Posts Tagged ‘disappointing’

Ichiran is one of the major ramen chains coming straight from Japan  that decided to open branches in Manhattan (two) as well as one in Brooklyn. In Japan, I tried both Ichiran and Ippudo (the other major competitor to Ichiran), but discretely, lol, as it is a bit as raving about Burger King and Mc Donald while you are in the US. Not that I do not like Mc Donald and Burger King (I do actually like both of them), but there are plenty of  artisan Chef’s (the opposite of a chain’s operation) ramenyas in Japan who do offer world class ramen  and that is what, as a true ramen fan, you should be looking for when in Japan. That said, here in NYC, Ippudo and Ichiran feature among the best ramenyas , consequently do  expect plenty of buzz about those two ramen chains.

 

The proof that ramen is extremely popular nowadays: there are 3 times more hits on my review of Ippudo than this entire blog would attract in 6 months. Yep, a miracle for a sleepy blog like this one (do not forget that this is a non marketed blog targeting just couple of close foodies, here and there, with whom I share about our foodie adventures). But that tells you how ramen is trendy.

I went slurping at one of their branches in New York, the one situated at 132W 31st .

First thing first:

My ratings of the ramen I had in Japan should NOT be compared with the ones of the bowls I had in Montreal, which, in turn should not be compared to my ratings of the bowls I had in NYC

For the simple reason that they can’t (different geographical areas mean the water is different, the ingredients comes from different soils, etc).

 

So, Ichiran NYC that is.

Style of ramen:  tonkotsu style.

Noodles: freshly made  as you came to expect from any respectable ramen shop. I picked them firm (you have to decide on  the consistency of your noodles) so that the noodles do hold in  the broth. The noodles compare favorably with its counterpart in Japan. 7/ 10

The broth: Pork-bone based that has enough strength to its taste, meaning enough nuances / complexity  flavor-wise.  Eventhough it is certainly not as exciting  as at an Ichiran in Japan. A bit thinner than its incarnation in Japan. Fine enough broth 6/ 10

The chashu (Japanese braised pork belly) – I was very disappointed with this. I kept reading   praises about their timely braised, boldly  flavoured  chashu at  Ichiran NYC. That it was delicious and so on. But mine was dry. It  had Zero flavor.  0/ 10

Tare (The sauce flavouring the broth): fine concentration of flavours, verging on the sweet side. Not as amazing  at its incarnation in Japan but still, flavorful / enjoyable enough. 6/ 10

Egg: served cold (I do not get that one). Not fully runny at all. There are parts of the world where the ramen is not their speciality and yet they are delivering beautifully fully runny eggs that are served warm and that blend well with the rest of the ramen at their ramenya. And here you have a popular Japanese chain of ramenya that seems to take such important feature lightly (as a reminder, the reason a ramenya adds a runny egg to its ramen is not to make the ramen cute and ready for instagram, Lol. It is because it add lots of enjoyment to the overall mouthfeel of the ramen). 0/ 10

Bottom line: The service is great and it is a lovely place. I went there to really like  Ichiran, but it was a disappointment on the aspect of the food.  Ichiran NYC Addr: 132 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 465-0701 URL: https://www.ichiranusa.com/  Overall rating Food 5/10, Service 8/10

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Chef Nicolas Lormeau has honed his skills alongside some of France’s best Chefs: Michel Trama (Aubergade, 2 star Michelin), Gerald Passedat (Petit Nice, 3 star Michelin), Gilles Goujon (Auberge du vieux puits, 3 star Michelin).

They have, in France, many Chefs with 2, 3 star Michelin skills who have decided to open their own venues, and get this: they are there, in the kitchen, cooking for real. A distant dream in many parts of the globe. No wonder France will remain a superpower of the foodie world for a while.

In 2016, Nicolas,  did open his own restaurant, Lou Esberit, in Pau, which style of food can be described as “bistronomy” if you wish, and his talent has since been rewarded with, among other achievements,  a selection in the top best 3 Chefs of the Credit Agricole’s Talents Gourmands Pyrenees/Gascogne (not a light reward in a region with plenty of talented Chefs).

There are several menus (A la Carte, tasting menus, etc). I picked the following two A la carte menu items:

Croustillant de langoustine, fine purée d’une barigoule, queues de langoustines roties, petales d’artichaut frit (crispy and roasted Dublin bay prawns, artichokes mash and chips). I could not enjoy the prawns as they were way too salty. The artichokes mash was fine, but that was not enough as the overall dish lacked sparks (felt generic/average in mouth). 5/10

Filet de rascasse grillee, soupe de Roche et pomme de terre fondante. Grilled scorpion Fish fillets, potatoes and his take on the “bouillabaisse” (which was in a glass and that I had to pour over my fish). Grilled scorpion Fish, one of the fishes  commonly used for a bouillabaisse,  is one of my preferred fish. The fish was cooked properly (retained an ideal amount of moist, firm as it should). not boldly seasoned and that is fine. Some parts were bland, others seasoned, but in this case, I can live with that (as you will pour the bouillabaisse on it, anyways). But his take on the bouillabaisse lacked maritime flavour. I presume it had to come from the fish I would pour the bouillabaisse on…but pouring a bouillabaisse on the fish does not have the same effect as cooking the fish in the bouillabaisse! 6/10

Bottom line: I have no doubt that Chef Lormeau is a good Chef. The locals told me he can be great. I even saw an online picture of Michel Guerard paying a visit to him. So he must have been doing great things to be noticed by a heavyweight like Chef Guerard. But the 2 dishes I was having could not testify to that. In cooking, whatever you do, food needs to satisfy. Those 2 dishes failed at that. Service is great, the Chef is one of the friendliest characters of the restaurant industry (great smile, talks to everyone), the restaurant is popular and superbly well located (at a stone throw of the gorgeous Chateau de Pau). Just make that food festive again, Chef! Lou Esberit 8 rue adoue, Pau, France 64000 Phone: +33 9 83 97 58 58 URL: http://www.restaurant-louesberit.com Overall rating: Food (5.5/10 On my visit, the Chef tried too hard to be creative, Alas …to not much effect.), Service (10/10 Superb  service. The Chef saying  hello to every single of his patrons. Very amicable Chef. Wished his cooking was ON while I was there. I will give them another try as they seem to be serious and passionate about what they do, both him and his staff, therefore they deserve that I give them another chance), Ambience: 8/10 (The  place is lively, people looked as if they had plenty of fun).

A recent review of food journalist and ex Chef Thierry Daraize about Hopkins (his review on Hopkins, here) contained enough positive material to  encourage me to reserve a table here.

It would take a seriously naive person to think that the  “ultimately  reliable” food journalist or food rating exists. As one should know better, opinions, ratings and  taste are subjective, O B V I O U S L Y!… Thierry is one serious food journalist who, to the contrary of his colleagues, has been a Chef, too. I find  Thierry to be generally weak when it comes to assessing tropical food (his rave review about Lavenderia contrasts with MY OPINION  about that same restaurant, although, to be honest…MOST of the local restaurateurs are always at their best ONLY when a poster-diner is at their restaurant – the MAIN REASON  why the local restaurant scene can’t compete with serious foodie scenes like New York, Paris, Tokyo, London, etc ), but the best (of all local food journalists)  at judging French-based food (the food he cooked as a Chef and therefore, knows the best).

The perfect observation that even “experts” like the food journalists are useless on the aspect of assessing restaurants: I have been an active observer of the local restaurant scene for the past 18 years. In 18 years, the local food journalists were useful ONLY in two situations: the discovery of Chef Michele Mercuri (indeed, what a giant when he is in his prime! In his prime, Michele can easily compete with the best Chefs of this globe. Easily!) and Chef Jean-François Bélair when he was at Le Marly (now closed). It is Thierry Daraize that made us discover  Chef Jean-François Bélair, in this article. The  lack of success of Le Marly  was just another reminder that it is accurate to submit that the foodie scene in Montreal is one of world’s most clueless foodie scenes. What Chef Belair was doing at Le Marly would have impressed world class foodie scenes like New York/Paris/Tokyo/London. But in Montreal, the local foodie scene lacked (and, continues to) the  necessary experience/knowledge (even, right now, which means … 6 years after getting to that same conclusion…) appreciate that. A third world foodie scene.

Hopkins is a beautiful small contemporary restaurant. It is chic, hip and yet not stuck-up at all.  The decor is very bright and white with a superb penetration of natural light. Truely classy / tasteful with a superb service.

I sat at the bar and picked the 5 courses tasting menu:

First, some homemade charcuterie. Charcuteries — as it is the case at the big majority of our local restaurants —- are not at the level of a fine charcuterie in France or Italy, for the sake of comparison, but you will  definitely get to munch on some pleasant charcuterie, which was the case here 6/10

Clams/black beans puree – Clams of superb quality, from masssachusetts. This featured some necessary bold kick of saltyness to lift up the maritime flavor of the clam. The accompanying black beans puree seasoned exquisitely. Top shelf food item. 9/10

Pecorino/ravioli/beacon – A runny egg encased in a homemade ravioli. So close ( rich and delicious, as one would expect from some runny egg inside a ravioli of proper al dente texture),   yet ..so far (way too much  salt and that distracted from appreciating this dish). This was an easy trap (beacon is salty, pecorino is salty, etc…but that is exactly when and where   skills should shine…

Artic char (omble chevalier)/beets- montee au beurre – again, the fish was way too salty even for someone, like me, who loves salt. The beets were timely cooked and tasted as if they came from a serious michelin star destination –  such was its quality. 8/10 for the dazzling beets. But how do you rate a superb piece of fish (masterful doneness, dazzling quality) that is sadly as salty as a bowl of seawater? Seasoning is the most important skill in a kitchen, obviously, but during this meal, someone forgot how important it was….

Chocolate fondant/expresso – the idea is original, by the standards of our local restaurants, but a chocolat fondant and some expresso need to dazzle in the mouth of someone, like me, who is easily impressed by anything that has expresso in it. This tasted ordinary and it was frustrating to get to that conclusion as it was easy to see that some thoughts were put in it.

 

Bottom line: Somehow, you could see that they  have the potential to beat the best in town. For now, whoever has cooked my food needs to go back to the basics of cooking and learn to season his food judiciously.  Overall rating: Food (5.5/10 This was an inconsistent performance, culinary-wise. On one hand, there were obvious flashes of brilliance such as the clams, the beets.  Alas,  that was marred by plenty of oversalted food item), Service (7/10 Nice service), Ambience: 8/10 (It is a small restaurant, therefore it gets packed quickly. But the atmosphere was gentle, civilized, not loud).

 

Le Dôme (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris, Phone: 01 43 35 25 81), opened in 1897, is an upscale historical brasserie  in Paris. 

Saumon marine a l’aneth (dill marinated salmon) was fine enough, but it would not be hard to fine better versions of that, at plenty of restaurants in Paris 6/10

I came here for the oysters. It is actually Huitrerie Garnier that I wanted to revisit. Huitrerie Garnier is one of my go to places for oysters in Paris, but it is closed till September (From Sept to Dec, oysters are as fresh as it gets and Huitrerie Garnier operates only when oysters are at their best).  As I was walking nearby Le Dôme, I remembered that they have quite a variety of interesting oysters and decided to push open their door. The raising and maturation of oysters, in France, is taken to a level rarely seen elsewhere around the globe***. Many regions of France have first-rate oysters. My favourite have been the fines de claires and spéciales de claires of Yves Papin (Marennes Oléron in  Charente Maritime), Roumegous (Charente maritime), the Isigny, Saint-Vaast (Normandie), Gruissan (Aude), and many more.  This time, I focused on Brittany. In France, oysters are offered  by weight. Numbers 0 to 5  are assigned to oysters. The higher is the number, the smaller is the oyster (that is explained here). I ordered 3 types of oysters: the cupped oysters  boudeuse de bretagne (Cote Des Menhirs) and tsarskaya no2 (Parcs Saint Kerber) as well as the flat oysters  Plate de Cancale no.­000 from that same Parcs Saint Kerber.

The oysters matched what their marketing do suggest:

the hint of sweetness, the meaty texture for the tsarskaya. There is a lot of marketing / buzz behind the tsarkaya, but although a great oyster, I am not particularly enamoured with it in a way that some other oysters of France have impressed me.

Plates de Cancale had their typical light nutty flavour in evidence

And the boudeuse  had a concentrated flavor and it was fleshy as expected from  an oyster “that refused to grow”.

And of course, the nice fresh iodine flavor that every single oyster of this globe has to come with, was there, in every single bite.

Le Dôme served  perfectly well shucked oysters of fine quality with a flawless mignonette. I still prefer Huitre Garnier for oysters in Paris, and Paris has plenty of stellar oysters to feast on, anyways.

Mousse au chocolat, marmelade d’oranges, sorbet passion – classic French kitchen brigades are what you are looking for when it comes to a fine mousse of chocolate. The chocolate was of fine quality, its thick consistency tolerable, but there were many rivers to cross between the finer mousse of chocolate of France and this one (just not as dazzling on the palate). 6/10

Millefeuille ” Napoléon” parfumé au rhum et à la vanille – Rhum and vanilla flavored Millefeuille came with a spectacular rustic flaky look that some generations of French may have flirted with, at some point in their life, but it was not as memorable on the palate nor to the smell as the finer Millefeuille that those same generations have known. Still, this was tolerable, just  not as enjoyable as it should have been. 5/10

Bottom line: Le Dôme is ideal for a piece of restaurant history in Paris. It has couple of historical companions in the vincinity. Last time I was here, it was 25 years ago and I am glad that such historic restaurants is still open. Couple of metro stations away, at metro st germain des pres, restaurant history goes on with cafe de flore, brasserie Lipp. On the culinary front, well, the best of classic French cooking in Paris will not come from here. It is neither good, nor bad. Overall rating (Categ: French Brasserie): Food (6/10 Yes, the oysters are well sourced,  BUT such classic French brasserie needs to offer better renditions of basic classic French desserts such as a chocolate mousse or a Millefeuille), Service (7/10 Classic old world masculine servic ), Ambience: 8/10 (civilized).

 

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Nikos Gallop (Platys Gialos, Mykonos, Phone: 30 22890- 24306) is another popular restaurant of Platys Gialos in Mykonos, cooking cretan and mykonian cuisine. There is a small street with two corner stores, a spa, the public bus stop. There is just one street like that, in Platys Gialos ;) – On that street (a slope, actually), Instead of taking the direction of the beach, you head the opposite way, and Nikos is right there at the top of that slope. It is not even 5 mins walk between the bottom and the top of that slope.

Grilled red pepper suffed with feta was ordinary. This is a food item that relies on great produce. The produce was not bad, to be fair, but not good enough to make this dish memorable (which it can be) 6/10

Youvetsi with lobster. This traditional Greek baked pasta dish is usually made with beef, lamb or chicken, which are replaced by lobster, here at NG. Tomato sauce, shallots, garlic, red wine are the other components of that dish. They use orzo as the pasta. The dish could remind you of a tomato-based risotto (essentially because orzo is shaped like grains of rice), but it is technically not a risotto. Not bad and tasty enough, but not close to  the most delicious Youvetsi I had neither. The Greeks cook their pastas a bit longer than aldente, which I already knew, and that I did appreciate as it is, but keep that in mind if u like ur pasta to be aldente.    I think they should make their Youvetsi with lamb or beef as I am afraid the lobster does not add much, in a way of improved flavour, to tomato sauce based dishes. 6/10

Service: as it is the case virtually eveywhere in Platys Gialos, workers of the hospitality industry are aware of the importance of tourism in Mykonos and are trained accordingly. The owner offers a drink on the house (for eg, a glass of ouzo) to all his patrons at the end of the meal. 

Pros: It is not easy to attract more patrons than your competitor, in such a small area with so many restaurants. On the back of the hordes of people that kept coming in, on the evening of my visit, it is clear that NG won the popularity contest.

Cons: It is traditional cooking, I gather, but they can and should lift their game.

Overall food rating (Categ: Mediterranean): 6/10

Bottom line: They keep it rustic and homey, which is traditionally my preference, but this sort of food can and should be improved by better produce and superlative flavours. And that was not the case, here.  The bread was also an afterthought, and you are charged for it (this applies to most restaurants in Greece).

Vizantino taverna (18 Kydatheneon Street, Plaka, Athens Phone +30 21 0322 7368)
Stumbled upon this  taverna of Plaka while walking in Plaka.

Spinach cheese pie – not freshly baked, meaning reheated, consequently hard and dry

Veal with eggplant – delicious eggplant, delicious sauce BUT The meat was reheated, therefore…again, it was dry … and could not  taste as meaty as it should have been. 

Lamb lemon sauce – at first, it was available. Then 5 minutes later, it was not …anymore. Therefore, they asked if I would like some grilled lamb, instead, which I agreed on, only to discover that … even the grilled lamb …they managed to  reheat it…!!

Cooked to order is a notion they have NEVER heard of, at Vizantino …

Overall food rating: 0/10 Dear cooks at vizantino, how would you feel if reheated food was served to you at a restaurant? Chances are that you would find it insulting and you would confront the restaurant staff. I happen to be well behaved and I do not go to restaurants to confront anyone, but ….by respect to the hard work of the honest workers of the restaurant industry, I hope that  words will spread so that you start realizing  that what you would not accept to be fed on…well, you SHOULD NOT feed people with it.   Yes, you are popular, but in an instance like this, what I could not fail to observe is that there were just tourists at your restaurant, which, btw.. should not be an excuse …for a serious restaurant, I mean…to serve reheated food – On the back of this meal, you do not seem interested to be a serious restaurant. You are an insult to the hard working and proud professionals that I have met all along this trip in Greece, namely the folks at Argo, the Old tavern of Psaras, Avli Tou Thodori, To Ouzeri, Yialo Yialo, all true restaurant  professionals who are located in places far more beautiful and touristy than the “slum village” corner of Plaka where you are operating and could have rested on their laurels because tourists would flock to their restaurants, anyways,  but  herein lies the difference between you and them: they are professionals. You are not.

Restaurant Bonaparte (443 rue Saint-François Xavier, Montreal, Phone 514-844 4368) is a French restaurant offering classic French cuisine in the Vieux Port of Montreal. Their Chef, Gérard Fort, from the French region of Normandie, did work for 3 star Michelin Chef Alain Ducasse years ago.

It has been more than 5 years that I have not dined at Le Bonaparte. I used to frequent Le Bonaparte and Chez Delmo, when I was working nearby. Chez Delmo has changed physically (I miss the old world decor)  and  I found its  culinary performance not as stellar as it once was. Still, Chez Delmo is nice by our (admittedly) not that strong (in general — as there are exceptions, of course) local restaurant standards. Le Bonaparte continued to maintain itself among my preferred classic French restaurants in town, but it is not as great as it used to be, though, not bad neither.

 

Raviolis de champignons (mushroom raviolis), Proper al dente texture. Champignons de Paris was the appropriate mushroom to use, in this case. Butter/sage sauce using fine quality butter. Tasty 6/10

Navarin de homard a la vanille (Vanilla, muscat wine flavored lobster stew) – Different Chefs, different twists, preparations of navarin sauce can vary widely from the ordinary to the stellar. This one tried to be more contemporary (flavors are not bold, presentation is elegant, the vegetables not cooked in the stew which, for the purist in me, does not really qualify as a lobster stew/ navarin de homard )than traditional (a ragout/ all components are cooked in the stew). Regardless of the twist, I came to expect bold flavors from the best lobster navarin I had. This was a bit too subtle in flavor… for a navarin de homard, though executed properly, with quality ingredients (the butter that they use to make their sauces is of great quality, the creme fraiche too, the muscat wine blends harmoniously well in that sauce).  A good —not great — take on the navarin de homard. And yep, I know, there is a limit to how bold creme fraiche and vanilla can be, BUT I had more exciting lobster navarin that were made of those same components. Still, this, in light of what you will find in Montreal, was fine 6/10

Grand Marnier soufflé – a tad less spectacular, in looks, than the one I had recently at Chez la Mere Michel, but airier. The grand marnier fragrance in evidence. Good. 7/10

Profiteroles- The puff did rise, at some point, for sure, but that was a useless process…as the choux pastry arrived at my table in its non edible form (very hard). I forced myself to eat it just to be polite, fearing the anger of Napoleon Bonaparte….0/10

The flavors are not boldly, but properly French. A compromise between the old (rustic) and the new (the rich flavor is there, but there is also a health-conscious touch in the plate).

Pros: One elegant French classic restaurant in town.

Cons: (1) those profiteroles should not have left any kind of kitchen, even at a hole-in-a-wall eatery, let alone a kitchen charging those prices (2)the pastas served with the navarin de homard was overcooked. A slip that reduced the enjoyment of that dish. Not a badly conceived navarin de homard for a navarin de homard revisited with  a contemporary (a navarin not cooked as a ragout) and international (addition of the pasta) touch, but you will not be floored if you are a purist, although, to be fair, the french technique of the sauce is legit.

Bottom line: As a reminder, the ratings of my meals are based on the standards set by the direct local competition of the restaurant I am eating at. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to compare my ratings of a French restaurant in Montreal to the one I did rate in New York or Paris. New York has superior French food (Montreal does not have Classic French food that could compete with, say, the likes of NYC’s Le Coucou, Bouley, Le Relais De Venise L’Entrecôte, Balthazar,  etc. ), and France remains, obviously, the reference for that kind of food. It goes without saying that the 7/10 of my review of Le Casse Noix is more accurately a 10 by Montreal restaurant standards, their Ile Flottante and riz au lait a distant dream for Montreal. Therefore, we are in a completely different set of expectations. Whenever a table goes beyond the standards of its direct competition (a pointer: the relevant dish is either a 9/10 or a 10/10) and offers food of world class quality, I will let it know.  Regarding this meal, all I have to say is that French fine dining, at those prices, even when it is fine enough…will always “taste” overpriced if it is not going to stand out …, . Overall rating (Categ: French fine dining outside of France): Food (6/10 Fine enough, by Mtl classic French cooking standards, but I was not moved in a way that equivalent restaurants (of same price range, cooking the same type of classic French food), located abroad, not even in France, have been able to move me. I would perhaps rate such meal with a 6/10 if we were in NYC. Others would not forgive the slip of the profiteroles (which I did not forgive, neither, but does a fine enough overall meal deserve a 4 or 5/10 because of some disappointing choux pastry?? I did not think so), Service (8/10 Very good ), Ambience: 8/10 (civilized).