Category Archives: New American

Lafayette: neck and neck with Balthazar as my favorite brasserie

dj-laf-blog480

Balthazar is one of the few restaurants that has remained one of my favorites since since moving to New York 5 years ago (I still can’t get over how long it’s been). I love it for the atmosphere – the hastiness of the waitstaff zooming by, the energy of the people in the room, the wide brasserie style seating, and I go back each time of course for the food and drink – the amazing bread and butter, the simple salads, the hot fudge covered profiteroles, and the shockingly strong French 75’s get me every time. Everything about this place screams New York brasserie, which Keith McNally seems to do so well.

Never did I ever imagine that a newcomer could one up such a longstanding New York staple, but after my epic experience at beautiful Lafayette last Tuesday, I think Balthazar may need to up its game to remain the king of the brasserie crop. Lafayette, which took over the massive Chinatown Brasserie space, is a beautifully spacious, well-lit and enchanting French brasserie that transports you from New York city to a fantasy land (think Great Gatsby) where there’s not a care in the world. I walked in and gasped – a delectable boulangerie with mounds of pastries welcomes you at the entrance, and with staircases and side-by-side booths to optimize the space, there really doesn’t seem to be a bad table in the house. And just like Balthazar, there’s this inescapable and addictive vibrancy – everyone is more alive than ever: happy, hungry and actively people watching.

lafayette bakery

grandiose bakery upfront

Service was humble and spot on. After a few slices of the rustic sourdough bread with salted butter and a delicious glass of champagne (cremant de Bourgogne), we were served Eggs Lafayette, essentially two stuffed hard boiled eggs with sable fish and trout caviar. Absolutely heaven on earth, and pretty much the best, most unique rendition of deviled eggs I’ve ever had. Next was the Pate Maison, which came with brown ceramic jars of unlimited cornichons (great touch) and brown mustard and grilled rustic bread. This paired well with the massive, lightly dressed butter lettuce salad with roquefort and country ham. RARELY am I impressed by a salad, but this was so fresh, light and stunning with the creamy blue cheese. I was dying for a pasta, but in an effort to eat lightly I went for the steamed trout, served with an utterly flavorful bean and tomato “mush” that I couldn’t get enough of.

Dessert was insane too. Hot fried beignets with chocolate mousse fulfilled my craving for something classic, and the Sweet Cheese Cremant with blueberry sorbet proved that there’s more than just traditional dishes at this place. By the end of the meal, I was reluctant to leave our cozy booth for two, but I have every intention of coming back next week for a bowl of the gorgeous black fettuccine that was served to my neighbor.

pate maison (photo from seriouseats)

pate maison (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

blueberry cremant (photo from SeriousEats)

Compared to Balthazar, I think the standout difference of Lafayette is its slightly more elegant setting and menu (and a few more pastas) – Balthazar is just a touch more core to its rustic French brasserie roots. Either way, it’s going to be a real toss up the next time I’m in the mood for French food.

Grade: A+
Location: 380 Lafayette Street at the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette
Website:

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Filed under Brunch, Business Meal, Erin's Favorites, French, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Noho

Park Avenue Autumn

Last night I ventured up to Park Avenue Autumn in the upper east side, a neighborhood more foreign to me than any other in New York City. I lived on 60th and 1st Ave the summer of 2007 with my good friend Sarah, but we never really exposed ourselves to the genre of people that I saw last night: an older crowd sprinkled with blazers, pearls, and touches of plastic surgery – a crossbreed of my grandma’s country club and New York Housewives. A very well-dressed group helped adorn the restaurant to say the least. White table cloths, waiters in suits, and a gorgeous, wedding-style room set up is just the setting I would imagine in this situation.

My (playful) snobbiness aside, the restaurant truly evokes the warm and cozy feeling of fall, and the concept of switching menu, decor, and front entrance every season is a clever one. The bread basket, filled with fresh pumpkin loaves, onion rolls, and hearty cheddar crackers even made me feel one with the season. Our autumn cabbage salad with crispy shrimp tasted a little bit like the tangy sweet and sour salad I used to get at Wolfgang Puck in Macy’s, but was crunchy, cold, and delicious nonetheless. My halibut, which was seared to a crisp and served with black truffles and a breaded poached egg, was simple and well cooked. But never once have I ordered halibut and not regretted it. It’s often bland, dry, and uninteresting.

autumn vegetable stack with crispy shrimp

halibut with black truffles

Dessert was the real shocker because after the somewhat approachable appetizers and main courses, out came what they called a carrot cake but really looked like cubes of cheese exploding with dollops of unknown purees. I should have suspected that a carrot cake described as accompanying a “brie fritter” would taste a little off, too. One bite and I couldn’t decide if I was eating a cheese plate or a dessert. Do what you want with savory food, but dessert is never better when fussed with. Give me a brownie and a scoop of ice cream and I’m a happy camper.

“carrot cake” ….

Park Avenue Autumn fills the frequent need of providing an older, sophisticated crowd with interesting but familiar food – broccoli with cheetos is really on the menu – in an impressive space. When my grandma comes back in town, I won’t hesitate to bring her back here for visit number 2, but I’ll no doubt wait until then to return. It just ain’t my scene!

Grade: B+ (extra points for bread basket)
Location: 100 East 63rd between Park and Lex
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Filed under New American, Parents in Town, Sex & The City Swank, Special Occasion, Upper East Side

Bar Americain

Bar Americain

It’s not easy finding restaurants with character in midtown. You have your steakhouses, your power lunch spots, the hotel restaurants, and the chains. Today, I decided on Bar American, Bobby Flay’s Southwestern take on a typical French brasserie menu. With crab and coconut and mussels and fries with a green chile broth, Bar American is almost like a Tex Mix Balthazar, but without the young and scene-y atmosphere. Despite the flair, however, ambience is characteristic of the area – think business suits and Gen-X-ers.

Though the old-school Madison Avenue atmosphere isn’t my favorite, the food at Bobby’s restaurant is actually quite good. Lunch comes with a basket of hot and crispy cornbread (it’s got to be fried), and the menu has a wide range of interesting options. Just don’t expect to eat too lightly here.

Cornbread

"hot" chips with dip

We started with the tuna tartare andhot potato chip with blue cheese dipping sauce. The tuna was basic and well prepared with finely chopped garnishes, and the hot chips were incredibly thin, light, and delicious. With the oozing chunky blue cheese dip, they were highly addictive.

tuna tartare

I attempted to order healthily and had the Southwestern Cobb Salad for my main course, but with bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado, I felt like I had eaten a burger by the end of my meal. That said, it was a solid salad and definitely classically prepared.

cobb salad

Dessert was the major show-stopper. I could have made a meal out of the red velvet brownie with homemade cream cheese soft ice cream and the profiteroles with vanilla soft serve and pralines. David Chang, move over – Bobby would definitely win the contest of best chef-created soft serve. The red velvet brownie somehow incorporated the classic flavors of a perfect red velvet cake, but had the density and chocolate richness of a delicious brownie. Just as I had imagined, my two favorite desserts combined transformed into something out of this world.

red velvet brownie

profiteroles

I left much fuller than I should be after lunch, but I was actually quite pleased with my overall meal at Bar Americain. I wouldn’t come back from an intimate or particularly unique dining experience, but it’s a perfect fit for client or older-crowd entertaining.

Grade: A-

Location: 152 West 52nd Street between 6th and 7th Ave

Website: http://www.baramericain.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Cajun, Latin American, Midtown West, New American, Parents in Town, Southern

ABC Kitchen – Dinner Round 2

Many of you know that I previously reviewed ABC Kitchen, but having tried it just a few months after opening, I have been dying to go back to taste the improvements and give its service a second chance. Thankfully, Runway Hippie’s mom was in town this Sunday and we used her AmEx rewards membership to score a last minute reservation for 5 (who knew?). And, after not seeing Sones for over a week, I was desperate to be back in her arms! At 7:30pm, the place was alive with posh couples and casually dressed middle-aged groups. I just love the feeling of the place: low lighting sets the mood for intimate conversation, while white, eclectic furniture and antique porcelain tableware amplify the energy. And the menu packs in a ton of enticing, unpretentious, sophisticated food.

As a table, we shared the mushroom, parmesan, oregano, and farm egg pizza, served piping hot. The egg ran over as a result of being undercooked, but the whole wheat crust and delicate wild mushrooms made it quite the competitive asset.

farm egg pizza

Sonia and I then shared a spinach, mushroom, and quinoa salad, which they kindly divided for us. The vinaigrette tasted too sour, but I remember this from my last meal here – Jean Georges tends to go emphasize citrus and tangy flavors. The salad was perfectly fine, but Sonia’s mom’s appetizer of pretzel dusted calamari really grew my order envy.

spinach goat cheese salad

Calamari

For my main course, I ordered simply in an attempt to detox from a weekend of fried food in New Orleans. Fortunately, that’s easy to do here as the menu offers a variety of healthy options showcasing fresh and local ingredients. My steamed cod came with no surprises – just a straightforward, well seasoned, steamed piece of fish. It was exactly what I wanted at the time, but nothing I would recommend ordering with hopes to get a true sense of the chef’s talents.

cod with fennel

I often profess that I pretty much enjoy all food aside from mayonnaise and lamb. Mayonnaise for the obvious reasons (it’s the most fowl food on earth), and lamb because it tastes like the smell of a farm. But when Sonia’s huge lamb shank appeared, I couldn’t deny myself a taste, and I’m glad I didn’t. This lamb was as tender as duck confit, with crispy, caramelized skin and a subtly meaty flavor. I wouldn’t label myself a lamb convert, but I can admit that this dish at ABC Kitchen is a standout.

surprisingly tasty lamb

I also snagged a bite of Sonia’s mother’s bucatini with spinach, goat cheese and bread crumbs, which turned into an interesting medley of textures in my mouth. I’ve decided that crispy breadcrumbs in pasta is a great new invention and a solution to typically one dimensional noodle dishes.

pasta!

Let’s be honest here. After eating pralines and beignets all weekend, I still couldn’t wait to taste a few items from the dessert menu, what I consider ABC Kitchen’s forte. I remembered the pleasure I had in eating the sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts & popcorn, whipped cream and chocolate sauce, so we ordered that in addition to the banana chip ice cream cake and the pear bread pudding. The banana ice cream cake was beautiful, but the banana flavor was a little too intense, bringing me back to my childhood of sucking on banana flavored Now and Laters. The pear bread pudding was great, but as I expected, I dominated the ice cream sundae. Generous scoops of salted caramel ice cream on decadent hot fudge sauce with crispy caramel popcorn might be one of the most genius combos I’ve tasted.

pear bread pudding

banana chip cake with walnuts

Heavvennnn

So, the thoughts about my meal being ordinary (aside from the awesome pizza) were suddenly erased with a finale of salted caramel ice cream. Though the food at ABC Kitchen may not live up to all of the hype, it’s still delicious, and a good option if you’re looking for a beautifully crafted menu, a unique, spacious setting and a toned down version of Jean-George’s typically over fancified food.

Grade: B+

Location: 35 East 18th Street between Park and Broadway (inside ABC Home & Garden)

Website: http://jeangeorges.blogspot.com/2010/03/abc-kitchen-now-open.html

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Union Square

Joseph Leonard – Drinks & Appetizers

Just before the craziness of the holiday I made an effort to catch up with my friend Justin, a long-time Restaurant biz affiliate and a current member of the team operating Tom Colicchio’s Craft. Considering his industry knowledge, I could only expect that we would meet somewhere fabulous, and was thrilled when he proposed the option of dining at the West Village’s highly coveted The Lion. With his connections we were able to secure an 8:30pm reservation. Translation: just over an hour after work ended to initiate our drinks and meal elsewhere.

Joseph Leonard is just steps away from The Lion, and despite its tight quarters and no-reservation policy, a solid, basic spot to meet. I love the warmth and coziness of this place – its small wooden tables and chairs, mini open kitchen, chalkboard menu specials, and hipster waitstaff make it the epitome of a “neighborhood joint.” Having just re-opened after a month-long recovery from a kitchen fire, the menu was more limited than usual but sufficient to tide us over for the star of the night.
We were seated promptly at the bar with the undivided attention of the man behind it, whom Justin informed me was the restaurant’s owner. Given his scruffy beard and beanie, I never would have guessed. With our drinks we ordered a selection of small plates to share (though the short rib on the plate next to us looked amazing). The grilled octopus with white bean puree, parsley pesto and almonds arrived first, and although beautifully plated, it was to my surprise disguised within the puree like that of rock shrimp in a risotto. With the layers of each component sitting atop an overwhelming amount of what was actually parsley oil rather than pesto, the flavors of the octopus were distracted by a greasy mouth feel and the overall dish was bland.

Soon after the clams casino with chunks of bacon, croutons, and parsley arrived, a unique interpretation of the large stuffed clams in clams casino I’ve had before. The little-neck clams were dense and meaty, and the croutons floating in the light, robust clam broth were buttery, crispy, and decadent. While it was difficult to eat the bread and clam at the same time, each element was individually satisfying.

 

Our roasted brussels sprouts with siracha was definitely the winner. Sliced and dressed lightly in oil, the sprouts took the form of a deliciously crispy, slightly charred slaw cooked just enough to keep its crunch.

By the time we left for our 8:30pm reservation, the restaurant was bustling with happy people and an awesome classic playlist. Though rough around the edges, there’s no doubt that this place will live a long life and that I’ll be back for the full experience before long.

Grade: B+
Address: 170 Waverly Place
Wesbite: http://www.josephleonard.com

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Braeburn

For all of you who’ve criticized me for being too nice in my reviews, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for…

I went to Braeburn last night and it was, sadly, horrible – probably up there with one of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve had in New York. I had never heard rave reviews (or any reviews, really) about Braeburn, but a few friends of mine from work and I decided to test it out using our 30% Village Vines discount (thanks Natalie for reserving!). The restaurant is surrounded by some of my New York favorites, its menu is well-rounded, and we wanted to try something new. There were no majorly harsh reviews to be found, so I expected nothing less than a solid American meal.

The place is actually warm and beautiful with golden lighting and a soft and elegant color scheme. Baskets of braeburn apples and fall flowers decorate the entrance, and scenic paintings lining the walls give it the feeling of an old country home.

Flakey Biscuit

Our server greeted us instantly and was eager to help us with our wine choices. We soon discovered that he was a little too eager – one question led to what seemed like his life story and an out-pour of his opinions on every wine on the menu. After I attempted to politely cut him short, he finally brought over the wine. I then made the mistake of asking him which fish on the menu he preferred. Who knew one could describe fluke with 20 adjectives, and sea bass with another 40? Alright – I may be sounding a little harsh, but I’m a strong believer that service should not annoy or intrude – it should simply facilitate. It’s fine to be friendly and chat, but save the deep conversation for your colleagues!

The best part of the meal was probably the the mini cheese biscuits passed around with butter. Flaky buttery, and simple. Unfortunately, the biscuit bliss was then interrupted by the chef’s complimentary sampling of fried eggplant in mint vinegar, which was soggy and sour. I always wonder what kind of chef has the guts to put out an imperfect amuse bouche – complimentary tastings should be the chef’s vehicle to entice their diners and get them excited, not fearful, about what’s to come.

Croquettes and Potato Tart Hors D’oeuvres

The choices on the menu were however promising, and gave me faith that our food would only improve. To start, I ordered the potato croquettes and potato tart off of the hors d’oeuvres section of the menu. Both dishes were microscopic, cold, and seasonless. The potato croquettes should have been served piping hot, and large enough to taste – they were the size of a popcorn kernel. The tart was soggy and slimy. My faith was slowly waning.

For my entree, I chose the sea bass with gnocchi and chorizo in a semi-spicy lobster broth. Overall, the dish was flavorful and the fish was nicely cooked, but arriving luke warm, its redeeming qualities were completely overpowered.

My friends Natalie, Sam and Alyssa ordered what I thought would be the savior of the night – the Monday special of truffle butter risotto. It was border line disgusting – more of a bland rice soup than a thick and creamy risotto, it seemed as if the chef had no experience whatsoever preparing arborio rice, and no concept of adding salt to food. All agreeing it was a pitiful interpretation of a hearty meal, they reported their opinion to the manager, who was kind enough to send out another dish of their choice. The ricotta pasta appetizer they decided on was not much of an improvement – it was also bland, dry, and warm.

Watery Risotto

The entire experience led me to bypass dessert – something I RARELY do when going out to a meal. Additionally, we waited an entire 10 minutes to receive our check after requesting it, so at that point I was itching to leave. It’s unfortunate that a restaurant with what seems like an entire menu of bland food is taking up such prime real estate on Greenwich street in my neighborhood. The menu and the setting gave me false hopes for a potential new west village favorite, but I was definitely proven wrong. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover, but then again, if a restaurant is offering a 30% discount, you have to wonder why.

Grade: C-
Website: http://www.braeburnrestaurant.com
Address: 117 Perry Street at Greenwich

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Joseph Leonard – for brunch

Joseph Leonard is an adorable little neighborhood joint just on the edge of the West Village. Its rickety chairs, make-shift seating area and wooden bar with chalkboard brings me back to to my old brunch spots at UC Davis. The non-uppety feel is quite refreshing in an area packed with snooty scenes with over-priced, paltry food, and the menu options are definitely varied and affordable.
My family and I went to Joseph Leonard at about 12pm on a Saturday, with thankfully (and surprisingly) no wait for a party of 4. We were seated in tight quarters, but the restaurant’s quaintness and eclectic surroundings were enough to make me forget I was squished between a wall and another table.
The brunch list isn’t substantial, but the variety of options makes it fit for any crowd. I decided on the apple-blue cheese salad with a side of biscuits. The salad was good, but not good enough to stand out in my memory. The dressing was basic and the lettuce and apples weren’t particularly crisp or notable.

The biscuits, however, were deliciously buttery, and though intended to be savory with chives, they were served with homemade preserves that surprisingly brought out their milky flavor.
My father ordered the Pork Belly hash special, which was abundantly meaty, salty and crisp. Served with a gravy and a side of two eggs, it was a meal sufficient to keep him full all day.

My mom and my sister ordered a bit more practically – the Pan con Tomates with eggs, which consisted of a bruschetta-like toast, two fried eggs, and crispy thick cut bacon. The bacon was perfectly fried and the tomatoes were particularly flesh and bright with flavor.
Overall, service was friendly and efficient, despite the waiters’ hippie personas and rugged attire, and the food was hearty and solid. It’s tough to judge a restaurant entirely based on its brunch, but my meal today has most definitely encouraged me to consider Joseph Leonard for dinner, and I hope to be back for a visit soon.
Grade: B+
Address: 170 Waverly Place near Christopher

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Filed under American, Brunch, New American, Parents in Town, West Village

Minetta Tavern

Considering the excessive hype around Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern since opening, I’ve been shamelessly trying to make a trip to make a judgetment myself. I had heard particularly rave reviews about the burger and the steak, and though I’m not a huge meat eater myself, the detailed descriptions by die-hard Minetta-meat fans were close to convincing me to convert. The only thing stopping me? Intimidation due to the fact that scoring a table here is apparently close to impossible, no matter what time or day of the week.

Then God decided to reward me for my patience. Hankering for a quintessentially New York dinner spot last night, I proposed a dinner at Minetta Tavern to my friend Adam who was in town from London. He came up with the genius idea of asking his hotel concierge to book us a table, and within minutes came back with confirmation of 7:30pm. When I received this news via email, I almost jumped out of my desk chair in ecstatic surprise. Was there a cancellation? Was it a joke? Whatever the reason, I couldn’t wait to have a chance to experience the wonder described in every review!
Minetta Tavern sits between a line of shady bars and ethnic restaurants on MacDougal street, and with its unremarkable exterior and neon lit sign, it blends in quite well. The corridor past the entrance, however, leads you decades in the past to a time of heavy cocktail drinking, dark red leather booths, wooden trims, and mysterious engagements. The only thing missing is a cloud of smoke and a smug Don Draper.

The restaurant, while packed, was surprisingly quite tame. Our party of four was seated upon arrival with immediate drink and bread service, and the noise level was definitely manageable. The menu is simple and to the point, with straight forward French-American fare so charactistic of all McNally restaurants. Fortunately, there were quite a few specials that struck our fancy, two of which we ordered as appetizers for the table: the jumbo lump crab cake and the fresh mozzerella that the chef had apparently been creating all day.
The crab cake was perfect – delicate on the inside with large lumps of crab meat, and just lightly sauteed to give it a crisp service. The warm corn and cherry tomato salad really brought out the subtle sweetness of the crab, and as a whole, the dish was perfectly well rounded. The mozzerella was equally delicious – firm, wholesome, and savory coupled with sweet red peppers and dandelion greens.
Entree decisions were not easy. Of course, I had been dying to try the burger and the steak, but I knew I’d be disappointed with a full plate of meat. So yes, I ordered fish at a restaurant known for its burger and strip, but I only made the decision knowing that I would at least be able to try the dishes, since they were ordered by my friends. That said, the grilled dorade with braised artichokes was incredible. The skin was perfectly crispy, and the fish delicate and flakey. The artichokes were meaty and stood up well to the light filet. If I return, I may have to succomb to ordering this again.

The other dishes were of course incredible too – the tavern steak came out in a shape I had never seen, but was tender, SO flavorful, and perfectly cooked. The sweet cream butter added an extra richness to the meat, and the fries, which are Keith McNally’s specialty, were unsurprisingly hot, crisp, and delicious.
I had one bite of the Black Label burger, and that was enough. I could see how it would be a dream for burger fans – the meat is incredbily soft, tastes aged, and almost buttery. But it’s incredibly rich – I wouldn’t be surprised if butter was a key ingredient in the ground meat – and is definitely not for the half ass meat fans like myself.
For dessert, we were close to ordering the souflle, but requiring 20 minutes to prepare, we decided to past and opt for the “Chocolate Dacquoise,” which was shaped like a cake but reminiscent of a hazelnut meringue tiramisu. It was definitely sweet, decadent, and delicious, and paired well with our extra side of dulce de leche ice cream (not featured on the menu).
All in all, the meal was memorable, and I suspect the reasons why there’s a month long wait to get a table. The restaurant is sexy. It’s efficient. It’s old school. It evokes nostalgia. The menu is a crowd pleaser. The cocktails are stellar. But above all, Minetta Tavern isn’t just any restaurant in an even playing field – it’s a Keith McNally – a work of art and almost guaranteed success in the competitive world of New York city restaurants.

Regardless of the causes of reservation competition, I’ll be back the next chance I get.

Grade: A
Website: http://www.minettatavernny.com
Address: 113 Macdougal street between West 3rd and Bleecker

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Filed under Business Meal, New American, Sex & The City Swank, Special Occasion, Steak House, West Village

ABC Kitchen

While roaming around the ABC Home and Carpet store on a summer afternoon, my stomach started to grumble with hunger. I needed something delicious, and more importantly, something close by. I trailed down the aisle toward the scent of fresh baked bread and noticed a new spot across from Pipa and Le Pain Quotidien, the long standing ABC restaurants. It suddenly occurred to me that Jean George’s new restaurant was just steps away, and it felt like Christmas morning.

I had been reading about this place day after day and finally got an opportunity to try it. The host, however, despite the fact that the restaurant was almost totally unoccupied, was reluctant to seat my friend and me due to the incoming reservations. After some persuading, she begrudgingly seated us. After waiting about 10 minutes, we were finally given menus. 10 minutes later, water. Another 10 minutes, a waiter. It was definitely a slow process from beginning to end, but the food and unique, all white shabby-chic setting improved the overall experience.

The brunch / lunch menu had a variety of options – a fit restaurant for the adventurous as well as the tame eater. To start, we ordered the waiter’s recommendation of the roasted carrot and avocado salad which came with crunchy seeds and a dollop of sour cream. The roasted carrots were very good, and it was a unique combination, but a tad on the oily side. The flavors meshed well and it was a light, creative spring dish, but nothing I would rave about.

Our next course was a hit, however – the morel mushroom and farm egg pizza. The hearty wheat crust made it a filling entree and it was served hot out of the oven.
Because I wasn’t able to taste as much as I had liked during my lunch experience, I decided to make a reservation for dinner the following week. The dinner scene in ABC Kitchen is very cool and sexy. With the lights dim, the white, art-deco furniture and interesting ceiling sculptures really come to life and give it an interesting, mystical vibe. I really like the feeling of the space. Very modern and artsy. Service was as I had remembered – spotty and indifferent, but the food was a bit better. I started with the peeky-toe crab toast. Though it was a bit oily and salty, the flavors were there and the portion of fresh crab was generous.
We also ordered the sweat pea soup – this was one of my favorites of the night. Bright flavors, perfectly fresh, and completely reminiscent of what a fresh sweet pea tastes like.

For my entree, I had the black sea bass, and I was also able to try the crispy chicken. Both were really tasty but I much preferred the chicken – crispy, perfectly tender, and just salty enough. The fish was a bit oily and came with a saffron vinaigrette broth that was someone dishartening.
Dessert stole the show. The salted caramel peanut ice cream sundae with hot fudge and whipped cream was amazing. Super super sweet, so a few bites were sufficient to quell my sugar craving.
We also tasted the chocolate cake with marshmellow frosting, which was, well, blah. The icing tasted like plain meringue and the cake was dry. Though it was a disappointment, there were many other things on the menu that I would have considered ordering.

I love ABC Kitchen for its menu and ambiance. The food was definitely solid, and at times delicious, but alone not enough to bring me running back. Still, I would definitely give it another shot because I think with time (and after reading the many reviews), Jean Georges will perfect its service, and the few slip ups on the menu. Everyone else seems to have enjoyed their time there, so I think all this place needs is a bit of tidying up loose ends. I’ll definitely be back.

Grade: B+
Address: 35 East 18th Street between Broadway and Park

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Filed under New American, Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Special Occasion, Union Square

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

DBGB Kitchen and Bar, the mecca of sausage, burgers, beer, and men, was an absolute blast. I may have had a tainted experience, as I was seated in the private room with windows open to the kitchen, but the food was excellent, and the restaurant shares New York’s upbeat energy in a classy, modern setting.

I was fortunate enough to dine at DBGB for a work event, and even more fortunate to have been able to taste a ton of dishes (I was with generous eaters, and our menu consisted of many courses). To start, we were served a unique array of fruits de mer, ranging from raw oysters and clams, to narrow shells I could hardly recognize. The plateau was definitely impressive, but only awe-inspiring to the die hard, adventurous seafood fans.

The next course was only minimally tamer: the sausage tasting. I’ve always said I love sausage, but I think I’ve been imagining Aidell’s chicken apple sausage, or the Morning Star breakfast links when considering my sausage opinion. But this sausage was unlike anything I’ve tasted, some intriguing in a good way, others in a this-is-too-undecipherable-to-like bad way. The taste of the lamb sausage was a bit too reminiscent of the smell of a sheep farm, but I honestly think some people enjoy that intense gamey flavor. My favorite was the Pork & Cheddar Link; the “Beaujolaise” served with lentils was also enjoyable. Though none of the sausages thrilled me, I can imagine the tasting would have been like heaven to some of the true sausage fans I know. Still, I respect the originality of the idea – I’ve never seen a restaurant with such a diverse menu specialize in such a wide variety of sausages.
I chose the salad as my appetizer knowing that I would be noshing on everything anyone would let me try – I really wanted to give this place a justified review. Surprisingly, the chop-chop salad reigned supreme – crisp, light, and chilled, with avocado, watermelon, and a subtly creamy dressing, it was delicious and interesting.
I also had a chance to taste their amazingly fresh Maine Peeky Toe Crab Salad, which included edamame, snow peas, and pickled rhubarb that gave it an awesomly crunchy texture. Would definitely order that next time around.

For my main course, I opted for the seared salmon with gnocchi, which I thought was incredible. I am a huge salmon fan, and this was perfectly cooked – just slightly pink in the middle, and the ricotta gnocchi just melted in my mouth. I also snagged a few bites of my friend’s yankee burger (a classic burger), which was delicious and moist, though a bit hard to eat. To mix my food consumption even more, I tried my other friend’s house made tagliolini with tomato sauce and sheep’s milk ricotta – honestly, this could have come straigh from nonna’s kitchen. This just proved to me that DBGB can play the part for the meat lover, the seafood fan, and the vegetarian – both a specialist and a generalist, and definitely a success!
Dessert was even worthy of a review. I ordered the chocolate chocolate sundae – which consisted of 3 huge scoops of chocolate ice cream, chocolate truffles, mini cookies, a massive amount of whipped cream, and caramel sauce. Talk about heart attack, but what a refreshing sight in a city of tablespoon-sized ice cream servings and miniaturized desserts. And, it tasted incredible – talk about chocolate overload (in a good way!) I also tasted a chocolate brownie-like cake with fruit. Many people love this, but I thought it needed some whipped cream or some ice cream to sweeten up the bitterness of the chocolate. So, a crowd pleaser to some, but nothing I would personally order.

Though I wasn’t necessarily wowed but DBGB’s specialty items, the sausages, I loved almost everything else I tasted, and really fell in love with the restaurant’s atmosphere. Perfect for a night where you want to keep the energy up, see a lot of interesting, sophisticated, and important people, and have a wide variety of high quality choices to eat. The menu has something for everyone, and the service is polished, accommodating, and efficient. And, most importantly, the cocktail list is wonderful – I failed to mention that the DBGB tea with vodka was a little too easy to go down – it was smooth, not too sweet, and tasty.
I would definitely recommend DBGB to anyone looking for a fun place with delicious food, and I plan to bring my parents there when they visit in October!
Grade: A
Website: http://www.danielnyc.com
Address: 299 Bowery at First Street

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Filed under American, Business Meal, Fun Group Dinner, New American, Nolita, Parents in Town, Private Party