Sunday, May 31, 2009

NYC Trip - Part II

Aburiya Kinnosuke, Jacques Torres, Little Owl, Clinton Street Baking, Kefi, Tai Pan Bakery, Caracas, Numero 28, Sushi Yasuda, OMS/B, Dousoeur de Paris, Amy's Bread, Ruby et Violette, Azuri, Kyotofu, Company, Peter Luger, Momofuku Ko lunch and dinner, Perilla, Extra Virgin, Bespoke Chocolates, Dessert Truck, Babbo, Artisanal, Szechuan Gourmet, Cho Dang Gol, Stone Home, Assi Market Food Court.

Aburiya Kinnosuke *** - Another suggestion by Grace. A solid isakaya place with a combo lunch better than your average bento. Housemade tofu soft, silky and fresh.

Jacques Torres ** - After J made the chocolate chip cookies from a Jacques Torres recipe, I was excited to try the original. Great chocolate chip cookies, though I thought that J's homemade version was better.

Little Owl ** - Good hearts of palm salad and juicy pork chop. Cute little place, though we get a lot of this style of food in SF.

Clinton Street Baking 0 - Disappointing. I'm not sure if we caught them on an off morning or maybe the second string crew, but the pancakes were very thick and cakey, my sunny side up egg whites were runny and the biscuit was dry. I would say that the food was ok bordering on bad.

Kefi ** -
This place is felt like Manhattan's version of a huge suburban restaurant -- good for families, large, reasonably priced and loud enough to drown out the sound of screaming kids. With that said, a group of us had a good time here and everyone enjoyed their food. Delicious olive oil on the table, grassy and fruity -- good enough to make you fill up on bread before the meal. I particularly liked the Sheep's Milk Dumplings, Tomato, Pine Nuts, Spicy Lamb Sausage

and the Grilled Octopus starter.

The only miss was the meatball appetizer, it lacked texture and was overpowered by the sauce.

Tai Pan Bakery *** - Green Tea Custard Tarts.

Caracas ** - Venezuelan arepas. I wondered how these would differ from the Columbian arepas. They were stuff full of fillings like shredded beef, cheese, fried plantains.
The arepa itself was a perfect wrapper for the fillings, toasted to a crisp and thin enough to let the fillings shine through.

Numero 28 *** Suggested by Carl. This pizza is the closest I've found to the pizza I ate in Naples. The pies I enjoyed in Naples were thin, had a minimal amount of toppings, a lightly blistered crust that was somewhat crispy on the outer edge, but a bit chewy and increasingly so toward the center of the pie. That pizza showcased its crust -- the tomato, bit of cheese and basil were more condiments than components. In my mind, it
differs from the brick oven NY style pizza because it is not crispy and has far less cheese. Numero 28's is Naples style with more cheese. I think I prefer the crispier NY style, but I'd definitely come back to this place.

Sushi Yasuda **** - Omakase lunch here with two of my favorite eating companions. This is their top choice for sushi anywhere in the world and now I have to agree. Sat in front of Yasuda-San who was friendly, gracious and served up the best sushi I've ever had. His rice is delicious, each piece of sushi expertly made and perfectly proportioned to leave you wanting more. After I mentioned something about hot dog eating contests, he snapped to attention, a huge grin came across his face and he started laughing. He proceeded to crack himself (and us) up as he shared stories of other interesting shows: a sausage eating contest between a man and a grizzly bear, a long jump contest between an olympic long jumper and a frisbee dog, and a foot race between man and zebra. I love this guy. (I can only assume that Yasuda-San gets Japanese direct tv?) Thanks to J and A for an unforgettable birthday lunch.

OMS/B ** - Lunch take out shop. Rice balls, topped with good stuff. I'd grab something from here.

Dousoeur de Paris *** One of the reasons I'm not a pastry fan is that pastries are usually too sweet for my tastes. Dousoeur de Paris stands out by producing beautiful, flavorful and well balanced french pastries. Yay! I knew it could be done. My friends felt the items could have been sweeter, but I was happy. This would be my top pick for pastry for myself or for a gift. Too bad there's no space in the shop to sit and enjoy their offerings.

Amy's Bread - My dessert loving friends with sweet tooths love the cake here. I have to trust them on this because it was too sweet for me.

Ruby et Violette
- Cute little cookie shop. I liked the butter pecan cookie.

Azuri *** delicious falafel pita. Fresh crispy falafel, soft pita, smooth hummus. Crunchy, nutty, spicy, creamy, tangy --good.

Kyotofu ** - Nothing to say about the non dessert food here, but the black sesame sweet tofu with hoji cha green tea syrup was worth the stop.

Company * - The pizza here is ok. The crust is California style, that is, medium thickness, a bit more on the bready side and overloaded with toppings. I can see other folks liking it. The menu reminded me of Mozza in LA, but the food is nowhere near as good.

Peter Luger *** I've never had the steak here. We went to the Brooklyn restaurant for a hamburger lunch on a Sunday. Grace's comments. The burger was around $10 and yes, make a reservation.

Momofuku Ko **** The lunch and dinner have somewhat blended together in my mind (though they are different), but this is the best place I've eaten in years. Definitely go for either lunch or dinner. The pairings are a must, they have an excellent sommalier. In addition to the 10 a.m. reservation attempt, you can check randomly during the day and might happen upon a cancellation. [Details coming soon on a separate post.]

Perilla ** - To be fair, we ate a late night dinner here after having the epic Momofuku lunch. That was an impossible act to follow. With that in mind, the food here was fine except the edamame falafel, which were just completely wrong in texture and taste. The standout was the duck. I'd be happy to return to give it a fair shake.

Extra Virgin * -
Warm pistachio crusted goat cheese salad with roasted beats and a very standard eggs benedict. I wish their bloody mary's were better. Ross's baked eggs looked better than my benedict. Good neighborhood people watching spot. I'd return for a lazy breakfast, if I lived close by.

Bespoke Chocolates **** - Pretzel covered sea salt caramels, peanut butter chocolates.

Babbo *** - Cannot remember the names of all the dishes: beef cheek ravioli, mint love letters, farro in a beet sauce, Florentine tripe, greens, sweet potato lunes, porchetta/suckling pig. Good sommalier. My favorite were the lamb's brain francobolli and the lamb's tongue. We also had three desserts all of which were devoured immediately because they were so delicious. Overall the entrees were good, but the desserts absolutely stole the show.

Dessert Truck *** - Warm molten chocolate cake with olive oil ganache hazelnuts and vanilla ice cream; Chocolate bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Still a bit sweet for my tastes, but enough salt to balance out the sweet chocolate.

Artisanal ** - Cheese flights. Unusual Ones: Ibores (goat, Spain), Amarelo da beira baiza (goat/sheep, Portugal), Caerphilly Gorwydd (cow, Wales), Pairings: Guner Veltliner domaine wachau 07, Vovray Argilex Gautier Loire 06, Dolcetto d'alba ada nada Piedmont 07. Fromager's Select: Monte Enebro (goat, Spain), Pierre Robert (cow, France), Epoisses (cow, France), Pairings: Sancerre domaine la croix Loire 08, Chenin blanc mulderbosch South Africa 08, Tempranillo 'crianza' abando rioja 04. Italian Heritage: Robiola rochetta (sheep/cow), Fontima d'aosta (cow), Gorganzola cremificato (cow), Pairings: Soave 'vigneti de monteforte' santi Veneto 07, Chianti colli senesi tricciano Tuscany 07, Aglianico "donnakuna" de conciliis Salerno 06.

Szechuan Gourmet ** - Nice mapo tofu, dumplings, noodles. Not so sure about the eel hot pot, but would definitely return to try more of the menu.

Cho Dang Gol ** Tofu Doru Chige, huge enough that even Ross could not finish it! Nice panchan and fresh tofu, really enjoyed the mixed rice.

Stone Home Wine Bar *** - This is a cute little wine bar in Fort Greene. Nice flights of wine and the right food to accompany it. Good place for an evening of conversation with friends.

Assi Market Food Court * - I was meeting someone for lunch in Flushing. They parked here, so we went in. Assi is a Korean supermarket, with a hot food section in the back. It's too small to be a food court and there are only two counters. One for prepared foods and another for ordering soups and stews.

There were a few Korean families eating on the little stools there, but I'm not sure what the turnover rate is in terms of food freshness, so I stayed away from the prepared sashimi. The kalbi tang was fine.

Chickalicious Dessert Club
** - a take out place across from Chickalicious Dessert Bar. It was so hot we ate two of these green tea shave ice. It's finer than the one in the Flushing Mall, but more coarse than the ones in Oahu. The green tea was full flavored and I liked the azuki beans and ice cream -- perfect for a hot day.

Previous Post:
NYC Trip Part I
**** - Highly Recommended
*** - Recommended
** - Would Return
* - OK
0 - Would Not Return

Friday, May 22, 2009


After reading all the hullabaloo about the difficulty in getting a reservation, I was blessed with the good fortune of securing two reservations at the restaurant. One for dinner and the other for lunch. The dinner is ten courses, while lunch is seventeen. I figured that I would determine whether lunch was worthwhile after sampling dinner. After the second course of dinner, I turned to Grace and said I'll be back for lunch. She laughed and agreed that it was a wise decision (her judgment was still sound at that point because we had not become completely buzzed by the wine pairings).

The foie gras dish was incredible. Lychee and brittle played into it perfectly. The fried short rib was o.k. sous vide made it tender and the seasoning was perfect. It was just too far into the meal for me to enjoy it well. Ramps, which seem to be one of Chang's favorite components, counterbalanced the richness of the meat. The reisling gelee worked with the lychee. I think the only miss was the dashi dish with snap peas topped with some crab or fish, the raw taste of snap peas overpowered the dish, but I happily slurped up the dashi surrounding it. My overall impression was this was one of the best meals and certainly the most memorable evening I'd had in a very long time. But full disclosure, I was dining with one of my favorite eating partners and we did enjoy each and everyone of the generous pours on our wine pairings. So whether it was the artistry of the chefs, the brilliance of the pairings, the wit of my drunken dining companion -- I don't know. We left the restaurant very buzzed, myself on the food and Grace on the wine. It was good enough that I was thinking about it the next day and didn't really want to eat anything so as to hold on to my last food memory. In a sense a food hangover of the highest degree. 5 *highly recommended

Some dishes from lunch (cribbed from a blogger)

Chicharrone with togarashi
Black pepper and mirin bisquit- It was at this point I decided I would return for dinner.

Monkfish sashimi with poppy seeds and buttermilk
- this one didn't stand out compared to the rest of the dishes.

Sliced diver scallops with uni and apple

Hand torn pasta w snail sausage and pecorino cheese topped with crispy fried chicken skin
-excellent. Grace loved this one.

Shaved foie gras over lichee and reisling jelly and pine nut brittle
-My fave. I could eat this all day, but I think it would be my last day on earth as I'd probably collapse from clogged arteries.

Ko Lunch

This was an afternoon long adventure of food, our menu leaned toward the Japanese but it was a mashup of ingredients from different types of cuisine, a melting pot of techniques and styles -- truly American food. The succession of dishes was so well orchestrated into a coherent composition that it's difficult for me to pull out specific dishes as outstanding. I was just left with an overall feeling that everything was outrageously delicious. And, even though the menu used every color on the palette and every tool in the toolbox to fully harness the properties of each product, it did not feel like a gimmick. Perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy, tart, bitter, and umami.

A's Record of the lunch menu:

Asparagus with black garlic miso reduction, paired with a pomme "soufflé" (a potato wafer cylinder, about as thick as a potato chip, filled with crème fraiche and hackleback caviar
Village Bay oyster with hackleback caviar and lime
Kampachi with white soy sauce and meyer lemon
Long Island fluke with matsuba shoots, 2-year aged soy sauce, radish and banchujang (sp?) sauce (a Korean chili sauce)
Julienned diver scallops with meyer lemon, watermelon radish, freeze-dried soy sauce and meyer lemon zest; while everything had been good so far, this was the first "Wow" dish for me, it was like one of Yasuda's scallop with yuzu and sea salt preparations but with the added texture of the freeze-dried soy sauce; from here on, it was at a different level
Santa Barbara uni with yuba, horseradish and puffed black rice
Tempura soft-shell crab hand roll, with cumin mayo and XO sauce
Octopus carpaccio with sea beans, espelette aioli and buckwheat croquette (more of a crouton, actually)
Puffed egg in bacon dashi broth, paired with a bacon and cream cheese "bagel" (more like a beignet)
House-made tofu with morels in bacon broth and pea soup
Turbot in cherry blossom broth with hearts of palm, matsuba and hackleback caviar
Rabbit liver and leg cannelloni in braised rabbit sauce and fennel
Freeze-dried and shaved foie gras with lychees, pine nut brittle and riesling gelee; this dish is the one constant on their menu, and justifiably so; one diner asked if she could lick the bowl after she finished
Long Island duck, with duck sausage stuffed inside the skin and then cooked, accompanied with grilled ramps and rice, in a vaudovan-cassis sauce
Singing Brook (sheep's milk, TN) and Humboldt Fog cheeses, with smoked cantaloupe jam (incredible), sweet and sour red onions and pork fat brioche
Apple cider sorbet on toasted marshmallow, graham cracker ganache and ginger crumbs; this was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the day, a perfectly placed refreshing course
Parsnip ice cream with grapefruit, hazelnut nougat and fudge sauce
The first time I entered the restaurant I thought that this is an unassuming restaurant with its simple spare decor, really just a kitchen with seating space. I was completely wrong. This place, and perhaps its owner, is the epitome of confidence - so confident in fact that there is no need to do anything other than to wow people with food. No need to talk, no need to look at fancy paintings on the wall, just sit and let them feed you -- that's all.

p.s. I love that the art in the bathroom is a bookshelf of cookbooks and a large photo of a Japanese teppanyaki chef with a wild smile. I would call it whimsical, but it isn't actually attempting to be. It's just an expression of the decorator's personality, whom I assume is David Chang.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Grace's Sunday Suppers

Community builder and food writer, Grace, hosts a dinner every Sunday for friends, food lovers and fans of One Fork One Spoon. The menu changes every week as does the salon of food lovers, writers, community activists and other characters. Enjoying a family style dinner in her cozy kitchen has the small town feel of eating on a front porch at a big farmhouse table with neighbors and passersby. Everyone well aware of their good fortune of eating Grace's lovingly made recreations of her mother's recipes and others collected in her travels around Korea.

My first Sunday Supper was a spread of various panchan, boiled pork belly wrapped in lettuce leaves, beef and mushroom saute, stuffed fried perilla, a beany rice, fried chicken with a sweet spicy sauce, and Second supper was a bbq pork ribs with a rich sauce, lotus root, cuttle fish, jambon (a noodle soup with clams) and a rhubarb cake brought by a guest.