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Oct 15, 2010 09:24 PM

Recent trip to NYC

Hopefully this will help others planning a trip. We just got back from a week in Manhattan. We fell in love with the city and the people were super friendly and helpful. I'll try to keep it short. One thing we noticed is that seasoning seems to be a little heavier than in Toronto. Also, I checked many reviews, chowhound was especially helpful, but we learned something which has been mentioned before and I've noticed on other trips, Michelin is unreliable.

Per Se - One of my top three dining experiences. We had the nine course tasting menu. Every dish was well thought out, had a variety of textures, demonstrated various techniques, and the food was hot. Flavours were bright and intense. A couple of items such as the lobster dish and the chocolate truffles were not the best I've had, but there were definitely no duds. Wine pairing were good, but again not the best I've had. Spacing between courses was well timed. Service was impeccable, friendly and eager to be what you wanted them to be. Space between tables was more than generous, to the point of feeling like you were in your own little world. I should point out my GF had the vegetarian menu and it was equally impressive. Before arriving the two of us were fighting and I was in a terrible mood, when we left we were both giddy and laughing. I highly recommend eating here and I would definitely return even at these prices.

Tamarind - Average Indian resto with nice decor. We went because something on their website led me to believe they were good at pairing Tea with their dishes. It wasn't the case. It was fairly priced and the food was nothing to complain about, but also nothing to make me want to go back.

Alto - A two Michelin star Italian resto. We did their lunch prix fixe which was decently priced. The food was ok but I have a hard time imagining this is some of Manhattan's top Italian food. The gnocchi was very light but the tomato sauce had a little bit too much a sour tang that I associate with canned tomatoes. My veal cheek main was fine but the flavours were a bit muted, especially with the polenta, which didn't taste of much. The strawberry filled doughnuts were tough and the filling needed a brighter strawberry flavour. Biscotti sucked. Wine pairings were one dimensional but very good, actually maybe the best of the trip. I think the wine list helps secure the second star. Service was top notch, eager to meet your requests. I wouldn't return.

DBGB - Loud, fun, bar like atmosphere which exceeded my expectation. Quite possibly the best burger I've eaten and the iceberg lettuce salad was one to copy.

Momofuku Milk Bar - Cool staff. I loved the sugar pie, which they call crack pie, and the salted pistachio milk shake, which staff was kind enough to make virgin. I found the blueberry and cream and compost cookies a little greasy. If I lived in the area, I would probably go there a lot.

Jean Georges - Really cheap lunch prix fixe. Simple but amazing amuses, the foie brulee was a great dish, and my hangar steak was good and had an inventive side, a mix of chopped pecans, avocado and tiny brussel sprouts. I was stoked about dessert since I have a copy of his book, but was let down by dull flavours. I would return for lunch but wouldn't do dinner.

Levain Bakery - Great, thick, packed with chips cookies, which weren't cakey.

Buttercup Bake Shop - Good cupcakes, but there must be something better, and better looking.

Adour - Alain Ducasse's 1 Michelin star in the St Regis. Absolutely horrendous. We joked that if we got mugged, we will still consider Adour the low point of the trip. The only thing going for the restaurant is nice decor. I chose this place because they claimed dishes were created to match your wine. This is simply a scam to get you to order wine. One pairing I had worked, the rest were terrible. Servers were pushy about ordering wine, and we had to explain to two servers we wanted to do a pairing with each dish. Ours apps arrived after our champagne was poured and then they brought our first glass of wine. So we each have two glasses in front of us, never given a chance to finish our aperitif. Food was too simple and bland. I was the lucky one, my GF made the mistake of ordering the vegetarian tasting menu. Her first course was a vegetable carpaccio, a dish so basic and bland that a competent chef would think twice about serving it as an amuse, let alone an appetizer. Her main was steamed vegetable pot with figs, a dish were everything had the same mushy texture and no flavour. We paid over $500 for this fiasco. I will never eat at one of Ducasse's restaurant ever again.

11 Madison Park - A 1 Michelin star which deserves 3. It wasn't quite at the same level as Per Se but definitely better than Jean Georges. Service was great and they did a lot of extras to create a memorable dining experience. This was the only restaurant on the trip were I video recorded two things. Coffee service is a must and quite a show. Definitely go back.

Shalizar/Shalezeh - The Persian place that changed its name. Apparently they get 1 Michelin Star. The food was ok, on the same level as Tamarind. But dead simple and with no presentation. There must be thousands of places in Manhattan that put paper on top of tables, have well meaning staff, a tiny wine list, and adequate but not wow worhty food. How do they get a star?

Picholine - We went for cheese. I didn't know that Max McCalman only works at Artisanal which was sold off and is no longer part of Picholine. Wine pairings with the cheese were only so-so, otherwise nice room and friendly bartender.

Aldea - Stunning. A 1 Michelin Star which serves simple food that I would rather eat over most 3 Michelin Stars. The lunch prix fixe is $24 for three course. Everything was great, the skate wing was quite possibly the best piece of fish I have ever eaten and the warm banana bread with creme fraiche ice cream one of the top desserts of the trip. The kitchen was kind enough to make an appetizer portion of the famous rice with duck dish which is absolutely addictive. When people talk about good honest simple food, this place over-delivers. Don't expect a parade of amuses and mignardise. I would definitely return.

Katz's - We had to do a least one New York institution. I can see why its popular, rich meat, great pickles. I just can't do that level of grease. If you are at the end of a trip and need of a cleanse, I do not recommend this place.

'wichcraft - I had the chickpea sandwich. Big, bold, clean flavours. If I lived in New York, I would be a regular.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

Buttercup Bake Shop
141 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023

31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

Momofuku Milk Bar
15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

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  1. Thanks for your interesting reports. Definitely food for thought, pun intended.

    1. Great report. I too think the seasoning (i.e., salt) is too aggressive in many New York restaurants compared to other countries. I am curious about your comment about Eleven Madison Park. I have not been to Per Se, and I would be interested as to your analysis of the difference. In what way was the meal at EMP not the "same level" as Per Se. Thanks again for reporting.

      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nancy S.

        My app at EMP was a beet salad. The beets were dressed with a vinaigrette, there was some, I think, goat cheese espuma, thin raw beets for crunch, waifers with caraway seed and some dill. The dish was beautiful to look at, their plating style is to have many different elements. The problem with the dish is not that it was too busy, but that the main focal point, which should be the beets, was not prominent. The beets lacked flavour and sweetness, the dressing was a little too tart and drew away from their flavour. The espuma could have been whipped cream, it lacked a distinct flavour. Ideally supporting elements should sharpen the focus of the main ingredient rather than provide complementary pools of interest. I imagine the same dish at Per Se would have been about beets exploding with flavour and the espuma would have been about something. Granted this was the least successful dish at EMP, but if I hadn't read what I was having for dessert, I'm not sure I could tell you what it was because it had so many components and no clear focal point. Despite my criticism the food at EMP was delicious and the experience memorable. The thing about Per Se is that we've all seen pictures of his food and we've imagined what it must taste like. This creates unrealistic expectations, but the amazing thing is that it delivers.

        A quick aside, we bought chocolates from Bespoke and Kee's. I just tried both and thought Kee's had sharper flavour and showed more finesse with a thinner shell to the truffles. To me they were on par with Cluizel's truffles.

        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      2. Thx for the trip report - I can feel confident now that I won't miss out on anything by taking Adour off my list.

        Buttercup's cupcakes were better than I'd expected (I'd heard mostly negative reports) but Sugar Sweet Sunshine's are def better for classic flavors, and Spot Dessert Bar had some of my favorites, ever (you have to like salt in your desserts, though). I generally prefer layer cake over cupcakes, but their vanilla cupcake with a bit of intensely flavored citron preserve in the middle made me a believer.

        Sugar Sweet Sunshine
        126 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

        Spot Dessert Bar
        13 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003