Tag Archives: foie gras

The New Champion: Eleven Madison Park- Part 2

13 Dec

Welcome back to our incredible meal at Eleven Madison Park. If you haven’t read Part 1 of our number one meal of all time, please go back there and come back here when you’re done!

So where were we?

Oh yes… we had just had some salsify and realized our cocktails were, sadly, empty.  So it was time for wine (while I was tempted by the wine pairing, I was nervous that I would be too drunk at the end to really enjoy and remember the meal… so we went for a bottle instead).  We told the sommelier that our favorite white wines were Vouvray and Russian River Chardonnay.  He mentioned that we had diverse flavors and we discussed trying something that was interesting. He recommended we try a WHITE Rioja. I hadn’t heard of a white Rioja, but we were game.  It came in netting. How fun!  

The wine tasted great and complimented the whole meal well. Must keep white Rioja in mind!

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But now… back to the meat grinder!

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We were soon given a tray of a whole bunch of mini bowls.  From left to right and top to bottom, there was an apple mustard, sunflower seeds, quail egg, dried blue fish, chives, whole grain mustard, horse radish, apple, and salt (the same special salt as before). In the little squeeze bottles were an apple oil and the other was a horse radish oil of some kind.

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It was also served with slices of rye bread.

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But what was going into the meat grinder?  Never would have expected this…

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Fresh New York carrots were ground for us right at the table into “carrot tartare.”

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It made a great consistency that was neither mushy nor crunchy, but exactly the same texture as tartare. How interesting!

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You then mix in however much of anything you want and enjoy.

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I really enjoyed the taste of the quail egg with the carrot.

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Our next course was one of my absolute favorites. It was lobster with poached leeks, black onion, and a shellfish bisque. I also think one of the waiters mentioned it had black garlic in it (one of my favorite flavors). This was everything right.  The leeks had a delicious char flavor and the lobster was so sweet and flavorful.  It all went so well together and I couldn’t believe how elevated this dish was. (Come on! How do you possibly elevate LOBSTER?! Amazing!)

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As we were finishing up, we were presented with our 140 day aged beef.

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And we saw the duck (that we didn’t choose) presented to the table next door. It was lavender and honey coated.

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While we awaited our beef, we were presented with a roasted parsnip with sesame, parsley, and dijon.  It had a parsnip chip on top.  I am not a huge parsnip fan, but this was a really fantastic presentation and all the textures made it very interesting. I was impressed that a parsnip could be made to taste this good.

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Once we finished our parsnip, a bowl of magic was put in front of us.  I cannot do justice to the smell (and taste) that came from this bowl. It was an introduction to the flavors we would be having next, a beef broth made with the same seasonings as our next course. It was a nostalgic flavor that brought me immediately back to my Great Grandmother’s kitchen. It was a memory I didn’t even know I had. Smell is a magical thing.

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After our incredible broth, we were given our beef course.  It was grilled with mushrooms (the likes of which was a variety I have never seen), amaranth, and arugula.  The amaranth is a tiny North American grain that was toasted and added a perfect little crispiness to this dish.  It was served with a sauce with the same flavors as the broth.

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On the side was a braised oxtail with foie gras and potato.  The oxtail was the texture of short ribs and incredibly rich in flavor.  The foie gras and the potato had such a great flavor, and it was all a bit reminiscent of a (brilliant) shepherds pie with that potato/meaty combo.

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The rib eye steak itself was absolutely incredible.  Charred and perfectly cooked, with an amazing sauce.  Every bite made me do the “happy belly dance.”

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What came next was one of my favorite parts of the whole meal. It started with a porcelain plate that perfectly resembled a paper plate.

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And then out came a mystery basket they called a “Greensward.”  

They said everything we would need was in the basket, except we may need a bottle opener, which they provided.

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We took a peak

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Inside was a beer, a soft pretzel, cheese, grapes, and plum mustard.  

I commented that the restaurant was like Christmas, because you just got to keep opening up presents.

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The beer was a special brew from Ithaca Beer Co. and we really enjoyed it. It was perfect with everything.

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I went to Ithaca College and always liked this brewery. I’m so glad it’s growing and now showing up all over the place in NYC!

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The plum mustard was a bit much for me (not a mustard fan), but Mike liked it.

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The cheese was served inside a mystery box…

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… and the cheese smell when you opened it was awesome.

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The grapes and pretzel went perfectly with the cheese and beer.  It was just a perfect picnic basket and totally FUN!

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After we were done with our picnic, they wheeled over a cart and started mixing up their take on the egg cream.  It was made with vanilla malt and fresh seltzer right in front of us.

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a real egg cream, but I can tell you that I never have had, nor probably will ever have again, an egg cream as good as this. It was a little glass of heaven.

It was a great conversion from our savory courses to our desserts. 

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Our first dessert came out and looked like autumn on a plate. It was poached pear with honey and acorn. (Acorn?) I don’t know what acorn tastes like, but if that was what we ate, I think I want to be a squirrel.

This was perfect. Everything I could possibly want. Totally my kind of dessert. I absolutely loved this combination.

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And then we had some excellent coffee.

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And started our last course: sheep’s milk cheesecake and port with walnut ice cream. I really loved the walnut ice cream. It was very mildly walnut flavored, but identifiable so.  The port and the cheesecake mixed so well with everything.

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And then Mike cheated.

He noticed that the plate below his dessert was moving around and he lifted it to find a little chocolate in a dish below.

At which point our poor waitress (noticing he made this discovery) ran over (with grace) and asked us to cut a deck of cards. She spread them out and then did some magic and gave us each a card.

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Mike’s card was blackberry… 

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…which was MYSTERIOUSLY the chocolate he had discovered.

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Mine was espresso…

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…which was my chocolate (surprise!)  What a novel and fun way to end such a novel and fun meal!

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And then our meal ended just how it began… with a perfect little pastry box all tied up.

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And inside was another set of black and white cookies, but these were of the sweet variety.  They were apricot and something else, but Mike’s handwriting (he was the note taker for this meal while I photographed) is unreadable at this point (I’m blaming the booze!)

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But then… there was one more.

It started with this homemade apple brandy being placed on our table, with the comment that we could drink as much of it as we wanted… I really enjoyed it, but damn was it STRONG! I only had a couple sips, but I enjoyed it.

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And then out came two perfect chocolate covered pretzels to end the meal.

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We marveled over the incredible adventure of a meal we just had. It was such a journey filled with fun surprises and every single bite was fantastic.  Usually tasting menus are filled with a few memorable bites and some other things you don’t remember.  Even the best ones.  Even a couple days later, we still have moments where we recall a whole bunch of courses from the meal and marvel at how amazing they were.

When the bill came, our server informed us that they had taken the drinks off the bill because they were late. I was really impressed that they went to this level of service to remove the cocktails.  But upon reflect, I think they might have taken the cocktails AND the bottle of wine off the bill.  I almost feel bad about it, because I’m not sure if they meant to do that. I have no idea! 

The service from start to finish was fantastic. There was only the 2 little blips with the cocktails being delayed a bit and then the one egg dish coming out without a description, but I can hardly remember those when put in light of the rest of the meal. Our server, specifically, was impeccable in every way.

As we stood up to go, we were given two cute little boxes to take home.

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In our little boxes was a sweet note for a Happy Anniversary.

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And 2 chocolates to take home. (We ate these a few days later and HOLY CRAP! They were so insanely good. It was like a spark of the meal we had and brought back all those awesome memories).

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Then a final bag with a jar of the chef’s favorite breakfast granola for the next morning.  (It is probably the best granola I’ve ever had and I just love when a restaurant sends me home with something awesome for the morning)

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What an amazing meal! I don’t know if I could say it enough. It was just freakin’ fantastic.

And we had no doubt as we left that it was the best meal we’ve ever had.

WD-50 has been our Number One restaurant for 4.5 years (even after a 2nd try!) and I really didn’t think anything could possibly top that.

But Eleven Madison Park topped them all.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go immediately to Eleven Madison Park for the meal of a lifetime. (Okay… maybe save it for a special occasion, but GO!)

And I am giving it a perfect 10.

Total Nom Points:  10 out of 10

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Ma Peche and Momofuku Milk Bar

31 Jul

 

I had a very good experience last time I was at Ma Peche, and it’s hard to believe it has been nearly 2 years and I still hadn’t taken Mike.   We had night plans in the neighborhood, so we made a reservation.  It wasn’t an easy task avoiding peppers last time, and this time proved to also be quite a challenge. Luckily, our waiter was helpful (if not a big miffed that I had such an obviously annoying request).

The menu has been changing lately, so here is a view of the menu that night:

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The space itself still has that kind of awe-inspiring look to it.  It just looks very grand and yet very welcoming.

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Mike started with the steamed bun that had lobster, maitake, and chicarron.  It was tasty but not memorable.

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We then tried the foie gras and it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted almost as beautifully!  It came with malt, papaya, and brioche and the papaya was just about the most perfect foil for foie gras I could ask for.  Yum.

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Can’t help but love the sense of design on the plate too.

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We then had the striped bass with mushroom, miso, and bone marrow.  It was quite tasty, though I’m not sure if I loved the bone marrow with fish combo.

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And the duck, with orange, pistachio, and rutabega. It was cooked perfectly, though I would have loved a bit more crisp in that skin and some extra sauce.

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And then we went upstairs to Milk Bar and tried ourselves some blondie pie (good but not great) and a milk shake that I cannot recall.  It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t find anything I’m especially enamored with personally. I don’t know why, but I’m never as impressed by Milk Bar as I think I’m going to be. Pity.

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Overall, I would say my previous meal at Ma Peche was definitely better than this one, but you just can’t beat the impressiveness of this David Chang establishment.  I’m surprised I don’t hear more about it, since it’s in an area severely lacking in interesting places to dine (sans tourists). As for Milk Bar, I think I’m still in search of “my dessert” there.

Ma Peche Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Milk Bar Overall Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

 

 

A Restaurant is Born: Menu Sneak Peak

14 Feb

As Chef Bill and I sat at a table chatting about his concept and menu, I couldn’t help but look down with a hint of sadness at the tater tots we ordered.  I love tater tots, but they just seemed to get more and more boring as Bill described his menu.  Each dish sounded more delicious than the previous one. He’s using molecular gastronomy to elevate the food and to make it downright fun.  Here are some highlights that got me especially excited:

Appetizers/Salads:

Bone Marrow Sliders with Tomato Dust on Brioche: Chef Bill is looking forward to hand selecting the fats and the meats that go into his slider and burger dishes.  Usually, you choose a well marbled cut of meat and you go with the ratio of fat that is organically within that cut.  Chef Bill plans to combine a lean cut of meat and grind it up with the right amount of a delicious fat: bone marrow.  He set about solving the burger “leaking” problem with this dish: No matter how fast you get from kitchen to table, some fat and blood leaks onto the bun or onto the plate.  His solution: he will be making an acetate sheet from mustard and using the broiler to shrink the sheet around the burger to seal in all the juices (he affectionately called this method “Shrinky Dinking”). He plans on making his own ketchup and turning it into a dust, and making his own pickles, liquefying them, and then spherifying (making a liquid into a sphere that resembles caviar) them so they will be an intense punch of pickle flavor as you bite in.

Seared Duck, Butternut Squash Soup with Pear Parisian in Glass:  He plans to serve the squash soup in a shallow bowl with soft slices of duck breast fanned out on the side of the plate.  He will then make pear balls and dip them in a gelee that includes star anise and Asian 5 spice.  The soup will be dotted with these balls so that they glisten like marbles in the bowl.  (Since the restaurant will be opening in May, it may not be butternut squash due to seasonality, but this is TBD)

Chipotle Pork Belly with Pickled Parsnips and Smoked Paprika Fondant Over Parmesan Polenta: The plan is to cure the pork belly and finish it with a chipotle glaze that resemebles a mole. It will add a smokey, spicy heat to cut through the richness of the pork belly.  He will use fondant (that is somewhat sweet) made with smoked paprika (so it’s red) that will wrap an über rich and simple polenta in a bundle.  It will be topped with short rib and finished with pickled parsnips to cut through the richness.  (To say that I am sad that this will be something I can never eat is an understatement.  To all you pepper eaters, I can’t wait for a full review).

Seared Foie Gras Over Pear Panna Cotta with Port Gelatin and Bitter Chocolate Biscotti: Foie gras will be seared and served with a pear panna cotta that retains the “grittyness” of the pear so it tastes like, well… a pear. He will wrap the pear panna cotta in a port reduction gelee so that it has a red outside and white inside, like a poached pear.  It will be finished with a bitter chocolate biscotti with pistachios.  This will be a great combination of sweet, bitter, and buttery flavors.

Waldorf Salad: Because what says 1920’s better than Waldorf Salad?  Dressing pearls, spherified apples macerated in brandy, frozen grapes, and black toasted walnuts will bring it into this decade (if not the future).

Entrées:

Seared Skate, Caper Powder, Celeryroot Mousseline and Crisp Lemon Cured Sweetbreads: I have known for a while that Bill has a “thing” for skate. It’s not a popular fish, but one thing that we agree on is that it should be.  It will be seared so it’s crispy and melts in your mouth. It will be served with dehydrated caper dust, celery root mousseline, and sweet breads cured with lemon and fennel pollen and then fried. A microgreen will be included to add a fresh and “living aspect” to the plate to balance the rich, gamy flavors.

Lamb Loin with Pistachio Crusted Chevre and Red Wine Braised Cabbage: Farm raised lamb loin (from the Berkshires) will be seared with salt and pepper to bring out its natural flavors. It will be served with a lamb demi-glace, braised red wine cabbage (to add some tartness), clove and bay leaf. It will be served with goat cheese that will be freeze dried in pistachio dust so when you break into it it will emulsify the cabbage demi-glace to create a vichyssoise sauce once you cut into it.

Roasted Monkfish Loin, Hazelnut/Prosciutto Brittle, Double Stout/Coconut Cream: The monkfish will be crusted with fennel pollen and roasted. It will be served with a hazelnut, prociutto brittle so it is crispy with a toasted hazelnut flavor.  The stout cream is made with creme fraiche, Belhaven stout reduction, and Malibu Rum (to avoid coconut allergies).

Braised Beef Shortrib with Spiced Tomato Bourbon Jam and Potato Puree: The short rib will be cooked with the sous-vide technique and served with a potato puree (because, in the words of Chef Bill, “You just don’t fuck with that!”)  It will be served with a spiced tomato bourbon jam and then a shot of bourbon will be added at the end to give it that slight burn.

Duck Confit, Brie and Avocado Brick, Cucumber/Mango flute, and Apricot/Curry Sauce: The duck confit will be cooked in a classic way, but everything served with it will be anything but classic.  Brie and avocado will be freeze dried and compressed into a layered brick to give a textured  bite (like a tough marshmallow).  It will be served with a cone of sliced mango and cucumber on the side which will be filled with an apricot curry sauce.  The sauce is cooked by “burning the shit” out of onions until they become like charcoal, then roasting the apricots on top of them.  It will be colorful and fun, but based on fundamental ingredients.

Steamed Mussels with Grilled Rosemary and Black Garlic Over Pappardelle: Of all the items on the menu, THIS has me the most excited.  The menu item that originally made me fall in love with Bill’s cooking was the mussels he served at Albert Hall Tavern that came with grilled rosemary and black garlic.  I wanted to bathe in that sauce… it was so good.  We would always ask for extra bread to sop up that amazing sauce.  So the idea of serving this over pappardelle (my favorite pasta) sounds like a dream come true.  As Bill said, “it’s sex in a bowl.”  He commented that there are a few dishes that you look back on and think to yourself “yeah… that one worked” and give yourself a good pat on the back.  He says he has probably created thousands of dishes but this one really stands out.  (I CANNOT WAIT!)

He plans on adding more vegetarian dishes and he recognized that all restaurants had some type of fruit cocktail on their menu in the 1920’s.  He plans to do his own spin on this with some unique flavors like avocado and tropical fruits.

Chef Bill is not a dessert person, so he will be bringing in a pastry chef. It’s extra cost, but he wants to throw everything he can into this restaurant so it’s the best it can be.  He plans on having foods that came into fashion in the 1920’s be especially prevalent on the dessert menu.

I absolutely cannot wait to try every last bite.

WD WOW

16 Aug

Mike told me he was taking me to WD~50 for my birthday dinner a few weeks ago.  I was quite excited, but also worried that it wouldn’t live up to its hype.  Well… it lived up to its hype… and THEN SOME!  WOW!

The front of the restaurant was so unassuming.  A small green awning on a brick building with a little neon wd50 sign in the corner.  It was in the Lower East Side on Clinton Street between Stanton and Rivington Streets. 

In the basement, by the bathrooms, was a wine cellar.  While I was there taking pictures, I was jokingly accused of “being a spy.”  Oh if only I could get past humble notions and think that some day, Wylie Dufresne would be worried that my blog would be some sort of threatening enterprise.

WD~50 was made top of mind famous (at least from my perspective) with Wylie’s appearance on Top Chef.  I had read many blogs, articles, and foodie fan write-ups of Wylie’s perspective on Molecular Gastronomy and his amazing food, however, it was really his appearance on Top Chef that amassed my guilty pleasure notion of wanting to try his restaurant.  I knew my boyfriend knew me well when he made reservations about a month in advance to take me to WD~50 for my birthday.  

We began with quite an offering… with the Tasting Menu order, there was a 50% discount on any bottle of wine.  While there was a wine pairing with the tasting menu, the waitress told us that the 50% discount was “quite a deal” so we went for it.  With a lot of help from the Sommelier and browsing through the vast menu (that had an odd pair of vertical lips below the cover of the menu), we selected a white and a red.

The white was the Malvasia ‘Selezione’ Edi Kante 2000: Friuli, Italy ~ malvasia
caramelized peach, white currant, floral ($105.00… aka $52.50 with the deal).  We chose it because the description from the someliere referred to it being made in a “cave” and reminded us of our favorite wine discovery, a Domaine du Viking Vouvray that described to us as being brewed by a crazy man only during full moons.   It was a GREAT selection and we thoroughly enjoyed it (though the smell was sour-ish, we loved the taste).

We chose the red early, even though we decided to wait until more than halfway through the meal for the more “hearty” dishes to start drinking it.  This wine was an absolutely incredible winner.  It was a Syrah ‘Kalen’s Big Boy Blend’ Eric Kent Wine Cellars 2006: Sonoma County, CA ~ syrah- roasted bramble fruit, fennel, cocoa powder ($125.00… aka $75 with the deal).  This ranked in the top 5 of wines I’ve ever had.  It was so flavorful and complemented anything salty (and probably would have complemented anything with red meat or tomato sauce).  It was a big wine, and we loved it.

We went with the tasting (because for a birthday dinner, it’s worth the big splurge) and it was $140 each… and COMPLETELY worth it.  The staff was incredibly accommodating, even to my allergy, and I was a little excited and star struck to see Wylie Dufesne in the visible kitchen, fully invested in the preparations that night. 

The meal was supposed to begin with Striped bass, peach, paprika, and sake lees, but I’m allergic to peppers (which is in paprika) so I had an amuse bouche of a mushroom broth with some form of yam or sweet potato and celery (the details are fuzzy after the two bottles of wine).  It was quite good.

Mike had the correct starter, and thought it was delicious.  I trust his opinion, and was quite jealous of the fish + peaches.

Next up was the Everything bagel, smoked salmon threads, crispy cream cheese.  What we didn’t know from the menu, however, was that the “everything bagel” was really ice cream.  It was a standout dish of the night.  The dish came together so well and all the flavors just blended in a great way.  The ice cream was an exciting surprise and I did not want the dish to end.

Next up was the Foie gras, passionfruit, chinese celery.  The surprise here was that the foie gras was actually stuffed with passionfruit, so as you cut it open it just oozed deliciousness.  It was fantastic, although I expected the foie gras to have a bit more flavor (though the passion fruit was AM.AZ.ING.)


I was excited upon reading the next dish: Scrambled egg ravioli, charred avocado, hamachi.  A quick iPhone look up told us that hamachi was fish typically used in sushi.  It was AMAZING fish.  The scrambled egg ravioli was actually entirely made of egg (outside and in) and the charred avocado was the second best avocado I’ve ever had (after the Fishtail octopus app I had just this past week).  Mike absolutely LOVED this dish.  I thought it was great, but I preferred the previous tasting of the “everything bagel” with “smoked salmon.’

The next dish was something I also had to have substituted.  The dish on the tasting menu was Cold fried chicken, buttermilk-ricotta, tabasco, caviar.  The tabasco was the problem here.  So instead I was served smoked eel with some sort of homemade tofu that was incredible.  I’m not sure what the thinly sliced veggie was on top (perhaps some sort of turnip) but I wasn’t a huge fan.  The rest of the dish, however, was amazing.

Mike received the fried chicken and said it was amazing though spicy.  I tried the buttermilk ricotta with caviar (since it was safe) and though it was absolutely great.

Next up was Crab tail, kohlrabi, ‘dirty’ grape, cocoa nib.  This was an absolutely fascinating dish for me.  It was “spicy” without having peppers.  When I inquired, I was told that it was the “angel food cake” (the spongy looking things on either side) that had some sort of black or green (?) pepper in it.  I was shocked that I enjoyed it so much without having a reaction, and was pleased as punch that I could taste “spice” for pretty much the first time ever.  The rest of the dish was great, though not quite what I’d expect from crab.  I was just so taken aback by the spice without allergy thing that I couldn’t stop gabbing about this plate.

Our next treat was Duck leg, popcorn pudding, kalamansi, lovage.  Now it’s very hard to pick a least favorite dish, but this may have been mine.  It had all the workings of a best of (I love duck, popcorn, and according to our iPhones kalamansi is a fruit from the Phillippines and lovage is a spice that is a cousin to celery), however, it somehow fell short.  It was great, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t quite have the “wow” factor of the other dishes.  I think that the lovage may have been the ehh-ehh part for me personally.


The next dish sounded amazing, and I was a bit bummed that I was given a substitute.  My dish, however, was probably the best “entree” of the night: Wagyu skirt steak, long bean, tamarind, peanut butter ‘pasta’.  The peanut sauce was incredible, and the beef just tasted perfect. 

Mike got what was originally on the tasting menu: Lamb loin, black garlic romesco, pickled ramps, dried soybean.  Turns out it was the dried soybean that I was allergic too (I think), however, it wasn’t quite enough to give me a complete allergic reaction, so I got the chance to sample a wee bite.  It was really good, but not Wagyu beef with peanut sauce good.

The epic dessert journey began with vanilla ice cream that was filled with balsamic (the best I’ve EVER had) and raspberry.  This tiny dish with few ingredients tasted like a complete tart in my mouth.  I do not know what they did, but it was one of the most satisfying bites of food I’ve EVER had.


The next dessert was Hazelnut tart, coconut, chocolate, chicory.  I think the foam was chicory, though I’m not sure.  Whatever it was, it was sensational.  In fact, the entire thing was.  So many textures and flavors. My favorite dessert of the night. (Which is hard to say since all the choices were so amazing!)

Up next was Carmelized brioche, apricot, buttercream, lemon thyme.  I honestly cannot tell you what I was eating, but I enjoyed it to the utmost degree.  The “sorbet” like portion (I’m guessing lemon thyme) was so-so, but the carmelized brioche looked like a scallop and tasted like heaven.

We (sadly) ended our adventure with Cocoa packets, chocolate shortbread, milk ice cream.  This was definitely one of the more confusing descriptions. We actually had to ask the waitress her advice on how to eat this. Turns out it was “milk” ice cream balls that were rolled in chocolate shortbread.  It tasted like the best oreo I have ever had.   Our waitress advised to save the “packets” for last and turns out, you can eat the outside AND the inside.  It was a chocolate explosion in my mouth.  It left me so happy and so satisfied (without any aftertaste) that I just was in complete bliss as the meal ended.

I’ve had a lot of great meals in NYC and, as much as it is hard for me to say, this was the best.  There were little surprises along the way and everything just had phenomenal flavor. Combined with the amazing wine, it was beyond a great meal… it was an experience that I will not soon forget. What a birthday dinner!  Every single course left us thinking “WOW!”  It takes a lot to make me say “wow” even once, let alone with every single new bite.  I was impressed.  Very impressed.

Total Nom Points: 9.5 out of 10