Archive for the ‘mixed service’ Category

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)

On the day of my visit, in May 2016, Torishin was “ages away” from what most online reviews seem to rave about: at the entrance, a middle age man (perhaps in his late 40ish) was standing behind the bar completely ignoring both my wife and myself while we were seating at his bar for at least 30 minutes . You would think a yakuza waiting for a secret code in order for him to acknowledge your presence. Then we moved to the dining area and sat at the bar counter only to be served by a waiter (medium built skinny chinese nervous-looking male) with an aggressive and confrontational demeanor coming straight from a ghetto. I mean, YES…the food is Ok, but the food is even better  anywhere else in New York anyways , the rest of the staff (especially the waitresses) offered a stellar service, but that was marred by two men who do not deserve to work at a Michelin restaurant. If I wanted to meet a yakuza and a little ‘bum’ from a triad, I would go somewhere else..NOT to a Michelin star restaurant. Offering extra food items that were not ordered by the client and telling the client that it is “on the house ” BUT making him pay for that ….that was   yet another act of the “ghetto” mentality that, somehow, found its way at Torishin on the evening of  our visit. Again and again..NOT what you should  expect from  a respectable restaurant.

 

01Torishin is a well known   yakitori of   NYC with   a  michelin star. A  Michelin star  for a restaurant that basically grills  chicken … will unavoidably  lead to  unrealistic expectations, but michelin starred yakitoris are  not something unheard of  (in Japan, they do exist).

Overall rating for
food: 6/10
service: 5/10
dining experience: 3/10

I went dining with my wife and our meal consisted of the following menu items:

 

02 Chicken 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 fine  taste of the grilled fat and a tasty crispy skin.  Grilled corn was a ridiculously small piece of corn, which although of good  quality … had an inflated cost for the quantity served.

03Duck – I was spoiled with superlative duck in Asia (Hong kong, Vietnam, Japan).  Torishin’s duck paled  in comparison. 6/10

 

04 Chicken rib was  tender and  meaty as you would expect  from a finely cooked piece of chicken rib,  although, to be honest, most people would 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..    6/10

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. At Torishin, they add a bit of plum sauce on the leaves as to cut through the pungency of the shiso leaf.  Ok, but not on par with, say, its equivalent at a decent yakitori place in Tokyo 6/10

 

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 a mistake 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 had  nothing to do with the standards that one should  expect from a respectable  restaurant) –

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

07Wagyu was tasty, as expected from any   piece of red meat that you could haved  grilled at home , and yet it came with an inflated price tag eventhough it was  not of the superbly  marbled A5 grade  6/10

Other pieces that I did order and that were Ok: chicken tenderloin,  chicken thigh,  tofu as well as  pork belly.

Pros –   The fabulous service from the female squad was the “saving grace’ of a service that , at times, was of the standard of what one  can imagine could only  come from an eatery located in a  ghetto …

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 (medium built skinny chinese nervous-looking male) ,  objectively unkempt,  cranky and 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?).  That waiter’s  idiotic behaviour reached its pinnacle when I left a tip that was actually twice the amount that it was supposed to be … he had, of course,  to recount each single of the bills  in front of his customer.  (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: Torishin is not   “special” enough  to justify   passing  past any shortcoming. The Michelin star of torishin is not justified at all :  In Japan, what torishin  is offering would pass as   standard yakitori food at  any Okay yakitori. The michelin starred yakitoris of Japan are far superior to this. Sadly, torishin thinks that it is a true Michelin star, therefore  it is more than happy to cash in on its   ordinary grilled food ( you will pay through the nose for what is essentially  some  meat and veggies that are grilled). It will be hard to explain to a  Michelin starred restaurant cooking elaborate recipes (sauces, complex dishes, etc), delivering a flawless service as well as a superb dining  experience that it is competing with an eatery that is basically just grilling meats and veggies with the flaws that I have encountered here.

 

 

 

 

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WOLFGANG1***Wolfgang steakhouse Park Avenue (New York)

 

I dropped by Manhattan which is situated couple of hours drive away from Montreal and ate at Wolfgang steakhouse Park Ave which owner (Wolfgang Zwiener) was a waiter at Peter Luger for four decades. If,like me, you are both a huge fan of North American style steakhouses as well as Arts, then this place combines both attractions  under one roof as the artfully decorated ceiling is worthy of attention. On to the point, I could not order their star item, the Porterhouse for two , because my dining companion insisted on ordering her sirloin, which I did not taste, thus cannot opine on, but she certainly was not unhappy about it.

WOLFGANG2I ordered the Bone-in rib eye steak  which, although not the best I had in North America, was at least not far neither from the (rare) better  ones, the 28 days ++  dry aged USDA prime cut packed with enticing robust taste sensation, featuring a well judged char  (charred enoughly long for a proper crusty exterior while leaving the inside perfectly buttery tender and juicy), the steak cooked  to the exact measure of doneness requested (medium rare). I also  had some excellent blue point oysters from Long Island, big, plump and tasting marvellously of the sea. The sides are also well prepared here: broccoli was timely sauteed with chips of garlic, the french fries packed with fresh  potato flavor and boasting attractive texture, with only the mushrooms failing to be enjoyable because they were  way too salty.

As those in the know would know, NY is the  mecca of the finest  steakhouses in the world, so the fierce competition is obviously forcing  the chophouses to step up their game  and the diners to be particularly picky.

But at the end of the day, at such  level of perfecting the steak, it boils down to personal tastes:  I like and I am perfectly able to appreciate the nuances of the “feel” of dry aged over wet aged meat, and this rib eye  steak met my expectations. I tend to perceive meat that is dry aged in between 35 to 40 days  to provide the mouthfeel I want, and the taste of that steak  had an effect on the palate that got  close to what I wanted  (perhaps short of  3,4 extra days of dry aging, for my taste, but I am nitpicking here).

There are perhaps two or three  exceptional North American artisan butchers as well as steakhouses that  did surprise me with rib  steaks that were a  tad superior to this one I was having at Wolfgang Steakhouse, but  WS  is a genuinely great North American chophouse.

That said, it is pricey and at those prices, I wished the service could be more consistent… it was not bad, actually really great in the beginning (not overbearing, very courteous) , but as soon as it got busy,  both my dining companion and myself  virtually stopped existing:

the table was left without water for 45 mins…I can understand that you want us to  enjoy our meal and not be bothered by the  constant presence of the wait staff…but 45 minutes and not realizing that there is no water at a table, another 30 mins with no wait staff in sight, etc…well, I can see no excuse for that. In such case, your good food turns out to be good, indeed …BUT NOT GOOD ENOUGH to wait 45 mins to get water and another 30 mins to get the attention of a waiter.

And IF your narrative happens to be that the priority is to the tables bringing more $$, then man up and be consequent with yourself and put a sign at the door clearly stating that is your priority. That way, I am not wasting my time, and I am not wasting yours, too. I can understand that this is a first world complaint for the most, but in the context of a high end steakhouse charging some  serious $$, that is NOT correct and I am certainly not going back to encourage that. Too bad because the food (steaks, sides, etc) here was more delicious and was better executed than at most of the other steakhouses of NYC, and  it is a truely beautiful steakhouse in its genre and things started really well, but as a  customer , you tend, sometimes,  to  remember  what soured … – Overall ratings: Steaks (8/10), Appetizers (8/10), Sides (8/10 ), Service (5/10 ) – Wolfgang steakhouse Park Avenue , Addr: 4 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016,  Phone:+1 212-889-3369

01Restaurant Le Mousso is one of the three most serious recent restaurant openings in Montreal(the other two are Lili Co and Montreal Plaza)   earning rave reviews from the local foodie community. There are some aspects of Le Mousso  that I really liked (some food items were stellar by local restaurant standards, the neo industrial decor is fun) and others that simply marred what could have been an otherwise wonderful experience (jump to the “CONS” section, below) – That said, I am not the type of person who will  allow his  emotion to trump  reason (I would not share my experiences if  my emotions would deter my assessment of the food I am eating) and that echoes in the very high rating of the food (see below)

02The tasting menu (they have just one menu, a tasting menu of 7 courses + 2 other courses charged as extras) started with an amuse bouche  that they had to charge as an extra, sadly not  first in Montreal. If you are going to charge an amuse as an extra, well fine…but then I need you to deliver an inspired one. Alas that was not going to happen: a madeleine cake had a tiny quantity of caviar atop  – in between, some creme fraiche. A surreal misconceived food item as the madeleine floury flavor is exactly what you need if you want to find an element that simply can’t be paired with caviar (it is, as one would expect,  a combination of flavor that makes no sense to a palate). But the frustration would not end there: the madeleine came with an oyster! Listen, if  I wanted to collect random items for the fun of it, I could have stayed at home and gather some toothpaste, a glass of wine, a piece of paper and a piece of wood….it would have been as pertinent as what was served  to me as an extra charged amuse. When the waitress asked if I did like this amuse, I answered YES!  …There is a reason for that: in cooking, you do not want to start contradicting the people who are feeding you. A contradicted cook can do mistakes, lose motivation. They are humans, not robots.  Feel free to voice your disenchantment if that is what you are at ease with. After all, that is just  my personal imperfect (if everyone does like me,the restaurant will not improve – obviously  ) view on that subject.  As for the Mousso….oyster and a madeleine…madeleine and a little bit of caviar…seriously, folks??

 

03Céleri/truite/foin – Celery/trout/hay. Hay is actually the translation from what appeared on the menu (foin). Excellent flavoring-technique with a flawless airy celery root mousse, the flavor of the mousse subtle enough (in a good way)  so that it compliments well the smoked trout. Atop, you had the ashes from the “hay” that was used to smoke the trout. Trout has never been a fish that I do particularly appreciate, but this was plenty of fun, showcasing faultless technique, and more importantly …. a  dish that stood out for its  focus on  refinement and clarity of flavours. 8/10

04Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules – Grilled leeks, crumble of hazelnut butter/ mussels. I know you will read this and perhaps suggest that mussels and a crumble of hazelnut butter was going to be another joke, like the one of that amuse bouche , but  make no mistake: this was a brilliant way to elevate the flavor of seafood (mussels in this case), the toasty flavor of the hazelnut butter crumble pairing  excitingly  well with the mussels emulsion.  Emulsions can be  tricky in lesser hands and even plenty of high end restaurants in Montreal do deliver tired looking ones,  but here it  was  startling to the view, the smell and on the palate. The overall serving as an exciting enhancement  to the beautifully grilled leeks. Here is a demonstration on how to get the land (leeks, hazelnut) and the sea (mussels) expressing themselves at their very best 10/10

05Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre – Pickled carrot (pickled in sunflower oil), ricotta mixed with goat milk (of superior fresh quality) , edible sponge of carrot and garam masala. Each individual element executed to perfection, and more importantly, this was  an appealing (to the smell  and the palate)  display of complementary lovely  flavors. 8/10

06Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Plum (“butter” of plum), seared scallop and a little bit of shaved frozen foie gras atop was yet another demonstration of the “cash in” mentality that kept transpiring here and there all along this meal. Again, a business is there to cash in, and we all expect that and that is fine … but when you charge a food item as an extra, guess what:  your customer expects some ..extra efforts!! Food that’s inspired! Or else, why bothering with extras…. ????  How  on earth can a  piece of scallop with some shaved foie gras atop pass as an extra worthy of the ..extra cost?? What’s extra about such insignificant food item (btw: they simpy list ingredients on their menu. In this case, it was Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras – Excited by the creativity expressed through their  “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” dish, or even through the dish  of “Carotte/épices/lait de chèvre “, I would have never imagined that that “Prunes/pétoncle/foie gras” was just seared scallop and shaved frozen foie gras……

07Champignons/céréales/morue  (mushrooms/cereals/cod) – WAY WAY WAY  too much mushrooms on that plate, but this was still  a delicious dish with enticing smoky aromas coming from the toasted barley, roasted wheat, superbly fried quality cod.   8/10

08Pois vert / Agneau / Melisse:  First-rate  tartare of lamb BUT …… PEAS IN AUTUMN?? REALLY? If this was traditional cooking, I would not mind the peas (many traditional dishes, such as ragouts,  can involve the use of  peas and they are commonly served this time of the year), but this is not traditional cooking.  Respect the seasonailty of food, folks!

09Oignons/betteraves/boeuf  – marinated onions of a quality that you’ll rarely get in our local restaurants,  beets of fine quality, and a 72hrs braised piece of beef that paid justice to the long time it spent simmering.  That dazzling meat is a reminder that in cooking, patience is key. And I never had onions marinated/prepared/treated  this well in a local restaurant 9/10

10Petit lait/poires/poivre – Excellent buttermilk ice cream, delicious julienne of pear, sorrel, “syrup” of apple cider vinegar, and a benchmark pepper meringue. Top drawer dessert by our local restaurant standards   9/10

 

PROS: (1) The superlative “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules” (2) Sharp sharp skills – I do not know if Le Mousso is consistently as good as on this evening, but the skills displayed all along this meal were  very strong when compared to what we are accustomed to in Montreal .

CONS –  (1)The insulting extras!! Charging extra for an amuse bouche! At least, make an inspired one..!!    (2) On one hand, the service looks lovely – the staff looks  passionate, they laugh, they look good and they look cool, down to earth, etc. As an example, my main waitress seemed  fun and we even talked about her boyfriend, trips they would like to organize and I found that superb as it shows how human and real the service can be. BUT then, disaster: the same waitress promises to come back with more red wine – promise not kept. Then she collects the tab, but sends someone else to tell me that there was money missing. I am always prompt to acknowledge my mistake, which I did with tact  and I am always an easy customer –I am paying with my hard earned money, so I may as well have my share of fun, thus  I make no fuss about such things  at the restaurant…but at any serious restaurant, the person who collects the money goes back to his client and voices any  error. You do not send someone else to do that. It is not as if you had a difficult customer yelling at you, berating you in front of other people. No. Instead, we are talking about a very easy going customer, so clearly there is just no rational excuse to such  stone age  tactic of sending a messenger to tell your customer that there was money missing. With such mistakes, the customer ends up questioning the initial positive impressions, which could perhaps be tolerated at a tavern but certainly not at a restaurant serving this caliber of food, at those prices ….   (3)Serving a madeleine alongside an oyster…wtf?? Again, I  go to restaurants  to have fun so I won’t lose my time challenging you, but c’mon folks??!! (4) Peas …in autumn…really?? (5) at times, the impression that they  run out of effective  imagination (a scallop with some shaved foie gras on it….not only the foie gras brings nothing to that scallop, but this is as basic as trying to put butter on a piece of bread).

Bottom line: There were many flaws, indeed, but the better items of this meal are the best I had in Montreal in a long while. And for me, that counts a lot.    As ever, with non classical food like this, you need to show up with an open mind, prepared for a display of unorthodox combination of ingredients. Well travelled foodies have seen this..and much more…time and again  (a bit of In de Wulf over here, a touch of Inaki Aizpitarte over there, influences from Japan and the rest of the world, etc), abroad, but for Montreal this is top stuff (except, obviously,  for the amuse that did not amuse, the scallop with some foie gras shavings atop, some oyster served with a madeleine…, serving some peas in..autumn). This is quite a gamble though: one single cook who does not get what the kitchen is trying to achieve, a misstep here and there, and the whole picture may look completely different. Le Mousso has all it takes to be in my top tier restaurants in Montreal…but for now, it also has all it takes to be out of that top tier. This was, for me, like landing on a beautiful exotical island but with plenty of things to worry about. Meaning that I would not mind going back, but there will be no 3rd chance. Le Mousso (Type of cuisine: contemporary cosmopolitan ) Addr: 1023 Ontario E, Phone: 438-384-7410 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Le-Mousso-896950477044437/?fref=ts

What I think days later: According to the medias, Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard told them that at his old restaurant, people used to drop by for a quick bite before  going to the nearby theater   but that with Le Mousso, the show would take place at his restaurant. He is right: by Montreal restaurant standards, even by its finest ones,  a dish like “Poireaux/crumble beurre noisette/moules”, that I had on that evening, showcases a strong level of   skills / creativity that is rare in Montreal. And the show went on: a spectacular “plum butter”, superb pickling technique, emulsions that  most restaurants in town would take ages to get a grasp of, marination that is rarely seen in town, a grill that … grills (I know, it should not be an exploit, but trust me…that is a miracle in Montreal), meringues that  would make most meringues at restaurants in town pass as “wimps”, etc. But then, they throw those extra charged food items from which  you expect so much .. in light of what they are  capable of …only to end up with uncreative creations like seared scallop with shaved frozen foie gras atop or a madeleine paired with an oyster…!!!!!!!! Why? Why? Why? Why peas in autumn, Chef, when you seem to be fond of Japanese cuisine, a cuisine that is so strict about ….SEASONALITY?!!! Why? Why? Why?  Restaurant Le Mousso – Addr: 1023 Ontario St E, Montreal, QC H2L 1P8 Phone: (438) 384-7410 URL: https://lemousso.com/ Overall rating: Food (9/10  by Montreal contemporary restaurant food standard), Service (5/10 Mixed service. Unacceptable even at a tavern, let alone at those prices …), Ambience (It was quiet the evening of my visit. I do not rate ambience as it is also up to you to pep up the ambience if you are looking for ambience. Except, of course, when the place is lively by itself while I am dining there).