Posts Tagged ‘new york’

The cooking at Le Coucou (Addr: 138 Lafayette St, New York; Phone +1 212-271-4252) has been making headlines around New York  since the  opening of the restaurant in June 2016, with rave reviews  from New York’s major sources of information on their local restaurants: Time Out New York, New York Times, Zagat, Forbes, The Infatuation, Grubstreet, Village Voice and the Wall Street Journal. The Chef , Daniel Rose from Chicago, was an apprentice at Bruneau, when the restaurant was bestowed with 3 Michelin stars (Bruneau  has a sole Michelin star nowadays)  and trained under the supervision of 3 star Michelin Chef   Yannick Alleno (Yannick now owns a duo of 3 star Michelin restaurants in France,  Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen as well as Le 1947 in Courchevel) . Daniel, who  also owns successful restaurants Spring and Chez la vieille in Paris, is offering Classic French cooking at Le Coucou.

I wanted to visit Le Coucou since a  long time, but it is a very popular restaurant and snatching a seat for dinner, here,  can be a bit tricky (they start taking reservations at midnight, 28 days prior to the day you want to book). For pictures of the interior, click here.  Everything else that you need to know about the restaurant is concisely described in this Zagat’s post, therefore I will focus on the food I was sampling.

Here are the food items we did order:

Oysters from Washington DC /seaweed butter – fresh maritime flavor. This, although pleasant, its sourcing great, its execution without reproach…was not going to help me understanding the hype about Le Coucou. 6/10

Endives/ham – Endives salad, with dried Iberico ham, served with a grapefruit vinaigrette. A superlative vinaigrette with fresh acidity and vibrant flavor of the sort that many restaurants have long forgotten about. That vinaigrette, as well as the rest of the condiments will be showered with praises, deservedly so, but the overall salad, although enjoyable, was not going to leave any lasting impression. Upon finishing this dish, all I had in mind, is the picture of Le coucou, that small unimpressive bird…though, do not get me wrong: the endives and oysters were made by a competent kitchen brigade, I am not denying that. But in light of the hype, I was expecting more. 6/10

I chose the veal tongue / golden ossetra caviar / creme fraiche – a thick slab of veal tongue, firm in consistency, with, of course, some room for proper chew. This is how a certain generation of French used to prefer their veal tongue. A feeling of a bistrot of la ´France rurale’. I appreciate that Daniel brought such memories back. 8/10 for the quality veal tongue, 10/10 for the dazzling (and pertinent, to this dish) homemade creme fraiche (it is rare for a creme fraiche at a top French table, in North America, ​to be packed with such exciting lactic freshness).

My girlfriend did opt for the Lobster salad, lettuce – on the side a dazzling lobster sauce mixed with egg yolk. 10/10 for that sauce. Perfectly well grilled small piece of tasty quality lobster. 7/10 for the lobster. Hard to tell when you look at the picture above, but there was a big lettuce, next to a tiny piece of lobster ..and that did not sit well with me (quite a weird sight, I found). May as well call it “lettuce salad” …. “avec un soupcon de queue de homard” ….

Lamb rack, egg plants, tomatoes stuffed with “choulder and chard” – faultless cooking with requested medium-rare doneness achieved successfully, quality lamb from Colorado, first-rate lamb jus sauce (mixed with red wine). 8/10 for the lamb, 10/10 for that exciting lamb jus. Clearly, this saucier is crazy … ;)

Prime filet of beef/bone marrow jus/oxtail potatoes – served with a dazzling sauce bordelaise (10/10), the filet mignon of superb quality (8/10),

Braised oxtail / potatoes boasting superlative textures and flavor. This would NOT be out of place at  a serious classic French 3 star Michelin table (10/10).

Cheeses (Aretheusa Blue, O’bannon Goat, Overjarige gouda, Hooligan, Red Hawk) of good quality, from several parts of the US as well as abroad, all served with a first rate sauce of plum/ porto. When sauces are done this well, all I can say is that “you are a first-rate french restaurant”!

Wine service and selection is of prime mention, here.

For desserts, we had:

Riz au lait (rice pudding) — My idea of the perfect riz au lait is the one that Bistrot Le Casse -Noix did serve me, years ago, in Paris. When it comes to the rice pudding, I do not like too many extra ingredients. At le Coucou, Le riz au lait comes with extra ingredients: chartreuse, pistachio. This rice pudding was still enjoyable with one flavor profile that some French of a certain generation will remember, only it is revisited and was well made (6/10)

Roasted pineapple is a simple dessert, consequently there is no shortage of decent roasted pineapples at good restaurants. What’s rare, though, are roasted pineapples that stand out. For some reason, the equation roasted pineapple=quality pineapple+dazzling flavors is an equation that is not taken as seriously as it should by many kitchen brigades. Mind you, who is going to blame a Chef, in the west, for not losing a sleep over some tropical fruits? Le Coucou is one rare restaurant, in the west, that does not underestimate that aspect, as the pineapple that they did use seemed to have been carefully hand picked at its optimal stage of ripeness. The roasted pineapple was served  with a yellow chartreuse sorbet and a touch of olive oil. This roasted pineapple was packed with memorable fruity aromas, a benchmark of its kind (10/10)

We also had a technically flawless  chiboust (impossibly light and delicate), with well judged meringue to pastry cream ratio. 9/10

As well as a coconut financier  with exciting fresh coconut flavor. The coconuts are from the Caribbean and are grated for their  financier. The sourcing of the coconut was not an afterthought, the technique of high level (9/10).  The talented Pastry Chef Daniel Skurnick, who worked previously for some of this globe’s best restaurants (The River Café, Jean-Georges)  is their current Pastry Chef.

Pros: First-rate updated French sauces. A meal as well as an overall dining experience with many highlights!
Cons: For my pineapple juice, may I suggest that you use that same outstanding pineapple you did use to make the ananas roti? Also:  c’mon folks…..that lobster / lettuce menu item…I mean…c’mon, that is more “coucou” the unimpressive bird than a “crowned eagle” …Lol.

The hospitality standards are up there with what the grand tables of this planet have to offer, minus the heavy decorum that can be found in some houses. The restaurant has a tiny but prettily decorated bar at the entrance. On the wall of that bar (you cannot sit there, btw), a painting that will remind you of Provence. It is the kind of bars you see in movies. The rest of the decor is lavishly styled, with chandeliers, candles on every table, large glass windows, vaulted ceiling, a modern open kitchen.

Overall food rating: 9/10 Hey, mon Coucou, I have no clue if your sauces are always as dazzling as on the evening of my visit, but with sauces of this caliber… , I am flying, too!!!

Bottom line: I made it difficult for Le Coucou. I went there on a Monday, generally a quiet evening, when the best cooks of a kitchen brigade tend to stay at home. I decided not to take their most popular dishes (pike quenelles, tout le lapin, bourride). I brought my girlfriend, a hard-to-please diner. And the star Chef, Daniel Rose was not present. When the meal started, I was certain that I was going to corner the bird and accuse it of not living up to its hype. The oysters and anchovies were fine, but given the hype, they did not deliver the emotions we came for, therefore I was determined to “pluck the feathers” of the bird. But Le coucou fought back, and the bird went on cruising at exceptional altitudes. By the time the beef filet and carre d’agneau arrived at our table, the bird was out of reach, really high in the skies. Then the desserts were served, and I received a note, falling from the sky “coucou, I am not… I am actually a crowned eagle, ca te va? ” Crowned eagle, you are, buddy! Can’t agree more. Ca me va! Hype is always too much, oftently impossible to live up to, but Le Coucou deserves its reputation. It is, right now, a destination restaurant serving some of the very best French fares outside of France. And it happens to have an interior that is very easy on the eyes.

What I think weeks later: Daniel Rose is a TRUE / REAL Chef. You know you are dealing with a REAL Chef when his absence is not felt at all. That is because GREAT Chefs will never leave a kitchen in the hands of poorly trained cooks. I have no clue where Daniel was, on that evening, but if he happened to be at a bar, in the carribbean, sipping a pina colada while I was dining at his restaurant..I swear, I would take a plane, right away, fly to his hideaway and thank him…which, if you have read this blog, is not my normal reaction in such circumstance. Lol. But that is the thing: Daniel is a GREAT Chef! Michelin, please continue to stay away…Le Coucou is a bird that is great, the way it is right now, free from the ridiculous rules that have killed so many talents. Please, please …  DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, dear Michelin! Go elsewhere. Lol

 

 

 

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong (1 East 32nd street, New York, NY 10016, Phone: 212-966-9839) is the most popular kbbq spot in NYC, with long waits,  although at lunch time on a weekday, you can get in easily. The popularity of Baekjeong is such that, when celebrities need their fix of Kbbq, in town, they eat here. Baekjeong and Dons Bogam were the only Kbbq restaurants that I have not visited yet in NYC, therefore I went trying both of them. My review of Dons Bogam can be found here.

For the bbq, I chose two  meats: their marinated short rib as well as the seasoned prime short rib. The marinade is good, but the quality of the beef was passable during my lunch, there.  Let’s politely put it this way:  what they call prime quality beef, is not what other kbbq eateries in NYC would call prime. Both the marinated short rib and seasoned prime short ribs did nothing for me, because quality meat was missing in action here, which was unfortunate because the marinade was fine.

Banchans (side dishes that are served with your bbq meats) came in the form of:

-Pickled radish: pleasant, but no more. The pickling lacking depth. This was a world away from the superbly well mastered pickling technique that can be found, right here in NYC, at other Korean restaurants. 5/10

-Marinated cucumber. the marinating technique coming with the same issues that came with the pickling of the radish. 5/10

-Kimchi cabbage: again, and again ordinary / not fully complex in flavors. Kimchi can be eventful, but you would never know that, had this kimchi been your sole reference. 5/10

-A piece of tofu, which nice custardy softness I enjoyed. 6/10

There was also some shredded scallions, some raw egg batter that slowly cooks as your meat is grilling (this is always a fun idea at a kbbq), as well as their secret sauce (I am not a fan) to be mixed with your pieces of barbecued meats in the relevant wrapping lettuce.

Remembering the superb fried dumplings at the nearby Dons Bogam, I ordered some, here, for the sake of comparison: These were tasty, and I loved their non-refined appearance, but they were not in the league of the fried dumplings of  Dons. 6/10

Pros: the energy of the place (Fun, fun fun!)
Cons: Most of the food (at the exception of the fluffy steamed egg and pleasant tofu) was forgettable. C’mon folks, at a Kbbq, the meat and the banchan need to leave an impression, …… obviously!!

Overall food rating: 5/10 Culinary-wise, this got nowhere near the best Kbbqs I had in NYC…and the food at Baekjong was marginally cheaper, btw!

Bottom line: Surprisingly (given the showers of praises, online, and its popularity) , this meal at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong did not live up to the hype. It is a very popular location, and many celebrities are big fans of it (they have several pics of celebrities in the restaurant), but that seems to be just an indication of how popular and fun the place is. It is fun, indeed, the waitstaff super friendly, but … I need the food to be part of the party, too.

Sushi Azabu, New York

Posted: February 8, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Sushi Azabu, New York
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 1428 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013, USA
URL: http://www.sushi-azabu.com/
Phone: +1 212-274-0428
Type of cuisine: Japanese (mainly a sushiya serving traditional Edo-Mae sushi)

01 In NYC, you have Masa, which according to their local sushi experts,  is on top of the roof of their top tier sushiyas. Then, you have their other elite sushiyas , such as Nakazawa,  Yasuda, Azabu, 15 East. I tried Yasuda (I was missing the superb knife skills as well as the superior  work of the textures that I better enjoyed at other sushiyas in Nyc) and 15 East (I find Azabu better, in comparison, but 15 East had couple of noteworthy food items)  in 2015. Never tried Nakazawa, Masa and Jewel Bako. It is NYC, so keep in mind  that the price tag (therefore the cost performance, especially in comparison to what you can get in Japan at equal cost) will oftently be the issue.

I tried Azabu on Saturday Febr 4th 2017.
I picked the larger omakase and they fed my girlfriend on shrimp tempura and wagyu beef steak
The 1st course comprising of a piece of amberjack and salmon:
02Marinated Amberjack was seasoned exquisitely. As expected, from a kitchen of this quality, the marinating technique is flawless, its timing well judged. It came with a delicious piece of mushroom. (9/10)
03Smoked salmon boasted vibrant texture, the quality fish expressing plenty of complex joyous flavors 9/10
05Then an array of seafood items composed of octopus  (8/10 superb chew and texture), A first-rate piece of perfectly tenderized  abalone  which kept its maritime flavor at the forefront (9/10), amberjack and fluke and shrimp of impeccable quality. The wasabi is freshly grated wasabi root imported from Japan. This was a first-rate collection of sushis, even by the standard of a mid level sushiya in Tokyo.
06My current girlfriend  ordered some shrimp tempura which she had nothing to complain about.  I can see how extraordinarily lighter such  batter could be in the hands of a specialist of the tempura, but Azabu is a sushiya, not a specialist of the tempura, and the batter was still very well executed, the tempura light and tasting delicious,  (8/10).

07She also had her wagyu  beef steak, which was fine but both her and myself do regard wagyu as a (generally) vastly overrated meat. The finest Wagyu I had in Japan have  not changed my opinion about that, as already debated here.

08My tasting menu continued with some utterly fresh uni from Hokkaido  –the firmer bafun uni on the left, the creamier murasaki on the right — as tiny as I remember them from the last time I had them in Japan. As explained elsewhere on this blog, I prefer some of the sea urchin from the mediterranea and California. But Hokkaido’s uni are among world’s best, for sure, with, this time, the murasaki standing out for its sweeter flavor. Sometimes, it is the bafun uni that can be the sweetest of the two 8/10
09Then a tasting of  lean, medium fatty and  torched fatty tuna. The quality, high, as expected. This, too, would not be out of place at a serious mid level sushiya in Tokyo. 8/10
10King crab miso – the flavor and aroma of this particular miso preparation lifting up the flavor of the grilled crab remarkably well. Eventful 8/10
11Then the “Chef’s choice of nigiris” featuring flawless sea urchin/tuna/scallop/salmon/salmon roe/squid/wagyu beef. The fish sliced with precision (even world class Sawada was caught with one or two pieces that were imprecisely sliced ..and that happened at other highly regarded sushiyas of NYC, too), the rice served at body temperature (my preference), the proper pressure applied to the relevant rice/topping combination, the rice not overseasoned, i.e., not too vinegary.  The sushi rice, which subtle  sweet and umami flavor notes went so well with the toppings,  is  from Tsuyahime from Yamagata prefecture. Again, even for a mid level sushiya  in Tokyo, this would be excellent. 9/10
12As part of the previous Chef’s selection of  nigiris, there was also a piece of tamago that I did regard as a benchmark of its kind. I liked it so much that I ordered 3 of them. As I wrote elsewhere on this blog, even some of the  best mid level sushiyas of Tokyo did not always deliver tamago that have impressed me, although the tamago will always be a matter of personal taste given the different types of tamago you will find at sushiyas. Either the umami flavor is  more present, or it is balanced with the sweet taste of the tamago,  or its focus is on the eggy flavor, etc.  I am fonder of the sweet kind of tamago. Azabu’s tamago is of the sweet kind, executed with great finesse, the fresh eggy aroma exciting on the palate, sweet like the one I had at sushi mizutani, as technically well crafted, but bigger in size and which I much preferred  (eventhough Mizutani’s featured a more complex set of nuanced flavors and  eggs of surreal quality) 10/10
13A miso that is a first-rate version of its kind, the taste enriched by the subtle nuances of the remarkable kind of miso they are using. (10/10)
14We ended the meal with some flawlessly textured home made green tea ice cream (for me) and an equally excellent Mochi and Vanilla / chocolate ice cream for her (9/10). I ordered the Mochi for my girlfriend to introduce her to the importance of textures in food for the Japanese.  There was a strawberry that came with her dessert, but I forgot to ask if it also came from Japan. The last time I was in Japan, I did try some of their most celebrated (consequently expensive) strawberries and left unimpressed. They tasted as good as any strawberry anywhere else on planet earth (which is exactly how this one at Azabu tasted like, too).
Pros: Azabu deserves to be considered among NYC’s top tier sushiyas. It is also a proper 1 star Michelin sushiya outside of Japan. Its does not have the tsukiji market in its vincinity but they import their fish from Japan. The knife as well as overall cooking skills  is strong for this  category of  sushiya (comparable to a respectable mid level sushiya if this would be in  Tokyo), the tiny space so cozy, the service genuinely hospitable.
Cons: N/A
15Food rating (categ: top tier sushiya in NYC) 8/10 – Top shelf sushiya in its category.  Just remember that there are two seatings per night (we had our table available till  08:30 pm, therefore i presume that the first seating  is from 05:30pm till 08:30 pm) and that its sushis are of the classic sort  (no experimental sushi here).
What do I think days later: One of the foodie friends who has recommended Azabu told me to expect excellent sushi but not unparralleled one. Azabu was exxellent, indeed,  as they fed me, up to now, with some of the best sushis that I ever had in NYC. As ever, restaurants do sometimes change some items on their menus, as I noticed, in old online reviews, that they once had a tamago similar to a creme brulee at Azabu. I doubt that such tamago would have the same impact as this tamago that deserved my praises, but I can only talk about the food they served me, of which I admired the precise slicing of the fish and assured technique in virtually everything (marinating, smoking, coaxing delicious flavors, etc). Based on what I came to expect from a 1 star Michelin sushiya outside of Japan, Azabu did impress by not sticking to a safe/correct performance as it is so common at the big majority of eateries in North America. This was clearly the work of skilled Chefs with their personal imprint rather than some dudes replicating whatever someone else has asked them to simply replicate properly. Sushi Azabu also knows how to make the experience of a diner enjoyable, as, to take an example, there is no need for all parties of the same table to partake in a tasting menu. I can have my tasting menu while my girlfriend enjoys whatever she wants to eat. And here, there was not one single rotten apple that happened to find his way in the service with the sole intent of ruining your appreciation of the dining experience and the superb work of the rest of his team  as it was the  case during my last visit at another 1 star Michelin, Torishin. Was my foodie friend right when he mentioned that Azabu was not unparralled? If you find a 1 star Michelin that is unparralled, then it is a 3 star Michelin. Lol.  Unparralled is what you should expect at a 3 star Michelin, not 1, and yet a fraction of the 3 stars are unparralled. I loved sushi Azabu.

sh01Strip House Steakhouse is considered as one of the very best steakhouses of New York by the big majority of the city’s  most serious  steakhouse connoisseurs, some of them even  considering the steaks more flavorful at Strip House than at the legendary Peter Luger. It would be a nonsense to eat an average piece of steak in the Mecca of North American style steakhouses, New York, so I did a lot of searches and Strip House ended up ranking high on my list of steakhouses to try in New York.

West coast met East coast in a platter of perfectly well shucked quality oysters, with a dazzling mignonette, and an equally dazzling home made sauce, some tabasco. Oysters have to be great at a steak house of this reputation and they were. Where I needed them to excel was in their homemade sauce and mignonette. They did. 7/10

Lobster bisque , maine lobster, pearl couscous tasted enticingly of fresh lobster flavor, which it has to, indeed. It paled a bit, though, in comparison to the finer lobster bisque that could come from a fine French restaurant (its way-too-thick texture just not as refined, the flavor just not as complex) but that was to be expected at a steak house. 6/10

sh05Filet mignon was the pick of my girlfriend. She thought that the  char was not necessary for a filet mignon (well…honey, it is a North American steakhouse, lol!! Not a French restaurant …) but thought that it tasted fine enough. 6/10

 

sh02 The strip  is their signature steak , but I went for my preferred cut , the bone-in rib eye. The USDA prime meat is wet-aged for at least 21 days.  I usually prefer the effect of a 35 to 40 days dry-aged cut, which was not the case of this steak I was having.  They use a 1800 degree broiler to cook the steak and coat it with olive oil and pepper and that allowed for a nice tasty brown crust. I chose the 20 oz bone-in rib eye . Not much to say about my steak, as a steak house of this quality will usually get the requested doneness right (medium rare to my request), the meat certainly well sourced. Which is exactly what happened here. But the 20  oz bone in rib eye is wet aged, and for someone like me who has long embraced the hype of the dry aged meat, this wet aged piece left no impression (just not enough umami sensation on the palate, just not as meaty and flavorful, I find). Great char, nice  salt and pepper rub, though. Still…game, set and match: dry aged meat wins, for my taste. 6/10

sh03Crisp goose fat potatoes came in the form of a big croquette (6/10), quality asparagus retained a superb crunch (good, but somehow Wolfgang does a tastier rendition)

 

sh04Creamed spinach was fine, but I found the one at Peter Luger a tad more exciting in mouth. Still, this was tasty and had an enticing cheesy-alike taste that I kinda liked. 6/10

Ice cream and sorbet were good,  coffee (Rwanda single origin) was watery and not as flavorful as its enticing description (Silky body, lemon acidity, notes of pineapple and dark chocolate)  may suggest.

Pros: A classy steakhouse, with superb service and its own cachet
Cons: No serious quibble to raise, but as a diner you need to know that they have wet aged as well as dry aged cuts. If, like me, your ideal North American style steak is a 40 days expertly dry aged bone in 2″ inch thick 20 oz cut, then their 20 oz bone in rib eye is not what you are looking for. But they have other steaks that are dry aged such as the 14oz rib eye, 14oz new york strip, porterhouse for two.

Bottom line: a service and an overall dining experience that far surpassed what I have experienced at Peter Luger and Wolfgang. However, they need to fix the issue of the watery coffee. It is easy to make great coffee, so no excuse there. On the topic of the food, I was not blown away. True. But it would be accurate to underline  that no wet aged steak has ever impressed me, so,  obviously,  just a matter of personal taste. 6/10 as an overall rating  for the sides (fine sides, though a tad less impressive than at Wolfgang, for the sake of comparison). I won’t rate the steak – it was a perfectly well executed steak of the wet aged sort, but wet aged  steaks  are not my cup of  tea. 10/10 for the service and overall dining experience.

 

 

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Marea, New York
Michelin stars: 2
Addr: 240 Central Park S., New York, NY 10019
URL: http://www.marea-nyc.com/index.php/
Phone:  212-582-5100
Type of cuisine: (Their contemporary version of)  Italian cuisine .

MAREA 01Widely known as one of NYC’s  best Italian restaurants, celebrated for its homemade handmade  pasta dishes (some of the best in the country, according to NSE  ) ,  Marea is situated in Manhattan. They offer what is  more accurately their contemporary take (refined,  small portions) on Italian cuisine, with combinations of ingredients that are not always traditionally Italian (cheese and seafood, to take an example) but the fundamentals of Italian cooking are never too far.

What we ate:

3The trio of crudo (big eye tuna, long island fluke, pacific jack mackerel) ,  top quality raw ingredient.  they did  avoid the mistake of overseasoning them. 8/10

4 ZUPPA – almond and watercress soup, seppia, shrimp, roasted peppers. It had  everything a great soup needs: acidity, sweetness, texture, enticing flavors. Complex in a highly enjoyable way 8/10

2Gnochetti, ruby shrimp, chilies, rosemary. properly rendered consistency  (to the tooth) of the pasta , the chilies not too hot, which was a good idea as to add an extra layer of flavor without the distracting (unecessary) piquancy, the ruby shrimp not a serious challenger to some of the far more delicious shrimps of the mediterannea but the overall is tasty and well executed. I could not fault this dish, I could not fault one single dish of this entire meal, actually …BUT   in comparison to   other 2 Michelin star Italian meals that I had elsewhere a 7/10 would be a fair rating (what would it take to score this dish with a higher rating? A sauce that’s spectacular as I have enjoyed at plenty of other Italian restaurants. This one was great. Just not supremely delicious.

1 Tagliata – creekstone farms sirloin, bone marrow  panzanella, braised romaine. / the sirloin seasoned exquisitely,  their take on the bread and tomatoes panzanella salad a good idea …but time and again I could not stop thinking about how dazzling this entire meal would have been with produce as spectacular as what can sometimes be found in some parts of Italy. 7/10

 

5Polipo / octopus –  I had octopus a tad more remarkable than this (meaning with bolder maritime flavor) , in North America, but this was of really  good quality,  the seasoning enticing , it had an ideal chewy consistency (enough firmness to remind ourselves that this is octopus, and not a jellyfish but also  tender enough for proper enjoyable chew).   7.5 /10

 

6PANNA COTTA  – sicilian pistachio panna cotta, raspberry , rhubarb rose granita as well as a bit of  aniseed. This was fine, rather than dazzling, panaccotta (had the pistachio flavor been more expressive and the taste a tad richer, I would call it “dazzling” instead of “fine…BUT expressive pistacchio flavor would clash with flavors of raspberry and rose granita…so instead of the pistachio flavor, use something else that you can easily pair with the rest ).  Still …, a fair 7/10

7SORBETTI blood peach, apricot, strawberry balsamic – Sorbetti were excellent even by fine sorbetti  standards in Italy. The suggestion that sorbetti are better in Italy is oftently a fabrication of the mind. In North America, there are sorbetti  that are as good and this is one perfect example of just that  9/10

 

PROS: Marea does what it takes, in light of what we are accustomed to in North America…to deserve its accolades – nothing to fault here, not extravagant but tasteful contemporary interior,  great service.

CONS: However great the ingredients  – and great  they are at Marea (by North American standards),  it would take the finer ingredients of some parts of Italy ………AND  a  sense to make food taste extraordinary for me to understand the shower of raves on Marea.

Verdict:  An 8/10 by  the standards of  Contemporary Italian cuisine in North America  ..SO NOT  to be compared to my ratings of places like, to take an example,  Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan —  a two star Michelin too —  which would, with no doubt  be a 10/10 in my books if it was in NYC.  We are in a completely different set of expectations …) – But a 7.5/10 when I compare it to the 2 Michelin star Italian food I had elsewhere (Michelin star is international, so I believe that is fair to also assess Marea against the 2 star Michelin food found outside of North America ).   I am ignorant about many cuisines (Brazilian, Romanian, etc) , but Italian, French, most African / Asian /Carribean cuisines are food that I have patiently mastered/familiarized myself with and cooked for decades.  By familiarizing myself with I mean …learning from those in the know, the Moms and Pops and NOT by watching food shows on TV or following recipes 0n the web. So, I know what I need to expect from such food. From Italian food, I expect the most (perfecting the simple texture of your pasta or risotto, pulling off superb flavors  ) from the least (simple/ classic combinations of  ingredients).  Of this lunch at Marea, I saw no evidence of perfected textures and the sort of dazzling flavors I came to expect, at times,  from some other 2 star Michelin offering Italian food, but   there was nothing to fault neither, and the food is certainly really good by  Italian upmarket restaurant standards in North America, though, not peerless by those same standards —).

 

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Event: Dinner at Peter Luger
Addr: 178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211-6131
Phone: (718) 387-7400
Type of cuisine: American Steakhouse
Time/Date: Saturday Febr 23rd 2014, 18:00
URL: http://www.peterluger.com
Michelin star: 1

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

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

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

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

PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms (the classic setting), its relative weaknesses (obviously, not a modern trendy fancy steakhouse so  if that’s what you are looking for, you’ve knocked at the wrong door + it’s not cheap) , its own character (old world charm). You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, then you look elsewhere. I am delighted  to observe that  PL  remains as it is, which means at it has always been, regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations: a classic house with personality.
I have read online arguments about PL being a tourist trap to some (100% pure BS! IMHO) , that they have suffered at some point from a shortage of Porterhouse, that they once had a matriarch who was second to none when it comes to selecting the finest meat and that perhaps her successors are not as diligent as she used to, but I have also spent 15 years in North America, enough time to familiarize myself  with most major NYC’s and USA’s steakhouses and came to the conclusion that if PL is a tourist trap, then the definition of tourist trap has evolved into a compliment. There’s no way a serious steak connoisseur  would confuse PL with a tourist trap. Has PL delivered the perfect Porterhouse steak on each of my 3 visits (I took the Porterhouse everytime I went there)? The answer is NO. On one particular visit, I could easily name  plenty of American steakhouses which Porterhouse was superior. But it’s naïve to attempt to convince oneself  about the definitive appreciation  to have of a  restaurant based on just one meal. You can judge the meal, which I do too and that is  fine, but not a restaurant. Which leads me to where I am getting at: on the two other visits, their Porterhouse outshone their major competitors by leaps with effective superior aging technique and far better sourcing of the meat. Are there steakhouses in NYC where I had more fun? Of course Yes. Are there better cost performance steakhouses?  Absolutely.  But again, ambience and better value have nothing to do with why I like Peter Luger: the quality of its Porterhouse!
CONCLUSION: 8/10 I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest American Porterhouse steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever.

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

I can’t manage — because of a lack of time —  the ‘comments’ section in timely manner. So, I’ll publish questions received by emails and that I found interesting to share with you.  Off topic comments will be discarded.

Q&A – Peter R says that if PL is a 1 star Michelin Steakouse, then Carnevino in Las Vegas is a 3 star  Answer: Peter, I never went to Carnevino but heard that it’s highly regarded in  Las Vegas as one of their finest Steakhouses alongside Cut.  It’s on my TDL,  for sure (there’s also Raku in LV that I would like to dine at).   That said,  are we comparing apples to apples here:  do they serve the Porterhouse cut at  Carnevino? Did you try it? As you’ll see in my food report, I was floored by the Porterhouse steak, not by the rest (side, desserts, etc) and it is  a fact that as an all-rounder steakhouse (for eg, with not just one type of steak but a variety of them being great, better sides, better ambience, etc ) , there is no shortage of superior steakhouses in the US.  But based on the quality of its Porterhouse,  I find PL to be deserving of its accolades. Furthermore, PL is not influenced by trends and that, for me, is the  key for a restaurant to keep its own character intact. It might not please hipsters, but it adds a lot to my appreciation of a food destination.

For a long time, I thought Montreal could not resume back with its once exciting restaurant/bar scene (remember when the London bar/Altitude 737/Dome  were hot spots, the amazing food destinations like Le Cube,Bronté etc), but the city seems to be back on track with some latest remarkable openings:

***Restaurant Le Serpent seems to be a popular choice in  your Mtl restaurant searches. In one week alone, 152 people were looking for it on current web blog (see below table from the visitor logs  on my site).  For sure, most foodie web sites attract thousands of searches, but those are backed by money, agressive advertisements  and close relationship to the restaurant world. The most genuine  feel is always to be found on  a blog that advertises nowhere,  backed by no one, which is the case of this   unassuming blog of mine which only intent is to share with close friends/relatives.

STATS

***Montreal has now a new hip place in the form of Bier Markt (same location where la Queue de Cheval used to be, on René Levesque). Went there recently and I thought I was in New York or any big city with an exciting nightlife scene. The atmosphere there is second to none in town, at this moment: incredibly fun, full of people. I haven’t tried the food yet, but the bar offerings are top class and the quality of the beer simply exemplary. BM sets the bar in Montreal for this genre of destinations (bar/5 to 7 gatherings, etc).

***Chef Junichi Ikematsu of Montreal’s number 1 Sushiya (Jun I, that I have reviewed here) has  now opened Saka -Ba, a ramen bar on Le Plateau.  Here, for more infos.  Saka-Ba! 1279 Mont-Royal East, Montréal – Tél. 514-507-9885

***Remember Chef Joe Mercuri (from Ex-Bronté – Bronté used to be, easily, among Montreal’s top 3 finest food destinations)? He made his return recently and has opened restaurant Mercuri in the Vieux Port. Another stellar addition after the return of Joe’s cousin, Chef Michelle Mercuri (see my review of Le Serpent). Restaurant Mercuri 1279 Mont-Royal East, Montréal Tél. 514-507-9885

***Marchand du Bourg‘s  Maitre boucher Marc Bourg continues his impressive rise to stardom with now plenty of restaurants using his steaks and a huge demand coming from all parts of the globe (Las Vegas, the Middle East, etc). Mr Bourg’s initiatives are one of the latest most exciting success stories of Quebec and this is well deserved from a man whose exceptional   dedication to the best steaks possible is matched only by few  Maitre boucher around the globe.  I already wrote about this great artisan here.  Simply the best steak in town at this moment.

***New York: NY is not far from Montreal, so I recently spent a weekend in  NY and see if  Peter Luger is still doing great especially after reports from some food journalists about PL losing a bit of its past glory. I was impressed to see that PL continues to deliver some of this globe’s finest steaks. The Porterhouse steak, their star item, remaining as glorious as ever. PL is what it is, not what you want it to be, which is exactly how things should work: it has its charms, its weaknesses, its own character. You learn to know what they are, if that pleases you, you go, if that does not fit, there you look elsewhere. I want PL to remain as it is regardless of the pressure that new trends put on our perceptions/appreciations.

***Michelin France 2014: It’s published and France has a new 3 star Michelin, L’Assiette Champenoise in Reims. There are changes that I  did not quite understand like the 1 star assignment of Septime in Paris, which I did visit on past  trips in Paris and was so unimpressed that I did not even bother writing about, the demotion of Apicius, Auberge de l’Ill, Stella Maris. Anyways, there are always going to be happy and unhappy ones, so I won’t lose time on trying to convince why those places should not have lost their stars. I just hope that we find a way to avoid  turning the back to the past (classic cooking should not be overlooked just because new generations of diners find new-gen flavors more exciting).

***Legendary  French Chef Marc Veyrat becomes the first triple-starred Michelin Chef to launch a food truck initiativehttp://www.mesbocaux.fr/

***Catalan celebrity Chef Ferran Adria is back in  the news with a  new  restaurant (named ElBulli 1846??)  in 2016 – Click here to learn more.

***Restaurant Pastis,  almost an institution of New York has sadly just closed recently. You can read more about that,  here.

***Legendary 3 star Michelin Maison Troisgros in Roanne, France will move to a new location (still in Roanne) in  2017.  Here, for more.