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Saxon + Parole: Just a nibble

10 Jan

I met Chef Bill for a quick catch up about opening his new restaurant, The Keys, over drinks and nibbles at Saxon + Parole.  He wanted to go there due to their focus on fresh ingredients and molecular gastronomy inspired cocktails.

We each got a very, very good cocktail and decided to order some charcuterie. We went with the “A bit of everything”: Cured pork, chicken liver pot, terrine, cheese, olives & pickles for $29.  This was sensational.  Absolutely sensational.

The chicken liver pot may have been the best I have ever had. The rich liver was perfectly cut with a sweet and salty top.  Fantastic. And each meat and cheese was a perfect pick.  I really, really enjoyed this plate.

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I really look forward to going back and trying more soon! 

 

L&W Oyster Co

1 Jan

I joined an old coworker for lunch right near my NYC office at a brand new place, L&W Oyster Co (on 5th Ave between 28th and 29th). I think it had been open for just a few weeks.

The menu was a bit different from what is posted online, so here was the lunch meeting from a couple weeks ago:

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The restaurant is quirky, small, and fun.

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With magnetic poetry on the walls.

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And place mats explaining some of their favorite oysters (though not what is on the menu).

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My ex-coworker started with the clams.

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And I got a selection of the three oysters on the menu and we shared some large shrimp cocktail. (All the fresh seafood was very good and very fresh)

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And we were delighted to be given a pack of their homemade goldfish crackers.

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They were mildly spicy and baked to a perfect crispy.

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Steve got The Popeye with steamed mussels, chorizo, spinach, white wine, and gigantic beans. I couldn’t try it due to the chorizo, but he really enjoyed his meal.

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I got the Clam on Clam action which came with a clamwich (fried clams, tarter sauce, and pickled shisito peppers, which I asked to not have due to the my allergy) and some chowdah (brooklyn clam chowder, brooklyn lager, corn nuts, and house cured pancetta).  Before my meal made it in front of me, our waiter realized that my clamwich still included the peppers, so back into the kitchen that went.  But I got to start on my chowdah and quinoa (which was tasty).  I really loved this chowdah.  Creamy without being too heavy, good clam flavor, and the corn nuts and pancetta in it were just perfect.

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And when my clamwich (with salt & vinegar potato chips… YUM!) came out, I enjoyed that it was on a parker house roll roll.  It was a nice fluffy foil for the crunchy clam strips (though I wish they were more clamy in flavor).  The sandwich was good, but not as good as the chowdah.

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We also ordered some coffee (gotta love a French Press).

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And tried their sorbet of the day, which I can’t remember the exact flavor, but I remember it being some sort of citrus, and it was especially delicious. Great flavor and texture.  Really great end to the meal.

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I was impressed by our entire lunch here and think it’s a great lunch spot.  Nothing was among the best of that dish I have ever had, but everything was solidly tasty and I like what they’ve got going on.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Zoob Zib

28 Dec

Within the past year, we noticed that a new Thai Noodle Bar had opened down the street on 9th Avenue between 35th and 36th. We walked by it as we walked to and from the movie theater, or the High Line, or basically anywhere downtown on the west side. We always mentioned that we should try it, but it took us until a cold December night to pop in.

Zoob Zib is from the owners of Aura Thai restaurant (we live in the “Thai Town” section of southern Hell’s Kitchen, and I find that of the hundreds of Thai restaurants to choose from in a 5 block radius, there is very little that sets them apart, so I cannot tell you if Aura is one of the good ones or one of the mediocre ones).      

The interior is actually quite nice, with the old halogen lights and mason jars turned into chandeliers.  Yup, it’s totally cliche right now, but I love that style.

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We started our first visit (yes… there have already been multiple) with a duck roll appetizer. It was roasted duck, scallion, cucumbers and hoisin sauce wrapped in a tortilla pancake. It was all nicely flavored and balanced and the fresh cucumbers and scallions were really nice.

 

On our second adventure, we tried the scallion pancakes. I’m not sure why they called them pancakes, especially since they stood them up in little triangles, but they were nice and crispy. I think they were lacking in flavor a bit, but I couldn’t eat the sauce (due to peppers). That probably would have balanced it better.

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I also took the second set of pictures with my brand new camera. I have had my old camera for nearly 3 years, and while it suited my purposes, it is old enough that the zoom stopped working and the lens would stick. So it was time for a new one.  My sister did some research to help me narrow down the options and I went to B&H Camera to try them out.  Turns out, a lot has improved in 3 years! I wound up very happily leaving with the Fujifilm FX1 after testing it in low light, up close situations. This was taken in extreme low light, and it’s a point and shoot, yet it still got clarity and depth of focus. YAY! (First round pics taken midday by a bright window with my iPhone 5).

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In the first round, Mike tried the Bah Mee Moo Daeng from the Specialty Noodles section, which was roast pork, minced pork, golden fish ball, fried chicken and shrimp wonton, half sliced egg and egg noodles.  He enjoyed it, and I thought it had a really nice lemongrass flavor.

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But mine was awesome.  I got the Crispy Rard Nah which came with sautéed gravy. sautéed chinese broccoli in gravy over crispy egg noodles or chow fun noodles. (I got mine with egg noodles).  Our waitress warned that the noodles were fried first to be crispy, but then were put in the sauce so didn’t come out as such.  What I really didn’t expect was that the “gravy” would actually be more like soup. But OHHH was it delicious.  Very umami in flavor.  I really enjoyed it.

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So when we went back a few weeks later, both Mike and I got that dish.  Mike got his with duck and including peppers.

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And I decided to try the chow fun (thick noodles) version which came with Chinese broccoli only (different vegetables from the egg noodles version). It was very good, but I preferred the other vegetables (though the thick noodles were really great).

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I also have to pat myself on the back for my next decision, which was to get an add on of pork cracklings and a pah-lo egg.  These were absolutely fantastic additions to the soupy dish.  The cracklings added salty, crispyness and they were not at all stale (something that I was starting to assume just came with the territory of pork cracklings).  And the egg is mildly sweet (in a good way) and was delicious in the gravy. 

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We were so pleasantly surprised by our meal(s) here.  I haven’t had “noodles” like this before, and have stuck to the Pad See Ew and Pad Thai dishes at most Thai restaurants.  But these dishes were really superior and were just perfect on a cold, snowy December night.  Total comfort food, even though it was totally foreign.  And the portions were very large with lots and lots of meat in each bowl. Very glad to have this place within walking distance!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Harold Dieterle’s new restaurant The Marrow: Opening Night

22 Dec

I had been reading about the opening of The Marrow, Harold Dieterle‘s newest restaurant after the success of his other NYC spots, Perilla and Kin Shop.  Mike and I actually visited Perilla very early in our relationship, and it was one of the first “celebrity chef” restaurants we went to. He was excited to take me there after watching Chef Harold win Top Chef Season 1, and I had not yet started watching the wonder that is Top Chef (like I said, it was early!)  After that, I started watching the show and we soon found ourselves to be the Top Chef sluts that we now are.

I really loved our meal at Perilla, and we keep talking about how we need to visit Kin Shop (though I’m nervous it may be tough with my allergy to enjoy the way it’s meant to be enjoyed).  I was very excited about this opening and was hoping we could find a reservation sometime in the next 2 weeks during the holiday. Mike called and was told that, unfortunately, they were closed on Christmas Eve but they had an opening THAT NIGHT at 8:30.  So we excitedly went to opening night.

When we go to an opening night, or even opening month, I always feel a little bad reviewing the restaurant. I am fascinated by what it takes to open a restaurant (as you know from the “A Restaurant is Born” section) and know that it must be so hard to get to Opening Night.  There are bound to be kinks and issues with service, food, and just about everything else. But it is also fun to get a first peak into something so special.

We arrived a bit early, and the hostesses seemed a bit nervous that they didn’t immediately have a spot for us. They had us wait a bit and then recommended we go to the bar.  The bar is quite small, and the table next to it leaves very little room to stand. We had to keep moving around to allow the servers to get through with food. If (or rather, WHEN) this restaurant gets packed, it will be tough to keep chairs at the table by the bar.  But that was probably the worst kink we saw all night. That, alone, is impressive.

The cocktail list had a good amount of drinks that sounded great but were like nothing I had ever heard. I ordered the Miss Roberts’ Cobbler (cognac, red jacket cider, apple butter, pimento dram) and Mike got the Oh Tannenbaum (pine infused gin, clear creek douglas fir eau de vie, lavender and lime).  I really enjoyed mine, especially the apple butter taste. Mike wasn’t as crazy about his, but it was interesting.

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As soon as our drinks were in hand, our table was ready.  I sat along the window with a perfect view into the kitchen, which was left open with a window of its own for kitchen voyeurs just like me.

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The restaurant itself is kind of small but you only notice when people try to pass each other in between the tables. The ceilings are high and it uses light wood beams and some vintage style wallpaper in a simple style.  A nice aesthetic. 

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When we read the menu, I was concerned. There were just too many things I wanted to try!  (Tough life… I know)  The full menu is at the end of this post if you’re curious (since I haven’t found it posted yet).  The menu was split up in a really neat way. Since the theme of the restaurant draws from the chef’s German and Italian heritage, the menu was split in two for his two families.

We decided to try one item from the Meat Plates section, one from each side of the Starters (one for each family), and an entree.

From the Meat Plates section, we got the Kobe Short Rib Crudo with aged anchovy extract.  It was a nice, delicate flavor and the anchovy added a wonderful salt flavor. It didn’t blow me away, but I’m glad we tried it.

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Next, from the Famiglia Chiarelli section, we tried the bone marrow, which came with sea urchin, fried potatoes, meyer lemon aioli and baby celery greens.  We really loved this. The bone marrow and sea urchin went surprisingly well together, with that similar texture but completely different flavors. The marrow’s richness was also nicely cut with the lemon aioli. The fried potatoes were like teeny tiny little nuggets of crispiness, which was the perfect texture with the rest of the ingredients.  Everything here just blended nicely and the well toasted bread was perfect with it.

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Then from the Familie Dieterle section, we tried the Badische Schupfnudeln.  This insane mouthful of German words translated to braised rabbit, beet greens, tarragon & creamy Riesling sauce. (I learned rabbit as hasenpfeffer, but I guess that is specific to stew… thank you Google). Sadly, this was our least favorite dish.  A whole bunch of mostly mushy things together. We keep ordering rabbit, trying to like it, but I think it’s time we give up. It’s just not my favorite. It’s too soft, too little flavor… so many other meats I prefer.  This dish needed something crispy or crunchy or just something to break up the texture a bit. The flavor was fine, but it just seemed pretty flat to me. 

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We had to try the pan fried duck schnitzel off the Mains section. It came with quark spaetzle, hazelnuts, cucumber-potato salad and stewed wolfberries. My background is German/Austrian/Russian, so this fell right into the food I consider being akin with my family. My grandmother made awesome schnitzel so I have very high schnitzel standards.

This absolutely didn’t disappoint. The duck gave it a bit of a twist without losing the best parts about the schnitzel… the thinly pounded meat, the crispy breading, and the rich flavors.  The spaetzle with hazelnuts was especially great since it was toasted.  And the wolfberries (I want to know what a raw wolfberry tastes like now!) were really excellent adding a hint of sweetness to the dish. The freshness from the cucumber really added to things and it all was just perfect together. It was also a very nice portion (everything was, truly) so there was plenty to split.

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And the best part of splitting everything? Room for dessert!

Mike decided he wanted to try some cheese off their great cheese menu.  3 cheeses for $10 is nicely priced, so we went for it.

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The excellent toasted bread was back, and it came with a really nice honey and a date/nut cake (maybe? the server wasn’t positive).  We tried the Toma Walser, Challerhocker, and Chiriboga Blue. I really liked the Challerhocker. It had great bite and went really well with the sweet partners.

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And I chose the Apple Hand Pie for dessert.

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We asked what quark was, and our waiter compared it to buttermilk in that it is sweet and creamy with a tiny bit of a bite. The pie was very good, with a perfect crunch of the dough and nice sugared top. The apples could have been more plenty (or maybe thicker cut) but the flavors were really nice.  I also really enjoyed the caramel sauce.

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At the end of our meal, a fellow diner came up to all the tables and mentioned that the Chef was going to come out soon and we should all greet him accordingly.  A standing ovation quickly followed, and the chef grew very bashful and ran right back into the kitchen. It was a very sweet moment.

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We really enjoyed our meal and we were excited to be able to dine there on opening night.  I can’t say it was a top meal of 2012, but it was a solid meal and Mike and I agreed that it would be absolutely worth returning to try more.  The schnitzel was certainly the stand out dish, followed directly by the bone marrow.  I would skip the rabbit and the crudo if I were to return, but I’m glad we tried both.  Can’t wait to try more!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

The Menu on December 21, 2012:

MEAT PLATES:

Waygu Bresaola 10
Foie Gras Mousse w/ gooseberry 7
Light Sauerbraten Lamb Ribs w/ fried garlic 13
Kobe Short Rib Crudo w/ aged anchovy extract 14
Prociutto Wrapped Dates w/ gorgonzola & saba 6
Housemade Weisswurst w/ apple butter 6

STARTERS:

FAMIGLA CHIARELLI:
SKILLET-BRAISED CUTTLEFISH- Garlic bread, guanciale & white wine 14
HAND-CUT FETTUCCINI- Pork and sage sausage, acorn squash & baked parmesan 12
BURRATA SALAD FOR TWO- Giardiniera, grilled bread, EVOO, balsamic 26
THE BONE MARROW- Sea urchin, fried potatoes, meyer lemon aioli & baby celery greens 15

FAMILIE DIETERLE:
BRAISED DUCK & PRETZEL DUMPLING SOUP- Beech mushrooms, kale & marjoram 13
BABY RED OAK & LADY APPLE SALAD- Cambozola blue cheese & spiced pumpkin seed vinaigrette 12
BADISCHE SCHUPFNUDELN- Braised rabbit, beet greens, tarragon & creamy Riesling sauce 15
PICKLED HERRING SALAD- Roasted baby beets, horseradish cream, pistachios & baby arugula 14

MAINS:

GRILLED GAME HEN- Fennel, fried salami & brussels sprouts panzanella 24
BRAISED BEEF BRISKET “BRACIOLE”- House ground polenta, escarole, pecorino & red sauce 25
ROASTED WHOLE HEN OF THE WOODS MUSHROOM- Cardoon-creamed kale, crispy onions & truffled mushroom jus 26
SAUTEED STONE BASS “VITELLO TOMATO”- Fingerling potatoes, cippolini onions, olives, sweet breads & tuna belly sauce 30

GRILLED WAYGU CULOTTE STEAK- Cauliflower gratin, watercress & beerenauslese vinaigrette 33
PAN-FRIED DUCK SCHNITZEL- Quark spaetzle, hazelnuts, cucumber-potato salad & stewed wolfberries 28
JUNIPER BRAISED LAMB NECK- Rutabaga puree, whole roasted carrots & red sauerkraut 23
PAN-ROASTED SCOTTISH SALMON- Cabbage, pastrami & warm mustard sauce 25

SIDES:

BAMBOO RICE RISOTTO- Leek puree, steamed egg & parmesan 14
GRILLED BABY ROMAINE LETTUCE- Pecorino & warm lemon-anchovy vinaigrette 10
MASHED STUMPF- Snipped chives 10
DRY AGED BEEF FAT FRIED POTATOES- Pickled red onion & grains of paradise aioli 10

Smush: “The NY Deli of Desserts”

29 Oct

Just across the street from Bryant Park, there seems to be a collection of dessert shops opening up.  A chocolate store opened up a few months ago, and then a few signs popped up for various dessert places, including what looks like it will be a patisserie and, of course, Smush.  Smush bills itself as “The NY Deli of Desserts” and is decked out in neon signs and fun art.

They have signature sandwiches to choose from.

Or you can make your own by choosing a cookie, spread, toppings, and ice cream.

They have a display of their cookies to choose from.

We showed up right at closing time, and while they were all but closed, they offered to stay open to make our Smushes. They only had 2 flavors left: pumpkin and french toast.  I signed right up for the pumpkin while Mike went for the french toast.

They even make their own ice cream here, which was individually wrapped and ready to be smushed.

Our Smush man made our sandwiches.

I went with nutella, pretzels, and vanilla ice cream on my smush.

Mike went with bananas and vanilla ice cream on his french toast cookie.

And the verdict?

SOOOOO good!

The cookies were perfectly done, soft enough to be enjoyable yet hard enough to be a perfect conduit for everything in between.  The ice cream was equally perfect for immediate eating.  And the pretzels I added to mine were a great salty crunch.  I love being able to choose all the ingredients and flavors to suit my mood. And the fact that it tasted great and was the perfect texture all the way through left me recommending Smush to just about everyone in the area.

And when I picked up the paper underneath after finishing my Smush, I noticed a little smart touch. A wet nap at the very bottom.

Overall, Smush was much better than expectation and we really enjoyed it.  A perfect snack for after dinner, before or after a Broadway show, or basically anytime you have a hankering for something sweet in midtown.

I would really like one right now, actually!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Grand Opening: Tavola

30 Sep

We lived around the corner from a pretty infamous place: Manganaro’s. There were 2 restaurants: Manganaro’s Hero Boy and (the late) Manganaro’s Grosseria.  They were side by side and the grocery displayed a sign very specifically stating that they had no affiliation with Hero Boy next door.  It was a very long family feud and the restaurants had both been there for over a hundred years. Anthony Bourdain had famously lived in an apartment above these restaurants before he made it big. He even featured them on a show a few years back.

I ate there once, and they had a group of Italian ladies fighting and cursing pretty constantly in the background, while cranking out awesome old fashioned Italian food that they served on floppy paper plates.  

But then, they closed. After all those years.

A new restaurant quickly started going in, and last week, the NY Times featured this new restaurant, Tavola, in an article.  Tavola opened on Friday (or thereabouts) and we went for a late night dinner.

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The menu is full of the classics.

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And they kept many pieces of the Grosseria as it was, giving it a bit of flashback to days gone by.

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They kept the old ceilings.

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And the very pretty old sky light in the back.

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They built a brand new oven that was quite beautiful.

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And they are doing their pizzas in this wood burning oven.

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It is a good mix of new and old, and it was instantly comfortable.  Even though it just opened, by keeping a lot of the old design, it felt somehow as if this place had been there forever.

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When we entered, it was pretty full and service was buzzing.  There was some confusion and we waited a bit too long for things like bread, water, and the check, but it was obvious that there were just small kinks that needed to be ironed out.

We started with hearty bread.  It was well flavored and good and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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We had the arugula and fire roasted artichoke salad.  This was good, with a very nice dressing. I wanted more flavor and more quantity of artichokes, but overall it was a nice starter.

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We then tried the wild boar and veal meatballs, with fresh mint and pine nuts. These had a very nice flavor and the mint was a nice compliment.

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Then we had the lasagna with veal meat sauce.  I really loved this dish. The noodles were thicker and really held up to the layers.  The sauce was great and this tasted like everything you want from classic Italian.

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Overall, everything we had was very good and very hearty.  I can see this becoming a really nice, local place to eat on a cold night. As they iron out some of the service issues and get cranking, I can see them doing a very good business here in the section just south of Hell’s Kitchen.

The neighborhood is really growing with tons of new restaurants and building, and I’m glad to have Tavola as part of that growth.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Todd English’s Ça Va

6 Sep

Ça Va opened right by my neighborhood, and I heard nothing about it.  It looked a bit like a night club on 44th between 8th and 9th.  I was surprised to read that it was from Todd English when I walked by.  I guess Todd English just doesn’t carry the celebrity chef status that gets most a lot of press? Or maybe I just missed it.

Either way, when we were looking for some late night fare after leaving a Broadway show, we decided to pop in and try it.  It has a very modern feel and a very nice aesthetic.

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We started with what I think was a special with pork belly and eggs. I cannot remember exactly what it was, but I remember enjoying it.  (UPDATE: Kim remembered!  “It was a play on bacon egg and cheese: Bacon Egg And Cheese berkshire pork belly, quail egg , gruyère foam, 14.00. Thank goodness for search engines that still list old menus!”  Mmmm pork belly and quail egg.

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I then had the “CARPACCIO DE BETTERAVES” which was golden and red beet carpaccio with pistachio-goat cheese panisse and white balsamic vinaigrette.  This was inspired.  The beets were sliced super thin (just like carpaccio) and made into a wrap around the salad.  Not only did it look beautiful and original, it tasted absolutely fantastic.  Everything blended so well with acid and sweet and savory.  So great.  I was super impressed.

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We also tried the “HUÎTRES FINIES COMME DES ESCARGOTS” or crispy oysters ‘escargot style’ in herb garlic butter.  I was really impressed with how delicious these were. Everything I love about oysters combined with the buttery garlic deliciousness of escargot.  Really fantastic.

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I was really impressed by Ça Va.  When you walk into a Times Square restaurant, you really don’t expect much besides overblown prices and average food.  This was especially the expectation since this place looked a little too cool for school (yes… I just said that).  But just like Olives, this Todd English establishment surprised and impressed.  I would go back for that beet salad alone (and for $12, it didn’t feel that inflated in price compared to other places nearby).

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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