Posts Tagged ‘brooklyn’

Junior’s (386 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY;  Phone: 718-852-5257;  http://www.juniorscheesecake.com) is a popular restaurant of Brooklyn, widely known in NY for its cheesecakes.

I ordered:

Combo reuben – corned beef and pastrami, grilled sauerkraut, swiss on rye. – an insignificant part of the pastrami was a bit drier than what I am accustomed to with my reuben sandwich at other North American delis, but that was long forgotten and forgiven once I started eating it as its deliciousness and flawless execution were firm indications this was a serious reuben sandwich, truely packing a punch. Montreal and NYC have the best delis in the world and a reuben sandwich of this quality would not be out of place at a top tier deli in both cities. 8/10

Potato salad – rustic style typical to north american delis, no flaws, just good homey flavors. 7/10

Some sides came with my order: a coleslaw (not the regular one, but one with vinegar – nice fresh crunchy vegetables, all delicious) 7/10, housemade pickles that were timely brined and expressing remarkable freshness (a world away from its tired looking examples that can be found at some inferior delis) 9/10, a first- rate corn bread 9/10, as well as some tasty marinated beets 7/10. Simple, simple stuff that are exquisite here, but that many restaurants do not seem to be capable of.

Then, I ordered the world’s “most fabulous ” cheesecake (their words, not mine), which is the cheesecake that virtually everyone is raving about in nyc. This is made with philadelphia cream cheese, its bottom made of sponge cake (instead of a crust of graham cracker) and was a fine version of a North American cheesecake, but its cheesecake flavor paled a bit in comparison to the richer taste of Montreal-style’s best cheesecakes. Furthermore, its rustic appearance does not sit well with me: I love rusticity, but a cheesecake (especially, a strawberry cheesecake) needs to be easy on the eyes. In NYC, eventhough it’s not the same style of cheesecake as at Junior’s, the one from Ferrara bakery (195 Grand Street ) is the one that’s really knocking my socks off, for now. Still, Junior’s is artisanally made (they make a limited quantity, using artisanal techniques), it is a good cheesecake (just not as great as Montreal’s best) and you have got to sample it at least once if you happen to be in NYC. 7/ 10

All in all: Junior’s is oftently ignored in  most  listings of the great delicatessens of NY, but that is just because it has an extensive menu that  categorizes it as a diner, not a delicatessen. There are also little “technicalities” that keep Junior’s out of such listings. In the competitive delicatessen market of NY, whether the J is or is not the greatest samurai of the empire, it does not matter. At the end of the day, what we need to know is this: the delis at Junior’s are good. Really good. And that is coming from a Montrealer (Montreal is one North American city with world class delis, obviously)..

Bottom line: Junior’s can brag about anything they want (the word s “famous” and “fabulous” appear a lot on their menu), except for the cheesecake (sorry J, our finest cheesecakes in Montreal will beat yours, anyday!!) , I am down with them!

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restaurant-m-la-nuitRestaurant Mimi La nuit (Addr: 22 Rue Saint Paul E, Montréal, QC; Phone: 514- 507-5449 URL: http://mimilanuit.com) is located in the Vieux port. We sampled their kefta (on this specific evening, the kefta more refined and slightly less spicy than what you will experience with some of its traditional renditions, but the flavor is genuine), salmon tartare (Ordinary – It may sound exaggerate to expect more from a basic mix of salmon and avocado, but such basic combination can and did dazzle at other bistrots ), sausage (Ok, but sausages need to truely stand out in order to make an impression when dining out whereas the effect of this sausage was as fine as the numerous sausages that most ppl are grilling in their backyard), lamb chops (the quality of the lamb high), crostini (a safe bet as expected), crab cakes (a gourmet take on the crab cake, with the cakes shaped like ping pong balls / this was pleasant on the palate and pretty to espy).

All in all : 6.5/10 In light of what I am used to in the category “french/north american/ cosmopolitan bistrot food”. It is hardly the best or one of the very best in that category, but it delivered pleasant food and sometimes, the food was more than just pleasant (the kefta, their condiments).

ntNos thes (215 Rue Sainte-Catherine Est Montreal, Quebec Phone: (438) 289-0418)- Tried NosThes, a Taiwanese-style restaurant which speciality is tea but that serves food too.

Braised beef tendon slices in thickened spicy soy sauce braising broth is what I had here on a first visit, the overall tasting genuinely fine with well balanced seasoning. That was a lunch special which came with a starter of marinated carrots (excellent marinade which complex sweetness did lift the natural fruity-ness of the carrots in a way that not many cooks can do). Soup was made of seaweed and eggs and this, too, was a properly executed version of this popular soup.
All in all : 6/10 Above average Taiwanese food by our local standards, offering decent Taiwanese-inspired  classical fares. Seems like a place where you are unlikely going to stumble upon cooking slips such as dry food, overcooked rice, unbalanced seasoning. And if someone does not find this place Taiwanese enough, then locate the country where this restaurant is located on a map and ask that person to say loudly where NT is situated. Not in Taiwan, but in Canada. Exactly… But certainly as Taiwanese as your food is going to taste in MTL.

 

La Caye (Address: 35 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA Phone: +1 718-858-4160 URL: http://www.lacayebk.com/) – I went back to my (current) preferred Haitian-style bistrot in North America, La Caye. Like many, I am not too enthused at paying a lot of money — La Caye is pricey—- for casual food (although, if you are not the kind of person who tends to overlook ethnic food, it should not be hard to appreciate that La Caye elevates this food to adequate restaurant quality) but there are few tropical eateries that are appropriate for a date (the reason I picked La Caye in the first place…but ensure you do not go there for a date during peak hours as it is small and can be packed).

akraAccra– most ethnic eateries will serve you their tired looking accras they could not sell the day before (apparently, based on reports of many North American foodies,  this is more common in Montreal than in New York) . Not here. Freshly fried, with superb golden texture. There are many types of accras (Haitians tend to favor malanga as the star ingredient for their accras), but this is one example of a benchmark accra (easy-on-the-eyes refined exterior, exciting  seasoning, not greasy at all) . 10/10

lanbi-boukanenLanbi boukannen ( Grilled conch) In some tropical islands, they grill the conch in its shell, paving the way to some great flavor enhancement. But that is, of course, not possible for a restaurant that is miles away from any tropical sea. So eventually, the texture and the taste of your grilled conch is different at a tropical eatery in a city like Brooklyn. And that was not going to be an exception at La Caye. However, the conch was as good as your grilled conch will fare at any Haitian restaurant in North America, just not of the exceptional ‘freshly snatched from the sea’ sort of conch (as one would expect). Seasoned and grilled adequately, but I am not a fan of grilled conch (I prefer eating it raw or in a sauce — it appeared at my table only because my girlfriend loves grilled conch).

lanbiLanbi (conch) in sauce was as great as on my last visit here, the sauce exquisitely prepared, the conch boasting a superb chew. As submitted earlier, the quality of the conch itself is the same as what you will find at most Haitian eateries in North America, but this is still as great as it gets in a Haitian restaurant this side of the world (I can think of, perhaps, 2 or 3 lanbi sauces that did tantalize a bit more, but they were cooked by exceptionally talented Haitian Moms). 8/10

goatGrilled goat (pictured above) and goat in sauce featured goat of fine quality, and seasoning that was — again and again — packed with punch. My preferred grilled goat remains the one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Ntaba, but this was another example of flawless classic caribbean cooking. 8/10

Fried pressed banana plantain  is easy to make, according to plenty of Chefs, and yet it is oftently leaden at most   ethnic restaurants. Here, no such issue but  freshly fried press banana plantains of perfected texture (light and crisp)  and flavor (10/10).

Black mushroom rice (Diri ak djon djon) expressed enticing aromas (8/10), the condiments were all first rate items.

All in all: 8/10 Consistently great Haitian / Caribbean cuisine by North American Caribbean restaurant standards, but La Caye is not cheap and at those prices, I need the litchi of my litchi sangria to be of the non-canned sort and to be available only when it is in season. Furthermore, La Caye really needs to make more exciting cocktails (the prosecco/ mango juice cocktail as well as Litchi sangria that I had were not exciting drinks).

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***Morgan’s bbq is touted as offering one of the finest texas style smoked briskets in nyc. Order them (the briskets) fat, not lean, as to savor your brisket in its more flavorful rendition – which is exactly what I went for. Can’t agree more about Morgan’s bbq reputation: their brisket is as enticingly smokey and tasty as your texan style brisket will get in NY. Coleslaw and potato salad were equally delicious. So did the chicken (you go to a Texan style smoke house for the briskets…yeah, I know, but my sweet half wanted to taste the smoked chicken).
Pros: briskets that would send the ones we have in Mtl to shame, though in the US..the competition is fierce, obviously. Still, some fine Texan style briskets, and not just the briskets as the smoked chicken seemed to have tantalized my girl friend’s palate, which is no light exploit as the lady is a picky eater
Cons: Not too sure if this was an isolated situation, but the brisket I was having was super salty.Because it was as tasty as it was salty, I did not make a fuss of it. I trust that was isolated….
morgans-bbqBottom line: 7/10 (categ: Texan style bbq) – Morgan’s BBQ may not be a standard bearer at what it does, but they are the next guy you are looking for when the standard bearer is not around. For the sake of comparison, our smoke houses in YUL are not there yet (in YUL, our finest texas style brisket’s taste is unidimensional – in comparison).  Morgan’s Barbecue Addr: 267 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, United States  Phone: +1 718-622-2224  https://www.facebook.com/morgansbrooklynbarbecue/

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.

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. This is proper 1 star Michelin French/international/American  cooking.

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.
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: A bit more “pep” (milk should be packed with bold lactic fresh flavor, caramelized almond should have the almond and caramel flavors better expressed, etc) is to be expected from the pastry creations I have sampled on that evening.
Overall food rating: 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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Event: Dinner at Peter Luger
Addr: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
Phone: (718) 387-7400
Type of cuisine: American Steakhouse
Time/Date: Saturday Febr 23rd 2014, 18:00
URL: http://www.peterluger.com
Michelin star: 1

***NOTE – This meal at Peter Luger is listed on the left side of this blog among the other reviewed Michelin starred meals, since it is a Michelin starred restaurant at the moment of writing/posting this review. It goes without saying that the score that I did assign to it IS NOT to be compared with the score of the reviewed meals that  you’ll find there (PL is not a fine dining destination). That score reflects my appreciation of  PL  as a steakhouse delivering a North American Porterhouse steak of  world class standard, nothing  more, nothing less.  And in case you are the kind to believe that it is crazy to praise a place that  specialises in just one sort of  steak, then you are running straight into an instance where we’ll have to agree to ….disagree: for me, if  one thing is done better than anywhere else  (the North American Porterhouse cut of PL, in this case), then it deserves to be considered as highly as you’ll consider any other favourite food destination. Japanese people have got this since a long time (a specialist of pork cutlet, specialist of tempura, etc) and I’d rather admire a ‘specialist’ that does its craft beautifully rather than  … ‘a jack of all trades” playing it safely.

***Sorry, no pics – Just wanted to eat quietly with no hassle / distraction of photo nor note taking. After all, it’s a steakhouse, so the 1000th picture of their steaks or 3000th picture of their side of spinach won’t make those items look nor taste any better ;p

 

NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in  NY to  see if  Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory (my 3rd visit here in 6 yrs).

Picked:
-The Porterhouse steak: The succulent beef flavor that shone through is a reminder that Peter Luger has mastered, for so long, the art of delivering the perfect North American porterhouse steak: this is one of the few great American steakhouses which dry aging technique of the meat is rarely paralleled. But there’s much more, of course: the right grade and the right cooking degree for the right cut. It’s a breeze to appreciate that they are genuinely obsessive about where that beef grew up, how well did it live, what was it fed with, how great and knowledgeable was the butcher behind that cut, how properly aged and hanged was the cut, etc. One of the few benchmark aged USDA prime Porterhouse (some complain about the sauce that’s underneath the steak…well, this adds to the character of that Porterhouse. If you can’t take it, simply ask them to serve it aside). 9/10
-Their legendary creamed spinach: deliciously rich as usual, though hardly something that anyone behind a kitchen should miss. Still, they do it well, it tastes good and it’s a perfect logical match to that Porterhouse steak 7/10
-Their old fashioned sauce: not too sure how that fares with their patrons, but their old fashioned sauce is not to my taste (I do not find that it pairs well with meat). Of course, a question of personal preference (anyways, the only time I am fine with sauce over my steak is when I eat it French-style as with steak au poivre) , especially since the sauce that’s underneath that Porterhouse largely suffices for me. I won’t score that sauce since this boils down to a matter of personal taste only (I am just not used to pair my steak with the flavor profile of this kind of sauce – a mix of sweet and savoury flavors which, for my palate, had following dominating aromas: horseradish/ tamarind/vinegar/molasse. There are, of course, more ingredients to the recipe, but those were the ones that my palate has primarily detected). I did replicate that sauce at home and after several tries, it now tastes almost like theirs, so that my palate gets used to it.  Yep, that is how food works lol: you do not like it, do not  ive up on it, just accompany your palate in gradually appreciating it and there will be more power to you ;p
-The fabled side of beacon, which I finally got to try this time (kept skipping that one on the past 2 visits): Decent thick slabs of porky meatyness, but beacon abound in North America, its preparation varying widely in quality and depth of deliciousness from one place to another, so it is hard for me to get excited over  their beacon. Certainly not bad, but there are definitely better beacon to be enjoyed across North America 6/10
-The dessert list here features typical classic American steakhouse dessert items (Ice cream, pecan pie, cheese cake, etc). This time, I tried  their Cheese cake (7/10) which was as classically well executed as it gets (as expected, New York style cheesecake that was and as I wrote, in its classic version), the schlag that I also tried being just Ok.

PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms (the classic setting), its relative weaknesses (obviously, not a modern trendy fancy steakhouse so  if that’s what you are looking for, you’ve knocked at the wrong door + it’s not cheap) , its own character (old world charm). You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, then you look elsewhere. I am delighted  to observe that  PL  remains as it is, which means at it has always been, regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations: a classic house with personality.
I have read online arguments about PL being a tourist trap to some (100% pure BS! IMHO) , that they have suffered at some point from a shortage of Porterhouse, that they once had a matriarch who was second to none when it comes to selecting the finest meat and that perhaps her successors are not as diligent as she used to, but I have also spent 15 years in North America, enough time to familiarize myself  with most major NYC’s and USA’s steakhouses and came to the conclusion that if PL is a tourist trap, then the definition of tourist trap has evolved into a compliment. There’s no way a serious steak connoisseur  would confuse PL with a tourist trap. Has PL delivered the perfect Porterhouse steak on each of my 3 visits (I took the Porterhouse everytime I went there)? The answer is NO. On one particular visit, I could easily name  plenty of American steakhouses which Porterhouse was superior. But it’s naïve to attempt to convince oneself  about the definitive appreciation  to have of a  restaurant based on just one meal. You can judge the meal, which I do too and that is  fine, but not a restaurant. Which leads me to where I am getting at: on the two other visits, their Porterhouse outshone their major competitors by leaps with effective superior aging technique and far better sourcing of the meat. Are there steakhouses in NYC where I had more fun? Of course Yes. Are there better cost performance steakhouses?  Absolutely.  But again, ambience and better value have nothing to do with why I like Peter Luger: the quality of its Porterhouse!   I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest American Porterhouse steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever.

Portehouse steak  (9/10), Appetizers (6/10), Sides (6/10 ), Service (7/10 )

Recommended: This  great article on America’s current finest steakhouses