Tag Archives: albert hall tavern

Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.


#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.

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Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

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“Off the Menu” Part 2: Q&A with Chef Bill Seleno

8 Jul

I could have talked to Bill for hours about his history and passion.  We took a few minutes after discussing his history (posted Wednesday) for some quick fire questions (and some goofing off in the kitchen for the camera, where he showed off how he cooks his one of my favorite dishes at Albert Hall Tavern, the mussels with black garlic and charred rosemary).

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(Chef Bill, on the left, goofing off with a trusted
coworker who he worked with years before)

What inspires you about food? 

Bill: “Flavor combinations. It’s like chemistry… architecture comes into play to balance using mathematics: Burnt lemons for citrus plus buttery lettuce plus fatty prosciutto and duck cracklings and artichokes… it lingers on the palate.  It should be like a roller coaster ride, always up and down, wondering what’s in the next bite. It’s important to play with flavors… smell is a flashback and the palette is the longest memory.  Burning wood reminds me of my Grandma in Germany. You never taste the same tomato twice, so you need to change the method to change the flavor to get it right. The staff finds it tough because there are no recipes.”

(On the topic of staff, Bill is looking for people who are as passionate about Albert Hall he is about the place… but is having problems finding and keeping good staff at the restaurant right now.  I would have to agree with him on that one, with the staff sometimes being quite lackluster, but Bill mentioned that he has some good people coming in soon, so I’m hopeful… update: huge improvements in waitstaff these past few weeks!)

What is your favorite dish to cook?

“Seafood.  Skate is my favorite fish.  You can do so much with it and it holds up to flavors well.  But most people don’t know it so it doesn’t sell.  It depends on my mood, but there are days I want nothing but burgers.”


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(Prepping the mussels)

Least favorite?

“Paella.  I don’t get it.  And I once tried to make a cardamom-crusted filet.  Turns out cardamom is really bad on food.”

Favorite to eat?

“Duck confit with blood sausage and beans…pub cassoulette (‘a perfect foil’)…. Branzino whole, because the flavors of the meat stay in the meat… fish and chips (‘fried love’)… comfort food in the summer… fried homemade thin pasta with tomato and squid ink…”  (It was obvious he could have gone on and on…)

Hardest thing ever made?

“Baking… I still haven’t finished the German Chocolate Cake.  And Paella.  Never again.”

 

Biggest kitchen mistake?

“Vegetable moussaka and Guastovino’s.  There were 5 different vegetables, all roasted and seared with a tilt skillet.  We would do it by the ton, put a lid on it and put it into the walk-in.  It would take half a day to sear the vegetables.  I went to the walk-in and when I went to open the lid, there was a layer of mold on top.  I wasted an entire day on vegetables.”


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(Charring the rosemary… UNDER the pan directly in the fire)

Worst night cooking?

“Valentine’s Day at Summit Restaurant.  We were booked solid and had a galley kitchen with a single in and out.  It was my first busy night and we were serving a prix fixe.  My sous chef got wasted (“he fell off the wagon”) and was sitting across the street with a paper bag in his hand.  It was a complex menu that could not be done by one person.  It was the one and only night I wanted to cry and I still get the chills thinking about it.  But the good days far outweigh the bad.”

Favorite memory?

“My daughter was on the line with me during her 1st year of life.  She grew up in the restaurant.  I have so many awesome memories of having her there with me.”

What kitchen tool can you not live without?

“Tongs.  They are extension of my hands in the kitchen.  I’m a big ol’ hot beast without them”

What is the most underrated food?

“Skate.  Nobody orders it so I have to eat it so it doesn’t go bad.”

Overrated?

“Filet mignon.  Why eat something with no marbling when you can eat something like a braised short rib?  It’s wedding food.”

If you weren’t a chef, what would you do?

“It has been years since I thought about that…  I couldn’t sit behind a desk. I have too much energy.  Probably carpentry.  It’s creative and hands on and has an end result.  Or design… design and build houses. I like going from concept to execution.”


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(The finished mussels)

What is your opinion on celebrity chefs?

“They have a mystique.  Many were talented chefs before they were celebrities.  But you can make a celebrity chef out of anyone with a good publicist.  But it has made the standards and baseline for a good chef go up.  The staff has a better idea of what happens in the kitchen and it pushes chefs to be better.”

Do you have advice for someone looking to be a chef?

“Take 6 months off from earning money and find the most different construction job you can find, do it for no money… then consider being a chef.  At first, it’s working your ass off, cutting yourself, getting yelled at, not getting paid.  It’s like golf.  There is a lot of anger but then one good shot keeps you coming back.  Come hang out in my kitchen.  Train in a real kitchen and work for free to see what it’s really like.”

What is something that customers don’t know that they should about restaurants?

“The truth about the amount of work that goes into it.  On the Food Network, they see it quick. It all fits into 30 minutes.  They don’t see that I’m here from 7:30am until 1:30am every day.”

Favorite curse word?

“Shit”

Favorite type of meat?

“Lamb”

Where do you eat in NYC?

“Blue Ribbon… The Alley… The Spotted Pig… Minetta… Employees Only… The Frying Pan” (he loves the Frying Pan and has his staff meetings on the top deck)

Best Food City (besides NYC)?

“New Orleans… maybe Chicago”

Favorite smell?

“Bacon… bread is runner up”

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

“On a beach. Cooking and relaxing.”

Last meal?

“Surf and turf”

For my full review of the food at Albert Hall Tavern, see the full post here.


“Off the Menu” Part 1: Interview with Chef Bill Seleno

6 Jul

Welcome to Off the Menu, a new section of NYC Nom Nom, which will feature “behind-the-stove” interviews with the people that make it happen.  I have a certain curiosity for how things operate in restaurants that we, as diners, don’t see.  I spent a summer as a hostess of a popular seafood restaurant at the Jersey Shore (the nice part… no Oompa Loompas present) and that gave me my first glimpse into what happens in a busy kitchen.  I found it both fascinating and terrifying.  I now have a lot of respect for what happens, and am constantly curious to find out how things work from the people that live it every day.

So without further ado, here is the first installment of Off the Menu…

When I asked Chef Bill to be my first interview for my new Off the Menu series on the blog, he said “yes” without hesitation.  As the chef of my new favorite neighborhood restaurant, Albert Hall Tavern, he seemed an obvious choice.  One thing that immediately made me admire Albert Hall Tavern was the staff, and especially Chef Bill, due to their absolute passion for what they were doing.  Bill welcomes me with warm greetings and conversation every time we enter the restaurant.  Between busy orders, he will regale us with conversation about baking German chocolate cake or bring out a sample of something new he just started experimenting with to taste.  We have never been disappointed with being the guinea pigs for his cooking experiments.  His personality is such that I can see him (and want to see him) on a cooking show someday.  You just can’t help but get swept up in his enthusiasm for food.

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(Albert Hall Tavern Entrance)

I came in to speak with Chef Bill for our interview during a weekday dinner at the restaurant.  He was as warm and welcoming as ever, excited to sit down and chat.  I had written out a number of questions for him and launched right in, asking how he went from Architectural school in Georgia to being a chef in New York City.

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(Collection of old liquor bottles in Albert Hall Tavern stairway)

Where It All Began

Chef Bill started by washing dishes at Mill Bakery Eatery and Brewery on Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia.  He was doing a number of jobs at one point; working breakfast on River Street, taking the bus to South Street for lunch, then driving to Tybee island for dinner service.  While he says he burnt out, he also said that “something clicked.  There is a kinetic energy in the kitchen. Multitasking at 5 things at once.” He was hooked.

When I asked him how he came to New York, he said that it was a classic story of “someone who knew someone who knew someone.”  His mom had a customer who had a catering business who connected him to a chef named Peter Johnson in Rye, NY.

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(Bar at Albert Hall Tavern)

Peter Johnson was opening up The Kitchen Sink and needed some hands for his 16-seat restaurant.  He put Bill on the line and taught him everything he knew.  Bill refers to him as an “old hippie” who was “an animal” with unconventional thoughts on cooking and flavors.  Bill said it was a brutal education, but he learned quickly.

Peter Johnson was cooking Pacific Rim and Asian flavor combinations that were unconventional and well before their time, earning The Kitchen Sink a three star review in the New York Times.   (This also earned Bill the bragging rights to say that they had Christmas parties with Donna Karan and all sorts of celebrities during those days).

Bill’s excitement and nostalgia was palpable as he showed me a picture of himself and Peter in the kitchen; Bill with a long pony tail (which is now gone), working in shorts and flip-flops.  Bill went on to explain that there was always tequila in the freezer on this “debaucherous” line and there were no formalities in that kitchen.

It was at this point in the conversation that Bill had to get up and check on things in the kitchen.  When he returned, we both noted that we had been talking for almost and hour and were only on question one.

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(Tables and antique paintings at Albert hall Tavern)

Three Stars to NYC

Bill went on to work at Crew Restaurant in Connecticut with some high school friends.  Crew received three stars from the New York Times and was the first time his name was published as chef.

While Connecticut may be the hot spot (if you’re Martha Stewart) Bill had his sights on NYC and he took a step down to become a line chef at Maamba on 13th and 7th.  While at Maamba, his resume fell into the right hands at to Guastavino’s, which was under the 59th Street Bridge and was Esquire Magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” in 2000.

At Guastavino’s, Bill learned volume.  He wistfully recalled a Mother’s Day where they ran 1,200 meals.  Fortuitously, he also met Artan there, who would come back into Bill’s life years later to build Albert Hall Tavern (but more on that later).  Bill said that every restaurant in NYC has a connection to Guastavino’s.  (Even his new fish supplier recently mentioned that he knew Bill from somewhere…)


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(Dining Room in Albert Hall Tavern)


“The Ivory Coast of Manhattan”

We had a brief chat about Albert Hall’s neighborhood, which is still regarded as less than ideal, being tucked somewhere between Penn Station and Port Authority, on the lesser visited 9th Avenue.  Seeing as though this is where I choose to live and work, Bill and I had a moment of mutual appreciation for a neighborhood that is changing every day.  He mentioned one of his first Hell’s Kitchen memories is of his three year old picking at a stuffed quail from the Hell’s Kitchen Street Fair.  “It’s full circle to own a restaurant here this year.”

Rumors abound that an offshoot of the BLT franchise is moving into the neighborhood (confirmed: Casa Nonna opened a few weeks ago) and there are even murmurings of a Trader Joes (oh heavens!)  We had a good laugh when he called this little strip of New York the “Ivory Coast of Manhattan.” (There was also a great write up about this upcoming neighborhood in The Wall Street Journal recently, highlighting the new places including Albert Hall Tavern)

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(Private Back Room at Albert Hall Tavern)

Albert Hall Tavern: The Beginnings

So how did Albert Hall Tavern come to be?  Bill visited a restaurant for rent in his “Ivory Coast” and fell in love with the space itself on 9th Avenue that now houses Albert Hall Tavern.  After a short lived run as a night club, Bill decided he wanted to create a restaurant that was all his own.

Bill quickly brought Artan (his friend from his Guastovino’s days who now runs Juliet Supper Club amongst many other projects) to visit the space and a partnership was formed.  They wanted to create a place that was an upscale tavern, with solid food and a good vibe.  A place like they went to when they went out.  A place you could sit for hours and feel comfortable. (And we do… often)


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(Taxidermied lion in the private back room at Albert Hall Tavern)

As it turns out, Albert Hall Tavern was personally constructed at the hands of Bill and Artan themselves in just under 3 months.  They started decorating before the lease was signed and Bill hasn’t taken a day off since October.  The decorations are an amassed collection of flea market finds (the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market is open every weekend across the street, and there they found the pages from antique books that now decorate the walls. See photos throughout this post).  They found church pews and pulpits at a closing church in Long Island and they built the tables themselves.  Bill talks about a bakery sign he ripped off the walls in college that now hangs in the dining room.

They opened on New Year’s Eve and were packed until 4am.  (I fortuitously stumbled in just 3 days later)

Bill described his menu as being in waves with the season and is looking forward to adding Farmer’s menu specials as a clip-in.  He wants to keep it simple and comfortable.  It’s a labor of love, with 14-15 hours spent in the restaurant every day.  He called the restaurant “always a work in progress” and said “it will get softer and evolve naturally as the tables and chairs get warn and the locals become part of the operation.”

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(Kitchen entrance at Albert Hall Tavern)

And Then….

When asking Bill about the future, he said that he wanted to Blue Print Albert Hall Tavern and open it up in other parts of town that need this kind of vibe.

To explain Bill’s passion on paper (screen?) is like trying to contain a firecracker.  It just can’t be done.  He said Albert Hall Tavern is his dream come true, with years of work coming to fruition.  While he wishes he could spend more time with his kids, he is living his dream.  And you can taste it.

My interview with Chef Bill was actually so interesting that I would up having to split this into 2 parts… check out Part 2 to read the quick-fire part of our interview.  And for more information about the food at Albert Hall Tavern, see my full review here.

Working My Way Through the Albert Hall Tavern Menu- UPDATED 7/4/11

4 Jul

UPDATE:  Chef Bill is no longer steering the stove at Albert Hall Tavern.  It was a big loss!

 

Having a restaurant I like that has good beer and good people around the corner is a JOY.  And I’m not going to lie… FourSquare tells me I have been there 8 times.  That’s pretty impressive for only having been open for a month now! (UPDATE: I am now far past the 20 visits mark, and it has been open since January 2011.  UPDATE TWO: 36 visits as of 7/4/11)

They now have a full menu (slightly different from what is posted on MenuPages, but close) and I have had the luxury of trying many things on it.  So here is a run-down of my hits and misses:

Spinach Artichoke Dip: I really like this dip.  It has great flavor without being too greasy or heavy.   I kind of enjoyed the little sprinkle of crunch that the homemade potato chips added to this the first time we had it (it has since come without).  Had I not tried it that way originally, I probably wouldn’t think anything were missing.

Nom Points: 7 out of 10 (would be 7.5 with the chips)

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Roasted Cauliflower and Stilton Soup: The cauliflower soup alone would be delicious, but the stilton cheese brings it to a whole new level.

Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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New England Clam Chowder: It looks so unassuming…

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But look at that clam!  This was delicious and there was no skimping on the good stuff.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Bibb Lettuce: This comes with braised artichokes, duck prosciutto and lemon vinaigrette with duck cracklings.

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Those cracklings are worth every bite and every penny.   I do wish it had some sort of soft cheese to compliment all that duck.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 ouf of 10

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Pork Belly Tonnato: I LOVE pork belly.  I do wish, however, that our waitress had forewarned us that this was cold.  It turns out that I DO NOT like cold pork belly.  I couldn’t get over the idea that I was eating cold pork.  I wanted this to be melty fat and crispy skin, but it fell flat for me.  Not a fan.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

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As for the entrees…

Macaroni and Cheese: Plain ol’ mac and cheese with lots of cheesy goodness… like your momma makes it.   If you like it classic (which I do) and packed with cheese flavor (which I also do), this is WORTH IT.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Gnocchi: This comes with raisins, fennel, and crisp lamb sweetbreads in a smoked leek fondue.  Sweetbreads aren’t for everyone, and I can’t say I’m a fan, but once in a while they are delicious.  In this dish they worked, but I’m not sure if this is what I’d be running back for.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Skillet Burger:  I liked this burger.  It came with a Jack Daniels (I think) dipping sauce which was awesome on the fries (which I’m pretty sure are made with duck fat and truffel).  I would have preferred if the bun was a little more delicious, but the meat had nice char and was cooked well.  I always find it hard to judge a burger, but this was above average.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (for the burger) and 8.5 out of 10 (for the fries)

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Fish and Chips: I would say that serving fish and chips on brown paper is dangerous because it shows grease, however, this fish was lightly fried and not at all greasy.  I wish the fries were a bit crisper, but I thought this was pretty enjoyable.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Branzino: This came with lemon and garlic sauce.  It didn’t mention that it was a whole fish on the menu.  It was tasty, though the sauce was a bit strong for my tastes.  I LOVE Branzino and this was simple and delicious and let those great flavors show.

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But it did come with a head (much to the dismay of my eating companion that evening).

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And then the big problem…. WAY too many bones.  Every single bite left me carefully chewing and reaching into my mouth to take bones out.  I don’t mind a little work, but this was WAY too excessive and left me enjoying my fish a lot less than I should have. (UPDATE: Chef Bill tells me he now serves this with many less bones.  Will have to try the new version soon.)

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10 (this probably would have been a 7 or 7.5 if not for the bone problem)

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Citrus and Thyme Roasted Half Chicken:  This was VERY citrusy, and the blood orange was a lovely touch.  It was quite moist but I wouldn’t say it was outstanding.  I wish the skin were crispier, but the sauce was interesting and delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Shank Special:  Why this isn’t on the regular menu… I do not know.  HANDS DOWN the best entree we had here (though the steak the first time around was REALLY good).  It was so tender, great sauce, hearty portion, and the mashed potatoes were FANTASTIC.   This should be a menu staple.  It’s just too good to risk not being there.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Now onto dessert!

Hard Cider and Fig Baked Custard: This was yummy but very mild in flavor.  I don’t know if I’d go back to this, but I’m glad I tried it.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

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Black Walnut Brownie: Classic style brownie.  Crispy on the outside, dense on the inside.  Tasty, especially with strawberries.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Cherry Pie: This was everyone’s favorite dessert.  The crust was well flaked, inside well balanced between sweet and tart, and I would go back for more of this in a heartbeat!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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I had previous blogged about the tuna tartare, mussels, duck & fig rillette, the ribeye steak, and the roasted veggies.  Here is a quick recap so it’s all in one place.

Tuna Tartare:  Delicious but WAY too peppery (and a little heavy on the capers).  Distracted from the delicate flavors of the tuna and quail egg.  A narrow miss of what would have been a great dish. Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Steamed Mussels: AMAZING.  This is the #1 dish to order when you are there.  The black garlic and charred rosemary in the sauce means that if anyone tries to take that bowl away before you get a chance to soak it all up with crusty bread, cut off their hand.  Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Duck & Fig Rillette: I appreciated how good this was, but I wouldn’t say it’s high on my list of favorites.  The fig and duck were perfect compliments, but the more I eat it, the more I realized I’m just not a rillette/pate kinda gal.  Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Ribeye Steak: The steak itself had great char and was delicious, however, what really made this dish stand out was the 3 sauces you could dip into.  The au poivre sauce was especially delicious. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Barrel Roasted Winter Vegetables: I’m not sure what magic barrel they used, but it brought out all the great flavors of these veggies. Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I have also tried the bone marrow, which is really delicious served with beets and deviled beef.  Highly recommended.  Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

So what would my perfect meal be at Albert Hall Tavern from the items I have tried?  Mussels, Cauliflower Soup, Bibb Salad, and the Lamb Shank.

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UPDATE:

I have since tried many more dishes on the menu.  Here are some highlights:

Suckling Pig: This was cooked to perfection.  Crispy skin, fantastic mashed potatoes, and those vegetables were something special!  Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Shepherd’s Pie: This was packed with flavor and the mashed potatoes on the top were very well crisped and flavored.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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The inside was a treat that was certainly based in tradition but with bumped up flavor.  Delicious! And very filling.

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Scallops:  These came with braised endive celery root puree and tomato citrus vinaigrette.  I LOVED the puree and was very glad to have a semi-healthy side where most people would normally have served buttery potatoes.  The scallops were juicy, flavorful, and seared very well.  I’ve had this dish 2 times since.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Bangers and Mash: This is a very new item on the menu and we actually had the first plate served.  (Go us!)  It was sensational.  The caramelized shallots on top and the sauce were fantastic.  And the bangers (English Sausage) were so filled with flavor and so fresh that we couldn’t stop talking about them.  The potatoes were great (and I don’t even like mashed potatoes!)  I would add this to the ideal menu here.  One of my faves!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Potato and Leek Tart: This wound up being much BIGGER than we anticipated.  The flavors were great and the greens on top made it taste fresh.  A very nice vegetarian option.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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And Chef Bill informed me that he had been making tweaks to the dessert menu.  His tweaks have all put dessert in the right direction.  Everything I have tasted recently has been a huge improvement over the desserts prior (which were fine, but average).  In fact, we enjoyed the new tiramisu so much, that this is all that was left of it… 

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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(Hopefully I’ll have a new picture to replace that with soon)

Upon discussing desserts, Chef Bill very kindly brought out a brand new dessert for us to try, on the house, that wasn’t on the menu. Passion Fruit Custard.  This was sensational.  The custard itself was great, but both my dinner guest and I RAVED about how the whipped cream was perfect.   Yum!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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7/4/11 UPDATE:
Brunch- French Toast with Lemon Marscapone: This was very well cooked and the fresh fruit on the side was a great touch.  I like when my french toast has a bit of crips on the outside and then a fully saturated, but not soggy, inside.  This was exactly that.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Brunch- Full English Breakfast:  This was a FULL plate with fried eggs, bacon, blood sausage, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and toast.  The grilled tomato was shockingly good, and it’s hard to beat blood sausage.  This is a hearty, good meal.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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“David’s” Chicken Liver Mousse: This came with cornichons and country bread and whole grain mustard.  I’m sure this scared a lot of people off, but live mousse topped with salty fat, spread on crunchy bread… yeah, in my opinion it doesn’t get much better than that.  And it doesn’t get much better than this version.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Golden Watermelon: This was a pickled, yellow watermelon with goat cheese and bin the summer.  asil oil.  This was so light and refreshing.  Very nice if you want a small bite for summer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Lamb Roast:  This came with a mint basil sauce over asparagus.  It was bursting with flavor and the sauce on top was a perfect compliment for the lamb.  I can’t say it’s what I expected from a “roast” but it was delicious.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Scallop Crudo: New to the menu for summer, the scallop crudo with meyer lemon and herbs is refreshing, delicious, and as fresh as can be.  Yum.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Hamachi Crudo: One day they were out of scallop crudo, but they had hamachi crudo.  This was even more summary, topped with beautiful, edible flowers and the perfect amount of citrus.  Double Yum!

Total Nom Points: 7 .5 out of 10

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Soft Shell Crab: These very lightly fried softshell crabs are on top of jicama and carrot salad (shredded and mixed with a mild sauce of mustard, ketchup, and vinegar… which tasted MUCH better than it sounded) and wrapped in fresh cucumber.  This mixed so well together, with the bite of the salad (and slight spice) nicely complimenting the rich textures of the soft shell crab and then slightly cooled and refreshed by the cucumber.  Fantastic.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Oysters:  I would be remiss if I never mentioned the oysters.  We get these often and they are always fresh with great flavor.  One of my alltime favorite summer bites.

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Roasted Peaches: A new dessert on the menu. these peaches are perfectly roasted with an amarreto sauce and marscapone.  Delicately sweet and the roasting perfectly pulled out the flavor in the peaches.  We really enjoyed this.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Albert Hall Tavern- Lunch

18 Apr

We have been to Albert Hall for dinner (many times), and even had a few brunches, however, lunch was a new adventure.  They just started serving lunch a few weeks ago and their menu is quite good.  They have a lot of my favorites, and they add really good sandwiches.  (I wish they had these as a brunch option too!)  

We had our team lunch at Albert Hall and all decided to try the sandwiches.  They all came with the delicious duck fat truffle fries that we love so much.

This was the grilled chicken sandwich.  It came with braised bacon, roasted red beets and black garlic butter.  The combination was great, though the bread was actually too thick to eat in any polite fashion.   

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The upskirt…

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Next up was the short ribs sandwich with gorgonzola and baby arugula.   While delicious, the bread really overpowered the awesome flavor that I love so much when we get these short ribs as a side to the bone marrow here.

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This sandwich was the skillet ribeye with caramelized shallots and leek fondue.  We all tried each others, and this was declared the unanimous winner.  Chef Bill knows his way around a shallot!

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Overall, lunch at Albert Hall is a great choice.  You can’t go wrong with the options, and I have been back many times (typically ordered the Bibb lettuce salad).  There aren’t many sit down choices in the area, so it’s nice to have a comfortable place to grab a bite in the no man’s land that is 9th Avenue between Penn Station and Port Authority.

Psst… the post summarizing all the dishes from Albert Hall has been updated.  Check it out!

Albert Hall Tavern- Back for Brunch

9 Mar

Yes… I am writing another post about Albert Hall Tavern.  I can’t let new meals come up and not try them!

We managed to get there to try their brunch.  I was hoping a bit for some bumped up, fancy brunch choices.  But it’s mostly just the classics here.  Here’s the menu:

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Then they have a number of items from their dinner menu.

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Mike chose to get the smoked salmon bagel, which came with capers and smoked cream cheese.  The salmon was REALLY fresh and full of flavor.

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They had no fried potatoes of any kind (bummer), so we split my second favorite hangover brunch food… a side of the bacon (extra crispy).

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I got the eggs benedict with Canadian Bacon and “tomato hollandaise.” I’m not sure what made the hollandaise tomato, but it was good.  And the ham and eggs were cooked perfectly.  I wish it were served on a potato pancake, but that’s probably just my incredible fascination with fried potatoes during brunch.

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Albert Hall Tavern is one of the very few places in the neighborhood that do all-day brunch.  It has a lot of classic items, and while I like a little more panache in my brunch, this was still a very good classic brunch menu with well cooked comfort food.  (I just wish they had damn good potatoes! Or something like The Heap from Thumbs Up Diner.  I feel like Chef Bill could do a damn good heap)

Albert Hall Tavern- Back For More

11 Jan

After the fantastic first impression at Albert Hall Tavern on Friday, Mike was raring to try it and I couldn’t wait to go back and have a full meal. We didn’t have dinner plans for Sunday night, so we set a date to check out their dinner menu.

The staff said to choose our seat, so I picked the table next to the shelf of books in the corner.  We enjoyed checking out the titles on the shelf throughout the meal, most of which were cookbooks.

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The decor inside is cool, but completely unidentifiable.  They have old pages of books (or catalogs?) glued to the wall in a pretty cool way (the shelves with the books was all old cookbooks).  Then there are Victorian looking pictures of women (mostly) on the wall.

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It looks pretty eclectic and interesting, and I enjoy the black and red motif.

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The menu is quite eclectic, and I have trouble putting my finger on how to describe it.  Our waiter went with “avante-garde gastro pub.”  I’ll go with it.

They actually didn’t have many things on the menu, including some of the things I was dying to try (from the Bar and Pasta section).  They were also OUT of the hamburger, much to Mike’s dismay.  Turns out they had a run of people from the Javitz Center and were plum out of burgers, and many of the beers we were hoping to try.  Oh well!  Can’t blame them since they have only been open one week!

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When we asked about the interesting “specials” section, the waiter informed us that they would actually be doing all-day breakfast since this neighborhood is lacking in that (You can say that again!)  I guess this is all a work in progress.  I look forward to seeing how it changes and what they add!

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We decided to split a number of things to try as much as possible.

First we tried the tuna tartare with a quail egg.  This was a great combo of flavors, however, I found it a bit over peppered.  It distracted from the mild flavors of the tuna.

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I did enjoy the quail egg, however, and wished there were more than one.

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Our next order was by recommendation of our awesome waiter, James.  (If you go, ask for him. He’s awesome and you can tell he really loves food).  He told us that the mussels with charred rosemary and black garlic was really great.  He explained that black garlic is grown in caves so it doesn’t turn white and that the rosemary was charred and then steamed to release the flavors.  (I really appreciated his passion for talking about food).

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The moment I tried these ridiculously fresh tasting mussels, I was sold.  The broth was absolutely FANTASTIC.  We had one full clove of the black garlic and it was insanely good.  I honestly wanted to bathe in the broth.  We made no hesitation of asking for crusty bread (which, smartly, comes from Amy’s Bread) to soak up as much of the sauce as possible.  I wish it came with and we didn’t have to ask for it, but these are the little kinks that I’m sure they will figure out very soon.  The cook later told us that people threatened to chop off arms if the bussers tried to take the empty dish away before it was cleaned of all its sauce.

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Next up, the chef brought out duck rillettes with figs.  This was delish.

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The fig was a perfect foil for the duck, which was almost like pulled duck that then got packed back together.  When we asked the chef about it, he said he wanted to go back to the French basics, had some extra duck, so brought it to us off the menu.  (A FANTASTIC chef that sees the opportunity in doing this… and delivers a great dish).

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We opted to split the 12 ounce Ribeye.  The car was delicious, and I like that they put nice sauteed onions on top.

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It came with 3 sauces.  The white sauce tasted like a bernaise, the dark brown like an au jus, and the light brown one was delicious, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The waiter informed us that it was an au poivre.  I always think of an au poivre as being overly spicy, so much so that it distracts from all over flavors.  This, on the other hand, had  a perfect sweetness to it that brought out everything that is fantastic about steak.

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We also ordered a side of barrel roasted winter vegetables.  Who knew vegetables could taste THAT good? (And I love veggies)  These were just perfect.  Incredibly flavorful.  I had to wonder where this guy buys his veggies.

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After this incredible meal, I couldn’t wait to try dessert.  This, however, was where the magic ended.  Since the chef is making everything himself, he hasn’t gotten to desserts yet.  I was thisclose to offering to bring over some confections for the next few weeks because… seriously… dessert is IMPORTANT!  (Note: if anyone from Albert Hall is reading, the offer still stands.  I make a mean meringue.)

I am THRILLED to have this place right around the corner.  There are no go-to places in this neighborhood and I love that they have a great draft beer selection.  Mike and I have already discussed about heading there once a week.  From start to finish, it just felt comfortable and homey there.

Beyond the fantastic food, the staff is wonderful.  Our bartender on Friday took great care of us and our waiter was impressively informative (even if it was steering us away from the food that wasn’t stellar) and we really enjoyed chatting with him.  We even chatted with a chef for a bit on the way out and found out that he sources his food from all the great local butchers and farm stands in the area.  We also agreed with his statement that he was surprised that there aren’t more restaurants in this area with all the fantastic ingredients available so close.  He even commented about how much he enjoys getting meat from my favorite butcher on the corner, Esposito’s Pork Shop.

Overall, this place has been fantastic from top to bottom so far.  I look forward to their expanding menu, when they open up the private room in the back for suckling pig roasts, and eating and drinking here much more often.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Albert Hall Tavern- A new, fantastic arrival

7 Jan

There are VERY few places that I dine at and then run right home to blog about.  In fact, this may very well be the first time (I left this place 15 minutes ago).  Albert Hall Tavern is located at 508 9th Ave (between 38th and 39th Streets).  Their site (www.alberthalltavern.com) isn’t yet live (which is hardly surprisingly, since they have been open less than ONE WEEK).  Their phone number is 646-490-4803, however, if you want to get in touch.

I live in a neighborhood that isn’t well known for go-to dining establishments.  Sure, there are delicious places in Times Square, and there are a number of Hell’s Kitchen restaurants that are go-to, but the area on 9th Avenue near Port Authority isn’t exactly known as a mecca for cuisine.

So when Mike and I noticed that a new tavern was opening up in a space that was recently a short lived velvet rope night club (non-sensical for this area), we checked out the menu.  It looked great.  Some really delicious sounding dishes (bone marrow, short rib ravioli, a Thursday special just called “pig”) and a nice looking inside (that we could see when we peered through the window) made us both say to each other, “we need to try this place.” (They opened on New Year’s Eve.)

So tonight, when my coworkers wanted to go out for happy hour, I suggested we try the new place. When we walked in, it seemed a little fancy, but with a great draft beer selection and some good rock music (the kind you just love to sing along to) playing. 

We quickly noticed that they had an interesting selection of beers, most of which we couldn’t pronounce, but sounded promising.  Our bartender (Brian, I think) mentioned that he appreciated our selections and quickly poured us our taps.  We all tried our beers and made various “wow” type sound.  We all mentioned how much we were each enjoying our various selections, however, one stood out;  Adam chose a German wheat beer, Weihenstephan.  Turns out, it’s the oldest brewery in the world (nearly 1,000 years old!) We all wound up ending with this beer and enjoying it thoroughly.

We also asked for the bone marrow appetizer, which included beets and braised beef.  (SOLD!)  It came and we all managed to give the bones extra scrapes, and commented on how delicious the braised beef was.  It was heavenly.   From start to finish.

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We struck up a conversation with our bartender about visiting the south (where he’s from) and I think we were all taken aback by how “at home” we immediately felt in this place.

One of the managers came up to us soon after and brought us artichoke dip, compliments of the chef.

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We were immediately impressed by the (obviously) homemade potato chips on top.  While we all wanted to dip them, they were too fragile, so they acted as a perfect crunchy topping as we ate this with our forks. 

I was thoroughly impressed.  As someone that LOVES artichokes and has eaten artichoke dip in many restaurants, I was really intrigued at how fresh the artichokes were, how unique this dip was, and how it didn’t have any of that mealy texture that is so popular in artichoke dip.  I’m not sure there was spinach in this.  It just tasted like fresh artichokes and cheese.

FAN. tastic.

We wound up chatting with the manager and the owner, and found out the future plans include making the back into a “game room” where they plan to serve whole suckling pigs to private parties.  They plan on making brunch a big deal in the next few weeks and plan on being open for lunch soon. 

I was so impressed by this place.  Fantastic beer selection, the food we tried was unique and delicious, and the staff was so hospitable and friendly.  It’s the kind of place I can see finally becoming my neighborhood go-to. 

They have shrimp by the pound where you can get a whole meal for about $10.  And we were advised to try their oysters.

When Mike got home from work, I actually debated turning right around and going back for dinner.

I’m sure I will be back soon.

Go. Now. Before the secret is out.