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uhockey's NYC thoughts and reviews 2/16-2/20: Del Posto, Compose, Aldea, Lincoln, EMP, Corton, Breslin, Morini, and more.

uhockey Feb 23, 2011 04:19 AM

First of all - thanks to all for the recommendations, Chowhound continues to be the best resource I've yet found to optimize my experiences in the cities I visit. A second (bigger) thanks to the persons I met and dined with - truly wonderful company who I hope to see again soon.

New York remains my favorite American city and this was yet another excellent trip. I will be back again at the end of March for a conference (and ideally more dining, albeit less than this time.) Should anyone like to offer up suggestions or company for a meal, I'm always game.

2/16 - Del Posto, Billy's Bakery, Artichoke Basille's, Compose
2/17 - Clinton Street Baking Company, Aldea, Momofuku Milk Bar, Bouchon Bakery, Lincoln, Levain Bakery
2/18 - Locanda Verde, Eleven Madison Park, Corton
2/19 - DBBistro Moderne, Bouley, Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen
2/20 - The Breslin, Cici Cela, Osteria Morini

As usual, text will be posted here at Chowhound and full pictures will be available in the blog. Reviews and thoughts will be slow in coming due to work, but (as always) will be as honest and insightful as possible.

http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

Bouchon Bakery
10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

Ceci-Cela
55 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

DB Bistro Moderne
55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

Del Posto
85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

Artichoke
328 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

Corton
239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Aldea
31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

Billy's Bakery
75 Franklin St, New York, NY 10013

Clinton Street Baking Co.
4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

Bouley
163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

Momofuku Milk Bar
251 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

The Breslin
20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

Lincoln
142 W 65th St, New York, NY 10023

Compose
77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. uhockey RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 04:20 AM

    Del Posto

    http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/d...

    Like many of the “celebrity chefs” I enjoy, my fondness for Mario Batali has roots in fond memories from days past – a meal at Babbo was our first in New York during a visit in 2008 and despite the tricky reservations the table was actually obtained last minute as we drove from Ohio to New York to “get away from things” after my father’s untimely passing in 2008. Loud and boisterous Babbo was my first taste of Batali and it would quickly be followed by Otto and subsequently by other Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York outposts with each at least good and often times great. Always fun and always championing excellent service it was really no surprise to me when Del Posto, the fine dining end of the Batali empire, landed its fourth NYT star under Sifton – a star that firmly placed the restaurant on my “must visit” list for my next trip to New York, and with a $29 3-course lunch the decision was a no brainer.

    Arriving around 10:00am at LaGuardia and catching the shuttle to midtown I turned out to be approximately an hour early for my 12:30 reservation and opted to see if an early check-in would be allowed – to my surprise the restaurant was less than 1/3 full and after checking my coat and bag I was led to a lavish two top in the main dining room without delay. With a grand piano replacing the standard Batali soundtrack of Beatles, Stones, and the Who it took me mere moments to settle in and I was promptly greeted by my captain who, in conjunction with the ancillary staff, would orchestrate a flawless afternoon in terms of service – water refilled as if my an invisible hand, bread replenished without request, and all plates delivered with full description and cleared appropriately.

    With the menu explained in great detail shortly after I selected ice water over bottled I inquired as to whether additional plates could be added to the $29 prix fixe and was told “of course – a $10 per course surcharge will apply for each dish beyond the third. Having already scouted the online menu extensively ordering would commence quickly - $39 for four proper courses plus amuses, mignardises, and candies.

    Order placed it would be mere moments before the dining would begin – first a small troika of amuses bouche. Beginning with choux pastry stuffed with creamy mortadella, crispy “suppli” Roman rice balls with mozzarella and gold dust, and “stracciatella” – a roman eggdrop soup with celery salt around the rim each of the flavors was mild and distinct – a variety of textures, flavors, and ingredients opening the palate up to the possibilities ahead.

    Browsing the posh interior and noticing that most (if not all) the other patrons were suited men engaged in conversation - some with laptops or papers – there was no doubt Del Posto has become quite the spot for a power lunch. Unsuited and unaccompanied I was next brought the oft raved bread basket – piping hot and featuring an airy baguette, buttery rosemary focaccia, and a crisp rustic Italian roll. With each bread excellent on its own, the accoutrements to the bread were a whole different story – one a creamy and sweet butter and the other a dollop of lardo – whipped pork fat with hefty notes of salt, nuts, and audacious umami. As I enjoyed the basket I was brought the most recent copies of Batali’s magazine to leaf through – a nice touch.

    With the bread serving as an ample vehicle to pork-fat consumption my first course would arrive as – well, pork with fat. Titled Warm Cotechino with Umbrain Lentil Vinagrette & Dried Fruit Mostarda the dish itself was center-pieced by a thick pork sausage atop a bed of beautifully cooked lentils with hints of vinegar and mustard seed. Generous in portion and topped with candied cherry and apricot compote the flavor balance was excellent, though the texture of the sausage was a tad grainy for my palate.

    My second course of the meal would arrive approximately 10 minutes and a piece of focaccia after the Cotechino – unfortunately it would be a major disappointment. Titled Gnocchi con Pomodoro the dish featured small potato dumplings that were decent in texture, but poorly drained and somewhat watery. Topping the pasta with chunky tomato sauce lacking both salinity and seasoning – as gnocchi is my favorite pasta this dish was a major let down in taste, texture, and even visual appeal – as a matter of fact it was bad enough that I sent half of the small portion back to the kitchen untouched.

    Sipping my water and browsing the magazine while I waited for something that would hopefully cleanse my mind and palate of the pasta it would be a delay of nearly 20 minutes before the next course would arrive, but unlike the gnocchi it was worth the wait. Modest in portion but ample in flavor, Seared Duck Breast with Apician Spices, Savor alla Francescana & Lovage was the dish of the meal with the duck breast tender and the skin crisp. Alongside the breast, a dollop of thigh confit at one side and a quenelle of dried apricot and pumpkin with pumpkin seeds at the other – one sweet and one savory – and at the base of the dish a celery root puree that added an earthy base to the rich duck jus added tableside.

    With mains finished and coffee ordered – a rather acidic blend from Lavazza served in a French Press and refilled for free – my dessert would be the Chocolate Ricotta Tortino with Toasted Sicilian Pistachios & Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato. Heavy in dark chocolate notes and nicely balanced by the savory ricotta the dish was essentially a designer Italian Ho-Ho. Not overly sweet and paired with Batali’s now-famous Olive Oil Gelato there was certainly nothing light about this dish and the glassy palate feel of the olive oil would have almost been “too much” were it not for the crunchy pistachios and cookie crumbles.

    Working on my second round of coffee and finishing up the last pages of the magazine my final tastes of Del Posto would arrive in the form of a cheese grater full of petit fours – bombolini with vanilla and orange zest crema, chocoloate covered lollipops filled with olive oil gelato, crunchy candied grapefruit, apple raisin polenta tort, and a cocoa dusted Amedei chocolate truffle – each well crafted and tasty, particularly the bombolini and tort.

    Settling the bill and collecting my bag I thanked my servers and made my way to the streets for an afternoon of wandering the Tribeca gallery scene – always one of my favorite activities in New York. Thinking back on the experience and the price I must admit I understand the appeal of Del Posto as a business lunch – for fine dining the place is a deal and the setting is lovely. With that noted, compared to other equally priced lunches in the city (both Italian and otherwise) Del Posto’s food just did not “wow” in the way I had expected – everything was simply too safe, too quiet, too un-Italian, and decidedly too un-Batali…like an “experience” more than a restaurant, an experience created to earn Sifton or Michelin’s stars…which it has.

    -----
    Del Posto
    85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

    1. uhockey RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 05:55 AM

      Billy's Bakery on 9th Ave, Artichoke Basille's on 14th St.

      http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/b...

      Lunch wasn’t that big and dinner was not set to begin until 7:30pm - in a day that began with a 7 mile run at 4:30am before hopping a plane to New York at 8:00 there was clearly room for a mid-day snack or two. With art browsing the order of the day and four hours and myriad galleries now separating me from lunch my first ancillary stop would be Billy’s Bakery – a spot I’d omitted on my previous visits but re-targeted for this trip based largely on their business model and reviews from a pair of trusted palates.

      To be fair, Billy’s had me at hello – with slogans including “We use only the freshest, highest-quality ingredients in our baked goods, including real butter, whole eggs, and fresh fruit and nuts. We don’t use preservatives in any of our products” and “Classic old fashioned American baked goods made from scratch and served in a warm, friendly atmosphere” it seemed the original shop on 9th was a can’t miss for one of my New York traditions – the cupcake.

      Entering the small shop I was first taken at the small size and expected smells of cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and butter – my guess as to what heaven smells like. With no less than 6 folks mixing, rolling, stirring, and chatting I stood and browsed for a bit before a well tattooed and pierced young lady approached with a mumbled “what can I get you.” While I’m not so sure she was warm or friendly, she was capable of extracting two cupcakes from the case, bagging them, and collecting my $7 before returning to her work in back.

      Taking to the street and heading east my first taste of Billy’s would be my standard – the red velvet. Soft and moist without suffering from super-sizing I will note that the three bites were all quite tasty as the smooth cocoa tones of the cake balanced with the creamy and mildly citrus tinged cream cheese frosting. Neither gritty nor overly sweet this to me represented an ideal “classic” red velvet and while not as good as Two Little Red Hens or Bouchon’s classic takes it was quite good.

      The second selection would prove to be the better of the two – in this case one of the better cupcakes I’ve ever had. Simply titled “carrot cake” this cupcake was similar in size to the Red Velvet but literally weighed twice as much – to say it was loaded with carrots would be an understatement. Heterogeneous in texture with notes of cinnamon, coconut, pineapple, and pecan blending with the grated carrots the body of the cake proved an ample match to the same cream cheese frosting that topped the Red Velvet.

      Continuing my eastward path the next stop on the culinary map was Artichoke Basille's, a choice that some said was not worth the hassle and others hailed as one of the best slice’s in New York. Regardless of the reviews I fully admit to having been quite neglectful of the New York Pizza scene on past visits and lacking dining partners to experience places only offering a full pie (Keste, Motorino, Co, and all those in Brooklyn) it seemed like a excellent choice for me – especially considering its location in the East Village where people watching, music browsing, and kitschy shopping abound.

      Arriving at the small shop started by two brothers in 2008 I must admit I was surprised – the place looks like it could have been there for 50 years. With a short line of 5 ahead of me I made my way into the shop only to realize that all things being equal, 5 was probably the maximum capacity for the waiting area. With a small menu posted on the wall and three pizzas behind the glass case I stood and watched the process for a bit before the young man behind the counter yelled (over Nine Inch Nails “Ringfinger”) “what can I get ya.” One slice of the Artichoke and Spinach – “right on, man” – I felt like a regular.

      With the last of the Artichoke and Crab slices having been ordered up by the pair in front of me it would be a mere 5 minutes and $4 while listening to Trent Reznor before my slice would arrive – blistering hot and still bubbling – on a pair of paper plates. Grabbing a napkin and making my way outside the line was now 9 long and I sat down on the curb next to a pair of college kids eating their slices. Assuming the slice now safe enough to eat I took a bite and what greeted my taste buds can only be described as a “wow” moment. Creamy and garlic laden yet ripe with the lovely flavor of artichoke and earthy spinach the top layers gave way to a crust undoubtedly imbued with cornmeal (and perhaps an unknown addictive substance) that was crunchy yet supple with an excellent crumb. While certainly not a “traditional” slice by any stretch, I instantly understood the rumors of hour plus lines at midnight – I’d stand in line for this pizza just like I did for Great Lake – purportedly the “best pizza in America.”

      -----
      Billy's Bakery
      184 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      Artichoke
      328 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

      30 Replies
      1. re: uhockey
        ellenost RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 06:03 AM

        As usual, great reviews, uhockey! Look forward to reading the rest. I didn't realize that you were able to try so many different restaurants during your visit.

        1. re: ellenost
          uhockey RE: ellenost Feb 23, 2011 06:34 AM

          After 3-meals a day for 9 days between Vegas and LA at Christmas and far less activity (driving everywhere as opposed to walking,) this trip was a breeze. :-) The 9:15 out of 10:00 hours spent in a restaurant on Friday was the sort of stuff legends are made of......like the time we went for a full dessert tasting at TRU after the grand tasting at Charlie Trotter's.

          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

        2. re: uhockey
          loratliff RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 10:12 AM

          Looking forward to reading more. I'm glad you liked Artichoke—I personally love it, but I know that not everyone feels that way.

          1. re: loratliff
            sgordon RE: loratliff Feb 23, 2011 10:45 AM

            I have mixed feelings on Artichoke - I like it, usually, but I find it a little inconsistent. Especially re: salt levels, and I'm someone who's pretty fond of salt.

            Looking forward to the rest of the reviews! Man, 2/17 looks like it was a ridiculously packed day. Did you actually have time to do anything BUT eat?

            1. re: sgordon
              uhockey RE: sgordon Feb 23, 2011 11:20 AM

              2/17 also entailed an Interpol concert at Radio City Music Hall, Shopping at Bloomingdales, and wandering Central Park.

              2/18 was about 11 hours of restaurant time. That day - yeah, just great company and great food.

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

          2. re: uhockey
            s
            sheio RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 10:43 AM

            uhockey I love your reviews, thank you! FYI I do think one person could take down an entire Keste pie, especially if you order one on the lighter side. I'm no expert but I think the Margherita is Neapolitan pizza perfection.

            1. re: sheio
              coasts RE: sheio Feb 26, 2011 05:01 AM

              uh, you're not supposed to? Ms. Coasts and I always order two pies. we share, but usually finish both.

              1. re: coasts
                n
                Nancy S. RE: coasts Feb 26, 2011 05:11 AM

                Same. It's one pie per person for my family, and we always consume everything.

                1. re: Nancy S.
                  uhockey RE: Nancy S. Feb 26, 2011 06:50 AM

                  The fact is (as people may have guessed) I don't want a bit homogenous pie - my ideal would be 8 slices form 8 different spots - like a tasting menu of Pizza. :-) Once I have a date in mind I'll ask the mods to pin a topic on the board for a group to get together - if Brooklyn I think we'd need a car (most interested in Lucali and DiFara) whereas in Manhattan it would be Keste, Co, Motorino, and Donatella that most intrigued me.

                  Thus far a number of people have suggested interest but none have contacted me. The thought for the time being would be March 27th or 29th.
                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                  1. re: uhockey
                    Steve R RE: uhockey Feb 28, 2011 05:43 AM

                    March 29th is a Tuesday. Both Lucali and DiFara are closed on Tuesdays. I'd suggest Bklyn for Sunday March 27th. I may be available and I have a car. And I'm familiar with Bklyn, having spent most of my 58 years here. E-mail me (my address is listed on my CH page)... I cant access your blog from work -- firewalled.

                    1. re: Steve R
                      r
                      RGR RE: Steve R Feb 28, 2011 05:50 AM

                      Steve R,

                      uhockey and I are planning this together. Contact me via my blog email.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

            2. re: uhockey
              m
              ml77 RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 10:55 AM

              Always love your reviews, uhockey.

              I had lunch at Del Posto on MLK Day and enjoyed many of the same dishes that you did (cotechino, duck, tortino with OO gelato). Sorry to hear that the gnocchi were disappointing. But I'm surprised that overall you didn't seem that happy with your meal, since that was the only dish you didn't like. I'm definitely no Batali groupie by any stretch, but I'm not sure I know what you mean by "un-Italian." can you elaborate?

              As for Artichoke, you have to go back and try the square slice. I'd be happy to join you there or any of the other pizza joints on a future trip. IIRC, you've been to DiFara's, right? If not, that has to be at the top of your pizza pilgrimage list, even though it's a haul from Manhattan.

              -----
              Del Posto
              85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

              1. re: ml77
                uhockey RE: ml77 Feb 23, 2011 11:18 AM

                I guess everything just felt too restrained and "fancy" compared to what I like about Italian - the BOLD flavors, personalities, and sounds that infest a place like Scarpetta, Babbo, Locanda Verde, etc. Even Lincoln - things were just more energetic and lively - the flavors and the room.

                I've not been to DiFara - I really want to do a Brooklyn trip for DiFara, the original Motorino, Grimaldi, and maybe L&B at some point. You can contact me through the blog - was considering a Pizza crawl - could be fun with a larger group. :-)

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                -----
                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                Locanda Verde
                377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                Motorino
                349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                Grimaldi's
                47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

                1. re: uhockey
                  k
                  kathryn RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 07:26 PM

                  Skip Grimaldi's, maybe add on Patsy's East Harlem, Keste, Joe's, Franny's... so other many good choices!

                  -----
                  Grimaldi's
                  47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

                  1. re: kathryn
                    scoopG RE: kathryn Feb 24, 2011 04:18 AM

                    Which you have covered here very well!

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6928...

                    1. re: kathryn
                      uhockey RE: kathryn Feb 24, 2011 04:59 AM

                      The issue at hand would be logistics - Ii only mention Grimaldi because it is in Brooklyn.

                      If the meetup were to occur in Manhattan I'd target Keste, Co, Motorino, Donatella, and perhaps Lombardi's (yes, I know its a tourist trap, but I kinda feel like its one of those places I should at least experience.)

                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                      -----
                      Motorino
                      349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

                      Grimaldi's
                      47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

                      Donatella
                      184 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                      1. re: uhockey
                        n
                        Nancy S. RE: uhockey Feb 24, 2011 08:15 AM

                        I fear you'll be disappointed by Lombardi's -- maybe it once was good . . .

                        1. re: uhockey
                          m
                          ml77 RE: uhockey Feb 25, 2011 10:00 AM

                          I know it's a hike, but I can't imagine a NYC pizza crawl w/o Di Fara's. Grimaldi's gets a bad rap but I think the only problem with it is the long line. It's just not worth the wait. I've never done it, but I understand you can order ahead and just show up to pick up your pie and then take it to the park to enjoy.

                          Lomardi's is hype. It's not the original pizzeria in NYC, and it's not the original Lombardi's location.

                          -----
                          Grimaldi's
                          47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

                          1. re: uhockey
                            r
                            rrems RE: uhockey Feb 25, 2011 05:58 PM

                            I realize it's so new you may not have heard much about it, but I would highly recommend Rubirosa. At lunch you can order by the slice, otherwise it's a choice of a small or large pie. Excellent thin crust pizza.

                            -----
                            Rubirosa
                            235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

                            1. re: uhockey
                              s
                              steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 11:45 AM

                              Bravo as always uhockey! I am a loyal follower of your reviews and your blog and respect your opinions and common passion for food very much.

                              I agree with you whole heartedly regarding Del Posto. For some reason, Batali and Bastianich missed the boat with this one. Everything that Babbo is, Del Posto is not. Is the food good? Yes. Do the portion sizes and price justify it? NO. But I do think it is one of those places to at least experience once. However, with so many great restaurants in the city it wouldn't be a place I'd run back to for a repeat visit (which I have not since my lone dining experience there back in 2008).

                              The other Italian places you mentioned were far better in my opinion and would definitely warrant repeat visits-- Babbo ( of course), Scarpetta. Having tried LV for dinner yet but brunch was terrific and I would expect dinner to be the same. Other places like Maialino, Convivio (rest in peace), Marea, Alto (rest in peace), Il Mulino (dare I say) which may not provide the "over the top song and dance" experience of DP have soul and incredible food. But then again who needs that. This is a restaurant not a Broadway show. That is the thing for me-- DP lacks soul. And being 100 perecnt Italian that is one thing that CANNOT be. There is no such thing as souless (probably not a word lol) when speaking of Italian food or the whole entire Italian culture.

                              As for pizza I think you would really love Di Fara's. It is without a doubt the best pizza I have ever eaten. Yes, going there comes with the price of standing in line for hours-- yes that is plural, but it is worth the wait in my opinion ( and I hate waiting!). Funny thing is, I too am on a mission to try some of the better known pizzerias in NYC since pizza is one area I haven't really explored like some others. As for Lombardi's, I went last year and unlike some of the others on this board, I think is is a very good pie and I sampled many different types.

                              Looking forward to more reviews and maybe even the possibility of dining with you in the future.

                              -----
                              Babbo
                              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                              Del Posto
                              85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                              Il Mulino
                              86 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

                              Scarpetta
                              355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                              Maialino
                              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                              1. re: steakrules85
                                uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 14, 2011 02:34 PM

                                Thanks for the compliments - I know you'd talked with RGR about meeting up with us for a meal, so if so that'd be great. I'll also note there is a Brooklyn Pizza Crawl in the works for 3/27 - if you're interested in details just message me and I can get you in contact with the point person.

                                I have to say, Il Mulino was actually a really good experience - the food, the service, the song and dance. I know I need to get back to Maialino at some point for the pastas, but my breakfast was largely underwhelming (and overpriced.) Next trip will see Ai Fiori and possibly Manzo - the NYC Italian Scene is amongst my favorites.

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                1. re: steakrules85
                                  r
                                  RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 14, 2011 02:56 PM

                                  steak,

                                  Just to let you know that it is possible to go to Di Fara and not wait hours. When Mr. R. and I made the pilgrimage, we went middle of the week around 1:30 p.m. We easily got a table though it did take a while to get our pie because Dom is not exactly a fast worker. Business was steady with lots of folks coming in for slices. But the entire time we were there, there was never a line.

                                  Mr. R. and I really should go to Il Mulino sometime. In its old school way, I'm guessing it might be the equivalent of La Grenouille. And as you know, we older folks love old school.

                                  Btw, "soulless" (but note the double l) is definitely a word. :)

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                        2. re: uhockey
                          f
                          fooder RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 02:28 PM

                          Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip. Still amazed by how many places you squeezed into such a short period of time.

                          However, for me the standout at Billy's is anything banana (banana cream pie, banana cupcake) and the square slice at Artichoke is far superior to everything else there. It's unclear whether you'd appreciate their square slice more before or after a trip to Di Fara, because of how close it gets.

                          I've not been to any of the neopolitan pizza joints since UPN left, so I'd probably be up for a pizza crawl.

                          1. re: fooder
                            uhockey RE: fooder Feb 23, 2011 03:14 PM

                            Lets just say NYC is worth splurging for - especially when you're from the middle of Ohio.

                            The pizza jaunt could be a really good time and more people would make for more different pies to taste, whether it be a Brooklyn crawl or some of the neopolitan spots in Manhattan - I invite anyone interested to get ahold of me via blog. Certainly not to take traffic away from CH, but largely just to make e-mail contact - obviously any/all visits would be reported at length here anyhow.

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            1. re: uhockey
                              w
                              wreckers00 RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 08:56 PM

                              I'd be down for some pizza crawls...when's your next trip to nyc?

                              1. re: wreckers00
                                uhockey RE: wreckers00 Feb 24, 2011 03:11 AM

                                I don't want to distract this thread too much - makes the information on restaurants hard to cull through. March 27-31 with most of the day filled by conference, but nights open 27-30. Contact via blog, please.

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                1. re: uhockey
                                  m
                                  mccaugheyd RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 08:31 PM

                                  I tried to contact you through your blog but could not connect. is your email the same as your aim? (but obviously @aol.com) I am interested in this pizza outing.

                                  1. re: mccaugheyd
                                    Steve R RE: mccaugheyd Mar 21, 2011 07:08 AM

                                    Send me an e-mail at the address on my page on CH and I'll fill you in on the details.

                          2. re: uhockey
                            u
                            uwsister RE: uhockey Feb 24, 2011 06:42 PM

                            @ Artichoke,
                            Try the square slice next time! That's my favorite.

                            I also love your reviews - please keep them coming!

                            1. re: uwsister
                              uhockey RE: uwsister Feb 25, 2011 11:25 AM

                              They had no square slices when I went, I don't think.

                              And unless I live in a city (distinct possibility for NYC come 2012) I rarely re-visit places - there is simply too much new to discover.

                              Thank you for the compliment - reviews will be slow, but I'll get 'em all done eventually.

                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                          3. n
                            Nancy S. RE: uhockey Feb 23, 2011 02:14 PM

                            I too love reading your reviews. I'm thrilled that you have started and eagerly await more. I'm especially impressed with your ability to consume and enjoy -- I run 5 miles and bike 25 miles daily, and still can only manage one important meal a day (with a really light breakfast and an even lighter lunch, and no snacks in between)!

                            1. uhockey RE: uhockey Feb 24, 2011 05:58 AM

                              Compose

                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/c...

                              Substantial hype is both a gift and a curse – on one hand the exclusivity of ten diners five days a week plus a chef coming off his stage at the best restaurant in the world is sure to fill seats and create buzz – on the other, when one is lucky enough to land one of the “exactly one month in advance” seats from Opentable, the expectations are high – perhaps unreasonably so for a restaurant that is so new and a chef that is so young. Often times I have no trouble resisting hype – especially when it surrounds new restaurants that no trusted palates have experienced…other times I am game, usually with mixed results. On my recent trip to New York City I took the bait hook, line, and sinker – one seat at the Compose bar at 7:00pm on the night of my arrival.

                              Making my way south into the lower parts of Tribeca I must admit that had I not known what I was looking for I’d have never had a clue there was a restaurant at 77 Worth Street – to the naked eye the building is a veterinarian office and pet wellness center. Walking right past but noting the bar through the window I turned around and made my way through the door where I was greeted first by the door man and second by the host – a young fellow who noted my reservation and the fact that I was from Ohio, ironically just like the door man and one of the servers. The first to arrive, approximately 10 minutes early, my bag and coat were checked and I was led to a seat at the bar – one of the 5-6 (out of 10) seats with no view what-so-ever of the kitchen. Uncertain as to why one would have a “chef’s counter” with no vision of the kitchen I inquired about the other seats but was told the seating was already arranged due to the other parties (and the fact that my original co-diner had opted out last minute.) Figuring this was fair I settled in and waited while listening to the sounds of the kitchen and non-descript music playing overhead.

                              Glossy and sleek, ordained with specially cut ice and a plethora of fruits and spirits the bar was quite the site to behold while the padded barstools with excellent lumbar support were a vast improvement to those at Ko. Seated with napkin unfolded and house filtered water poured the next person to greet me would be the bartender – a man I would see a whole lot more than any of than the chefs throughout the course of the evening and although charming, rather pushy in suggesting beverages. A light weight when it comes to alcohol I made it evident from the start that I wasn’t particularly interested in cocktails or wine pairings, but on his third “are you sure – tell me what you like,” prompting I conceded to “something with rum and fruit” and received an intricate cocktail of fresh squeezed lime and pineapple juice, Amadeus almond liquor, Smith and Cross aged Jamaican Rum, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and green chartreuse over crushed ice. Taking nearly 7 minutes to craft I will admit that given the quality and flavor this was one of the better cocktails I’ve ever had and at $15 it was actually a relative bargain considering it’s alcohol content – easily 2-3oz that would leave me a bit warm and loose throughout the meal.

                              As 7:05 approached the second pair of diners would arrive and the non-tasting seats would fill quickly to capacity – by 7:20 all but two of the tasting menu diners would arrive with the last folks arriving around 7:40, approximately 10 minutes after the amuses had commenced. With general manager Eamon Rockey greeting myself and each subsequent diner starting around 7:15 chef Curtin would approach each of us individually at 7:30 to welcome us and make absolutely certain that all dietary restrictions were accounted for (I heard at least 3 shell fish allergies, 2 religious pork intolerances, one tree nut allergy, and one alcohol intolerance at least.

                              )

                              At 7:31 the first of four amuses would arrive – the dish that, at least from early reviews, seems to be a constant signature - Duck Fat Popcorn with sea salt. Clearly taking advantage of the high temperatures allotted by animal fat as opposed to butter the popcorn was intensely crunchy without being burned and the mildly gamey flavor was lightly accented with a dusting of salt – a pleasant opening taste, but certainly nothing worthy of signature status.

                              The second course to hit the table was certainly more interesting than the first – both in construction and texture. Described as Kir Royale Gelee the dish was detailed as being creme de cassis and Champagne based and utilizing a special extraction and carbonation container to “over carbonate” the cube. A single bite the gelee absolutely erupted on the tongue – like an entire glass of champagne bubbles in a single bite – spicy, fruity, intense, and fun.

                              At this point I feel it pertinent to note by the time the second amuse arrived it was already 8:00pm and the subsequent courses would arrive at intervals ranging from two minutes to twenty. In addition to these timing issues, as the restaurant filled and the bartenders shook drink after drink the noise level became both loud and jarring – not Ko loud, but certainly more intermittent. While water remained full throughout the evening, the chefs bringing plates from the kitchen also seemed to serve at random and no one was ever really sure who presented the dish which led to me thrice receiving a description of the dish from three different people and multiple times from both Chef Curtin and at least one other chef (with the descriptions often somewhat different, as well.) I find this relevant to mention here as the third amuse would be the Ocean Sphere dish – a dish presented by a sous-chef and subsequently described by the bartender and then Chef Curtin. Featuring what my palate and ears have surmised to be a spherification of oyster emulsion, Langoustine cream, pickled shallot, and grated seaweed we were instructed to slurp the dish like an oyster and the resultant taste was brine balanced with mild sweetness – decent, but largely using “mg” technique for the sake of using the technique rather than elevating the cuisine.

                              The final amuse of the evening was the World’s Smallest Baked Potato with Osetra Caviar, Green Onion, and Crème Fraiche – a perfect little spud, soft and supple, with lovely accoutrements – there was no way this dish could fail.

                              Starting the proper tasting, course one of our ten courses would arrive around 8:20pm in the form of Baby Red Beet with Raw beet vinaigrette, Jerusalem Artichoke, Charred Vidalia Onion, Pomegranate Sauce, and Sorrel. Presented rather simply on a curved plate, this dish seemed rather simple until fork and knife met vegetable – at this point the beet literally began to ooze – a process that would not stop for the duration of the course. Apparently sous-vided and then dehydrated/rehydrated the beet was imbued with a hearty yet sweet essence that mingled nicely with the small slices of artichoke and the accompanying sauces were sweet, savory, and smoky – each providing a different experience. A very well composed dish and amongst my top three for the night.

                              Course two would feature Crudo of Fluke with Basil, Anise, Hyssop, Puffed Wild Rice, Mint, and Smoked Grape. Nicely prepared and exquisitely textured, the Crudo matched with puffed rice was undoubtedly the highlight of this dish while the smoked grape was an interesting touch – it tasted nothing like a grape, yet at the same time its mouth texture was every bit what one would expect. With the base strong, this dish was unfortunately unnecessarily complicated and I felt the Mint, Anise, and Hyssop largely detracted from the overall experience – while that may personally be my aversion to mint with meat, I overheard my neighbors note similar; “fluke is too mild for all this mint.”

                              The third dish would prove to be the worst of the evening – not because it didn’t taste good, but because the texture and temperature execution failed. Titled Butternut Squash Soup with Maple-Sherry Vinaigrette, Cold Chestnut Foam this dish seemed to want to be Achatz’s Hot Potato/Cold Potato dish, but unfortunately became “luke warm sweetened squash puree” by the time it arrived – again, style over substance because it was actually really tasty and could have been excellent if served at proper soup temperature like the version I’d experience at Bouley three days later.

                              Dish four would be my second favorite of the night and in terms of uniqueness it was perhaps the best. Described as Sous-Vide diver scallop with baby fennel puree, butternut squash confited in bacon, and dill the brilliance of this dish was the execution of the scallops – four melt-in-the-mouth morsels that tasted part scallop and part salt-water taffy – like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. Pairing this flavor with savory fennel plus gnocchi-textured cuts of squash that tasted only mildly of salty pork, the dish was almost upscale surf and turf without a single bite of land animal on the plate.

                              Dish five was taken from the noma text book and although good was much more style than substance. With a large rock claimed to be 450 degrees emerging from the kitchen first we were instructed not to touch. Moments later a large shrimp was added to the stone and allowed to cook before us. With Chef Curtin next emerging from the kitchen the shrimp was flipped over using a fondue fork and a squirt of smoked paprika and herbs were added with instructions to eat whenever we were ready. Taken whole the shrimp was clean, sweet, and nicely prepared while the paprika lent a bit of bite and smoke – but theatrics aside this was a seared shrimp, no more and no less.

                              Course six was another excellent flavor, but certainly nothing overly novel. Titled Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Lemon Cream, Cocoa Butter, American Caviar, Nasturtium Leaves, and Chervil everything about this dish felt like something from The French Laundry cookbook – never a bad thing. With a buttery and sweet mitt anchoring the dish, I must admit I really enjoyed the pairing of lemon with cocoa butter while the caviar added the slightest bit of brine. The Chervil and Nasturtium were largely overwhelmed by the other components, but their visual appeal was pleasant.

                              After course six the table bread would arrive – a single option, and one serving per guest. Titled Potato Chip Bread with Crème Fraiche butter all I can say is that if Compose is going to make bread and butter like this they should probably consider offering it throughout the meal – perhaps as bread pairings or simply as a bread basket. Likely made of 1/2 flour and 1/2 crushed potato chips the bread was crunchy on the exterior and soft within – intensely salty and with a great texture. Paired with curds of slightly sour butter this was a clever take on “chips and dip” that I really liked. All things being equal, perhaps it is good that they don’t offer a basket or refills as I’d have certainly overindulged.

                              Course seven would be my favorite of the night largely due to personal bias towards egg dishes, but also because it was a situation where every component added to the overall. Titled Poached Egg with roast cauliflower puree, poached oyster mushrooms, Cocoa Nibs, and Artichoke chips the bland white and tan presentation gave way to a texture and flavor experience that was anything but. Nicely poached and creamy the egg itself was excellent, but when paired with the understated cauliflower, fibrous mushrooms, and crisp artichokes the dish tasted the very essence of fresh, natural, and earthy. With the nibs adding a floral top note that lingered on the palate this was one of my five favorite bites of the trip and evidence of Curtin’s skilled hand when he doesn’t try to be overly complex.

                              Plate eight was the final savory of the evening – but unfortunately it simply didn’t click. Presented as Pork Belly with Charred Red Cabbage, Mint Puree, and Charred Pine nut the dish featured two main components, one a flavorful and fatty slice of pork belly and the other a sort of fibrous disk made of reduced red cabbage and what I believe was pine. Topped with crunchy pine nuts and served with a minty sauce I simply feel that this was a course where either the pine in the cabbage or the mint on the plate needed to be scaled back significantly because overall I felt like I was eating tasty swine in a bathroom – needless to say a substantial part of this dish went back to kitchen, and that part was not the pork belly.

                              Much needed the next dish would be a palate cleanser – a taste so good it would be the best of the desserts. Described as Sake sorbet with carrot ginger froth, yuzu pudding, micro basil, basil oil, micro shiso, and finger lime this decidedly Eastern influenced dish was actually quite delightful with the sorbet serving as a punchy backdrop but allowing each of the other components to shine forth. While the couple next to me opted to mix everything up and seemed to enjoy the dish as well, I personally opted to attack it piece by piece and was rewarded with different flavors in each bite – the best being when a slice of finger lime, yuzu pudding, and ginger all landed on the palate at once.

                              Course nine would present the first proper dessert and as cool as it looked, the flavors were just as strange as you would expect from the title - Apple and Pine with Wood, Hay, and Juniper. Having already tasted more than enough pine and mint for the evening, this dish again was a situation where one less ingredient could have proved to be much more in execution. With a tasty poached apple with ample notes of wood and smoke as the base the crunchy pile atop was a sort of hay and juniper flavored “crisp” that was surprisingly tasty and provided a great textural contrast. Beneath the apple, however, was pine – and a lot of it. Another interesting concept marred by one overpowering flavor, but a more restrained hand could have made this a truly unique and delicious experience.

                              The final dessert of the evening was substantially better than the first, but should have come with more instruction. Titled Oatmeal and Citrus with Blood Orange, Oats, Buckwheat, and Brown Butter the flavors here were excellent and the myriad textures, temperatures, and surprises were nicely designed. Sitting to the right of the plate, however, was a spherification of brown butter that I did not notice until the very end when I popped it into my mouth and received quite the unexpected jolt – I rather imagine it would have been better paired with the divine oatmeal cake and blood orange meringue.

                              As the clock neared 11:30 Chef Curtin approached with the final bite of the evening - Iced Honey Lavender Crème Brulee. A small ball of crunchy sugar on the outside and the essence of Lavender Honey (rather than soapy lavender or overly sweet honey) within this was excellent. Bidding us farewell and appearing as humble as he’d been throughout the meal he then stopped by to each guest and asked them what they liked and what didn’t work – a nice touch to be sure. With only one small cash register working it would be nearly 20 minutes before the bill was settled while many of the guests hung around for more cocktails. As a final gift before leaving we were each presented a copy of the menu in a wax sealed envelope – a classy touch as Eamon bid each guest a good night.

                              When it was all said and done I spent nearly 5 hours and 17 tastes with Chef Curtin and team on that Wednesday evening and at a cost of $120 plus $15 for the cocktail I think Compose represents a relative bargain in the world of New York fine dining. While the menu lacked some designer ingredients such as truffles and (to my dismay) foie gras, the ingredients utilized were clearly top notch and Chef Curtin is clearly adept in the kitchen. While I’m still somewhat uncertain as to why one would choose to put a “chef’s counter” restaurant in a space where more than half the diners cannot see the kitchen, I do realize they are doing the best they can with the space available and I respect that. All in all at such a young age (both the chef, the GM, and the restaurant itself) I feel Compose has great potential to live up to the substantial hype, but I think part of that development will be simplifying things a bit – less complexity, a better flow from the kitchen to the table, and perhaps removing some of the ancillary seats to cut down on the noise – and less pine, too.

                              -----
                              Compose
                              77 Worth St, New York, NY 10013

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: uhockey
                                TheDegustationAsian RE: uhockey Feb 24, 2011 08:20 AM

                                Hmm...seems like your experience was slightly better than Cheshes, however, its interesting to note similar issues. I love the concept and relish another "intimate" fine dining experience but have my reservations towards restaurants that use technique for technique's sake. Hopefully the restaurant finds its legs and the issues you observed will be quickly resolved...I have a reservation in a few weeks.

                                http://newyork.timeout.com/restaurant...

                                1. re: uhockey
                                  n
                                  Nancy S. RE: uhockey Feb 24, 2011 08:44 AM

                                  Excellent report. Seems to me that Chef Curtin should return to noma, to supplement his prior week-long stage, and remain for an extended stay so that he can learn how to use certain ingredients (e.g. pine) with nuance and subtlety. As an aside, at A.O.C. in Copenhagen, one of the courses on the 10-course menu is the bread -- there, a spectacular fried piece of brioche served with fresh Danish butter. It was amazing (and I'm not always a fan of fried foods), and probably the best bread experience I had in Copenhagen.

                                  1. re: Nancy S.
                                    owlwoman RE: Nancy S. Feb 24, 2011 08:55 AM

                                    Wow, that's quite a review, enjoying your reports and am impressed you can eat a 10 course meal the same evening as lunch at Del Posto (and after the cupcake and a slice). I was done for the day with eating after my lunch there... :)

                                    -----
                                    Del Posto
                                    85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                                    1. re: owlwoman
                                      uhockey RE: owlwoman Feb 24, 2011 01:56 PM

                                      .....that was nothing compared to LV/EMP/Corton day. :-)

                                      All in all I'm certainly not dissing Compose - they just have some work to do - the place could turn out to be great with some tweaks.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                  2. re: uhockey
                                    egit RE: uhockey Mar 17, 2011 11:10 AM

                                    Thanks for the review, uhockey. I swear they must have read it; maybe even studied it, in fact. I was just there on Tuesday night and while my meal was similar, they changed a few things.

                                    A minor difference was the order of the amuse courses. For whatever reason the potato and the ocean sphere came out in reverse order for us. And I'll have to disagree with you on one point: I really enjoyed the oyster sphere. All of the amuses were fun in their own way (fancy popcorn! fizzy jello! wee potato! oyster bubble!). If not in the amuse course, where else should something like this be? MG for its own sake--maybe. But appropriately placed in the amuse courses.

                                    The fluke crudo had no mint or anise, that I could detect. The presence of anything herbaceous was subtle or non-existent.

                                    The soup was, in fact, hot and cold at the same time. Maybe they missed on that execution the night you were there.

                                    The "shrimp on rock" course was gone. instead they added an additional meat course after the pork.

                                    The pork course had no pine component that I could detect. And it wasn't pork belly. It was a really nice piece of shoulder that was (in my mind) alarmingly rare, for pork. But since it had been sliced open in the kitchen my assumption is that it was intentional and I decided to go with their intent. It was delicious. Tender like tenderloin but more flavorful.

                                    The last meat course was I think a sous vide venison loin which I think had then been deep fried to put a crust on it, and it was served with (something, something) and smoked hay oil. It was an interesting effect, but it seemed to me that the venison was "over crusted" in the fryer.

                                    Oh, and your comment about "one less ingredient." The first dessert course was "Apple, Pine, Wood, Hay." No juniper. Personally I enjoyed it, because I don't think I was bludgeoned with pine as you did.

                                    The pacing was much better than you describe as well. The first amuse was in front of us by about 7:10, and all of them had been served and eaten by 8. Service was timed well... there was no significant lag between courses, but it never felt hurried.

                                    I don't tend to notice noise levels unless they prevent me from conversing. I guess to a certain extent I personally like it a little noisy... it gives me a sense of privacy (if that makes sense).

                                    There is only one quibble I have with the service... and it's only a quibble. It felt at time that the bartender was spending so much time "hand crafting" drinks that he fell behind a bit on others' orders. So the wine pairings weren't perfectly in sync. But it wasn't off by much, so it wasn't like there was a 10 minute lag between food and wine, or anything that extreme.

                                    All in all it seems like, on top of everything else, they're learning from their critics and definitely addressing those things that are either unsuccessful or not well executed. I think this place will be around for a while.

                                    1. re: egit
                                      uhockey RE: egit Mar 17, 2011 12:49 PM

                                      If they did read my thoughts then I'm glad to have contributed to your evening - as I noted in my review, restaurants clearly grow with time and the kid is talented - its not the sort of place I'd never go back to, especially as the price is a relative deal, I just wouldn't RUSH back.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                  3. uhockey RE: uhockey Feb 27, 2011 09:03 AM

                                    Clinton Street Baking Co. and Bouchon Bakery.

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/c...

                                    Thursday morning started early with me in the LES and a need to be in midtown by 9:30am. Having twice attempted to go to Clinton Street Baking Company on previous visits to New York only to be thwarted by waits greater than one hour for a single person this time I made no mistakes – I arrived at 7:45 and was there when Neil Kleinberg arrived – and when a young man delivering fresh fruits and vegetables arrived on bike. By 8:00am when the doors opened there were nine people behind me in line and by the time I was leaving at 8:45 there was a 20-30 minute wait for a table – sure it was National Pancake Month and Clinton Street reportedly makes the best in the city, but it was also a Thursday morning.

                                    Seated promptly at a small two-top along the wall I was handed a menu and told they had four styles of pancake on the menu that day – the famous blueberry version, a chocolate chunk, a banana walnut version, and Almond Frangipane with Fresh Raspberries, Toasted Almonds, Raspberry Sauce, and Almond syrup. Ordering a coffee that would remain topped off by my server, Shelby, and her team I additionally ordered up a muffin while my pancakes were made to order.

                                    Sitting back and listening to the whimsical 80’s soundtrack overhead and the unintentionally overhearing the previous night’s escapades from my hipster neighbors it would only be moments before the Banana Chocolate Chunk Muffin would arrive along with the mildly acidic and not particularly impressive coffee. Streusel topped and buttery, the muffin itself was still warm from the oven and as such rather messy given the substantial load of dark chocolate within. Served with fresh raspberry jam and butter the muffin was a fork and knife affair and quite excellent – as a matter of fact, all the baked goods at Clinton Street Bakery looked excellent.

                                    With seemingly every table around me opting for either pancakes or the buttermilk biscuit sandwich (and a particularly hung over fellow to my right getting a maple butter pecan ice shake and burger for breakfast) mine would be the first to arrive and I have to admit I instantly understood the hype. Light and fluffy, stacked three high, and absolutely loaded with raspberries and toasted almonds plus a sidecar of buttery almond syrup these pancakes are the prototype for what a buttermilk pancake should look like and feel like in the mouth. Rather understated despite the bold ingredients each flavor complimented the other nicely and despite the large portion size everything was quite light – very much unlike other pancakes which can sit in the belly like a lead weight. At $15 the price is a tad higher than one would expect, but the ingredients are clearly top notch and while not the best pancakes I’ve ever had, they are certainly the best I’ve had in New York.

                                    While there was a line forming outside, I was told to take my time with the check and even received a last refill of my coffee at that time – asking for the coffee to go (no sense in letting it go to waste) I was given a paper cup and upon settling the modest tab and making my way to the streets I had plenty of time to walk uptown and arrive at my destination almost 5 minutes early. Having tried to visit in the past I can say now that had I waited more than an hour I’d probably not have been as enthused about my visit to Clinton Street Baking Company, but if you are motivated enough to beat the crowd then Clinton Street is definitely worth the visit – though in retrospect I wish I’d have gotten a shake instead of the coffee.

                                    With my daily obligations filled by 11:00 and no lunch reservations until 12:30 the next stop on my culinary tour would be a personal favorite that always finds its way onto my New York (or Vegas, or Yountville, or now Los Angeles) agenda – Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Fully admitting to be a fan of Chef Keller and equally so of his ever changing rotation of baked goods I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Time Warner Center to find not only some new options, but also myriad large metal works celebrating my favorite artist – Salvador Dali – on display. Browsing for a while before making my way upstairs to place my order I fully admit it took longer than usual to decide as there were at least ten new options I’d not tried.

                                    With decisions made, purchased, and bagged I made my way through the rest of the Dali exhibit while enjoying my selections – the first a raspberry almond croissant – what can I say, after breakfast it seemed like the only logical choice. Having always found Bouchon croissants to be amply crunchy and plenty butter but lacking the airy pockets inherent to most French Croissants this one was no different – it was rather flat but absolutely loaded with fresh fruit and pockets of butter mixed with sweet spots – almost a half-scone/half-croissant pastry.

                                    For my other half of the order – how can one turn down those fist sized macarons – especially when the flavors are Peanut Butter and Jelly and Orange Vanilla Bean – IE, Creamsicle. With that perfect crackle giving way to Keller’s slightly less than airy style sandwich cookie each were again stunning examples that purists may call too “gummy” but for me pretty much summarize why I keep coming back again and again – the flavor. While I still believe La Maison du Chocolate to make a slightly superior Chocolate and Pistachio than Bouchon, the variety of flavors and sheer size of Keller’s collection will invariably keep me coming back each and every time I’m in a city where they are available – and in the case of New York, I’ll look forward to visiting the second location at Rockefeller center just as soon as it opens.

                                    -----
                                    Bouchon Bakery
                                    10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

                                    Clinton Street Baking Co.
                                    4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: uhockey
                                      n
                                      Nancy S. RE: uhockey Feb 27, 2011 10:23 AM

                                      More excellent reporting! Always a treat to read.

                                      1. re: uhockey
                                        w
                                        wew RE: uhockey Feb 27, 2011 03:00 PM

                                        "...I...ordered up a muffin while my pancakes were made..."
                                        Which is why there is envy in the world

                                        1. re: wew
                                          uhockey RE: wew Feb 27, 2011 03:11 PM

                                          I work for these trips - I envy the folks who live steps away from such great dining. :-)

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                          1. re: uhockey
                                            w
                                            wew RE: uhockey Feb 28, 2011 04:22 PM

                                            I think it's your capacity that on my best day I'd fail to equal.

                                        2. re: uhockey
                                          MVNYC RE: uhockey Feb 27, 2011 06:34 PM

                                          Bouchon's Sugar Croissant is a real treat. Try it if you ever get back

                                          1. re: MVNYC
                                            owlwoman RE: MVNYC Mar 1, 2011 08:02 AM

                                            Looking forward to reading more, again, extremely impressed by your appetite!

                                            1. re: owlwoman
                                              uhockey RE: owlwoman Mar 4, 2011 06:41 AM

                                              Thanks - and sorry about the delay in updates - battling a cold and a particularly long stretch of work.

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                          2. re: uhockey
                                            s
                                            steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 12:07 PM

                                            I agree with Clinton Street. Their pancakes and baked goods are fantastic. One thing I will say is next time definitely get the buttermilk biscuit- the best biscuit ever. Oh yeah and the sugar cured bacon is fantastic!

                                            As for your regretting not getting a shake- don't. I ordered a coffee shake there and honestly was very underwhelmed. It was easily the most disappointing part of my meal.

                                          3. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 4, 2011 04:09 PM

                                            Aldea and Momofuku Milk Bar:

                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/a...

                                            To be entirely honest I’d never tasted Portuguese food before – I’d never even really given it much thought coming from small town Ohio where the closest we get to Spanish food is poorly conceived tapas made by sub-average line-cooks. Acknowledging this deficit in my culinary acumen after hearing about George Mendes, his rustic yet refined approach to Portuguese cooking, and his newly acquired Michelin Star I immediately turned to the reviews and then to the menus – what struck me right away were the glowing words of praise from trusted palates and a menu that featuring four of my favorite things – a reservation for one at the chef’s table/bar would follow in short order.

                                            Walking past the Rubin museum en route from Time Warner Center I would, as usual, be early for my reservation – yet on my arrival the narrow restaurant was surprisingly barren – a lone couple in the front and a solo diner at the chef’s counter in back. A bit surprised given the attention that Mendes and his cuisine have received in recent months my bag and coat were checked by a pleasant young woman and I was quickly led to the opposite end of the chef’s counter where a wine list was provide and declined – iced water would suffice. Within moments the menu was in my hands and Shannon, a pleasant young woman who seemed to be the only server working at lunch, would explain the prix fixe vs. a la carte options and leave me a moment to decide. With the restaurant so empty I’ll note that service was efficient but not overly friendly – plates were delivered, empty plates collected, water filled – no more, no less.

                                            Watching the action of the kitchen (from a vastly better seat than that of Compose) it seemed that Mendes was not present that afternoon, yet everything moved quickly, efficiently, and quietly. With my menu decisions made I motioned to Shannon that I was ready and as I was placing my order the room seemed to lighten up a bit as a group of four women were led in by the hostess and Chef Mendes appeared from upstairs with a bottle of wine for the diner at the end of the chef’s counter – apparently a supplier with whom Mendes was very familiar and would spend most of the afternoon chatting with about various issues while also tending to the kitchen. Always teaching but never lecturing I must say it was impressive to watch Mendes explain technique to his chefs and look over each plate as it left the kitchen – and after the supplier left he stepped right into line with the group – a respected member of the team more than their “boss.”

                                            With my order placed and my first dish delivered while Mendes spoke with his friend at the bar I will note that I missed out on the daily amuse given to subsequent guests – a mussel soup in a shot glass; as such my first flavor of Aldea would be the house bread – a tasty rustic bread with a smoky crust and delicate crumb that paired nicely with the smooth and fruity house olive oil.

                                            As an appropriate start to a veritable greatest hits collection for my palate, the first course of the afternoon would be delivered from the charcuterie section – the Cured Foie Gras with Bosc Pear, Maple, and White Port. First noting the price, $18, this was a significant piece of liver and the texture was creamy and perfectly prepared – not a vein or textural variant to be found. Served with two meager slices of brioche – a small gripe that I’d later note at four other restaurants on the same trip – the Foie’s plate mates were faultless – the caramelized pears, the crispy maple candy, the cocoa nibs, and most of all the drizzle of sweetened and reduced port.

                                            Following one must order, another – an egg dish. Served as a “Slow poached egg with hen consommé, Benton’s bacon, root vegetables, and winter black truffles” the dish was amongst the best of my visit to New York. One part soup, one part upscale breakfast for lunch there was not a single unnecessary ingredient in the dish and after watching it prepared I realized where all that brioche I wanted with my Foie was going – into the soup as crispy buttery croutons. Clean and clear broth, smooth and creamy egg, crispy salty bacon, and parsnips/potatoes/carrots aplenty all topped off with the heady aroma of truffle.

                                            With no gnocchi on the menu to complete my perfect quartet, the final savory of the meal would be duck in the form of Mendes’ signature “Arroz de Pato.” Essentially a saffron accented paella imbued with poultry (perhaps duck) stock and tossed with salty olives, spicy chorizo, crispy cracklins’, and confit leg the dish is finally topped with sous vide breast to form something utterly remarkable yet entirely rustic and familiar. With crisp rice at the base and splotches of Clementine orange arranged at the perimeter the dish was everything you could ask for in terms of taste, texture, and even visual appeal – something difficult to pull off with rice dishes in my opinion.

                                            Tempted to go with the oft cited “Little Dreams” dessert my mind made a quick 180 when I saw the option on the daily lunch tasting – no matter how hard I try I simply can’t pass up bread pudding. Ordered up without a second thought it would take some time for the dish to be prepared – and for good reason in that although the bread was already soaking, the dish was entirely uncomposed otherwise. Craning my neck to watch the pastry chef in the back work her magic, Banana Caramel Bread Pudding would not disappoint – nor would its accompanying crème fraiche sorbet. Made once again with the same excellent brioche that paired with the foie and the egg but this time loaded with banana and creamy caramel before being topped with a crunchy cinnamon streusel and entering the oven the pudding was intensely sweet and hefty while the sorbet was distinctly airy and tangy – at a mere $8 a veritable bargain.

                                            With the restaurant still less than half full but the table behind me making quite the racket I settled the bill in short order and made my way to the front where I collected my coat and made my way to the street sated but not overly full, very happy with the food but not overly impressed with the service or ability to interact with the kitchen staff despite the “Chef’s counter” concept. Bold and satisfying I will most definitely say that my first experience with Portuguese cooking was a favorable one and I wouldn’t hesitate to return for some of the less obvious choices in the future – chef’s counter or not – as there is no doubt in my mind that Mendes is a talented man whose career will only continue to blossom.

                                            Heading south to collect my belongings as I would be changing hotel rooms that evening I opted to walk the path down 2nd Avenue – one of my very favorites for people watching in the LES – and in the process I happened to walk by David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam and Milk Bar. Borrowing a riff from my sister’s book that one is “never too full for ice cream” and having heard good things about the new cake truffles I decided to stop in and found Led Zeppelin’s 10-Years Gone, my favorite song of all time, playing overhead – call it fate?

                                            Making my way past three hipsters at one of the standing counters and waiting in line behind a young father and his daughter ordering a Franken-Pie I browsed my options and was met by a friendly young lady who offered me a taste of the soft serve but unfortunately informed me that one cannot mix and match the truffles – 3 of the same flavor for $3 only. Only slightly disheartened and planning to return later in the trip if necessary I opted for a taste of the Malted Milk ice cream and while it was decent, the French toast was much better and as such I selected a 50/50 split of Cereal Milk and French Toast. Trying to decide if I wanted a cookie or a slice of pie I (shockingly) remembered that there was plenty more eating to be done I made my way to the street just as The Strokes “Electricityscape” was kicking in – a song that kept me in the store to finish my ice cream.

                                            -----
                                            Aldea
                                            31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

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

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: uhockey
                                              r
                                              rrems RE: uhockey Mar 4, 2011 07:00 PM

                                              As usual, a very thorough report and a nice read. Glad you liked it. Next time you are here you should try Nuela. They do a different but also very good version of duck paella.

                                              1. re: rrems
                                                uhockey RE: rrems Mar 5, 2011 02:15 AM

                                                Thanks.

                                                Not open for lunch is a tricky proposition for me - it means giving up a "wow" spot for dinner, otherwise Nuela would definitely be lunch-worthy.

                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                -----
                                                Nuela
                                                43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                  r
                                                  RGR RE: uhockey Mar 5, 2011 09:52 AM

                                                  While the duck rice at Nuela is in a way more of a "wow" than Aldea's (which I do like a lot), given your circumstances, i.e., you don't live here, I think you are correct that Nuela is not worthy enough overall to occupy a dinner slot in your dining itinerary.

                                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                  1. re: RGR
                                                    Steve R RE: RGR Mar 5, 2011 09:56 AM

                                                    For future reference, I'd try to get into Brooklyn Fare as well. I havent been but everyone I know who has says its the hot ticket to get right now.

                                                    1. re: Steve R
                                                      uhockey RE: Steve R Mar 5, 2011 01:02 PM

                                                      I've tried, twice, it was booked out both times. If someone wants to give up their seat for me on 3/27, 3/28, or 3/29 I'd be happy to oblige. ;-) I'd be even happier for 3-4 seats to take dining buddies.

                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                            2. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 5, 2011 01:03 PM

                                              Lincoln Ristorante and Levain Bakery:

                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/l...

                                              The evening of 3/17 would place one of my favorite bands in a venue at the top of my “must visit” list – Interpol at Radio City Music Hall. Having seen the band 6 times but never in their home town at such a venue it was largely the concert that prompted me to make this particular trip to NYC in the first place. With an 8:00pm door time and an opening act that left me underwhelmed four days prior, however, a pre-concert meal was obviously in order and as such I decided to spend it with the man who crafted the best meal I’ve ever had in New York City, a 25+ course extended tasting that still resonates with me over a year later - Jonathan Benno.

                                              With enough already made of Benno’s choice to leave Per Se (only 2 nights after my meal there) for Lincoln and the exorbitant cost involved in almost every aspect of Lincoln’s design I will only briefly touch on the space – a futuristic shard rising out of Lincoln Center – in a word the exterior is “striking.” Making a brief diversion prior to my 5:30 reservation (more on this later) I will also note that Lincoln Center was entirely abuzz on this particular day with an opera, a ballet, and the end of Fashion Week all coinciding with the day of my meal – given the lack of traffic cops for such a convergence of events I will simply note that my trip to the hostess stand was something akin to the video game Frogger.

                                              Entering the lower lobby I was immediately greeted by a young woman who confirmed my reservation and checked my coat before leading me up the stairs. Greeted at yet another hostess stand by a team of three I was immediately struck by the dynamic of the dining room – long, dark, and left centered with the gleaming white of the kitchen to my right. With the room only a quarter full but soon to be at capacity with people waiting I was led promptly to a two-top in direct view of the kitchen and while I have to say I did not fancy the steel and cream leather “office chairs” filling the space, they certainly were comfortable and provided a degree of contrast to the sturdy black wooden tables.

                                              Seated next to a lovely octogenarian solo diner who was due to meet her son-in-law at the opera we chatted briefly (and throughout the meal) before my server, an obvious veteran of the New York dining scene, Jeffrey would arrive with the menu, wine menu, and a clever sense of humor. Declining wine I first noted that the tasting menu had been truncated and lowered in cost – and as expected, the online menu was severely out of date with a restaurant that changes at least a portion of their options daily. Asking if parts of the tasting could be ordered a la carte I was informed that this would not be a problem at all and with little delay my order was placed.

                                              Watching the kitchen move and listening to the light overhead concerto with occasional interruptions to chat with my neighbor I’ll note that while there is no doubt who is in charge of the kitchen, I only heard Chef Benno yell once during the 2:15 minute meal – otherwise the kitchen moved like a well polished machine. Service was friendly and conversational between myself and Jeffery while other tables dining as a group received less enthusiasm but equally in depth descriptions and suggestions. Ancillary service was hit or miss – while water remained filled throughout, empty plates often remained longer than one would expect – the longest remaining plates being the steel tray and tower combination bearing the now-signature opening volley of chili powder grissini and toasted flatbreads with lardo and sea salt – the grissini far too spicy for my Midwestern tongue but the flatbreads quite tasty.

                                              Arriving next would be a collection of assorted Italian olives, fennel pollen taralli crackers, and crispy parcels of ricotta and spinach – each decent, none memorable.

                                              For the nightly bread selection a collection of three warm and distinct flavors would arrive from the kitchen. All baked in house and served with a buttery and vegetal olive oil and cannellini bean and roasted garlic puree the choices of the day were foccaccia with melted lardo rosemary and black pepper, sesame 9-grain, and rustic Italian. With each bread offering something different I must admit that after a bite of the Italian and the nine-grain I remained with the foccaccia for the rest of the night – I mean, really, how can you argue with warm foccacia, pig fat, and rosemary – especially when topped with a smooth and garlicky compote?

                                              My final amuse of the evening would be the best of the group and a substantial portion at that – tartar of big eye tuna with fennel, basil, and olive oil. While tuna tartar is clearly a played theme, this ceviche styled version all but melted on the tongue while and the vegetal ingredients acted in composition with the fish to highlight the sweeter tones of the protein.

                                              Kicking off the menu proper, now approximately 50 minutes and ten different tastes into my meal, would be my request from the nightly tasting. For $24, Terrina Di Anguilla Affumicata E Fegato Grasso (Smoked Eel and Foie Gras Terrine, Bosc Pear, Sicilian Pistachios, Balsamico Gran Riserva Oro) would not disappoint. Weighing in at likely 1.5-2.0 ounces, the terrine itself was uniquely presented with the eel deboned, smoked, and packed into the unctuous liver – a remarkable taste and textural pairing that pleased the tongue and eye. Sitting alongside the terrie was a boozy pear tossed with grassy pistachios while a line of balsamic graced the front of the plate. While I’ll note that I generally prefer my terrines with a warm bread or toast, the dish was otherwise quite impressive and balanced.

                                              Next moving into heavier dishes, my second selection was from the side dish section – in this case the daily gnocchi: Gnocchi di Patate Al Tartufo Nero. Listed at $25 but billed at only $14 (the normal daily price when the dish is served without truffles) this dish was the steal of the trip and every bit as good as the similarly fashioned gnocchi with black truffles that I remember from my extended tasting at the French Laundry. Perfect morsels of melting butter and potato, castelmagno cheese, and earthy aromatic truffles – after watching me enjoy each bite my neighbor opted to forgo dessert and order one of her own.

                                              Course three would be another pairing of carb, cheese, and truffle – this time Speck e Polenta. Presented in a shallow bowl patterned precisely off of those at TFL and Per Se, the dish featured creamy Anson Mills White Polenta intermingling with Castelrosso cheese and chopped black truffles. Topping the dish off with four thin slices of uncured pork the flavors all balanced well and, as an additional surprise, the base of the bowl was layered with another thin layer of truffles.

                                              For my final selection of the evening, a proper pasta – I just had to see if a $3,500 pasta machine was worth the hype. With three selections catching my eye this was the one course where I deferred to my server who offered up the Rigatoni as his favorite without a second thought. Noting to me that the portion sizes of the pastas had recently been increased and that I had ordered a lot of heavy food I assured him I would be okay, but when the dish arrived I had to admit I was surprised at the size – vastly larger than a pasta at Babbo, Del Posto, Marea, or Scarpetta. Titled Rigatoni Al Salsiccia Piccante the nicely prepared al dente tubes were matched with spicy Berkshire Pork Sausage, Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta, Fresh Basil, and a toss of mildly acidic tomato sauce. Simply done, rustic, and delicious even if perhaps a bit overpriced at $22.

                                              At this point I was starting to get a little full but clearly dessert was a must. With Jeffery delivering the menu and strongly recommended the Spumone he began to describe the nightly sorbet selections to which my neighbor (who’d declined the sweets menu perhaps 10 minutes earlier) piped up and said “Are they as good as Grom?” Not understanding the question I explained to him what Grom was and that, in fact, they had just opened a new location just south of Columbus circle. With my order placed I additionally opted for a French Press of coffee – a $4.50 12oz of what I believe was Lavazza’s standard blend.

                                              Returning next with a spoon for myself and one for my neighbor it appeared Jeffery had clearly taken it upon himself to let us decide whether the house sorbetti and gelati were “as good as Grom.” Presented with three flavors each – Mint Stracciatella, Oro Blanco Grapefruit, and Malted Milk for myself and Chocolate, Fennel, and Bosc Pear for my neighbor. With each scoop rested atop a complimentary crumble and topped with a thin crispy tuille I really cannot say whether the flavors were better than Grom, but they were all quite good and my neighbor definitely thought her Bosc Pear was Grom level.

                                              Moving on to my proper dessert (and at this point quite full,) this dish would be the first less-than-excellent ordered course of the night largely because it wasn’t what I expected. Titled Budino All Averna E Cannolo Di Ricotta E Cioccolato, I rather expected a proper budino pudding, but what I received instead was a sort of hybrid dish featuring two chocolate shelled cannoli stuffed with ricotta and mascarpone and an dense chocolate ganache flanking candied kumquats. While bold and tasty with the chocolate nicely accented by the fruits I guess I just had anticipated something more akin to the glorious Budino of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria – two of the best desserts I had in 2010.

                                              Delivered along with the bill, the night’s selection of mignardises would include a Caramel Licorice, Sesame Biscotti, and Gianduja with Hazelnut. Not at all a fan of Licorice I was pleasantly surprised by the mildness in the caramels and actually favored it the most of the troika – but with that said, none were anything I couldn’t have done without. Settling the bill and requesting a copy of the menu, I was surprised when Jeffery offered me a brief tour of the kitchen where I got to chat with the chef a bit and he signed the menu without prompting – compared to my visit at Per Se he actually seemed much less rushed and intense than when I met him at Per Se – he even joked that the night prior Jerry Seinfeld had been in the house and made a comment that the kitchen was like a giant “chef tank.”

                                              Making my way down the street I was once again struck by the criticism that Benno has gotten for Lincoln – prices too expensive, the room too impersonal, the portions too small – none of it seemed valid, though clearly changes have been made since the spot originally opened. While the experience is certainly not Per Se and the location certainly means different things to different people – a dining destination for some versus a pre-theater bite for others, I think the space is elegant and unstuffy, the food precise yet familiar, and the kitchen like nothing I’ve ever seen – my only suggestion would be to better focus the ancillary courses, but then again I’m not sure if Keller was serving the salmon cone and gougere every night at The French Laundry when it first opened.

                                              Walking quickly with coat delivered from downstairs I made my way out to the street by 7:45 and found myself waiting in line at Radio City by 8:05 – perfect timing – yet for a moment a bit of worry. Noting the “no outside food or drink” sign I suddenly remembered my pre-meal diversion – Levain Bakery – and the nearly two pounds of (IE, two total) cookies in my pocket. With security thankfully wand based only the cookies survived – at least until 10:00pm.

                                              Having admittedly taken a bite of each when they were delivered warm to my hand prior to entering Lincoln all I can say is that these are not those flimsy cookies your co-workers bring to the office party each December – these are more like a half-softball of butter, flour, sugar, and love. With one chocolate chip and one chocolate with peanut butter chip I cannot really say which was better, only that both were every bit worth the price, calories, and stomach capacity. Perhaps I’m a bit biased and perhaps a bit jaded by the experience, but all things being equal I’d have to say Levain Cookies + Radio City + Interpol is about as close to heaven as it gets.

                                              -----
                                              Per Se
                                              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                              Babbo
                                              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                              Del Posto
                                              85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                                              Grom
                                              233 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

                                              Scarpetta
                                              355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                              Marea
                                              240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                              Lincoln
                                              142 W 65th St, New York, NY 10023

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                n
                                                Nancy S. RE: uhockey Mar 5, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                Another great review. I'm curious about the rigatoni, though. The New York Times reported a while back that Benno is using a brand called Mancini for some of his dishes. The Mancini brand is supposedly fabulous (I saw it at Dean & Deluca for $10/lb), and I was under the impression that Benno's rigatoni was dried.

                                                -----
                                                Dean & DeLuca
                                                1 Rockefeller Plz, New York, NY 10020

                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                  r
                                                  Riverman500 RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 06:05 AM

                                                  Lincoln has indeed evolved from the restaurant that earned such mixed reviews six months ago, and kudos to Benno for that.

                                                  The food is exciting and I've been to Lincoln many times because of its constantly changing menu. I'm glad to finally read a review that echoes my own opinion of the restaurant.

                                                  1. re: Riverman500
                                                    uhockey RE: Riverman500 Mar 6, 2011 06:24 AM

                                                    I'd say that along with Scarpetta it is my favorite Italian in the city and only shades below what Vetri is doing in Philadelphia for best anywhere I've been. I look forward to checking out Ai Fiori in 3 weeks.

                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                    -----
                                                    Scarpetta
                                                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                                    Ai Fiori
                                                    400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                      r
                                                      Riverman500 RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 06:35 AM

                                                      I love Scarpetta and Vetri too.

                                                      Ai Friori is delicious but for some reason leaves me cold. I've only been there twice. Though it certainly deserves its NYT 3 star review, I don't plan to return until the menu changes. I'd be curious to know what you think of it.

                                                      -----
                                                      Scarpetta
                                                      355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                                2. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 09:03 AM

                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/l...

                                                  I have a number of stories of fantastic and admittedly some border on gluttony – five hour 25+ course meals, tasting menus followed by dessert tastings elsewhere, a $95 egg and breakfast, lunch, and dinner with foie gras in a single day are some of my favorites, While I admit that there are times when I look back on such occasions and wonder what I was thinking, in the end they’re almost all invariably worth it. Setting the proverbial “table” with the comments above, the three meals comprising February 18, 2011 set another sort of record – all inclusive they entailed nearly 12 hours seated at a table with food, beverages, and friends – a virtual marathon of great memories.

                                                  Beginning the day early with a jog around Chelsea and a subsequent trip to the post office, the first stop on my tour du jour was a place I’d meant to visit on my last two trips to New York but had never made it to for one reason or another – Andrew Carmellini’s hip and casual Locanda Verde – a bustling joint serving breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner while fashioning itself as an Italian Tavern. Arriving just after opening I was surprised to find the space already half filled and quite loud despite the early hour – Friday business meetings abound. Seated quickly and presented with a copy of the menu by the hostess I was left to browse.

                                                  Checking out the innumerable bottles, mirrors, woods, and stools that comprise Locanda Verde I have to tip my hat to the design team – it certainly felt like a bustling tavern. Seated close to the window and closer to the pastry bar it took me little time to know what I wanted on the menu and I turned my attention to the pastries – ostensibly for “later.” After approximately 4-5 minutes my server, Julia, would stop by and ask if I wanted coffee. Always agreeable to such an offer it would take some time before the pot would arrive, delivered by a young ancillary server who would keep the cup full to the brim throughout my stay. A tad too citrus for my personal tastes, I honestly forgot to inquire who provided Locanda Verde’s beans, but at $4 with unlimited refills I couldn’t complain.

                                                  With Julia the only person I actually saw working (literally, five people were standing at the hostess podium kibitzing the whole time I was there) aside from a couple bussers it would be approximately ten minutes before my order was taken, but thankfully only approximately ten more before the first dish would arrive. Likely LV’s signature item at this point, Sheeps’ Milk Ricotta with Truffle honey and burnt orange toast was my first selection – and it was good. With mounds of smooth and creamy ricotta topped off with honey, fennel, rosemary, and olive oil sitting alongside buttery and faintly citrus tinged toast it is hard to say what the best way to consume the plate was – to savor the lovely cheese on its own, or to let it be tamed by the toast. Alternating back and forth between these two options I’ll simply note that both are worth trying, but as a solo diner you’re bound to run into palate fatigue either way as the portion is quite ample.

                                                  With the ricotta only approximately 1/2 consumer, my second course would thankfully be much lighter albeit less delicious. Titled Toasted Hazelnut French Toast with citrus salad I’ll simply note that the dish was neither bad nor remarkable, despite its intriguing ingredient list. With a general preference leaning towards more custard-style French toast, this version featured a crispy exterior studded with hazelnuts and a sweet brioche interior that was unfortunately still largely uncooked bread. Topped with sweet Clementine oranges and bitter grapefruit slices and a bit of mint plus a sidecar of pure (and warmed) maple syrup the overall balance was largely skewed to the sweet, something I prefer, but overall it just didn’t justify the $15 price tag.

                                                  With a couple of pastries ordered to go the check was next delivered along with a final serving of coffee to go cup it was at this point that I realized a couple of inconsistencies in the bill – namely, the $12 ricotta was billed at $14 (despite being listed online for $9,) the French Toast billed at $15 as opposed to its menu price of $14, and the muffin was billed at $4.50 despite clearly being indicated on the board for $3.75. Not one to quibble prices, these inconsistencies were just a bit too strange to ignore and as such (after waiting 15 minutes) I inquired and received a “well, the menu prices recently went up but we haven’t changed the menus yet – let me see what I can do.” What she could do, invariably, was leave me waiting another 15 minutes while the five folks at the podium had a meeting of the minds as to how to remove $3.75 from the bill.

                                                  Making my way to the street and subsequently to the post office before heading to the Rubin for a long afternoon of art I decided to forgo waiting on the pastries given my day’s eating agenda and opened the bag. Starting first with the oft raved Apple Cider donut – it was still warm – but it wasn’t very good. All oily, minimally apple – perhaps I’m jaded from my years of living in the middle of Apple Cider country, but aside from a few cinnamon notes here and there it just didn’t’ do it for me, so much so that I ended up leaving half for the pigeons.

                                                  Fairing vastly better than the donut, my second pastry was the previously mentioned $3.75 blueberry polenta muffin – after a single bite I fully admit I’d have paid $4.50 and maybe more. Chock-a-block full of soft and sweet blueberries juxtaposed against pockets of butter and cinnamon and all set before the backdrop of a slightly coarse and textural cornmeal – an absolute must order and reason enough alone to visit Locanda Verde for breakfast – just make sure you look over your bill.

                                                  -----
                                                  Locanda Verde
                                                  377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                    c
                                                    chocokitty RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 09:22 AM

                                                    Great summary! Same applies to all of your earlier reviews.

                                                    I do agree with you the Locanda Verde's pastries are a bit too overpriced for what one should pay for. Granted, some pastries are excellent (and I do admit I have not tried their cider donut) but almost $5 for a muffin...it makes me hesitant sometimes to go there again.

                                                    Tina
                                                    http://thewanderingeater.com

                                                    -----
                                                    Locanda Verde
                                                    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                      k
                                                      kathryn RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 01:56 PM

                                                      The egg dishes on their menu are much more interesting and impressive than the French toast.

                                                      1. re: kathryn
                                                        uhockey RE: kathryn Mar 6, 2011 02:32 PM

                                                        Then they shouldn't make the French Toast. :-)

                                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                        1. re: uhockey
                                                          scoopG RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 07:22 PM

                                                          On the one hand you say you risk being a glutton. Then complain about the French Toast pricing in one of the most expensive places in the world.

                                                          1. re: scoopG
                                                            uhockey RE: scoopG Mar 7, 2011 01:56 AM

                                                            In the world? I don't think I said that, and it isn't a "place" but rather an item.

                                                            And, re-read, I'd have gladly spent if it was worth it and they didn't inflate the menu price.

                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                        2. re: kathryn
                                                          scoopG RE: kathryn Mar 6, 2011 07:18 PM

                                                          I agree.

                                                        3. re: uhockey
                                                          r
                                                          rrems RE: uhockey Mar 6, 2011 04:49 PM

                                                          I'm really concerned about the overcharging and the arrogant attitude. I've been there for dinner 3 times, and though the food was quite good, the reasons we have given up on it are the noise level, the crowding, and the rushed service. This just adds one more reason to skip it. If someone is willing to take the trouble to report this to the department of consumer affairs, I think the restaurant would be in trouble. While many restaurants show lower prices on their websites than on the actual menu (not a good thing either) they at least do not give you a bill with prices higher than their printed menu or what they post on a blackboard on the very day you order the dish. This is the height of chutzpah, and I am pretty sure, illegal. Would you really consider returning?

                                                          1. re: rrems
                                                            uhockey RE: rrems Mar 6, 2011 05:04 PM

                                                            It certainly wouldn't be at the top of my list - but I'd consider checking out dinner and dessert. The fact that the online menu STILL today lists a price of $9 for the ricotta is quite interesting, though. And yes, I have the receipt and menu if anyone really decided to take this up with consumer affairs.

                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                        4. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 13, 2011 05:16 PM

                                                          Corton

                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/c...

                                                          If you’d have asked me what my top five “must visit” restaurants were prior to this most recent trip to New York you’d have heard only two ranked before Paul Leibrandt’s Corton – those being L’Astrance and Pierre Gagnaire’s flagship restaurants in Paris – the latter of which Leibrandt had spent some time in training. Well accomplished at a young age and trained in some of the world’s best kitchens I’d heard Leibrandt described as everything from visionary to vexing and from precise to prima donna, but having missed out on the restaurant during my last two visits to New York for various reasons I knew from the moment I saw the Winter 2010 menu that this would be the time to visit.

                                                          With scheduling tight due to multiple circumstances I must admit that my visit to Corton could have been better planned – I mean, really, I’d only just finished a fantastic meal with two new friends at Eleven Madison Park sixty minutes earlier. Half jogging with bag and coat in hand my descent from Madison Square Park to TriBeCa would be a quick one and even so I would arrive approximately ten minutes late for my 6:30 seating – as a matter of fact, with the restaurant largely unadorned on the exterior I was actually rushed right past it at first before noticing. Entering the small cream colored space to the sight of a friendly hostess who gathered my belongings and assured me that my delayed arrival was not a problem I did feel a bit bad for having left my dinner partner for the evening, another new friend, waiting.

                                                          Seated promptly and busy chatting when our server would arrive with menus and a wine list moments later I must note that service at Corton is quite unlike most other restaurants in New York – it actually feels more akin to Los Angeles fine dining where the servers are there for you, but certainly not there to pamper you – you get everything you need, likely anything you ask for, but you both know they are doing their job and unless there is a serious gaff (there never was, service was flawless) you’d just assume the water refilled itself and the food appeared on the table. With few questions to ask since we’d previously agreed to do the tasting plus a supplement the meal began without delay.

                                                          Browsing around the space that comprises Corton I have to admit that unless one is paying attention, the nuances are easy to miss. Larger than one would assume from the street the small bar and entryway quickly gives way to a square dining room lit largely on the edges and substantially white – the walls, the ceilings, the tables, the plates – with flourishes of gold in the pillars, embossed leafs on the walls, and lettering. Featuring not an open kitchen, but rather a kitchen that can be seen through a long acrylic window that looks out into the dining room the dining room seemed designed for meditation, at least aside from the extremely loud table of six seated in the corner during our visit. Not particularly conducive to photo taking I will note that the current no-flash policy (strictly enforced as we saw regarding one of our neighbors) is a step up from Leibrandt’s previous no-photos-at-all policy.

                                                          Without further ado, the first items to arrive at our table were clearly a flash of Gagnaire – four separate and unique canapes in/on various vessels, including one served on a plastic-wrapped sauce pan. Featuring Parmesan Marshmallows, Black olive and parmesan croquettes, Almond and herb financiers, and crackers filled with mornay sauce each item was quite savory (I’d heard rumor of Leibrandt’s fondness for salt) but none overly so. With the sweet and savory balance of the financiers definitely my favorite bite, I could have easily snacked on any of these at the bar all evening.

                                                          For our amuse proper of the evening the next course to looked like an egg and was indeed an egg – or at least the yolk. Described as a slow poached egg yolk with parsnip espuma and celery root plus lotus chip the flavors of this course were decidedly vegetal but all melded together nicely by the creamy yolk. Breaking the chip up into the egg-cup and eating slowly the most impressive aspect of the dish to me was the manner in which each taste was distinct yet also additive to the whole – an aromatic experience that tasted flavorful yet light, clean yet earthy.

                                                          Prior to our first course we would next be visited by the bread man – always one of my favorite folks in any restaurant and no different at Corton. Sporting garlic focaccia, olive loafs, bulgur wheat baguettes, and cranberry-walnut bread crisps along with creamy unsalted cow’s milk butter and a sweet yet savory seaweed butter and a side of sea salt I sampled each and while I cannot say the olive loaf was the best I’ve tasted, the other three options were all excellent with both butters – had it not been for such a full day of eating I’d have surely overindulged.

                                                          With approximately ten minutes consistently between finishing a course and the arrival of the next, the first item on our night’s tasting menu would be “Local Brook Trout – lightly smoked, Osetra Caviar, Yuzu.” Served half on a plate and half on a salt rock the primary constituent of the dish was a delicate and smoky terrine of trout wrapped in black olive gelee and topped with caviar and gold leaf. With a thin layer of melted gruyere at its center and an airy puff of yuzu meringue at its left the accompanying salt rock would feature squid ink dentiles and a tempura blini topped with goats milk chantilly. With no instructions on how to eat I found this dish to be most vexing of the evening with drastic contrasts in flavor, texture, and temperature at every turn but if one were to look for a common thread the only thing I can think is that this was the chef’s take on traditional blini with trout, caviar, and creme fraiche and in any case it was all quite tasty.

                                                          Following the trout would arrive our supplemental dish – in my opinion the second best course of the evening entitled “Foie Gras – Honey Crisp Apple, Yuzu, Brioche.” Anchored by a large rounded sphere of creamy Foie Gras covered in apple cider and sitting in a puddle of yuzu yogurt the liver itself was remarkable solo or slathered on the house made toasted brioched with marcona almond butter and fried buckwheat. Rounding out the plate with dollops of yuzu gelee, truffled honey, and various textures and flavors of honeycrisp apple the $26 supplement was worth every penny.

                                                          Returning to the tasting menu but opting against the $40 winter truffle supplement our next dish would present “Sunchoke Gnocchi – Black Truffle, Brown Butter Creme.” Small in portion but ample in flavor this course was amongst the least complicated of the evening with the two nutty sunchoke gnocchi and one black truffle gnocchi centering the dish in a sauce of truffle, gold leaf, and frothed butter. With a crunchy sunchoke crisp hemisecting the dish and a dollop of aged balsamic at its base there was a precision and purity to the dish that I enjoyed, though I’d have admittedly enjoyed more of it.

                                                          The thrid course of the tasting was, in my opinion, the least successful. Titled “Scallop – Sea Lettuce, Bergamot” the centerpiece of the dish was excellent – a perfectly pan seared dayboat scallop served in its shell. Where the dish failed for me was the base of sea water gelee, vanilla grass, sea lettuce, and bergamot. Intensely briny but at the same time lingering on the palate with bitter citrus tones the entire dish just seemed unbalanced by the bergamot – like a tea bag allowed to steep for too long.

                                                          The next course would mark a return to precision and balance – first presented tableside and then plated in the kitchen “Atlantic Turbot – Faux Marrow, Huckleberry, Hibiscus” was a stunner. With the turbot loin wrapped in port gelee and finished with hibiscus jus the fish itself was lovely – a flaky and moist masterpiece nicely balanced with the sweet port. Partnered with grilled fish fins and a supple king mushroom dusted with truffle powder posing as “Marrow” the sauce, a puree of black trumpet and huckleberry, added another layer of aromatics and texture to an already impressive dish – a dish quite unlike any fish course I’ve ever tasted.

                                                          Still wowed by the Turbot our next course would represent not only my favorite course of the meal, but my favorite course thus far in 2011. Once again presented tableside before returning to the kitchen for plating, “Wild Lola Duck – Cooked in Fresh Eucalyptus, Red Cabbage Gelee, Mole” was another two plate presentation and bite after bite I would have difficulty deciding which was better. Starting first with a thin cut of breast, crisp and crackling on the exterior and strawberry red within, the mild menthol was more a feeling on the tongue than a true “flavor.” Topped with a spicy mole sauce and accompanied by a carefully arranged stack of tamarind paste, mustard greens, chicory, red cabbage gelee, and a spiced chocolate tuille the dish felt like one of the complex Southwestern presentations from a Rick Bayless kitchen yet significantly more artistic. Not to be outdone, the second plate of the main course would present duck leg confit baked in puff pastry with lardo and cocoa, cauliflower mayonnaise, and an herb bouquet. Crispy outside, molten and fatty within – the mayonnaise and herb bouquet were merely distractions from the outstanding amalgam of flavors.

                                                          Moving toward dessert our cheese course for the evening would feature “Brebis Pyrenees – White Coffee, Tamarind, Caraway.” Centered by the hard sheep’s cheese atop a white chocolate disc, this composed course would additionally feature tamarind puree, grapefruit gelee, and coffee vanilla Chantilly encircling the cheese and a side dish of a caraway crisp. Generally a fan of softer cheeses I was pleasantly surprised by this course as each bite and accoutrement showed off the versatility of the cheese – caramel and salt at times, nutty and sweet at others.

                                                          Presented as a palate cleanser, “Coconut – Kaffir Lime, Basil Seed, Golden Pineapple, Macadamia Nut Crumble” was much more a proper dessert than a palate cleanser. With coconut custard dollops laced with lime at each side and a coconut sorbet at the center the dish was subsequently topped with aromatic basil seeds, compressed pineapple and pineapple gelee, and a healthy spooning of sweet macadamia nut brittle. A decidedly tropical dessert for the middle of February in New York I really appreciated the variations in texture and temperature – much like the orange version four hours earlier at Eleven Madison Park.

                                                          Our final dessert of the evening at Corton would arrive signed in chocolate by Leibrandt. Titled “Saffron Vanilla Fudge - Matcha Green Tea Sablé, Chestnut, Vanilla” this was again a 2-plate composition with the aromatic fudge cake, chestnut meringue, and vanilla cream seated atop a sponge of matcha and topped with a thin chocolate disc and crystallized violet. Partly bitter but also sweet and balanced the overall flavor reminded me much of Matsuhisa’s Greet Tea Tiramisu with the flavors ever so slightly more nuanced, possibly due to the focus being placed more in favor of the chocolate and less on the matcha. Moving away from the cake, the highlight of the dish for myself (but not so much my dining partner) was the side-dish consisting of a Dark Chocolate Baba finished with 23-year aged rum – an overhead smash of two hefty flavors that served a stark contrast to the restraint and precision of the well balanced cake. All told I ended up with 1 and 3/4 of the Babas all too myself – who am I to let such decadence go to waste?

                                                          With plates cleared and myself opting for coffee, a rather standard and earthy peaberry, our mignardises from Corton would arrive in plethora – three acrylic boxes and a stone slab filled with passion fruit and cassis rose pate a fruit, Honey Bourbon Truffles, Mojito, Sidecar, and Brown butter salted caramel Macarons and Cassis and Violet, Meyer Lemon, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Salted Butter Caramel chocolates. Sitting and chatting for quite some time while I grazing on the sweets and sipping my coffee I won’t lie when I say that my friend did very little to her share of the bounty, yet when we left a solo macaron and only 2 truffles remained – aside from a couple of gummy macarons all treats were excellent.

                                                          Splitting the bill onto two credit cards and requesting a copy of the menu for my growing collection it would only take moments before our server returned with the menus, protective envelopes, and a pair of grapefruit and rose financiers in individual wrappers. With the tab settled and my bag and coat collected my friend and I boarded the Northbound 1-Train where a quick changeover at Penn Station would have me en route for my buddies in Queens via the LIRR in less than 25 minutes.

                                                          Looking back on the entirety of the day – Breakfast at Locanda Verde, a nearly 5-hour lunch at Eleven Madison Park, and over three hours at Corton I am still impressed with the quality of the food I had on February 18th 2011 and with the people I dined with – all in all it was a truly fantastic day that I’ll look back on fondly for some time. Focusing more specifically on Corton – all I can say is that my hunch was right, it was every bit as challenging as I’d hoped and lived up to all the great expectations I had when I made the reservation. While notably my most expensive meal on this most recent trip to New York, it was also my favorite – and perhaps the best overall meal I’ve had in New York outside the extended tasting at Per Se under Benno that cost nearly twice as much. I have no doubt I’ll be back – it is just a matter of when.

                                                          -----
                                                          Corton
                                                          239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: uhockey
                                                            f
                                                            fm1963 RE: uhockey Mar 13, 2011 05:29 PM

                                                            So happy to read your review of Corton, one of my favorite restaurants. I'm glad you enjoyed the experience and hope you will return soon.

                                                            -----
                                                            Corton
                                                            239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                            1. re: fm1963
                                                              uhockey RE: fm1963 Mar 14, 2011 03:15 AM

                                                              It really is surprising to me that they don't get more attention - I guess it doesn't have the heritage of the Michelin-3 star spots or the TV-Friendly Chef of wd-50 but bite for bite I think Leibrandt is throwing more dynamic things out there than anything I've experienced in New York (or really anywhere outside the 'mg' scene in Chicago.) While there are obvious hints of his mentors in the cooking, the restaurant feels as much Leibrandt as Alinea feels like Achatz.

                                                              As I noted in the other thread - if I lived in New York I feel like Corton would warrant seasonal visits as the menu changed.

                                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                              -----
                                                              Corton
                                                              239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                                erica RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 03:33 AM

                                                                BRAVO!

                                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                                  f
                                                                  fooder RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 06:53 AM

                                                                  Recent reviews (including yours) make me feel I should give Corton another visit. I went shortly after they opened, and my main concern food-wise was that certain flavor components felt thrown onto the plate just to create the contrast, but didn't feel necessary for the dish. Would I still get that kind of feeling now?

                                                                  For example, you mention L'Astrance. I've not been, but I have eaten Barbot's cooking when he visited NYC. To me his food is a perfect example of everything on the plate being necessary to enhance the flavor profile.

                                                                  As for "if I lived in New York I feel like Corton would warrant seasonal visits as the menu changed", I'm more curious which of the top restaurants in NYC wouldn't warrant seasonal visits?

                                                                  1. re: fooder
                                                                    uhockey RE: fooder Mar 14, 2011 07:03 AM

                                                                    I think, like Gagnaire, many of the plated elements at Corton are for shock and contrast - the last dessert a perfect example - one cake the photo-negative of the other - not ornate, simply in your face compared to ther attractive and nuanced centerpiece. Similarly the Brook Trout dish - the dentiles were very cool, but probably not necessary in the least. As I'll be visiting both L'Astrance and Gagnaire in less than a month it will be interesting to compare.

                                                                    As for places I don't feel like I'd go to seasonally:
                                                                    Le Bernardin (the online menu has hardly changed a bit in ~2 years)
                                                                    Bouley (he has his classics - they seem ever-present on the menu)
                                                                    Del Posto (see above)
                                                                    Jean George (First of all, it didn't wow me the first time. Secondly, he has a greatest hits menu which kind of makes it a one-visit spot to me - though I do realize there is a seasonal menu and would consider going back if I were with a group of regulars)

                                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Corton
                                                                    239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                  2. re: uhockey
                                                                    p
                                                                    peter j RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 06:59 AM

                                                                    Thanks for the report. Corton is brilliant and Liebrandt continues to reach new heights. Nice to see recent pictures of the food. I guess the restaurant is allowing photography again.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Corton
                                                                    239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                    1. re: peter j
                                                                      uhockey RE: peter j Mar 14, 2011 06:58 PM

                                                                      Indeed they are - no flash, though.

                                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                              2. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 14, 2011 06:57 PM

                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/d...

                                                                After a wonderful Friday with new friends and stellar dining Saturday would be another day of food and friends plus a meeting in the morning and hockey in the evening – still plenty of time for three good meals. With the day beginning in New Hyde Park and progressing to my midtown meeting, Tribeca lunch, and Forest Hills dinner before ending in Uniondale the agenda was certainly aggressive, but entirely doable with a map and a little planning.

                                                                Waking early for a long jog and then hopping the LIRR to Penn by 7:00 a quick walk would place me at my first destination, DB Bistro Moderne, just after 8:00. Too early for brunch but with eyes set squarely on one (or three) particular menu items I’ll note here that my menu was pre-ordered by special request and as such from the moment I arrived until the moment I left the service was beyond reproach. With the city (and restaurant) quiet at such an early hour on the weekendI was greeted promptly and seated by one of the two server/hostess/bussers and with coffee (La Colombe) filled and remaining filled throughout the meal the experience was underway without me even having to look at a menu.

                                                                Sipping my coffee while reading a complimentary copy of the New York Times and listening to soft French-pop overhead the entire feel of the room was decidedly haute-New York – elegant without being “fancy” and warm yet also stylish and modern. With affluent Italians occupying a pair of tables next to me and conversing exclusively in their native tongues I made small talk with my server who noted the 1970s Kings jersey sitting at my side and shortly thereafter I was informed it would be “no time” before my first course would arrive.

                                                                With the clock just shy of 8:20am and Boulud branded napkins and tableware awaiting my first course would indeed arrive from the kitchen quite quickly – a basket of three warm viennoiseries by Eric le coq, L’Echire butter direct from France, and two jams – rhubarb and raspberry by the famous “jam fairy” Christine Ferber. With the butter croissant better than any I’ve had in Manhattan I can honestly say that it alone with the butter and delectable confitures would have been enough to justify the $6 price tag, but as an added bonus there was also a pain au chocolat stuffed full of Valrhona Manjari chocolate and a second croissant layered with strawberry jam and almond paste. With each bite as good as the last if I had to utter a single complaint it would honestly be that the pastries were so good I could not find a place to use up all the lovely butter without feeling guilty.

                                                                Noting my early meeting and clearly well prepared to have me in and out by 9:00am, my second course was special requested from the brunch menu and would arrive warm with cheese still bubbling. Titled “Le Menage a Trois” – a taste of all three of db Bistro Moderne’s Croques Monsieurs and featuring Croque Classique, Croque Provencal, and Croque Moderne along with a salad of mixed greens topped with a zesty vinaigrette this was the sort of breakfast worth going out of your way for. With each half sandwich using toasted double buttered brioche and creamy Mornay, the Classique would be the most traditional – a savory ham, Swiss, and Bibb Lettuce composition that rivaled any I’d ever had. More interesting but less successful, the vegetarian friendly Provencal would match a stunning heirloom tomato with fresh basil, mozzarella, and mesclun – the bitter greens proving an excellend balance to the sweet tomato. The final sandwich – the piece de resistance if you will, would be the Moderne with supple and fatty duck confit topped with sharp goat cheese, fig compote, and spicy arugula – sweet, savory, fatty, and covered with Mornay…I’m pretty sure not even making the monsieur a madame could have improved it.

                                                                With the time nearing 8:50 and the check delivered along with a to-go cup full of coffee I thanked my servers and made my way to the street where a quick walk would lead me to the Hilton by 9:10 – a full twenty minutes early. A lovely setting, great service, fantastic food, and a kitchen willing to accommodate the diner’s whim – after a great visit to Daniel in early 2010 and this visit to DB in 2011 there is little doubt that the rest of Chef Boulud’s empire will find their way onto my itinerary during subsequent visits to the Big Apple.

                                                                -----
                                                                DB Bistro Moderne
                                                                55 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036

                                                                24 Replies
                                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                                  n
                                                                  Nancy S. RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2011 05:53 AM

                                                                  Excellent report. What a special treat to have Christine Ferber jams -- they are fabulous. You must be sure to "stock up" when you're in Paris. (La Grande Epicerie has a good selection, and Pierre Herme has some special flavors produced only for his shops.)

                                                                  1. re: Nancy S.
                                                                    uhockey RE: Nancy S. Mar 15, 2011 05:57 AM

                                                                    Are they smaller than 3oz? Is Jam "liquid?" :-)

                                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                                      n
                                                                      Nancy S. RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2011 06:45 AM

                                                                      The jars are 220 grams (almost 80z). I have had raspberry, apricot and Pierre Herme's special strawberry. The raspberry is a bit more "liquid" than the others (but not unpleasantly so, at least for me), which I imagine is attributed to the lack of pectin.

                                                                  2. re: uhockey
                                                                    s
                                                                    steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2011 07:11 AM

                                                                    When can we expect reviews of Osteria and the Breslin?

                                                                    -----
                                                                    The Breslin
                                                                    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                                    1. re: steakrules85
                                                                      uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 15, 2011 08:11 AM

                                                                      Maybe before April?

                                                                      Quick summaries:
                                                                      Breslin - Kitschy, fun, awesome food, too-cool-for-you hipster service, great coffee and lots of pretty people
                                                                      Morini - Loud, contrived interior decorating, God-awful service, decent coffee, good main and dessert, subpar pasta (and it contained Foie Gras which should make this impossible)

                                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                      -----
                                                                      The Breslin
                                                                      20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                                        erica RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2011 08:18 AM

                                                                        Oh, dear. I have been waiting for your report, as I have been on the fence about Morini and just booked for this week. I am a big fan of Marea and the former and much-lamented-by-me Convivio.

                                                                        "Sub-par pasta": would almost seem impossible in a Michael White restaurant so your comment is making me reconsider! Can we get a glimpse of what you ate there, by any chance?

                                                                        Loving your round-up!

                                                                        1. re: erica
                                                                          uhockey RE: erica Mar 15, 2011 08:23 AM

                                                                          TORTELLINI a piaciere: duck liver panna or ragú
                                                                          MUSSETO baked eggs, braised cockscombs, sweetbreads, trotters, salsa verde
                                                                          BUDINO for dessert

                                                                          It was a big disappointment for me as I loved Alto and Convivio (less so Marea, but that was more a service issue and the bang-for-buck ratio - the food was uniform excellence.) All told I'd recommend Lincoln, Scarpetta, Babbo, or A Voce over Morini

                                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                          1. re: uhockey
                                                                            s
                                                                            steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2011 10:12 AM

                                                                            As a big time Michael White fan, I am saddened to hear all of the so-so reviews of Osteria Morini. Convivio were two of my faves and it is a shame they are closed. I was hoping Osteria Morini would be able to fill the void. I will still definitely try it because everyones experiences can vary and we all have our opinions. I have to admit though-- looking at the menu none of the pastas really seme to jump off the page at me. They seem rather simple and not very inspiring which is totally not Michael White.

                                                                            Just wanted to ask since I have heard raves about that duck tortellini with foie gras (Sifton said it was one of the best pastas he had last year)... what was wrong with it? In my experience I have always been disappointed by tortellini no matter where I go. For some reason they always lack punch and flavor, especially these "foie gras" presentations.

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Osteria Morini
                                                                            218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                            1. re: steakrules85
                                                                              r
                                                                              RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 16, 2011 12:04 PM

                                                                              steak,

                                                                              I happen to love filled pasta -- totellini, ravioli, etc. When we were at Alto in '09, we had the duck foie gras ravioli which, if not exactly the same, is probably similar to the totellini at Morini. It was sensational!

                                                                              You can see it in this set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                                                              There are quite a few pasta selection on Morini's menu which appeal to me. So, despite the mixed reviews, I plan on trying it sometime -- most probably for lunch mid-week when I've heard it's quieter -- because, like you, I want to judge for myself.

                                                                              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                              1. re: RGR
                                                                                s
                                                                                steakrules85 RE: RGR Mar 16, 2011 12:25 PM

                                                                                As for the pastas-- I changed my mind 3-4 times after looking at the menu because I went back and forth of whether I want want to try the tortellini or not. The creste with seafood sounds like the most interesting to me. The garganelli sounds exactly like what is on the menu at his NJ restaurant Due Mari which I have yet to try, but know you like.

                                                                                However, as a polenta lover the polenta al forno with mushrooms is a definite must try!

                                                                                The mains sound more appealing and I am particularly interested in the porchetta (since it isn't on many menus), braised short ribs, swordfish, and of course the porterhouse and ribeye sound delicious.

                                                                              2. re: steakrules85
                                                                                uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 16, 2011 12:40 PM

                                                                                It was flavorless, undersalted, and tasted nothing of duck or foie gras.

                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 17, 2011 01:53 PM

                                                                                  Oof. Will be steering clear of that then thanks lol.

                                                                            2. re: erica
                                                                              r
                                                                              rrems RE: erica Mar 15, 2011 04:21 PM

                                                                              erica,

                                                                              I really think you should give it a try. I can understand why uhockey was disappointed, as his purpose is to hit the best possible places in a short period of time, with little regard for price. I would not consider Morini a destination restaurant. It is not Convivio or Marea. It is also much less expensive. I have had 2 very good meals there, and would consider it equal to Lupa or Crispo. The Michael White name, just like the Batali name, is a big draw, but this is really just a good local restaurant, not really fine dining. My comments on our first visit are on this thread:

                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738486

                                                                              We did not have any pasta that time. The second time, we ordered one appetizer, one pasta, one main course, and a vegetable and shared everything. They comped us an additional pasta, but it was not memorable. The one we ordered, gnocchi, was not really gnocchi but a thick, gnocci-shaped pasta. The sauce was very good but the dish was not what we were expecting. However, we had a lot of food, and with a bottle of wine the bill came to about $120 before tip. If you are willing to spend more, you should try Ciano, which is comparable in price to Convivio, and IMO a worthy alternative now that Convivio is gone.

                                                                              1. re: rrems
                                                                                erica RE: rrems Mar 16, 2011 04:27 AM

                                                                                Thanks, Rrems. I specifically chose it (instead of Ai Fiori, for example) because out-of-town friends on a limited budget will be accompanying us. The noise factor and the service issues were also giving me pause. But it is a weekday and we are going early, so if my friends agree, I will have some comments about my experience there in a few days! Thanks for your help, always!

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Ai Fiori
                                                                                400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                1. re: erica
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  RGR RE: erica Mar 16, 2011 06:47 AM

                                                                                  erica,

                                                                                  It's too bad your friends' budget would not permit you to go with them to Ai Fiori because I think all of you would really have liked it. Superb food, top-notch service, and lovely ambiance.

                                                                                  Ai Fiori photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                                                                  Btw, although I am a fan of Michael White's cooking, I didn't come away loving Marea the two times we were there. While most of the food we had was fine (no surprise that pastas were exceptional), I had a fish dish that was poorly executed. Service didn't have the cordiality and polish I thought it should have, especially considering its "NY Times" and Michelin stars, and I didn't care for the overall ambiance.

                                                                                  We haven't been to Morini yet. I hope you enjoy it and look forward to reading your report.

                                                                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                  1. re: RGR
                                                                                    erica RE: RGR Mar 16, 2011 07:34 AM

                                                                                    Thanks, RGR! About Marea, I love the food (grilled octopus and the fusilli, as well as the whole fish) but I agree the service really needs help. I never feel truly welcomed and each time there have been issues that have each been fairly minor, but do add up. I plan to return next week so will see how we fare.

                                                                                    I will let you know how Morini works out..I only wish it could be Ai Fiori, but i will get there before too long..

                                                                                    I always enjoy reading your reports and looking at the mouth-watering pics!

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Marea
                                                                                    240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                    1. re: erica
                                                                                      r
                                                                                      RGR RE: erica Mar 16, 2011 08:12 AM

                                                                                      Based on observation, I've concluded that, unfotunately, Marea is one of those restaurants where only regulars of a certain type are made to feel truly welcome by the reception staff. Otherwise, you're just another mouth to feed.

                                                                                      As for my photos, I'm very pleased that you enjoy them. When it comes to food, there's sense in the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words." :)

                                                                                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                      1. re: erica
                                                                                        k
                                                                                        KateMW RE: erica Mar 16, 2011 09:15 AM

                                                                                        We went to Marea on Saturday night and for the first time I found the service to be lacking. For instance the Amuse didn't come until after the first course {why bring it?} and then it wasn't removed until after mains were there. Some other small things, but mainly it just seemed off. The server also couldn't be bothered to crack a smile which drove me nuts. The other times we've been there, the service has been wonderful. We've had a wonderful server named Gary 3 out of the other 4 times we've been there and he's great. The food was fantastic as usual, we had the whole Branzino and it was terrific!

                                                                                        1. re: KateMW
                                                                                          f
                                                                                          fm1963 RE: KateMW Mar 16, 2011 09:19 AM

                                                                                          That's interesting. I've been to Marea a few times (most recently two weeks ago) and always had great service. I'm not a VIP and I'm sure I'm not recognized by the staff. The food has always been stellar.

                                                                                          I've also had good experiences at Osteria Morini and pretty much agree with Rrems above.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Marea
                                                                                          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                          1. re: fm1963
                                                                                            TheDegustationAsian RE: fm1963 Mar 16, 2011 09:52 AM

                                                                                            On my visit I felt the service a bit lacking, considering its three NYT stars and two from Michelin. We ordered the tasting menu and our server had no idea what it consisted of, and upon telling us, informed us later that he had made a mistake about one of the courses. We were also not given an amuse.

                                                                                2. re: erica
                                                                                  sgordon RE: erica Mar 16, 2011 11:24 AM

                                                                                  Weighing in on the Morini / Marea issue... I was also underwhlemed by Morini. The couple times I've been the dishes I had were, almost to a dish, simply swimming in fat. Now, I'm not anti-fat but some of them bordered on ridiculous. The aforementioned baked eggs with cockscombs, sweetbreads, etc was extremely one-note. Adding to the problem was that the meats were cut in such small pieces they weren't really distinguishable from one another, it just became a mass of what could have been anything. And there wasn't anything to balance the oiliness of it - maybe had there been more of the salsa verde, or had there been something with an acidic kick. But as it stood, it's nothing I'd ever order again.

                                                                                  There were some hits - a wonderful seasonal vegetable barley soup hit the spot, hearty and warming and delicious. But for the most part, at this point I feel no need to go back.

                                                                                  Marea on the other hand I liked a lot - up to a point. That point was the end of the pasta course. After that, I found it unexciting. I'd be happy to go back for a meal of Crudo, Antipasti, and Pastas, but the Secondi just left me flat. Desserts - I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I'm not one to judge, but nothing wowed me. As to the service - nothing special, but nothing offensive.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Marea
                                                                                  240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                  Crudo
                                                                                  235 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                                            3. re: uhockey
                                                                              c
                                                                              ConOrama RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2011 12:23 PM

                                                                              Im actually looking forward to hearing what you had in Forest Hills.
                                                                              I live there currently and would be at a loss as to where to bring you to eat.

                                                                              1. re: ConOrama
                                                                                uhockey RE: ConOrama Mar 16, 2011 12:43 PM

                                                                                Danny Brown Wine Bar - as you'll see it wasn't my "choice" but it was actually quite good.

                                                                                The area is lovely.

                                                                                And thank you for rescuing this thread from the Michael White love-fest when I haven't even offered my full thoughts on Morini. If only Corton drew such attention.

                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Corton
                                                                                239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                                                  c
                                                                                  ConOrama RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2011 02:20 PM

                                                                                  Oh, Danny Brown, of course.
                                                                                  Id love to hear what you think about Queens' first Michelin star.

                                                                            4. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 17, 2011 04:03 PM

                                                                              Bouley:

                                                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/b...

                                                                              I’ll admit I was skeptical – I’d heard negative comments from a pair of trusted palates that the restaurant was old and tired – a relic resting on past glory despite the new location and positive reviews from Bruni and Michelin – it was actually these comments that had kept the Bouley off my agenda on previous visits to Manhattan. With that noted, aside from the aforementioned thoughts there were others that urged me to go – another trusted gourmand and also my dining partner from the night before at Corton who considers it one of her very favorite restaurants in the city. Exploring the rumor that Chef Bouley was back in the kitchen and everything was firing on all cylinders a quick e-mail only days before my departure for New York confirmed that the Chef would indeed be there for Saturday lunch service and that although they were full for later seatings a table for one could certainly be accommodated if a 12:45 reservation would suffice.

                                                                              With meetings out of the way and a quick stop at Bloomingdales my walk south would be brisk – the sun was out for what seemed like the first time in months and being just before noon the streets were bustling…the scene was everything I love about New York (save for the odd folks dressed as Elmo.) Making good time and arriving at the easily missed location just before 12:30 I entered a foyer almost too grand to be true – hundreds of fresh apples lining one wall, hundreds of ornate flowers lining the other – the smell intoxicating. Greeted by the hostess my reservation was confirmed and I was told my table was being readied if I’d like to take a seat and wait; it would be a mere 5 minutes before I was led through the dining room to my two top in the back – every other table in the restaurant full.

                                                                              With a heavily padded chair that could have likely supported two beneath me and thickly linened table, flowers, and silver before me the scene at Bouley is certainly one to behold – it is beautiful and the floral patterns dominating the room from chandelier to wallpaper to floor strike a safe balance between ornate and ostentatious, no small feat. Opting for iced water and against wine I would next be greeted by my server, a man named Marcellin who would not only provide his contact information at the end of the meal, but would also lead one of the top five service teams I’ve experienced in Manhattan – to say the least I was never left wanting for anything. With the menu presented and my selections from the 4-course prix fixe confirmed along with an added supplement I asked to make sure photos were allowed…what followed, in my opinion, was near perfection.

                                                                              Kicking things off, the amuse for the afternoon would be a Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Ricotta Cheese and Roasted Chestnuts – a creamy potage balancing the natural sweetness of the pumpkin with the mellow ricotta and smoky chestnuts. Tasty albeit somewhat conventional the portion was surprisingly large for an amuse – I’ve certainly received smaller “cups” of soup at a number of restaurants.

                                                                              Following the soup one of the most impressive bread services I’ve experienced in a restaurant began – I guess it doesn’t hurt to have your own bakery. Beginning first with an apple raisin roll and flaxseed baguette that were offered as a warm pair to every table, the rest of the meal would be a revolving door of flavors that changed nearly every time the friendly and gracious bread man passed through the room. With a semi-sweet butter and fine sea salt on the table the selections I remember out of the dozen offered included Black Currant-Anise, Walnut Saffron, Fig, Olive, Pistachio, Garlic Focaccia, Miche, and a warm Brioche. Needless to say I sampled a few too many.

                                                                              Beginning the 5-course (or so I thought) $45 prix fixe my first course would be Carpaccio of Kampachi, Young Big Eye Tuna, and Striped Amber Jack ‘prepared in a Mediterranean manner.’ A substantial portion of high quality ceviche-style fish paired with unseasonably bold tomatoes and an array of microgreens with a mild dusting of salt and black pepper the course was dazzling both visually and texturally – an appropriately delicate way to begin the meal.

                                                                              Following the fish there would be a bit of a delay – twenty minutes perhaps – but the time went rather quickly between the bread and conversing with my captain; plus what would come next was every bit worth the wait. Described as a “gift” from Chef Bouley – a gift I saw no other table receive – Sea Urchin Terrine with Golden Osetra Caviar and Vodka Crème Fraiche would prove to be quite present indeed. Served as two fresh tongues of uni – one raw and the other encased in a gelatin block tasting like the essence of the sea the dish was anchored in a bitter yet tangy cream amplified by small dots of briny caviar and basil oil. While admittedly homogenous in texture, the flavor of the dish was anything but – at times sweet and at others savory it was just a beautifully executed composition.

                                                                              With little delay following my wowed response to the terrine, the next dish to emerge from the kitchen was another gift – this time Sauteed John Dory with sweet peas, celery root puree, and black Truffle Sauce. Featuring my favorite fish there was little chance for this dish to fail, though I must note it was not as impressive as the uni. Flaky and sweet the St Pierre itself was quite tasty – clearly sautéed in butter and all the better for it. Where the dish missed for me, however, was actually the black truffle sauce which although good was so potent with the nose of truffle that it overwhelmed the delicate fish and celery root.

                                                                              Returning to the prix fixe, my next course would be perhaps Bouley’s most famous at the current location; Porcini Flan, Alaska Live Dungeness Crab, Black Truffle Dashi. Served in a small dish and uncovered tableside with a bit of steam and plenty of earthy aromatics greeting the nose the first thing to note about the dish is that it tastes much better than it looks. Clearly Asian in influence the heady dashi dotted with large chunks of crab is lovely – it makes the dish despite getting second billing in the title. Digging deeper, to the bottom, the creamy custard greets the palate with earthy tones – a sort of balance to the savoriness above – and when mixed thoroughly the amalgam simply “works.”

                                                                              The followup to the flan was ordered a la carte in addition to the prix fixe – though I will admit it did not appear on my bill at the end of the afternoon. Never one to pass up an egg dish or polenta the Organic Connecticut Farm Egg, Serrano Ham, Steamed Polenta, Artichoke, Sunchoke, Coconut Garlic Broth dish was an obvious choice and perhaps my favorite course of the meal. With the cured ham actually served in four strips cupping the egg the breakfasty aspect of the dish was spot on and melded nicely with the substantially buttery polenta. Adding nuance, crispy artichoke and shaved parmesan plus one of the most unique “broths” I’ve ever experienced – on one hand milky and sweet but on the other potent with garlic.

                                                                              When Marcellin arrived to collect my empty plate and asked how it was I merely pointed – I’d admittedly wiped it clean with some miche. With a smile he said “good, the chef is making up something special for you to try” and true to his word the next dish was another gift – another egg. Presented on a similar plate to the first, Scrambled Connecticut Farm Egg, Black truffle, Mascarpone, and Comte was not nearly as complicated as its predecessor, but was every bit as good. With the egg itself whipped with black truffles and mascarpone to form an aromatic cloud of flavor, the dish was topped tableside with grated 24 month aged compte – a decidedly luxurious touch.

                                                                              Once again returning to the prix fixe – course three (or eight counting the amuse – but who is counting, right) was Organic Long Island Duck Roasted with White Truffle Honey, Vermont Chanterelles, Pencil Asparagus, Porcini Puree and a side of buttered pommes puree. Beginning with the mashed potatoes – they aren’t Robuchon – a tad more texture – but they aren’t too far off. Moving on to the duck – rosy on the inside and bronzed on the exterior the flavor was quite excellent – sweet and supple, but unfortunately not fatty or crispy enough on the exterior to rival the fowl at Eleven Madison Park or Corton. Certainly a competent dish and again impressive in portion I’ll note the accompanying vegetables and fungi were quite nicely prepared – tender and flavorful, nicely paired with the earthy mushroom sauce and sweet foam.

                                                                              Rather full at this point the next course would be the only fixed option on the prix fixe – a transition from the savory to the sweet in the form of Chilled Coconut Soup with Pineapple Granite and Organic Yogurt Sorbet. Interestingly tasty and tropical much like the palate cleansers at Eleven Madison Park and Corton the day before I actually enjoyed this dish better than either of them – the pineapple was exceedingly sweet and juicy, the coconut quite restrained, and the sorbet tangy and smooth. With the added crunch of crumbled macadamia nuts this dish was more Hawaii than New York and more summer than February, but it was also delicious and light.

                                                                              For my final course of the afternoon – well, it was anything but light. Loved by some and loathed by others, Chocolate Frivilous with Chocolate Brulee, Chocolate Parfait, Hazelnut Dacquoise, Chocolate Walnut Spice Bread, White Coffee Ice Cream, Prune Armagnac Ice Cream is certainly a plate to behold – if I had to guess I’d say the composition of six desserts easily weighs a pound or more. Arranged randomly and not all that attractively with the ice-cream starting to melt on arrival, this mixed bag of varying tastes and textures was largely a success with the chocolate flavors running the gamut though interestingly it would be the non-chocolate options that appealed most. A solid ending to a great meal I can’t say I loved it – but I didn’t loath it either.

                                                                              As a final treat before my departure, a tower silver tower of mignardises was delivered with the check – shockingly only $45 + $4 coffee (a mellow cocoa accented blend.) Featuring White Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Rum balls, sesame cookies, almond tuilles, vanilla chocolate shortbreads, coconut cookies, and strawberry macarons the macarons were absolutely textbook while the sesame and coconut cookies were disappointingly dry and the rest good but unmemorable. With bill paid, including a substantial tip, I thanked Marcellin and his crew for a fantastic afternoon and made my way to the door with a requested copy of the menu in hand to collect my coat – plus one last gift, a nearly one pound loaf of maple cornbread.

                                                                              To this moment I cannot imagine why I was treated so well at Bouley – no special requests were made, I was dressed no better than anyone else in the restaurant, and aside from my e-mail inquiring whether photos were allowed and if Chef Bouley would be cooking on Saturday my reservation was no different than any other. A substantial bargain for amuse/five courses/mignardises my meal turned out to be so much more – not only was it amuses and mignardises plus nine course and a delectable gift to take home for myself and my friends, it was also an experience I will always remember and to this date the best lunch of my life – a meal so good that I’m tempted to go back on my upcoming March visit to the Big Apple with my only reluctance being that it seems impossible Bouley could repeat such magic.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Bouley
                                                                              163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                              31 Replies
                                                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                                                ellenost RE: uhockey Mar 17, 2011 04:44 PM

                                                                                Wow! What a wonderful review! I'm so pleased that you enjoyed Bouley. FYI, I've been dining regularly at Bouley for more than 10 years, and they repeat the magic every time for me. I think you would definitely enjoy dinner at Bouley. The dinner tasting menu is more expensive than the lunch ($125), but in comparison to other tasting menus, it's quite a bargain for the quality of the food and service. Now you know why Bouley has been one of my most favorite restaurants.

                                                                                1. re: ellenost
                                                                                  uhockey RE: ellenost Mar 17, 2011 05:12 PM

                                                                                  Indeed - I do wonder if the consistency varies when chef is in versus when others are in charge of the kitchen. Any experience in that regard?

                                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                                                    ellenost RE: uhockey Mar 17, 2011 05:20 PM

                                                                                    To me the sign of a great kitchen is that one should never be able to tell when chef is in the "house". Since I've never known when Chef is cooking, and have never noticed any difference in quality, Bouley is a great both a great kitchen and great restaurant.

                                                                                    1. re: ellenost
                                                                                      uhockey RE: ellenost Mar 17, 2011 05:35 PM

                                                                                      I agree on the first part, for sure. Repeat visits would be necessary to confirm the second. So far, very impressive.

                                                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                                                        s
                                                                                        steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 05:22 AM

                                                                                        I'm very glad that you enjoyed Bouley. My dinner there earlier this year was also spectacular and I received many "gifts" from the chef. Definitely one of the best dining experiences of my life, probably top 5 which is saying a lot.

                                                                                        When mentioning the best restaurants in the city, I do not know how Bouley seems to get overlooked. It is a true treasure in every sense of the word and delivers on the ultimate trifecta- insanely delicious food, flawless service, and beautiful atmosphere. The bang for your buck was also one of the best I have experienced too.

                                                                                        1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                          r
                                                                                          RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 18, 2011 07:52 AM

                                                                                          As I've said, we've only been to Bouley once for lunch and, while I thought the food was very good, it didn't wow me.

                                                                                          I didn't have any complaints about the service though I did find it too remore for my taste. However, one of our dining companions had some issues too complicated to go into here. And he had also experienced service problems the prior time he dined there. Coincidentally, a friend happened to mention in an email yesterday that he and his fiancee had dinner at Bouley last Saturday. He hadn't been there in quite some time (he had previously been a VIP) and was totally shocked at the many serious service faults they encountered.

                                                                                          So, it would appear that when it comes to service, there is a great deal of inconsistency, which doesn't speak well for a restaurant of this caliber.

                                                                                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                          1. re: RGR
                                                                                            uhockey RE: RGR Mar 18, 2011 09:56 AM

                                                                                            For me the service was without flaw - the bread guy is perhaps my favorite man in NYC. :-)

                                                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                            1. re: uhockey
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 12:43 PM

                                                                                              I totally agree. I cannot fathom having bad service at Bouley. In fact, the service I received there rivaled any of my favorite restaurants in the city (i.e. EMP). Everyone from the bread guy to the bus boys were terrific.

                                                                                              RGR, I think you should definitely go back for a repeat visit because they really are doing great things there. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

                                                                                              1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                r
                                                                                                RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 18, 2011 04:34 PM

                                                                                                steak,

                                                                                                I have said in previous posts that Bouley is on my "return to" list. And we will get to it sometime. However, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that statements like
                                                                                                "they really are doing great things there" is a subjective view. For instance, while most people rave about the porcini flan, it didn't do a thing for me. But I am certainly willing to give him another chance and let Bouley's food wow

                                                                                                As for service, in our case, it did not in any way rival our favorite restaurant or many others for that matter. However, it is nice to hear that you, ellenost, uhockey and others received flawless service and think the personnel are warm and fuzzy. I certainly hope that's how it will be for me the next time I go there.

                                                                                                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                1. re: RGR
                                                                                                  uhockey RE: RGR Mar 18, 2011 04:48 PM

                                                                                                  The service is NOT EMP level - I also liked my server at Lincoln better, but with that said it was quite excellent.

                                                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                    steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 09:15 PM

                                                                                                    Ok I will backtrack a little bit and agree that the service is not quite the level of EMP but yes it was terrific.

                                                                                                  2. re: RGR
                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                    steakrules85 RE: RGR Mar 18, 2011 09:17 PM

                                                                                                    Fair enough R you are absolutely right. Everyone has their own opinions which is why I usually never let peoples negative reviews prevent me from tryingplaces on my list of interest. Hopefully your next trip to Bouley is a great one!!!!

                                                                                                    Btw..... typing his from my phone as I come home from my dinner at Nuela. Review to come.

                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                    Nuela
                                                                                                    43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

                                                                                                    1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                      steakrules85 RE: steakrules85 Mar 19, 2011 10:12 PM

                                                                                                      Review for Nuela posted

                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/773216

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Nuela
                                                                                                      43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

                                                                                              2. re: RGR
                                                                                                d
                                                                                                doubledoc RE: RGR Mar 19, 2011 07:51 AM

                                                                                                RGR, I totally agree. Sometimes the service at Bouley is impeccable, but other times, abysmal. Last time I was there, there was a 45 minute wait between the sorbet and the desserts proper. Twice there was food on the table for a good 5 minutes before our wine pairings arrived.

                                                                                                1. re: doubledoc
                                                                                                  r
                                                                                                  RGR RE: doubledoc Mar 19, 2011 09:36 AM

                                                                                                  doubledoc,

                                                                                                  No matter how sublime the food may be, this kind of inconsistency in service is inexcusable at a restaurant of this level.

                                                                                                  Back when Bouley opened his first eponymous restaurant, I heard stories of people with reservations waiting as long as two hours to be seated. Even though there were uniform raves about his cuisine, because of those horror stories, I never considered for even a second going there then, and it took me literally years to reconsider.

                                                                                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                  1. re: RGR
                                                                                                    d
                                                                                                    doubledoc RE: RGR Mar 19, 2011 09:44 AM

                                                                                                    I couldn't agree more. My wife and I loved, LOVED, the food at Bouley, but will not return until I start hearing more things about quality service there. If I am going to pay 600-700 bucks for a night out for two, then I want perfection or at least something close. Bouley's "apology" to us was simply filling up our glasses of paired dessert wine, which just doesn't cut it.

                                                                                                    For me and my wife, the quality of food is one of our concerns when dining out. As you know from my posts here, we are always looking for the best overall experience when we go, which includes food, but also service and atmospherics.

                                                                                                    We have a dinner scheduled at corton this thursday. I hope that our meal is up to par with yours, uhockey!

                                                                                                    1. re: doubledoc
                                                                                                      r
                                                                                                      RGR RE: doubledoc Mar 19, 2011 10:17 AM

                                                                                                      Since there are plenty of reports, including yours, it would appear that service inconsistency is a feature rather than an anomaly there. Why David Bouley does not do something about this situation is a mystery to me. As you said, when one is spending that kind of money, one expects as near to perfection as is possible.

                                                                                                      I think how much you enjoy your meal at Corton insofar as the food goes will depend on how you feel about Liebrandt's style of cuisine. As I've mentioned, I had some doubts and ended up liking it a lot. As for service, there is nothing to be concerned about as excellent service there is definitely a feature not an anomaly.

                                                                                                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                      1. re: RGR
                                                                                                        ellenost RE: RGR Mar 19, 2011 10:47 AM

                                                                                                        Since reports of service issues mostly are from people who have not recently dined at Bouley (even though I have during the past 12 years never received less than excellent service), the more current reports about Bouley seem to demonstrate that the restaurant takes service very seriously as reported by many on this board including myself, uhockey, and steakrules. Somehow I doubt that we are the only people at Bouley who on separate occasions received excellent service as well as delicious food.

                                                                                                        1. re: ellenost
                                                                                                          r
                                                                                                          RGR RE: ellenost Mar 19, 2011 11:15 AM

                                                                                                          Just to remind you, ellenost, that the serious service problems that my friend told me about in his email the other day took place last Saturday. That is recent. (doubledoc didn't say when he was there last.) Don't get me wrong. It's clear that Bouley is capable of providing superb service but, unfortunately, not consistently. And that report from my friend makes it difficult for me to agree that Bouley takes service very seriously.

                                                                                                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                          1. re: RGR
                                                                                                            uhockey RE: RGR Mar 19, 2011 11:48 AM

                                                                                                            The above discussion is exactly the reason I love sites like Chowhound and part of the reason I write such detailed blogs - one opinion / one experience out of thousands can influence how likely a person is to try a place. It never ceases to amaze me how one person's very favorite spot can be another's most disappointing. As a single example - one of my worst service experiences ever was at Chicago's Spiaggia during the very same year it was nominated for the Beard Award for best service.

                                                                                                            For my dollar a restaurant NEEDS to have routinely well regarded food to get me in the door.....after that, I simply hope the front of the house can match the kitchen.

                                                                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                            1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                              rrems RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 12:25 PM

                                                                                                              My third and last visit to Bouley was in 1990, and the service was so awful I vowed never to return. However, even I am being tempted by the reports from ellenost, uhockey and steakrules. Still undecided, but am considering taking the risk.

                                                                                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                r
                                                                                                                RGR RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 01:08 PM

                                                                                                                I've said many times on this board that the last time we had dinner at Daniel in '07, we suffered through several serious service snafus. (How's that for alliteration?) So, I had to laugh when Daniel won the JBA for Outstanding Service in '09.

                                                                                                                Like you, Mr. R. and I always put the quality of the cuisine above all else. However, problems with service can really ruin the dining experience and leave a bad taste in one's mouth (pun intended). Ergo, although we'd had very good service at Daniel previously, we haven't exactly rushed back.

                                                                                                                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                                1. re: RGR
                                                                                                                  uhockey RE: RGR Mar 19, 2011 01:47 PM

                                                                                                                  Completely understood - though I really did enjoy my evening there.

                                                                                                                  I'd never go back to Spiaggia, not even on someone else's dime (but MAYBE on the restaurant's)

                                                                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                        2. re: doubledoc
                                                                                                          r
                                                                                                          raw RE: doubledoc Mar 22, 2011 10:23 AM

                                                                                                          Looking forward to reading a post about your upcoming dinner at Corton, as I have a reservation in April.

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Corton
                                                                                                          239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                                                        2. re: uhockey
                                                                                          n
                                                                                          Nancy S. RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 05:59 AM

                                                                                          How fabulous. What a meal. I'm especially intrigued by the egg dish with 2-year old comte, which is hard to find in this country. (When your in Paris, you must go to Dubois for his aged comte -- from 2 years to 4 years. It's the best in Paris.)

                                                                                          1. re: Nancy S.
                                                                                            uhockey RE: Nancy S. Mar 18, 2011 09:55 AM

                                                                                            Rumor has it that the version at Passard's L'Arpege is the oldest available, though I do believe it is sourced from Dubois. As we'll be dining there, I'll be sure to get it if available.

                                                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                            1. re: uhockey
                                                                                              h
                                                                                              howo5 RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 10:09 AM

                                                                                              I've eaten at Bouley for lunch at least 5 times in the past year and haven't ever received any of these "gifts" you refer to. Is it specifically for solo diners? (I've noticed an extra dish here or there one time for solos) Even without these "gifts" I still rate it one of my favorite lunch places in NYC, it's just a cozy room and a steal for prixe fixe. Would like to know if there's rhyme or reason when these "gifts" appear, especially when they sound as delicious as sea urchin terrine.

                                                                                              1. re: howo5
                                                                                                s
                                                                                                steakrules85 RE: howo5 Mar 18, 2011 12:48 PM

                                                                                                I should have mentioned that I did the dinner tasting when I went. Perhaps that is why I received some extra courses but I honestly have no clue.

                                                                                              2. re: uhockey
                                                                                                n
                                                                                                Nancy S. RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                                                                I think the comte at L'Arpege is from Bernard Antony, which is not the same as what is available at Dubois. At Arpege, the comte can be over 4-years old, and I've never seen that age at Dubois. Still, a visit to Dubois still might be a good plan, since it's a magnificent shop -- not comparable to any place I've ever seen on this side of the Atlantic.

                                                                                            2. re: uhockey
                                                                                              w
                                                                                              wreckers00 RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 07:47 PM

                                                                                              Do you think the value (money-wise) had any sway on your opinion that it was the best lunch you've ever had? Only because it seems there were a couple flaws here and there

                                                                                              Just curious...I was planning on doing lunch at Bouley for its value and your review means i'm definitely doing it

                                                                                              1. re: wreckers00
                                                                                                uhockey RE: wreckers00 Mar 19, 2011 08:21 PM

                                                                                                It is impossible to deny the effect of something like all those comped dishes, but honestly I'm not one who pays an extensive amount of attention to price at a meal - the few flaws were tiny....I mean, John Dory being muted by truffle is hardly a major problem, and while a less over-the-top gluttonous dessert that was better presented might have been better - I'm not really going to bitch n' moan about "too much of a good thing."

                                                                                                The value would've been there even if it weren't for the comped dishes, and at least for me the service was first rate.

                                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                            3. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 03:43 PM

                                                                                              The Breslin

                                                                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2010/03/b...

                                                                                              If one were to attempt to explain the “boutique” ACE hotel to a friend the descriptors would undoubtedly include brash, hipster, unique, and *gasp* affordable considering its location. With a fresh flower man in the doorway, an eclectic souvenir store in the lobby, and more fedoras and skinny jeans than you can shake a stick at, the ACE also contains three eateries and a coffee shop – the most notable of which is the newly Michelin Starred “The Breslin.” Owned and operated by April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig fame and considered “nose-to-tail” and “meat-centric” I have to admit the concept screamed “gastropub” to me, but a quick review of the breakfast menu also suggested I check it out to find out for myself.

                                                                                              Taking the early train from New Hyde Park to Penn and greeted by far less friendly weather conditions than the day prior I made my way expediently to the ACE Hotel only to walk right past the main entrance before stopping at Stumptown and making an about-face. Entering through the lobby entrance as the front doors were not yet open I was greeted by two young ladies at the hostess stand and led to a table without delay. Opting to keep my bag and coat with me the bag took a chair while I took the booth and within seconds my water and coffee were filled and a menu presented.

                                                                                              Already well aware of what I’d be ordering before I arrived I next spent some time examining the interior – heavy, dark, “pub-y” quite like The Girl and The Goat in Chicago, but significantly smaller. With the kitchen wide open to public view and myriad animal sculptures of various materials and forms aplenty the feel was essentially a gussied up hunting lodge. Sipping my nutty Stumptown blend it wouldn’t be long before my server would arrive – a cute and bubbly young woman named Allison who called everyone dear, babe, or hun regardless of age or gender. Pleasant, fun, and upbeat despite being the only primary server on duty that morning (all the while training another young lady, as well) I have to say that the service was great from her end but lacking from the ancillary staff as coffee often sat empty and required requests for a refill.

                                                                                              With a soundtrack of stereotyped 80’s kitsch playing overhead and orders placed it would be perhaps 15 minutes of reading my Relais & Chateaux guide before my first course would arrive – the $18 Oven baked 3 cheese sandwich with house smoked ham and egg. Thinking to myself that for $18 this had better be the best egg sandwich ever – well, I’ll just say that if it wasn’t the best, it was certainly close – this was a damned good sandwich. With at two hefty slices of savory ham tucked between thick slices of buttered sourdough and loaded with cheese the sandwich was rustic and hearty at baseline – the addition of a barely cooked farm egg simply put it over the top.

                                                                                              With Allison returning to collect my empty plate a new pair of diners sat down next to me and while browsing the menu I overheard them discussing my follow-up to the egg sandwich – the lady of the pair referring to it as the most decadent thing she’d ever eaten for breakfast. Described on arrival by Allison as “the devil’s doughnut,” the fried peanut and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla was most certainly decadent, but I’d suggest it a creation from the heavens rather from below. This time replacing sourdough with hollowed out brioche roll this sandwich was much more a doughnut and absolutely stuffed with bourbon and vanilla poached bananas and gooey peanut butter. Topped with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar as though it weren’t already sweet enough, it isn’t the most decadent thing I’ve ever eaten for breakfast, but I think that says more about me than it does about The Breslin.

                                                                                              With another coffee refill plus one for the road my check was delivered – pricey for breakfast to be sure, but worth every penny given the quality of the food. Thanking Allison and leaving just as the opening notes of Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child O’ Mine started overhead I made my way to street after wandering the hotel for a bit – the flower guy was still there and so were the hipsters lined up out the door at Stumptown, like Tribeca or Soho had migrated uptown - perhaps for good reason given my experience at The Breslin.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Stumptown
                                                                                              18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

                                                                                              The Breslin
                                                                                              20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                s
                                                                                                steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2011 09:32 PM

                                                                                                That fried peanut butter and banana sandwich at the Breslin looks outrageously phenomenal.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                The Breslin
                                                                                                20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                                                                                                1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                  uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 19, 2011 10:29 PM

                                                                                                  Tasted that way, too. :-) Donut Plant's donuts got nothing on it.

                                                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                  1. re: uhockey
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                                                                                                    steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2011 08:45 AM

                                                                                                    Veryyyyyy interesting indeedy my man.

                                                                                              2. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 21, 2011 03:16 PM

                                                                                                Osteria Morini and Cici-Cela

                                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/02/o...

                                                                                                Rustic Italian pastas and Emilia-Romagna region brunch foods from the kitchen of a man who’d produced some of my favorite all time Italian meals; I figured the last meal of my most recent trip to New York to be a slam dunk. First a stellar impromptu dinner at Alto, later a superlative lunch at Convivio, and last a slightly less than excellent experience at Marea – Osteria Morini by Michael White was on my dining radar before it even it opened its doors. With glowing reviews rolling in and nearly four hours at MoMA and Barney’s plus the long walk down to SoHo (with luggage in hand) my expectations were admittedly high…

                                                                                                Planning in advance and leaving a plentiful 4.5 hours between the start of my brunch and my plane’s departure from LGA I walked up to the small space expecting a crowd, but on entering the doors it was quite the opposite – perhaps 1/2 of the restaurant was full and the “deafening” noise I’d heard rumored was largely absent. Approaching to podium my reservation was confirmed by a young woman who asked whether I’d prefer a table or the “chef’s counter” – essentially the bar up front where salads, salumi, and cheese were being prepared. Opting for the counter given my proclivity for watching the kitchen I was seated quickly while my bag and coat were checked.

                                                                                                With two young ladies working the line in relative silence, my server Sarah P. would soon arrive with the daily menu and inquire as to whether I would prefer iced or bottled water. Opting for iced water I was additionally offered coffee – an offer I assented to before turning back to a menu I’d already studied online and comparing it to the daily specials, none of which sounded all that special. Returning with my water Sarah asked if I had any questions and when I asked unfortunately informed me that half-orders of pasta could not be accommodated, even though I’d planned to order three to taste. Disappointed but understanding I asked her which of the three she would suggest and went with her choice plus a secondi.

                                                                                                Waiting for approximately 15 minutes while listening to one of the line cooks gripe about her hours and her social life to other cook and the bartender my coffee would arrive first – a 20oz Bodum French Press that was dropped off by an ancillary server without a word. A bold and nutty blend I cannot say who the provider was, but I will note that had I known it came in a press that did not include refills I’d have held off till dessert as it didn’t particularly pair well with either my pasta or my secondi.

                                                                                                With another delay of perhaps 10 minutes I noted that every other table and every person at the bar had bread to pair with the bottle of house olive oil at the table save for myself. Inquiring with the line cook who continued to sulk she mentioned this to one of the ancillary servers who eventually returned with a basket of cool but tasty rustic Italian bread with a hearty crust and spongy crumb. With no plate to contain the Olive Oil I set my coffee cup on the bar and used my saucer to taste the oil – clean, grassy, but not as tasty as I recall from Alto or Marea.

                                                                                                Shortly after eating a first slice of bread my pasta would arrive with zero description and the ancillary server who delivered it would then proceed to pick up the still-full bread basket and waltz away. More than a little frustrated at this point but not wanting the food to suffer, I picked up my fork and took a bite of the tortellini a piaciere with duck liver panna – what I tasted, largely, was…nothing. Thinking the coffee may have blunted my taste buds a second bite would follow and offer a bit more – a hint of salt, the faint smack of duck, and an interior that was so benign that it could have been foie gras, I guess, but when paired with the tough parcels of pasta it was tough to tell. Compared to the foie gras pastas at Scarpetta and Babbo this was a letdown of the utmost proportions.

                                                                                                Disappointed, water glass empty, and French Press spent I still would not see Sarah – just the ancillary servers who I’m 90% certain spoke no English; they would collect the French Press, the coffee cup and its oil soaked dish, and my empty plate to return to the kitchen – thankfully they also thought it fit to refill my water. A short wait, some jotted notes, and my main course would arrive – thankfully it would prove vastly superior to the pasta. Titled “Musseto” with baked eggs, braised cockscombs, sweetbreads, trotters, and salsa verde this was the sort of flavor profile I expected at Osteria Morini – hefty, rustic, salty, and satisfying. With three poached eggs floating in a tomato and cinnamon stew laden with unctuous offal the flavors and textures were varied with the heat of chili driving each flavor home. While I cannot even fathom the caloric load of this course the golden buttered toast only upped the ante and was perfect for soaking up all the left over juices…at least until the same bread thief as prior appeared and literally grabbed the plate while I still had toast hand asking “are you finished.”

                                                                                                With Sarah finally returning after I was *actually* finished and offering a dessert menu I finally had the opportunity to do something I rarely do in restaurants – complain to a server. Explaining to her the bread issues, the overzealous plate collecting, and the frankly bad service I received the only thing I expected – a sincere apology without excuses – plus she offered to buy me dessert, an admittedly nice gesture since I was planning on the Budino di Noce the moment I spotted it on the menu. Vastly more traditional than that at Lincoln but certainly less so than others, this lovely little dish featured creamy walnut custard topped with Meyer lemon sorbetto, crisp caramelized apples, rum-soaked raisins, and a puff pastry hat – a tasty amalgam of parts I’d have never thought to mix the overall flavor profile was actually that of an early season apple pie.

                                                                                                Settling the bill and collecting my bags I was assured by Sarah that my complaints had not fallen on deaf ears and that she would pass the information on to management – certainly the best I could have hoped for, all things considering, but not enough that I would return any time soon – for my dollar there is better rustic Italian in New York, better Michael White in New York, and vastly better service.

                                                                                                Leaving Morini with more than 3 hours before my flight home the final stop of my visit to New York City would be to grab a couple of items for the road – specifically the much praised pastries of Cici-Cela – a shop so small and unsassuming that I’m sure many don’t even realize it is there in the heart of SoHo despite it’s nearly 15 years of existence.

                                                                                                Entering the shop it was merely a second before I was greeted – first by the clerk and moments later by owner Laurent Dupal himself – hands and apron covered with flour and in the process of delivering freshly baked goods from the bakery in back to the front of the shop. Taking a moment to browse the tartes, cakes, cookies, and confections I immediately spotted my first selection and then inquired of the chef what he would recommend – the answer was definitive and therefore the only choice. With my trip to LGA explained to the clerk everything was packaged nicely and I was back on the street in minutes.

                                                                                                Stopping first to snap a picture before taking the subway up to Harlem in order to catch the M60 I’m proud to admit I resisted the temptation to enjoy my pastries all the way through the security check-point – I assure you this took willpower. Taking a seat with over an hour to spare, however, nothing would make it onto the plane – not a single crumb. Beginning first with the standard by which I judge all French pastries, the almond croissant was superb – filled with frangipane and topped with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Crisp on the exterior, fluffy and loaded with butter inside the almond filling struck a great balance between sweet and savory without ruining the structure – a feat only seen once before, at Francis Payard in Las Vegas.

                                                                                                Moving on to the chef’s suggestion I’m still not sure if he recommended it because it was his favorite or if it was because he had just baked it, but regardless I’m glad he did – it has given me yet another thing to obsess about for my upcoming trip to Paris; the Paris Brest. Apparently meant to be shaped like a bicycle tire – or a circle – this lovely puff of buttery pate à choux was essentially a sliced cream puff stuffed with thick and nutty praline cream and topped with toasted sliced almonds and as you would expect from a place using real butter and top grade flour it was sublime – not too sweet, not too heavy, crispier than an éclair but only barely – like the chef, I would recommend it. Actually, all things considering, I’d recommend Cici-Cela wholeheartedly and if France is making better pastry than this…well, call me excited for April.

                                                                                                -----
                                                                                                Babbo
                                                                                                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                                                                                                Scarpetta
                                                                                                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                                                                                                Marea
                                                                                                240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                                                Osteria Morini
                                                                                                218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                1. uhockey RE: uhockey Mar 21, 2011 03:17 PM

                                                                                                  That is it my friends in food - thanks again for all the stellar recommendations.......and oddly, just as this list finally wraps up I will be back in 6 days.

                                                                                                  Cheers!

                                                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                  24 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                    erica RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 03:32 AM

                                                                                                    Smashing report, once again! Too bad about Osteria Morini. They already lost my booking last week after your early comments. There are many service issues at the Michael White/ex C. Cannon places I have visited. Keep up the good work and keep us posted after the next visit to NYC.

                                                                                                    -----
                                                                                                    Osteria Morini
                                                                                                    218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                                    1. re: erica
                                                                                                      uhockey RE: erica Mar 22, 2011 03:39 AM

                                                                                                      I must admit it was the service at Marea that turned me off, as well. Convivio was okay service-wise. Alto was a gem, especially under the circumstances.

                                                                                                      going to Ai Fiori w/ RGR and husband, plus Steakrules - we shall see. :-)

                                                                                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                      -----
                                                                                                      Ai Fiori
                                                                                                      400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                        w
                                                                                                        wreckers00 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 07:24 AM

                                                                                                        So what's on the list for next week? Are these biz or pleasure trips? I only ask because it seems like you're getting to NYC quite often lately

                                                                                                        1. re: wreckers00
                                                                                                          uhockey RE: wreckers00 Mar 22, 2011 08:40 AM

                                                                                                          Both were business - the first only for a very short part of the time, this one for a longer conference at which we're presenting.

                                                                                                          3/27 - Brooklyn Pizza crawl
                                                                                                          3/28 - Lunch (time willing) Modern Bar Room, Dinner Ai Fiori
                                                                                                          3/29 - Lunch Rouge Tomate, Dinner (pending - Manzo or Torrisi)
                                                                                                          3/30 - Lunch Peter Luger's, Dinner Roberta's for Carlo's special tasting
                                                                                                          3/31 - Cafe Boulud before home.

                                                                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Cafe Boulud
                                                                                                          20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021

                                                                                                          Rouge Tomate
                                                                                                          10 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                                                                          Manzo
                                                                                                          200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

                                                                                                          Ai Fiori
                                                                                                          400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                                                          1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                            steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 09:43 AM

                                                                                                            Wow uhockey that is some itinerary. Especially 3/30- lunch at Peter Luger and then the tasting at Roberta's? Nice! Better bring your appetite... i assume for lunch at PL you are just going with the burger? If you somehow are able to down a porterhouse at lunch followed by the Roberta's tasting I'd be thoroughly impressed!

                                                                                                            1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                              o
                                                                                                              Oboegal RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                                                                              If I'm not mistaken, Uhockey doesn't eat red meat.

                                                                                                              1. re: Oboegal
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                                                                                                                steakrules85 RE: Oboegal Mar 22, 2011 11:11 AM

                                                                                                                Really? I'm not too sure about that. Even if that's true what would be the point of going to Peter Luger lol?

                                                                                                                1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                  r
                                                                                                                  RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 01:08 PM

                                                                                                                  steak,

                                                                                                                  It's true. uhockey does not eat beef.

                                                                                                                  Btw, though I do eat beef, I much prefer lamb. So, when we've been to Keens, I've had lamb chops more often than steak. They are some of the best lamb chops I've ever had! Of course, the name used to be Keens Chophouse, and their mutton chop is legendary though now, it's not mutton but lamb saddle. It's a favorite of Mr. R.

                                                                                                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                                  1. re: RGR
                                                                                                                    s
                                                                                                                    steakrules85 RE: RGR Mar 22, 2011 03:36 PM

                                                                                                                    Yes, I've never had the lamb chops at Keens but it is one of my favorite steakhouses. I too love lamb, but could not choose it over the steak at a place like Keens. Again for me, if I go to a steakhouse its all about the steak... and of course Keens' mutton chop is a fine piece of meat. I would like to try those lamb chops though one day. And at Peter Luger as well for an appetizer.

                                                                                                                    For me the best things at Keens are the porterhouse, King's cut prime rib, and the legendary mutton chop.

                                                                                                                2. re: Oboegal
                                                                                                                  t
                                                                                                                  tpigeon RE: Oboegal Mar 22, 2011 12:33 PM

                                                                                                                  No. He doesn't eat green meat. Red is fine.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Oboegal
                                                                                                                    uhockey RE: Oboegal Mar 22, 2011 01:17 PM

                                                                                                                    This is partially correct - I will never order a steak. I find it generally dull and often don't like the texture - its all the same.....tastes like beef. Its a personal oddity, but a fact.

                                                                                                                    That said, if someone is serving a single bit of beef as part of a extensive tasting I will try it. It's not a "law," more just a preference.

                                                                                                                    I can't think of ANY situation in which I'd order a beef burger, though.

                                                                                                                    PL is for/with an old friend. They have chicken on Wednesday - lamb too.

                                                                                                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                      steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 01:33 PM

                                                                                                                      Uhockey while I respect your preference to not eat beef I strongly urge you to have the steak at peter luger . Thy is the only thing to get there....it is the steak mecca and in case u didn't know it is my favorite restaurant. As somewhat of a steak "connoisseur " it is my opinion that PL servesthe finest steak I have ever had. After tasting their porterhouse if u still rink all beef is created equal I will be extremely surprised. Do not get the chicken (which ironically is something id never order out) or lamb (which im sure it outrageous but haven't had). You will be doing yourself a huge disservice. Split the porterhouse for two with your frien d bbloody rare, fries, onion rings, creamed spinach. Oh yeah and don't forget to get a few orders o bacon az an app.... the best piece of pork u will ever eat! And if u are feeling overly indulgent top it all off with a holycowhot fudge sundae with schlag. Then go to Robertas, have the tasting menu, and slide into a food coma.

                                                                                                                      1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                        uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 03:22 PM

                                                                                                                        I appreciate your opinion, but that simply isn't going to happen. I'll perhaps try a bite of Matt's steak.

                                                                                                                        The bacon will be ordered - as will dessert.

                                                                                                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                        1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                          s
                                                                                                                          steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 03:34 PM

                                                                                                                          I see. Well, going to Peter Luger and not having the porterhouse is like going to Paris and not going to the Eiffel Tower, going to the movies only to leave after the coming attractions, buying a Lamborghini and not pushing the speedometer over 30 MPH.... you get the idea. That is just my opinion. But yes, to each his own.

                                                                                                                          Please do at least try a few bites.... just tp say you did!!!!!

                                                                                                                          1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                            uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 04:14 PM

                                                                                                                            I will - then I'll try the 3 month dry aged Wagyu strip that Carlo is offering on the tasting and let you know how it compares.

                                                                                                                            All told I don't like big homogenous plates of food - I'm much more Alinea than Steakhouse. I assure you that Luger would not have been my choice, but I go for the history and for my friend who has never been but always wanted to go.

                                                                                                                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                            1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                              s
                                                                                                                              steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 04:23 PM

                                                                                                                              Who's Carlo? Robertas chef right derrrr. Damn that is right up my alley I wanna go

                                                                                                                              1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                                uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 04:27 PM

                                                                                                                                Just gotta find your way to Brooklyn by 5:30 - we have an extra seat.

                                                                                                                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                                                                                                1. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                                  steakrules85 RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 06:33 PM

                                                                                                                                  Yes, I was invited and wish I could make it but unfortunately it is just too much of a hassle for me to go to Brooklyn during the week.

                                                                                                                            2. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                              r
                                                                                                                              RGR RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 06:38 PM

                                                                                                                              steakrules @ 6:34,

                                                                                                                              LOL!!! You are like a dog with a bone! A steak bone left over from a porterhouse, of course! :))

                                                                                                                              http://www.thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                                                                                              1. re: RGR
                                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                                steakrules85 RE: RGR Mar 22, 2011 06:52 PM

                                                                                                                                Hahahahaha yes indeed RGR.

                                                                                                                        2. re: uhockey
                                                                                                                          Steve R RE: uhockey Mar 22, 2011 01:36 PM

                                                                                                                          Luger's lamb chops are very good. So are the bacon strips. So are the hot fudge sundaes. If your friend orders steak, eat a bite or two. Then we'll talk.

                                                                                                                          Word to the wise... Luger still doesnt accept any credit cards except their own.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Steve R
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                                                                                                                            steakrules85 RE: Steve R Mar 22, 2011 03:32 PM

                                                                                                                            They do accept debit.

                                                                                                                            1. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                              Steve R RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 06:22 PM

                                                                                                                              Didnt know that & will remember it. Thanks.

                                                                                                                      2. re: steakrules85
                                                                                                                        uhockey RE: steakrules85 Mar 22, 2011 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                        I could do it, pretty sure. See my Zahav post on the Philly board.

                                                                                                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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