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

Tim Ho Wan is the celebrated dim-sum chain from Hong Kong that is taking NYC by storm. I tried their offshoot in Hell’s Kitchen.

While reading the online reviews about them, I noticed that many people do not realize that (1) however good it is, well …it is a chain, therefore it cannot provide you with the exclusive artisan craft that can only come from, guess who..an artisan Chef…obviously! (2) We are not in Hong Kong. So why expecting HK in NYC? Basics of the science of food= two geographical spaces, especially ones separated by oceans and continents, cannot have the same water, the same soil, etc. So food cannot taste the same, consequently…obviously! You also have the laws that regulate your food: you can bbq an animal alive in some countries, in the west, it is a big NO, etc (I am not saying that you can do that in HK, btw. That is not what I said. It was just an example about the laws regulating food and that can vary from one country to another. And that affects the taste of the food).

1.Steamed pork spare rib with black bean sauce. Superb bold flavours, the seasoning exciting as you should expect from this spare rib food item. Served piping hot / freshly cooked. Regardless of what their competitors do think, this is one of the better tasting steamed pork spare ribs in NYC. And if you still miss HK, then fly to HK, as simple as that! 7/10

2.Baked bbq pork buns – nice soft crunchy bun, freshly baked. The texture of the bun is reminescent of a “biscuit” rather than a “brioche”. Tasty filling of sweetened pulled pork that would have certainly expressed a bolder porky taste back in Asia. But this is in NYC, not HK, and the porky flavour is there, of course, but a tidbit less evident than with some other baked pork buns in HK (to the point that you could almost confuse this food item with a cake of date…somehow). This was tasty, of course, and you have plenty of taste sensations and textures going on: sweet, savory, crunchy, and crispy.  7/10

3.Steamed dumplings with shrimp and chives. Superb texture of the shell. Again, the seafood would have a bolder taste in HK, but this was tasty, competently prepared (not one single technical flaw) and certainly one of the better rendered dumplings of NYC! 8/10

I was reluctant to try THW as it is a chain (I prefer  solo operations) and I already had  my go-to dim-sum eateries  in NYC, with Hop Shing being a long time favourite of mine (I am a suck up for old school dim sum places), but Hop Shing is going a bit downhill, these days (Yes, the Char Shu Bao is still one of the best of NYC, but all the rest is not as great as they used to be), so I started to look around for other dim sum places. That is how I convinced myself to try THW.

Bottom line: I feel sorry for their direct local competitors, Lol, but THW is one of the better dumpling  shops of NYC. You can find more sophisticated dumplings in NYC, at some of the newer high end  restaurants (as an example, Hutong), but they are way too pricey. As for THW, I will re-iterate that I did not say that it is exclusive (obviously, it CANNOT… as I explained in the Intro). And I am not a fan  of their dish of dim sum chicken feet — which I tried on a 2nd visit  (they decided to do this differently from the classic  recipe but I prefer the classic recipe). Last but not least, if you insist on the quality of  the dim sum found on  the West Coast of the USA, do not waste your time here as NYC, as great as its food scene stands, its dim sum restaurants  are  not going to be a serious challenge to their counterpart of the West.  But in NYC,  this is  one of the best dim sum, in its price range. THW has it all: delicious food, fine service. Tim Ho Wan – Addr: 610 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036, United States; Phone: +1 212-228-2802; URL: http://timhowanusa.com

Minetta Tavern  is an iconic Gastro pub in Greenwich village. They are known for their Burger, the highly touted Black label burger, which is oftently promoted by NYC’s food critics as one of the very best in the city.

 

Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger comes with a  selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts, caramelized onions, pommes frites.  One of the celebrated burgers of NYC. But I caught it on a bad day, I am afraid:

-Did they achieve the ideal proportion of   bun/ patty /cheese/condiments? Nothing disproportionate, here. A highly marketed burger like this one was designed with the help of specialists (Chefs, Specialists of meats, etc) , so do not expect any non sense in that department.

-The bun? Not your beautifully textured bun.  But it was  technically properly made, as expected from such a highly marketed hamburger, with the bun having proper (rather than dazzling) soft density .

-The patty? Cooked medium rare exactly as I did request it. The flavour of the beef was there, for sure, but  not in an exciting way as it tasted  plain. The dry-aged “funk” that most people are nowadays looking for was  there, but it  did nothing to enhance the taste of the meat I was tasting on this visit.  Minetta Tavern  sure went to a lot of effort to make a patty  of quality (careful selection of the meat, etc) , but at the end of the round, this one I was having  tasted  utterly ordinary when compared to patties found in the majority of the burgers you will find in NYC. And I am not even taking the price into account…

-The overall taste of this  Burger? Uneventful! I mean, apart from the first 2 seconds, there was nothing going on. No exciting grilling flavour, no particularly enjoyable beef taste. Caramelized onion rarely fails in its role to add a festive dimension to the taste of a hamburger, but in this instance, it, too, was not interested to “throw a party”.

 

Overall rating: 5/10 (I have no doubt that this can be a better burger than what I was sampling as the burger experts of NYC have long praised this Burger, but I can talk only for what I tried and mine was a tired looking burger, with an ordinary bun, and a patty that failed to bring joy in mouth). I will go back in the evening and try their other food items as I loved the friendly service and beautiful laid back old world interior but I will not give a second chance to their fabled BLB. Minetta Tavern Addr: 113 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012, United States Phone: +1 212-475-3850 URL: https://www.minettatavernny.com/

 

 

Heard about Kochi from one knowledgeable and highly reliable Korean foodie from NYC with whom I exchange plenty of intel about the NYC’s food scene. The venue has just opened recently and he tried it in its first week of opening and has recommended that I give it a try.

Kochi is a contemporary Korean-American bistrot with, at its helm, a Chef who did work at 3 star Michelin Per Se. Most of the dishes are skewered. The Chef told the medias that he drew his inspiration from the traditional festival cuisine of the Korean royal court of the Joseon dynasty. He also told them that he brings his own modern twist to that, using Japanese and French cooking techniques.

Korean-American dining is gaining a lot of traction these days in NYC with the notable success of Atomix and Jungsik  (Both are 2 Michelin starred venues). Therefore, many Korean Chefs who have worked in reputed restaurants of NYC are now opening their own eatery, and I have recently tried some of those (see my reviews of  Oiji and Jeju ).

The venue did offer solely a 9 course tasting menu when I dropped by. Most of the food items are served as skewers, the restaurant advertising its offering  as ”’Modern Korean Skewer Tasting””.

1-Tarakjuk, A vichyssoise like soup (“potage” would be more accurate) with Pine Nuts and Potatoes served with a corn Fritter. Tarakjuk is a Korean porridge made with milk and rice. The Chef inspiring himself from it in order to deliver a creation of his own that did consist in blending French (The use of potatoes in the Vichyssoise-inspired portion of this dish – ) and Korean (although the traditional inclusion of pre-soaked glutinous rice to make this dish is omitted here) influences in this dish and adding a touch of creativity with the pine nuts and corn fritter. I did pay a supplement for the fine quality caviar that you see on the picture. This is in line with contemporary Korean-North American dining (as well as all sorts of contemporary cuisines) in that the labour-intensive and time consuming techniques of old world cooking (as an example, pre-soaking then using a millstone to grind the rice, in the traditional prep of this specific dish) are replaced by a more simple/straightforward execution (but as you will see in the full account of this repast, their Chef does also invest lots of time in the preparation of other food items). This featured a flavour profile that was more “International” and “French” than Korean, but again, it is a Korean-inspired cuisine that clearly advertised itself as using French technique, Japanese ingredients, etc. Therefore we are at a Korean-inspired restaurant with International accents and this “soup” testified to that. Vibrant flavours, great textures and a remarkably enjoyable hot and cold juxtaposition of temperatures. The fritter not greasy at all and packed with enticing fresh corn flavours. Excellent. 9/10

2.Mul-Hwe, Raw Scallops and Fluke, Perilla Leaf Salad, Tiger’s Milk. Hwe (the Korean take on fish “sashimi”, so to speak, as there are some slight differences between Korean Vs Japanese “sashimi”) is traditionally served spicy (not in this case ). Following the contemporary trend of making Korean-inspired food light, they did a light version of it. And exactly as advertised by the restaurant, they did extend their creativity to other corners of the globe, with here the inclusion of their own re-interpretation of the Peruvian Ceviche’s Tiger Milk aka “leche de tigre” ( here, made of celery/onion/ginger/garlic and that they did ferment) which is a logical « international » twist to the Korean Hwe, obviously. The seafood was of fine quality but there was a bitter taste in this particular incarnation of the tiger milk as well as the seasoning in general that, for me, diminished the enjoyment of the dish. That said, it was easy to see what the kitchen wanted to do: replacing  the expected ‘citrusy’ taste of the  classic Latin american “leche de tigre” by  bitter  tones, which  are  indeed present in Korean cuisine. I respect the idea as bitterness can add “punch” to certain dishes, indeed, but I have yet experienced with a case where it managed to elevate the taste of seafood. Furthermore, in Korean cuisine,  bitterness is balanced  with other tones for flavour complexity  whereas here, it was the sole taste sensation.  6/10

3- Yachae-Twigim, which, usually,  is  battered and deep fried vegetables. In this case,  a piece of asparagus was covered with a sort of “creamy “ coating, served with a ”ricotta” of  doenjang (soy bean paste)  and soy onion glaze. Their take on the  “ricotta“’ (so, not the exact taste and feel of the Italian ricotta) had a fine flavour. The idea makes sense: you take  a piece of asparagus and you dip it in some sort of  creamy concoction.  Here, instead of dipping it in the concoction, you have the concoction atop the vegetable. Understood, but that did not translate well in reality, at least  not for me: the overall dish was unimpressive as the “creamy ”’coating  on the asparagus did nothing for me. It certainly did add nothing to the enjoyment of the asparagus.  Perhaps putting a proper coating of batter on that asparagus and deep frying  it as a tempura would have been more eventful. It is hard, for a restaurant, regardless of the fact that this was an item served as part of a  tasting menu and not a full dish, to try to make an impression with a solitary asparagus. 5/10

4- Saengseon-Gui. Binchotan Grilled Mackerel, Soy Eggplant, Makguli Vierge. Gui is a grilled dish, Saengseon stands for fresh fish, here featuring a well sourced piece of mackerel (a common fish in Korean home-style cooking) freshly grilled, lightly seasoned with salt. The sauce vierge  was  reinterpreted by the Chef, as in this case, it included sake/honey/rice vinegar and the korean fermented rice wine makguli. Both the fresh fish and the sauce dazzled. 9/10

5-Andong Jjimdak (dak for chicken / Jjim for steamed/stewed or braised in a sauce) is a Korean braised chicken dish from the city of Andong. On the menu, the restaurant claims that it required a four-day preparation, which I found interesting as this is a dish that you can cook quickly on high heat. So the intent here was, obviously, to infuse as much flavour in the meat as it is possible, which is the point of Korean cooking: flavors, flavors and more flavors. The other intent was, of course, the tenderness as indeed, superbly tender it was. The slow cooked chicken (the chicken marinated in soy sauce, as it is traditionally required —- to which they did add pear juice) which was, in this case, steamed then grilled, had great taste. Aged Shiitake Mushroom did accompany the protein. Superb piece of quality chicken with a first-rate broth that had heat, sweetness and saltiness mingling excitingly well together. 9/10

6- Eo-Jeon, Branzino, pickled daikon, hazelnut Ssam-Jang. Tasty quality fish. The pickling of the daikon was technically fine, for sure, but the korean flavour profile was not expressed in the pickled daikon. And in this case, that was the right thing to do as to avoid aggressing the flavor of the delicate fish.  Making a Ssam-Jang of hazelnut was thoughtful as it  matched  the flavour of the fish.  It is not a spectacular nibble, but one that  is well designed and that is tasty 7/10

7-Tteok-Galbi, originally cooked for the korean royal family in their days, but now a mainstream dish, are usually grilled short-rib patties. In this instance, it is charcoal grilled Beef Rib eye Patty, stuffed with sweet rice cake and topped with pear and chestnut chutney. The beef is soaked in a marinade of soy sauce at some point in the prep. In every cuisine, even in your very own one, there are dishes that you tend to like less than others. Despite my decades of carefully studying and appreciating all sorts of dishes from all around the world, for what they are, and not what I want them to be , grilled patties have always been among my least favourite, although, I can perfectly appreciate some of its renditions (such as, of course, the one to be found in a burger). That aside, what matters here is that this featured some fine quality meat, with a fine balance of seasonings, precisely and freshly grilled, packed with enticing grilling flavours. To tradition (the meat prepared in traditional fashion), the Chef paired innovation (addition of a well made pear/chestnut chutney, stuffing the meat with sweet rice cake). Very good 8/10

8-Myungran Bibimbap. Bibimbap is mixed rice. Mentaiko (pollock roe)  brown soy butter rice, in this case, that came with salmon-jang (salmon tartare),  some candied anchovy, toasted seaweed puree and sesame chili oil. The Chef trained in some of the elite kitchens of this globe (3 star Michelin Per se and Le Bernardin), and he was there, cooking in his kitchen, as opposed to lying down at home on his sofa while serving as a name bearer for a kitchen brigade that works for him (a common modus operandi at plenty of restaurants), so that did reflect in the assured preparations (technique of the tempura, timing, pickling technique, etc) on display. The rice was  tasty (the taste of butter flavoured rice), somehow reminiscent of a some sort of ”risotto  of quinoa” but you had rice in place of quinoa — somehow I wrote, the salmon tartare competently executed (fine balance of seasoning, quality fish that was freshly  hand-chopped). I did pay a supplement for the superb sea urchin that you see on that picture) . 7/10

9-Black Sesame Ice Cream Pop with crispy rice for dessert. The black sesame taste present, as it should, on the palate. I find crispy rice to be sometimes misused (a good example of that was the crispy rice served with bone marrow that I had the other day at Oiji), but here’s an example of its judicious inclusion in a food item. With this restaurant being in its early weeks, its Chef seems very inspired and that was evident with  this dessert. “Another black sesame ice cream? Nah! Lemme think outside of the box”, and that gave an ice cream popsicle (the logical form you can imagine an ice-cream based creation wouldn take to match this Chef’s trademark skewered food items) to which he did add an extra dimension of crunch in the form of the crispy rice. This was pleasant rather than eventful.

Portions are tiny, which you kinda expect from a tasting menu, but the quality of the ingredients is there. The better items were classy food items and revealed how skilled they are at their best. Sometimes in a tasting menu, there is not one single item that stands out, and here, there were couple of them. The lower rated items are to be taken with a grain of salt: they just did not do it for me, but taste is personal. As an example, the above reviewed asparagus was a highlight at the neighboring table.

On the evening of my visit, the Korean flavour profile portion of the meal was generally not expressive/bold, the accent being on International cuisine, but again, that was on the day of my visit and since this is a tasting menu that changes regularly, the next tasting menu may feature boldly flavoured Korean food items. Or not. Time will tell.

Pros:  The better food items will be remembered for a while.

Cons: I understand that it was a tasting menu, but I still found the portions of  food to be small.

Service was lovely and the restaurant, although small, is elegant.

Bottom line: Korean-American contemporary food is the trending cuisine these days in NYC. Korean-inspired food, in general, is implementing itself at all levels of the dining spectrum (fast food items in the form of korean fried chicken, hot dogs, fine dining, casual dining, etc). Of course, you need to understand the basics of the science of food in that it is virtually impossible for the same dish to taste exactly the same several continents and oceans away. What should be realistically expected from any korean-inspired food item, in America, though, is to have the kitchen brigade maintaining the korean flavour profile of the dish as close to its original version as it is possible to do, since the food is advertised as being korean-influenced, in the first place, and that is what I wish they would have put the emphasis on, a bit more during this meal. A promising table, in spite of that. Overall rating: 7/10 (food), 8/10 (service) Kochi Addr: 652 10th Avenue New York, New York 100036 ; Phone: +1 646-478-7308; URL: http://kochinyc.com

Rezdôra Osteria Emiliana
Phone: +1 (646) 692-9090
Email: reservations@rezdora.nyc
Addr: 27 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003
URL: https://rezdora.nyc

On various recent visits  of New York, I went back to Peter Luger, the one in Brooklyn, for my fix of North American steak. PL’s porterhouse steak continues to be the steak against which I judge all other North American steaks. Whether PL is touristy or not, I could not care less. What matters to me is the dazzling steak they keep delivering, tourists or not in sight.  I returned to another place that seems to have attracted its hordes of tourists as it is a legendary eatery: Junior’s in Brooklyn. Junior’s remains one of my preferred eateries in New York, eventhough their celebrated cheesecake is not my cup of tea. Other restaurants that I tried:  LeñaSpanish Diner (among  the most exciting Spanish-style eateries of NYC right now…I know, not a revelation given how weak Spanish food is in NYC, but those are good by NYC Spanish food standards at this moment) of famous  Chefs Ferran Adria, Albert Adria and  José Andrés . I tried  Sorbillo NYC (easily one of the finest Neapolitan style pizze in NYC – My honest suggestion  to  the food journalists who seem to overlook  this gem of a Pizzaria: stop comparing  apples to grapes, stop! stop! I mean, most of the crap    you write  about pizze in NYC is seriously nau·se·at·ing. You know nothing about Neapolitan pizza..your comparisons of   pizze in Italy vs pizze in the US are worrying  signs of your total ignorance of basic things such as the importance  of the geographical environment   in your assessment of the pizza you are reviewing and btw….most of you are reviewing pasta dishes at a  pizzeria…c’mon!!??  ). New York ‘s restaurant  scene continues to be genuinely world class.

This time, I paid a visit to Rezdôra. A local reliable and knowledgeable foodie in NYC did  inform me about the opening of  this small Italian restaurant in Flatiron.  According to the media, the  Chef of Rezdora is Chef Stefano Secchi, a Chef who has honed his skills at some serious venues in Italy such as 1 star Michelin All’Enoteca (Canale), Hosteria Giusti as well as  3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana (the latter two establishments are located in Modena), and that he is  inspired  by the food of  the region of Emilia-Romagna , which food has been aggressively marketed as Italy’s best (for more, on that, click here).

 

 

 

Food in Emilia-Romagna does benefit from its local stellar ingredients, but there are some limitations to what you can do with that sort of food, oceans away from where it originates: to start, egg-based pasta (which local diners in Emilia-Romagna are accustomed to) is obviously more expensive to make than flour-based pastas. And  North American palates may not appreciate the difference.

When I went to eat at Il luogo di Aimo e Nadia and  Dal Pescatore, I took the time to broaden my knowledge of the traditional cuisines of Northern Italy (food from Emilia-Romagna, Mantuan food, etc) and I recall that one of the tests I did was to see how my palate would appreciate the difference between their local egg-based pasta vs the flour-based ones we are used to outside of Italy. I do, when time permits, make my own pasta at home and have tried both versions. But a trained palate will not fail to notice that flour in Italy, their water, the flavour of the dazzling eggs found there — all of that is different from what you will find in North America. My palate found their egg-based pasta to be more exciting, flavour-wise, but I can’t imagine one single restaurant trying to import the water and eggs from Italy. It will go bankrupt. This applies to the superb vegetables of Italy. Consequently, I went to Rezdora with the expectation that they do as great as it is possible to make food of Emilia-Romagna in North America.

 

1-Tagliolini al ragu. As expected, the tagliolini having the right thin shape and the right texture to soak up the ragu. The ragu made of pork shoulder, mortadella, ground pork and prosciutto simmered with parmesan sachets for 8hrs and finished with Italian olive oil. As one should better know, the environment (water, soil, etc) plays a massive role in the taste of both your pasta and your ragu. Therefore if you expect this dish to taste/feel/smell exactly as in Northern Italy, you have skipped those basics of the science of food. That said, this was freshly made tagliolini  (which doneness I would have preferred al dente – it was served a bit beyond that stage), the taste and texture of the ragu  having proper depth (the rich flavour of the meat is adequate, the sauce timely reduced –  and you do not feel any excess of fat in the sauce, which is what you should be looking for), with perhaps a tendency to put a bit more salt than I would have loved — salt enhances flavour, indeed, but in this instance, it went past that stage and was almost on the verge of starting to diminish the flavour of the overall dish — but that can be easily fixed. I generally prefer when the ragu is made of beef, pancetta and veal, but this was still good.  7/10

 

2-« Grandmother walking through the forest in Emilia » is the name of a dish  that consists of cappelleti verdi (homemade spinach infused pasta) filled with roasted leeks, baby leeks on a bed of black mushroom puree. In the ‘poetic’ naming of that dish, you  can see the influence of one of their Chef’s mentor, namely Chef Massimo Bottura of 3 star Michelin Osteria Francescana in Modena – who loves giving poetic descriptions to some of his dishes. This showcased a fine deal of technical precision in shaping the texture of that pasta. Too bad green peas are not in season right now, as great quality peas would have paired so well with them and brighten that dish. 8/10

 

3-Pappardelle verde, spinach pasta with ragu di cinghiale (boar ragu) and porcini. The dense pasta is, as usual, always great for sauces, sticking properly to the boar ragu. The first two dishes are classics of the house. I purposely added this dish and the next one to my meal as they were fresh new additions to their menu. Some kitchen brigades are somehow more excited/motivated when cooking new food items. But in this instance, the motivation was the same whether the dish was one of their classics or a new addition. The same fine ragu as with the first dish was there, only it is made of boar this time. The pasta’s texture properly rendered. Good. 7/10

4-Dolce scherzetto, roasted squash raviolini, burro rosolato and amaretti crumbs. Freshly made pasta (the case of all their pasta), with fillings of roasted squash and mostarda (a condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard-flavoured syrup), coated in sage-flecked brown butter sauce. Dressed with amaretti crumbs. I had variations on this during my last foodie tour of Northern Italy. Was this a serious challenge to what I had in Northern Italy? Was this up there with what a nonna would do back in Emilia Romagna? If you ask yourself such questions then you did not understand the basics of the science of food: Not the same terroir, not the same soil, not the same water. So, forget that. Can’t compare. Even the amaretti crumbs, as fine as these stood, could not compare to the stellar amaretti crumbs you may stumble upon in some parts of Italy. And regarding any comparison to la nonna, well…last time the media checked, their Chef was a young gentleman. So, he can’t be and can’t beat la nonna, lol.  The taste was pleasant rather than dazzling, the expected sweetness (coming obviously from the squash, mostarda and the amaretti crumbs)  not overwhelming. 6/10

 

5.Torta Barozzi – Dense, flourless cake made of rich, dark chocolate. The original recipe from Vignola (outside of Modena) —you can still enjoy the original TB at Pasticceria Gollini — remains a secrete, but if you have tried it (I tried it during my last  visit in Northern Italy), it has hardly any sugar, which is one thing I loved with this one version they made at Rezdora (it tasted of dark chocolate, which it has to, rather than of added-sugar to dark chocolate). The pastry Chef made a rendition that is quite  close to some of the versions (there are  a few, though)  that you can find in Italy,  and served it the traditional way, which means  to serve this cake all on its own (without any adornment), and that is appreciated.  However, I would have preferred a consistency that is moist and tender inside the cake (it was a bit tough, at serving) as it is usually the case with most incarnations of this torta in Italy. 6/10

My hats off  to their marketing team as it is currently a hot ticket in NYC. Extremely popular, indeed.

 

The pasta dishes were fine, considering the reality  of pasta dishes made freshly oceans and continents away from Italy. The limitation being that the soil, the water, the produce cannot be the same as in Italy, therefore no miracle is possible.

To be accurate, there are not stellar produce everywhere in Italy. As an example, most of the food that you will eat in big cities like Milan or Rome will taste as generic as anywhere else across the globe. What is accurate is that the best produce of Italy is ages ahead of the best produce that you will find in North America.

The only thing I hope they do at Rezdora  is to lower a little bit the salt input on some of the pasta dishes, unless, of course, most of their patrons are happy with that. The food comes in small portions, and it is not cheap, therefore they won’t win any award for « best value », but few restaurants in NYC would win that one anyways. At least the food is of quality, the wine list is well thought, and the next paragraph shows that they do nice things that do escape many of their competitors.

Bottom line: I arrived 30 mins before the opening in order to snatch a seat (they allow some few walk-ins for the seating at the bar, but the wait can be long, therefore it is better to arrive 30 mins before the opening and line up) at their bar considering that it was hard to book a table. Since it was a bit cold, they came outside and served us some sparkling wine. And no, there was no poster-diner (food blogger or food journalist promoting the food industry) lining up outside. Therefore that was a genuine gesture which appeared even more special given their already established popularity  (there are eateries with a lot to prove and yet they would never do this). A rare occurrence in NYC’s dining scene. Then when the door opened at 5hPM, the staff lined up to welcome the guests. I sat at the bar and the perfect balance between being Pro and Cool continued to be the trending pattern. A fine restaurant and an attention to details that most would not bother covering. Overall ratings (Category: Italian in NYC)  7/10 Food; Service 9/10.

 

Restaurant Oiji is one of the latest /current ‘rock stars’ of NYC’s dining scene. In a world class dining destination like NYC, it’s hard to stand out, but that is exactly what Oiji has been doing since it opened.

Foodies and  food journalists have long praised Oiji:    celebrity NYC’s food journalist Pete Wells rating it with a whooping 2 stars (the exact same rating he did assign to 3 star Michelin Per Se, therefore not a light score). Oiji has a score of 4.8 /5  on Open Table at the time of writing, a perfect score of 5/5 as/per TimeOut, a near to perfect 8.5/10 on the  Infatuation.

Oiji is a contemporary Korean-styled bistrot opened by two Korean Chefs who have honed their skills at NYC’s celebrated restaurants Bouley and Gramercy Tavern. They do add international accents / their own twist to their Korean-inspired cuisine, hence the Korean-fusion qualification that seems to be attached to the eatery, their cuisine perfectly in sync with North American palates, which is their market, obviously. But the Korean spirit is never too far, meaning the array of korean cooking techniques and flavours are there.

As it is now common in NYC, at most of their popular casual eateries, the portions are tapas-alike.

I ordered two of their most popular dishes:
Oxtail / Glass Noodle, Root Vegetables. Slow cooked oxtail with root vegetables and glass noodles. The minimum to expect from an oxtail stew is that it is  packed with rich/ hearty meaty flavours. That was the case, here. With  the noticeable difference that it was a bit more sweet than your average oxtail-based preparations. Again, normal, as it is a proper korean flavour profile. But then, you look at the price. It comes with an ambitious price tag, as if I was in a fine dining Korean restaurant or as if I am being served some of the top Korean-inspired slow cooked oxtail stews to be found out there. A great Korean-inspired stew does exist at plenty of restaurants, but what I was having was just a generic / normal oxtail stew.  And that is where I failed to understand the raves about  this stew. Yes it was an Ok stew. But for that kind of  price, ‘Ok’ is not an option.  I can find plenty  of Ok Korean-styled slow cooked oxtail stews of this level at a fraction of the price of this stew 5/10

Bone Marrow / Short Rib, Maitake, Crispy Rice Cracker.  The fine taste of the  marrow was marred by a topping that was, to put it politely….a confusing accumulation of ingredients. This had the taste of absolutely nothing. That was the effect, in mouth, that I was having.  Which is a shame as bone marrow  can be delicious, indeed. An off night…???…Mind you, this was more about a cook who has no palate, rather than a cook who was going through  on an off-night (whoever has cooked this dish has zero palate…I mean, let’s be upfront here: who, in his right mind, would have served  that mish-mash found  atop that bone marrow?? Unless he has no palate…). And do not get me started on  the commercial  crispy rice chip that came with the bone marrow as if it makes sense to pair the fat of a bone marrow with that. Talking about a cook who has no palate, no sense of flavor combinations…   0/10

Overall rating: 2.5/10 (food) – Egads! …..ages have passed since the last time I had such  a disappointing  restaurant meal — and I dine out a lot, all levels of dining taken into account. In the case of NYC, I am very familiar with its  dining scene and this has got to be the weakest restaurant meal I ever had there. Given the widely  spread online raves, I went there to like this eatery. But my reaction, when I left, was something as simple as ‘Wow…for real?? I know that sometimes  if the food is affordable that is also one thing that makes a restaurant popular, but those 2 dishes had a price tag that pertains to an ambitious table. I truely hope it was an off night (mind you, at those prices, that is hardly an excuse) as the service was great. The ambience festive, etc. I still left with the impression that this is perhaps a kitchen brigade  that got caught up in its own hype. Oiji Addr: 119 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003; Phone: 646-767-9050 URL: http://www.oijinyc.com

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 ( I suggest that you do not order a charred prime rib. I did request it charred as I was looking for that specific  effect on that evening, but prime rib is better in its non charred version IMHO), 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