Archive | April, 2012

Anita Lo’s Annisa for Valentine’s Day

26 Apr

We had been wanting to try Anissa for a long time. We had watched Anita Lo on television (Top Chef Masters most notably) and she was one of the chefs that made my mouth water every time she presented a dish.  We went to Rickshaw Dumpling Bar (her more casual restaurant in NYC) and her dessert soup dumplings were unreal.  But her fine dining restaurant, Anissa, was really where I wanted to go.  Unfortunately, there was a fire at Anissa a few years ago and it closed down.  So when it reopened, it hit the “someday” list.  Valentine’s Day weekend 2012 was finally that “someday.”

My first impression was that this place was VERY small.  It was intimate without being on top of each other.  I’m pretty sure the restaurant seats less than 20 people at a time.

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It’s the little things about a restaurant for me, and these perfect butter ribbons were just delightful.

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We decided to go with the 7-course chef tasting with the wine pairings.

Our meal started with an amuse bouche of egg salad with cured salmon tartlet.  It was a nice bite and the shell was a perfect crisp.

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Course one was ceviche of fluke, black lime, and green daikon. It was paired with a Sauvignon Blanc: St. Bris Burgundy, France – 2010.

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This tasted perfectly fresh and citrusy. It has a small salty element. Totally delish.

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Course 2 was a Hudson valley duck foie gras with soup dumpling and balsamic. This was paired with Riesling Kabinett -Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany – 2010.  This wine was PERFECT with this dish.

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I was nervous about my peppers allergy, but they defined this as “Sechuan” but I wound up being fine. Very slightly tingly, but worth it. This had great, deep, rich flavor.

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The flavors were so good, in fact, that I tipped my bowl into my spoon while no one was looking… just to get every last drop I could.

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Course 3 was a Miso Black Cod with crispy tofu and bonito broth (I think that’s what she said?)  This was paired with Wakatake Junmai Sake from Shizuoka, Japan.

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There was roe in the broth, which was a nice surprise.  The cod was awesome, and potentially the best I have ever had. I’m not a huge fan of tofu, but even that was great.  I have no idea what the green things in it were (see photo below) but they added great texture.  The tofu itself wasn’t at all crispy, but it was delicious.  Almost polenta-like in texture.

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Our next course came out, and while I wrote it down, it appears I forgot to take a picture of it (Whoops!)  It was grilled arctic char, dill, char mousse, cabbage leaf, and lemon something.  It was paired with Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine Amiot- Servelle from Burgundy, France 2008. This had multiple elements on the plate, so you could choose how much of each you wanted in each bite, or all of it.  Everyone went great together, especially the mix and match of the lemon and dill flavors.  The wine also went perfectly with it.  Awesome.

Course 5 was grilled wagyu, green garlic, chives, escargot, mushrooms with granache. It came with Bandol- Domaine Le Galantin- Provence, France, 2008.  Below the meat there was a piece of brioche that sucked up juices/sauce and made for such a flavorful bite.

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Our next course was a cheese course. It came with some great, nutty bread.

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And I dove in so fast to the cheese that, again, I forgot to take a picture. But I snagged one at the very end.  I took some very short-hand notes: “Chèvre de Argental: sheep, raw cow from Austria, raw cow from Vermont, goat cheese from France, cremesco from Italy, a blue from New York. It was paired with Churchhills White Port- Portugal.  White port is sooooo good with cheese.

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Course 7 was a coupling of 2 desserts, both of which came with Muscat de Beaumes-de Venise, Rhone, France 2009.

The first dessert was a pecan beignet with butter rum sorbet. The sorbet good but icy. The entire dessert was very messy, but tasted awesome.

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The second dessert was a poppy seed cake with Meyer lemon.

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It reminded me in flavor of lemon meringue.

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At the end, we were served Petit Fours: coconut popsicles, candied ginger, and piece of chocolate.

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The popsicles were especially fun and deliciously filled with coconut flavor.

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The whole meal was exceptionally well paced with very good service. Every dish was solid. I can’t say there was one that stood out as an awesome dish that topped all other awesome dishes, but the meal as a whole was incredibly good and memorable as a whole.  It certainly did not dissapoint. One of the tops of all time.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Homemade Chocolate Mousse

24 Apr

Certain recipes instantly go into the “filed for life” box.  This is one of them.

I love chocolate mousse when it’s good. But so many times it’s just not.  It’s not chocolaty enough or it’s gritty or it’s sickeningly sweet.  This mousse is just perfect. And much easier to make than I anticipated.

I found this recipe on AllRecipes.com. Step one: whip cream to form light peaks.  You would think that I have done enough homemade schlag in the past to know better than to leave the mixer unattended while whipping, but alas, I wound up with some stiffer peaks than I anticipated. Luckily, this didn’t impact the recipe from what I could taste.

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This recipe especially caught my eye because Ghirardelli is my favorite chocolate to bake with. Hands down, changing to these chips made every recipe better. Every time I run out and use Nestle’s or Hershey’s, the taste difference is noticeable and if I’m making anything with melted chocolate, these cheaper brands just don’t temper as well, come out as smooth and uniform, nor taste anywhere near as good.  Lesson for anyone new to chocolate: Spend the extra $1 on the good chocolate chips. It’s worth it. Case in point, these melted perfectly smoothly in my double boiler (metal bowl placed on top of a pot with simmering water… hint: make sure the bowl is bigger than the pot so steam doesn’t work it’s way out of the pot and into your chocolate).

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AllRecipes is my favorite recipe site because of the dedicated readers who leave comments on the recipes. Thank goodness for them!  While certain times I don’t follow their advice and end up with a mess, this time, they guided me in the right direction, because while the recipe calls for 4 eggs, they really meant 4 egg WHITES.  Big difference.  The egg whites fluffed up perfectly with the sugar.

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I think the next ingredient is where this recipe really takes on a new level.  1/4 cup of coffee added to the recipe gave it a richer flavor that also countered some of the sweetness without making it taste less chocolaty.  A few people mentioned that they left out the coffee and regretted it later.

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You stir the coffee into the chocolate and then quickly add the eggs and fold in the whipped cream. I was nervous that the chocolate would bind upon adding the coffee (chocolate basically turns into an ugly mess when it’s mixed with water), but working quickly left me with a perfectly smooth and delicious mousse.

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Any elegant chef might pour these into a martini glass or mason jar to present, but I had to make them transportable to offices, so I went with Dixie cups.  Keepin’ it classy.

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I also wanted to top each with whipped cream, but whipped cream won’t stay fluffed overnight, so I added a tiny bit of gelatin to my whipped cream for the first time to stabilize it and, surprisingly, it worked. And it still tasted great.

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This recipe was perfectly delicious and surprisingly easy to make. I highly recommend this as a crowd pleaser (and impresser!)

Ghirardelli Chocolate Mousse
 
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Ghirardelli®
Servings: 8
“Serve this simple chocolate mousse in a martini glass for a fancy presentation. A dollop of whip cream adds an elegant touch.”
INGREDIENTS:
10 ounces Ghirardelli 60% Cacao
Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup coffee, hot
4 eggs, room temperature (JUST THE WHITES!)
2 tablespoons sugar
DIRECTIONS:
1. Whip the cream to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator. Melt the chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl set over barely simmering water. Meanwhile, whip the eggs with the sugar until very fluffy and thick, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir the hot coffee into the melted chocolate chips. The mixture will start to thicken, so work quickly. Quickly stir in the beaten eggs, then fold in the whipped cream. Pour or spoon mixture into cups or bowls, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Allrecipes.com Printed from Allrecipes.com 4/22/2012

Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant

19 Apr

 In Hell’s Kitchen, there is a restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen (not to be confused with HK). It is a Mexican influenced restaurant that happens to have great grilled vegetables to satisfy my cousin’s vegan needs.  He says they are really fantastic veggies.

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I went with Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Grilled Chayote, Sweet Plantain Puree, and Salsa Verde (sans peppers).  It was incredibly well cooked and seasoned.  

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Mike chose the Grilled Tiger Shrimp with Sauteéd Vegetables, Sweet Plantain, Gucamole, and Serrano Sauce.  He said it was very enjoyable.

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I was impressed that a place I walked by about a hundred times turned out food this flavorful and fresh.  We all really enjoyed our meal and I look forward to going back, since it’s in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Recipes with Homemade Bread: Grilled Cheese and French Toast

17 Apr

It was very exciting to have finally successfully made bread.  We gave one loaf away to friends, but that still left us with more bread that we could eat between the 2 of us.  So… it was time to come up with some meals that included bread.  Which led me directly to grilled cheese and French toast.

Grilled cheese was up first.  I browned some shallots in butter first.

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Then I sliced some apples very thin and layered it up with Gruyere and the shallots and placed each sandwich in a pan with hot butter to brown up.

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The bread was browning but the cheese wasn’t quite melting  yet… so I turned the heat down and let ’em melt.

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And melt they did.  

Boy were these good!  The sharp cheese combined with the sweet apples and shallots made for an incredible grilled cheese sammie.  The homemade bread browned up nicely and maintained a crunch on the outside with some fluff on the inside.

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Next morning it was French toast time.  I actually realized that I hadn’t made French toast in quite some time, and really didn’t remember exactly what to do.  One thing I always disliked about French toast at restaurants is when it is nicely browned on the outside  but still tastes like normal bread on the inside.  I decided that if I really buried these slices in the egg and cinnamon mixture and left it for a while to absorb, that should do the trick.  Problem is, the bread was so fresh and fluffy that it started to fall apart.  Damn.  Had to just make do.

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They browned up really nicely and tasted great… on the outside.

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The inside was still lacking in the flavor… so I vowed to learn a better way.

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It was just a few days later that I saw a perfect “How To” from America’s Test Kitchen. Turns out, if you bake the bread first to dry it out, that solves the problem that I saw and helps it absorb the right amount but not be soggy. (Here is their recipe)

Next time!

New Opening: Beer Authority

14 Apr

We have been long anticipating the new craft beer bar in the neighborhood, Beer Authority.  It’s a large craft beer bar right opposite Port Authority… not exactly a neighborhood with a wealth of good options.  

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You walk in to a small, intimate bar with a staircase up to the (large) maining dining room on the left and a fantastic elevator on the right. Why a fantastic elevator?

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Just check out these quotes…

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The elevator arrives in the main dining room with a fine looking logo on the door.

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The bar is spacious, well designed, and fastened with large, well positioned TVs. Sadly, their DirecTV choice means that no service makes it way there since it’s surrounded by so many tall buildings… so the channels that were on were all that came in. They made it sound like they were changing out the TVs soon.  Let’s hope!

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There are 90 taps, and quite friendly bar tenders ready to tell you all about them.  Well… that is the ones they have available.  I guess they got cleaned out last night (their first Friday) and the first 5 beers we asked for were all out. Poo.

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The space itself is quite large, but surprisingly not at all loud.  It was pretty full and games were on, but Mike and I didn’t find that we needed to scream our conversation like at most sports bars in the area.

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The walls are designed with the logos, emblems, and otherwise fun decorations of craft brews.

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Even the bathroom door handles get in on the fun with tap pull handles.

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The menu mentioned “Good Craic.”  I had no idea what this meant, but thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that it stands in for all around good cheer in the UK.

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They brag about 90 taps and 100 bottles (the bottles menu was not yet available) as well as many other features, with “occasional debauchery” being my favorite offering.

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We decided to split some food for dinner, and we started with the brisket sandwich, which was listed as braised “bourguignon  style” with smoked bacon, portobello mushrooms, sourdough bread, dipping jus, and baked potato fries.  This was fair.  Each piece tasted decent, but it was lacking in flavor depth.  It desperately needed salt, and the bacon just didn’t taste very smoked at all.  The brisket was luke warm, bordering on cold, and the fries were pretty bland as well.  This whole thing tasted reheated.

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But thankfully, we also tried the grilled flat bread, which came with duck confit, fennel, arugula, citrus marmalade, and goat cheese. This has serious depth of flavor, with each piece good on its own but really great in combination.  The flat bread was soft without being soggy and it had a nice crisp on the crunch.  The duck was really flavorful and the citrus marmalade was just perfect on it. 

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 This was as flavorful as the brisket was bland.  Opposite ends of the spectrum.

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But in the end, you’re really there for the beer.  The initial selection was admirable (despite being out of so much).  We tried a Sixpoint Brownstone (nutty but a little too bitter for my taste) and a Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (which was a rich, tasty beer that went great with food).


Here is their full food menu (including a section on pairing beer with food).

Overall, for a place that just opened, it is obvious that they are still finding their sea legs but they have enough going right for them to prove that their concept is sound and sorely needed in the neighborhood.  I look forward to when they have all 190 beers listed so we can try some new stuff and I’m sure we’ll work our way through the menu to hopefully find some other gems.

 
It’s a bit hard to come up with a Nom Score since the brisket was so average and the flat bread so good.  The service was nice even with the missing beers and I see definite potential.  For now, I’ll average the average and look to the future.

 
 
Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Beef Infographic

12 Apr

I love infographics.  This one seems especially relevant since I just found this post about how Kobe beef is one big lie.

Thanks to FrugalDad for bringing this fun infographic to my attention.

Beef Infographic

Source: FrugalDad

Sylvia’s- Harlem

12 Apr

Sometimes you just need some soul food.  So we took a pilgrimage up to Harlem to finally check out Sylvia’s.  

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We noticed that there was a beer on the menu from Harlem Brewing Company.  When in Rome…

It was quite good, especially with the rich food.

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The bread was old fashioned corn bread served with, what else, Fleichmann’s margarine. 

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And then the food started arriving…

Fried chicken with sweet potatoes and mac and cheese… OHHHH the mac and cheese.

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Chicken and waffles.

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Smothered pork chops with green beans and mac and cheese… OHHH the mac and cheese.

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More chicken and more waffles.

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And more mac and cheese… OHHH the mac and cheese.

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Everything was really delightful. The fried chicken had a great crisp to it and wasn’t greasy at all.  I had the chicken and waffles and the waffle was really fantastic. There is something quite spectacular about maple syrup on the waffles and chicken. 

But OH the mac and cheese.  It was heavenly.  Perfectly baked, perfectly cheesy, perfect perfect perfect. I consider myself a mac and cheese connoisseur and this, this was GREAT mac and cheese.  Up there with Blue Smoke (which is the best flavor but a little too saucy) and Chat ‘n Chew (which is #1 in my book, however, it’s inconsistent). 

We really wanted the peach cobbler for dessert, but they were out.

::pout::

So we got red velvet cake (which was good, but I’m not a red velvet cake fan).

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The strawberry bread pudding with bourbon sauce (really delicious).

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And the southern style banana pudding.  Also pretty good.

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I can’t say I LOVED the desserts, but the meal was great and that mac and cheese…. OH that mac and cheese.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

August

10 Apr

It was one of those nights where we had a birthday party late in the night and didn’t really have plans for dinner before.  We figured we would take a cab to the birthday location and stumble upon a restaurant nearby.  When we were about 5 blocks out, I realized we were passing August, a restaurant that had been recommended to me.  So we asked the cabby to stop and we jumped out.  15 minutes later, we were seated.

We started with the hamachi tartare that had asian pear in it.

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It had a great contrast between the mild sweet and fresh taste of the pear and the hamachi.

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We also got the jerusalem artichoke soup with brown butter and sunchoke chips.  I have to assume that sunchoke chips are really hard to come by or seriously expensive, because each time I get them I notice that they could easily double or triple the amount and there would still be too few.  I LOVE sunchoke chips, and these added a great crunch to the soup, which in and of itself was great.

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I went with the roasted lamb over root vegetables.  This was seasoned incredibly well and everything just tasted like a bit plate of comfort.

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Mike chose the scallops with celeriac remoulade, frisee, bacon lardons.

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It was very tasty, perfectly cooked, and well balanced.

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For dessert we tried the cinnamon apple crumble with salted caramel gelato. I was hoping for more crisp, but the flavors were really great. And it was warm and cozy.

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August is comfort food at its best and most elegant.  Flavors that were perfect for the cold winter night and yet refined.  I really enjoyed our dining experience here and I look forward to going back.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine

6 Apr

I live in a neighborhood that has a new building opening pretty much every week.  There has been a vacancy in the first floor of the apartment building on 10th Ave between 37th and 38th Streets for a while.  I held out hope that it would be a grocery store (the one real lacking part of this neighborhood… well… besides the bums). But a few weeks ago we noticed that whole bunch of basketball player pictures were put up in the window.  Oh well… another sporting goods store… a huge one taking up an entire city block…

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But no, it actually turned out to be a restaurant.  Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine soft opened a couple weeks ago and then had a red carpet opening last weekend.  Clyde Frazier, of NY Nicks Fame, is certainly a NY icon. Known for being a hall-of-famer, all around fan-favorite, and effusive suit wearer, he teamed up with Ark Restaurant Group to open up what might be the biggest NYC restaurant I’ve ever seen.  It is literally a full city block.  Mike checked out the menu before we left, and found out they have pavlova, which may be my most favoritist thing ever (and sorely lacking in NYC… gotta go to London to get it usually).  I was in.

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The moment you walk in, it is 100% Clyde Frazier.  Huge floor to ceiling columns bare his face (and suits).

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The walls are adorned with some of the great sports photos of his heyday. 

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Even the ceiling is designed in a school of fish motif that, on further investigation, is actually all different images of… what else? funky suits.

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The north end of the restaurant is a bar with many TVs above to watch the games.

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Right above our table was even an ode to his suit design.  With some insane patterns and boots.

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Upon heading to the bathroom, a large looming Clyde looks down upon you.

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And as if we weren’t already on Frazier overload, he showed up in the flesh to take pictures and meet and greet diners.

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In the most amazing tiger print suit with matching boots.  I had to pose for a picture if only to be able to show you, dear readers, just how amazing this suit is.  (Turns out, he’s a really nice guy who spent the whole night talking to each and every table)

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The kitchen is huge and open-format in the main dining room.  There are a few dozen TVs to watch (what else?) games, but I read that they will display artwork when the games aren’t on.

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There are nice, elegant touches to the restaurant that elevate it above the sports bar I thought it would be.  It’s an identity crisis for sure, but one that somehow just makes sense.  It was downright enjoyable to feast your eyes on all the crazy decorations.

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I ordered a Clyde style drink (The “Stumbling & Bumbling”) made with patron silver tequila, patron citronge tequila, fresh strawberries, and basil muddled with sugar.  It was served in a lovely, big glass and they were not bashful with the alcohol.  I was pretty much drunk half-way through.  Fantastic.

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The menu was as eclectic as the man (see full menu in the slideshow at the end).  It featured some standard southern favorites along with Asian inspired dishes and hearty Jewish comfort food.

So we started with the duck liver with duck cracklings and toast.

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This was liver the old fashioned way.  Liver the way grandma made.  

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Mike got… of course… the hamburger. It was Clyde’s signature 10 ounce burger with cheddar, apple smoke bacon, and caramelized onions. It came with homemade chips and a crisp pickle.  I thought this burger was surprisingly excellent. The caramelized onions were top notch and the burger was perfectly cooked and juicy.

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I went with the root vegetable salad, that came with goat cheese vinaigrette.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly was taken by surprise by how damn good this was.  Vegetables cooked to perfection (soft but still full of flavor) in a goat cheese style sauce with pumpkin seeds (I think) and delicate seasonings and oils.  It was refined.  It was delicate. It was delicious. 

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We went on to check out dessert and noticed that one of our favorite local dessert wines was listed, Duck Walk Blueberry Port. Yum!

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And, of course, the pavlova!  It was served with passion fruit soup, Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit.  The meringue was crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. I didn’t love the inclusion of Greek yogurt (I guess I’m a sucker for classic style… with whipped cream) but I was impressed that the meringue was so delicately and well cooked.  Not the best pavlova I’ve ever had, but it satisfied the need for the time being. And I am quite a harsh judge when it comes to pavlova.

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Overall, I was totally impressed and surprised by this place. I was expecting it to ride on its celebrity fame and just be, well, average.  Even the sheer size of it made me think “this place can’t possibly be good.” But it was.  It was actually damn near great. I look forward to going back to try some of their heartier entrees, and their rotisserie chicken looked especially appealing.  I’m curious how good their steaks are, and I can’t wait to find out.  I’m glad they are right down the street. I have a feeling I will be returning often.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

 

Their menus were all covered in funky patterns to match Clyde’s funky outfits, but their cocktail menu looked like a basketball.  Nice touch.  Below is a gallery that shows the full menu (including drinks and desserts) as it stands as of April 6, 2012.

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Colicchio and Sons- Tap Room

5 Apr

I have had a number of great meals in the more formal dining room at Colicchio & Sons.  Including what had ranked as the #2 meal of ALL TIME and gave us our #1 bite of all time.

They also have the “Tap Room” up front which is a bit more casual.  The menu is smaller, but has a lot of the same items.  One thing that isn’t available in the Tap Room, however, is the bread I so fell in love with. Thankfully, the impeccable service provided us a full tray on request when I ate there last time with coworkers.

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I started with the french onion soup, which was perfectly salty with great cheese on top.  The soup and cheese itself was fantastic, but it was missing the key element of french onion soup that I love more than anything… the cheese that burns and crisps to the side.

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Then I went with the roasted skate with brown butter, capers, and cauliflower.  This was fantastic.  Packed with flavor and perfectly cooked.

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And then… there was dessert.

We tried the zeppoles with ice cream and compote.  Throw all preconceived notions of state fair zeppoles out the window… these were crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and everything donuts should be.

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We also got some sort of mousse thing that was good, but disappointing.   You can’t be 100%, 100% of the time!

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I just love this place. It never fails to impress and I really enjoy bringing people here. It is probably my #1 recommendation when people ask where they should go for a nice dinner in Manhattan. The tap room was great, but if you can swing it, get the Chef Tasting Menu in the main dining room.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10