Tag Archives: oysters

Riverpark for Restaurant Week Winter 2013

20 Jan

We have been to many restaurants for NYC Restaurant Week at this point, and we’ve found some great choices and some poor choices, which makes it hard to find new places worth sampling each year.  But this year, we decided that Restaurant Week (through Februrary 8, 2013 so far this winter) was a great opportunity to try one of Tom Colicchio‘s newest choices, Riverpark

I really like how many Colicchio restaurants handle Restaurant Week. Rather than serve a “wedding food” (beef, pork, or fish) version of their menu, they serve their regular menu and the items that require a higher price to produce include an incremental charge, noted on the menu (base price is $38).  Here was the menu on January 20, 2013:

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For the Restaurant Week price of $38, we were able to choose an item from the left side plus an item from the main section, with a dessert.  You could substitute pasta (a larger portion for entree) for either course.

The building was a bit hard to find.  It is located near the East River on 29th Street and the FDR, in a complex called the Alexandria Center.  Our taxi wasn’t sure where to find it, so he dropped us off on the corner of 30th Street and the FDR access road and we walked down what looked like an industrial part of the city near the back of the hospital.  We took a chance and walked up some stairs and found it there at the top,  inside the building.

The decorations are very modern, with clean, perpendicular lines, much like Colicchio and Sons.

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The lights above our table were kind of cool and modern, but also a bit seizure inducing after a few drinks.

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We started our night with cocktails. Mike got the “Colonel Mustard” with mustard infused white rum, thyme honey, lime, and candied bacon. It was fantastic.  Heavy on the thyme and a perfect balance of flavors.

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I tried the “Spiced & Spiked” though without the “spiced” since that was homemade hot sauce (which would have peppers, which I’m allergic to).  It had hot apple cider, Goslings Rum, and clove.  Even without the hot sauce, this was very delicious and well balanced. I wanted something hot on this very cold night, and this hit the spot.

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We added a half-dozen oysters to our Restaurant Week selection, with 3 East Coast (Barnstable) and 3 West Coast (Shigokus). They were both divine, but the west coast Shigokus were especially fantastic.

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We then decided to try a bottle of wine. There was a section dedicated to Orange Wines which were described as “interesting and funky.”  We have a love for Russian River Valley wines (especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) so when we saw one on the menu under the Orange variety, we decided why not try something interesting and funky.  We really enjoyed this wine. It was easily drinkable, dry without being puckering, and went well with food and stood up on its own.  A very enjoyable wine.

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I then tried the Kabocha Custard & Crab Fondue with crispy black trumpet mushrooms and spiced pumpkin seeds (which I went without in my dish due to my allergy).  This was sensational. A touch of sweet, delicious squash, fresh crab, and a slight crispy from the mushrooms.  A great balance.  This is the second custard from a Colicchio restaurant that really impressed.

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Mike tried the Testa Tortellini with pears, walnuts, sage, mustard seed, and spiced consomme.  Sadly, I couldn’t try it due to my allergy, but Mike said it was a great balance of flavors. The waiter said he should try everything in one bite and he would realize why the pear, tortellini and consomme was put together and sure enough, the layers of flavors were fantastic with the rich broth and the fresh pear.  Everything together was delicious.

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For our entrees, Mike chose the 20 oz. bone-in dry aged sirloin, which came with a $20 supplement charge. It was with cipollini onions, charred shisito peppers (which they put on the side so I could try it), and tempura hen of the woods mushrooms.  The char on this was fan.freakin.tastic.  And the tempura-ed mushrooms were really fantastic on this. An all around awesome cut of meat. If you order this when it is not Restaurant Week, the steak alone is $50.  So for the $38 base price of Restaurant Week and the $20 supplement fee, the value of the app and the dessert came to a mere $8.  Not too shabby.

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These were the peppers that were put on the side, which Mike said added a nice depth of flavor without being too spicy.

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I chose the Berkshire Pork Chop with Brussels sprout apple hash and parsnip puree.  This was absolutely incredible.  A slight sweetness from the apples complimented by the slight bitterness of the sprouts. And the pork itself was a perfect foil to both.  Incredible. So incredible, in fact, that I picked up that bone with my fingers to get off any last morsel.  Totally worth it.

 

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Then we had our choice of desserts (a tough choice indeed) and we also chose to order dessert wine (Domaine des Schistes, a muscat).

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I chose the Chocolate Souffle Cake with coffee ice cream and chocolate crumble. This was a lovely dessert with warm souffle cake, with a nice balance of bittersweet and sweet with the chocolate and a great compliment with the coffee ice cream.

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But Mike chose the Beer Sundae with Guinness Cake, oatmeal stout ice cream, butterscotch, chocolate pretzel, and candied walnuts.  While my chocolate souffle was very good, this was just damn special.  It was unique flavors with a perfect balance of salty and sweet. It was a fantastic, inspired dessert.  Really, really fantastic.

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Our food throughout the meal with simply spectacular.  We paid a number of up-charges, but I am very certain that we would have enjoyed our meals just as much had we stuck with the Restaurant Week prices and not paid for any of the supplements or additional drinks/supplements.  But half the fun of Restaurant Week is being able to save money so you CAN pay for those lovely extras.

This is how you do Restaurant Week. Offer your regular menu so no one feels that they are missing out and just give people a chance to really enjoy your restaurant with a nice introduction.

Well played Riverpark.  You have made the list of “where to eat for Restaurant Week.”

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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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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Arrows: Ogunquit, Maine (Birthday Dinner… 3!)

15 Nov

As huge fans of Top Chef (especially Top Chef Masters), we were thrilled when not just one, but TWO chefs from Maine were featured last season. Chef Clark Frasier and Chef Mark Gaier are life partners and own the restaurant Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine which focuses on sustainable food. We decided we must make it a stop during our whirlwind tour of wedding venues in Maine. The fact that it was the day after my birthday (and after our amazing meals at Eventide and Hugo’s) was just icing on the cake.

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There are lovely gardens out back.

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And I just loved the inside. Exposed beams, trees, lanterns. I loved it. 

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I want to find those lanterns for the wedding!

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I loved the wood boxes and metal watering cans to hold the breadsticks. And the baskets to hold the bottles of water. Nice touches. All very rustic and my style.

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Here was the menu for that night:

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Of course, I tried the Blue Honeybee cocktail. Why “of course?” Two of my favorite things: honey and wild Maine blueberries.

This had blueberry infused vodka, fresh lime, Maine made mead and soda, and garnished with orange marinated blueberries.

Yum!

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They served 3 different homemade butters. I had trouble deciding which I loved most. They were all so good.

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We decided to continue our tasting menu adventure by going with the “Chef’s Collection” which was a 6 course menu of oysters, prosciutto, silver striper, duck, lamb, and dessert box.

We started with 3 different types of oysters.  Fried oysters with green goddess sauce, poached in cream with chives and shallots, and chilled with green garlic and chive vinaigrette.

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I loved the crispy of the fried oyster with the green goddess sauce.  Great compliment.

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The prosciutto was slightly smoky and salty.  The greens on top were a nice counter to the rich meat. 

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The silver striper was pan roasted with kohlrabi fondue, sweet garlic pickled collard greens, and shaved carrot and buttermilk cheese salad.  Great textures and flavors combining into a very nice dish.

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Our next dish was the duck, and it had a few different versions. The menu titled it as “Duck, strawberries, and rhubarb” and had 3 components:

1- Smoked duck breast with duck cracklings, rhubarb chips, and a microgreen salad (top left part of the picture below) served with a sparkling sake and strawberry mimosa (top right).  All components of this were well paired and tasty.

2- Duck confit “cube” with strawberry gelee and port wine sauce (bottom right). This was so rich and decadent. I LOVED this part of the dish.

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And 3- Duck saucisson with pickled rhubarb with rhubarb-tarragon mustard and potato pancake.  This is in a separate picture because it was the only component of the dish that had peppers, so it was on Mike’s plate and not mine. Mike enjoyed it.

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Next up was the lamb, which was also prepared in 3 ways:

1- Fried belly with tarragon vinegar (Umami, rich, and delicious)

2- Braised shank with fennel puree and fennel salad (I don’t love fennel, but it was the perfect foil for the shank)

3- Grilled lamb with huckleberry gastrique (My favorite! The slight sweetness from the huckleberry was great with the grilled flavors0

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It was a beautiful dish,

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And cooked perfectly with crispness in the right places.

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The entrees ended and Mike and I both noted how the meal just kept building and building on itself.  It was a solid, surprising, and delicious meal that we again said was even better than our impression leave Jean Georges just days before.

And then the dessert came out. To be honest, I have no idea what any of this was. We were in such blissful fullness and this wasn’t written on the menu I photographed, so I will say that everything was good but I don’t remember anything specifically standing out. I remember thinking that I was glad for the smaller portion sizes because it allowed me to sample without feeling like I was wasting food.

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And they were lovely enough to bring me out a birthday treat. 

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Which consisted of donuts in all different forms and a smoothie of sorts. Again, I remember it being good but not outstanding.

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Though you cant beat a whole cherry in a fried pastry!

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And then there was still a tower of cookies to come! I really enjoyed these last little nibbles as we headed out.

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Overall, we were really impressed with Arrrows. Sure, they relied on the trios and some food magic that has become in some ways “cliche” in fine dining lately. But I’m sorry, I love the cliche. I love when a chef can make my food taste great and look artistic. I love being able to sample small bites and I enjoy tasting menus like this. In fact, I would say I’m pretty much a sucker for it.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

PS- I cannot believe I got to go to Jean George’s, Eventide, Hugo’s, and Arrows within 4 days of each other, surrounding my birthday. Have I mentioned how gosh darn fortunate I am?  I am thankful every day for this life I get to live. It is fantastic!

Eventide in Portland, Maine

8 Nov

Right before embarking on our whirlwind tour of venues in Maine, we spent a night in Portland, Maine with a new friend, the photographer and husband of the editor for Eater Maine (whose last name happens to be the same as mine, though surprisingly, no relation). 

He recommended we visit a favorite of Eater Maine, Eventide Oyster Co.  Eventide  is the sister restaurant of Maine staple, Hugo’s (where we ate for my birthday the day after, more on that later!)

They specialize in, you guessed it, oysters.

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They have many varieties and part of the bar itself is made up of the oysters on ice, with a shucker going to town behind the bar.

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They also have a great selection of local brews, and we were finally able to try Oxbow.  This quickly became one of our favorite beers and we drank a lot of it on this road trip!

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We went with half a dozen Winter Points and half a dozen Basket Island oysters (both local to Maine).  These were fantastic, though I really loved the Winter Points.

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We then tried the Eventide Lobster Roll and the Fried Oyster Bun.

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They were served in more of a steamed bun (like a Chinese pork bun consistency) and everything was flavored so insanely well.  This was not your classic lobster roll, but it was nice to have a new spin on an old classic.  Mike and I weren’t very hungry, so we split both of them, but boy oh boy did I regret not having my own.  They were so damn good.  

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And even the bathrooms stayed on theme.

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I was really impressed by Eventide.  They are doing new things with good food and everyone there is excited to be doing what they are doing.  The vibe is great and the food far surpasses expectations.  I can’t wait to go back.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Ditch Plains (AKA Romper Room)

20 Sep

We were exploring near the Upper West Side and were in pursuit of a lunch place. I noticed that Ditch Plains was close by, and it had recently been recommended to me. (They also have a location in Greenwich Village)

We entered and realized that we were no longer in Kansas.

More like Romper Room.

I guess word got out that this place was kid friendly, because the strollers in the shot below only show about half of what was packed into their small entry-way.  It wasn’t really a problem as much as it was weird to be the only people in a restaurant without a child (and an iPad playing a cartoon). After looking at the site, it appears that they are not just kid friendly, but also kid healthy with a kid’s menu that follows USDA dietary guidelines.

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The restaurant itself has a wide open feel and a few communal tables.  Surprisingly, it was not very noisy, even with all those kids.

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We started our lunch with some Porkslap Pale Ale. Always a favorite for Mike and me.

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We began with a half dozen roasted oysters (seems we’ve been starting with oysters a lot lately!)  They were with garlic and parsley butter and quite tasty.

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Mike got (shocker) the burger. It was called the Big Marc and had spiked ketchup, housemade pickles, homemade black pepper (huh?), cheddar bun, jalapeño, and cheddar tater tots.  I couldn’t try the burger, but Mike liked it and I was a fan of those cheddar tater tots!

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I got the seared sea scallops with charred corn puree, summer vegetables, and basil walnut pistou.  

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Even though the scallops looked a bit burnt, they were cooked perfectly and really delicious.  The base was really delicious and fresh.

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We were in a indulgent mood, so we got dessert as well.  Sadly, I can’t recall what this one was:

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But I sure know that this was the s’mores!

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There are few things in life that I love more than s’mores.

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And these ooey-gooey ones did not disappoint in the slightest!

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Overall, the food was very good at Ditch Plains and we enjoyed our lunch.  I am curious about other meals there and would certainly go back if in the area.  I was a bit nervous that the kids would be loud and obnoxious, but it wasn’t too bad at all.  If you have a family, this seems like a fantastic place to go.  Kids are well taken care of and accepted and food is very good.  I hate to think I’d have to sacrifice eating out at good restaurants when I have kids, so I appreciate that this place exists for that reason at least.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

The Smith Restaurant: East Village

11 Sep

My friend had a spare ticket to a concert at Webster Hall and mentioned that she really liked the Restaurant, The Smith, around the corner. I had heard good things, so away we went.

We started with some oysters, which were quite good.

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She got the 15 Hour Pork (a Monday special).  It looked quite good and she seemed to like it, but it didn’t seem to thrill her.

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We split some brussels sprouts, which were roasted nicely with a good crispy.  Very good.

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I actually ran into a bit of an issue with my allergy. While most of the dishes seemed pretty safe, it turns out they use peppers in a lot of their sauces and seasonings.  I had very few options to choose from, but I decided to go with bibimbop (one of my favorite Korean dishes). It was nicely fresh with sushi rice, edamame, shitake, bean sprouts, pickled carrots, spinach, and a sunny side up egg.  It was pretty good, but definitely lacking in depth of flavor. I’m pretty sure they had to leave a sauce out, due to the peppers, which probably had a good bit of flavor.

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I don’t think I could really give The Smith a fair shot since I couldn’t eat most of the dishes. But the fact that the dish I did have was kind of bland made it seem like they focus on spice for flavor instead of relying on doing good things with good ingredients.  I won’t put this as a stake in the ground, but my take on it was entirely average.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 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

A**holes at Esca

14 Aug

 

I live right near Esca, and being the Batali and Bastianich fan that I am, I was surprised at myself that I hadn’t been in a while. I had been once, years ago, on a work lunch, but had never been back since.

And now… I will never go again.

I worked in restaurants a few times over my life, and because of that I have a lot of empathy for people that do that job and I’m a chronic over-tipper because I know how underpaid restaurant staff is for the amount of shit they have to put up with.

But there is no excuse for treating customers the way we were treated.

We walked into the restaurant pretty late on a Saturday night.  It was well past peak hours (though not near closing time), and we had eaten a very late and large lunch. We were looking for a bite, maybe some oysters and cocktails. We would have been happy sitting at a bar, and knew that if Esca couldn’t take us, we’d just go elsewhere.

We should have known immediately from the hostess that this was not going to be a good experience.  We walked in and noticed that the restaurant was less than half full. We asked the hostess for a table for 3. She looked at us as if we had asked her if she likes to eat dog poop.  She wrinkled her nose and said she didn’t think she could seat us.  Well okay then… plenty of fish in the sea. We would find another place. “Wait…” she said. “I think I can find space for you. Let me see.”

We waited a few minutes and she came over to tell us she could seat us, and made it sound like it was about as much of an inconvenience as it possibly could be.

We sat (surrounded by empty tables, mind you). And sat. And sat.  We asked for menus twice from bussers.  We finally got some about 20 minutes after sitting.  Within moments of sitting, our waiter was there to take our order. We asked him for a few minutes.  When he came back, we ordered drinks.

It took a good long time to get our drinks, so in the meantime, the waiter came up to take our order.

“We’ll have one dozen oysters please” said we.

“And?” snarled the personification of snootiness.

“That is all.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

“Hold on.”

We held… and soon a manager came up to us and informed us that we had to order a minimum to sit at a table. I explained that we were only there for a quick bite and drinks, and that it said in no location that there was any kind of minimum.

The manager shrugged and said that was the rule.

While I was inclined to leave on the spot in a huff, our drinks were already on their way and it was late. And frankly, I was feeling pretty lazy. I figured we would suck it up and order some stuff to satisfy their demands. We added a few things to our order and when we asked if that was sufficient, the waiter rolled his eyes at us. HE ROLLED HIS EYES AT US.  He said he thought it would be okay.

We waited a good amount of time for our drinks and oysters, but finally, they came out.  They were actually quite good. Nice and briny. 

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And then we waited. And waited.

A long, long time later, the crudo came out.  I will take this moment to remind you that crudo is RAW. 

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All the crudo was very good. And impressively, they managed to not get peppers in any of it. (Thank goodness for small favors?)

We especially liked the brill and mackerel crudos, but my favorite was the mahi mahi with almonds.

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And then… we got a lemon.

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And this lemon sat there.

And sat there. 

And sat there.

A full 40 minutes that lemon sat, all alone, on the table.  Finally, our food showed up.  

First came the Fritti, which was crispy cornmeal crusted halibut cheeks, Louisiana shrimp and vadalia onions. This was pretty unremarkable, but not bad.

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And we had the monkfish. I wrote down that it was “great.” “Perfect flavors.”

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We were then given some petit fours. Nothing super.

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At the very end of the night, we looked at our watches and noticed we had been there for over 2 and a half hours.  Absolutely ridiculous.  We also walked out of there spending about 4x what we came in meaning to spend, due to the “minimum” rules.

We opened up the bill and noticed that the bottle of wine was not charged. When the server came back in a rush, we asked if the wine was taken off, and he said “yes yes” before the question even came out of my mouth. I’m not sure if he actually even heard me. And if the wine was taken off, perhaps that was part of an apology from the manager for how bad the service was? If so, why didn’t he come over and say something? I have a feeling it was a mistake and the waiter couldn’t be bothered to actually listen to my question. So we paid our bill and were on our merry way.

I want to empathize with them, I really do. But this was absolutely unacceptable service.  The rudeness, the wait times, the obvious neglect for our table. It’s not like we came in looking like bums (though that shouldn’t matter either), but even our water glasses went empty for long periods of time.  I know that some places require minimums, but if that is the case, it should be printed on the menu. Period. 

I have to imagine that if Batali actually knew what was going on in this restaurant, he’d slap a few people. I only say that because I want to hold Batali in a little bit of revery as I have to date.  I want to assume this is something he would never stand for.

And I won’t stand for it either.

Congrats, Esca. I spend tens of thousands of dollars on dining with clients and I will never be coming back to your establishment. And I live next door and drop a good amount of my salary on eating out.  You have lost a customer. A good one.

But every customer should matter. Period.

Total Nom Points: 3 out of 10 (and only because the food was pretty good)

Maine Cubed: Boothbay Harbor- Mine Oyster

12 Jul

After our lovely whale watch and an incredible visit to Pemaquid Point (where we got engaged!), we decided to celebrate at The World is Mine Oyster, which received a write-up in the brand new Eater Maine. It was a Monday night and pre-season, but the sign said there was live music and we loves ourselves some oysters!

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We were celebrating, so we ordered 2 of every oyster they had (they were out of many, unfortunately).

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We made our way around the delicious tray and wound up especially liking the Glidden Point oysters (which came in 3 sizes!) from the Damariscotta River. And they weren’t lying about the “Jumbo” size! Check out these beauties.

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We were still a little hungry, so we got a basket of fried shrimp. We were expecting big shrimp, but these tiny morsels were fantastic. 

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They came with waffle fries, which Mike created quite the amazing concoction with fried shrimp on top of the waffle fries with some tarter and cocktail sauces.

Genius.

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Mine Oyster was a nice stop and a good celebration with all those oysters.  The menu is heavy on fried seafood, but everything we had was very good. It’s tough to judge a place based on raw food and fried shrimp, but I would say it’s a good choice if you’re in the area, but not necessarily a destination to pursue if you’re not close.

Mermaid Inn

20 Mar

I absolutely love oysters.  In fact, one of my favorite things even as a little kid were those cans of smoked oysters. (Yes… I have been a foodie practically since birth… and also a very, very strange child).  I had been hearing great things about the Mermaid Restaurants and their oysters. Not only were they rumored to be very tasty, but they have a “Happy Hour and a Half” every day from 5:30pm – 7pm with east coast oysters for $1 and west coast for $1.75.  Awesome deal.

As if that wasn’t enough to sway me, Blackboard Eats put out a special that took 30% off the bill. It didn’t include the Happy Hour, but hell… 30% off is pretty damn great. And finally it motivated me, with a deadline, to try it out.

There are three locations: The Mermaid Inn on the Upper West Side (Amsterdam between 87th and 88th), The Mermaid Inn in the East Village (2nd Ave between 5th and 6th), and The Mermaid Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village (Macdougal between West Houston and Bleecker).

We stopped into the one on the Upper West Side and were immediately warmly greeted and shown to our seat.  With 30% off, we decided to go whole hog… err… fish… and try out a number of yummy looking items.  I gave my usual peppers allergy warning (“I am allergic to peppers. The vegetable.  Black pepper is fine but anything made from the vegetable is a problem: Red, green, yellow, chili, jalapeño, red pepper flakes, paprika… old bay.”  I am so sick of saying this… but… c’est la vie).  He wrote it down and very diligently confirmed what I could and couldn’t have.

First, we started with the Grand Platter: 12 oysters, 6 clams, crudo, shrimp cocktail, and 1/2 chilled lobster.

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All the oysters were fantastic, but I decidedly have a preference for West Coast oysters.  Shhhh… don’t tell.

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The lobster was pretty good, but I am a total lobster snob after spending so much time in Maine. It’s just NEVER as good.  Do lobsters lose something the moment they cross the bridge out of Maine? It’s a phenomena I cannot explain.

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The crudo was a delicious tuna with avocado… oh… and PEPPERS.  I took a bite and my mouth felt itchy… then a second later Mike pushed a jalapeño across his plate and told me to stop eating immediately.

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The wait staff was INCREDIBLY apologetic and immediately brought me out a FULL SIZE portion without peppers. And it was SOOOOOO delicious.

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We followed up our tower with lobster mac and cheese. This was perfectly cheesy (without being soupy) with great crunch on top and big full chunks of lobster meat cooked in.  The lobster in here was actually even more flavorful than the chilled lobster.  This was DELICIOUS.

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And then we had to try the lobster roll. The fries were perfectly average but the lobster roll was pure heaven… until… my mouth went on fire… and then the fire spread.

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Old Bay was lurking in every crevice of that sandwich… and was now burning every crevice of my mouth.  This was actually one of the worst burns I have ever experienced.  Because Old Bay is a powder, rather than burning a single spot like a normal altercation with a pepper might do, this spread across every part of my mouth and lips and hit hard.  I went immediately to the back and asked for a glass of milk (it is the only thing I have found that stops the reaction from spreading).  My waiter looked at me as if I had just told him that his puppy had died.  He sprinted into action, toppled over everyone in the kitchen, and ran back with a full jug of milk and a glass.  I went back to the table and a fresh lobster roll (sans old bay) was brought out.  And it was insanely good.  Perfectly buttered and crisped roll with perfect lobster meat.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing too well, so I asked for a glass of ice, which I proceeded to hold, embarrassingly, over my quickly inflating and blistering lip. At this point the manager came out and was beyond apologetic… mentioning that she was shocked to hear that the kitchen messed up not once, but twice, and that they had it backwards thinking my allergy was to black pepper, not the vegetable.  She immediately said they would be comping… the ENTIRE MEAL.  In my experience, it is really fascinating to see the difference in reactions I get from restaurants when peppers wind up in my food.  Many (too many) are totally indifferent or deny the hell out of it (“Oh it’s a jalapeño, not a pepper!“)  Some places comp the dish that was in error, or throw in a free glass of wine.  Frankly, I don’t expect anything. I would prefer the pepper wasn’t there in the first place, but accidents happen (it scares me to think what would happen if I WAS anaphylactic though).  I was SHOCKED when she said she was taking care of the entire bill.  And I felt awful. It wasn’t the waiter’s fault, and their care and attention was above and beyond.

It made what could have been an “I will never come back here!” boondoggle into an experience that will make me very loyal to this restaurant.  I can’t help but respect a place that takes ownership of its mistakes and goes above and beyond to compensate.

And just as I thought this restaurant had done enough to impress me, out came Fortune Teller Fish. Does anyone remember these from childhood? You put them in your hand and it tells your fortune depending on how it moves.  What a novel bit of nostalgia!

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And then… there came the chocolate mousse. Heaven.

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Beyond the above and beyond care for my allergy and comping the meal, the food here was sensational.  I was incredibly impressed and kind of wish I lived closer so I could be a regular at a place like this. Especially for those oysters!

Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10