Eventhough this blog  has a strong focus on food — obviously..LOL..  — it remains a personal blog where I take the liberty, here and there, to share with you some  non food-related content as well.

Here, I would like to praise two of Africa’s most exciting voices: Winnie Nwagi, the African “Tina Turner” and Mandela Mubark Adams (aka FreeBoy), blessed with a voice that,  at  times, especially on the featuring song, will remind many melomaniacs of the illustrious Jamaican reggae musician “Shaggy“. The energy to be found in their duet ” Kwatu Essimu  ”  is epic, fun  and emotional. Their voices so powerful and enchanting.

Thanks Mama Africa for your endless list of incredible musicians (Sona Jobarteh, Manu Dibango, Mori Kante, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Myriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela , Fela Kuti  and so many other legendary music artists ) !

Et il n’y a pas que ta belle musique qui émerveille, Mère Afrique! T’inquiètes…on en reparlera…in this life or in the next ..comme diraient nos compères Anglos. À suivre…!  I shall never forget  you Mama!!!! Never!!!!

Pursuing this short post, with the amazing voice of one of my ATF music artists, an advocate of …what made   YOUR ..and MY.. EXISTENCE.. POSSIBLE …   (I will let you THINK about that one, IF  YOUR EXISTENCE…GENUINELY.. MATTERS TO YOU……….I mean, LOL………..), Sona Jobarteh:

 

 

 

Ending this post with an eye-candy video of the  colourful beauty of Africa, featuring two equally beautiful voices, Yemi Alade and Angelique Kidjo:

 

Best Restaurants of 2019
IN MONTREAL, Pamika continues to be a genuine little gem I wish I could keep for myself but they already have
hordes of fans flocking there, which sucks as the place is small and that diminishes my chances to grab a seat, under their roof, on a weekend.

Ichigo ichie remains the best Isakaya in Montreal, and they have, next to their door, one of the better ramenyas in town, Yokato Yokabai  (there are plenty of ramenyas in Montreal, true, but rarely of this quality) – both Ichigo Ichie and Yokato Yokabai are owned by the same people.

In 2019, one food item  I particularly liked in Montreal was the fried chicken at  Roch le Coq. I hope Roch Le Coq maintains the  standard of their fried chicken as high as it has been on my last visit there (October 2019).

Also tried: There were some few new openings in Montreal, of which  I found  Le Boulevardier , Provisions Bar à Vin and Le Flamant  quite enjoyable (by our local dining standards).

Last but not least, I found the sunday brunch at the Queen Elizabeth’s hotel (my review here), to be one great value brunch.

IN NEW YORK, Red Hook Tavern is a remarkable bistrot deserving of its popularity.

Gallagher’s Steakhouse offered the best rib eye I ever had in New York city, World’s capital of the North American steak,  which makes it even more remarkable.

I also retried Peter Luger in 2019 and they still have one of the best North American porterhouse steaks money can buy.

Roberta’s Pizza is widely known to have some  of the best pizza in the USA, and all I can say is that it is  not hard to believe that  hype.

The Burger at Emily is a tasty treat not to be missed while you are in NYC and Sorbillo NYC turned out to be my preferred Neapolitan pizza in the Big Apple.

Other  restaurants that I tried in NYC in 2019:  the new restaurant of Chef Alfred Portale (the Chef who turned Gotham Bar & Grill into a legendary dining destination) , called Portale in Chelsea (that was a hit), the highly anticipated Llama San in Greenwich Village (which did not impress me as much as it did for most New York critics, presumably because I was already familiar with superior renditions of what they are doing, and not all ingredient combinations worked for me, but all in all it was enjoyable and  surprisingly “different enough for NYC” to deserve  its  current hype), Kochi (reviewed here – the Chef used to work at 3 star Michelin Per Se before. They were in their initial weeks, when I went there, so give them some time to blossom, as, for now, some food items were superb, indeed, but others were too ordinary and stood as reminders that a bit of fine-tuning would be necessary, which is normal as it is a very young venture). Last, but not least, I did also visit Jeju Noodle bar — my critic here — from another Korean Chef who used to work at Per Se. Jeju takes the instant noodle that we all know, they use a home made version of that as opposed to the commercial version that we all know, and elevates it as a  gourmet dish. And it is doing it extremely well. Some may frown (as in …why am I being served an elevated version of instant noodles?), but doing business is not about emotions (well, buddy, there are elevated versions of burgers and SPAM canned cooked pork, there are elevated versions of  pizza, etc. So why not instant noodles?? ) but about what works, and Jeju gambled and won (it is a very popular restaurant). Jeju has, of course, other offerings aside from their high-end noodles.

Best dishes, food items of 2019
The sea eel nigiri (as well as the cooked items) at Sushi Amane, NYC
The rib eye steak at Gallagher’s Steakhouse, NYC

Biggest dining disappointments of  2019
-Oiji has been a revelation to plenty of food critics in NYC, but their enthusiasm did not square with what I did experience at this restaurant. My meal at Oiji was a disappointment as argued here.
-Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger enjoys an enviable reputation but  I am afraid I have got to question that.
-Quality Meats works hard to position its steak as one of NYC’s best, but my rib eye steak did not live up to its billing.
-Fuku’s Vada Pav was one of the most hyped-up food items in 2019 in NYC, but an epic failure when I went to try it.

To wrap up  this blog’s past year highlights, I will share with you the top 10   reviews that you have perused the most all along the year of 2019: The review on Peter Luger was the most popular among you (read by 15% of  all of you ), the closest second was the one on Docks Oyster House – Atlantic City (10.58% of you all),  then   L’Arpege – Paris (read by 10.44% of  you all),  Dons de La Nature – Tokyo (10.28% of you all),  Torishin – New York City (9.56%  of you all),  Restaurant Damas – Montreal (8.29 % ), Ishikawa – Tokyo (8.23 %  ), Hong Fan Tian – Montreal (7.4 % ) ,  the review of  Le Dôme Café – Paris (5.7% ), the one on Nice (5.28 % ) and the rest is scattered across various restaurant  reviews. For the first time in 5 years, the review about the steakhouses in Montreal is  NOT in the top 10 of the posts  that you have read the most (it used to be #1 year after year).

It is always interesting to opine on what you have decided to be the most popular reviews, from the standpoint of the person who did write them: as an example, I can understand how the reviews on Torishin and Docks Oyster House did appeal to you as I cannot remember any review being that upfront about those two places (most online reviews about those 2 restaurants are romanticized), but there are reviews which popularity  I simply do not get such as the ones on Restaurant Damas – Montreal  as well as Le Dôme Café  – Paris. Particularly Le Dôme Café, which is not really a dining destination. Historical, true, and very pretty in its genre, but not a dining destination. I do not see why people would  read a restaurant review about a historical restaurant. A historical restaurant, you just go and visit it. That is it, Lol.  You do not need to read a restaurant review about it.

What I find interesting is that, based on the  write-ups that are the most popular to you, I will have to observe that some of the better restaurants that I have reviewed continue to slip under your radar (as an example, the current best rib eye steak that money can buy in New York, Gallaghers Steakhouse, had its review  perused by only 0.125 % of you all, the gem that Sushi Azabu is … seems to have been of interest only for  1.37% of the readers of this blog. Not that those places would lose a sleep over that, Lol, but it remains an interesting observation …).

Last but not least, it was nice to see some of the great restaurants of the world that  I have already reviewed here (the column that is on the left of this blog) featuring in the top 50 of La Liste. La Liste  takes  the majority of  the online restaurant reviews, and then ranks restaurants based  on that. Therefore if you take issue with  it, you are potentially  taking issue with  every single restaurant review that you happen to see online and that may concern yours, too. I gather that there is no perfect restaurant ranking guide, obviously, but this is the only system that is basically taking into account the bulk  of the online restaurant reviews and not doing its own ranking based on its own way of appreciating a restaurant. So, in a nutshell, it is the voice of the people, and that voice seems to have expressed plenty of love for the following restaurants that I have reviewed here – On la liste 2020,  L’Ambroisie is #10. I have no doubt that L’Ambroisie is the best classic French restaurant in the world, but I was afraid that its steep prices would never allow it to enjoy such visibility. I was wrong, then. L’Arpege is #5. There too, the surprise was great as L’Arpege is not into fancy food, it uses few ingredients and it is very pricey, but apparently I mistakenly thought that would play against them. Seems like the people did see what I saw there, which is the potential of Passard to blow your mind away with some of the HIGHS you may experience while eating there. Les Prés d’Eugénie are #19 in the world, based on what did result from the majority of all online restaurant reviews and they highly deserved it as this is indeed some of the few true benchmark classic French cooking in the world. Also reviewed here are  L’Auberge du Vieux Puits  at #20 in the world (Great for Chef Goujon, he works so hard to put his restaurant on the map of the gastronomic world and he is  getting the recognition that he deserves …just add more punch  to your amuse-bouches, Chef!) and at #29 in the world, Le Calandre (here,  it was the savoury dishes that lacked sparks, during my meal there, but I trust that it was an isolated situation and that took nothing away from the great dining destination that this place is).  The restaurant that I love the most in the world, Dal Pescatore, is at # 27 (Great! I mean this is classic food, and in this day and age,  I was not expecting the people to love their classics that much, lol).

Before I go, I have to say that I was very impressed by Michelin recently, which does not happen as oftently as the most would expect from someone who named his web blog michelinstarfinedinings.wordpress.com, Lol. Michelin removed the 3 stars that Jiro and Sushi Saito had in Tokyo. Now, you can say whatever you want about Michelin, but they are the only restaurant review sources that refuses to sell to you a “private club” as a normal restaurant. Go on any other restaurant review sources ( crowd-sourced review forums, etc) and they talk about “private clubs” as if those ventures are opened to the public, which consequence is just to fool people.

As ever with food, know what you want: you need authenticity, then go get it where it is supposed to be found. Do not expect genuine Thai, Japanese, African or whatever kind of food oceans and continents away from where it originates. Doing so would be utterly foolish. And remember:  when you read a review about a restaurant, look at the date the review was published! A restaurant was probably great years ago, but a total disaster years later. I know many restaurants that went from hero to zero within  2,3  months. So it is not hard to imagine what a restaurant can morph into across the  years…! Set your expectations accordingly. A big part of enjoying the good things in life is … to be positive, indeed, but to …stay genuinely realistic, too. Wish you all  plenty of great food in 2020!

The Alley is one of Taiwan’s most famous bubble tea (Boba drinks) shops. The ´titans’ of the bubble tea world have long been attracted by NYC with giants such as ‘Kung Fu Tea’ , ´Teado tea shop´, ´Coco’, ´Ten Ren’ as well as ‘Happy lemon’ and ´Gong cha’ having their own locations in the Big Apple. It was about time that the Alley joins this high level competition, which is what they ended up doing recently with the opening of their first shop in NYC. The Alley is already an International success story with effective or projected presence in many  of this globe’s major cities (Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne, etc). The branch in NYC opened on Saturday Sept 7th 2019 in the NoHo neighbourhood. I went there on week 1 post opening.

I picked two of their signature items:

Brown sugar Deeriocca milk tea featured soft and bouncy homemade brown sugar milk tea pearls. Deeriocca is the name they gave to those pearls. If I had to take a guess, I would say that it is with those pearls that the Alley truly stands out as the brown sugar flavour is, indeed, one crowd-pleasing flavour. I found this milk tea — which level of sweetness they do consider as «regular » —– to not have that much sugar. It was not bland, though. Just enough sugar to keep it on the enjoyable side of the spectrum. Also noteworthy was the refined creamy taste coming from the syrup. It is a chain operation, therefore it cannot  have the « exclusive » quality of the bubble Tea you can make yourself at home, but at what it is, it is certainly a Very good bubble Tea. 8/10

Royal No 9 Milk tea
One of their most popular items according to their Facebook page. The house claims to use quality Black Assam tea leaves. This had a pleasant  fragrance coming from the tea element. Not as rich as the previous milk tea, by design, as it is just your basic milk and tea flavour, with, as it seems to be the consistent pattern  here, the sugar input kept in control – for the sweetness level, I basically took the regular one. This was not too sweet, therefore your best bet if you do not have a sweet tooth. Pleasant on the mouth, but the delicate fine balance between the milk and tea elements is technically without any flaw. 7/10

-The Missus ordered the snow lulu strawberry (strawberries, crushed ice in white peach oolong tea base , with a layer of snow velvet cream atop).  I tried a bit of it, and was disappointed: the one we tried had barely any fruity flavour coming from the strawberry. The missus  did not like it at all for the exact same reasons that  I have just raised. She railed  against the absence  of  the  usual fresh aftertaste that she came to expect from the better strawberry -flavoured bubble teas she had elsewhere and that is typical of most organic  strawberry-based liquid,  semi liquid or creamy concoctions. 5/10

The Alley enjoys a fame of the magnitude of the Apple’s Iphone when that device first came out and it is easy to see why: you feel the quality of its ingredients (as an example, the sugar cane syrup is made, onsite, with real sugar cane, which is why one does not get the artificial overwhelming sugar taste that comes from artificially sweetened products), a sense of refinement (well balanced flavours) as well as a well judged control of the sugar input. It is clear that their intent is not to excite you with bold /rich flavours, full-bodied textures, which makes it a product that is aligned with its time (a time of health consciousness). Blown away, I was not, but I did really enjoy the quality of the brown sugar Deerioca milk tea , which is easily one of my favourite milk teas. The Alley Addr: 68 Cooper square, New York, NY, 10003

Pursuing my tour of some of the finest steakhouses of New York, having tried Peter Luger, Keens, Strip House, Quality Meats  and Wolfgang.

Dropped by Gallagher’s Steakhouse, a historical steakhouse, which, during the days of the prohibition, was the first illicit establishment selling alcohol where gamblers and stars of Broadway would meet.

In the incredibly competitive steakhouse market of NYC (perhaps, the steakhouse mecca of the world – I mean, do you know any other major city with that many world class steakhouses? Do you? ), you know you have reached the enviable status of a historic shrine at whatever you do when the NY Times writes romanticized write-ups with eye-candy photographs of this sort about you – .

At Gallagher’s Steakhouse,  I ordered:

Platter of 12 oysters – Dabob bay from Hood canal (Washington) and Canadian lucky lime. Nicely shucked quality fresh oysters. The lucky lime had the advertised citrus-tone finish in evidence. The intertidal beach cultured  Dabob bay oysters, quite briny for an oyster coming from the Pacific. The mignonette properly done. A platter of fine oysters. 7/10

The 20 oz rib eye steak (Grade: USDA Prime), dry aged for 28 – 32 days on premise in their glass-enclosed meat locker ( You can see it from the street – a sight to behold). The meat is grilled on hickory coals, a rarity in a city where most steakhouses do broil their steaks. Grilling meat over an open fire has always been my preferred grilling method for meats. The requested medium rare doneness achieved with utter precision. It delivered on flavor (the seasoning, exquisite –  the steak  as delicious as it gets) and was superbly tender throughout. The great grilling effect of the open fire in evidence to the eyes/smell/palate.  Dazzling crust. My steak had its juices settled within the meat, therefore timely rested. A steak is not a moon landing mission and one can do great steaks at home, indeed, but what matters here is that this is a steakhouse and it is doing one of the better steaks in NYC. Easily the best rib eye steak I ever had at all the top tier steakhouses of NY. 10/10

The creamed spinach. Here too, the G seems to have the edge as the creamed spinach had superb taste and great balance between the cream and spinach flavours. Superb texture too. Just some delicious creamed spinach like few — surprisingly, indeed – seem to be able to pull out at the NYC steakhouses. Vibrant fresh and delicious flavours. 9/10

Even the crème fraîche to accompany the baked potato was not of the ordinary sort. The baked potato managing, somehow, not to be just an average piece of tired looking baked potato simply because most kitchen brigades keep such simple things for granted (as most diners do, actually), when, in reality, the sourcing of your potato and how you timed its baking makes a big difference. Here, they did care about that difference.

Bottom line: A very beautiful steakhouse (the warmth of materials such as  wood and leather never failing to entice) in the classic genre. But the food was as great. Where many steakhouses seem to deliver  tired renditions of classic steakhouse food, the G seems to find a way to make it a bit more exciting in mouth (even their homemade sauce to accompany the steak, made of tomato/garlic/Worcestershire sauce, was well engineered as far as balancing flavors go, its taste great ). A commendable steakhouse, indeed.

Overall rating: Food 9/10 One of the very best steakhouses of NYC.   The steaks are great here, but everything else as well. For my taste, the G and Peter Luger are my No1 steakhouses in New York, with the G being a better all rounder, for sure. Furthermore, nothing beats the appealing  texture as well as memorable grilling aromas of a steak that is grilled on open fire (a broiled steak looks unappetizing in comparison). Service 8/10 (superb service in the typical classic NYC steakhouse way). Gallaghers Steakhouse Addr: 228 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019 Phone: 212-586-5000 URL: http://www.gallaghersnysteakhouse.com/

 

This is one of the latest hottest bistrots of NYC. Situated in Brooklyn, it is always packed to the brim and, in terms of  popularity, could remind Montrealers of Au Pied de Cochon when APDC was in its prime (in the days of Martin Picard, Hughes Dufour).

You come here to have fun. It is small, full of social vibe.  The food is North American bistrot food. The wine list has few pages of  great findings. The menu is short but very appealing – as an example, on the evening of my visit, menu  items such as ‘roasted corn, nduja, basil, lemon, radicchio cups’, “crispy smashed fingerling potatoes, romesco, toasted pistachios” or ”Grilled Head-on spot prawns, Calabrian chillis, garlic mojo, lemon” generated  interest. Then, once you know what we now know about the skills of this kitchen, you can easily picture such food items as not just ‘generating interest’ but way more than that.

I came here for their their widely praised Burger. While waiting for it (it takes approx 30 mins to make), I had their

Cheese plate
ALP blossom (cow) from Austria
Delice de bourgogne (cow), France
Roomano (cow), Netherlands
all in superb condition.
It is obvious that they take care of their cheeses (aging, storing, etc) way better than at some ambitious tables.  These came with figs/hazelnut jam that would make a grandma of the countryside of France, known for her expertly concocted homemade jams, drooling of envy and jealousy “putain, mais comment qu’il a fait ca!!” (holy shit! How did he do that!!), It was that great indeed. There was also some  superb pepper mostarda. 9/10

Chicken liver pâté, Served with a super Hudson River Rye toast,  Some Pickled sour cherries that revealed some pickling technique that is of a high level, the cherries of great quality, some fresh quality parsley salad. The pâté itself having a delicious taste. First-rate bistrot food items. 8/10

Country ham croquettes featured top quality ham’s flavour, 1 year aged cheddar, a Dijonnaise that would NOT be out of place at an ambitious French table in France. Freshly cooked, timely served, this was a flawless croquette expressing superb flavours. 8/10

I did put an end to this superb North American bistrot meal with their fabled Burger, a Burger  that most Burger experts of NYC do consider as one of the very best of NYC :

Dry Aged Red Hook Tavern Burger (American cheese, white onion, frites) – When you do an online search for the best Burgers in the world, you will rarely stumble upon the Burgers of NYC, World’s capital of the Burger. Instead, you  end up with plenty of laughable Burgers and you realize that it was mainly for the roaring laughter, the derision. But in NYC, when they talk about the finest Burgers of the City, it is  serious business. And it did not take  long to get upfront and personal with how serious they are at RHT with their Burger: a bun that is a benchmark of its kind (a glorious soft texture, expertly designed to accompany perfectly well the patty without stealing the show from it) was paired, very simply, with a patty made of high grade dry-aged beef. Some  fabulous American cheese atop.  The cheese not melting as easily as most of the cheeses that are used with most Burgers out there, the patty not having any juice dripping and soaking the bun. They did carefully design that Burger  so that you get every single element of the Burger to express itself in its entirety, while perfectly complementing each other as a Burger. We were a world away from the big mess that many Burgers happen to be with their  piece of patty lost  in melting cheese,  their  bun   soaked in the juice of their patties, the overall flavour having the taste of nothing.  At RHT, they have  stripped the Burger from anything that’s distracting (the superfluous toppings, etc), and focused on delivering the perfected trinity of bun + patty + cheese.  A world class Burger! 9/10  (My fully detailed technical notes about this Burger can be found, here.)

This is food NOT  designed to parade on Instagram but to be enjoyed, as food is supposed to be. Soul satisfying, for sure. And it is affordable (a miracle, in NYC).

Bottom line: After the debacle of the day before at Oiji, it was great to have renewed with great food in NYC, one of World’s truly great dining destinations. Red Hook Tavern is a first-rate North American bistrot deserving of its resounding success (ingredients are top notch, the food reveals some serious skills in their kitchen, service and ambience are great). It is easy  to be hooked on  Red Hook Tavern. Overall rating (Categ: North American Bistrot) for Food: 8/10; Service: 9/10; Red Hook Tavern Addr: 329 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, United States Phone: +1 917-966-6094 URL: https://www.redhooktavern.com/

Tim Ho Wan is the celebrated dim-sum chain from Hong Kong that is taking NYC by storm. I tried their offshoot in Hell’s Kitchen.

While reading the online reviews about them, I noticed that many people do not realize that (1) however good it is, well …it is a chain, therefore it cannot provide you with the exclusive artisan craft that can only come from, guess who..an artisan Chef…obviously! (2) We are not in Hong Kong. So why expecting HK in NYC? Basics of the science of food= two geographical spaces, especially ones separated by oceans and continents, cannot have the same water, the same soil, etc. So food cannot taste the same, consequently…obviously! You also have the laws that regulate your food: you can bbq an animal alive in some countries, in the west, it is a big NO, etc (I am not saying that you can do that in HK, btw. That is not what I said. It was just an example about the laws regulating food and that can vary from one country to another. And that affects the taste of the food).

1.Steamed pork spare rib with black bean sauce. Superb bold flavours, the seasoning exciting as you should expect from this spare rib food item. Served piping hot / freshly cooked. Regardless of what their competitors do think, this is one of the better tasting steamed pork spare ribs in NYC. And if you still miss HK, then fly to HK, as simple as that! 7/10

2.Baked bbq pork buns – nice soft crunchy bun, freshly baked. The texture of the bun is reminescent of a “biscuit” rather than a “brioche”. Tasty filling of sweetened pulled pork that would have certainly expressed a bolder porky taste back in Asia. But this is in NYC, not HK, and the porky flavour is there, of course, but a tidbit less evident than with some other baked pork buns in HK (to the point that you could almost confuse this food item with a cake of date…somehow). This was tasty, of course, and you have plenty of taste sensations and textures going on: sweet, savory, crunchy, and crispy.  7/10

3.Steamed dumplings with shrimp and chives. Superb texture of the shell. Again, the seafood would have a bolder taste in HK, but this was tasty, competently prepared (not one single technical flaw) and certainly one of the better rendered dumplings of NYC! 8/10

I was reluctant to try THW as it is a chain (I prefer  solo operations) and I already had  my go-to dim-sum eateries  in NYC, with Hop Shing being a long time favourite of mine (I am a suck up for old school dim sum places), but Hop Shing is going a bit downhill, these days (Yes, the Char Shu Bao is still one of the best of NYC, but all the rest is not as great as they used to be), so I started to look around for other dim sum places. That is how I convinced myself to try THW.

Bottom line: I feel sorry for their direct local competitors, Lol, but THW is one of the better dumpling  shops of NYC. You can find more sophisticated dumplings in NYC, at some of the newer high end  restaurants (as an example, Hutong), but they are way too pricey. As for THW, I will re-iterate that I did not say that it is exclusive (obviously, it CANNOT… as I explained in the Intro). And I am not a fan  of their dish of dim sum chicken feet — which I tried on a 2nd visit  (they decided to do this differently from the classic  recipe but I prefer the classic recipe). Last but not least, if you insist on the quality of  the dim sum found on  the West Coast of the USA, do not waste your time here as NYC, as great as its food scene stands, its dim sum restaurants  are  not going to be a serious challenge to their counterpart of the West.  But in NYC,  this is  one of the best dim sum, in its price range. THW has it all: delicious food, fine service. Tim Ho Wan – Addr: 610 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036, United States; Phone: +1 212-228-2802; URL: http://timhowanusa.com

Minetta Tavern  is an iconic Gastro pub in Greenwich village. They are known for their Burger, the highly touted Black label burger, which is oftently promoted by NYC’s food critics as one of the very best in the city.

 

Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger comes with a  selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts, caramelized onions, pommes frites.  One of the celebrated burgers of NYC. But I caught it on a bad day, I am afraid:

-Did they achieve the ideal proportion of   bun/ patty /cheese/condiments? Nothing disproportionate, here. A highly marketed burger like this one was designed with the help of specialists (Chefs, Specialists of meats, etc) , so do not expect any non sense in that department.

-The bun? Not your beautifully textured bun.  But it was  technically properly made, as expected from such a highly marketed hamburger, with the bun having proper (rather than dazzling) soft density .

-The patty? Cooked medium rare exactly as I did request it. The flavour of the beef was there, for sure, but  not in an exciting way as it tasted  plain. The dry-aged “funk” that most people are nowadays looking for was  there, but it  did nothing to enhance the taste of the meat I was tasting on this visit.  Minetta Tavern  sure went to a lot of effort to make a patty  of quality (careful selection of the meat, etc) , but at the end of the round, this one I was having  tasted  utterly ordinary when compared to patties found in the majority of the burgers you will find in NYC. And I am not even taking the price into account…

-The overall taste of this  Burger? Uneventful! I mean, apart from the first 2 seconds, there was nothing going on. No exciting grilling flavour, no particularly enjoyable beef taste. Caramelized onion rarely fails in its role to add a festive dimension to the taste of a hamburger, but in this instance, it, too, was not interested to “throw a party”.

 

Overall rating: 5/10 (I have no doubt that this can be a better burger than what I was sampling as the burger experts of NYC have long praised this Burger, but I can talk only for what I tried and mine was a tired looking burger, with an ordinary bun, and a patty that failed to bring joy in mouth). I will go back in the evening and try their other food items as I loved the friendly service and beautiful laid back old world interior but I will not give a second chance to their fabled BLB. Minetta Tavern Addr: 113 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012, United States Phone: +1 212-475-3850 URL: https://www.minettatavernny.com/

 

 

Emily’s in West Village is a pretty and comfy restaurant,  barely decorated. Loved their small bar, which I can also positively qualify as simple and comfortable. The staff is young, friendly and service is nice. The overall is  ” casual – cool “,   if you will.

I did appeciate the fact that even if I was eating solo, they still had a table ready for me since I did book a table. I ate at the bar. It is me who did insist to eat at the bar as I found it selfish and unfair (sniff, sniff) to take a table for myself when they could have seated 2 pers at that table. In this money making world, even the most ambitious restaurants charging you an arm and a leg will force you to eat at the bar if you are eating solo.

I came here for their Burger which is widely advertised as one of the best of World’s Capital of the Burger, NYC. I went to find out:

Emmy Burger Double Stack (LaFrieda dry-aged beef, EMMY sauce, caramelized onion, American cheese, & pickles on a pretzel bun – with curly fries. The first thing that hits you is its sweetness (the caramelized onions). You get that, loud and proud, on your first bite. Then your palate gets used to it and you litterally do not feel that sweetness anymore. Normal, it is the « been there, done that » effect.

After that, it is stage 2 that ensues: you feel the dry aged effect of the patty. The funk, the blue cheese effect that most patrons are looking for, these days, in their dry-aged meat.

The thing about dry-aging beef is that the industry has no other choice but to follow what most patrons want, obviously. The majority of diners are so obsessed by the dry-aging funk / blue cheese feel that they confuse funky tasting with the real point of dry aging.

The point of dry-aging is to make your meat beefier, folks! That is it! But you put so much pressure on the industry with your damn «I need to feel tha funk » in my dry-aging beef that the industry is ensuring that you get your damn funky feel in evidence. So Emily too had to oblige. Yes, the dry aging funk was there. Happy now? But you know, at the end of the day, it is how you made that beef beefier and tastier that counts. Remember my 2 reviews of Quality Meats and Gallaghers. QM ….poor them, they went all the way to please the customer with the usual dry aging effect and its usual blue cheese alike aroma. Your well praised funk, dear average patron! Then you had Gallaghers  who did dry-age their beef, too. But the G was busier exploring the real point of dry-aging, which is to storm your palate with delicious meat flavour and all other great aspects that counts such as its tenderness. No, the blue cheese flavour was not there at the G, and Yes, they too have dry aged the beef, and it was for the better…obviously!

So, back to Emily. I loved Emily’s burger. It is indeed a world class burger.

I was a bit apprehensive about the bun soaking up all the juices in a blink of an eye … but Nah, that never happened. Naturally, if you sit there and just wait for that to happen, it eventually will, Lol. But you are suppose to eat your burger right away and not to look at it eternally or to let it rest. And if you get that basic principle, then No, that bun will not soak anything. It is actually a well designed bun, designed so that it does not soak all the juices …in a blink of an eye.

A word about the dry-aging funky effect of the meat. Their burger, without it, would have been even more tasty (it was delicious, even in its current incarnation, btw. And indeed, this is  one of the better burgers of NYC, and by ricochet, in the World, for its superb bun, patty, overall festive taste).  But hey, they are doing what they have got to do: the trend is about dry aging the meat.

Oh, BTW, my dear Emy, one  observation before I go… you do not need Pat Lafrieda’s meat  to make burgers of the quality that you are offering. I am a fan of Pat, but any butcher with quality meat will do the job. That said, I can understand that, marketing wise, it is better for you to be associated with a name that sells. For sure, it drums up some excitement. Anyways, who cares? I love your burger and I can’t wait to devour some more.

++You can find additional  notes about my review of this Burger,  here.

Overall rating (Categ: World class burger): 8/10 – Emily West Village Addr: 35 Downing St, New York, NY 10014, United States Phone: +1 917-935-6434 URL: https://www.pizzalovesemily.com/menus-west-village/

Like many people, I prefer making my own pizza, my own dough at home. Clearly no frozen pizza can beat a home made pizza.

But when I do not feel like making some pizza, I always have 2,3 frozen pizze  in the freezer just for such instance.

There are tons of online reviews about those pizze, therefore I am not going to repeat what every single online review has already covered. Instead, I will  share with you my overall impression of those 3 frozen pizze.

Amy’s Frozen Cheese Pizza – Of the 3 frozen pizze reviewed in this post, Amy’s was the one that , for me, distanced  itself, in terms of texture, from your usual home made pizza for its utterly soft base. As per their web-site,  they hand-stretch the crust of their pizza, which should normally lead to a pizza with an artisan feel to it, but the end result  is a soft crust that does not underline the artisan feel I am used to. It was way too soft compared to the artisan impression  that is advertised. Which, for someone who makes his own pizza, from scratch, at home, was ultimately not going to be a hit.
That said, for a frozen pizza, it is certainly not a bad pizza at all, with its well balanced seasoning and fine toppings. A recurrent theme with the 3 pizze review in this post, for sure, but that is their reality. So, it is what it is and I have to point it out.

 

Delissio Frozen Pizza Pepperoni Do not mess with the cooking directions. Stick to the cooking time they are recommending. You can cook some pizze a bit longer than suggested and yet, the pizza will still have a fine crust. But not in this case. Overbake this pizza and you will regret it. This is a harmless pizza, meaning nothing is particularly bad, here, nothing goes above and beyond the basics of a tolerable frozen pizza neither. They made sure that the basics are covered: fine toppings, balanced seasoning, decent amount of pepperoni, not too much sauce but  enough sauce to get going, etc. You got the picture: you will not be blown away by the usual standards of a frozen pizza, but there is not much to rail at neither. An Ok frozen pizza. No more.

Dr. Oetker Frozen Casa Di Mama Thin crust Pepperoni Pizza – The 1st time I tried a Dr O’s pizza, that was many years ago at an event of the Canadian Grand Prix downtown Montreal on Crescent street. It was their Pepperoni pizza and it tasted — unusually (for a frozen pizza) — freshly baked  (most likely, because it was – something is sure, they were not going to serve the frozen pizza that has been stored for weeks in your grocery’s pizza, lol) to the point  that a pizza expert would have confused it with a non frozen pizza. With time, the Doc appeared, to me, less impressive (less ingredients, less sparks on the flavor front than on that 1st tasting), and for my taste, but I have got to concede that it remains a fine enough pizza in its category (frozen pizza),  with a nice and crispy crust, made of natural ingredients, with a cheese to sauce ratio that is on point. In facts, it is the only pizza of this round up that I managed to finish. At its price point, in the category “frozen pizza”, I’d not be surprised to hear that this is one of the  go-to frozen pizze of most Canadians.

According to most connoisseurs of the Burger, New York has some of the very best burgers in the nation. It is an american food staple and you cannot visit NY without  trying its finest burgers. They have all sorts of Burgers from the gourmet to the classic ones. I know my classic burgers well, but when I go out it is to enjoy how far a Chef did push his craft. Not to content myself with a basic classic burger. Therefore, I maintained the focus on some of the elaborate burgers among the most celebrated burgers of  New York.

Admittedly, this is about the Burger. Not a landing mission on the moon. And we can all make world class burgers at home, too  . And Yep, prices are inflated as we came to expect from NYC. But this post is not about that. This post is about some of the best Burgers offered at the restaurants of NYC, which the below  mentioned burgers are reputed to be.

 

Emily – West Village‘s Emmy Burger Double Stack (LaFrieda dry-aged beef, EMMY sauce, caramelized onion, American cheese, & pickles on a pretzel bun – with curly fries).
-Did the house fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another? Nothing disproportionate (you take the bun and the patty -a big thick patty — and you put that in your mouth and you really feel the presence of the meat and the adequate quantity of bun that is necessary to call it a burger and not just a patty.
-Intensity of the flavour of the meat/patty when sampled with the bun and all the elements of the burger, without any condiments: ( ) barely noticeable ( ) Mildly beefy (x ) Densely beefy, and the flavor intensity is amplified by the delicious caramelized onions and aged Grafton cheddar cheese from Vermont.
-Doneness of the patty by default: medium rare
-How was the taste? Big chunk of patty that is more juicy than most of its competitors with a beefy taste that is at the fore. Amplified with their sweet caramelized onions and that cheese. Then the pretzel roll that contributes to the overall taste with its unusual (for a burger’s bun) pretzel flavour that’s actually adapted to a Burger in that sense that the bun is soft and the strong pretzel flavour that you came to expect from your classic pretzel is not in evidence (which is exactly what is required here as the normal pretzel flavour would have clashed with the taste of the patty) . So, as expected, lots of relatively (to your usual ‘white buns’) unique flavours.
-did it taste too ‘steaky’ for a burger given that it was dry aged? Well, it tasted of dry-aged beef, indeed. And I did not care about that. A quality  fresh meat’s taste is better, IMHO, than  the dry-aged flavour of meats used to make a burger’s patty. That said, this took nothing away from the top tier Burger that Emily’s Burger is. Indeed, one of the best Burgers of NYC.  Emily West Village Addr: 35 Downing St, New York, NY 10014, United States Phone: +1 917-935-6434 My full review, here.
Overall rating:  8/10

Red Hook Tavern‘s Dry Aged Red Hook Tavern Burger (American cheese, white onion, frites)
-Did the house fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another? There is just a big piece of patty with its bun. And Yep, here too, the burger is designed to have a reasonably balanced ratio of patty to bun.
-Intensity of the flavour of the meat/patty when sampled with the bun and all the elements of the burger, without any condiments: ( ) barely noticeable ( ) Mildly beefy (X ) Densely beefy
-Doneness of the patty by default: They did ask me what doneness I wanted. I told them to go with medium rare, which happens to be what they also recommend.
-Did the dry-aging of the meat led to a taste that is more adequate for a steak than to a burger? NO! And there was  no need for that, neither. Instead of annoying my nose and my palate  with that damn useless aroma of blue cheese (aka the ‘funk’ fragrance of dry aged beef  — yeah, I know, most want that nowadays), their dry aged meat  delivered what superb dry aged beef should focus on: some superb beef flavour!
-How was the taste? They did what needs to be done to intensify the beefy flavour of a burger: blending several cuts of meats. Dry aged New York strip and chuck, in this case. They did opt for the American cheese as the sole adornment of the patty, a cheese that had proven to be a fine companion to the patty. The result is that it was  flavour-packed with great pure flavour of beef enhanced by the fine slice of cheese. Apparently, this was inspired by the Burger at Peter Luger and the Burger experts of NYC do argue that the apprentice has surpassed the Master. I cannot talk to that because at PL, I always had the steaks. But RHT’s Burger had the bare essentials reviewed, covered and  perfected (a bun that’s a benchmark of its kind, a patty that is using prime quality beef, a delicious cheese designed to elevate the patty’s flavour and not overwhelm it, an overall taste that stood out among the finest burgers of the city). My fully detailed review here.  Red Hook Tavern Addr: 329 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231, United States Phone: +1 917-966-6094 URL: https://www.redhooktavern.com/
Overall rating:  9/10

 

Bottom line: All the burgers of this round-up fulfilled the basic « ideal » requirement of having neither the bun, the patty nor the cheese being too disproportionate in quantity to one another. Of course, this cannot be always respected in an obsessive fashion (for example to the mm), lol, but common sense was applied in their judgement of the ratio of those components as to avoid to bury the flavour of the meat. The meat was always served medium rare (the ideal doneness that allows the meat flavour to express itself at its best– as per my request), as it seems ideal to our North American palates, generally juicy and beefy and seasoned with the welcoming (not distracting, in these instances) flavour enhancer kick of salt most burger fans in North America are expecting from their Burgers. When there was cheese, it was always melting soft and adequately served as a enhancer to the burger experience. The above 2 burgers were created with an attention to detail of world class mention for a Burger. 2 world class Burgers. Interestingly, their respective restaurants do offer some superb non-burger items as well. The overall /10 ratings are to convey the level of joy that was invading my palate at the time of biting into those burgers.