Posts Tagged ‘new york’

The Alley is one of Taiwan’s most famous bubble tea (Boba drinks) shops. The ´titans’ of the bubble tea world have long been attracted by NYC with giants such as ‘Kung Fu Tea’ , ´Teado tea shop´, ´Coco’, ´Ten Ren’ as well as ‘Happy lemon’ and ´Gong cha’ having their own locations in the Big Apple. It was about time that the Alley joins this high level competition, which is what they ended up doing recently with the opening of their first shop in NYC. The Alley is already an International success story with effective or projected presence in many  of this globe’s major cities (Tokyo, Singapore, Melbourne, etc). The branch in NYC opened on Saturday Sept 7th 2019 in the NoHo neighbourhood. I went there on week 1 post opening.

I picked two of their signature items:

Brown sugar Deeriocca milk tea featured soft and bouncy homemade brown sugar milk tea pearls. Deeriocca is the name they gave to those pearls. If I had to take a guess, I would say that it is with those pearls that the Alley truely stands out as the brown sugar flavour is, indeed, one crowd-pleasing flavour. I found this milk tea — which level of sweetness they do consider as «regular » —– to not have that much sugar. It was not bland, though. Just enough sugar to keep it on the enjoyable side of the spectrum. Also noteworthy was the refined creamy taste coming from the syrup. It is a chain operation, therefore it cannot  have the « exclusive » quality of the bubble Tea you can make yourself at home, but at what it is, it is certainly a Very good bubble Tea. 8/10

Royal No 9 Milk tea
One of their most popular items according to their Facebook page. The house claims to use quality Black Assam tea leaves. This had a pleasant  fragrance coming from the tea element. Not as rich as the previous milk tea, by design, as it is just your basic milk and tea flavour, with, as it seems to be the consistent pattern  here, the sugar input kept in control – for the sweetness level, I basically took the regular one. This was not too sweet, therefore your best bet if you do not have a sweet tooth. Pleasant on the mouth, but the delicate fine balance between the milk and tea elements is technically without any flaw. 7/10

-The missus ordered the snow lulu strawberry (strawberries, crushed ice in white peach oolong tea base , with a layer of snow velvet cream atop).  I tried a bit of it, and was disappointed: the one we tried had barely any fruity flavour coming from the strawberry. The missus  did not like it at all for the exact same reasons that  I have just raised. She railed  against the absence  of  the  usual fresh aftertaste that she came to expect from the better strawberry -flavoured bubble teas she had elsewhere and that is typical of most organic  strawberry-based liquid,  semi liquid or creamy concoctions. 5/10

The Alley enjoys a fame of the magnitude of the Apple’s Iphone when that device first came out and it is easy to see why: you feel the quality of its ingredients (as an example, the sugar cane syrup is made, onsite, with real sugar cane, which is why one does not get the artificial overwhelming sugar taste that comes from artificially sweetened products), a sense of refinement (well balanced flavours) as well as a well judged control of the sugar input. It is clear that their intent is not to excite you with bold /rich flavours, full-bodied textures, which makes it a product that is aligned with its time (a time of health consciousness). Blown away, I was not, but I did really enjoy the quality of the brown sugar Deerioca milk tea , which is easily one of my favourite milk teas. The Alley Addr: 68 Cooper square, New York, NY, 10003

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Keen’s Steakhouse – New York, NY

Posted: July 6, 2019 in aged beef, best aged beef, best aged steak, best dry aged beef, best dry aged steak, best porterhouse steak, best restaurants in new york, Best steakhouses, best steaks, excellent service, High hospitality standards, new york, steak, steakhouse, The World's Best Steaks, Top steaks in the world
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Keens is an institution of NYC, a piece of restaurant  history that started in the  19th century (established in 1885). Its dark wood walls are covered with a tasteful  display of  memorabilia (time-honored paintings, photos, cartoons).   This restaurant could be an incredible shooting location for a movie.

 

The avid fan of history that I am  had to find himself in this charming old world  decor, espying what could have possibly been the pipe of Roosevelt over here (thousands  of clay pipes of  patrons who dined at Keens are on display on the steakhouse’s ceiling), climbing the same stairs as Einstein over there.   Nowadays, Keens is one of NYC’s most popular steakhouses, attracting tourists, locals as well as many connoisseurs of North American steaks (as you will see below, their steaks did not « rest on their laurels »). But, with legendary places like this one, I am on my guard, always ensuring that  the lore shall never be part of the lure.

On a previous visit here, over 2 years ago, I did try their fabled slow roasted lamb loin‘s saddle  chop (aka the ”mutton chop“). It is not mutton, anymore. It  is  lamb  that they do serve nowadays. The lamb is raised in  Colorado,  some of the  most sought after lamb  in the nation. Colorado does offer to its  free-ranging sheep,  vast swathes of vegetation to feed on, thanks to the numerous mountains and hills of the state. The sourcing of this piece of  pasture raised lamb was  of high level , its subtly earthy lamb flavor  (milder than, say the flavour of lamb from New Zeland)  dazzled. Boasting an enticing color, definely tender, this  was as great as your roasted lamb loin‘s saddle  chop  will be if served to you at a top tier  steakhouse. 9/10

Then last year I dropped by with a long time genuine connoisseur of North American steakhouses and we had the porterhouse.  For anyone truely familiar with beef aging, it was easy to enjoy the great effect of the dry aging (they dry-age and butcher the meat on the premises) process that went into that piece of meat (great concentration of beef flavor). The thing about aging meats is to think about the right effect for the right meat. Oftently, you see people dry aging then wet aging their meat (perfect recipe to cancel the benefit of dry aging that meat …), dry aging meat that has fat that is so delicate that it cannot  ‘age’  well (highly marbled wagyu as in this case at Dons de la Nature, one of Tokyo’s leading steakhouses. It is the sort of fat that is way too delicate to   benefit from dry aging — I will write, later on, a detailed article on what type of fat benefits from the aging process and why), dry aging fishes that have the taste of nothing if you age them (few fishes do benefit from the dry aging process, most do not…most fishes that are aged do simply fit in the ridiculous trend of aging the flesh for the pleasure of following a trend, as stupid as that – ). Not all steakhouses do master the dry aging of meats as  obsessively well as, at, let us say, Le Divil in Perpignan, but the concentration of flavor of that porterhouse steak  at Keens revealed some serious mastery of the dry aging of their meats.   8/10

 

This is my 3rd visit here, and this time I ordered the prime rib of beef  (king’s cut – meaning that it’s bone-in),  the  medium rare doneness that I wanted was precisely achieved,  and it came charred at my request, served with au jus.  The loin end   rarely fails to be flavorful once cooked,  and yet, you realize how, in the USA, they have perfected its cooking  with no shortage of dazzling renditions of the  prime rib such as the ones you can enjoy at  establishments such as the House of Prime RibLawry‘s or   Dickie Brennan‘s  to name a few. But this prime rib at Keens was not out of place in that fierce competition, as here again, you had all the qualities of a stellar piece of North American steak (the quality of the meat really high as you would expect from a North American steakhouse of this reputation, the standing rib roast timely cooked, its delicious fat properly rendered, the seasoning competent, the steak craveable ).   8/10

 

I love Keen but I was NOT  in love with my platter of a dozen of oysters: all had their superb maritime flavour in evidence, true, but some of the oysters were served a bit too cold than expected at a restaurant serving seafood. The shucking could have been better, too.

Our sides of creamed spinach , sautéed mushrooms and cooked broccoli did not tantalize both my girlfriend and myself :  for both of us,  this preparation of their creamed spinach  did not  enhance  the taste of the spinach. And they did add a bit less cream than I would have preferred.  Still, their way of doing it is one legit classic way of cooking the creamed spinach and I am fine with that.  The broccoli,  I need them to retain a vivid fresh appearance  (I am not here to talk about cooking techniques but there’s a technique for that, there is a technique that allows your broccoli  to be nicely cooked while retaining its perfect crunch and vivid looks, a technique that is widely documented. There is no doubt that the kitchen brigade at Keens knows how to do that, but, again, their choice is to remain classic, therefore they did use a more classical approach  and that is to be respected. As for the mushrooms, they  looked and felt as if they were sautéed a bit too long  and served a bit too late,  the taste of the mushrooms not in evidence.

The crab cake of my girlfriend  featured   fresh crab flavour, the seasoning well judged. The crab came from Maryland and it is in season right now, consequently its depth of flavour was remarkable. Of her crab cake, she said that it was about “”the full taste of the crab and not a lot of filler””, which was a good thing.  7/10

Bottom line: This article of the NY Mag had its author arguing that   « The meat isn’t first class anymore, especially by the standards of today » at Keens…another one of the absurd and senseless suggestions of our so-called food journalists. A steak is first class if the quality of the meat is great, the cooking accurate, the flavours on point, the extra steps to elevate the taste of that meat making a difference (for example, my pieces of steak, here, at Keens, did benefit from the nuances that an educated palate would detect as nuances that can only come from a competently dry aged piece of quality meat). And you do all of that better than at most other steakhouses, which is the case of Keens.  You stop being first  class the day your steak costs an arm and a leg only to have the taste and feel of a generic-tasting piece of meat that you  would buy at the supermarket (the case of one so-called legendary steakhouse right here in The old Montreal …). Keens has nothing to do with an outdated steakhouse.  For his  steaks, Keens is still one of NYC’s very best. I was not in love with the sides, but again, this was (more of) a matter of preference (at the exception of the mushrooms) rather than the sides being faulty. They need to control the temperature of those oysters, though. My number 1 North American steakhouse is still Peter Luger (the one in Brooklyn) , but that takes nothing away from the superb steaks of Keens. The service and ambience at Keens are  also  great. One of my preferred chophouses in NYC. Steaks (9/10), Appetizers (7/10), Sides (6/10 ), Service (8/10 ) –  Keens steakhouse Addr: 72 West 36th St. New York, NY 10018 Phone: 212-947-3636 URL: http://www.keens.com

 

I went to the luxurious mall at Hudson Yards and tried couple of the food items (the shopping mall has eateries recently opened by some of the most popular Chefs out there)  that some of NYC’s food journalists have called their current hits. One that caught my attention was Fuku’s Vada Pav (pictured above), a deep fried potato patty with hints of fried garlic, pickle, scallion sauce, inspired by one of my all time favourite deep fried food items, Maharashtra’s Wada Pav. WP is easy to make and easy to love. If you have been cooking a bit, that’s the sort of combination of ingredients that rarely fails to be a hit (logical combination of ingredients where one ingredient serves as a flavour enhancer to the next). At Fuku, such  potential was left at bay, as the patty was WAY  too dry. So dry that I was not able to discern any flavour. I was not expecting Fuku to deliver a dazzling WP. I was simply expecting a deep fried potato patty to be what it’s supposed to be: a food item that rarely fails to be enjoyable. Somehow, they could not manage that. They have just one way out, with this one and it is to freshly fry and serve their WP as the customer orders it. Or find a way to emulate that effect.  0/10

In that mall, we found kawi creative enough (for food served inside a mall in North America) but absudly pricey as well as a tad unnecessarily fancy. At Kawi, we enjoyed their sweet and sour ribs. It is not the best we had, but probably one of their better menu items.

 

Cousins Maine Lobster, 77 Lexington Ave, NYC- This is an offshoot of a franchise food truck business based in Los Angeles. I grew up on an Island of the Indian Ocean with  the freshest  seafood possible at the lowest unimaginable cost . So now, it is payback time, lol. I have to pay for all that fresh low-cost (with low cost not synonymous of low quality, in this instance ) seafood I was blessed with in  my tender childhood, and you could not have found  a better place than a city of the western world to make that payback time a reality. CML’s seafood  was certainly not going to be a serious threat to  the dazzling seafood of my tender childhood, even at equal cost, but at what it is — essentially a chain selling lobster-rolls and some other few lobster-based fast-seafood items –, it is certainly an example for others to follow. My review here.

Sushi Amane has, at its helm, a young talented Chef who has spent several years at the current world’s best sushiya in Tokyo (Sushi Saito). The young talent has decided to give a try to NYC. I went paying a visit to Sushi Amane. There were certainly some very delicious food items to be enjoyed during that meal, but also some noticeable flaws that I took the time to constructively write about, here. Ironically, at the time of writing these lines, despite the abundance of online reviews on SA, from both the so-called self proclaimed food experts as well as the majority of opinions on the crowd-sourced review forums, no one have noticed what  I have noticed…so either those folks have no clue of what assessing sushi should be about, or I was simply unlucky. Anyways…

Quality Meats is  a steakhouse that I really wanted to love, based on the rave reviews of some of NYC’s best steakhouse experts. I was less lucky than them with my steak, but the sides were  good. My review here.

Jeju Noodle bar is a Korean Noodle bar  restaurant that delivered superb Korean freshly made Instant Noodles (Ramyun) gourmet dishes. They also have some competently rendered cooked and raw food items. Service is great, the experience very enjoyable. My review, here.

Roberta’s Pizza started in Brooklyn and it was so popular that they now have several branches across the US. I went to the one in Brooklyn, where it all started. Do not expect anything fancy, here. You go there essentially for the pizza and when you try it, you will understand why their competitors are not sleeping at night, Lol. It is always hard to call a pizza ‘world class’ or ‘benchmark’. Therefore I will refrain from using such superlatives, but let us just politely put it that way: the legions of people flocking to Roberta’s Pizza have not lost their mind. My review, here.

There were  lots of buzz about Ichiran NYC  and I have nothing again buzz. After all, how can you be in business without buzz? Buzz is essential. I am all for the buzz, but then you need to deliver, and that is exactly where I was  disappointed with Ichiran NYC. Listen, I know it is a chain of ramen. I know we are not in Japan. I know it can’t have the exclusive feel of an artisan Chef’s ramenya. And I went there with all of that in mind, which means with very realistic expectations and I was still disappointed because very basic things such as serving a proper warm fully runny egg and a decent chashu seemed to have eluded them. Which is not what one needs to experience at a ramenya, whether it is a chain or a solo operation.  My review here.

Haitian food is one of my top 7 preferred cuisines in the world. We live in a world that is dominated by what the West wants to sell you as great or not, therefore none of the major online  food writers  will have the gut to even mention that Haitian cuisine exists, lol. Mind you, their purpose is to serve as ‘promoters’ of the food industry colonialist mentality, a mentality that takes the form of such thinking  as ”’Western and Japanese food and produce’ are of course…  the best in the World. All the rest does not even exist”. I do not need them to know what’s great or not and one of the things I find great is the dazzling simple homey cuisine from Haiti. They do not have many dishes, but a great sense of flavours. Deep, bold, rich flavours with the delicious lambi en sauce, lalo, bouillon, etc coming to mind. Of course, this is not food to put on instagram, but I do not eat Instagram, I eat  food!!  My preferred Haitian restaurant, for now, in NY , is La Caye but LC is so popular that the wait was too long. We therefore had a Plan B, which was a Haitian eatery that I was going to try for the first time, Chloe’s Restaurant & Lounge in Brooklyn, NY. Chloe’s was a mixed affair. My review, here.

I also tried Sorbillo NYC – great effort by the local pizza scene in NYC to minimize the greatness of SNYC. But the real connoisseurs of the Neapolitan pizza are not going to be fooled: it is, right now, in NYC, one of their very best Neapolitan pizza. Of course, you are not in Naples, therefore the price tag of such pizza in NYC may enrage those who know the cost of such pizza back in Italy. Of course, you do not have easy access in NYC to the dazzling produce of Italy. But at the end of the day, it is one great Neapolitan piZza in NYC. My review of Sorbillo, here.

 

New Yorkers, those lucky bastards! Lol. They attract the best of the best! Sushi Saito (Tokyo) is the current best sushiya in the world. Guess what… they had one of their Chefs who was ready to go working abroad, but it had to be ..guess where…in NYC, of course (Chef Shion Uino now working  at Sushi Amane at Mifune ). You remember the legendary Jiro, of Jiro Dreams? Well, that is not ‘new’ news anymore, but his apprentice  Nakazawa (one of the main characters of the movie Jiro Dreams) is ..guess where?

Examples of great Chefs attracted by New York are endless (Ferran Adria, Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Massimo Bottura, Enrique Olvera, ), with the latest being Legendary Neapolitan Pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo.  Gino is known as one of the best Pizzaioli  of Napoli (just to give you an idea of how popular the eatery is – locals do wait, on average, one hour in front of his pizzeria to get their fix of the best pizza of  Napoli ) and he is also famous for his  feud with  the local mafia over his refusal to pay  the pizzo. The pizzeria is so popular that it quickly expanded to Milano in Northern  Italy, then now, in New York City.

I have long been fascinated by Pizze, particularly the Neapolitan Pizza. Actually, one big dream that I do have would be  to spend 3 months in Naples and review every single of their Pizza shops (a bit like what this guy did, many years ago, but I will stick to Naples, world’s ‘temple’ of the Neapolitan Pizza).  It took me a while to be prepared for this project: first, I wanted to spend years tasting all sort of Neapolitan pizze, understanding  the techniques, the ingredients, etc.

I did that for the past 20 years and do, consequently, nowadays, feel ready for the last step before visiting all the Pizza shops of Napoli:  doing an apprenticeship at 3 of the best Pizza shops of Napoli. This will not be easy, perhaps even impossible, but where there is a will, there is a way!  If that happens, the 3 shops will not be reviewed  (I am a bit ‘old school’ about this, and do have nothing against those who think otherwise — I mean we are in an era where most critics do not care about such details — but I insist on never reviewing establishments that I am familiar with), but revealed, of course  (I would like the relevant blog to feature videos of what I am learning at those shops, as well as detailed written  accounts of my journey as an apprentice pizzaiolo in Napoli) .

Regarding Sorbillo NYC, as we all came to  expect,  the food journalists  did  review it inaccurately.  In order to protect their friends of the local pizza scene, they applied themselves to diminish the importance of Sorbillo in their reviews:  they had, of course, to review pastas at a …. pizza shop. They had to. They just could not refrain from using  that cheap shot. Mind you, there is not much they could do:  they never went to Napoli and went on reviewing  this shop with their North American taste. And more importantly, everyone knows that some of the major web sites reviewing those restaurants do have the restaurateurs ‘paying to play’ on their platforms. And those web sites cannot hide it anymore (just look at their disclaimers regarding their affiliation to the restaurateurs).  Gino Sorbillo is a restaurateur who has challenged the pizzo  of the mafia back home in Italy. Needless to guess that he was not going to accept the pressure of the ‘paying to play’ online  system that is so common nowadays.

You cannot  fail to identify those who have no clue of what to expect from a Neapolitan pizza: they will complain about the crust being a bit limpy (Americans prefer a crispier crust). Well, it is the way it is done in Napoli, folks! If you want a pizza which pie is crispy, then opt for a Roman style pizza or any of  your usual  Italian-American pizze. Some will complain about the sparse burnt edges of the pizza, Lol. Others will rage against  the fact that they could not ..fold their pizza… total DELIRIUM!! Ignorance is a bliss, indeed.

But the true connoiseurs of Neapolitan pizza were not going to be fooled by all of that –

Margherita con bufala – Mozzarella Bufala, San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil, Terre Francescane Organic EVOO. What I was looking for at Sorbillo is exactly what a true connoisseur of Neapolitan pizza would look for in his Neapolitan pizza: Is the dough made with Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour (this takes educating your senses, palate, etc, for some time, but once that is done, you will know if your pizza was made with a dough of such quality) ? kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer and formed by hand? Is the dough topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy? is it made in a true wood burning brick oven? Were the ingredients fresh and of quality? fior di latte made from cow’s milk or is mozzarella di Bufala? fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil? Are the ingredients all-natural and fresh? The answer to all the above raised questions was positive.

I also ordered:

Polpette Napoletano – Meatballs and tomato ragù. The meatballs simmered in the sauce as it should, the consistency ideally  moist, the hearty flavor of the sauce in evidence. The sauce was hard to improve upon, its texture and taste as perfected as you will get from a Chef that knows his Italian food to the T, and most importantly…that knows how to technically execute it flawlessly. Only someone who has no real clue about what a legit version of the polpette does smell , taste and feel like would argue against that polpette. La Nonna or any Italian who truely knows his Italian food  would certainly be very proud with what this brigade  is doing as the essence of the  traditional recipe is faithfully applied here. 8/10

Crema di Tiramisù – The mascarpone/eggs/ sweet marsala wine competently rendered mix did blend appetizingly well with a perfectly fine espresso coffee  flavor.  Well judged quantity of mascarpone so that the tiramisu retains a proper creamy texture rather than verging too much on a mousse. This was also timely chilled to let the flavors develop. One version  of the tiramisu that would certainly make any Italian who knows his Tiramisu happy, which was actually the case of an Italian family sitting  at the neighboring table and who seemed to have  enjoyed both the very same polpette I did order  and this tiramisu as items that are executed properly . 7/10

Babà Napoletano – The rum-soaked oven-baked dolce was properly executed: leavened  to its traditional soft spongy consistency (whoever baked the mini cake did not take any shortcut as it was evident that they took the time that was necessary to go through the time consuming / slow leavening process that is required to make this cake), it was not too boozy and it did express a well judged intensity of sweetness. The cake was not too light, therefore its inside was not too dry (though a tidbit dryer than I would have liked, in some parts, but I am  nitpicking here). It  had very little alcohol, and soft texture and sweetness.  The nice golden brown exterior was also achieved as it should. It was served at room temperature, which was the right thing to do. A perfectly legit version of the Babà Napoletano. 7/10

Extra points for making all the desserts, the bread (really nice for a place that is not dedicated to bread), as well as their gnocchi   on the premises! It is way more that what we came to expect from a pizza place.

Bottom line: Those truly in the know would have found the  Sorbillo’s Neapolitan pizza I was having as authentic as a Neapolitan pizza will feel, smell and taste like outside of Italy:  A properly rendered thin and soft crust, the crust bubbling up as it should be, the charred spots present, again, as it’s supposed to be. The fresh tomato sauce packed with the minerality and bright acidity that is expected in a Neapolitan pizza (I saw way too many reviewers inaccurately complaining about the bright acidity of the tomato sauce in such pizza…not trying to be rude folks, but c’mon…take some lesson, learn how such pizza is authentically made before assessing it as you really sound ridiculous with such suggestions as ”I did not like it because the tomato sauce has ….bright acidity’ ), both the technique and the ingredients are on point. Sorbillo NYC 334 Bowery, New York, NY 10012, USA  Phone: (646) 678-3392 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SorbilloNYC/ Overall food rating: 8/10 (Category – Best Neapolitan Pizza shop outside of Italy – you need to be seriously clueless about Italian cooking to give this place the low ratings that the food journalists have rated it. Any serious Italian who knows his food will agree that this is a very good Italian Pizza shop), Service : 9/10 (Attentive, friendly and yet professional)

Sushi Amane was one of the most anticipated restaurant opening of the recent years in NYC because of its connection to Sushi Saito in Tokyo (more to come about this, in the following lines).

Sushi Amane’s Chef (Chef Shion Uino) was working for more than 8 years at 3 star Michelin Sushi Saito (of Master Takashi Saito)  in Tokyo, before deciding to move to New York city and man his own Sushiya.

Master Takashi Saito is known, in the elite circles of sushi connoisseurs , as one of  the best Sushi Masters of Tokyo, if not the best, his Sushi shop being the highest rated on the Local Japanese database of restaurant reviews Tabelog with a whooping 4.69 over 5 (which is, considering the high standards of the demanding Local Japanese clientele a close-to-perfect score). Just to give you an idea of how highly praised Sushi Saito is:  the Sushi shops of the legendary Jiro and his son are rated with a 4.11 over 5 score on Tabelog. Master Takashi Saito’s mini empire consists of his own 3 star Michelin in Tokyo, Taka by Sushi Saito in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia   as well his 2 star Michelin sushiya  in Hong Kong.

It is virtually impossible for the normal diner (99% of us, meaning the anonymous diners) to score a seat at Saito. I tried hard last time I was in Tokyo and realized that it was impossible for the normal anonymous diner to eat there. Therefore I went to see what his disciple, Chef Shion Uino,  did learn from the great Saito. According to the restaurant’s web site, Chef Uino was, I quote ”’  placed in charge of the nigiri sushi at the second counter, directly under the master himself  ”  – usually, a sign of an incredible  talent, in the highly competitive Sushi scene of Tokyo.

Before going there, some local Sushi connoisseurs did suggest that I try Sushi Ginza Onodera instead, arguing that I would have more bang for my money at SGO. I have to say, SGO sounds and feels more spectacular, more grand, indeed both in the decor as well as the food offerings (wider variety of food items). It is also a better rated Sushiya than Amane (2 Michelin stars for SGO, 1 star for SA). But in this instance, Sushi Amane felt like the type of laidback Sushi shop I wanted to try.

I will NOT  assess  every single food item  that I have sampled (the purpose of  a blog like mine is not to brag about what I ate and to do an inventory of every single thing I put in my mouth. The purpose of my blog is to focus on what needs  to be extracted from a given dinner, the technical skills on display, reviewing the important  things that  that we, for some reason, discard …such as the influence of the geographical environment on the food that you are eating as to avoid surreal expectations  such as ”I need my food in NYC to taste exactly the same as in Korea….'”…whoaaaa!!!  ).

Sushi Amane is traditional, and that was evident in the progression of the dishes as well as, the absence of superfluous toppings and techniques, the presence of most of the  original edomae dishes (Akami, Anago, Kohada, Ebi):

-Akami (lean tuna) marinated and preserved in Japanese soy sauce (Shoyu). The cheapest (price wise) part of the back and belly sections of the tuna, but highly praised by most patrons for its appealing intense  red color and hard to miss fine meaty taste. Here, competently marinated and rendered.

-Anago sea eel (simmered , which makes it delicious). But this was actually …unusually delicious even by the standards of an elite sushiya in Tokyo. It had plenty of enticing flavours among which you had an exciting  smokey taste, elevated by a  delectable sweetness coming for a dazzling tsume.  The maritime flavor kept intact.  For people who are seriously into cooking, and I am one of them, it was an incredible tour de force. A world class piece of anago. This time the rice’s body temperature was the perfect match for its topping 10/10

 

-Kuruma Ebi – Japanese tiger prawn (boiled). It has a natural sweetness and plenty of umami. That is what is usually advertised. Alas, the reality rarely match the advertisement, even at some of the best sushiyas of Japan. But here, again, the flavour of the Ebi showcased the great palate of whoever is cooking those pieces. Truely delicious Ebi but the rice crumbled and was, this time, dry (SA had some inconsistency issue with their rice, as you will see on the reviews of the other food items — and that is why my overall rating of SA will not be high…). 8/10 for the genuinely delicious Ebi  0/10 for the rice. And obviously the work of the rice is the most important aspect at a sushiya.

 

Of the original edomae items, the venus clam continues to be missing in action at most of the sushiyas of NYC. And in the case of SA, you truely miss it. IT and many other exotic seafood that can still be found at plenty of traditional Japanese sushiyas who cater to Non Japanese as well as Japanese…..

-Japanese butter fish/ punzu sauce. A world class piece of cooked fish with memorable intense maritime freshness enhanced by a divine broth  with tones of fresh citrus.  Exciting.  9/10

-Sea urchin (Aka uni  – from Kyushi, murasaki and bafun sea urchin from Hokkaido). The bafun uni, firm and sweet with a  vibrant, bright color and  a delicate ocean freshness. The murasaki, creamy, with a mildly expressed salt-of the-sea flavor. Prime quality sea urchin as you would expect from a sushiya of this reputation, but they did not keep the sea urchin enoughly chilled, which is what you have to do for sushi. Consequently, the sea urchin had a melting texture when it was served.

-Amadai (tilefish) with daikon  – Their  cooked fishes do have the edge over the cooked fish at  many ambitious tables specializing in seafood in NYC, thanks to the great sourcing and the necessary witty skills to make them tasting great. 9/10

-Japanese horse mackerel (Aji) featured superb flavours, but the rice was dry, this time. Very very dry. Again, at times,  the temperature and doneness of the rice was out of control as it was the case here. As well as with the Ebi. 9/10 for the fish, 0/10 for the rice of that nigiri.

 

-Hairy crab (kegani) from Hokkaido, boiled then shredded crab  flesh mixed with aged vinegar (from Japan).  You can see that the Chef is afraid of shocking non Japanese palates as here, he did refrain from mixing it with the guts of the crab (which is what Japanese do, oftently). This was still tasty as you would expect crab meat to be.  6/10

 

-Japanese pen shell (Tairagai) – only its  adductor is consumed.  The flesh firm, the taste not as sweet as the Japanese scallop. I was afraid that  the grilling method (which was used here) would diminish the pleasure of eating the Tairagai as its flesh is naturally packed  with lots of umami that is better enjoyed when eating it raw. But this was still delicious. 7/10

-Sushi is of course the rice (shari). Vinegared rice, that is. Served mostly at  body  temperature during this meal, the seasoning of the red vinegar (Akazu)  expressing a mild flavor that was delicious, but sometimes the rice was dry, sometimes it would crumble under barely no pressure, etc. A sushiya of this caliber should ensure that does not happen.

-As it is customary at virtually all the fine sushiyas of NYC, the wasabi is of the fresh grated sort. A world away from the   toothpaste greeny crap that passes as wasabi at most of the sushi shops across Canada.

 

Tamago – The tamago – Japanese  egg omelet made of  eggs – here had a pudding texture. Perfectly legit (there is not just one version of the tamago) but those who did practice with this type of tamago vs many other versions of it will know that this —technically — is the easiest rendition of the tamago and would pass as unidimensional compared to , say, the version done at mizutani/sawada or even the one that Sushi Azabu did craft during my last visit there. It is nice, it is tasty, but it is not the most complicated tamago to craft.

Pros:  The cooked items, during this visit, were genuinely great. Not just good, but Great!

Cons: (1)The rice, during this meal, suffered from inconsistencies that should not be experienced at a sushiya of this reputation as I railed at, all along this review (2) The big majority of the classic sushiyas in Japan and abroad have long figured out a way to trust the palate of their Non-Japanese clientele by offering to that crowd most of the exotic items that they do also offer to their Japanese patrons . During this meal, I felt as if the Chef thought that we were still in the 1990s when the Gaijin was starting to discover edomae style sushi and could therefore not appreciate the plethora of exotic pieces that can be found at a classic sushiya. It certainly did not help that he was feeding, at times, his Japanese patrons with exotic pieces of seafood all along this meal while the Non-Japanese crowd had to content themselves with the basic / common food items of edomae style sushi as well as some few mundane/safe variants on them. Chef, you seem young, humble and very amicable, indeed, but we are in 2019 and at the big majority of the Edomae styled sushiyas, the Non-Japanese fans of edomae style sushi are, by now, accustomed to most of the exotic food you seem to think that they will not be able to enjoy. That is not a concern anymore since…a very long time!!

 Bottom line: Lots of great potential here (the superb flavours of some of the cooked  food items sampled during this meal would be a tough act to follow even for an elite sushiya in Japan. For my taste, the cooked food took the cake.) but they need to fix the inconsistencies of the rice that I found during this meal and start trusting the Non-Japanese palates.  Overall food rating by the elite Sushi standards of NYC: 7/10 (The inconsistencies of that  rice should not happen at this level. And the work of the rice is …obviously…the most important aspect at a sushiya….)   Service: 8/10. Sushi Amane Addr: 245 E 44th St, New York, NY 10017 Phone: (212) 986-5300

 

JeJu Noodle Bar, New York
Type of food: Korean Noodle
Addr: 679 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10014, United States
Phone number (646) 666-0947
URL: http://jejunoodlebar.com/

Many hard-to-please and knowledgeable Korean gastronomes seem to have been pleasantly surprised by JJNB.
It serves Korean noodle soup  , primarily (the famous instant noodles that the Koreans are familiar with, since their tender childhood, but here it is  of the  ”freshly made” type that they get specially made for them and that they  do elevate into refined dishes of their own inspiration) . Their Head Chef/owner, Chef Douglas Kim,   told the medias that he never made noodle soup before. Instead, he has enjoyed an enviable career at celebrated restaurants such as Per Se, Bouley, Nobu and Zuma before stepping out to helm his own Noodle restaurant. The Chef said to the medias that he , I quote —”’  gains  inspiration from Korean dishes but that he is doing his own interpretations of them ” – . He could not have been more explicit.

I ordered some of their most popular dishes:

So Ramyun (I did order this for a take out, therefore  I did not take its picture), made of veal broth (that is blanched, then boiled throughout an entire day ) , garnished with “Soo Yuk” brisket (brined for several days before it is cooked), scallion, pickled garlic and garlic oil.   Koreans do have a cuisine that is  rich and complex in its nuances. As an example, take their soups . Studying their soups is like discovering an exciting library of information on its own. Therefore, it is interesting to see a Chef who focuses on one specific aspect of  this  complex cuisine (if you think that  Korean cuisine is simple, then it is obvious that you are limiting your assessment of this cuisine to the meat that you went  grilling at a Kbbq and  have not cooked it yourself). With this ramyun, most South Koreans will  feel in   familiar territory with a flavor profile that will remind them of a more concentrated and refined  version of their beloved seolleongtang, an  ox bone soup  very popular in South Korea. Here, the veal replacing the ox, obviously. This Chef seems to insist on a  flavour profile that is as genuine as it gets 11,046 km away from the motherland. As genuine as it is possible to be, of course, as anyone who is truely knowledgeable about food would know that water, soil, the geographical area are just a fraction of the factors that can’t make the same dish tasting …..the same in two countries that are that distant geographically. 8/10

 

Toro Ssam Bap featured super fresh tasting Toro (fatty part of the tuna, found in the belly portion of the fish) , scrambled egg, tobiko rice, that you wrap in toasted seaweed roll, the seaweed replacing, here, the traditional leafy vegetables that Korean would use to wrap (Ssam) a piece of meat  or other filling. Combining rice and proteins rarely fails to be enjoyable and this was no exception, but what did interest me here was the different techniques involved and how successful they were (the perfect texture of the scambled eggs, the judicious seasoning, the precise cooking of the rice, etc). A distracted eye and palate would look at a dish like this and would hastily suggest that “”bah..it is just rice and raw fish”, but there was way more than that.  This came  with pickled daikon that revealed some serious pickling technique. The rice was deliciously seasoned to perfectly match  the tuna, and the scrambled eggs. I did also order some extra sea urchin that were of top quality and was another logical add-on to the dish. This was  well thought and tasted great. 8/10

 

Wagyu ramyun came with raw A4 grade miyazaki wagyu (which is 100% purebred Japanese Wagyu) that is sliced thinly, brisket, kikurage mushrooms,  enoki, chives, Baek-Kimchi (white kimchi), chared scallion oil, sesame oil and sesame. As you would have guessed it, from  its collection of ingredients, this was rich in flavor. Impressive genuine taste coming from the white kimchi element. I have been a passionate fan of Korean flavors for over 2 decades, by now, and it makes me upset  when Koreans try to please western palates by altering the genuine flavor profile of such jewel of International  cooking like the Kimchi. I was therefore impressed to see that this Chef  is  keeping the core flavors of South Korean cuisine alive. The white kimchi bringing necessary acidity, the earthy mushrooms, toasty flavors coming from the sesame as well as the rich meat flavor were nice balanced. A contemporary and luxurious take on the Korean Ramyun  that refused to leave the core Korean flavours at bay. 8/10

Mul Hwe (which I forgot to photograph as I was discussing with another diner) –  Basically,  Hwe is  sashimi (fresh raw fish or meat sliced thinly)  —here, using 4 different types of seasonal raw fishes –  that the Koreans serve with side dishes such as pickles, tempura, etc. Here, in the kitchen, they did assemble all of those elements into one ‘salad’ if you wish, made it lighter than the traditional version and elevated it with  a splash of citrus, combining ingredients such as perilla, fresno chili, red onion. 8/10

 

Gochujang Bokum (Not pictured as I ordered it  it for take out) served with marinated ragu Beef, Iceberg lettuce, Nori, Pickled mustard and rice – I am a huge fan of the Gochujang, one of the core ingredients of Korean cooking. It is red chile paste made of fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, salt, and sometimes sweeteners.  The kitchen using it to make their beef ragu in this instance. 8/10

Prices are steep but the quality is  good and the portion sizes of the soups are sufficient.

Bottom line: The Chef/owner  is obviously proud of the genuine flavours of his motherland and I appreciate that. His kitchen brigade  was also successful at  using  plenty  of ingredients that always  felt complementary.   The Noodles are freshly made (the instant noodle texture is preserved) , cooked to proper soft and chewy consistency, the flavours enjoyable and delicately balanced, the creativity is there and it is true that they are doing things their own way –as an example, the kimtchi is traditionally fermented, but here, they do brine it instead —  but never at the expense of the traditional Korean flavours where and when need be. Overall rating (Category: Korean Noodle in NYC), 8/10 for the food, 8/10 for the service. To top it off, you have the pretty Hudson river nearby.

 

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