Category Archives: Gramercy

The Nomad: Daniel Humm’s rich, carefully plated dishes in a gorgeous mahogany library

Photo from NYTimes

Photo from NYTimes

I finally checked The Nomad off my bucket list, thanks to hearing from many people this weekend that it’s their absolute favorite restaurant in New York. After a late night out Saturday the last thing I felt like doing was dressing up for a rich, semi-fancy meal, but I knew it would be a mistake to pass up the 7:30pm reservation I scored last minute.

Long story short is that the place is magical – absolutely stunning with the high ceilings and warm lighting. But I’m guessing the aura of importance this place exudes is what makes the prices are as high as they are, because while the food was definitely impressive in presentation, nothing I ate was as standout as what I had expected for such gorgeous, dramatic surroundings. If I were to return, it would primarily be to re-live the feeling of being in a setting that’s truly unique and regal, but takes care not to be overly stuffy.

Library dining room

Library dining room

The cocktail list is extensive but our sommelier recommended two delicious bottles of wine that paired with the copious amounts of food my friends and I ordered. My favorite part was hands-down the hot chick-pea crusted rosemary focaccia, which they generously give to every table. I would have paid a good $10 for this. I appreciated that they offered two sizes of the crab lemon tagliatelle, but while it was bright and refreshing, the amount of crab was seriously pathetic. Along with the simple lettuce salad (which was pretty boring), the tuna tartare, served skewered on actual tuna bones, was the lightest thing on the menu and a welcome starter for what was to come.

focaccia - this was from last season

focaccia – this was from last season

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

tagliatelle with crab and meyer lemon

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

frothy poached egg that turned into a soupy mess

The theme of the rest of the meal was heavy, rich, and doused with butter. Eating everything from foie gras to fried sweetbread egg rolls, I felt like I was in Versailles. The egg poached in butter with quinoa actually tasted like a frothy butter soup. Then, because we pretty  much had to, we moved onto their special chicken for 2, which at $79 I expected to blow me away. Theoretically, it should have. The chicken, which is first presented whole and then carved and plated, is massaged with black truffle foie gras stuffing. The dark meat is carved and served in a separate cast iron pot of “jus”, which honestly tasted like rich, meat flavored butter. The stuffing on the breast meat was great, and the entire presentation was creative, but I’ve had better chicken in Korea town. The meat itself lacked flavor and could have really benefitted from some brining. A+ for creativity, but B- for actual taste and flavor.

chicken before carving

chicken before carving

chicken carved

chicken carved (photo from starchefs.com)

chocolate dessert

chocolate dessert

milk and honey

milk and honey

The desserts, as usual on this blog, saved the day – probably because we had little chance to fail since we ordered every item on the menu (and the waiter kindly brought us one on the house). Each was beautifully plated and incorporated lots of variation in texture – the chocolate dessert had little squares of rich fudge bites, crispy chocolate cookies, and malt ice cream. I loved their well known “milk and honey”, three scoops of subtly flavored honey ice cream with crispy shortbread and brittle. Others raved about the poached strawberries with angel food cake and ricotta, but I’m not usually a fan of fruit dessert. If I’m going to eat dessert, I want it to be as far away from healthy food as possible.

I’m very satisfied with my experience at Nomad because 1) I finally got to see what the hype was all about, 2) I proved to myself that the chicken was not worth $79, 3) I got to spend over two hours in one of the most striking, grandiose  real life version of Harry Potter’s library ever, and 4) Most importantly, it will tide me over from expensive, special-occasion meals for the next few months. Was it the best meal of my life? Definitely not. But I would recommend having the experience at least once to everyone.

Grade: B
Location: 1170 Broadway @ 28th
Website 

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Filed under Business Meal, Flatiron, French, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Romantic Date, Sex & The City Swank

John Dory Oyster Bar: fish bowls & parker house rolls

oyster

I went to the original John Dory Oyster Bar when it opened right next to Del Posto for about a year. It was good, but I don’t recall it being mind-blowing. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience at the relatively new Gramercy location last week. The space is uniquely aquatic, bold with beautiful fish tanks high above the bar, an ornate oyster shucking station, black tiled walls, eclectic fish art and bright blue and green cushioned high stools. But while I usually love everything stamped with April Bloomfield’s approval, I was underwhelmed by the food and frustrated by the horribly inefficient service. And despite all the hype surrounding its opening, the space emptied out by 11pm – a shocker for any NYC restaurant on a Saturday night.

While our waiter was friendly, young, and passionate about his oysters, the wait time between placing our order and receiving the food was astoundingly long. Fortunately, early on in the meal I had devoured two warm, fluffy parker house rolls glistening with golden butter, which come 3 per $4 order.  The plates then came out at a snail’s pace, one at a time: oysters, razor clam ceviche (never again), an oddly textured semolina soup, chorizo stuffed squid, a lobster roll, and an odd dish called kedgeree, which is essentially a mixture of butter, rice and fish. While the chorizo stuffed squid, the shoestring fries and the oysters were expectingly tasty, everything else irked me for one reason or another. The lobster roll was smothered in mayonnaise, and I am still having nightmares about the razor clam ceviche. Slimy. Wet. Gross. Though, to be fair, I don’t think I would have enjoyed raw clams in any setting, so I don’t blame John Dory Oyster Bar for this.

JohnDory_Parkerhouse-Rolls

parker house rolls

chorizo stuffed squid

chorizo stuffed squid

nightmarish clams

nightmarish clams

mayo-roll

mayo-roll

So, given that the food wasn’t fabulous, I likely won’t head back uptown for my oyster fix – I’m quite content with Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village. But, if you’re in the market for the most delicious rolls you’ll ever taste, and want to be in a unique space away from the bustle of downtown, John Dory Oyster Bar has your name written all over it!

Grade: C+
Location: 1196 Broadway @ 29th
Website

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Seafood

Birreria at Eataly: picturesque rooftop beer garden with Italian bites

Who ever imagined it would be possible to eat and sip beer on a New York rooftop in the middle of Fall? After a journey of looping along the theme-park style line, passing through a turn style, and taking the elevators to walk up another few flights of stairs, I couldn’t believe the beauty and aura of bliss of Eataly’s beer garden that lay before me. I understand why they monitor entry so carefully – the fact that there’s room to breath, walk around and enjoy your surroundings makes it loads more pleasant than the likes of the Standard Beer Garden in the Meatpacking. And drinking in a beautiful, 100-year-old New York building makes it feel that much more special.

I rarely drink beer but the hot summer day drove me to order a deliciously light wheat beer. Of course I couldn’t be at Eataly without selecting a few items from the amazing array of options on the menu. Birreria specializes in mushrooms, and the Maitake con pecorino, a slow roasted mushroom with cheese, was the perfect accompaniment to my beer – crispy, hearty, simple, and savory.

beer!

formaggi

Maitake (image from village voice)

If you’re determined enough to sort through the Eataly crowds to find the line to Birreria, and patient enough to wait in that line (which goes pretty fast), I recommend making this place your next stop for a cold drink al fresco.

Grade: A+
Location:
Website: 

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Filed under Affordable Date, Erin's Favorites, Flatiron, Gramercy, Italian, Tipsy Tales

Sugar Surge: Shake Shack Frozen Custard

I was in denial for weeks, but I now can sadly admit that my only friend from college in New York City is moving back to San Francisco. The only silver lining of this depressing news is that said friend Ashley is hugely food obsessed and has invited me to take the New York restaurant scene by the horns to aggressively tackle her must-eats list before leaving. This weekend, we had a chance to check a few off with a Market Table dinner, a Jane brunch, a Calexico Taco, and most importantly, a Shake Shack Frozen Custard. The flavor of the day was Pumpkin Pie, but we also couldn’t resist our own creation of chocolate cookie dough and peanut butter. Sadly, they forgot the cookie dough and mistakingly added a swirl of fudge making it overly mono-consistent. Same story with the Pumpkin Pie. I was hoping for chunks of pie crust, but instead got a smooth mix of Thanksgiving flavor. The treat was not bad by any means, it just wasn’t what the long line implied it to be. In fact, I think I’d prefer 16 handles…

Conclusion: go to Shake Shack for the burgers, despite the namesake. Ice cream aside, the walk through Madison Square Park with my long time friend Ash made it worth it. Our next stop? Hearth this Friday. Stay tuned…

Grade: B+
Location: Multiple
Website

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Filed under Gramercy, Midtown East, Sugar Surge

Ilili

I tend to avoid midtown-east restaurant establishments because I find them impersonal and fussy compared to my cozy West Village favorites. Ilili’s ambience didn’t necessarily prove me wrong, but the food was stellar. It’s pretty easy to win me over with complimentary freshly baked pita and crackers with herb marinated cheese, and the hummus, chicken skewers with crispy skin, pan seared tuna belly, fattoush salad and warm eggplant that followed were incredible.

Ilili is a great place for a corporate event – they have a few rooms on the second level that can accommodate large groups, or a post-work meal. It’s also a great place to bring parents or adult out of town visitors. Though the food is great, I wouldn’t head to this area on the weekends unless you’re looking to be with an older, more mature crowd.

Grade: A-
Location: 236 5th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets
Website: http://www.ililinyc.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Family Style, Gramercy, Lebanese, Mediterranean, Parents in Town

Ilili

I tend to avoid midtown-east restaurant establishments because I find them impersonal and fussy compared to my cozy West Village favorites. Ilili’s ambience didn’t necessarily prove me wrong, but the food was stellar. It’s pretty easy to win me over with complimentary freshly baked pita and pita chips with herb marinated cheese, and the hummus, chicken skewers with crispy chicken skin, pan seared tuna belling, fattoush salad and warm eggplant that followed were incredible.

pita

delicious hummus dip

crackers with goat cheese

warm eggplant

tuna belly

Ilili is a great place for a corporate event – they have a few rooms on the second level that can accommodate large groups, or a post-work sharable-plate meal. It’s also a great place to bring parents or adult out of town visitors. Though the food is great, I wouldn’t head to this area on the weekends unless you’re looking to be with an older, more mature crowd.

Grade: A-
Location: 236 5th Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets
Website: http://www.ililinyc.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Drinks & Apps, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy, Middle Eastern, Midtown East, Midtown West, Parents in Town, Sex & The City Swank

Brasserie Les Halles

Funnily enough, the week after Anthony Bourdain made an appearance at Google with his No Reservations’ production crew, my aunt booked us a table at his longstanding Manhattan French bistro, Brasserie Les Halles. For all of the tongue and animal guts he enjoys on his well-known travel series, I was totally surprised by the simple French offerings at his “home base” (as the website states). Considering the restaurant is described as an extension of the bustling Les Halles district in Paris, though, the menu is typically simple and Parisian, just as it should be.

Inside

The restaurant is large, with dark oak detail and wooden chairs and tables. There’s nothing modern or fancy about the vibe, so it’s a perfect spot for a good meal without pretention. I was impressed immediately when a basket of both french and multigrain bread was served upon being seated. Not only did it arrive quickly, but it came alongside a thick circular pat of ice cold, creamy french butter. I could have made a meal out of this simple pairing, and we consumed two servings before our meals even arrived.

simple yet addicting

Service was definitely on the slower side, but by the time we placed our order we didn’t wait too long before our entrees arrived. Deciding what to eat was difficult, but I went with the simple grilled tuna and vegetables. The tuna was served as one large oddly shaped hunk of seared fish that was awkward to maneuver with a fork and knife. The huge pile of crispy shoe string fries, however, paired perfectly with the soft fish and vegetables. The overall flavors were there, and it was cooked just as I had requested.

Pavé de Thon Grillé

The chocolate fondant cake was the standout, as it usually is for me at French restaurants, but the serving of ice cream was a joke. Note to self: order two next time around.

tiny ice cream but mighty cake

Based off of my sister’s delicious crab cake and my aunt’s good looking cauliflower soup and mushroom ravioli, I left this restaurant pleasantly satisfied with the well rounded, simple French meal, incredibly delicious free bread, and the luscious chocolate dessert. I’ll definitely return if I’m in need of an adult-friendly place close to the 6 train, but probably won’t go out of my way for it.

Grade: A-

Location: 411 Park Avenue South (at 29th Street)

Website: http://www.leshalles.net

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Filed under French, Gramercy, Midtown East, Parents in Town

The Hurricane Club

from front entrance

The buzz continues to grow around the relatively new Hurricane Club, a Polynesian take on the Buddakans and Stanton Socials of New York City. Loud music, a massive square bar, sharable food, and a wild singles scene brings quite the after work crowd to this restaurant, and a few colleagues and I decided to indulge in the experience last night. No half-assing, either – we maximized our time at this Cheesecake Factory turned club (think Trader Vics), and I’m paying for it today with my throbbing head ache and interminable food hang over.

cocktail menu

Snagging a reservation for three was fairly easy, and we were promptly seated with a great view of the bar crowd that grew exponentially with every passing minute. Despite our proximity to the bar, we had full service with the overwhelming cocktail bible that included over 20 tropical variations of classics, mostly labeled by number. Be careful of the unmentioned sugar content of these drinks, however – I ordered the Waikiki, listed as just patron, lime, and salt, but eventually received an excruciatingly sweet margarita. The waiter attributed the sugar to the “natural sweetness of the tropical limes.” With his BS story in mind, I decided to switch to a #28– a martini with gin, grapefruit, and ginger, and requested less sugar content. A long 15 minutes later, I received the drink I was hoping for.

Number 28

The dinner menu is quite a trip to read as well. The “pupu platter” options range from tuna poke to peking duck buns, and there’s a never-ending option of sharable salads, rices, and mains. The waiter warned us that our food would come out as it was ready, and he wasn’t lying. Be prepared to have it all on the table within 10 minutes of ordering (a la Buddakan). Some find solace in this method; I, on the other hand, grow paranoid that I’m being rushed out of a table.

Our BBQ Chicken Cones, Flowering Shrimp Wraps, and Island Jungle Salad came out first. The salad, which prides itself on 12 ingredients, was roughly chopped, crunchy, and refreshing. I loved its airy shrimp chips, crispy lettuce, and subtly sweet dressing. The flowering shrimp wraps were delicious, too – just like the classic vietnamese shrimp summer rolls with a flair of sweet pecans and hearty tiger shrimp. The BBQ chicken cones were my only regret. The BBQ sauce reminded me of my chicken nugget days, so after one taste I focused my attention else where.

shrimp wraps

giant salad

Next came the Tri Tip Steak skewers, Curry Eggplant, and Hawaiian Fried Rice in a hot stone bowl. These were uniformly awesome. I fell in love with the fried rice – nestled beneath a large fried egg, it brought me right back to achildhood with mama’s home-cooked breakfasts of eggs, soy sauce, and rice. The Curry Eggplant complimented it well, and with a medley of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, I was in vegetable heaven. The steak skewers, while simple, came aside an interesting cigar box filled with 6 labeled sauces. The horseradish cream sauce was my favorite.

curry eggplant

delicious fried rice

For dessert, the general manager was nice enough to bring us his favorite (turns out he knows my sister) – the Chocolate Kill-Devil’s Food Cake. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate-sans-ice cream desserts, but this cake’s creaminess elevated it as a stand alone winner. The shiny, fudgy frosting was sinful, and the crunchy chocolate candies on top added unique texture to an impeccably soft dessert. Despite the fact that we were simultaneously sipping on a ridiculously sweet #410, a medley of vodka, mint, rhubarb, and a lot of juice, I couldn’t resist making a serious connection with this cake.

chocolate cake

Number 410

After copious amounts of alcohol and food, we managed to roam around the bar, dodging Real-Housewives-type casts and lurking older men. After a few pushes and blank stares, we called it a night with the next day’s work in mind. Despite its minor hiccups, if you’re in the mood for a good old New York time with generous portions, multi-tasked eating, and live people watching entertainment, Hurricane Club is just the place for you. I’ll keep it in mind as a great alternative to Stanton Social when I’m next responsible for hosting out-of-town friends.

Grade: A- (the rice really helped)

Location: 360 Park Ave between 25th and 26th Street

Website: http://www.thehurricaneclub.com

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Filed under Asian, Drinks & Apps, Family Style, Fun Group Dinner, Gramercy

Snacks at Eataly – again

My friends know that I can’t let a week pass without visiting Eataly to do some Italian food window shopping and buy a snack or two. Considering its convenient location by my favorite 5th Avenue shops, there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from taking a peek when I’m fully aware I’ll exit with something delicious.

Last Sunday, I was close to being bed-ridden as a result of excessive wine-drinking and mozzarella-eating the night before. I awoke with every intention of staying in bed and watching a movie, but when I peered out the window and saw the sun glistening on remnants of white snow, I immediately became anxious and knew I needed an excuse to frolic. Nothing at all could have motivated me more than a trip to Eataly. Did I need anything? No. But that couldn’t deter me from curing my hangover with a Mario creation.

a place I call home

My first stop in Eataly is always either gelato or bread. This Sunday, it was bread, and after meeting my friend Sonia outside, I dragged her straight to the counter to peruse the fresh focaccia. The first to go is the fresh tomato and mozzarella focaccia, but to my surprise, there was a tray hot out of the oven. I paid at the counter and pulled it apart immediately, sharing with Sonia who was also looking for an alcohol absorbant. The hard edge was delicious, but the cheesy center tasted like the crusts of a soggy white bread sandwich. It was inedible, and I was shocked that this came out of Mario’s kitchen. Still, this one anomaly won’t prevent me from getting focaccia again – I’ve had amazing slices here before – I’ll just continue to stick to the dryer toppings like onion, prosciutto, and cheese.

gorgeous yet soggy

I’d say my absolute favorite thing at Eataly is the rustic walnut bread, and I became hooked at first sample. Now I buy a loaf each week, slice it up, and stick in the freezer to compliment my meals at home. It’s best fresh, but simply toasted with butter is out of this world.

dense, chewy, earthy walnut bread

I’ve always been obsessed with Eataly’s bread, but my appreciation for it grew after reading that its operative ingredient,  yeast, came straight from a chef who illegally transported it from Italy. This authenticity is what intensifies the dough’s flavor – making it actually better than the saltless bread that I so often remember from Florence’s trattorias. Eataly, however, will never take Italy’s place in my heart….though the fact that it could lug me out of sleep on a Sunday morning shows that it’s getting pretty darn close.

Grade: A+ for the walnut bread, B for the focaccia

Location: 200 5th Avenue @ 24th Street

Website: http://www.mariobatali.com/restaurants_eataly

*first two pictures from SeriousEats.com

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Filed under Erin's Favorites, Gramercy, Italian, Pizza

Snacks at Eataly

This weekend I walked in the blistering cold to Eataly, Mario Batali’s Italian grocery store that attracts thousands of New Yorkers and tourists alike each week. I’ve visited almost every other week since it has opened, and this weekend seemed to be the most manageable of all my trips – despite wall-to-wall people, the wait-lines for the food counters were fairly short. Seeing only three people in line for gelato, I jumped right in and took it as a sign from God to get my sweet for the day. I opted for the medium ($5.90) in order to try two flavors, and decided on the straciatella with panettone and raisins and the pistachio. The gelato at Eataly (and at every Batali establishment) is thicker, creamier, and almost butterier than the gelato I’ve had in Italy, and its richness and decadence is unmatchable. Because of the high quality of the simple ingredients he uses, only a small amount is needed in order to get the full impact of its deliciousness and satisfy a craving.
I walked around the store, gelato in hand, scanning the aisles to see what else could keep me satiated until dinner. The smell of fresh baked bread lured me to the bread counter, where hot prosciutto and mozzarella focaccia slices lined large silver baking sheets in the display. Once finished with my ice cream, I pointed out a corner piece to save for later, but of course had to try a few bites. The focaccia was rich with pungent oil and sea salt, and the beautiful smell of fresh bread was almost better than the flavor itself. Salty, crisp on the edges, and soft and dense in the center, this was definitely top notch, and made my 2 mile walk in the cold completely worth while.

Grade: A+

Location: 200 5th Avenue @ 24th Street

Website: http://www.mariobatali.com/restaurants_eataly

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Filed under Gramercy, Italian, Sugar Surge