Category Archives: Romantic Date

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

Buvette: tiny plates in a tiny space; grand experience

buvette

It make sense that the website URL of this French “gastrotheque” is “ilovebuvette.com,” because I’ve probably said that aloud a dozen times since it opened. In the last week, I was lucky to have two engagements that required no more than small plates and delicious wine, and I was reminded why Buvette is always the perfect place for this type of occasion. It’s not that the food is life-changing – there are definitely stand-outs, like the hot cast iron pot of Coq au Vin, or the thick country bread covered in heaps of stracchino cheese and plump sun-dried tomatoes – but its attentive, unparalleled design is all-consuming. Every detail works together to create a world of rustic French elegance, like the mini card-stock menus engraved like gorgeous wedding invitations, the limited cocktail list, the miniature forks, the delicate round water glasses, the silver trays adorning the ceiling, the wooden bar stools, the tin cans of oil, the tart tatin covered with aggressive scoops of whipped cream sliding down the side and the French servers bustling behind the bar. I feel like Alice in Wonderland, except I’ve been teleported to Paris in another era.

buvette

buvette

photo from ilovebuvette.com

photo from ilovebuvette.com

cassoulet

coq au vin

Things get hectic here,  but it’s worth the experience and the servers have their routine down. If you can manage tight quarters and miniaturized utensils (in other words, you’re not claustrophobic or particularly big and tall), then I highly recommend you visit Buvette for your next “sit-at-the-bar” meal.

Grade: A-
Location: 42 Grove Street btwn Bleecker and Bedford 
Website

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Filed under Affordable Date, Drinks & Apps, Erin's Favorites, French, Romantic Date, West Village

Peasant: rustic and romantic in the heart of Soho

I loved the idea of Peasant – cozy, fireplace and pizzas in Soho – but the reality did not live up to my expectations. Saturday night, my boyfriend and I had a casual meal at the bar, and while the pizza was undeniably delicious (what cheese-laden flatbread isn’t?), the skate was swimming in garlicky oil, the broccoli raab was so chewy it was inedible, and the squid, which oddly tasted just like the fish, was rubbery and uninteresting. The food wasn’t blasphemous, it just wasn’t notably great. I do appreciate the simplicity of the menu – Peasant doesn’t aim to wow with originality and party tricks – but if a restaurant’s going for comfort food, it can’t be anything short of perfect (Barbuto knows how it’s done). I’m a sucker for inviting, low-lit, family-style restaurants so I’d likely return just to be back in the warmth on a winter’s day after shopping. Like Hearth, they craft the feeling of homeyness beautifully with complimentary bread and ricotta cheese, the right lighting, reddish tones and an open kitchen. Hopefully my second attempt at eating here won’t be as unremarkable.

IMG_1968

pizza bianca

Grade: B
Location: 194 Elizabeth Street between Spring and Prince
Website

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Filed under Italian, Romantic Date, Soho, Uncategorized

Sofia’s Wine Bar: hidden gem in east 50’s

The last restaurant I expected to find in the East 50’s was a cozy, authentic italian wine bar, so when my friend Ashley requested an unheard of Sofia’s WIne Bar for her last hurrah before moving to SF, I arrived prepared for a mediocre meal. That all changed the second I stepped up the brick staircase to find the native Italian waitstaff calming crowds of people anxiously awaiting tables with free prosecco. What a diamond in the midtown-east rough. It’s worth the hour plus wait for a table on a Saturday night (no reservations here), and  in the midst of an awesome blasting hipster playlist, you can chow down an array of piping hot, sharable, affordable, rustic, and delicious Italian-American eats. Our table of five devoured two orders of the addictive creamy artichoke spinach dip, burrata, arugula pizza, stuffed mushrooms, macaroni and cheese, a cheese plate, and of course, a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Bottles of prosecco flooded our table throughout. While I could have made more of an effort to lay off of the cheese laden dishes, I left tipsy, stuffed, and ready to come back for great energy, even better food, and even more impressive service. The space is cramped, so smaller groups are better. Regardless, this East Village transplant is definitely worth a special trip.

spinach artichoke dip

crostini

mac & cheese

pizza pizza – amazing here!

Grade: A+
Location: 242 east 50th street between 2nd & 3rd ave

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Filed under Affordable Date, Cheap Eat, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Italian, Midtown East, Romantic Date

Maison Premiere: dainty seafood in New Orleans’ fashion

My favorite thing about Maison Premiere in Williamsburg is not necessarily its food or its cocktails, but its ability to transcend time and create a feeling truly reflective of an 19th century New Orleans’ absinthe house mixed with a classic Paris-cafe. An unassuming storefront with french country doors, wooden stools, leather booths, a gorgeous marble bar, waiters with curly moustaches, gold-leaf monogrammed white china, and a pull-flush toilet show the owners’ incredible attention to detail in creating a fully-orchestrated experience for their customers. The restaurant was formerly known for its cocktails, but with a new chef and a robust seafood-stocked menu, there’s much more to be found than a long list of absinthe drinks.

dining room bar

seafood (photo from website gallery)

Bar it may be, but Maison Premiere’s food is nothing short of refined. My seafood plateau included an oyster with caviar, sea urchin with gaspacho, scallop with pear and horseradish, razor clam with celery root and apple, bay scallops with lemon grass and thai basil, and geoduck with white soy and avocado. My perfectly coiled raw Alaskan King Salmon with caviar and creme fraiche tasted like the most sophisticated version possible of my dad’s favorite lox and bagel breakfast.  The Lobster with sunchoke, chestnut, and custard was absolutely divine – a large white pot with creamy, soothing lobster broth and hearty chunks of lobster was the perfect thing to finish off my $3 order of home-baked bread and seaweed butter. Don’t expect anything but the raw oysters to be served traditionally here – my autumn salad, which was written sans description on the menu, arrived as a beautifully composed dome of fruit and lettuces, unlike any salad I’ve seen before. Dessert was just as eclectic – the rum-soaked cake and the absinthe panna cotta tasted shockingly more alcoholic than my wine, but the coffee pot de creme balanced out the oddities. And with dirty martinis and wine throughout, I left the restaurant feeling like I had quite a trip to the old bayou where alcohol induced artists and writers were the quintessential product of the times.

Smoked Alaskan King Salmon (photo c/o SeriousEats.com)

sea urchin close up (photo c/o seriouseats.com)

lobster with custard

oyster platter

Everything about Maison Premiere is intricately thought out, from the menu’s vintage font to each plate’s well-incorporated flavors. This is not a place for greasy food and brew. Come here only if you’re craving an experience – not a meal – of perfectly measured cocktails and delicate food in a hipster meets 19th century enclave. I commend this place not only for the inventive seafood, but for also staying true to the perfectly measured Maison Premiere brand. I’ll definitely be back for next season’s menu.

Grade: A
Location: 298 Bedford Ave between South 1st and Grand Street

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Filed under Brooklyn, Drinks & Apps, Romantic Date, Seafood, Southern

Hearth: high priced, elevated comfort food

I had a whirlwind work week in San Francisco but the second I landed, I shot over to just-opened, paper-covered-windowed Jeepney for an apaerol and guava cocktail before joining my friends Michelle and Ashley on one of Ashley’s “last weeks in NYC food tour” meals across the street at Hearth. Though everyone in passing boasts about the food here,  I can’t say much about their marketing – the website needs a serious cosmetic uplift (cheesy images – see below, confused theme description, and even the font of the name bothers me), and I don’t recall reading much about it in my daily publications. Still, after hearing stories of their decadent pastas, I was super excited to have a relaxed Friday night over a good meal with friends.

After getting a 15 minute rundown on cider from our overly eager and frantic waitress (definitely a starving stage actress), we placed our order and downed a shot of delicious, body-warming roasted vegetable puree, compliments of the chef. We then launched into the lettuces and vegetables salad with an assortment of cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted carrots, beets and a crunchy, nutritious puffed quinoa, and the smoked Spanish mackerel with grilled radicchio and golden raisins. The salad perfectly combined interesting and simple with local ingredients and multiple textures. The fish itself was earthy, smokey and perfectly soft; I only wish the chef had preserved the bitterness and bite that I traditionally love about radicchio.

“lettuces and vegetables”

smoked spanish mackeral

For our mains, we unanimously agreed on the Spatchcock Roasted Poulet Rouge Chicken and the Veal and Ricotta Meatballs with spinach cannelloni. Apparently, “poulet rouge” is an older breed, free-range bird that is commonly known for its flavorful meatThe chicken was indeed flavorful, juicy, well seasoned, and simple – just as a roast chicken should be, though I always prefer the skin a little crispier. The mini-saucepan of hot, creamy polenta was really what caught my attention. The main character of the pasta dish didn’t wow me either – the meatballs, though large, were too dense and overly salted, but I loved the beautiful pasta-wrapped spinach on the side.

meatballs & chicken

Our chocolate peanut butter sundae unfortunately was the most disappointing. What seemed like a dream come true turned out to be a melted mess of what was pitched as ice cream but turned out to be chocolate pudding (I swear it) with a small dollop of peanut butter nestled at the bottom. This type of dessert has the potential to be incredible – chefs should not mess with the simplicity of  a delicious ice cream sundae – but our waitress was nice enough to take it off the bill after we expressed our confusion. Apple sauce donuts were none other than delicious, so that helped make up for it.

apple sauce donuts

peanut butter sundae

I love the atmosphere of Hearth. Everything about it screams Fall: the amber lighting, the brick and red walls, the candles, the open kitchen, the long cider menu, even the name . But when reviewing the dishes, despite the focus on local, high-quality ingredients, I just can’t ignore the prices that are over the top for the area – it would probably soar as a restaurant in midtown. Pastas are north of $29 and our chicken, the same sized portion as the “poulet rouge” roast chicken at Barbuto, was $60 – tough to stomach when $15 pastas at Lil Frankies are just down the street.  Price aside, Hearth is a great place for a date with well thought out yet approachable, comforting food – just make sure you’re with someone who’s paying or who’s worth spending a few extra dollars.

Grade: B+
Location: 403 East 12th @ 1st Ave
Website

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Filed under American, East Village, Family Style, Romantic Date, Special Occasion

ABC Kitchen

I’ve been to the holy ABC Kitchen a few times but every New Yorker knows that it’s next to impossible to get a reservation at a decent hour, or essentially anything after 5:30pm. I don’t generally mind an early bird special but given my work schedule, like most people I simply can’t make this happen. Well, last Monday, I was ecstatic when I found out that my date scored an 8pm reservation. After a year since my last visit with my friend Sonia, I couldn’t wait to try all of the new fresh things on this brilliant, gorgeously designed menu.

Half of ABC Kitchen’s appeal is the feeling I get when I enter, which is the aggregate effect of the restaurant’s every intricate detail. The delicate white china, the white lacquered tables, the graceful font on the menus, the dim lighting and votive candles, the background music, the wide open dining room, and the efficient but unobtrusive service collectively create an atmosphere that you don’t want to leave. It’s the perfect mix of casual California and sceney New York. But the scene is replicated no where else…just a little more refined than Barbuto, a little more casual than Mas Farmhouse…and it hits just the right note for me when I want to have a memorable meal out any day of the week.

The other half of the draw is of course, the insane offering of local, organic food (and drink -. No need for lengthy descriptions – you’re served exactly what the few words on the menu say you’ll be served. Who knew that something so straight forward as heirloom tomato toast could be as sensuous and flavorful as it is here? Thinly sliced bright red tomato, salt, pepper, and olive oil on a perfectly toasted rustic bread happened to be my heaven that night. Just as delicious but a step up on uniqueness was the delicata squash with maple syrup and grated goat cheese, which was shaped and lusciously fried like a crispy creme donut. Like the fried bananas my mom loves at Filipino restaurants, it was crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, and made complete by the dusted salty parmesan. The ricotta cavatelli came with an overload of pan seared shrimp that was absolutely perfect, soft, delicate, and easy to chew (sorry but just admit that shrimp is painful to chew sometimes), and the pork sausage on the fennel sausage pizza made every bite taste sinfully fatty and earthy. Every single dish did the job it set out to do – highlight each of its awesome, local components. The only disappointment was the boring shredded kale salad that I simply couldn’t bother eating because of all of the better options distracting me. 

heirloom tomato toast (photo from NY Post)

crispy squash

kale salad

scallop ceviche

I love dessert here. It took me everything to bypass the caramel ice cream sundae with popcorn and go for the cookie plate with chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, but a side of caramel ice cream did the trick. Hard to be impressed with a plate of tiny cookies. The concord grape tart is something I never would have ordered myself but was actually interesting and delicious.

After four years of blogging, I’m starting to crack the recipe for my all time favorite restaurants. It must be casual but tasteful in setting. It must create the feeling of coziness even if it’s not cozy in space terms. It has to feel intimate. The menu is heavy on vegetables, seafood and sharable plates. It generally has a flatbread or a pizza. The cocktails are awesome. ABC Kitchen fulfills all of these requirements – I just wish I could go without fear of an hour long wait!

Grade: A
Location: 35 east 18th street (between broadway & park avenue)
Website 

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Filed under American, Brunch, Californian Cuisine, Erin's Favorites, Fun Group Dinner, Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Union Square

Hudson Clearwater

Last night, I dined in the private room at Hudson Clearwater (for the second time) for my sister Justyn’s 30th birthday. To reserve the space, which is a cozy, dimly-lit cellar near the restaurant’s downstairs kitchen and bathroom, you only have to commit to $50 a person. That’s a steal when most PDR’s have a per-head fee of $80+ on top of a room rental charge. The only catch – they’re not joking about their two hour time limit – they are on a serious turn-over cycle and will make it clear that they need you out on time for the next party. Totally worth it for the room-dedicated waitress, the refreshingly sweet Hudson Mule, and the freedom to be as raucous as we wanted while playing Cards Against Humanity, or as my sister said, what we’ll be playing at 80 instead of Bridge. If game interests are any broad representation of a generation..then we are one sick and twisted group of millennials.

in the PDR

Anyway, in addition to the wonderfully cozy ambience, and in spite of our slightly rushed service, the food was awesome. Our group of 9 shared peeky-toe crab cakes, which were hearty and moist (yes I hate this word, but how else to describe it?), earthy raw oysters with vinaigrette and raw horseradish, warm roasted cherry tomatoes on fresh ricotta with pita, and a simple spinach salad with brie, roasted pecans, apple, and an apple-sage vinaigrette to start. We also ordered the special vegetable pot pie, but after growing up on Stouffer’s chicken pot pie which had flakey machine-manufactured crust in every bite, it’s really hard to be impressed by a watered-down, lighter restaurant rendition.

what I really wanted

baby spinach salad

roasted tomatoes on ricotta

hake

crab cakes

steak

My sister and I shared the pan seared hake and grilled hangar steak for our mains. The hake was buttery and much lighter than a cod, and perfectly crisped with fennel confit, roasted tomatoes, and a creamed corn that actually tasted identical to the inside of the pot-pie. Cafeteria repurposing aside, the dish was simple, rustic, and delicious. The hangar steak was cooked perfectly with a well seasoned crispy outside and a medium pink inside, next to buttery potato gratin.

We skipped dessert for a round of Amy’s Bread cupcakes, but I wasn’t too disappointed given that none of the desserts involved ice cream. Again, I ask, what is up with that? You gotta have ice cream if you want to appeal to the real dessert mongers like myself.

All in all, the food at Hudson Clearwater helped complete the feeling of dining in a rustic cabin with solid comfort food. It’s my kind of place – it’s not trying to be over-inventive; it’s totally simple, the menu is just big enough where I’m not overwhelmed but want to come back to try something else, and the food is heart and belly-warming. If you’re like me and constantly looking for places that take the fuss out of food but keeps the mystique in the ambience, then Hudson Clearwater is your friend!

Grade: A-
Location: 447 Hudson Street (entrance is on Morton)
Website
*first photo from A Cup of Jo

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Filed under Affordable Date, American, Fun Group Dinner, Romantic Date, West Village

Cafe Sabarsky

I may forget a plot line or a character name 9 times out of 10, but I’ll never forget a scene from a movie that involves food. A standout instance is in the film Inglorious Basterds, when the protagonist, Shoshanna Dreyfus, is being eerily interrogated by her father’s murderer, Cristoph Waltz. To subtly indicate that he’s aware of her true identity as the only one who escaped death on her family’s dairy farm, he proceeds to order her an apple strudel with extra cream and a glass of milk, forcing her to taste as she quivers in fear. As uncomfortable as it is to watch, it has instilled in me a permanent craving for apple strudel. It looked so delicious – fresh, warm, perfectly flakey – never before did I really like it, but now, it’s one of my favorites.

Col. Hans Landa

This memory came to mind when my friends Lauren and Austin and I whisked uptown to Austrian cafe Cafe Sabarsky to end our day at the Whitney. After waiting in a short line, we entered the old school, cafeteria-like space and sat a table with a view of the delicious Austrian pastry-filled counter. The place is inspired by the traditional Viennese cafes that birthed so much beautiful art and literature in the early 1900s, and it truly brings you to another era and continent as a result. The authenticity of the food is unquestionable too.

strudel with cream

Dessert array

After a rich cappuccino with fresh whipped cream and a few bites of Lauren’s crispy veal schnitzel, I couldn’t resist the apple strudel. It came right to our table on a little white dish, just as presented in Inglorious Basterds, and I felt like I was in Hollywood action. The strudel was perfect – crispy crust easy to cut, soft, warm apples and subtle flavors of cinnamon and raisin. With the thick, hardly sweetened whipped cream, it was heaven on earth.

Though I really only focused on dessert, this cafe is one of Lauren and Austin’s favorites, and now one of my own. It’s relaxed, beautiful, and a world away from my own in New York city. Next time I’ll be back for the sausage and the Viennese hot chocolate.

Grade: A+
Location: 1048 5th Ave @ 86th Street
Website:
http://www.cafesabarsky.com

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Filed under Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Upper East Side

Bathtub Gin

I looooooooooove a good cocktail, but not as much as I love a good speakeasy. While some people despise the trend of these dimly lit spots with over-priced, overly-complicated cocktails and often snooty waiters, I tend to gravitate to them purely for the lure of enjoying a well crafted drink behind secret doors. Yes, I admit it, as the nosy person I am, I fall for the marketing technique of emphasizing exclusivity and mysteriousness to tempt the curious passerby.

But for all the gimmicks, moustached bartenders, and ridiculous rules (no speaking at high volumes) you must suffer through to sit undisturbed at these places, I am continuously wowed by the ice cold, perfectly shaken drinks. The speakeasy treats its cocktails like an intricate art-form, and Bathtub Gin is no exception to the rule.

Bathtub Gin focuses most of its cocktails on its namesake, which the waiters will advocate is the most versatile alcohol there is. After drinking two Fernet Sides, a drink with gin, lime, and mint, I can’t disagree.   And even more impressive is the great list of appetizers to choose from – a breath of fresh air when most speakeasies either don’t serve food at all (San Fran’s Bourbon and Branch once reluctantly gave me an olive upon request during a bout of extreme hunger) or pay little attention to crafting a cocktail-complimentary menu. The food options here are hearty, too – I loved the crab stuffed mushrooms , and the camembert, while served with a measly portion of bread, was some of the richest, most addictive camembert I’ve had.

To fit the reputation of a speakeasy in the traditional New York sense, there are many essentials. To name a couple: 1) Rude hostess and 2) clever mode of entry. Bathtub Gin wins in both departments, and makes up for the hostess with incredibly friendly waitstaff. Entrance is at the side door of Stone Street Coffee on 9th Avenue, with no sign of the cocktail bar outside – they’re really relying on word of mouth and proactive scenesters for their customers.

Bathtub Gin is a great option for a variety of occasions: a date, drinks with friends, drinks with co-workers, light bites and drinks with girlfriends before a night on the town, or even a drink solo. Considering its convenient location just blocks from Chelsea Market and my apartment, I have added this to my list of go-to drink spots.

Grade: A
Location: 132 9th Avenue btwn 18th and 19th Streets
Website: http://www.bathtubginnyc.com

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Filed under Chelsea, Romantic Date, Sex & The City Swank