Posts Tagged ‘dons bogam new york’

My first time in Greece. Particularly liked Santorini famous caldera view. Mykonos is perfect for beach parties and Delphi was a highlight for me.  On the culinary front, I need to ask: What’s wrong with those tourists who go to Greece and stick to gyros and souvlaki, lol? There is much more than that in Greece. I went there, and enjoyed plenty of decent food that have nothing to do with the gyros and the souvlaki. A recap of my hellenic journey here.
My Wall of fame of the 1st quarter of 2017: Nozy, Marconi (Montreal), Sushi Azabu, Le Coucou, Ichimura and Dons Bogam (New York), Argo (Santorini), and the old tavern of Psaras (Athens). Hvor in Montreal has been a highlight, too, but Chef Sarto is taking a break, so I’ll drop by and see how things are under the new Chef.

My wall of shame: my oysters at Docks Oyster House (Atlantic city), my meals at Miss Favela (Brooklyn) and  Taverna Vizantino (Athens).


Sushi Oono review is the most popular among the readers of this blog –  Based on WordPress stats, my review on Sushi Oono is extremely popular, these days. Second only to the one on  Montreal’s finest steakhouses. This blog is  meant for my own “foodie documentation” and as a FYI for close foodies, relatives, friends who love dining out. But I am also responsive in the sense that if the stats on WordPress lead me to believe that a specific article is very popular, then I need to go out my way and “shed some light” on what was written. Not that I care about the impact of my opinion (I do not…we no not live in North Korea, so I do not have to justify my thoughts. And honestly, I could not care less. But, listen,  in the case of Sushi Oono, since you seem to go crazy about it, lately, I do care a bit. I do, because Tokyo is one of the few REAL foodie destinations of the world. This would be Montreal, and I would say..let it be!! Let that overrated self-marketed foodie city deal with its own reality, meaning its fake reputation! But Tokyo does not deserve that. Really NOT!  Therefore, my review on Sushi Oono has to be taken in this very specific  context: Sushi Oono would be a top tier Sushiya anywhere around the globe. But in Tokyo, with their crazy competitive Sushi market, things are a bit different. That said, be careful: Yes, I have familiarized myself with high end sushi for a certain time, now. But I am not Japanese. Therefore, there will always be “certain things” that are ” lost in the translation”. At least, I do an effort to pinpoint my weaknesses, but YOU…as a smart diner, GO AND TRY and see for yourself. Food is subjective. No one is perfect. One good example is this: in my review of Sushi Oono, I was rude about the dry crab. Yes, but some Japanese love it that way. The same way as I love some dishes I grew up to consider as stellar but that others would find hard to love. That is the reality of having an opinion: the opinion is just what it is ..OUR OWN PERSONAL OPINION! The best way for you to identify what you like, it is to go and find out!!

When a tourist trap is a fabrication of the mind — I know people who see tourist traps everywhere. When I was in Cinque Terre, I even saw ppl confusing the fabulous cooking of A Cantina da Mananan (Addr: Via Fieschi, 117, 19018 Corniglia SP, Italy Phone: +39 0187 821166) with the food of a tourist trap. I have no clue if A Cantina da Mananan  is bad, right  now, but reducing the dazzling cooking that this restaurant  was pulling off in those days to tourist trap’s food just confirms that either your knowledge of food is concealed in some kind of limitation (limited to contemporary cooking?) or cooking is not your thing at all. Cinque Terre, when I was there, was actually the proof that tourist trapping has nothing to do with a place being touristy or not. Tourist trap is the demonstration of your inability , as an entrepreneur, to do things right, a lack of pride, the work of bums. In touristy locations like Cinque Terre and Santorini, the best food I had was a reminder that there are honest and talented ppl working seriously in touristy locations. Cinque Terre and Santorini were beautiful parts of the world where everything tasted far fresher and gloriously delicious than in many parts of Italy and Greece. The best food of Santorini and Cinque Terre were cooked on a beautiful planet that was ages away from the sad swathes of muddy lands of THAT  supposedly legendary seafood destination of Atlantic city that served me some gloriously frozen oysters OR  the equally life-shattering frozen fish I was fed on in Sicily while eying at the crystal blue waters of the mediterranean sea.



 ​MONTREAL – On the fine dining front, Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal was the major restaurant opening of 2017.  I went eating at AJRM in January. It  did deliver the type of cooking I  came to expect from the big majority of the celebrated restaurants in Montreal: some predictable/safe cooking, but of course…it can always be much more inspired when the food journalists or poster-diners have snatched a seat as  can be observed in the interesting difference between what I did experience Vs what stood as a life-shattering revelation to our  food journalists (just google what the food journalists have raved about and enjoy the bromance!).  At least, I can’t say that I did not know what I was getting into: as predicted  in my review of Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal  ” Occasional local diners as well as our local food jounalists will  be impressed while well travelled foodies will be expecting more in light of the standards that AJR has set elsewhere” –  our local  food journalists were inevitably going to  have a blast, a totally different experience from anonymous /normal customers).

Fortunately, I also found, in Montreal, some restaurants that are cooking great food no matter who you are, and as it should be at  serious restaurants:  Nozy is a  gem I discovered this year, with a true skilled Japanese Chef cooking the genuine food of his motherland. I wish long years of success to this amazing true artisan Chef, and plenty of rewards for not running his restaurant from home (directed at  the myriad of pseudo cooks in Montreal, whose head got big, and are at home, watching tv, while their poorly trained assistants are left to themselves cooking food that should not be served at a restaurant).

Two other local restaurants impressed me during this first quarter, Hvor  with a brilliant  Chef at the helm, as well as Marconi of Chef Mehdi Brunet Benkritly, the last real  Chef that Au Pied de Cochon really had. Hvor, in particular, coming to the rescue right after my just correct / safe meal at Atelier Joel Robuchon in Montreal.

In little India , Maison Indian Curry House  has consistently delivered the best lamb curry  in town, but the lamb curry is not as consistently good as it used to be (sometimes, some of the chunks of meat are hard, while others are tender and  you need to ask them for the non spicy lamb curry, as the spicy sort is not that great). Their thalis and naan bread are not the best in town, all the rest is fine enough to keep MICH among my go-to places.

I also tried Gandhi and the Taj.  Gandhi is not bad, not the best in town, neither,  but  it is a way too pricey for what I was  getting. Le Taj is pretty, but I was not as satisfied, about its food, as much as at some of the restaurants of Little India.

I finally tried the very popular Escondite, which owners are very successful restaurateurs opening plenty of restaurants inspired from various types of cooking: japanese, hawaian and, in the case of Escondite, mexican. I am usually a bit sceptic about that formula (looking for the concept  that sells)  as it is, usually,  mainly about business (japanese style bistrot sells, so let us open one / tapas sells, so let us do the same thing),  rather than the type of artisan Chef cooking (a true artisan Chef who has mastered his craft his entire life and cooks with heart, first ) I deem worthy of my hard earned money, but hey… heart is not going to make you rich, lol, and the owners of Escondite are not promising artisan Chef cooking. Furthermore, they are opening pleasant restaurants offering enjoyable  food and that was the case of Escondite.

I was also curious to look into some of the major sushiyas in town, so I turned to the  local food experts (food journalists, etc), hoping that their recommendations could be useful. They seemed to have found world class sushiyas ran by exceptional itamae, so off I went to find out. Before I elaborate about my incredible findings, I just want you to know that sushiya/sushiyasan/itamae are generally terms that I use not just to enrich any vocabulary or showing up whatever kind of knowledge, but solely by respect to the true Japanese Craftmanship that we know as Sushi making. But in Montreal, whenever you see me using those terms,  keep in mind that it’s with the deliberate intent to be… sarcastic (rightly so, btw). Montreal is not making sushi. It is just molding rice and leaving pieces of fish on it. It could be whatever kind of rice, and anything that bears resemblance to a fish, does not need to be a fish — to be honest with you — and the aftermath (yep, aftermath is the adequate term, here)  will be the same. In case you think I am exaggerating, I will leave you with my reviews of the so-called (by our local experts) best local sushiyas of Montreal:  Jun I, Park, Sushi Yumi. Baffl.., baffled….I was.

 NEW YORK, on the other hand, is the world class foodie destination that we all know.

New York continues to dazzle, and their big gunz seem more concerned about being consistently great rather than waiting after a poster-diner to find some renewed motivation. Two of their latest “hot” restaurants are Ichimura and Le Coucou, both restaurants would qualify as  destination restaurants anywhere around the globe.

I did also visit Sushi Azabu in February, which  continues to be my preferred Sushiya in NYC.

Then a Brooklyn institution known for its cheesecake, Junior’s. According to the local medias, a rich sheikh had one of Junior’s cheesecakes flying over several continents and oceans to be savoured in his palace. I was not as impressed by that cheesecake, but Junior’s (reviewed here) offers some great food.

In Koreantown, I tried two korean bbqs: one that’s very popular, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, as well as Dons Bogam. The former is a fun place, but it was disappointing on the culinary front, whereas the latter is an elite kbbq spot.

I also tried their most talked about ramenya, Ippudo, which I will review soon. I tried the one that is situated at 65 4th Avenue. Ippudo is not an elite  ramen shop, back in Japan, but in New York, it is doing enoughly well to rank among the very best at what it does. If you can detach yourself from the comparisons to Japan, then you won’t fail to appreciate my latest assertion…eventhough, like most ramen fans who happened to have tried some of the best ramenyas of Tokyo, I, too, would have couple of things to reproach to Ippudo NYC.

As with any major foodie destinations, if you let your guard down, you can stumble upon bad eateries, such as Miss Favella in Brooklyn (reviewed here),  but, overall, NY deserves its reputation as  a true world class foodie destination.

 ATLANTIC CITY – At approximately 2hrs drive from New York, you will find the coastal city of Atlantic city, famous for its picturesque ocean views as well as for its casinos. There, I ate at two of their most popular restaurants: Docks oyster house (seafood) as well as Kelsey & Kim’s (soul food). I will go back to Kelsey & Kim’s but not to Docks.

I​n May 2017, I hope I will be able to attend the burger bash in Atlantic city as some serious burgers will be available at that event. Traditionally, I do not take seriously foodie events of that sort, as the competitors are mainly present for promotional purpose, and it is always a joke to try giving your best miles away from the ingredients and tools that made you famous, but the best burgers of the burger bash event are known as some of America’s most serious burgers. You are on the land of the burger, after all. Of particular interest, during this upcoming 2017 episode of the burger bash:
-The Guinness Bacon cheeseburger from the Hard rock cafe. Atop the beef patty, Jameson bacon jam/Guinness cheese sauce/lettuce and tomato.
-The Margate dairy bar and burger’s The MDB Burger which is composed of a mix of short rib and brisket (from Pat LaFrieda)/lettuce/picles/tomato and American cheese. They will use a secret sauce for their burgers, therefore it will be interesting to see how that sauce would have elevated the burger.
-The Metropolitain’s steak au poivre burger (comes with bacon/gruyere cheese) as well as the Bocca coal fired bistro’s pepadew bacon burger (angus burger/aged white cheddar/pepadew relish/cherry wood smoked bacon/buttery brioche roll) are also on my list of burgers to try.
Event: The burger bash Url:
When: Saturday May 20th, 2017 from 1 to 4pm,
Where: The Deck at Golden nugget, Atlantic city


Dons Bogam BBQ & Wine Bar (17 E 32nd St, New York, Phone: 212-683-2200, is considered a  top tier Korean bbq restaurant of New York city. Given the important community of Koreans in the city and the fierce competition between local Korean restaurants , it is easy to imagine the efforts that a top tier Korean bbq eatery is forced to  deploy: here, at Dons Bogam, the bulgogi is not prepared in advance in the kitchen. They cook it from scratch at your table. The quality of the cooking and the ingredients is also superior to what you will find at most Korean bbqs in NYC. Dons Bogam is a perfectly legit/genuine Korean bbq restaurant, except that it is a bit more upscale (prettier interior, better choices of wines, etc) that most of its  peers in New York.

For the barbecued meats, we chose the marinated jumbo shrimps (the marinade was not spicy, its intent was not to overwhelm the flavor of the shrimp but to  help the quality shrimp to speak for itself and that worked well), quality is also the main feature of the prime Jumulleok meat (marinated rib eye), which marinade paled a bit compared to how some other kbbq spots have marinated theirs in NYC (less flavorful, the sweetness standing as a distraction, not an enhancement, to the flavor of the beef, whereas sweet marinades of this sort went well with rib eye at other kbbq spots in nyc ), but the spicy short ribs (Maeun Galbi) managed to put a smile on the faces  of both my girlfriend and myself because it managed to be what it had to, meaning tasting delicious, meatily delicious ;). Rib eye can and should be ..meatily delicious, too, that is why, as long as they do not change its marinade, I will not order that marinated prime Jumulleok again.  Dons use charcoal (though, you will not smell charcoal and there will not be smokes of charcoal to espy — it is the way the  table top grilling’ venting system is designed ) for his barbecue meats, which is my preference.

The banchan (side dishes that come with your barbecued meat) comprised, on the evening I was there, of Potato salad/Pajeori (shredded green onion)/black beans/baechu kimchi (cabbage kimchi)/Kongnamul (cold bean sprouts in sesame oil)/marinated salad/tiny myeolchi bokkeum (dried tiny anchovies with rice syrup and garlic) / pickled daikon  radish, all made in the house and not just properly – but  well executed. That is a difference I always insist on, because whenever you see me writing ´properly’ without any extra mention, think of ‘ safe reproduction of a recipe, but nothing more’, which is not the case here. In this case, you get the taste of what real Chefs with genuine skills can do. There was not one single miss in the Marinade, the pickling  and the fermenting. There was crunch where it needs to be, and seasoning that is always well balanced. The genuine flavors of South Korea  (the sole compromise is that it is a refinement on rustic korean banchan with the flavors not too bold/not too spicy, but that took nothing away from the traditional  South korean flavors ) were always in evidence. That said, and this is not nitpicking for  the sake of nitpicking, perhaps the addition of some Musaengchae (sweet and sour radish salad) would have been a good idea as I was missing another banchan or two that it is practical/ fun to wrap with the meat in the lettuce leaf that is served for that purpose. Yes, the shredded green onions, the pickled radish were there for that purpose, but another banchan of the like of the Musaengchae would have been even better, and more importantly, necessary. Still, this was an array of flawlessly executed nibbles well deserving of an  8/10 , with condiments and sauces that are examples of what you should be looking for (the ssamjang, to take an example, is of top flight execution).

To continue to test the skills of the kitchen (obviously, it is not the bbq meat that will reveal anything about the skills of the kitchen), we ordered the fried dumplings. If you have any doubt about a cook and want him to get a taste of what a skilled Chef is capable of, bring that dude here and have him taste this fried airy delicious dumpling. A first-rate fried dumpling with texture and taste that is hard to improve upon. 9/10

The test of the kitchen could have stopped with that superb fried dumpling, but I went ahead testing a South Korean staple that I know well and do enjoy a lot, the Kimchi bulgogi (kimchi/ground beef/steamed rice/vegetables/onions) served in a hot stone pot. Again, the flavors, the seasoning, the rice, the red pepper paste that served as the condiment to the dish,  the quality of the ingredients, the precise timing of the grilling process of the meat, all were of a high level of technical  preparation and execution ( as everything that was cooked all along this meal) and quality and it was genuinely as South Korean as it can be miles away from the motherland, only it was more refined than your usual mom and pop beef kimchi bulgogi rice dish. 8/10

Pros: Indeed, a classy Kbbq with TRUE skilled Chefs, who are cooking for real, and not just “safely replicating recipes to make a buck”. It sounds funny to put it that way, alas there are so many fake kitchen brigades out there that it will become increasingly important to explicitly segregate the fake from the real. Also: One rare kbbq spot that takes reservations, avoiding the usual long wait you will have to cope with at the other kbbqs in nyc.

Cons: (1)It is not a technical flaw, just a matter of taste, but the marinade of the Prime Jumulleok (prime rib eye) needs to better enhance the flavor of the meat. (2)Dons is not a bustling place in a way that some of the korean kbbq places in nyc are bustling, and that is not a criticism (I chose Dons for that characteristic), but an observation I had to make in orger to get to my next point: since the fun here will not come from the ‘bustling ambience’ found elsewhere, Dons should break the rule and get the fun to come from something else. One way, for them, to achieve this, is by making the replenish of the bachan a “surprise”, meaning not the same side dishes served over and over again (they will break the rules by doing so, but this will be more fun).

Overall Food rating: 8/10 (Category: Top tier Korean bbq in North America) – As expected from a Kbbq spot of this reputation, in a TRUE world class foodie destination of the caliber of NYC, the technique is well mastered. If you find any technical flaw here, you either have no clue of what to expect from Korean cooking or you are trying to imagine Korean food the way you want it to be.That said, there have been 1 or 2 Korean Bbq spots in North America that had marinated their rib eye in a way that I found a tad more eventful, and that also had a more interesting variety of banchans. And in case you wonder, well…No, that did not happen in Mtl (the best Kbbq place in Mtl would not even get a chance to open its doors in NYC).

Bottom line: Regardless of the fact that I slightly preferred one or two of its local competitors, I still highly recommend Dons Bogam. It is a bit pricier than most of its local peers, but you pay for higher grade meat, a classier restaurant. Dons did, obviously, not forget that people come to eat Korean food as what I was eating was South Korean (not an idea/a take on it), deliciously so, even without the bold mom-and-pop flavors (a reminder that it is not the intensity of the flavor that defines a cuisine).