Fulton – The Perfect Neighborhood Joint

I had a really great meal at a totally unsuspecting UES spot recently – y’all need to know about it.

20140608_122059 Fulton is a bright, spacious restaurant on the Upper East side that specializes in fresh seafood. It has a laid back vibe that is nice enough for a brunch with friends but casual enough for a brunch with friends who have kids. It hits that sweet spot of upscale but chill. It’s modern and clubby feeling – like a very updated version of a steak and seafood place. 20140608_124253Fish burger

An underwhelming name for a fabulous dish. The fish burger is made of halibut and cod, and is bound loosely so it is soft and moist, interspersed with fresh dill and lemon zest.  The patty is made of large, meaty pieces of fish so it’s not mushy or homogeneous. It’s just like eating a light, fresh piece of fish but with a side of lemony, creamy hollandaise. And a soft, fluffy potato bun. And let’s be honest…eating things in burger form is just always a good idea. The accompanying salad is light and fresh (although the golden brown French fries are an even more craveworthy side), and the portion is enough to fill you but no enough to require Pepto Bismol.
20140608_124328 Smoked salmon tartine with roe and cucumbers

THIS is the ideal summer meal. A crispy crostini layered with a thin schmear of creme fraiche, thinly sliced and peeled cucumbers, and velvety smoked salmon. High on the lush texture, low on the smoky taste. It’s topped with briny pearls of salmon roe, taut and shiny with salty flavor. This is simple but well done and I would get it again and again.

20140608_124337Shrimp and grits

The least inspired of the dishes that we tried. The shrimp are sweet and snappy and the grits are well cooked – creamy and comforting. However, they aren’t seasoned the way that I like shrimp and grits. Not enough butter, not enough garlic, not enough…N’alwins.

20140608_122054Fulton is such a sleeper hit. It’s the PERFECT neighborhood joint. The prices are fair, the service is friendly and competent, the surroundings are comfortable, and the food is really great. I can’t get over that fish burger..it’s just phenomenal. I could totally come here if I was in the hood or looking for a large, family friendly spot where the food really measures up.

The Best Uni Pasta on Earth – Kousaros on Mykonos

Are you ready? I mean, really…are you ready? I am about to let you in on the best dish I had my entire honeymoon.

And it doesn’t involve Fritos OR foie.

Or, any good pictures. After drinking at breakfast and lunch…my camera skills were even shakier than usual. Sorry about that.

But first, let’s set the scene:

20140502_202519Kousaros is a high end restaurant in Mykonos town – I couldn’t tell you how to get there if you paid me. Just keep wandering around the city looking for windmills, and if you walk in circles enough times to stop for a Greek coffee, get in a snippy fight with your loved one, and see the sun set, then you may FINALLY find Kousaros. It’s a large, airy restaurant with ample outdoor space and a modern, tented dining room that feels like some posh, Lisa Vanderpump approved spot. No one fashionable eats here before 10pm, so we were quite the early birds at 9.
20140502_202802Taramasalata

A disappointing start to the meal. Very bland, without enough salty fish eggs, fragrant dill, or bright lemon. Totally meh.
20140502_203448Before you order, your server brings out into the kitchen to see the daily caught fish and shellfish. The fish is sold by the kilogram, so be sure to ask for the price to avoid sticker shock. The food here is very pricey, and if you want to keep costs down, order several starters or opt for a fixed price dish from the menu. However, the fish all looks pristine and delicious – if I had enough time, money, and stomach space, I would eat there forever.
20140502_204719Kousaros special

The vegetables in this country are just unreal. The olives are so juicy and pleasantly salty. The carrots are sweet and the radishes are peppery. The peppers are vinegary and hot – don’t eat a whole one without having a serious heat tolerance. The tomatoes are otherworldly – peeled this time, my favorite indulgence, and as sweet as ever. And the capers…oh, those capers! Santorini capers are world famous for being soft and juicy, with plenty of salt but no bitter taste. The tender leaves are tossed in a sweet, bright olive oil dressing that make all the fresh vegetables taste like themselves, not like some washed out, salad-y version of themselves.
20140502_205233Crab salad

Even better than the crab at the hotel earlier that week. SO fresh and clean tasting, with a slight oceanic taste that is refreshing, not at all muddy. It’s like a breath of sea air with the crunch of spicy pink peppercorns and a tangle of arugula on top.  I would recommend this in a heartbeat. In fact, I would actually eat it all if you ordered it with me. It’s worth losing a friendship to finish this.
20140502_205833Baked feta with spicy peppers and tomatoes

Blah. The only misstep of the night. Boring and mundane – not enough spice from the peppers nor enough sweetness from the tomatoes. Not bad, just not incredible, like he restof the meal. Boring. 20140502_211123Spaghetti with uni

She ain’t much to look at and not just because I forgot to take a photo until half an hour after we had already dug in. She is just so simple. Dried pasta, uni, olive oil. The best sea urchin dish I have ever had in my life. The best pasta I have ever had in my life. The uni is soft and melts into the oil in a lush, fatty, positively romantic puddle of buttery oil. It’s so mild and savory, without too much salt or any mixed up, ruddy flavor. It’s so rich and so indulgent. I couldn’t possibly love this pasta more. I ended up scooping up the extra uni and spreading it on bread, letting the warm roe sink into the chewy baguette. I ran my finger along the perimeter of te bowl, licking the buttery sauce from my fingers. I slurped up the al dente pasta, unremarkable in its own right but pure gold in that slick, thick sauce. This is extraordinary. Since having it, I have craved it every day.

20140502_213238Loukoumades

These doughnuts, fried and dipped in honey, are by far my favorite Greek sweet. Baklava, be gone! It’s all about these fluffy, yeasty balls that are rolled in honey and sprinkled with crushed walnuts and cinnamon. The best parts of doughnuts and coffee cake, served warm with a side of melting vanilla ice cream. They come cheaper other places, but not more delicious.

20140502_214058Don’t say that they never gave you anything – the ouzo is free, sweet, and will absolutely put hair on your chest.  Not my cup of tea, but when in Greece, right?

When in Mykonos, you truly must dine here. Kousaros is the finest meal that I had on the island of Mykonos. It was expensive but not unduly so. The seafood was fresh as could be, the menu is huge and varied, and the service is excellent, to say nothing of the large and lovely cocktail list. That uni pasta is something that I will dream of for the rest of my life. I couldn’t have been sadder to leave Mykonos, but…of course…we had to go onwards to heaven on earth.

I.E. Santorini.

The Fish Lunch of My Dreams at Seirines, Rafina

So…

I’m back from my honeymoon.

And while I thought that my first posts back would be all about the wedding…I was wrong. A fool, really.

Because how could I write about anything besides the beautiful, historic, and DELICIOUS country of Greece?

Don’t worry, wedding recaps will take place.

But first, jump a plane, a ferry, and a donkey to Greece with me, won’t you?

The first meal I had in Greece was actually one of my favorites of the entire trip. It was at the port of Rafina where we boarded the (HELLISHLY LONG AND CROWDED) ferry to Mykonos. Rafina is the secondary port of Athens, and mostly used by Greeks while tourists use the larger port of Piraeus. As such, the restaurants here cater to the local clientele – wealthy Athenians island hopping and business men stopping by for lunch from nearby offices.

20140430_144725Small tavernas line the harbor, but bypass the others and go straight to Seirines.

20140430_161217The atmosphere is nothing stuffy – a small indoor section and a large, covered outdoor patio area where young families and people in $10,000 watches sit side by side. Everyone in Greece seems to speak impeccable English, but this is the closest that we got to being totally out of our element and relying to pointing at pictures on the menu.

Needless to say, I loved it.

The chef will come and show you the catch of the day, or you can order off the menu. There really isn’t any way to lose.

20140430_150240Spicy cheese dip(Tyrokaferi)

Hello, land of feta! This is made with soft, creamy feta - it has that briny quality that feta has, but with the texture of whipped cream cheese. It isn’t bitter or crumbly at all. It’s interspersed with some sort of pepper paste from heaven – a little zippy at the start, but then it fades quickly to let the natural flavor of the cheese shine through. It really highlights the cheese with a touch of spice instead of overpowering it and stealing the show. A spritz of lemon somewhere in there lifts the dish and finishes it with the perfect touch of acid.

20140430_150236Tzatziki

I almost cried. This is the best tzatziki that I had in Greece, and that’s really saying something, since I had it at almost every meal (breakfast included). So thick and rich – what the hell kind of yogurt am I eating at home?! The cucumbers are finely shredded and obviously drained because they are lush and verdant without being soggy or watery. The dill is abundant and the garlic is a revelation – I have NOT been using enough garlic in my tzatziki! The raw garlic provides a savory, spicy note that resonates in the back of the throat long after the bite is gone. However, because the yogurt is so wonderfully rich and fatty, it tempers the garlic’s bite. This is so spicy, creamy, cooling, and refreshing…I ate it with some toasted bread but mostly ate it with a fork, because who wants bread to get in the way of pure, unadulterated garlicky fat?

20140430_150246Country salad

1. Where do they get the tomatoes in Greece?! They are the sweetest, juiciest, thinnest skinned tomatoes that I have ever enjoyed in my life. They are ripe and firm, tasting of the sun and the earth at once.

2. Peeled cucumbers. In a casual taverna. Because everyone knows that cucumber skin is for the birds.

3. Sweet, THINLY shaved onions. Scallions, be gone.

4. Olives. My ankles swelled to the size of elephant ankles from all of the olives that I ate. Soft ones, hard ones, small ones, juicy ones, green, red, and black ones…they were all the absolute best that I have ever eaten. To say NOTHING of the fruity, thick, golden olive oil served tableside at every meal.

5. The feta. The block of feta of which I couldn’t take a photo because I started to eat it too quickly. This feta that is different from the feta in the dip – it’s light and crumbly, with less of a salty bite. It just goes to show how carefully the food here is made – the feta used for the dip would be far too salty and soft to meld with the crisp and salty vegetables.

20140430_150400Smoked and cured fish plate

Dontcha just love a place where there is a huge plate full of house-caught fish that has been cured and smoked right in the back of the restaurant? Some of it I loved (the anchovies were garlicky, and oily but not at all fishy), some of it I liked (the soft cured amberjack or skipjack in the back – mild and rich), and some of it I couldn’t stand (sorry fish on the side – crunchy shouldn’t be a term when discussing fish). It was nothing I have ever had before and I would advise any adventurous seafood lover to order it!

20140430_150940Shrimp, souvlaki style

The best  cooked shrimp I have had in eons. Plump and juicy with a garlicky (they love garlic here) olive oil marinade that makes the sweet shrimp just sing. Grilled on a skewer so they are juicy within and smoky without.

20140430_151035They are so mild and sweet that they almost don’t seem like shrimp – they are more like scallops. They were doubtless caught that morning and cooked to order. The shrimp in Greece is in general FAR superior to what I have had in the USA – probably there is little to no iodine treatment there. These were the best of the many shrimp that I ate on the trip.

20140430_152923Creamsicle cake

This is what I call it…who knows what the real name is? Light, vanilla scented cheesecake with a graham cracker bottom and a tart, thick marmalade top. It’s hard not to love this.

And it’s impossible not to love this restaurant. The price is fair – not cheap but it’s a TON of delicious, fresh seafood. The atmosphere is lovely and relaxed and the staff couldn’t be sweeter. We ordered and our food was brought promptly (NOT always the norm in Greece), then after we finished we were left alone for an hour to sit with our coffees and read magazines until it was time to board our ferry. The server was thrilled that we loved the food so much and the chef was in and out of the kitchen, advising diners what to order. I would come back here in a heartbeat if I could.

What an introduction to delicious Greece!

Wild Edibles – Oysters are in Season!

I’m an oyster lover. Can’t get enough of those briny bivalves.

So when a girlfriend suggested that we get together at Wild Edibles Oyster Bar, I was game. Wild Edibles is a seafood purveyor that has a stand in Grand Central Station and its own small restaurant in Midtown East. It carries incredibly fresh fish and offers a sustainability guide so you can see how sustainable the fish is that you are buying or eating. I haven’t ever bought fish from them, but have often ogled the goods in Grand Central Station.

The restaurant is tiny, with a small bar and a few tables. It is definitely casual and extremely focused on seafood. If you don’t like fish or shellfish, don’t eat here.

But if you do…prepare to be amazed. You can choose from a variety of menu items, specials, or even just choose a fresh fish from the market case and design your own spices and marinades for it!

We went with a few oysters:

Kumamoto – small, sweet, creamy. A great beginner oyster. 

Skookum – like the Kumamoto, but with more body and richness. 

Salt Aire – Large, briny, pleasantly metallic. An oyster for oyster lovers. 

Beau Soleil – a classic oystery flavor. Mild, briny, with a very “oceanic” taste

Blue Point – Incredibly fresh and mineral-y. Full of body with a plump texture – one of my favorites of the night.

Canada Cup – Juicy and meaty, with a very tart, briny finish. Delicious with some cocktail sauce and a slice of buttered bread to cut through the salt of it.

 

These oysters were around $2.25 each – not cheap, but absolutely worth it. So fresh, so delicious, so unpretentious. And every day there is a happy hour, where oysters are only a dollar. Great service, great food, and at those happy hour prices, I will definitely be back for more of those marvelous mollusks.

Wild Edibles on Urbanspoon

Royal House Oyster Bar – The Butter, The Garlic!

I had grand plans to eat at Acme Oyster House.

I was going to order at least 3 different preparations of oysters. I was going to have my photo taken. It was one of my nonnegotiables on our New Orleans sojourn.

Needless to say, we never made it there.

We were too late, too early, too tired, too hungry, or all of the above to wait the line.

PS, lines for restaurants are a thing in New Orleans. They are outside almost every restaurant and everyone just waits pleasantly until they are seated. The open container laws might have something to do with how patiently everyone waits. 

However, being whiny New Yorkers, we all settled for a little oyster house down the street. And we are SO glad that we did!

IMG_20131027_143626_949Royal House Oyster Bar is located in a typical French Quarter style home on the totally charming Royal Street. Flanked with antique stores and vine-lined iron trellises, the restaurant’s most lovely aspect is its second floor which opens onto a narrow balcony.

The whole time we ate, we heard jazz musicians down in the street playing. Eating whilst listening to jazz waft up from the historic street below? Does it get any better? IMG_20131027_143632_546The restaurant is very relaxed, with a bar-meets-casual restaurant atmosphere. It is perfect fora  relaxed, boozy lunch, but it would be good for a low-key dinner, too.

IMG_20131027_144314_572Bloody Mary

This city just loves my favorite cocktail! And this one was almost…almost…as good as my famous 3 Day Bloody Mary. It’s made with olive and pepper infused vodka, so the alcoholic kick is very slight. It’s zesty and very vegetal tasting – You really get that oniony-garlicky-tonatoey-olivey kick. It’s practically healthy! I drank two…and then I napped.

New Orleans involves a lot of napping, post eating. IMG_20131027_145811_783Redfish beignets

Because our server told us that you can’t go to NOLA and not eat redfish. These are, as a dining companion put it “like General Tso’s chicken meets fish fingers.” By Jove, he is right! Meaty, mild redfish is encased in a thick, beignet batter and served with a sweet, spicy dipping sauce. The finishing touch is…wait for it…powdered sugar. It sounds horrible, I know, but somehow the sweetness negates any muddy taste and makes the clean flavor of the fish shine though. The bit of heat in the sauce keeps it from being too weird or sweet. This is a surefire way to get non-fish eaters to like a seafood dish! IMG_20131027_145817_754Crab claws in garlic butter sauce

A misnomer. This appetizer should be called crack. Just plain old crack. It’s that addictive. Miniature crab claws, already cracked, swim in a buttery ,creamy, vaguely spicy sauce that is so garlicky that you might smell my breath right through your computer screen. It’s bright with lemon and the crab meat is so insanely sweet that I was gobsmacked. The sauce is just unreal. The server told us the garlic makes it special, but I’m pretty sure that the butter helps too. Wow.

chargrilled oystersChargrilled oysters with butter, garlic, and Parmesan cheese

Notice a theme here? Garlic and butter are big players in the seafood dishes here, and with good reason. I find gulf oysters to be a little dull tasting and they really benefit from strong seasonings. This topping is perfect. The cheese might sound unconventional to pair with an oyster, but it just creates a nutty, crunchy aspect that enhances the mollusks mild salinity. The garlicky butter sauce is bread dippin’ good. This may be the best dish I had on the entire trip. It’s just so tasty – big and bright flavors in an unexpected combination. oyster po boyOyster BLT po boy

Awww yeah. Fully dressed. Now THIS is a po boy. Lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo, bacon, fried oysters, and chipotle remoulade all layered on soft, dense French bread. The sandwich did need some more mayo, but it is a totally satisfying meal. A crunchy crust surrounds the piping hot oysters – soft but not mushy – really fabulous. The bacon is the perfect additional salty crunch and the pickles – what a revelation! Pickles and oysters are just delicious together – the salty, bright flavors work so well together and lighten up a rather heavy sandwich. I am a po boy lover, and though the accompanying fries were mediocre at best, this po boy is a winner.

The whole restaurant is a gold medalist! Royal House was a last minute stop, but it had some of my favorite food of the trip. Those buttery, garlicky oysters. That buttery, garlicky crab. The butter…the garlic! The atmosphere is totally delightful and just what I had imagineed before I visited The Big Easy. It’s all jazz and balcony and seafood and…lovely. Fair prices, efficient service, and really great food.

It’s relaxed NOLA at its best. 

Champlin’s – New England Seafood at its Best

One of the best things about living on the east coast is your proximity to other states and their indigenous foods. In one day, you can travel through 3 or 4 states and try everything from New York pizza  to Connecticut hot dogs to Rhode Island seafood!

 Champlin’s is a seafood shack in Narragansett, Rhode Island that is hailed as having some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in all of Southern New England.

 It is part restaurant, part fish market, and the vibe is uber-relaxed seafood shack.

 You might want to sit outside in the summer, but in the winter, it is INSANELY cold, and empty!

You order up front, gather hot sauce and lemon, and wait for your number to be called.

Stuffies

Stuffies are giant clams called quahogs that are chopped (they are too tough to eat when they are whole), then mixed with bread or crackers, peppers, and an assortment of other spices. The clam mixture is then stuffed into the shell and baked. It may be my FAVORITE way to eat clams.

This stuffie is good but not fantastic. A bit dry and crumbly, mixed with slightly sauteed red peppers and large pieces of clam. Sadly, it lacks the moist consistency and truly in your face briny taste of a truly awesome quahog.

Don’t get me wrong…it is still really delicious. Just not in the upper pantheon of quahog-ness.

Clam Cakes

A hot, savory doughnut. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.  Bready, salty doughnuts studded with huge bits of tender and salty clams.

This could turn anyone into a clam lover. Dip it in some malt vinegar and it is a tangy-salty-fried haven of flavor.

Lobster bisque

Creamy, rich, and deeply flavored with the buttery taste of lobster. It has a balanced flavor with plenty of sherry and zippy cayenne pepper playing off of the naturally mild lobster. This seems less like a cream soup with lobster and more like the liquid essence of lobster that simply happened to be creamy. Really fulfilling and delicious on a winter’s day.

Or in the middle of summer.

Anytime you’re awake, really.  

Lobster roll

The lobster roll is exemplary, as far as Maine style lobster rolls go. That means that it has finely diced celery, a bit of mayo and is served on a buttered, toasted, top split hot dog bun. Lots of tail and claw meat, cooked until done but not rubbery, are mixed with crunchy celery and creamy mayo to create a delicious lobster salad. Nestled in that warm toasted bun, the lobster is tender but retains a light bite that keeps the shellfish from being mushy. It is light, rich and carries the fresh taste of the ocean.

I can’t recommend Champlin’s enough! The food is incredibly well priced, incredibly fresh and incredibly delicious. Though there is nothing earth shattering or amazingly inventive at this restaurant, that isn’t why you go there. You go there for fresh seafood, perfectly prepared. Only a few hours a way. Cooked by the people who caught it.

Man, I love the east coast!

Champlin's Seafood Deck on Urbanspoon

Fish Tag – A Smoked Salmon Bonanza

In New York, you have to keep your head down.

Nope, I don’t mean work hard.

I mean that you literally have to position your head downwards in order to see half the great restaurants here. 

After all, if I didn’t keep my head down, I would totally have missed Fish Tag.

Michael Psilakis’ fish and charcuterie oriented restaurant got mixed reviews when it opened, but it sounded intriguing anyway. However, it somehow got lost in the shuffle of restaurants on my radar, until my family and I were walking past it and caught view of it this past weekend.

 Though you must descend steps to reach the restaurant, the main dining space is incredibly bright and clean thanks to larges skylights and windows to a small outdoor garden. The look is clean and minimalist – very Scandinavian. The vibe is extremely quiet – not a place for small children or loud, raucous group parties.

 Grilled Cheese with Pork Belly and Poached Egg

A hearty and well made dish. Crisp bread surrounded mild, melty cheese and tender pork belly. The pork belly was more salty than smoky, which worked well with the cheese’s mild taste and the perfectly poached egg. This grilled cheese could have benefited from a slightly tangier cheese, like tallegeio, but it was still tasty and satisfying.

 Fig, Proscuitto and Manouri Bruschetta

Though the ingredients sounded wonderful, this was very disappointing. The figs were very soft and sweet – delicious on their own, but they rendered the dish too sugary. The prosciutto was in such minute amounts that it did nothing to add crunch or salt to the dish. The best aspects of this were the creamy manouri cheese(like a fattier, richer ricotta), and the perfectly charred bread.

 Gaspe Salmon with Bagel, Pickled Vegetables, Fennel Salad, and Creme Fraiche

There was a variety of smoked salmons offered, and I went with the Gaspe because it was described as lush, delicate, and succulent. I could go on and on about the way the salmon tasted but…why should I? That is exactly how it tasted. It had a firm texture, with a good amount of salt but not too much smoke, which is what I like in a smoked salmon. My father had the Irish smoked salmon. I really enjoyed that one more – it was even less fishy than my excellent gaspe salmon. The accompaniments were all first rate – the pickled cauliflower, briny olives, tart creme fraiche, tangy fennel, and chewy bagel made for a brunch fit for a Jewess*.

 Greek Spoon Salad with Tomato, Cucumber, Feta, Onion, Peppers, Olives, Grilled Kale, Radishes, Red Wine Vinaigrette

This simple Greek salad that would have been good on its own but was propelled to greatness by the grilled kale. The kale became so charred, so rich and meat-like that it added a whole other dimension to the salad. The tomatoes tasted sweeter, the feta tasted sharper, and the dressing tasted brighter. I will absolutely be grilling kale at home from now on.

Smashed Fries

Not listed as a side dish, our very sweet server let us order a side of these for the table. And they are. DYNAMITE! Made from starchy Idaho potatoes, these were somewhere between roasted potatoes, french fries, and hash browns. Thick as steak fries, but with the tender insides of baked potatoes and the crispiest crust I have ever had…these are phenomenal. Though I don’t think they were cooked in animal fat, they couldn’t be improved upon even if they were. Just greasy enough to remind you they were an indulgence, and perfectly seasoned, these were so good that any dipping sauce was totally unnecessary. A must order.

Fish Tag is a great spot for brunch with your parents. Not a destination restaurant, but the prices are very fair for the amount and quality of food provided. The service is great and the surroundings are nice but not stuffy. The smoked salmon is incredibly delicious, and those fries knocked my socks off. And, most importantly, it reminded me why it’s always important to look down in NYC.

Besides, you know, avoiding stepping in dog poop.

*Jewess (def): A woman raised in the Jewish culture. She is good at bargain shopping, bad at sports, and has impeccable taste in smoked fish. 

 

Fish Tag on Urbanspoon

Millesime – A Brasserie Blast from the Past

One of the hidden reviews that didn’t get transferred when my blog moved. Let’s give it another look, shall we?

Millesime has been called many things. A sleeper hit. The restaurant with the best Caesar Salad in NYC. But the restaurant that will make you reconsider crabcakes as the finest fish cakes in the world? It has never been called that.

 Until now.

Millesime, in the Carlton hotel, is a beautiful, Disney-fied version of a grand French brasserie. It specializes in traditional seafood, including a huge selection of fresh oysters. It’s large and spacious, with a magnificent domed ceiling. It’s a great date spot.

Oysters

You can’t go wrong with oysters here. The selection changes daily and whether you like large, briny ones or small, creamy ones, you will find fresh, impeccably shucked specimens here.

And the red wine and shallot butter served alongside is a total revelation. Who would ever pair red wine with oysters? But blending that deep, earthy red wine and some sweet shallots into that creamy butter, then pairing it with the hearty bread and a salty oyster is an amazing combination of deep and light, earth and sea. It is really a standout of the meal.

Smoked herring salad and warm fingerling potatoes

Another winner! The mild, smoky fillets of herring have an almost bacon-esque quality with a silky smooth texture. None of that odd fishiness that lesser herring sometimes has. The oil in which it is submerged is lemony and rich enough to spoon over the creamy, perfectly cooked potatoes. A truly perfect dish.

 The Caesar salad

Grilled romaine lettuce, topped with nutty Parmesan cheese and then dressed in a garlicky, limey dressing. The smoked cod is so thinly sliced that it is almost unnoticeable. This is tasty, yes, but the best Caesar salad? Hardly. It is a novelty item more than anything else – delicious, but not memorable, in my mind at least.

 Pike quenelles Jean-Louis Dumonet style

This is the best fish cake I have had in my life – crabcakes, be damned! A slightly crisp top gives way to a warm, velvety, pillowy interior that tastes like the world’s best hot crab dip. It is sweet and rich, languishing in this creamy, liquor-y, shellfish-flavored sauce that is so good that my dining companions and I started unabashedly spooning it into our mouths! It is truly and totally delicious, and I could have this for my meal and call it a day.

Chocolate mousse bar with tangerine sorbet

A perfect finish – smooth, deep, almost bitter chocolate tempered by sweet, tangy, bright sorbet. If the sorbet was just a touch hard, no one noticed or cared.

And why should we? This is a fantastic dining experience. Beautiful dining room, relaxed atmosphere, and a waiter who let us gab at the table for a good 3 hours without pressuring us to order a drink.

 And that’s why this review got reposted..because it’s such a winner that I really have to head back!

Millesime on Urbanspoon

Mussels Fra Diavolo – The Devil Made Me Do It!

I have very few vices.  I don’t smoke.  Don’t steal.  I gamble a little, but I don’t kick puppies or anything.

I do, however, have one devilish inclination that just won’t get out of my system…

Fra Diavolo.

Fra Diavolo is a pasta sauce that is made with tomatoes, garlic, and tons of crushed red pepper.  It’s main characteristic is the intense spice, which gives it the name “brother devil”.  It should be teeming with garlic and lip tingling spice. It’s super assertive and intense.

 Basically –  bad first date dish, great fifth date dish!

And although you can have fra diavolo plain, with lobster, or with other seafood, I prefer it most with fresh mussels.  Mussels are reminiscent of sweet, mild clams.  They are cheap, easy to prepare, and so delicious in this spicy tomato sauce!

I add fennel to this dish because it lends a really sweet, tangy note to an otherwise super savory dish, but feel free to omit it if you don’t like the licorice-y taste.

Mussels Fra Diavolo

2010-08-16 mussels fra diavolaIngredients:

2 lbs. mussels, cleaned (I like cultivated mussels, which come without beards or much dirt)

2 large cans peeled tomatoes

1 cup white wine

2 tbsp.  tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

1 bunch celery hearts, diced

4 carrots, diced

1 fennel bulb, diced (reserve fronds for later use or toss)

1 bunch basil, cleaned

3 tbsp. capers

4 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. (or less) crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the canned tomatoes, tomato paste,  celery, onions, fennel and carrots into a large stockpot and set to medium high  heat. Let the whole thing boil for about 30 minutes, or until the veggies are all very soft and fragrant.

 

2. Now, add the capers, wine, and red pepper flakes. Let cook for about 10 minutes, or until the flavors start to meld.

 By this time, that sauce should smell fabulous

 3. Now, puree the whole thing in the food processor. This is the step that takes it from rustic to restaurant quality. No one wants a huge lump of onion in their mussels, but a nicely pureed sauce preserves all of that vibrant flavor.

That’s the consistency that you want.

 4. Now put some of the broth in a shallow pan over medium heat, and when it bubbles, throw in the rinsed  mussels.

 

 5. Cover the pan (you may have to do the mussels in several shifts to be able to cover the pan).

 The SECOND the mussel pops open-just a couple of minutes for some of them – take that baby out and toss it back in the pot of pureed sauce.

 6. When the mussels are all cooked (discard any that don’t pop open), add in a good handful of roughly torn basil…

and the butter. The butter adds a really luxurious, velvety finish to the sauce.
7. Taste for seasonings and serve.

This is everything you want a mussel dish to be.  Hearty, robust, spicy, fragrant, sweet from the tomatoes and salty from the capers.  The mussels are plump and juicy, infused with the savory garlic and fragrant basil.  Add some crusty sourdough bread and you are well on your way to heaven…well I guess you are really on your way to hell

But what a way to go!

Everything is Craveable at Crave Fishbar

Remember that time that a crane fell and totaled an awesome chef’s  ceviche-centric restaurant restaurant?

Well, Crave Fishbar flips the bird to that crane, proving that a reincarnation can be an improvement over the original.

BARELY avoiding making potentially offensive religious joke here.

 Crave Fishbar is on a busy restaurant crowded street in Midtown East. From the outside, it looks like a casual, nondescript restaurant.

From the inside, it is a dark, sleek space with a long bar, several high tables, and a few seats near the window. It’s narrow but well laid out, and is ideal for a first date – cozy but not cramped, romantic but not stuffy.

Bread and butter

Normally, the bread doesn’t really require a comment. This bread isn’t even anything out of the ordinary - no mysterious infusions or meat-laden butter, or anything like that. Just some soft, tangy bread with creamy whipped butter, ready to be spread. Just, in other words, what you rarely get. The bread is often too crusty or the butter is too hard, or there is only one roll when you really want two. This is a nice serving of bread with some sweet butter, and it is all that you really want when sitting down to eat on a chilly night.

Plancha grilled octopus with c Chinese broccoli and a cumin mustard vinaigrette

Up there with Periyali for the best octopus in the city. So tender that it literally cuts with a butter knife, with a very meaty, mild taste that is almost reminiscent of bone marrow. It is just so mild and rich. The broccoli is like a cross between broccoli stems and spinach, with a strong vegetal taste that perfectly counteracts the rich octopus. The vinaigrette is earthy and tangy, with the pop of mustard seeds adding yet another textural difference to the dish. The attention to that detail really elevates the plate.

Crispy pork belly with pistachio onion relish and roasted squash puree

I don’t care that this is called the fishbar. For all I care, it could be called the porkbar. This is a standout, must order dish. Juicy pork belly, almost sweet underneath its crispy, salty sheath of skin. The squash puree is incredibly warming, with notes of aromatics like cumin and coriander. The best part may be the relish – tangy, bright, and crunchy with pistachios. The pork belly is a very ample piece, and though it might be a bit much for one person, it is ideal to split.

Cauliflower with spicy prosciutto, breadcrumbs. and grana padano

Why don’t I make cauliflower this way? Boiled until it is just tender at the core, then sautéed with prosciutto, chiles, and crispy breadcrumbs. Served with torn basil and nutty grana padano, this dish is craveable in every sense of the word. It is somewhat salty, but that’s what makes it so great - it is the pasta of the vegetable world. Creamy, meaty, salty, just greasy enough…this really couldn’t’ be improved upon.

Crave Fishbar is a total gem. It isn’t cheap,but you know what? You get what you pay for. You could order a bunch of small plates, like my date and I did, or you could go the traditional route with an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. If this place were in Chelsea, it would be the talk of the town and packed every night. Because it’s in Midtown East, it’s still a little under the radar, and as such, you should run there before the secret is out.