Posts Tagged ‘new york’

Sushi Azabu, New York

Posted: February 8, 2017 in Uncategorized
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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.

Restaurant: Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare
Brooklyn Fare, 200 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11217,
Phone:+1 718-243-0050
Type of cuisine: Contemporary Cosmopolitan (mostly seafood,  a bit like a ‘kaiseki’ meal, but eclectic)
Michelin stars: 3
Date and time:  Saturday August 24th, 2013  19:00

NO PHOTO RESTRICTIONNo picture and note taking, as/per the restaurant’s policies, —which are, to me, reasonable requests  — , do  indeed allow for a more enjoyable meal free of distractions. I was not there to review my meal neither. So I’ll go with my  general impression of my dinner, essentially focusing on the perceived subjective strengths and weaknesses of my meal..

The beauty with living in Montreal is that it is just a few hours drive away from New York, so  a short weekend there was the perfect excuse to re-try the stronghold of a Chef that I have admired since a long time (though, as you’ll see in my conclusion, I still do not agree with his current  3 star Michelin assignment) , Chef Ramirez (I am a big fan of Chef Ramirez since I first tried his cooking in his days at restaurant Tru in Chicago). This was only my second visit there in 3 years.

Food – 8/10 as an overall rating There were numerous  bite sized  courses. Sam Sifton’s following summary is the best way to describe what was on offer: ‘’’’ a luxe sushi bar, a meal at Momofuku Ko, and a course taken in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park, without being anything at all like any of those. The food is French and Japanese and Italian, combined’’.  The only thing he missed is that, with an eye for details, you will notice couple of strong touches of Nuevo latino cooking too.  In a nutshell, we  had plenty of seafood served at times in   sashimi style (nothing special, a 6/10 in view of what I’d expect from sashimis at a 3 star Michelin, though the quality of ingredient was high, as expected), sometimes paired along eclectically crafted mousses/ jellies (his play on textures is fun, a clin d’oeil at kaiseki style cuisine, but not exceptional, again…in view of what you’d expect from this level of dining),  Japanese rice mixed with sea-urchin to provide a risotto-like effect (creamy and delicious risotto that I liked a lot, comfortably an 8/10, an item that would have been a crowd pleaser at any level of dining, anyways), their now signature sea urchin/truffle combo atop a brioche (I doubt someone familiar with Japanese cuisine would be floored, but a western eye and palate will find it fun to look at, flavorful, nicely thought 9/10) , we also enjoyed a really well thought vegetable-flavored sorbet elevated by a pleasant citrusy tone(Spot on depth of flavor. On each of my two visits, I realized that Chef Ramirez work really well his vegetable-based  sorbet. Not only are they daring (audacious ingredient combinations), but they taste great as well as having fabulous texture. It’s a sorbet I know,  but he does them better than many. There’s something deeply ‘nuevo latino’ in this sorbet’s flavor profile a 8/10 at a 3 star Michelin table (the quality of sorbet / ice cream, etc is  obviously high at this level, enoughly high for this sorbet, as fabulous as it was, to be a very good sorbet, but no more), way more if we were trading  on 1 star Michelin grounds.). But he also incorporates, rethinks some American dishes too.  Quality of ingredient here is even superior to what most high end tables of this rank do mostly offer in North America. And for the amount of luxurious ingredients you are getting, you’ll pay more at other restaurants.  . Stunning ingredients, as he even reach out to Japan for some of his ingredients . Virtually no one is re-inventing the wheel when it comes to cooking, even at the highest levels of dining,   and with that in mind, I  find Chef Ramirez to express a beautiful inspired creativity. His combo of sea urchin and black truffle is not novel, but in his hands it continues to be  an appealing offering for this genre of dining style. That said, although fun and consistently well executed, this is certainly  no benchmark cooking performance  for  this style of contemporary cosmop craftsmanship, neither.

Décor/Ambience/welcoming: the stainless counter seating experience makes this place somehow ‘special’ among its 3 star Michelin peers. It’s  refreshing to have such intimacy between the diners, the Chef presence, the casual yet refined setting. On my two visits  here, I have never experienced with the reported challenging interraction with Chef Ramirez (http://ny.eater.com/archives/2010/10/commenters_go_nuts_for_the_brooklyn_fare_affair.php). To the contrary, he was mostly quiet, a shy person and it is pleasant to see a Chef not yelling at his sous chefs. A proof that you do not need to act stupid in order to be inspired. Perhaps  some find the  no photo taking, no note taking policies a bit brutal, but it does, at least, allow for  a very serene ambience. I had no problem at all with those rules. It certainly does not make fun blog reports, but I rather enjoy my meal this way –whenever I get the opportunity — rather than stopping at each course to either take a pic or write about the course. Not too sure how he’d react if I’d break the rules, lol, but I am an easy customer so I abide by the rules and just enjoy my food. In that regard, I’ve always enjoyed my meals here. The reservation process is the only aspect  I found a bit tough.

PROS: Find me one single restaurant, anywhere around the globe, at any echelon of the dining spectrum, that offers that many luxurious food items on such a long tasting menu at less than $300! Caviar, Sea urchin, truffles, top quality foie gras, and all I can tell you is that such meal, anywhere else, would easily cost three time what was paid. At some point, they will have no other choice but to charge more or offer less luxurious items. For now, as a customer, guess what ………………..I CAN’T COMPLAIN, LOL!
CONS: I go to  3 star Michelin restaurants  with the sole intent to experience  two very precise elements (of course, subjective as always), or one of them (1) a benchmark work of  the flavors and/or (2)a benchmark work of the textures. To achieve that, you oftenty need to spend years and years to perfect  that singled-out  food item.  Or you need an incredible culinary ‘genius’ with  amazing instinct (for eg, Chef Jacques Maximin in his heydays). None of that came out of my two dinners here, which is why, for me, it’s a place that I like, but not a place where I’d go for what I am looking for at a 3 Michelin standard of dining.

Chef Ramirez, a culinary genius? That seems to be an  opinion shared by many food journalists and food bloggers in New York, an opinion that I unfortunately do not share.  To be precise, Chef Ramirez has the sort of creativity that will surprise some diners, though not as many diners as what those food journalists/food bloggers would like to believe. For eg, if you travel a lot, you’ll quickly realize that he is really good at observing what is done abroad, learning from that  and trying his best to make something fun/interesting with his own sense of creativity. Inevitably, his work will offer nice little surprising touches to some. Now, awarding 3 star Michelin for what he is doing, I believe that’s a bit too much.  I can see how a Japanese itamae who has spent decades perfecting his craft in Tokyo, to take an example, would deserve a 3 star Michelin. I can see, how a young Chef like Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance), covering contemporary international cooking too, does, to some extent, fully deserve his 3 stars. There are extremely talented Chefs who are indeed crafting  Nuevo latino food  that is so remarkable that I would understand their eventual/potential 3 star assignment.  A Chef like Christian Bau is a a peerless icon  of  contemporary cosmopolitan haute dining, creating dishes of extreme and deep beautiful complexity and his 3 stars are a good example of what I can understand.  But Chef Ramirez –with all due respect — is not at  those levels, as far as I am concerned.

That said, there was undoubtly some strong skills and pretty presentations in each of the numerous small dishes that were served. At least, here, there’s a personal authoritative/personal imprint with a Chef who’s there,  hard at work and who has the courage to cover various cooking styles (a courageous risk, since everyone who has been in a kitchen knows that the only way to be the / or one of the / standard-bearer (s) in cooking is to stick to one style and perfect it forever).

Conclusion: As a 3 star Michelin destination, by now, you know what I think. As a Chef’s table, as a refreshingly different concept from what most of its peers are offering, this is indeed nice.

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 –Matt B asks if there’s any 3 star I find deserving of its rank on NYC? Answer:  Matt,  I think Per Se is the restaurant that gets closer to what most do expect from a 3 star Michelin destination. I personally do not understand the other 3 star Michelin NYC ratings, but again…that is just ME.