Briciola

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Our quest for our go-to neighborhood has a new serious contestant: Briciola. This little restaurant on 51st  street is the cutest thing! We were meeting a friend for a quiet Wednesday night dinner in the middle of work and studies. Although pictures and review on Yelp did not look very promising, it seemed a nice option since it was so close to where we live/work. We had already passed by it several times, and it caught our attention. And we were so positively surprised!

 

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The restaurant is divided in two by a wall with little windows on it, like those prison holes to speak with inmates. But in a so much more charming way. The walls are have black paint with wine types and names written in chalk. There is sort of a kitchen storage space with boxes of pasta that give a nice and simple decoration to it. On the other side of the wall, wines and more wines. In the back, some beautiful ham legs hanging in a portrait like framing.

IMG_0204The part we were in only had a counter with seats for about 12 people. The other side had a larger communal table, you could sit on both sides and have a better conversation with your party. The restaurant is tiny, so you are not very comfortable, but it has a lot of charm! We sat at the counter. Our hostess and bartender / waiter / looks like owners are both French (although the restaurant is mainly Italian), and we suspect a couple. They have wines by the glass and half bottles, as well as full ones, of course. The menu is simple: a list of appetizers (all for $9,50), pastas ($12), salads, cheeses ($4,50), and speck. They also have some daily specials and an option of pasta and a glass of wine for lunch which only costs $12. Great value!

IMG_0197We ordered all dishes to share between us 3. First round was: the daily special burrata with prociutto, bruschetta of truffles, and speck with cheese. They also brought some olives and bread. The burrata was the top one. Always a favorite, it was really creamy, melting in our mouths, and came with tomatoes and the thinnest slices of parma prosciutto. The bruschetta was a favorite in our party as well, though not particularly mine. They come in 6, so each of us could have two.

IMG_0206Since our appetizers were so great, we decided to keep on sharing. Our second round choices were: asparagus with eggs, beet and goat cheese salad, and a tortellini with peas and speck. We wanted to order the ossobuco tagliatteli as our pasta dish, but unfortunately they ran out of it. But the tagliatelli was great as well, salty and creamy! The asparagus with eggs is one of those beloved dishes of ours – we had an amazing one in a tiny city in the North of Spain in the summer – and it lived up to expectations.

We were in a rush, so we did not have desert. We left happy and very satisfied. Great place, great food, great value!

 

  • Environment: *****
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ****
  • Presentation: ***
  • Rating: ****
  • Price: $$

Briciola

370 W 51 St
New York, NY 10019

(646) 678-5763

Danji

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They characterize themselves as a Korean tapa joint. Although we are very into Asian food, it was our first time at a Korean restaurant, so we were not exactly sure what to expect.

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We went there on a pre-Superbowl Saturday night. Although the city was full, restaurants were surprisingly not. The restaurant is tiny, so there was a line and a crowd by the door. The hostess was nowhere to be seen, and they seemed a little confused. Luckily, a large table was sit right after we got there and we were able to sit at the bar. We waited for about 15 min, which was not so bad. While we waited, we ordered a couple of drinks: Korean Pear vodka with star ani and spicy margarita. The korean pear vodka was very good, fruity and different. The margarita was a little too strong for our taste.

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The restaurant decor is quite different. At the bar, they have glasses hanging upside down along with light bulbs. In the middle of the restaurant they have more filament bulbs hung in cages from the ceiling. They have a few dividers of the spaces which have several wooden spoons hanging. So cool. Its a small restaurant, but those dividers lead to three spaces: the bar, the communal tables for larger groups or single people, and the regular tables, for couples or people who want a little more privacy. Not a lot though, because tables are very close to one another. The walls are bare, cemented, leaving a sort of undone twist to the environment. Very trendy.  The tables have little drawers underneath it, where the menu lies. So cute!

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The restaurant has organic and local ingredients, no antibiotics or hormones in meats, no overfished or endangered fish. It’s a nice sustainable concept, which I am all for it, but, as always, there are a few disadvantages.

I guess since the ingredients are always fresh and local, they are subject to availability and some shortages. They were out of the steak tartar, which was a huge disappointment. It is said to be one of their best dishes. We saw the last one be brought to the table next to us, and it looked great. It comes with pears, which might give a different touch to it. Not as different as Eleven Madison Park’s view of that dish, though.

Our waitress suggested that we ordered about 4 or 5 dishes to share for the couple. We were not very hungry, so we ordered just three and were very satisfied.

They have two sides to the menu, the traditional and the modern. From the traditional, we ordered the Danji braised short ribs (kalbi jjim) with fingerligs, cipollini, and toasted pine nuts($20): so tender and juicy that it melted in our mouths. It comes with carrots, potatoes and small onions, all woven cooked and a sort of barbecue sauce. I don’t know about Korean, but it reminded me of one a dish from my Brazilian childhood, carne assada.

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From the modern menu, we ordered the bulgogi beef sliders with spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa ($13). They were delicious, but a lot similar to mini burgers with a kick.

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The tofu is supposed to be their signature dish, but we are not really tofu fans…

We also had the spicy yellowtail sashimi (tsukiji market hamachi) with cho jang and jalapeño ($15), which was a little weird. They had something in the middle of the sashimi that tasted like dry grass. I guess it was the cho jang and it may be ignorant from my part, but it was not good.

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They don’t have desserts or tea, which os kind of weird for an Asian restaurant… Anyway, it is not really an authentic and traditional one either. Be aware that the dishes are a little overpriced for tapas… And that you will wait in line for a while.

Overall, it is an interesting concept and worth trying if you are looking for something different. But totally not worth the Michelin star.

Danji
346 W 52nd St (between 8th and 9th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-2880

Hours: usually from 5:15pm to midnight, until 1am in Fridays and Saturdays. Closed on Sundays. They also have lunch from Mondays through Fridays (and supposedly there is a great value deal).

 

Petrossian

I have been wanting to go to Petrossian for a long time. I hoped to take my family there when they visited for the holidays, but there were just so many restaurants that they wanted to try that we just did not make the time. Since then, I have been kind of obsessed with the idea of it. I love caviar, and saw on their menu that you can have some taste of it without breaking the bank. It just depends on what you order.

For dinner, I know that they have a caviar feast that costs $100 and an after theater for $60. Looks like a good deal to me!

We decided to go there for a Saturday brunch. They actually have a very affordable prix fix for $34. It includes an appetizer, an entree and a desert. However, the entrees are all brunch food – meaning pancakes and eggs – and we wanted a taste of the fish eggs instead. We decided to try the Petrossian tasting, some salmon egg roes and one of the appetizers of the prix fix, the duck risotto with truffles. We also had bellinis to celebrate the morning… We deserved it!

First came the salmon roes, something that I am actually quite addicted to. I always order a salmon roe sushi when we go to Japanese places. They just explode in your mouth, with that salty and delicious taste. They come with warm blinis and creme fraiche, so you kind of make your own little sandwiches. The silverware is beautiful, and they have sort if a spoon for you to take the roes. The creme fraiche was a little plain, they could have added some salt but I guess they do it that way so you can properly enjoy the salmon roes. It was a great choice, and not at all expensive! 50g goes for $19. It was more than enough for our first taste of the day!

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After that, they brought us the Petrossian Tasting ($35). We each ordered one, but we could have shared it, although the small little pieces would have to be cut in half. They bring it in a long plate that looks like a banana leaf, beautifully arranged. Its a sampler of their highlights: Foie Gras Terrine, Salmon & Caviar Beggar’s Purse, Transmontanus Caviar on Mini Blini, and Trout Salad with Trout Roe. The foie gras was delicious, and came with an apricot jam. They bring little toasts for you to eat with it. The transmontanus caviar was amazing, and for a small blinis, the portion was quite advantageous. The trout salad with the trout roe was yummy, although I am not that much of a trout fan. The salmon and caviar beggar’s purse was a cute one. The caviar comes wrapped inside the salmon, really looking like a little purse. Cute and delicious! It is definitely a good choice and you can have a broad overview of what they do best.

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After that, we shared the duck risotto. That was incredible! It’s been a very long time since I have tasted such a mouthwatering risotto. After I started to eat my brother’s risottos, I basically gave up on trying them at restaurants. I also became quite good at cooking it too, I must humbly confess. But this was a lovely surprise. It is a Duck Confit Risotto with Wild Mushrooms, Black Truffles & Fines Herbes. Amazing!

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The food was great, but the restaurant itself is nothing special. The decor is really oldie and dark, although we went there in the middle of the day. The waiters have no idea what they are doing, did not answer a single one of our questions, so service was really lacking effort. Not what you would expect on such a fancy restaurant. They are also very traditional, so there is no innovation, but that is sort of what you would expect. But the experience was great. I still want to try their dinner tasting one day.

They will be part of Restaurant Week, which will start Feb. 17, so it is a good chance to have an affordable lunch / dinner there soon!

 

  • Environment: ***
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ****
  • Presentation: ****
  • Rating: ***
  • Price: $$$
  • Petrossian New York is located at:
    182 West 58th Street
    (58th St. at 7th Ave.)
    New York, NY 10019
    212-245-2214
    Reservations on Open Table

    Hours:
    Monday-Thursday: Lunch, 11:30 a.m – 3 p.m., Dinner, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
    Friday: Lunch, 11:30 a.m – 3 p.m., Dinner, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
    Saturday: Brunch, 11:30 a.m – 3 p.m., Dinner, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
    Sunday: Brunch, 11:30 a.m – 3 p.m., Dinner, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Red Farm

We’ve been trying to go to Red Farm for a long time. I must confess, I have a problem with restaurants that do not make reservations. I guess a lot of really good NY restaurants don’t, but there are so many that do, that there is just no point in waiting for an hour or more. But our friends convinced us to go to Red Farm on a Friday night.

Our friend called the place at 7PM to ask how long it would take if we got there by 8:30/9pm. They said an hour and a half. But she asked whether she could put down the name right away, and they agreed. This was a relief, and we were a little calmer to get there at rush hour. We arrived at 8:40PM. They said the wait should be about 15/20 minutes. We decided to go to the bar next door for a drink during the wait. We waited for 45 minutes, at which point we decided to stay by the door. The hostess explained that there was a real backlog that day. There were 4 tables that already paid, but they just would not leave. We finally sat down at 9:30PM. I guess it is not so bad, and we were drinking with friends, having fun. But unless the food is as good as it is at Eleven Madison Park, I would say it is not worth the wait.

The decor is kind of fun. Lots of plants hanging by the entrance and above the tables. A small place, but with one ambient upstairs and another downstairs. The downstairs one seemed more cozy, and they had a laundry sign by the door, which I thought was pretty cool. They have little booths for two or four people, with red picnic tablecloth style cushions at the chairs; and a big communal table in the middle for 18 people. Each chair is different.

We finally sat, starving. We decided to share all of the plates to be able to try more options. Everything in the menu seems fantastic. For our first round, we ordered one salad and 4 appetizers. First, the famous Katz’s pastrami egg rolls ($7.5/each). It looks and tastes delicious, and has a spicy honey mustard sauce, and some asparagus inside it. Kind of spicy, and really good.

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The second appetizer was the mushroom & vegetable spring rolls ($9/2 pieces). This was my second favorite appetizer. It came beautifully presented in a cucumber, with the fried dough like a flower on the other end of the roll. So good! They also came with a soy type of sauce.

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Next came the pork and crab soup dumpling ($9/2 pieces). This one was amazing. I must say, it did not taste much like crab. They are huge dumplings, and it is impossible to put the entire thing in your mouth, or even grab it with the sticks. We asked for a spoon. When you take a bite, the soup inside it kind of “melts” and you must drink it while you eat the rest. They have a goji berry on top and the soup kind of tastes like ginger. Such an interesting concept!

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The last one was kind of a disappointment. It was a crispy duck & crab dumplings ($14/4 pieces). It looks like a fish, and they make a joke with the eyes, which kind of weirded me out. It is a duck meet filled by the crab leg, and really, really fried. I didn’t like it at all, and we didn’t even ate the 4 pieces. A shame.

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The salad was our only more skimmed dish. It was a mango and arugula salad, with yuzu vinaigrette ($16). It came with raspberries and sesame seeds, radish, apple, tomatoes and walnuts.

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After we were done with the appetizers, it was time for the next round. We ordered four main entrees, to share with the table. It ended up being A LOT of food.

We ordered winter vegetables, with red curry ($19). It came with asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and lots of other vegetables. It was spicy but very tasty.

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Next, diced lamb with chinese broccoli, corn & white asparagus ($28). I think this was the big hit. We almost ate this entire dish.

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We also ordered two different fried rices: BBQ’d duck & ginger fried rice ($18) and shrimp and scallop fried rice ($23). Both of them were really good, with eggs and scallions.

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It was so much food that we just took a lot of leftovers home. We split the courses. We took the duck rice and ate it the next day. It was enough for both our lunches and there was still some left.

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In the end, it was a good meal, and we were happily enjoying it among friends, but it is not worth the one hour wait. I guess few things in life really are…

 

  • Environment: ***
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: ****
  • Rating: ***
  • Price: $$$

Red Farm

529 Hudson St (between 10th St & Charles St)
New York, NY 10014
Neighborhood: West Village

(212) 792-9700

Eleven Madison Park

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After weeks of trying to get reservations for Eleven Madison Park for our family’s visit, and ultimately failing, we were surprised when our friends came to visit for New Year’s and brought as a bonus a reservation for a party of four for the next day. I guess there is no better way to start of the year than at Eleven. The restaurant does not need any introductions, it simply was was rated #1 in New York by New York Magazine (#2 by NY Times, after Thomas Keller’s Per Se), and it has 3 Michelin stars. We knew it was great, but we certainly did not expect that great.

We went there on a storm winter night, and our reservation was for 9:45PM (only one we could get). We were surprised about the simplicity of the place. There was none of the pomp that usually is presented in restaurant of this caliber. The restaurant is plain, with high ceilings and creamy walls, lots of white flowers in tall vases. Although we did not understand it at first, it makes sense to take the focus off the decor, and rather leave it for the food.

Our hostess led us to our table, and our waitress explained that there was no menu, and that the courses are meant to be a surprise. She asked about allergies, but other than that, the menu was one blank page, which is kind of exciting. We only had one choice, regarding the main course, which had to be chosen for the entire table: duck or venison (which, I did not know, is like a hunting type of meat). We chose the famous duck and embarked in the journey…

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Our first course came in a little white box wrapped like a gift: black and white New York cookies. Except that they only looked like that. These buttery cookies were indeed savory, made of  cheddar cheese and apple filling. They managed to make it look like it had black and white chocolate frosting by adding lots of butter. I don’t want to repeat this as I explain every course, but it is going to be hard to find different words to describe: so good and so special!

 

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Since most of the courses are based on seafood, we decided to start drinking a white wine from Germany, fruity and light. The second course was an oyster from Maine with iced grape powder and vinegar, bulgur wheat and sorrel. The iced grape chips melted in our mouths. Super cold on a cold winter night.

 

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Next on came a marinated beet salad with yogurt snow. The beets were thinly sliced, pickled, with nasturtium. The yogurt snow was so different and incredible! The rest of the party got a shrimp with marinated sturgeon and sea urchin.

 

 

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The fourth course was one of the most amazing ones. One of those rare dishes that completely surprise you. It is divided in two parts. First is the smoked sturgeon saboyon with chive. It comes inside a perfectly cut egg, which, as we were explained, is made achieved with an egg cuter and scrapped from inside to remove the membranes. Absolutely amazing. Creamy, with so much lightness.

Then comes part two. But before that, I just need to point out one of those details that make this restaurant one of New York’s top ones: there is a special waiter that comes between each dishes to bring the proper silverware. Each dish has a different fork, knife or spoon, that was especially tailored for it. With this one came a tiny, beautiful nacre (mother of pearl) spoon.

IMG_0235The idea of this dish is a deconstructed sandwich, like if you went to a Lower East Side fish market to have a bagel. It’s all about the experience. The sturgeon came hidden amidst smoke. When the waiter opens it, you understand that it is being smoked inside it, with applewood coal bringing the perfect smell. This comes at the middle of the table, to share. With it, they serve caviar, meyerles  lemon bavoroise (cream cheese gelatin with whipped cream), rye crisp toast and pickles. They also bring you a plate with a little salad, baby lettuce, quail egg and pickled onion, as well as bagel crumble. The idea is for each person to make their own little bagel sandwich, but fancy ones. Definitely one of the most memorable dishes!

 

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After that, homemade rolls made  with flour from Finger Lakes, upstate New York, and two types of butter: a normal one and duck fat butter (OMG!!!). The duck butter was indescribable. I could keep on eating that for a while… Before I finished eating all the bread, comes the dish itself: Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with truffled potatoes, balsamic vinegar, and greens. With caviar and foie gras, you can rarely go wrong…

 

IMG_0046Then one of the several waiters, who, as we found out, was Brazilian, brought the squash dish. They bring the entire squash, which is about to be opened to be perfectly “platted” into our beautiful dishes. Before bringing it to the table, the squash is opened and filled with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. They then close it again with doe bread before putting it in the oven. After it is done, they bring it to the table to open it in front of us. This kabuchy squash smelled unbelievably amazing! It was though to wait for that one to come back to us again 

 

IMG_0054But since one of the main attractions came up next, it wasn’t really that hard… Our seventh dish was the famous carrot tartar. First someone comes to attach a meat grinder to out table. Then he brings the Hudson Valley carrots. Since carrots become sweater when it is colder, it was just the perfect season for them. They are cooked in the sous vide before being brought to our table. The waiter explains that just as several New York restaurants have a beef tartar dish, Eleven Madison Park has a carrot one. He starts grinding it, and then brings each of us a little portion in our incredible little carrot board. 

IMG_0055The plate itself is plain stupefying. A wooden board with 9 little round plates, two little bottles and a bigger round part where he puts the tartar carrot. The idea is for each person to make their own tartar, playing and mixing with the ingredients as one pleases. The ingredients are: pickled quail egg yolk, mustard seeds, chives, dried and smoked bluefish, toasted sunflower seeds, grated horseradish, sea salt, fat radish and pear. The little bottles: spicy carrot vinaigrette and mustard seed oil. The chef recommends trying it without the spices first, and mixing them up afterwards. It was sooo good! And the best part is that, since we know exactly the ingredients, it is probably easier to replicate it at home (or not…).

By this point, it was time for a little entertaining break. We went to visit the kitchen. It was surprising to see how organized it was. We usually picture restaurant kitchens as a pretty chaotic environment. They have different sections for each type of course: fish, patisserie, meat, etc. We loved the long lamps that are used to heat up the dishes. 

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Next up was the striped truffled bass with broccoli rabe and garlic, with a blue foot mushroom sauce that someone throws while the dish is already at our table. The rest of the party had a maine lobster poached with Brussels sprouts and lemon sauce

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The eight course is the squash that was shown to us before. Roasted squash with cranberry chutney with pumpkin seeds and Sourdough. It was delicious, but we must say, after having seen that huge squash, we were expecting a little more of it. But it was really delicious, and we could taste and smell the spices perfectly. Part of the dish was the bread doe used to seal the squash, really yummy!

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Then comes the main course and one of Eleven’s most famous dishes: the 10 day aged duck with a honey, lavender, coriander and fennel seeds, turnips and huckleberry crust. It smells amazing!! They bring the entire duck to the table for us to see, in a beautiful old copper pot and decorated with lavender.

 

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The dish itself comes as little ravioli filled with duck meat, a pinkish slice of the braised duck leg itself – and that amazing crust – and radish shell. Also, foie gras and potatoes. The cutest thing and mouthwatering.

 

 

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The following course was my personal favorite. The idea behind it is to recreate Central Park. And of course, there is nothing that depicts Central Park better than a picnic!! They bring the table a picnic basket, and tell us they will not explain anything, in order for us to discover its pieces by ourselves. We take off the blue tablecloth and put it under the basket. We open the basket and there is a bottle of beer and four glasses, champagne grapes, pretzel, dijon mustard and a little wooden box. When we open the little box we found the most adorable surprise: it’s a cheese course! After we finish “unpacking”, the waiter comes to explain us that this is a cheese course from Murray’s Cheese (and, as I told you before, my absolute favorite place in NY)! It was a greensward cheese, and the beer is incorporated with the cheese, dijon mustard and pretzel. Absolutely perfect! Swept me off my feet 

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After that, another show and surprise. The waitress brings a table to fix us a drink from the 30s called malt. First, she puts vanilla syrup on those four glasses. Then, whole milk. After that, a little drop of olive oil. To finish, the Seltzer water that gives it the foam. She mixes it and tells us to drink it quickly. It was the course that officially switched the tasting experience from savory to sweet. This was also one of my favorites, and reminded me of a drink my mom used to make me on cold winter nights.

 

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The first desert was a honey crisp sorbet with Bay Leaf,  creme brûlée and hibiscus. There creme brûlée had a salty crust that just made it amazing. Never ate one like that. It also had a green apple slice and some rhubarb. Then came the one desert that defines New York: cheesecake. But of course, it was a cheesecake with a twist. It was made with sweet potato, honey and chestnut.

IMG_0237Next, another show: the magic card game! The waitress came and explained that our next course had to be magically chosen for the entire table, and one person should be responsible for choosing it. Our friend volunteered, and the waitress showed us the deck of cards. Each card represented a different flavor, and we would get whatever flavor was chosen. She cut the deck and picked a card for each of us. When we uncovered the card, she asked us to remove the plate where the cheesecake stood and see what was under it: another plate with a chocolate on it! And, what was even more amazing, our card corresponded perfectly with the chocolate we received. Each had a different flavor: we got passion fruit, bourbon, blackberry and honey. It is said that the servers learned the trick from David Copperfield’s actual magic consultants. So cool! 

 

IMG_0101As the second to last, chocolate covered pretzel with melted white chocolate from the Mast Brothers. We almost did not it the entire pretzel, since we were already so full, but we just had to. When you reached the middle, little sea salt mixed with chocolate (another of my favorite things to eat!). 

It only made sense to finish these incredible meal exactly where we started: black and white cookies! Except that this time, they were cinnamon shortbread flavored. But they looked exactly the same! 

They also brought us a bottle of apple brandy from a local distillery in California. They said we could drink as much as we wanted, but I dare the person who can drink more than a sip. The thing is super strong!!

After we finished, they brought us the menu. I thought it really sweet that they did personalize it, and printed each one exactly what they ate, thus explaining the different dishes I had to have due to my seafood allergies.

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They also gave each couple at the table a granola jar for the next morning. Since I failed to get reservations to take my brother there, and since I could not share any of this amazing experience with him, it was only fair that I sent the granola bar to Brazil for him to taste it. He said it was delicious! 

It’s all about the experience, and the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park recreated several typical New York experiences, as if you were touring each neighborhood and its history. The service was impeccable, the food, impossible to describe, so creative, a real experience. It lasted about 4 hours and costed a fortune, but it was worth both the time and the money. I can’t wait for the next time I will be able to go there again. Since they change the menu every season, the experience will at least be partly different. Definitely the best restaurant we’ve been to in New York. Plus, since we left pretty late, we got to meet amazing Chef Daniel Humm on our way out. Priceless!

  • Environment: *****
  • Service: *****
  • Food: *****
  • Presentation: *****
  • Rating: *****
  • Price: $$$$

Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave

New York, NY 10010

(212) 889-0905

Reservations through Open Table, opening 28 days before.

One if by land, two if by sea

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On my birthday, my boyfriend took the time to carefully choose the most romantic restaurant in NYC. A week before, we were having a house dinner with a couple, and they mentioned they went to One If By Land, Two If By Sea the week before for their anniversary. She said she did her proper research, and this had been considered for decades a go-to place for romantic dinners and celebrations. I found out later that even close part of the place for weddings. My uncle, who was having dinner with us that day, said that he had been there about 20 years ago. The choice then was easy.

IMG_8498It was a surprise, and by the time we were half way there I figured out where we were going. We went to Barrow Street and searched, amid the dark, for the door with a very discrete sign beside, by the wall. By the door, there was a pianist playing romantic songs to set the mood. The restaurant is filled with flowers, and there were a few tables by the bar attached to two fireplaces. Unfortunately, all of these were full, and we could not get a drink there before or after our dinner. It did not really matter. We sat on the second floor, more intimate and romantic, in a candlelit table.

 

The restaurant’s name has a pretty interesting story behind it. It is based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called Paul Revere‘s Ride. On the event of an attack by the British in 1775, Revere was sent out to warn nearby towns to prepare them for what was coming. He created an alarm system with a lantern, to let colonists know about the movement of the troops. One lantern signal meant “by land”, two meant “by sea”. The system therefore became known as “one if by land, two if by sea”. He then rode along several towns warning patriots along the route, and was followed by around 40 riders, in which later became known as the Midnight Ride. 

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Our waiter came and asked whether there was a special occasion for us to be there. We explained that it was my birthday. He gave us the menu and explained the different tasting menu options and the prix fixed menu, which we choose. The prix fixed menu costs $90, and gives you three courses, each with some options to choose from.

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To start us off, the chef sender a mushroom velute, a small little soup that was good. We did not have any doubt regarding the main course. Our friends, as well as my uncle, all had the Beef Wellington, which apparently has been a classic choice for a long time. We requested our waiter’s help to choose the appetizers and deserts. This led to be an odd experience.

 

 

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As foie gras fans, the foie gras torchon caught our eyes first. The country pâté, however, also seemed really nice. We also asked about some other dishes that looked interesting, but our waiter trashed most of them. I never really saw a waiter tell a costumer not to order a dish, plain and simple. He basically tried to decide for us what to eat, choosing from the traditional and most popular dishes at the restaurant. He was very pushy.

We ended up having the foie gras torchon, which came with granny smith apple, chestnut, and a brioche. The presentation was beautiful and very surprising. It was a LOT of foie gras. We also had the wild boar bolognese, with watercress, maitake, and castelmagno. This was the dish that came REALLY recommended by the waiter. It was good, but nothing special. If we at least had chosen it ourselves, we would have been OK with it not being so great…

IMG_8494The famous Beef Wellington, however, was amazing. It came perfectly cooked and wrapped in that tasty pastry, served with asparagus, potato croquettes and sauce bordelaise. If you go there, you have to order this dish. Don’t even bother looking at the rest of the menu. And for this one, we can be pushy like our waiter.

 

For desert, we ordered the Tasting of Chocolate. Along with it came a complimentary petit fours with Happy Birthday drizzled in chocolate on the plate, which was a very nice touch. Although there were not that many courses, we were pretty satisfied, and barely ate it all. We left really happy, with a very romantic mood accompanying us!

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  • Environment: *****
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: ***
  • Rating: ***
  • Price: $$$
New York, NY, 10014
(212) 255-8649

WD-50

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As part of my chef brother’s visit to NYC, we went to WD-50, a restaurant by Wylie Dufresne on the Lower East Side. What attracted us to the place was its supposed molecular gastronomy style, with inventive dishes that would catch you off guard. Our expectations were high, and, as it usually happens with high expectations, not at all met.

The place itself is nothing exceptional. The restaurant is on Clinton Street, a street known among foodies as one of the top streets for a good and inventive taste. The decor is nothing special. Aubergine walls, interesting lamps, diner style wooden tables with leather sofas. Comfy. They have a kind of open kitchen, which is cool. I just never understand how they manage not to have the entire restaurant smell like oil. This never happens when we cook in our kitchen.

They have two tasting menus. A bigger and newer one with 13 dishes that goes for $155 – plus an optional $95 for wine pairing – and a smaller one with dishes “from the vault”, for $90 – plus $65 for the wine pairing. We chose the smaller one. Our waiter explained that they brought back their highlights from older menus to build this one, and it sounded promising. There is also an option to select two items from either menu for $25, and additional courses for $15.

They brought each of us a printed version of the menu, great for note-taking. It already explained the 6 courses that we were about to taste, so no big surprises there. It also listed the wines that would accompany it if we had chosen the wine pairing. We preferred to choose a pinot noir from California, Limerick Lane. The wine was great, but there was a severe flaw when our waiter served it to us. Due to the lack of space at the table, he opened the bottle and poured it into the decanter away from our table, so we could not see it. Although we of course do not think that they could switch it, it is a primary lesson in serving wine to open the bottle and decant it in front of the customers. We complained.

IMG_8836The first course was the amouse bouche. We found it strange that it was listed as a course. Most tasting menus bring those smaller dishes as surprises, which psychologically makes us feel that we are getting more value for our money. For the majority of the table, it was a little clam with potatoes and chorizo.

For the seafood allergic, a coconut ice cream sandwich with saffron, american sturgeon caviar and fresh mint. What was great about it is that it didn’t taste like coconut at all.

After that, they brought the table bread, which was nothing ordinary. It was a sesame seed flatbread, and one of the thinnest we’ve seen! Very light, and very tasty. IMG_8838

IMG_8832The second dish was one of the highlights. A small appetizer with foie gras and anchovy. A mix that we would never imagine to work, but  mouthwatering! We are foie gras fans, so it’s hard not to please us there, but this was a bold try! The foie gras comes in a square form with the thin-sliced Spanish boquerones on top of it.  It came with a tarragon and citrus sauce and cocoa nibs. As we found out, cocoa nibs are raw chocolate, and very similar to coffee beans. After we eat it, a dark chocolate taste stays in the mouth, and lingers there until something else comes along. An experience!

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Next up was a soup course which is made with a malted chestnut broth, salmon threads, celery root, and chestnut oil. We are not usually soup people, but this one was so flavorful and soothing that delighted us. The chestnut broth is really creamy, perfect for the winter. The salmon  threads are  dried, dehydrated salmon that have been shredded into stringy strands. When stirred into the soup, they add a salty, fishy twist, very unexpected. 

 

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After that, a turbot – kind of a white fish -, with salsify – kind of a carrot -, coffee-saffron sauce and smoked bulghur – kind of a couscous. The “kind of” dish. We did not know most of the ingredients, so our waiter explained it to us comparing it to other stuff. We thought it was tasteless, not a lot of flavor there. Very disappointing. 

 

IMG_8830As the final salty dish, a pan roaster lamb loin with hibiscus-date sauce, pearl barley, fresh cucumber,  shallots and aged goat cheese shaved on top of it. The cheese was very good (of course, cheese fans…). The lamb was tasty and pinkish, as we like it, but half of it was fat, which resulted in a rather small dish for the main event of the tasting. I loved the barley. But again, it was nothing that surprised us.

 

What really came as a surprise was that the desert was so much better than all of the other dishes. There was a milk chocolate pudding, with black bean puree, plantain sorbet – which, we did not know, is kind of a banana -, soy and plantain sauce, roasted and crumbled peanuts, and little malted puffs made from soy. This was a great dish! We took a while to figure out which was which. In fact, we continued to discuss it the day after our dinner… The design was very prettily made. The peanuts gave the perfect salty taste to match with the sweet. The puffs melted in our mouths. This made us crave for more.

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And more came in the final course. Our menu only said mignardise. It’s always good to learn something while we enjoy ourselves, and we did at this one. Mignardise is french for a bite-sized pretty desert served at the end of the meal. The lack of molecular gastronomy was partly balanced by this desert: blueberry leather packed filled with cheesecake (!!!). What came were literally leather packets when you looked at it, almost like little ketchup packets, completely brown and plastic like, therefore the leather part. But it actually is made of and tastes like blueberry. When you take a bite, inside comes the cheesecake part, but it is dehydrated, and nothing you would expect. It is sort of powdery and chalky, which is kind of weird at first, but delicious!! This made up for the disappointment in some of the other dishes, and was the highlight of our meal.

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Although the food was good, and we have nothing really to complain about it, the restaurant lacked the tasting menu experience that is expected when you pay big bucks for exactly that. The dishes came really fast, and although the explanation was perfect and the waiters polite, they lacked a certain amount of human warmth. Since they included the amouse bouche and the mignardise in the menu, there were no surprises or bonus dishes. It can be argued that they are straightforward about what they will serve, but it is always nice to have a little unexpected. Since our expectations were high, it was sort of a disappointment not to have an extra.

  • Environment: ***
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: ***
  • Rating: ***

WD-50

50 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

(212) 477-2900

Price: $$$

Benoit

Thanksgiving dinner was spent at Alain Ducasse’s Benoit. We wanted a true Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey, cranberries and all. We were also with family members, so we needed a more traditional place. Benoit was a good choice.

I expected a fancier restaurant, but it was even better to have a bistro style French restaurant. It was exactly the kind of environment you would expect in a Paris bistro. They even had a French waitress who was a little rude and just mumbled words in a mix of French and English that was just uncomprehensable. Soo French! The hostess greeted us, took our coats and directed us to our table of 6.

Cheese Tarts

Cheese Tarts

 

The tasting menu, with 3 courses, was $70. The French waitress, though a little too aggressively, explained our options. We had six choices of appetizers, four of entrées, and three deserts to choose from. Side dishes were also available upon request.

They brought us some yummy cheese pops, along with bread and butter, to start us of. They were really good! Warm and crispy, and very cheesy.

 

For starters we chose the lobster bisque and the foie gras pate. The foie gras came with some jam and warm French brioche. It wasn’t so good, though. It tasted very plain, like those pates you buy at the supermarket. The brioche was very good, but they could give us two instead of just one. It wasn’t enough to accompany the pate…

Foie Gras

Thanksgiving Turkey

The turkey was just like you would expect a Thanksgiving entree. Moist and tender, with gravy, cranberry sauce, mushrooms, small cooked potatles and onions, and stuffing. I would add some more salt, but I guess if you are cooking the same dish for hundreds of people it is better to go slow with it. The mushrooms and the stuffing were sort of mixed together, and it was hard to taste each one separately. The potatos were really good! I love it when they add these tiny ones, cooked perfectly, to the meat. Cranberry was plain, tasted industrialized. It was not a great dish. Tastier, but nothing memorable. But then again, it is a French restaurant, so I guess traditionally American meals are not among their biggest hits. It was enough for my turkey craving, though.

Pecan Tart

For desert, we had the pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. It is always a great surprise when the vanilla ice cream is actually made of vanilla, with those little dark spots that taste great. You can never go wrong with vanilla ice cream. Pecan pie is also a favorite. It had a LOT of honey, which made a little too sweet for our taste. But the vanilla ice cream evens that out a little bit. We had a bite of the chocolate desert as well. It was amazing!

 

We had coffee and tea, and almost got kicked out of the restaurant, which was closing and we kept on talking. I guess it is always like that with a big table… When we left, they gave each couple a small package with a marshmallow type of sweet for breakfast the next day. Always love those kinds of treats! In summary, not a very memorable meal, but tasty enough.

  • Environment: ***
  • Service: **
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: ***
  • Rating: ***

Benoit

60 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

(646) 943-7373

Price : $$$

Toro

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As an economics professor once taught us, satisfaction = performance – expectations. That perfectly explains our disappointment after a pleasant dinner at Toro. As one would expect from a hotly anticipated restaurant opening, the difficulty in getting a reservation in New York City built a lot of expectation around our dinner; expectation that was not met by the restaurant.

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Toro’s setting is quite interesting. The restaurant seems to be located in an old abandoned warehouse, making use of the ample space and the high ceiling to create a couple of different environments within the same space: an indoor garden in front of an ivy-green wall; a small counter overlooking the chef’s work and a broader inside area surrounded by wooden walls, a high ceiling and a bull’s head, a tribute to the restaurant’s Spanish cuisine. However interesting, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows and the high ceiling kill the cozy, warm atmosphere of the world-renowned Spanish tapas restaurants. On a winter night, our table felt cold throughout the dinner, which also negatively impacted the temperature of the food. Most hot dishes were slightly cold.

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We were also a bit disappointed with the small selection of Spanish wines featured in the wine list. The list overall was decently priced and had a couple of European alternatives, but we had a tough time finding the Spanish wine that we were looking for.

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For the food, the menu has a great variety of small dishes to share and we decided to basically follow the waitress’ tips. As appetizers, we ordered a combination of pinchos and tapas frias. From thepinchosHuevos Diablo ($7), Pan con Tomate ($6), Tortilla Espanola ($6), Pimientos del Padron ($8) and Foie Gras y Piquillo ($14); from the tapas frias y jamones: Atun Crudo ($17), Jamon de Pato($15), Paleta Serrano de Fermin ($17) and Chorizo Iberico de Fermin ($15)The appetizers weregood, but average compared to other Spanish restaurants in NYC, exception made to the foie gras and the tuna crudo, both with an interesting combination of spices that caught our attention.

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We decided to skip the traditional paella and continue with the small plates family style for our main dishes, making a selection of tapas calientes and tapas a la plancha. We ordered Croquettas de Bacalao ($12), Filete a la Parilla ($15), and Patatas Bravas ($9) from the tapas calientes and Gambas al Ajillo ($16), Setas ($16) and Coliflor Y Kohlrabi ($12) from the grill. At this point the restaurant definitely stepped up its game, with delicious cod croquettas and steak. The best surprise by far was the setas (a selection of mushrooms) that proved to be our favorite dish. Simple, yet well seared and flavorful they should not be missed. The same unfortunately cannot be said about the patatas bravas, a mere ghost of the traditional Spanish dish. After the first round, we ordered a second one with the dinner’s highlights, making an average of 4-5 small plates per person.

For desert we followed every single table around us and went with the famous churros with chocolate dip, another of the Spanish traditions honored by Toro. It was the right choice for a sweet taste to end a pleasant night. With the right set of expectations, Toro will be a good destination for dinner; however, we could not understand what the fuss was all about.

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  • Environment: ***
  • Service: ***
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: **
  • Rating: ***

Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter III

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Alice’s Tea Cup is the cuttest tea place on the Upper East Side that it’s been on our list for ages. It is, of course, completely based on Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. They have three locations, Chapter I, II, and III. We went toChapter III, located on 81st street and 3rd avenue. We had just had lunch, so wewere looking for a quick tea and some desert. We were very excited to try it, but ended up fairly disappointed… For starters, the hostess took about 15 minutes todirect us to our table. They had a line for takeout, but about two tables ready for us. People just kept cluttering at the door, but they did not seem to mind. We saw a couple give up in front of us and were fairly surprised by how poorly they dealt with the number of customers, although the restaurant still had a couple of empty tables.

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The decor is really cute, with several drawings of Alice in Wonderland made by little kids who visited the place. Right by the entrance there is a big counter where you can order scones, cakes and coffee to go. There are mini lights decorating the shelfs with the tea, which cheers up the place. The walls are painted with Alice in Wonderland motifs. I specially loved the drawing of the table with the “drink me” bottle.

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When we finally sat down, the waitress took an extra 10 minutes to take our order. We literally had to raise our hands and waive so they would see us. At least she seemed nice and apologized for the delay. By this point, our hopes of a quick tea had vanished.

The main attribute of their menu is undoubtedly their amazing selection of tea. The tea list spreads through several pages with blends of all kinds: [can you name more creative blends? green, white, black, etc]. It sure has something for every taste and the selection process can take quite some time. The food menu was also more thorough than we expected with salads, soups, sandwiches, cakes, pies and other sweets. The couple next to us ordered what seemed like the big hit there, a three tier arrangement of bites. They come with sandwiches, cookies, scones, and, of course, a pot of tea.  The problem with the three tier tea party mix is that the order is per person and even the smallest size seemed to be too much food. It doesn’t really make sense to order the largest (Jabberwocky “famished?”), for $60,given that you would have to pay an extra $20 to share. The only real options would be the small one (The Nibble “a ‘lil bit hungry?” $25), good for one; and the medium (The Mad Hatter “hungry?” $37), which could be shared for an extra $8. We did not try them, but the scones sure looked to be as good as people say. They also have mouthwatering options for breakfast and brunch. Crepes, eggs and pancakes, with different options of mixers.

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 We ordered some white tea with rose petals and a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream ($10). It supposedly takes about 10 minutes to bake, but it actually took them about 20. It was really good, with the traditional but unbeatable combination of warm chocolate fudge and vanilla ice cream. A couple of berries on the side complemented the desert. We sure wish we had more time to properly enjoy it, but we were already late and almost had to swallow it without much taste. The banana cake also seemed like a big hit, but portions are pretty big so we decided to share one cake.

Maybe better luck awaits us at one of the other chapters… The cute décor and the variety of teas makes it a warming destination for a cold weekend afternoon, as long as your main concern is just to kill time.

  • Environment: ****
  • Service: *
  • Food: ***
  • Presentation: **
  • Rating: ***

Alice’s Tea Cup

220 E 81st St
Manhattan, NY
(212) 734-4832