81 - yum gourmet eats on the upper west
My very pregnant wife and I went to 81 as we want to get at least one quality meal in before she bursts. For starters we had the calamari a la plancha. The smoky pimenton sauce was delicious and the grilled squid were tender, in fact the legs were particularly tasty as they had lots of holes to fill. We followed this with the sirloin and short rib main and then we had the fluke with the kona kampachi sauce (as we are still on the low mercury thing). The sirloin was incredible - it was a well cooked good piece of meat (not extraordinary on its own) but the shallot marmalade was sweet and savory, complement and enhanced the beef incredibly, and was jaw dropping delicious. I usually prefer my beef without too much sauce, as I think well prepared meats should stand on my own, but this pairing was truly phenomenal. The short rib was very well prepared (in fact more so than the sirloin), but the eggplant was not such a great pairing; so it just tasted like a really good brisket. The fluke was perfectly prepared, moist, delicate, you could taste the fish without tasting the fishiness. And the sofrito was a good pairing.. Lastly, we finished with the blackberry cobbler. I know the place has a rep for small portions, and admittedly the portions were a bit on the small side, but the dessert was huge. The porcelain ramikin containing the fruit and cinnamon crumble (more crumble than fruit, and it was tasty) had a diameter of 6 inches! And the guinness milkshake was like a highend malted. Which is good..
The service was excellent (though admittedly we were on the early end and the place was deserted), our waiter being knowledgeable with excellent recs and quite personable to boot.
It is nice to have such a high quality gourmet place in our nabe, and we hope to go back after baby comes and we can get grandma to look after him or her.