Category Archives: Special Occasion

Aska: Williamsburg’s pass at nordic haute cuisine

revconsumedaska_1

I’ll go right out and say it. No matter how beautiful or original it is, I do not want my food manipulated to the point where I’m pretty much eating a science experiment. Pulled apart mozzarella in cream? Wonderful. Eel and tempura shrimp wrapped in layers of rice and nori? Love sushi! But bring me dehydrated pork-blood cracker with berry puree? I might just have flash backs of last night’s meal at Aska and run the other direction.

Had I known a pretty practical bar like Kinfolk Studios would host a restaurant serving such inventive cuisine, I maybe would have gone into the dinner with lowered expectations – I already know I’m uncomfortable eating over-touched food. But when our flanneled waiter served us a plate of unidentifiable wafers with fishy unidentifiable purees as we were sipping wine, my heart nearly stopped. “This is really happening here?” I thought. The night resumed at a very high point when we were finally seated in the tiny back room, which is perfectly humble and quaint, and were served a basket of delicious, golden bread. The brown butter flatbread, uncannily crisp and deliciously salty, called my name between every sip of wine. How could I say no with that schmere of butter glistening at me, yearning to be consumed?

crispy flatbread

crispy flatbread

Well, it was good thing I filled up because I had not one full bite of any of the remaining savory courses. Now, this is not to say that I do not respect and admire chefs who put out this kind of food. I’m simply saying that (needless to say but I’ll say it anyway…”in my opinion”) it tastes horrible. The shell-less oysters swimming in cold broth, the pickled herring with anchovy mousse, the root-soup, the barbecued mussels with burnt hay (yes, it’s true, and it smells like burnt hair), the grease-filled pigs foot with shaved sunchoke, and the monkfish liver with cabbage all turned me off for one reason or another. I felt truly Filipino when I found myself enjoying the crispy herring head most of everything that was served, but while the others devoured the pigs’s feet, I wasn’t pinoy enough to put the shiny gelatinous block in my mouth. This food is just too advanced for me to appreciate. Aska considers itself “Nordic” cuisine, so some of the pickling, curing and smoking with forrest flavors comes from that influence, but after a week of eating pasta and my mom’s home cooking, it was just too tough to stomach. Fortunately, the cardamom ice cream with subtly sweet cream went head to head with the bread course and left all of us on a high note – utterly silky smooth.

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cold oysters with dill and beef tallow

pickled herring with anchovy mousse and potato

pickled herring with anchovy mousse and potato

a pig's foot with shaved sunchoke

a pig’s foot with shaved sunchoke

monkfish with it's liver and cabbage

monkfish with it’s liver and cabbage

delicious dessert

delicious cardamom ice cream with dehydrated whipped cream and hazelnut

I commend this place for taking risks, their very kind service (the waiter laughed sweetly every time he cleared my full plate), endless bread supply, wonderful riesling selection, and quaint quarters. Either way, I will spend my money elsewhere when I’m next looking for my belly to be fed in Brooklyn.

Grade: C+ (+ because avant garde just isn’t my type of food)
Location: 90 Wythe Avenue and North 11th Street in Williamsburg
*first photo from Bon Appetit

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Filed under Brooklyn, Special Occasion

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

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
Website

 

 

 

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Filed under New American, Parents in Town, Sex & The City Swank, Special Occasion, Upper East Side

Featured City Post: Harris’ in San Franciso

the not-so-sightly front of Harris'

For the last ten years, my family has held our Christmas Eve celebration at Harris’ Steakhouse in Nob Hill, and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. What has changed, however, is my selection off of the standard menu of fish, chicken, lobster, and steak. As a child, I always went for the petit filet mignon. Then, when my grandmother came to town and ordered lobster, my menu selection became steamed lobster for 5-6 years. Then, in my figure-watching high school days, I went through a soup-and-salad-only phase. And now, after realizing that I overdosed on lobster and am not a huge fan of steak, I’ve resorted to splitting a salad to start with my sister and ordering the salmon for my main, cooked medium-rare.

Harris’ value lies in its consistency. Each year, as we’re seated in the same large leather booth, a server arrives with buttered toasties and a small ramekin of delicious whipped cheese.

toasties with cheese

After ordering our drinks (generally ice cold martinis or wine), we’re served warm Acme bread and butter, which my family rarely hesitates to devour.

warm bread

Last night, though my sister Justyn and I normally split the baby spinach salad, we went for the mixed greens, which came with jicama, blue cheese, and tomatoes. Simple and fresh, it was exactly the basic salad that one would expect at a longstanding steakhouse.

mixed greens

My mother, as usual, ordered the oysters but did not share. I’m still bitter!

Oysters

My grilled salmon this year was cooked to perfection – just pink enough in the middle but perfectly seared on the outside. My baked potato was loaded with butter, sour cream, and chives, and with the creamed spinach off of my mom’s plate, I was in Christmas Eve heaven.

salmon

my sister's delicious steak

To top it all off we had pecan pie to go, which with tea was amazing. Another December 24, another success!

Grade: A

Location: 2100 Van Ness Avenue (at Pacific)

Website: http://www.harrisrestaurant.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Romantic Date, Seafood, Special Occasion, Steak House

Morimoto

lounge

Yes, there may be a $10 markup on every menu item at Morimoto considering this Iron Chef’s recent rise to celebrity, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t worth it. My friend Jillian and I had an amazing meal there last night in the lounge. Though our server was forced to divide his attention between us and ten other tables, we seemed to get our food in a timely manner and enjoyed a calm, steadily paced meal. We started with the toro tartare, which I learned is the highest grade of bluefin tuna possible. Along with a mini bamboo tray of perfectly piped wasabi, creme fraiche, avocado, little crunchies, and dark fish paste, each little spatula scraping of the fresh, melt in your mouth fish is a new experience. With a dollop of rich black caviar, this dish couldn’t be more luscious.

toro tartare with the fixings

We then shared the crispy calamari salad, which I expected to be a wilted green salad beneath a scraping of delicate calamari. Instead, I was presented with copious amounts of fresh greens that lay on top of perfectly fried garlic and the crunchiest calamari I’ve tasted. It was quite an impressive rendition of such a commonplace dish at high-end Japanese restaurants.

amazing calamari salad

We then moved onto to the king crab legs, which were served with a tobiko aioli that we had asked to be served on the side. The crab legs were massive and cracked just enough to allow us to easily remove the delicious meat with our chopsticks. And though I am horrified of mayo, the aioli was garlicky and subtly creamy – a perfect partner to the large chunks of crab.

King Crab

Along with our delicious premium sashimi and a $6 side of rice, we had a meal made up of high-quality ingredients in the environment one would expect for the restaurant of a world-famous Japanese chef. As long as my 25% off Googler discount applies, I’ll make it back when I’m craving quality sushi, which is the most devastatingly lacking food in the area.

Grade: A

Location: 88 10th Avenue between 15th and 16th street

Website: http://www.morimotony.com
*pictures via flickr

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Filed under Japanese, Meatpacking, Sex & The City Swank, Special Occasion

Marea

Despite the fact that I’m so painfully full, I can’t resist professing how completely blown away I am by my meal at Marea tonight. It has been almost a year to the day since my inaugural visit with my friends Sophia and Sara, but Chef Michael White’s inventiveness, sheer skill, and ability to successfully yet respectfully break the boundaries of italian cuisine has only gotten better. And the space, service, and sophisticated clientele couldn’t be better matched with the caliber of food – don’t expect to kick back and relax at this place. From scoring a 6pm reservation, to being seated at the table, to ordering, to figuring out every possible fleck of $100 per ounce ingredient on your plate, the experience at Marea is serious business.

With such a long list of descriptive menu options, the four-course pre-fixe menu is the best way to go at a $40 per entree restaurant like Marea. For $90, you have a choice of antipasti, pasta, pesce or carne, and dessert, which not only makes the most economical sense, but also helps to narrow things down for the indecisive like me. I for once went with my instinct and picked the first things that caught my eye: tuna crudo (supplemental), white asparagus soup with smoked trout and chervil, tagliatelle with nova scotia lobster and coral (who know coral was edible?), and hudson valley baby chicken with a number of things that took a backseat to the copious shavings of fresh black truffle.

crudo

Every single bite was noteworthy, but the most ridiculous and shockingly delicious dish was the one that completely distracted me from all conversation: the luxurious, velvety, decadent lobster tagliatelle. With long, silky, golden noodles coated in a shiny and subtly-buttery seafood-saffron sauce, these flakey chunks of fresh lobster could not have been more beautifully paired. With dishes such as the famous lobster and burrata antipasti and the bone marrow octopus fusili, Chef Michael White balances very carefully, yet close to perfectly, on the very fine line between luscious and over-the-top rich.

gorgeous golden pasta

hudson valley chicken

While I’m not one prone to ordering chicken, the description of the crispy chicken served with my favorite thing in the world (truffles) was not an option to miss. And I made no mistake, either; the meat was tender, perfectly seasoned, and uniquely paired with soshito peppers and cippolini onions.

For dessert, we ordered a selection of ice creams and sorbets for the table, which were generously portioned for such a high end restaurant but nothing noteworthy. The chocolate crostata however was beautifully presented and the perfect option for a die hard chocolate and coffee combo fan.

chocolate coffee crostata

And, as if we had room for more, we were served tiny yet personally un-enticing mignardises.

too full to taste

With so many courses, you run the risk of getting full very quickly. In order to prevent this, the time between meals needs to be long enough not to rush the process but short enough that your hunger lingers and fullness isn’t realized. My one complaint about Marea is that it missed on this precision – by the time our pastas appeared, we were already on the way to max-capacity, and after 15 minutes of waiting for our final course, we were close to turning it away.

Regardless, the food at Marea is undeniably off the chain. At one point in the night my co-worker Morgan posed the question, “what is the best food you’ve had in the past few years?” I struggled to answer this at the time, but after a cab ride of reflection I can honestly say that Marea goes home with the gold. And I say that with confidence even with the deprecation of their homemade muffin-for-morning-after end of the night give-aways.

Grade: A

Location: 240 Central Park S

Website: http://www.marea-nyc.com

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Filed under Business Meal, Italian, Romantic Date, Seafood, Special Occasion, Upper West Side

DB Bistro Moderne

Just yesterday I found a pleasantly surprising email in my inbox announcing a 20% discount for Google employees at DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant widely known for its $100 truffle and foie gras stuffed burger. I forwarded the email to my friends Lauren and Nicole, and within minutes our low key Thursday night plans to cook turned into a glamorous rendez-vous at a classy French bistro.

front room

The space feels exactly as the name describes – modern and sophisticated, with a tinge of retro, catering toward a mature after-work dinner crowd. We stood out as the youngest people in the front of the house, and there were at least 4 solo diners surrounding us, in addition to the actor who played Niles Crane in Frasier.

In our element or not, we felt right at home when perusing the obscene number of enticing menu options while sampling the variety of breads (including pretzel rolls – my favorite) in our basket. This is no place for small bites and light appetites – the starters are substantial in their ingredients, substance, and price, and each comes with a chorus of accompaniments that make choosing an entree a complicated task.

french rolls, pretzel rolls and olive bread

Despite the incredible lobster salad and squash soup de jour options, we decided to stir up conformance and order something dainty as an appetizer – the original DB burger stuffed with short rib on a parmesan bun. The burger was incredibly rich, and the short rib added a sweet flavor and an interesting texture with the thinly sliced tomato and subtle shredded lettuce. Regardless of its originality and quality, I prefer a classic $10 burger from Bill’s. The fries, however, were hot, crispy, and well seasoned.

burger sliced in fourths, as requested

I was immediately impressed upon the arrival of our entrees – though we ordered differently, their beautiful plate composition, glistening sides and wafting aromas made each appear better than the next. My eyes darted left to right as I examined the precious details of each dish. The food very closely resembled that of Daniel Boulud’s finest restaurant, Daniel, but with a rustic edge.

My sauteed skate meurniere with hen of wood mushrooms and spinach came out impeccably seared. It was a beautiful piece of fish, and the spinach, though creamy, had a quality of lightness to balance the oils of the fish and mushrooms. The fish was delicate, buttery, and cooked in classic French fashion.

sauteed skate wing

Thanks to our different tastes, I was able to try three other dishes by trading bites across the table. Lauren’s crispy duck confit was fantastic. It’s so difficult to find a truly crispy duck, but this one came with a generous heaping of tender duck on the bone that was just perfectly sauteed.

duck confit

Our friend Nicole’s organic chicken breast with Moroccan cous cous was anything but the boring chicken dish on most menus – it was deep, flavorful, and rich all the while succeeding at simplicity in perfectly pan roasted chicken.

pan roasted chicken breast with lemon chicken jus

Though we were beyond full as the intensity of the deceptively rich food crept on us, the gorgeous apple mille-feuille could not be resisted. The pastry was executed to perfection, with piped fresh cream and “apple confit” between them. This twist on a classic apple tart tatin brought me right back to my mother’s visit to Paris during which she had her first true French napoleon. Despite my chocolate obsession, the contrasting textures and light sweet cream cannot be beat, and Daniel Boulud truly captured that luxurious combination.

apple mille feuille

I assume with every discount there’s a caveat, but I couldn’t place a finger on it during our meal. As we stood up to exit with hands on our stomachs in shameless content, however, I noticed one thing unique about our tables: the lack of mignardises. My fullness couldn’t stop me from begging for more, and I brought the mistake to our waiter’s attention. He quickly reconciled by rushing back to the kitchen to fetch a small box of chocolates to go.

Based on its location and price point, DB Bistro Moderne won’t be top of mind for a go-to recommendation, but with such a fine setting and menu, it’s the quintessential restaurant for parents, a week night out, or a classy date night in the area.

Grade: A-

Location: 55 West 44th Street btwn 5th and 6th avenue

Website: http://www.danielnyc.com/dbbistro

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Filed under Business Meal, French, Midtown West, Parents in Town, Special Occasion

Apizz

It takes a lot for me to venture out of the West Village when the wind is at hurricane strength and home delivery is such a viable option, but after reading countless positive Chowhound and Yelp reviews of Apizz, I felt the restaurant was worthy of my energy. Situated on a narrow one-way road in the Lower East Side, Apizz had quite the potential to be my new back-pocket gem with the rustic, romantic feel so tough to find or preserve in New York. While I often review larger establishments, my true favorites are the tiny, undiscovered spots mostly visited by neighborhood locals and focused on food and vibe rather than status and scene.

At first sight, Apizz seemed to meet my expectations – upon entering and greeting the host, to the left is a beautiful space with a small cluster of white linen covered tables (photo above taken from NYmag, must have been a different season). Brick walls and warm golden lighting line the space, and diners facing the right direction are open to a view of the chef’s preparation area and a fire wood oven, though somewhat obstructed by a glass divider decorated with fall fruit and leaves. Behind the host is a small bar and a few extra tables for two, but even with this additional space the restaurant maintains its quaint and romantic setting.

Arriving 30 minutes late to our reservation, I was told that I had about an hour for my meal. Even though I was disgruntled, I understood the situation and actually appreciated the warning. Service, maybe as a result of the host’s note to the waiter, was on point and we had glasses of wine in hand just seconds after sitting. Even better, we were given a basket of rustic Italian bread with house marinara and a soft, dense ricotta cheese. This itself served the purpose of an appetizer, but of course didn’t stop us from ordering more.

There were a variety of good looking salads and appetizer pizzas on the menu, but we decided on the romaine lettuce salad with drunken goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and a creamy sherry vinaigrette, as well as the “funghi con polenta,” polenta cakes with a side of sauteed trumpet mushrooms. The salad’s massive portion size was probably its most notable asset – while tasty, it didn’t seem much more to me than a pile of oil-dressed romaine lettuce with standard croutons and four wedges of goat cheese.

The polenta was delicious, but didn’t look as appetizing as it tasted. Rather than a disc of golden polenta under a pile of mushrooms as I had expected, there were three off-purple sticks of polenta beside a small, somewhat greasy bed of white mushrooms. Combined with the marina sauce (meant for the bread), it was definitely filling and flavorful, but I wished the polenta sticks were a bit crispier on the outside and the mushrooms less oily.

For dinner, I ordered the herb baked skate fish with bread crumbs, white wine, and capers Served in cast iron dish with beautifully crisp potatoes, it looked incredible. Sadly, after my first bite I realized the fish, which was oddly stringy in texture, was swimming in a bed of oil, and was entirely overpowered by the flavor of green olives and capers. It’s hard for me to say, but the fish was gross. Fortunately, the potatoes were perfectly cooked and seasoned, so I concentrated on those for the remainder of my meal.

 Additionally, Mike’s dish of hankerchief pasta with crab and creamy tomato sauce was hardly exciting – the large lumps of crab were quite deceiving, tasting fishier than fresh crab should, and the pasta was cooked a few minutes too long. With soft noodles, an excessive amount of sauce, and a hint of fishiness, this pasta tasted more like the frozen lasagnas I used to eat in college.

It’s not in my nature to give entirely bad reviews, so I am thrilled that the dessert was incredible, especially for Italian restaurants which so often lack ice-cream accompanied options. The flourless chocolate cake was just that – it tasted as soft and rich as brownie batter does before adding the dry ingredients, and served warm beneath a generous scoop of ice cream, it was a honestly my heaven. One bite of this each nigh would definitely make me a better person. We also tried the white chocolate banana budino which was also served with a large scoop of vanilla. Though warm, subtly sweet, and incredibly delicious, the bread pudding seemed to lack the white chocolate it had promised, but we were happy nonetheless.

My thesis on Apizz – it’s a place to go for ambiance, service, and dessert, not necessarily incredible food. That said, atmosphere to me is almost on par with food in importance for my restaurant experiences, so I really appreciate Apizz’s perfect execution of a window-less romantic setting. Considering its distance from my apartment, I’ll probably never return, but would recommend it to someone in the area looking for a date spot and unconcerned about perfect food.

Grade: B
Website: http://www.apizz.com
Location: 217 Eldridge between Stanton and Rivington

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Filed under East Village, Romantic Date, Special Occasion

Strip House

I am not a huge meat eater, but I LOVE steakhouses. I love the sides, the bread, the massive desserts, the suave, swanky dining rooms, the caricatures on the wall, and the memories of childhood dinners out that it provokes. When my parents told me to book a place for our dinner with the grandparents, I immediately thought of Strip House. I had heard rave reviews about their steak from meat connoisseurs, and realized that steakhouses are the perfect please-all option for my family, which consists of people with a wide variety of food preferences. Non meat eaters can order fish or lobster, and the steak lovers obviously have a wide range of choices.
From the outside, with a tacky neon sign and a faded red awning, Strip House looks more like a …Strip Club than a steakhouse. But inside the mood is sensual, mystical, and very New York – a more swanky version of the typical Palm or Wolfgangs. The host was very accommodating of my special request for a round table, which is key for a party of 6 or more. My family and I were seated in the center of the dining room, in plain view of our server and the bus boys, perfect for a high maintenance group.
Bread basket was great – wide variety included an onion roll, a french roll, some crackers, and a few other options that kept us busy with our drinks for the first half hour. To start, my grandmother and I shared a bib lettuce salad with tomatoes, blue cheese, bacon, and red onion. I love steakhouse salads because they are generally served ice cold. This salad was delicious and definitely fit the steakhouse salad build. I also tried the caesar salad, which wasn’t the classic caesar salad I expected, but still flavorful, chilled, and tasty.
My father ordered the shrimp cocktail, which usually is the last thing I would like to eat, but I couldn’t resist a taste because the shrimp looked so fresh and plump. They were delicious – probably some of the tastiest poached shrimp I’ve had. And who knew you could differentiate shrimp cocktail?
I decided to skip the red meat for my main – I know, I’m a disgrace to a steakhouse. Unfortunately, the ONLY drawback on the menu was the lack of variety in the fish options. Generally, steakhouses have at least 3 – 4 solid seafood dishes. I had a choice between the seared tuna, which is pretty generic, and the Red Snapper, which doesn’t usually appeal to me. I opted to try something new and went with the snapper, and it was actually quite delicious. The skin was crispy, the base of bacon and potatoes was flavorful, and the fish was perfectly cooked.


Obviously, I tried the steak (my grandmother’s, since she is the only other person in the family who likes their meat medium rare), and the center was perfectly tender, savory, and juicy; the outside a crust of meaty flavor.
My sister ordered a seafood platter for her main, and it was massive.
The sides were equally amazing, and probably the most memorable, decadent part of meal (save dessert) – cream truffled spinach and crispy goose fat potatoes. Crazy! A few bites of those definitely put me over the edge.
But my fullness didn’t stop me from ordering dessert. Prior to coming to Strip House, I had seen pictures of their famous chocolate cake on Yelp, and I made it my mission to order it whenever I finally got a chance to dine there. I couldn’t resist…I ordered the Strip House famous chocolate cake, the warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, and the profiteroles for the table. Each dessert was RIDICULOUS. Our entire table almost freaked out in awe and surprise of the portion sizes. The cake was probably 6 inches high – a piece fit for the entire family, with 24 layers (my aunt meticulously counted) of dense chocolate ganache. Holy man it made my night.

The profiteroles was more like one gigantic pastry vessel of a bottomless supply of hazelnut and chocolate ice cream, also delicious, and the warm chocolate brownie was everything a warm chocolate brownie should be – damn good and a solid reason for my existence. I am honestly obsessed with dessert…it’s not a proper meal without it.
So, after the grand finale show of dessert, including THE BEST chocolate cake of my life, no lie, it was hard to even consider giving Strip House anything but a rave review. But, when my father professed that his steak blew that of Harris’s in San Francisco out of the water, I knew that the restaurant was an overwhelming success. The service was great, the food, from the sides to the steak to the dessert was phenomenal, and everyone of my family members left full and happy. The next opportunity I have to book a restaurant for a date, a special event, or a fun group dinner, I will undoubtedly consider Strip House.
Grade: A
Address: 13 E 12th Street between 5th and University

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Filed under Business Meal, Parents in Town, Romantic Date, Special Occasion, Steak House, Union Square

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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