Archive for the ‘coup de coeur’ Category

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 truely 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

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 wish.

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/

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.

 

 

Why the tag “NOT-FULLY NON-CAUCASIAN-FRIENDLY” in some of   my blog posts?

This tag may sound controversial in circles where Caucasian people are celebrated and the rest of the world is ignored.

DO NOT GET ME WRONG: I love Caucasian  people , as much as I love NON-Caucasians, but Caucasians  are NOT  the only people on planet earth!

On Planet earth, there are actually way more NON- caucasians than caucasians!

The  reason why the NOT-FULLY NON-CAUCASIAN-FRIENDLY attitude is tolerated is because of a lack of education,  the pre-eminence of easy ignorance and of course, the belief that NON-CAUCASIANS are economically poorer. And above all, BECAUSE …TRUTH BE TOLD … IT is EASIER TO BE STUPID…THAN NOT!

With many non Caucasians becoming richer and travelling more and more, it is important that NON-CAUCASIANS get the right time about what awaits them.

Again, we ALL ALREADY know that most blogs  and online sources are CAUCASIAN-FRIENDLY (or ..trying HARD to be …politically correct .., therefore HIDING SUCH REALITY TO NON CAUCASIANS …) and there is nothing wrong about that (They are doing what they have got to do…!, LOL) – But I owe no one anything and find  that it is useful for NON CAUCASIANS to know what is IN for them.

I mean no offence here, BUT if YOU ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO TAKE OFFENCE WITH THAT, THEN .. BE MY  GUEST!

 

You are unlikely going to stumble upon a weak product coming from the better  chocolate makers of France, and the chocolate covered almonds that they make are  flawless treats they have perfected since a very long time.

With their Cauldron-toasted almonds, Michel Cluizel takes it to another level: roasting almonds on open fire (in a copper cauldron, in this case) allows for an extra dimension of toasty flavour that is quite addictive, indeed. And of course, as you would have guessed, the almonds (grilled in caramelized sugar),  as well as the dark chocolate in which they are coated  ( 60% cocoa ) — the toasty flavour of the roasted almonds responding perfectly well to the bitter chocolate — are of prime quality.

Bottom line: A coup de coeur for me. I have a soft spot for anything that takes advantage of open fire and Michel Cluizel did put that to good use with those superb chocolate covered almonds.