the grocery store all the time.  Now, I like King’s Hawaiian Bread as much as any other gal, but when I am paying beaucoup bucks in a nice restaurant, I want some house baked or at least locally sourced unique bread offering.  Even if it were warm, it would have been an improvement.  Later on, I noticed tables around us getting what looked like sourdough slices and pretzel rolls.  Why did we get the short end of the carb stick?  The butter, on the other hand was great-unsalted and soft.
Of course, that’s what she said.

French Onion Soup with Sherry & Gruyere .
Sherry & Gruyere Cheese
This was delicious, don’t get me wrong.  It just fell a little flat.  There were plenty of onions, but I don’t think that they had really cooked long enough.  The onions should be almost approaching jam status, literally melting into one another in a sweet, molten heap as you break through the bubbling cheese and moistened bread.  These onions were just a tad undercooked, which resulted in a soup that just lacked that certain umami POW of flavor.  The cheese used was excellent and so was the bread, with a tender crumb but a crust that stood up to the liquid.  This was not salty, which I LOVED, but if there had just been a bit more caramelization on the onions, it would have really brought this into “Prime” territory.
Baby Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic, Parmesan Cream Sauce, Bacon & Chives:
Like the onion soup, these were good but not GREAT.  The idea was fantastic-crisply baked Yukon Gold potatoes smothered in a roasted garlic and Parmesan cream sauce, garnished with pancetta and fresh chives.  But the execution just fell SLIGHTLY short.  The potatoes tasted boiled, not baked.  I really craved the contrast between the crunchy skin and the fluffy innards of the potato, and instead it was soft  throughout.  Also, the potatoes were left whole, so the Parmesan cream sauce couldn’t really sink into the potatoes while they were hot.  That’s a shame, since the sauce was perfect-thick, creamy, salty, and savory with that sweet roasted garlic.  It was so delicious with that perfectly fried pancetta and those fresh, slightly biting chives that I ended up eating the sauce and garnishes by the spoonful!  If they could just get the skin a little crisper and sink that sauce into the potatoes, this dish would be “Prime” for sure.  As it is, I am going to try to re-make this at home, since the concept is fab.
Now onto the excellent:
Mixed Baby Greens with Teardrop Tomatoes and Maytag Blue Cheese
Remember when you thought you had a great green salad?  Erase that thought.  Because THIS is what every standard salad should be.  Tender mixed greens including sweeter and more bitter lettuces, jewel like baby tomatoes that were sweet and acidic at the same time, a light vinaigrette dressing, and the world’s MOST fantastic blue cheese (for a salad, anyway).  The Maytag was truly wonderful-salty, funky, creamy; contrasting perfectly with the simplicity of the other ingredients. This was a standout in the meal and once again proves how stellar ingredients make for a stellar dish, no matter how simple.
Ancho Coriander Rubbed Hanger Steak.
I freakin LOVE Hanger Steak and do not eat it NEAR enough.  In France, it is referred to as the “onglet”, and is often what you will get in a bistro when you order “steak frites”.  It is not the most tender cut of meat, but it is one of the most flavorful.  It is inexpensive, and when cooked properly, has more of a meaty taste than even a New York Strip (in my opinion…which of course is right).  This was cooked PERFECTLY rare. It was lightly charred on the outside, warm and still red inside.  It cut quite easily, and had the most rich, iron-y MEATY taste…this is not for people who think a well done hamburger is awesome.  This is for meat lovers who want that true “beef” taste.  The ancho-coriander rub was just lightly smokey, spicy, and fragrant, and went perfectly with…
Herb Bearnaise Sauce
Be still my heart.  I mean, really…this sauce deserves it’s own part of this review.  Bearnaise is a variant of hollandaise sauce that includes shallots, pepper, tarragon, and other spices.  And, oh sweet mother of all that is holy…it is like mayo on CRACK!  It is warm, creamy, peppery, fragrant, herbacious, lemony, and thick enough to coat a spoon.  It is fantastic with everything from steamed broccoli to roasted cod to…yes…a flavorful and rare steak.  Something about that meat with the egg based sauce is just such an indulgence in carnivorism.  I ate the whole steak.
And drank the sauce
As in, I lifted the creamer to my mouth and tipped it in.
Don’t judge.
Creamed Spinach.
Perfection.  Served steaming hot, with ample spinach taste, a little bite left to the leaves, a rich sauce that was creamy but not cloying, and a perfect foil to the steak.  Because really..isn’t cream always a perfect foil to steak?
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Trufflepalooza!!!

Hehehehehehe!  Remember the last time you had a meal so great it truly made you giggle from the pure memory of it?  The perfect friends, the perfect price, the beyond perfect food?  I remember mine.  It was last week at Locanda Verde‘s annual one night only white truffle fest.  I went with Lauren, Kate, and Marmie, and it was FAB!  We couldn’t get reservations, so…Marmie and I got there at 5:30 to save seats at the bar and try to get a table in the “reserved for walk ins” section.  By 5:45 the bar and table were filling UP and I was NERVOUS!  Luckily, Lauren and Kate arrived soon after and we snagged one of the last tables.  PHEW!  Since I have already reviewed the restaurant’s decor and stuff here, let’s just move onto the good stuff, shall we?
Hehehehehe!  I swear, I’d rather have the mushrooms that follow than the psychedelic ones that guy is on…i think so, anyway!
White truffle scented rosemary foccacia.  Read my review of the foccacia here, and then add to that the husky, meaty taste of truffles with the sweet fatty texture of olive oil. There’s a reason there was already a bite taken out of this, okay?  Its that it was great! Some might say too oily, but i would have to challenge them to a duel to the death.
Lauren, Kate, and marmie got the artichoke truffle soup.  This was excellent.  I have previously tasted artichoke and truffle soup at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas, and this soup, while less delicate, was easily as delicious in a different way.  Hearty and creamy, this soup was rich and hearty and simultaneously verdent and fresh with the artichokes.  The generous truffle shavings on top permeated the entire dish, the heat of the soup sending up the heavenly scent of the ‘shrooms.  This was a hearty and delicious dish that really accented the truffles.
I, on the other hand, ordered the steak tartare Piedmontese.  I have contrasting feelings on this.  On one hand…it didn’t really compliment the truffles.  A room temperature dish, the truffle shavings were cool and the steak did not have any other truffle influences, such as oil.  so, here…the truffles were kind of tasteless.  AAH!!! Even to type that seems an abomination, since I love truffles so much, but here…well, I could barely taste them.
BUT…
The steak tartare was INSANELY good!!!  Sweet, tender beef mixed with sharp onions and topped with a creamy egg and a small piece of salty fried pancetta…this was an outstanding version of one of my favorite dishes of all times.  Not too salty or saucy, as some preparations are, this steak tartare was all about that fabulous meat.  Spread on the thickly sliced, charred bread, this course was fantastic.  Was it all about the truffles? No.  Was it delish? YES!  So there are my thoughts on THAT.
Lauren got the Pappardelle with pork and chesnut Bolognese-and, of course, TRUFFLES!  The green pasta was thick and coarse, the way homemade pasta should taste.  It went especially well with the meaty bolognese-it was soooo porky and delightful!  The chestnuts added an almost walnut-like nutty quality to the milk based ragu.  The truffles were well placed here, giving depth to the pork and a delicate quality to the hearty dish?  Is there a better pairing than pork with truffles?
Oh yeah-truffles with CHEESE!  Marmie, Kate, and I got the Fonduta ravioli with truffles and this was simply ASTOUNDING!!!  Meltingly thin layers of delicate pasta surrounding creamy, almost airy melted fontina cheese, all swimming in a buttery, lemon tinged sauce.  And the truffles.  Oh the truffles!!!  They positively SANG in this dish!!!  The pasta was so light and airy and the sauce was so delicate and buttery that it could be a little one note.  But the truffles really brought a wholly different dimension to this dish.  It gave the dish heft and grounded it.  It made it deep and woodsy and made the lemon tarter and the fontina funkier (which is a WONDERFUL thing!) Kate, a confirmed cheese disliker loved this dish, and and Marmie, a cheese fiend loved it too.  Clearly, this is dish transcended expectations and taste preferences.  Inspired, well executed, and perfect in it’s flavor profiles. I licked the plate clean, what can I say?
For dessert, we got truffle honey ice cream with chocolate sauce and toffee bits.  DUDE! This blew my socks off!!! The ice cream took on a totally new flavor than i thought truffles could have!!! Definitely not sweet, but i would say…light. Ethereal.  Almost like an herb or something-it was still woodsy and earthy, but not at ALL savory or heavy.  It just left you with this back of the palate flavor hit that was so unique and wonderfully…truffle-y!  The chocolate sauce was not overpowering and the sweet toffee nuggets just accentuated the creamy, smooth texture and hauntingly beautiful taste of the truffles!  I was shocked and amazed!  Mushrooms for dessert?!  Who wouldda thunk it?!
And the grand total for such an amazing meal was…$50 apiece.  What a deal!  Three courses of expertly cooked food with one of the most expensive ingredients on earth!  The food was awesome, the service was great, and the company…well, when you are with three  other gals who can eat their weight in exotic fungi, what more is there that you could want in the world? Not much, friends, not much…except a reservation for next year’s Trufflepalooza 🙂
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Locanda Verde Brunch Review

What is it about brunch?  So indulgent, so delicious, so decadent…so New York.  That’s what it is for me.  Well, that and the fact that going to brunch-unlike going for drinks at 11 pm- probably won’t result in any pictures of me hanging naked from chandeliers…not that that has ever happened…that i know of…

ANYWAY…

Grace and I both wanted to check out Locanda Verde.  It is this restaurant that is run by Andrew Carmellini and Robert DeNiro…guess which one does the cooking 😉  It is in Tribeca on Greenwich Street, and was supposed to do a hell of a brunch!

Attached the the DeNiro run Greenwich Hotel, Locanda Verde is an Italian trattoria, featuring local and seasonal food cooked in a rustic style.  It was crazy busy this Sunday, in a brick walled space that was simultaneously comforting and hip.  It is a large room with lots of comfortable seating and a bar where you can read the paper while you indulge in your bloody mary 😉

After we ordered from our totally on top of it server, we were served some bread.  Now, you might read all about this meal on Grace’s blog, but you will not read about this bread. Oh, why?  Um, because I ATE IT ALL!  SHAMELESSLY!  I had heard that Locanda Verde excelled at bakery items and boy do they!  This rosemary dappled foccacia was topped with Parmesan and cornmeal for an irresistibly salty, crunchy top. The innards were as light and pillowy as a cloud, and the bread was moist without being flaky.  No question…the cornmeal and Parmesan topping made it so outstanding.  This was divoon.  Poor Grace…she was just too slow…or polite…whatever THAT must be like 😉

Literally 10 minutes after we ordered, our entrees came. Was it too fast?  It seemed a little suspicious…and then we dug in…

That thing in the middle of the table?  Sugar cinnamon donut.  Donuts are my weakness. My nemesis, the Delilah to my Samson.  I would rather have a truly great yeast-raised donut than world peace.  And now you all know my evil, self serving nature 🙂  What makes a great donut, you ask?  Why,

-light texture

-warm to the touch

-sweet without being cloyingly so

-moist but not greasy

-a perfect breakfast OR dessert

As you can see…I am serious about donuts.  I don’t screw around with Hostess.  And Locanda didn’t screw around with this.  It hit every single one of the points on my checklist.  Totally beyond delectable.  Sweet and spicy from the sugar and cinnamon.  Insanely light texture, clearly just pulled from the fryer. Pulling apart in feathery tufts, this was somewhere between a donut and Panettone.  I could have eaten twelve or thirteen.

In the background there, you see that Grace and I also shared lemon-blueberry ricotta pancakes with lemon curd and fresh berries.  Though I am not a huge pancake fan, I must admit these were delightful. Light, creamy, not too sweet, and positively loaded with sweet berries and tart zest.  The curd was a little bitter for my tastes, but that was okay.  Because I sated myself with:

Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast.

Imagine the creamiest, densest yogurt possible-thick, tart, creamy.  Then add the luscious mouth feel cheese has.  You still with me here?  Throw onto that some freshly cracked black pepper and fresh thyme.  Now add a thick pool of truffle infused honey.  Sweet, viscous nectar tinged with the deep earthiness of that fabulous fungus.  On the side-freshly charred sourdough toast rubbed with orange, so the bread has a citrusy, deeply toasted taste.  Now spread the cheese on the bread.

Hear the angels start to sing.

Creamy, tart, rich, carby, charred, fresh, sweet, and spicy.  The pepper with the honey, the truffles with the cheese, the orange toast with the thyme…this just worked.  It was wildly fulfilling and delicious.  So much so that I started spreading the cheese on my pancakes.  So much so that I intend to re-create this at home.  Yeah you will be getting another post on this.  When I become obsessed, I really just go all out 🙂

At $35, this was a great meal. Not too cheap or too expensive.  Excellent service.  Busy atmosphere, but not too loud.  It kinda just fit the bill.  It is a neighborhood trattoria done to the highest level.  For brunch, at least, Locanda Verde is a destination restaurant.  And you are darn right in thinking I will be checking it out soon to make sure dinner is up to par 😉

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