J1The other highlight of this quick foodie visit of Brooklyn (the other one is The River Cafe ) was Jordan’s lobster dock . They are in business since the late 30s and have been the very first  seafood suppliers of the state of New York. Like the River Cafe, this is an institution that is not resting on its laurels:

J2the seafood (as well as non seafood) is of great quality and the cooking well executed, the minimum that is expected from such casual food, perhaps, but they are doing it consistently better than at most seafood shacks in North America. Bottom line: 8/10 (in the category North American casual seafood eatery). My reference in this category of casual seafood eatery  (as far as seafood quality goes) remains the seafood found in the indian ocean, the caribbean and the mediterranea. But by North American casual seafood  standards, there is no doubt that JLD is one of the finest at what it is offering. Jordan’s lobster dock 3165 Harkness Ave, Sheepshead Bay – Brooklyn, NY 11235 United States; Phone number (718) 934-6300; URL: http://www.jordanslobster.com

River Café, Brooklyn
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 1 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
URL: http://therivercafe.com
Phone: 1 718-522-5200
Type of cuisine: American cuisine (Essentially Classic French cooking technique using American ingredients)

RCThe River Café (near the Brooklyn Bridge) is an iconic restaurant which is widely known as one of the most romantic restaurants of New York city. I am usually not a fan of 1 star Michelin restaurants serving classic French cuisine in North America because their cooking hardly leaves any souvenir on my mind, but this was a special romantic occasion and River Café was the appropriate restaurant in this instance.

The meal started with an amuse of Citrus and Olive Oil Poached Squid with Saffron Panna Cotta and sweet pepper Gelee. Pretty to espy and an indication that, although using classic French techniques, the creativity of this kitchen brigade is hard to ignore: the variety of colors is thoughtful, a cube of saffron panna cotta  with some poached squid is not a usual combination of food items at most restaurants, and yet they were complementary. My only regret is that I have familiarized  my palate with strong flavors to the extent that I have hard time appreciating the subtle flavors of this amuse. I won’t rate this amuse as I just do not have the required palate  to appreciate it.
RC2Tuna of prime quality served as a tartare with a layer of thin slices of the fish atop. This showcased a great understanding of how to get the most out of raw fish (well judged seasoning allowing the quality of the fish to be at the forefront while lifting up its natural flavor – I did not ask the staff if they did age the tuna a little bit, so I am not too sure if they did, but that was the effect I had in mouth and it dazzled. Miso/valencia orange/ pickled chili vinaigrette brought necessary complexity. 8/10
RC3Jumbo shrimps, poached to ideal doneness (tender while retaining a nice chew) served alongside a faultless citrus Maltaise sauce. Another display of some serious seafood cooking (superb produce, classic flavor combination but mastered really well) 8/10
RC5Steamed (with meyer lemon) salmon with an inspired  oriental broth (a shiitake mushroom broth that was as vibrant as some of its original Japanese renditions) was delicious, the aromas of the broth exciting and above all, balanced. This was served with jasmine rice. 8/10
RC4Poached lobster was another display of superb produce and great mastery of classic French cooking as the seafood tasted great, its poaching well timed, the classic French flavors enticing. If cooking using classic technique done this well is one’s definition of boring cooking, then I’d rather get bored lol. This came with lobster claw, spinach gratin and lobster infused marinara, squid ink cavatelli pasta (tiny quantity, wished I had more as that was  some great pastas that would not be considered as average in a good Italian restaurant ). 9/10
RC6Milk chocolate soufflé (served with toasted marshmallow, hot fudge, Tahitian vanilla bean ice milk) was risen properly but milk chocolate needs to be exciting at smell and in mouth to leave an impression. As with everything at the RC, this chocolate was of top quality, admittedly, but the soufflé was unexciting for my taste. Furthermore, when I see the mention of “milk”, I want to be blown away by some bold fresh milky fragrance….which was not the case with this dessert.  6/10
RC7Blueberry tartlet was  a proper rendition of the tartlet, the fruits of stellar quality, but the pastry lacking a bit of the exciting buttery fragrance that I prefer when enjoying a tartlet. Actually, this was made of caramelized almond which does  normally express very appealing flavor, but that was not put in evidence  6/10
On web sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, some reviewers considered that the food at RC was average. I beg to differ. I would need to be totally ignorant of classic cooking (the presentation is contemporary but the food is backed by classic French cooking techniques) or to hate it in order to reach similar conclusion. For sure, this is not Eleven  Madison Park but they both are not bestowed with the same number of Michelin stars neither!
Pros: One unique / truely special romantic restaurant with an exceptional riverfront view over Manhattan, and one that chose not to rest on its laurels as even the food is not an afterthought.
Cons: N/A
Bottom line: 7.5/ 10 (Category: North american/french/international 1 star Michelin). It may sound harsh to score an overall 7.5/10 for the food after the series of really good savory dishes, but this is a 1 star Michelin, therefore the desserts needed to leave an impression too. They were good desserts, not great enough for a 1 star Michelin. That said, this is proper 1 star Michelin  French/international/American  cooking.  Same applies to the restaurant (in the classic restaurant category , obviously). It is pricey,should I repeat, but above all this is a world class romantic destination.

 

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03Planète Poutine & cie as well as La frite à Brigitte offered some of the very best classic poutines of Le Grand PoutineFest.

The difference between the two boiled  down to personal taste as one was not necessarily superior to the other. At such level, do not expect disaster (for example, bad quality ingredients, lacklustre gravy, burnt potatoes, etc).

planete poutinePlanète Poutine & cie classic  poutine featured bigger chunks of potatoes, which I prefer, with a really nice  gravy sauce (sauces of poutine are always secret recipes as the secret is in the sauce..) and a nice tasty crunch. PP & Cie suprised me a bit as it is a chain, therefore I was not expecting much from them, but clearly their classic poutine is one of good standard.

Brigitte In comparison, I found la Frite à Brigitte gravy sauce a tad more delicious. However, both places did master really well  all the aspects of their poutine using  quality homemade potatoes  (La frite à Brigitte particularly proud of the  Yukon gold potatoes from St Roch de L’Achigan that they were cooking during the poutine fest as proven by the display of their quality potatoes pretty much everywhere on the premises),  superb fresh squeaky big chunks of cheese curds (left unmelted , just the way I like it!!), and where many poutineries hide behind the excuse of “authenticity” to offer soggy tasteless fries, both La frite à Brigitte and  Planète Poutine & cie  french fries are packed with great potato flavor and a well balanced crispy exterior/ soft interior .

The journey to Poutineland is a never ending one. Time and again, there is always a new spot that is recommended by my Quebecois friends. The suggestions are numerous, and this serves me well in my search for the finest poutines, but unless one does not understand what a properly executed classic poutine should be, there  was hardly anything to fault with both above mentioned poutines. I have no clue how it fares at their respective restaurants, but both classic poutines sampled here at the Poutine Fest were  better than the classic poutine I had at plenty of supposedly far superior poutineries such as  the legendary  La Banquise.

Osteria Francescana is the best of them all according to San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine – On top of the roof of San Pellegrino’s Restaurant Magazine, there is OF . Then El Celler de Can Roca, then Eleven Madison. Then this, and then that. Then, there are those who believe in San Pellegrino’s RM. Others in Gault Millau, others in Michelin, etc. But that is irrelevant as restaurant rating systems, opinions of restaurant critics, etc…that is just opinions, subjective material. What I need to know, though, is this: if a restaurant is a “reference” at what it does, why not keeping it in the elite of world’s best restaurants. Alinea, Noma , the Fat Duck … what other restaurant in the world is offering a better experience and has a technically better kitchen brigade  in their respective  categories????   Eleven Madison Park, no 3 in the world. I went there. It is in NYC, just few hours drive away from Montreal. So Yes it is a great restaurant, but it is not a “reference’ at whatever it is delivering! Mirazur, no6: I never went there. But I do not need to, neither! A simple look at the pics of their  dishes shows pretty looking dishes indeed, but are we certain that Mirazur is as exceptional as Alinea, Noma or the Fat Duck? Are we really certain of that? There are two aspects of the restaurant world that  I insist on differenciating: A restaurant’s food can indeed fare déja vu…BUT if  that restaurant  remains the best at what it does, then there is no reason to ignore it. Then, of course, as humans, we generally tend  to be excited by novelty… which I can certainly understand, but novelty should not be confused with exceptional work . I am sorry, but choices like Osteria Francescana, Eleven Park Madison, Mirazur, etc….this sounds like trying to sound novel rather than anything else. BTW..talking about the best restaurants in the world: according to San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants of the world …. the best classic (French, Italian, etc)  restaurants do not deserve to feature among their best restaurants. Basically,  modern cooking seems to be superior to  classic cooking  I gather  that this whole thing is a matter of personal taste, but how on earth can you pretend assessing the best restaurants in the world and completely forgetting the best classic  tables of this world? – Even a die-hard fan of classic cuisine like me will acknowledge that the non classic food of Noma, the Fat Duck, Alinea  sets the bar for their respective categories of cuisine. SP Top 50,  you are  just laughable , to say the least! …

01The ribs, the ribs!!! The ribs are the big trend of the last 2 years  of the foodie scene in Montreal. In that short period of time, restaurants offering ribs have truely stepped up their game with some of this city’s  most serious contenders  being le Boucan, Black Strap BBQ, and  Le Fumoir Rubs Smokehouse. To be honest with you, I do not know how to assess the Montreal “ribs”scene. We are not in the US, ribs is not Montrealer –  obviously, so I am not too comfortable with the idea of  assessing our local ribs. I will always remember an online  comment from a connoisseur of ribs, an American gentleman who knows his American ribs as much as you know how you are feeling right now…and that gentleman stated that he has no clue if Montreal was doing good ribs, but that the “culture” of the ribs is so different from the US that he was afraid that his opinion of Montreal ribbers was influenced not by skills or quality, but by just that: the perception, the impression that Montrealers have a totally different idea of what ribs should be. Do not expect Montreal to compete with our southern neighbors when it comes to the ribs in a way that the rest of the world has no chance to  beat us when it is time  to excel  at  our food staples such as the poutine, the smoked meat, the hot dog, the bagel, the cheese cake, etc! That said, Ribs mania is hitting town right now in the form of  le Grand Ribfest, an opportunity for our southern neighbors to share their long experience at smoking their ribs. I am a huge fan of the Grand Ribfest but it is about time that they do an effort to invite many more new ribbers (they have the same ribbers as  on their last edition, which is fine  but some few new ” faces ” would not hurt. Still, they had ONE NEW ribber this time around, BIBBS BBQ, which ribs  I went sampling:

02Bibb’s Texas BBQ is at its first presence at the Mtl ribfest. They smoke their baby back  ribs for 4hrs using cherry wood, the sauce made of sweet tomatoes. The baby back ribs I had were unfortunately a bit dry for my taste, the sauce enjoyable enough but lacking the complexity of, say, the sauce that Texas Rangers (my preferred ribs of the 3 ribfests of Laval / Mtl) had served me on the 1st edition of this event (Texas Rangers did not participate at the latest 2 ribfests). This does not mean that you should expect the same issue from all their ribs (after all, it would be unrealistic to expect perfect ribs at every serving), but I can talk only for what I know.

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01Restaurant Le Fantôme  has come  to my attention when Gault Millau rated it with 3 toques. Later on, I read a bit more about this place and found that all the major local food journalists have also been impressed with what comes from Le fantome’s kitchen.

They offer two tasting menus, with 5 courses at $45, and 7 courses at $60. No more a la carte choices on my visit.

09Started with foie nem which was an unbelievably  tiny version –why on earth …feeding people with food that is.. infuriatingly so minuscule ??? — of the vietnamese fresh nem roll.  There are indeed places where some food items are sometimes as minuscule as this foie nem: one great  example were the mignardises I had at Pierre Gagnaire. The difference is that at PG, they were so exceptional that indeed, I was happy to ask for more ….instead of thinking about mentioning that they were minuscule..!!!. But here, this was no  exceptional food item, consequently,  … that foie nem was nothing more than a  frustrating bite, a frustration that is actually   shared on the web by other diners on the common crowd-sources review websites. So clearly..there is an issue!  I won’t rate this for the sake of accuracy as I find it  hard to assess such a meager portion of food. I understand that you do not want your patrons to “”feel  heavy””, especially since this is  a tasting menu, but plenty of restaurateurs – here and abroad – have long mastered  the art of   not overstuffing their diners while avoiding laughable minuscule portions of food items.  It is not even..as if .. you  were saving money by doing so: miniaturization  is costly and time consuming, perhaps worthy of your time in ..science, but OBVIOUSLY worthless  for food………  )  .. YOU FEED OR YOU DO NOT!! There is no excuse here. …

 

08Carpaccio of beets (white, red, yellow) , crème fraîche, hazelnuts, shaving of truffles – The carpaccio of beets had a very enticing natural buttery sweetness to it and the quality of the beets was cleverly exploited (meaning you really got to enjoy the 3 types of beets in a way that most salads,  made of the 3 beets, would fail to please). 7/10 if I consider the superb beets, but way less than that when I think  about the crème fraîche (which did add nothing to that dish) and the hazelnuts (pls folks…no need to follow..at all cost… the textbook of the “contrasting textures”…for eg  a bit of crunch overhere, a bit of other texture overthere). And of course, truffle was going to add nothing….to yet another dish, but no one has the guts to say  it, because a bit like with Wagyu…., we are brainwashed by the powerful marketing machine found behind such luxurious ingredients.  Ultimately a 5/10 when considering the addition of the crème fraîche and hazelnuts (adding more…is not always a good idea)…this sounds severe but the crème fraîche and hazelnuts diminished  the enjoyment of the beets (just take whatever carpaccio…put some creme fraiche underneath..and you tell me if that is a culinary achievement !) . There are Chefs who managed to dazzle, using the exact same combination of ingredients, but this was  not going to serve as an  example of such …

07Carpaccio of beef, bone marrow, deep fried potato match  sticks, raifort  – quality beef that they left unaltered (meaning not seasoned) as to let the produce expressing itself. I have no problem with that. The potatoes had great flavor. Alas,  the raifort and the bone marrow did not add much here. 7/10 if I consider the potatoes (which had great potato flavor), 6/10 without them (quality beef, for sure, but dazzled I am certainly not………..!). And…once again, an item (raifort) ..actually two (bone marrow)…too many….!! as they did add nothing to that dish.

06Homard au charbon, roquette  bisque de homard – the ..incredibly tiny pieces of lobster tasted fine, thanks to the chargrill  flavor, but they were way too tiny to be fully …enjoyed. Furthermore, they had their own rendition of the bisque that just did not do it for me . Let us put it that way: a classic bisque would have been better.,……….far better, and I need a reasonable amount  of  seafood, not just a “glimpse” of it…in order to feel sated………..). 6/10

04Poached halibutbeurre blanc, morel – , well done  beurre blanc (this confirmed that….the Chef should focus on the classic French recipes that he does so well….instead of trying to impress with non classic renditions of what he is is cooking — for example, his rendition of the bisque did not seduce me at all)  and a piece of fish tasting good.    7/10

05Asparagus, pasilla pepper , rhubarb, shallots confit – usual comforting flavor that can’t fail to  come from sauteed veggies, but rhubarb added nothing here …You will end up with similar flavor with or without the ………….rhubarb!! 6/10

03Lamb  (from Quebec) packed with  crowd-pleasing qualities (tender, delicious)  and an equally superb lamb jus. simple combination of ingredient, but there was nothing to fault here. This came with a puree of avocado that stood out (enticing fresh acidity to a puree of avocado that was just not your average avocado puree) 8 /10

02Anguilles  du Quebec – Sea eels from Gaspe and portobello mushrooms tasting as fine  as good quality eels and mushrooms,  would taste, by default, if you’d chargrill them. 6/10

The desserts comprising of sorbets/ ice creams (popsicle orange) and a nicely executed cremeux chocolat mixed with some … mushrooms that added nothing to it…  – I won’t anymore rate any dessert at restaurants  that is basically made of ice cream, as good as it is… – Enough is enough…there are ice cream parlours for that. But I will tolerate a chocolate cremeux as long as it is as enjoyable as that one I was having  (minus the mushrooms that they had to mix it with).

Pros: (1) They have the ideas  (the candles everywhere, the nondescript entrance ) and a cool attitude that could pass as novel to our local food scene. (2)The avocado purée — I never had an avocado purée as tasty as theirs,  in Montreal. Yeah, I know, it is just an avocado purée but they managed to feed me with one that was better than what others have been doing in town.

Cons: (1) The more (ingredient) you add the better it should taste, which is what supposedly lesser rated tables (lesser rated by Gault Millau and our major local food journalists, I mean …………)  do effortlessly.  Here, the more (ingredients) they were adding, the less convincing it turned out to be … (2) Not trying to be mean here, but truth be told…You will have  to be really exceptional at what you do if you are going to try to impress people  with food that is, oftently, that “minuscule”…..

Bottom line: I appreciate that  the staff is  fun, the overall concept refreshingly different from what we do usually find in  Montreal right now, the candles, the door of  the toilets that do not open in a conventional fashion…ha ha ha, …amusing  — . Food-wise, I suspect that Le fantome can be at its best when it sticks to the classics:  the halibut, the lamb, the chocolate cremeux , the  beurre blanc were  fine , though not  that “outstanding” by  Montreal’s  restaurant standards as the performance  of this kitchen on that specific evening got nowhere near (in general) what Chef Mercuri (Le Serpent) or De Montigny (La Chronique) can cook at their best (all tables rated as inferior to Le fantome by G&M / some those local food journalists). And plenty of  other local tables have fed me with food as fine  as the better items I  had here.  Last but not least,  when you add an ingredient to your dish, it should ADD to..NOT SUBSTRACT from…the enjoyment of the food!!!!!  – My rating for the food: 6.5/10,  Service: 7/10  Restaurant Le Fantôme, 1832 rue William, Phone: (514) 846-1832 URL: http://www.restofantome.com/

What I think days later: There have been cases where one  or two items “too far” would disappoint me at restaurants, but rarely to the point of taking away from the enjoyment of a dish, which is what happened oftenly during this meal.

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Gault & Millau, the major competitor to Michelin, was in town as initially announced  here by Newswire. There is now a G&M Montreal.  G&M pride themselves on looking for new talents, but there was nothing “new” in their findings. Toque! and Le Mousso are widely known as good restaurants, by our local standards, and they made it to the top of the list of  G&M Montreal, each deserving 4 toques  (G&M assigns  “toques”, with 4 toques as the highest ratings they had for Montreal). Predictable. Then there is this: it would be hard to explain to someone well versed in serious cooking how La Chronique is not highly rated? Does it take a genius to realize that Tapas 24  in Montreal has a kitchen that performs far beyond what G&M considers as  2 or 3 toques …for Montreal??? That Bottega outstands in town, at whatever they do! That ..if L’Europea and Maison  Boulud are 2 toques, then  Jun I deserves better!  That…not considering Chef Michele Mercuri as a 4 toques (the highest rating of G&M Montreal) is like pretending to be an expert of boxing….but ignoring that  Mohammed Ali had ever boxed………….???  Furthermore, should we consider G&M ratings as international or simply local???…… because,  honestly, our local 4  toques ..superior to Frederic Simonin ?? superior to some of  this globe’s better French bistrots such La table d’Aki /   Bistrot d’Antoine /  La Merenda / ?  As good as restaurant Christophe Bacquié? Le Grand  restaurant? Seriously?? .. In terms of cooking skills (meaning the ability, when the kitchen is at  its best, to surprise with exceptional work of textures and flavors) , certainly not! Or else I may as well start believing in Santa Claus. Obviously, the folks at G&M should have spent more time in town (the only G&M Montreal rating that makes sense, for me, was the one of Manitoba, I think Manitoba’s kitchen brigade is one of superb skills  ) …………….. – Gault & Millau Canada, URL: https://ca.gaultmillau.com/

02I have never been impressed by Bombay Mahal on Jean Talon. But their sister eatery Bombay Mahal Thali –on Ste Catherine, in the Mc Gill Ghetto — is offering some of the best Indian food’s lunch specials in town with sauces and naan bread of great quality . Bombay Mahal Thali execute some punjabi and gujurati  staples with great skills, adapted, as expected, to North American palates. Some serious challenge to an old personal favourite of mine, Indian Curry House ( ICH still has a slight  edge for the curry, but Bombay Mahal Thali’s naan bread   and thalis are better ). 8/10, by local Indian food standard,  for their lunch special and thalis. Bombay Mahal Thali  Addr: 1629 Rue Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, QC H3H 1L8 Phone: (514) 903-9600 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BombayMT/

CHEZ JANOChez Jano offers grilled Portuguese food. I picked their   25,45 chef’s special mixed grill (rabbit, spare ribs, lamb chops, pork steak). The spare ribs firm rather than falling off the bone tender, but that is not faulty grilling, as doneness is a matter of taste obviously. The rest as fine as portuguese grilled  meat tastes generally in mtl (the lamb the best of them all, tender as It should and very tasty). Overall: 6/10 (above average for grilled food in Mtl). So, dazzling? No! …but perfect Portuguese style grilling with meat cooked to order, the charcoal grilling  a preferred grilling method, the grill truely grilling…which sounds funny, to say, but as stated elsewhere on this blog, many places in town seem to have hard time imparting grilling flavor to their …grilled food. Some say that  the best grilling is what you grew up with and for me, the best grilled meats  are the souvenirs of the dazzling grilled meats of my tender childhood in the indian ocean. Jano’s was nowhere near those souvenirs, but that is not the problem of Jano and should take nothing away from the perfectly fine grilling (by local standards) that they are doing. In a city where everything is overrated and overpriced, here is one rare example of well spent money (many are charging twice that price for the quantity of food that I was having – ). Chez Jano, Addr: 3883, St Laurent, Phone: 514-849-0646 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Janos-Restaurant/133058920055823

 

01Otto  yakitori is the first  Japanese style eatery dedicated to Yakitori (Chicken grilled skewers)  in Montreal . I took their $18 mix of several grilled chicken skewers (Chef’s selection – chicken wing, chicken skin, chicken meatball, soft knee bone, etc), pork belly as well as short ribs . All just Ok by local standards, but no more, as I had more delicious grilled  chicken skewers as well as of other types of meats at other local isakayas. Yakitori does not require pre-marinade, but on that evening,   I wished it was the case as the yakitori seasoning was not particularly exciting  (one important feature of the better yakitori food I had elsewhere).  They really need to impart more flavor to their grilled chicken meats as I came to expect from plenty of yakitoris in Tokyo  as well as in North America. And contrary to popular belief, you do not need quality meat for that. For me, based on this specific meal,  this was  a 5.5/10 by local Japanese grilled meat standards. Yakitori Otto Addr: 1441 Rue Saint Mathieu, Montréal, QC   Phone: (514) 507-8886 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ottoyakitori/

Torishin, New York
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, United States
URL: http://torishinny.com/
Phone:  +1 212-757-0108
Type of cuisine: Japanese Yakitori (grilled chicken)

01Torishin is well known as one of  NYC’s  finest  yakitoris,  and  to many  NYC’s local foodies, this is their very best yakitori. Torishin sole  michelin star (a sole star they seem to be very proud of.,,btw..) may set unrealistic expectations, but michelin starred yakitoris is not something unheard of  (in Japan, they do exist). I am not always aligned on Michelin choices, but I agree with the idea to bestow Michelin stars (or any other sort of rewards)   in relation to  the   standards of the category that a restaurant  pertains to (for example, Sushi-ya, Yakitori-ya, etc).

Everything was excellent as far as food went:

Edamame was of top quality, served lightly grilled.

02 Chicken wings were no ordinary wings (1st item from the left on the previous picture), looking like ribs at first glance, the flavor of the wings was enhanced by the exciting taste of the grilled fat and a tasty crispy skin. Sounds easy to achieve, indeed, but in reality …..many are not capable to get it this right. 8/10 Grilled corn was a ridiculously small piece of corn, which although of great quality … had an inflated cost for the quantity served.

03Duck – I was spoiled with superlative duck in Asia (Hong kong, Vietnam, Japan) as well as in Europe, so Torishin’s paled a bit in comparison, but this was still a superb piece of grilled duck.  8/10

 

04 Chicken rib supremely tender and gorgeously meaty. It is easy to look down on food this simple. After all,  this is just grilled meat. But time and again, I kept wondering if this was really that simple….as the precise cooking, exquisite seasoning, enticing  grilling flavors as well as the  vibrant  textures on display are not that common at yakitori-yas in North America (although, to be honest, I prefer a laidback street food stand doing decent skewers rather this sort of sophisticated place..no need of bells and whistles for such simple food…the only reason I went there is because I wanted this sort of food, on that specific evening, but NYC has no street food offering this sort of food…) –    9/10

BreastChicken breast in green shiso leaf is one item I loved when eating yakitori food on my last visit in Tokyo. Back then, I was trying shiso leaf for the first time and found it to complement chicken meat really well…though, perhaps, an acquired taste for  many  palates.  From where I come, it was common to pair  meat with leaves. We did not have shiso leaves but betel and other leaves, instead. And eventhough they taste different, shiso and /or betel do add a complex taste sensation to  meats that I am particularly fond of.  Shiso having quite a taste that is hard to describe (a bit astrigent  and reminding me vaguely of aniseed and basil), it is  better to try  it for yourself as any description of it will hardly do justice to its real taste. They add a bit of plum sauce on the leaves as to cut through the pungency of the shiso leaf. 9/10

 

06 Chicken and duck meatball  is an item that I did not order, so when it was served to me, I thought they did a mistake. But no, it was not as … “it is on the house”… as/per my waiter — apparently a common  gesture of the chef as to please his guest,  but they did charge it …when the bill arrived….one of the pet peeves of  an evening that could have been great otherwise.

05Egg plants, served with quality bonito flakes, were too mushy to be enjoyed as it should have been 5/10.

07Wagyu is another crowd pleaser – Although   not of the superbly  marbled A5 grade, this was a piece of joy in the mouth of the meat lover that I am. 8/10

Other pieces that I did enjoy: chicken tenderloin,  chicken thigh,  tofu as well as  pork belly.

 

Pros –  (1) While there is no elaborate cooking to be expected from a Yakitori-ya, it is no stretch to conclude that Torishin is one of the few standard bearers for yakitori food in North America. All in all, a strong 8/10 for the food  –  as genuine and perfected as yakitori food will taste, smell  and feels like in North America   (2) Fabulous service from all the squad except the 2 mentioned below

Cons – (1)  Service was  a mixed affair. the female squad offering world class service, the male squad generally professional but having two members that I could have done without: one man at the entrance, the only one wearing a suit on that evening, supposedly there to serve you drinks at the bar that is at the entrance while you are waiting for a seat. That guy in a suit  acted as if we were invisible…we were just 2 at that bar.  Not what you want at a michelin star restaurant. Then my main waiter, deploying all possible efforts to get me to buy as much food as it can possibly be. I mean, I  know a restaurant is a business, therefore you need to sell and sell …but there are tons of waiters that are capable of better than being ..annoying (I have just ordered 12 items already….including the luxurious wagyu….some great sake and beer…so how much is enough sir?)    (2)the surreal stone age tactic of offering me a food item that is supposedly on the house…but that you’ll still charge me for (the meat balls).

Bottom line: I enjoyed some of the very best Yakitori food in North America  here (the quality of the produce and refinement of the cooking  are  largely ahead of anything you  will find at the majority of the yakitori-yas  across North America) and will return at Torishin BUT with in mind the sour observation that …some just can’t get the basic things right. The great yakitori food that they are cooking here does not deserve the flaws mentioned in the “cons” section. The flaws killed the mood,  which is not really what I am looking for when dining out.

What I think weeks later: Some of their employees do obviously have no clue of what it takes to live up to the reputation of having a Michelin star.  Charging a patron for an item that is   supposedly  “””””on the house””””    is a multiple-century old and boring tactic that you do not want to experience at a restaurant, Michelin starred or not. Now, Imagine when that happens at a Michelin starred restaurant. On the aspect of the food, I did compare  Torishin to what is found in America and in that regard, this was some benchmark Yakitori food. If I compare it to what can be found in Tokyo, to take an example,  ….well..things are a bit different: Torishin, in Tokyo, would be    just a  normal / standard   yakitori-ya of the refined type. I did not review them on this blog, but last time I was in Tokyo, I tried Souten, Torikichi, Hachibei, Isehiro , some few more humble yakitori-yas there, and they dazzled, which is not what I would say of Torishin. Even a place like Tofuro …offering skewers that are  better than at Torishin…and yet hardly considered in Tokyo’s top 100… would be a far better yakitori-ya if they’d choose to specialize themselves in grilled chicken.

 

 

Marea, New York
Michelin stars: 2
Addr: 240 Central Park S., New York, NY 10019
URL: http://www.marea-nyc.com/index.php/
Phone:  212-582-5100
Type of cuisine: (Their contemporary version of)  Italian cuisine .

MAREA 01Widely known as one of NYC’s  best Italian restaurants, celebrated for its homemade handmade  pasta dishes (some of the best in the country, according to NSE  ) ,  Marea is situated in Manhattan. They offer what is  more accurately their contemporary take (refined,  small portions) on Italian cuisine, with combinations of ingredients that are not always traditionally Italian (cheese and seafood, to take an example) but the fundamentals of Italian cooking are never too far.

What we ate:

3The trio of crudo (big eye tuna, long island fluke, pacific jack mackerel) ,  top quality raw ingredient.  they did  avoid the mistake of overseasoning them. 8/10

4 ZUPPA – almond and watercress soup, seppia, shrimp, roasted peppers. It had  everything a great soup needs: acidity, sweetness, texture, enticing flavors. Complex in a highly enjoyable way 8/10

2Gnochetti, ruby shrimp, chilies, rosemary. properly rendered consistency  (to the tooth) of the pasta , the chilies not too hot, which was a good idea as to add an extra layer of flavor without the distracting (unecessary) piquancy, the ruby shrimp not a serious challenger to some of the far more delicious shrimps of the mediterannea but the overall is tasty and well executed. I could not fault this dish, I could not fault one single dish of this entire meal, actually …BUT   in comparison to   other 2 Michelin star Italian meals that I had elsewhere a 7/10 would be a fair rating (what would it take to score this dish with a higher rating? A sauce that’s spectacular as I have enjoyed at plenty of other Italian restaurants. This one was great. Just not supremely delicious.

1 Tagliata – creekstone farms sirloin, bone marrow  panzanella, braised romaine. / the sirloin seasoned exquisitely,  their take on the bread and tomatoes panzanella salad a good idea …but time and again I could not stop thinking about how dazzling this entire meal would have been with produce as spectacular as what can sometimes be found in some parts of Italy. 7/10

 

5Polipo / octopus –  I had octopus a tad more remarkable than this (meaning with bolder maritime flavor) , in North America, but this was of really  good quality,  the seasoning enticing , it had an ideal chewy consistency (enough firmness to remind ourselves that this is octopus, and not a jellyfish but also  tender enough for proper enjoyable chew).   7.5 /10

 

6PANNA COTTA  – sicilian pistachio panna cotta, raspberry , rhubarb rose granita as well as a bit of  aniseed. This was fine, rather than dazzling, panaccotta (had the pistachio flavor been more expressive and the taste a tad richer, I would call it “dazzling” instead of “fine…BUT expressive pistacchio flavor would clash with flavors of raspberry and rose granita…so instead of the pistachio flavor, use something else that you can easily pair with the rest ).  Still …, a fair 7/10

7SORBETTI blood peach, apricot, strawberry balsamic – Sorbetti were excellent even by fine sorbetti  standards in Italy. The suggestion that sorbetti are better in Italy is oftently a fabrication of the mind. In North America, there are sorbetti  that are as good and this is one perfect example of just that  9/10

 

PROS: Marea does what it takes, in light of what we are accustomed to in North America…to deserve its accolades – nothing to fault here, not extravagant but tasteful contemporary interior,  great service.

CONS: However great the ingredients  – and great  they are at Marea (by North American standards),  it would take the finer ingredients of some parts of Italy ………AND  a  sense to make food taste extraordinary for me to understand the shower of raves on Marea.

Verdict:  An 8/10 by  the standards of  Contemporary Italian cuisine in North America  ..SO NOT  to be compared to my ratings of places like, to take an example,  Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan —  a two star Michelin too —  which would, with no doubt  be a 10/10 in my books if it was in NYC.  We are in a completely different set of expectations …) – But a 7.5/10 when I compare it to the 2 Michelin star Italian food I had elsewhere (Michelin star is international, so I believe that is fair to also assess Marea against the 2 star Michelin food found outside of North America ).   I am ignorant about many cuisines (Brazilian, Romanian, etc) , but Italian, French, most African / Asian /Carribean cuisines are food that I have patiently mastered/familiarized myself with and cooked for decades.  By familiarizing myself with I mean …learning from those in the know, the Moms and Pops and NOT by watching food shows on TV or following recipes 0n the web. So, I know what I need to expect from such food. From Italian food, I expect the most (perfecting the simple texture of your pasta or risotto, pulling off superb flavors  ) from the least (simple/ classic combinations of  ingredients).  Of this lunch at Marea, I saw no evidence of perfected textures and the sort of dazzling flavors I came to expect, at times,  from some other 2 star Michelin offering Italian food, but   there was nothing to fault neither, and the food is certainly really good by  Italian upmarket restaurant standards in North America, though, not peerless by those same standards —).

What I think weeks later: Carefully observe..there are restaurants going above and beyond the…..international norms. There are restaurants doing the necessary to reach local/regional standards. Marea does what it takes to be a great italian table in North America. But when compared to some 2 star italian restaurants abroad, well …it is a NO match. Too bad the Montreal food scene is notoriously known as inconsistent..because,I had Italian  food , in Montreal, that was  easily BETTER………………….