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. 

Sessanta – Fabulous Tongue Sliders with a few Service Issues

July 4th is a fantastic day to stay in the city. Everyone else has vacated to the Hamptons, the weather isn’t usually too humid, and – best of all – the restaurants you want to visit have plenty of reservations available.

For our holiday weekend, we chose Sessanta.

20150704_183918 This 1970s throwback restaurant from Mercer Street Hospitality has been getting a ton of buzz for its Sicilian style menu and though it can be hard to get a reservation most nights, it was wide open on July 4.  20150704_184257 Sardinia 75 with kirsch, lemon, kiwi, and prosecco

That’s my cocktail in the foreground, made by an excellent and friendly mixologist. It’s sweet and tart with a little fizz. An ideal aperitif. My husband got that Seraphim with bourbon and smoked cinnamon in the background. Also excellent – the cocktails and the bar itself are highly recommended.

20150704_194506 Foccacia

The bread service is unique and well portioned. No overflowing bread basket here. Just one small, dense, buttery square of foccacia per person. It’s topped with a bright, tangy tomato sauce. Not revelatory, but quite tasty.

20150704_194854 Tongue slider with lemon oil

Standout of the night – major winner. This is like the cheesesteak of your dreams, minus the cheese. The tongue actually melts in your mouth with a gentle beefy flavor that is bolstered by a touch of bright lemon oil. There are some thinly diced onions – not at all too strong – and a buttery, pliant brioche bun. Trust me – this is the sandwich that will bring you back to the restaurant.  20150704_202244 Veal Marsala with mushrooms and capers

A juicy, fruity take on veal Marsala. The wine sauce is tangier than most and to great effect – the veal is tender and the mushrooms are juicy. This is a great dish for someone who likes piquant flavors or a mushroom lover – those shrooms are the standout. 20150704_202258 Big eye tuna ragu with chiles

I love this spicy, briny pasta – what a winner! Make no mistake, it’s on the fishy side of things – you have to love seafood to enjoy this. However, if you are a major seafood lover, this is pasta for the ages. The pasta itself is al dented and thick – it absorbs the rich tomatoey sauce, laden with spicy chiles and hunks of soft, tender tuna. It’s fantastic and highly recommended.

However, I don’t know how fast I will be running back here. It’s inconvenient to where I live, a little pricey, and the service was really poor. I am talking argumentative servers, wrong dishes right and left, and almost an hour in between appetizers and entrees. Plus forgotten dishes that were then put on the bill for us to take care of. To his credit, the general manager handled everything splendidly when we let him know about our dissatisfying meal. I don’t hold it against the restaurant because of his swift and appropriate action, but I’m not aching to run back either.

Let me know what you think if you head there – just don’t miss those cocktails or fabulous tongue sliders.

Guest Post: Panda Express Innovation Kitchen and Tea Bar

You’re all in for a massive treat today. My friend Justin, who used to write one of my favorite food blogs of all time, has shared a recent experience of his for my blog. All I can say is…come back to the interwebs, Justin. We need more good photos. We need more burger mashups. And I can say with confidence that we ALL need more orange chicken burritos: 
For a few years after my parents were first married but before I came along, they would go to parties in the Pasadena area where Chinese food was served. A young man named Andrew would show up with all the ingredients and get to work in the kitchen cooking up dinner. He had just opened up a restaurant on Foothill Blvd called Panda Inn.When my mom tells the stories, she makes it sound like she was in the kitchen helping Andrew out, maybe suggesting recipes or showing him egg roll-making tips. My dad’s memory of the parties is far more boring but much more realistic: “I don’t think Andrew even knew my name.”In 1983, Andrew came up with the idea to sell his food in quick-serve format in the Glendale Galleria. He called it Panda Express. Today, Panda Express has 1700 restaurants all over the country, in malls, airports, baseball stadiums and shopping centers.

Also today, Andrew is estimated by Forbes to be worth more than three billion dollars. That’s billion with a B. Needless to say, Andrew no longer shows up and cooks at the kind of parties my parents attend.

In an obvious play to establish a new Panda model comparable to the massive success of Chipotle, a new restaurant opened a few months ago called Panda Express Innovation Kitchen and Tea Bar. In an homage to the first Panda Inn, it’s just a few blocks down the street on Foothill. It also happens to be just four blocks from the house in which I grew up.

But I didn’t plan to visit, because here’s the thing: I am not a fan of Panda Express. I just don’t think it’s that good. Sure, it tastes okay… but so do most things if you put the amount of sugar and salt on them that Panda uses. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least six independent Chinese restaurants in Pasadena that I think are much better.

But there is one occasion for which Panda Express always hits the spot with me: A hangover. I was back in Pasadena for the Summer Solstice, visiting with some old friends, and I drank way too much. The next day I awoke with my worst hangover in years. I headed to Panda.

You can choose to get your food in a salad, in a bowl, or in a wrap (basically a scallion tortilla). I opted for the wrap. Just like at every other Panda, you select whatever you want. Except with a lot more options.
First up, I asked for lettuce, carrots and scallions.
Then orange chicken.
And Beijing beef.
And slaw, pickled cucumbers, and crispy shallots.
So how was it?
Well, it’s Panda Express. Almost every medium-size city has at least a couple Chinese joints better than Panda, but something about the orange chicken is oddly comforting. Maybe it’s a throwback to those days when my high school used to bring it in for lunch, or maybe it’s just the fact that the sugar and salt always seems to alleviate my hangover, however briefly.
I do have to say that the egg rolls with the spicy sambal sauce is a winning combination. All Panda Express locations across the country would do well to start serving this.
But as for the name “Innovation Kitchen”? I guess if throwing their ingredients into a salad or a tortilla is innovative, the name kinda makes sense. But overall it wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be.
There is, however, one thing about the place that I DO think is pretty cool:
In the back of the house is a tea and dessert bar, with some comfortable, oversized chairs and flatscreen TVs showing sports. I had an iced black tea that was delicious and a strawberry mochi that was awful.
Like I wrote earlier, I don’t really expect this format of Panda Express to take off. I could see them trying it out in a few other locations around the country, but I don’t think Chipotle needs to start worrying about losing market share.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back… well, until my next wicked hangover. So probably this coming weekend.

GG’s NYC – I Dream of GG’s

Get to GG’s ASAP for the burger. Like, really.

20150601_181856 Don’t bother coming for the atmosphere…well, I guess it is pretty cute. Quaint, ideal for a meal alone at the bar or with a friend.
20150601_181906 It would make a good double date spot but might be a bit too cozy with other tables for a first date. The backyard looks fun for a crew, though.  20150601_190056 Burrata with greens, romesco, and garlic chips
Okay, you can come for this, too. The burrata is wonderfully creamy and paired with more strong, savory flavors than it usually is. I though that those flavors would overwhelm the burrata, but the crispy, pungent garlic chops, earthy romesco, and soft greens just accent the burrata’s creamy, milky taste. Recommended.

20150601_191836 The Grandma Pie 20150601_192009 Thick, buttery crust. Sweet, none-too-fancy tomato sauce. Stretchy, bubbly mozzarella and crispy, spicy discs of pepperoni that curl up and harbor wonderful porky oil. The pie is soft and layered with the flavors of your favorite childhood pie with high end ingredients. If you love Sicilian pie, you will be crazy for this. For my tastes, it’s a little doughy but still worth trying.  20150601_192345 Pan seared burger with white cheddar, melted onions, secreto sauce, and fries

Yep. This is why you come here. This burger is as good as the one at Brindle Room in a totally different way. It has a squishy bun, a thin blanket of sharp cheese, and sweet, pleasantly sticky caramelized onions. Then there is the meat…wow, that meat. It’s juicy and beefy without too much funk or highfalutin taste. It’s not like eating a steak – it’s like eating the best burger you ever had.  20150601_192444 Perfectly pink and juicy, with a swatch of creamy, tangy secreto sauce and a crunchy pickle…this is perfection on a bun. For the price and how substantial it is, it’s currently my favorite burger in town.  20150601_195132

Morgenstern’s raw milk ice cream sandwich

Fabulous! Okay, come for this, too. Thsi ice cream is DYNAMITE! It’s creamy, rich, and clean tasting – almost the burrata of ice cream. The cookies are dark and thick enough to absorb the ice cream’s moisture without getting too soggy.

GG’s is really well priced, has an inviting atmosphere, and serves – for my money – the most satisfying burger in the city. Plus pizza. And some awesome ice cream sandwiches. I guess there is reason besides the burger to come here. But still…the burger is the best reason.

The Great Noodle Tour: Din Tai Fung’s Fabulous Food

I finally made it to the much-lauded dumpling parlor Din Tai Fung

20150427_065114 This Taiwanese chain was started by a Shanghai immigrant who brought his exceptional dumpling skills to Taiwan and created and international sensation known for its cleanliness, predictability, and totally delicious dumplings.

20150427_065104 We were quickly seated by a friendly, English speaking server and then the food came out in quick succession. 
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Even the ginger arrives artfully. 20150427_070337 Shrimp and pork wontons in spicy sauce

 The sleeper hit of the night. Meaty, porky, umami, and pleasantly salty with just a touch of salinity from the ground shrimp. The sauce is spicy, slick with chile oil,a nd peppered with chives. A truly delicious way to start the meal.  20150427_070341 Spring rolls

Crispy, piping hot, savory. Good, not memorable.  20150427_070344 Noodles with minced pork sauce

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MMM, MMM, GOOD! Bouncy, fresh noodles soaking up all of the meaty, tomatoey, porky goodness. A savory way to break up the dumpling monotony. 
20150427_070819 Spicy sautéed green beans…with pork

Notice a theme here? Yep, it’s all about the pork and the veggies are no exception. These beans are cooked over high, high heat until they blister and pop open, allowing the chiles and pork to seep into their every pore.

Good stuff.  20150427_071115 BBQ pork buns. Also good stuff.

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The soup dumplings. I’m so sorry that I don’t have a better photo of these PERFECT little soup dumplings. Oh, they are so divine. Thin skinned like gossamer little pockets of pork and broth. The broth is light and tastes clean, not at all greasy or heavy. The pork fairly dissolves in your mouth. This is a damned fine dumpling that enhanced, not made or broken, by the ginger infused vinegar.
20150427_072652 Sticky rice with pork 20150427_072722 Glutinous. Fatty to the nth degree. Salty and savory. Basically awesome.

If I lived here, I would be a Din Tai Fung fanatic. The service is excellent, they have diet coke (a MAJOR rarity in Asia), and the food is some of the best that we had in China.

Kashkaval Garden – Tiny but Terrific

It’s never easy to find somewhere to eat before a night at the theater. You want somewhat nice but not super expensive. Somewhere leisurely but that knows how to get you the check so you don’t miss your curtain time. Somewhere that is delicious but not too heavy – nothing worse than falling asleep during “Sunrise, Sunset,” amirite?

Kashkaval Garden delivers on all corners.

This minuscule Hell’s Kitchen wine bar is the holy grail of theater restaurants. A generous happy hour and full wine and liquor list. A staff who knows how to get your food on the table ASAP without rushing you to eat. And some seriously delicious Mediterranean food.

Be prepared, the place is tiny and doesn’t take reservations. But if you get there around 6 on a weeknight, you should be seated pretty quickly.

20150414_182347 Warm spiced olives

Juicy, meaty olives warmed in a garlicky, citrusy olive oil. It’s salty, savory, and surprisingly satiating if you crave a nibble before the meal. Warm olives are just the greatest and these go really well with a martini.
20150414_182356 Goat cheese salad

Doesn’t look special but really hits the spot. Fresh greens, sweet, grapes, a swath of creamy goat cheese lining the plate, and the MOST delicious marinated mushrooms I have had in a long time. They are savory, meaty, and incredibly umami. Served cold, they are superior to meat in almost every way.  20150414_183033 Chicken and chicken adana skewers

Shades of India and a welcome dose of heat and spice. The chicken is tender and marinated in yogurt so it’s juicy and savory. The adana skewer is well spiced with red pepper and garlic – like an awesome long meatball. Served with a tangy squash caponata, a zesty red pepper puree, and some really creamy, cucumber-rich tzaziki – what more could you want? This is accidentally low carb without meaning to be. It’s so delicious!

Kashkaval Garden is a delight. It’s really well priced, the portions are huge, and the food (I didn’t even order my favorite babaganoush or stuffed grape leaves this time) is dynamite.

Hopefully your show can live up to the precedent that your dinner sets!

Lamb Bacon at Navy

Quick drive by posting:

Have you ever been to Navy? Have you ever even heard of it? It’s an adorable cafe in SoHo that is almost hidden from sight. I went for a quick breakfast with a friend the other day and was utterly enchanted.

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Fresh juice, check. Sweet staff, check. Small but on point menu, check.

A little expensive, but delish.

20150409_091927

Harissa omelette with lamb bacon.

Delicious!

The omlette is soft and creamy, filled with a spiced (but not crazy hot) harissa paste that has the consistency of refried beans. It’s thick and velvety, just like the eggs. A tangle of peppery, vinaigrette-dressed watercress breaks through the richness.

20150409_091950

And that lamb bacon.

Whoa. Fatty. Meaty. Grassy. Not at all salty or smokey. Pretty much addictive.

For one shining moment, being kosher seemed possible.

Then I remembered cheeseburgers.

Anyway…

Hit up Navy the next time that you are in SoHo. You won’t regret it!

Run, Don’t Walk, to Salumeria Rosi

How have I lived on the UWS and never been to Salumeria Rosi?

What a GEM! Let’s take a look:

20150408_115753 A veritable feast of gourmet and artisanal meats, cheeses, and prepared salads at the front of the store. A friendly and competent counter person offered to help me, but I told her that I was there to eat.  20150408_115800 The dining room is unexpectedly chic. Modern and sleek, with good lighting and some bar seating with comfortable chairs. It seems more like a Tribeca haunt than one on the UWS. 
20150408_123849 Large meat plate

 House made mortadella, soft prosciutto, super spicy cappaciole, and salami kissed with spicy peppercorns. This is a very good and ample meat platter. 

That’s what she said. 

For realsies, though – get this and let the chef go wild with what’s best – there’s no way to lose.

20150408_125657 Pancetta roasted Brussels sprouts. 

Simple and divine all at once. Tiny nuggets of sprouts, tender and almost creamy beneath a shattering, crispy skin. Juicy nuggets of pancetta. Salty, fatty, crunchy, cruciferous. These are a must order as long as they are on the menu.
20150408_125700 Caprese salad

WONDERFUL mozzarella elevates this classic dish. Sweet tomatoes, tangy balsamic, and a tangle of sharp greens and basil, but the glory is to that mozzarella. Luscious, rich, creamy, and bursting with fresh, milky flavor. This is a must get.

Actually, everything here is a must get. The prices are shockingly reasonable (including a hanger steak for under $20), the surroundings are lovely enough for a date or special night, and the food is just delicious. Run, don’t walk, to this very special shop. I can’t wait to come back, shop at the front grocery section, and try more dishes.

Till then, I’ll be having mortadella dreams. 

The Jewbano at The Comfort: A Destination-Worthy Sandwich

This is a one-food post. And it’s about a food that I don’t even get to eat this week. #ThanksPassover.

But I tried it last week and…um…it merits some recognition .

It’s the Jewbano sandwich at The Comfort

This lower east side diner looks like any cute cafe with fresh salads, homemade chicken soup, and creamy mac-and-cheese. It is unassuming and casual. It doesn’t at all let you know what rests inside its hallowed walls.

Behold: The Jewbano:

jewbano

via The Comfort’s Facebook page

House roasted turkey – juicy and soft with a nice layer of fat. 

Katz’s pastrami – well, we all know how I feel about this. The Comfort is the only joint outside of Katz’s that is allowed to use this proprietary pastrami in a sandwich. 

Guss’ pickles – simply the best. Tart, tangy, sour

Swiss cheese – and none too skimpy with it!

Deli mustard – because we aren’t heathens, after all. 

Kossar’s bulka – buttery, onion-y, soft but dense enough to absorb the sandwiche’s juices. 

This is bliss. It is ideally constructed. Salty pastrami, sour pickles, that tang of mustard and melted cheese. This is what you want after a night at the clubs, after a morning of tough meetings, or pretty much any time.

Especially during Passover.

I can’t wait to have one next week.

72 Hours in The Middle East: Afternoon Tea at The Burj Al Arab’s Skyview Bar

Continuing on with some of my Middle Eastern Adventure – it’s afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab hotel.

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In case you haven’t seen the Travel Channel special (and who ARE you…it’s amazing), the Burj is the world’s first and only 7 star hotel – they said so. Each room comes equipped with a golden iPad. Each room is at least 2 stories and 2,000 square feet. You have to bring your printed out confirmation for meal or hotel room just to get up the driveway – there are plenty of lurkey-loos but they all have reservations somewhere in the enormous hotel.  The lobby is – well, let’s just let the photos speak for themselves:

20150201_090528 Dancing fountains.  20150201_090806 A Technicolor atrium with an escalator and gold columns. I think Liza Minelli wept for its gaudiness.  20150201_090811 A gargantuan tropical fishtank.  20150201_090921 A multicolored fountain.  20150201_090933 Aladdin’s coffeeshop? 20150201_091834 And this little setup – the tea at the Skyview Bar.

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An oasis in the clouds where white gloved servers whisk your coat way from you and encourage you to take photos of Dubai’s famous Palm Island from the vast plate-glass windows at your side. Where harp music drifts in and our of your world as you are plied with plate after plate of food and see others without reservations getting turned away coldly.

20150201_092529 A place where I almost stole the toilet paper from the bathroom because – come on – when am I going to get back here again?
20150201_092732 A place where I so lathered myself in the free amenities that I’m sure that the attendant was rolling her eyes behind my back. 

IMG_2115 A place where plump, syrupy dates are stuffed with almonds and candied orange peel. Dont’ skip these – they are so delicious all over the Middle East. 

IMG_2126 Where the amuse bouche is a buttery shortbread topped with chantilly and a forest of tiny, sweet berries that are bright and juicy as if they were just picked that day. 

IMG_2135 A place where the lamb comes to a nice, steely gray and the potatoes are little more than mealy mash. So far, the portions are small and the food is unimpressive.

IMG_2140 A place where every course is everflowing. 
20150201_095510 A place where the tea sandwiches are lovely and sprinkled with gold and caviar. The saffron bread is aromatic and the salmon salad is soft and lush – easily the best savory bite of the afternoon.
20150201_102225 A place where the tea tower looks like the hotel. Every detail is thought of here, down to the very tea tower that they use. 

20150201_102355 A place where the jam offered with the clotted cream is date jam… DATES and clotted cream. It was dreamy.

IMG_2147 A place where litchee sorbet and candied rose petals seems almost pedestrian next to the $500 whiskey that the table next to you just ordered…at 1 in the afternoon. 

The surroundings are gorgeous. The service is deferential almost to a fault. The food is…well, it’s meh. And it’s way too expensive, even with a glass of lovely, dry Louis Roderer champagne at the beginning. But it’s the only way to get into the Burj al Arab without ponying up for a room there – that’s right, you have to pay for this rather mediocre tea at a rather extraordinary price just to get inside the gilded gates.  And it’s a once in a lifetime experience.  20150201_110705 And I still wish that I had stolen that cool toilet paper.