Report: Blue Smoke, Scarpetta, Louro, Breslin Brunch (long!)
We had a great 4 days in the city and ate wonderful food at every meal! I had a lot of help from Chowhounders so I'm reporting back to say thanks and to pass on the help. The report is long and I'll post it in stages.
Thursday night: Blue Smoke. There were 5 of us with a reservation for 7:00 PM. We waited about 15 minutes for our table and then were seated at a great corner booth. It was packed and noisy but we could still enjoy conversation. We ordered a lot of food and shared everything.
Hushpuppies with Jalapeño Marmalade: Yum!
Warm Barbecue Potato Chips with Blue Cheese & Bacon Dip: fantastic!
Seared Gulf Shrimp/Red Eye Gravy and Crispy Organic Grit Cake: the shrimp were great but the grit cake and gravy a little blah.
Classic Caesar with Pecorino and Croutons: Just average. Next time I'd skip this. I think we felt guilty and like we should have something green.
Fried Chicken with Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuit, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy: This was the standout. The best fried chicken I've ever had.
Crispy, very moist, just the right spice and a killer biscuit! The potatoes where excellent too but I didn't love the gravy.
Applewood Smoked Chicken and Mashed Potatoes topped with Crispy Onions: Another total winner. The chicken was moist and the smoky flavor excellent. The crispy onions on the potatoes were also delicious.
Rib Sampler Memphis Baby Backs, Kansas City Spareribs and Texas Beef Ribs: Perhaps not the very best barbecued ribs anywhere ever but pretty damn good! Meaty and flavorful, excellent sauces. The Kansas City spareribs were my favorites.
Excellent Cornbread too. The sesame slaw was just OK as were the pit beans.
We went down to Jazz Standard for dessert and great music and had the dessert sampler: Key lime pie, banana cream pie, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate cake and rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream. All great but the rhubarb was the standout for me.
Exellent service and an all around great time.
I'd been dithering about where to go Sunday night with our adult kids but your review made my mind up and I made a rez at Blue Smoke. Thanks! The four of us ate in the jazz club about 3 years ago, but this will be an earlier meal upstairs. Can't wait to try the fried chicken.
Scarpetta: This one is challenging to report on. It was an odd experience with a lot of ups and downs. The short story is that the food was somewhere between good and excellent but there were multiple service issues that really detracted from the experience.
One of the reasons I chose Scarpetta over Babbo was because I kept reading about the loud obnoxious music choices at Babbo and about how lovely the setting is at Scarpetta. Imagine my feelings when we arrive at 8:30 sharp (there were 2 of us) and after having made the reservation almost a month in advance (and telling them it was my birthday,) we are seated in the bar area where the music is deafening and obnoxious! We asked to be moved to the dining room and were told that we'd have to wait until a table cleared. Fortunately that only took about 5 minutes and they moved us. That was the beginning of numerous service issues that ranged from timing problems that made us feel rushed at the front end of the meal and forgotten by the time we finished our entrees, to obnoxious over attentiveness from too many people. It also included being brought a huge bowl of what turned out to be shaved salt when we asked for grated cheese. That ruined one of our dishes but they did gracefully replace the dish. Sigh.
But despite all that, the food was enjoyable. The bread basket was as advertized: excellent Stromboli along with average foccachia, ciabatta, and a rustic Italian. But the marscapone butter and the eggplant cappanata were fantastic.
For our first course we shared seared diver sea scallops w/spring peas, morel mushrooms & lemon vinaigrette which was absolutely delicious. Then we had 2 pastas: The Tajarin: sweetbreads, jalapeno & zucchini which was excellent and the duck and foie gras ravioli w/ marsala reduction, also really great. I would have gotten tired of the ravioli if I was eating only that, but sharing them and the tajarin made for a great dinner.
For dessert we went for the Amedei chocolate cake which turned out to be a decent rendition of a molten lava cake with too small a scoop of caramel ice cream. They also brought me a plate of various petit fours with Happy Birthday and a candle, a nice touch.
All in all, it was a decent meal but I wouldn't go again. I'm certain there are better overall experiences for Italian in NYC at numerous price points.
THE BRESLIN FOR BRUNCH: 5 of us went on Saturday morning. We got there at 10:00 and waited for about 15 minutes for a table. There were plenty of 2 tops until about 11:00.
We shared tastes of everything we ordered and it was all stellar. For me, the standouts were the whole wheat pancakes and house made sausage. They managed to make a light and crisp around the edges whole wheat pancake and it was packed with flavor. The sausage was one of the best I've ever had and I've eaten a lot of good sausage!
The fried peanut butter and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla was great but be prepared, it's quite boozy, especially in the center! Poached eggs and spicy lentils were also great as was the skirt steak and eggs. Excellent home fries too. The house cured bacon was flavorful but not crisp as I prefer it. We might have been able to send it back for further cooking but we didn't bother. I also enjoyed an excellent croissant. Does anyone know if they make them there or if not, where they get them from?
Lots of coffee and decafe and excellent service. I'd go again in a heartbeat!
LOURO: Saturday night 4 of us went to Louro for dinner. This meal was just stellar! Best of the trip and I would say definitely in the top 10 best meals of my life, maybe even top 5 if I consider the whole experience including the service and the company.
Again there was lots of sharing so I got to try everything we ordered. Everything was so good that as opposed to having a stand out, I had a one stand back: the piri piri shrimp. They were still delicious, they just didn't stand out. 4 perfectly cooked shrimp in a VERY hot red pepper flake sauce. Period.
The bread was amazing. Delicious on it's own (anyone know the source?)but over the top with a shmear of that pork butter. Heaven.
between 4 of us we had:
Piri piri shrimp
mushrooms with seabuckthorn, hazelnut puff pastry. We did not expect this, but it turned out to be a cold dish! Totally unusual, complex and seriously delicious.
Baby lettuces with heirloom carrots, watermelon radish and buttermilk dressing. Gorgeous and delicious.
Two Tempura duck eggs with asparagus salad and lemon ricotta. Outrageously fantastic.
Artichoke salad with brocollini, pickled quail eggs and black garlic chips. Complex and seriously delicious.
Two King salmons with pineapple and hearts of palm. Perfectly cooked, crisp outside, tender and juicy inside, unusual and really delicious accompaniments.
Suckling pig: Just yum.
And then we shared 3 desserts, each more stellar than the next, particularly the ice creams which we all thought sounded very odd and all turned out to be fantastic. And major props for a real scoop of ice cream as opposed to one of those little quenelles so often served with dessert that are gone and/or melted long before you're even close to finished with the dessert!
My favorite was the pain perdu with pureed apricot and kernel ice cream. The ice cream is made with the kernels of the apricot pit and tasted very reminiscent of marzipan served along a very flavorful chunk of spiced bread pudding.
Also fantastic were the rice pudding with bay leaf ice cream and candied walnuts and the poached pear crumble with pine needle ice cream.
We polished off every bite and were completely satiated but not uncomfortably stuffed. This meal was not only beyond yummy, it was the deal of the century. With 2 really great cocktails, 6 glasses of excellent wine and 1 decafe the bill was only $220 before tax. And the service was absolutely wonderful.
If I lived in NYC I'd be mking the Monday niht suppers a regular thing. As it is, this will be a place I'll plan to return to every time I'm in the city. If you haven't been yet. Go now.