Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Junior’s (386 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY;  Phone: 718-852-5257; is a popular restaurant of Brooklyn, widely known in NY for its cheesecakes.

I ordered:

Combo reuben – corned beef and pastrami, grilled sauerkraut, swiss on rye. – an insignificant part of the pastrami was a bit drier than what I am accustomed to with my reuben sandwich at other North American delis, but that was long forgotten and forgiven once I started eating it as its deliciousness and flawless execution were firm indications this was a serious reuben sandwich, truely packing a punch. Montreal and NYC have the best delis in the world and a reuben sandwich of this quality would not be out of place at a top tier deli in both cities. 8/10

Potato salad – rustic style typical to north american delis, no flaws, just good homey flavors. 7/10

Some sides came with my order: a coleslaw (not the regular one, but one with vinegar – nice fresh crunchy vegetables, all delicious) 7/10, housemade pickles that were timely brined and expressing remarkable freshness (a world away from its tired looking examples that can be found at some inferior delis) 9/10, a first- rate corn bread 9/10, as well as some tasty marinated beets 7/10. Simple, simple stuff that are exquisite here, but that many restaurants do not seem to be capable of.

Then, I ordered the world’s “most fabulous ” cheesecake (their words, not mine), which is the cheesecake that virtually everyone is raving about in nyc. This is made with philadelphia cream cheese, its bottom made of sponge cake (instead of a crust of graham cracker) and was a fine version of a North American cheesecake, but its cheesecake flavor paled a bit in comparison to the richer taste of Montreal-style’s best cheesecakes. Furthermore, its rustic appearance does not sit well with me: I love rusticity, but a cheesecake (especially, a strawberry cheesecake) needs to be easy on the eyes. In NYC, eventhough it’s not the same style of cheesecake as at Junior’s, the one from Ferrara bakery (195 Grand Street ) is the one that’s really knocking my socks off, for now. Still, Junior’s is artisanally made (they make a limited quantity, using artisanal techniques), it is a good cheesecake (just not as great as Montreal’s best) and you have got to sample it at least once if you happen to be in NYC. 7/ 10

All in all: Junior’s is oftently ignored in  most  listings of the great delicatessens of NY, but that is just because it has an extensive menu that  categorizes it as a diner, not a delicatessen. There are also little “technicalities” that keep Junior’s out of such listings. In the competitive delicatessen market of NY, whether the J is or is not the greatest samurai of the empire, it does not matter. At the end of the day, what we need to know is this: the delis at Junior’s are good. Really good. And that is coming from a Montrealer (Montreal is one North American city with world class delis, obviously)..

Bottom line: Junior’s can brag about anything they want (the word s “famous” and “fabulous” appear a lot on their menu), except for the cheesecake (sorry J, our finest cheesecakes in Montreal will beat yours, anyday!!) , I am down with them!

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.

All reviews of my Michelin star meals are listed  on the left, from the higher to lower rated meals. I am sorry if my reviews are sparse, I just don’t believe in ‘quantity of  visited restaurants” as an important factor in dining. Even if I was rich, I would not move away from that  principle, trust me. I go to  restaurants only when I feel the place has potential to really please me or teach me something. The fault to my long years of cooking, lol.

Latest updates: the September 2013 meals at 3 Michelin star restaurants L’Arpège (Paris) and Le Louis XV (Monte Carlo) — Chef Passard continues to be an exceptional Chef as proven by the best dishes of that meal,  L’Arpège remains  a very strong 3 star Michelin, one of the few that I can comfortably call a ‘favourite’. Many upscale tables  appear  flawless on the surface, but few are able to pull off  exciting food matching the amazement of the finest dishes of this Lunch at L’Arpège. What was even more impressive, in my view, is that the dishes I did not like were still admirable. I did not like them because they did not please my palate, but they still had a sense of perfection/ soul/depth/pride and whatever attributes I find many tables have lost since a long time.  Just remember that it is different from the usual fla fla of haute dining, so do your homework and inform yourself a lot about it (its style, the kind of place, the kind of food,  etc)  before heading there. For my French compatriots, I drew this picture, in French, my mother tongue, of my latest meal there at L’Arpège.

In the case of Le Louis XV, the savouries of that particular lunch left me wanting for more, but let’s give to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar: it’s a dining place of exception, and their pastry team can work wonders. Furthermore, the magic landscapes of the Mediterranea largely makes up for any shortcomings.

Then a great finding in Nice, Bistrot d’ Antoine(Sept 2013), the incredible big plump Roumégous ( oysters at Café Turin in Nice (that’s coming from someone who grew up with some of the finest oysters at a stone throw of his birthplace) and it was exciting to re-experience the fabulous riz au lait and Ile flottante of my tender childhood in France at Bistrot le Casse Noix in Paris (that is like  trying to find a great lièvre à la royale, almost impossible to find since most of the new gen cooks are busier practicing with laughable juxtaposition of textures like kids with lego games rather than educating their palate with the REAL great food of their elders).

On Montreal, nothing really interesting (plenty of buzz/noise as usual, which always sounds nice, but only to end up with the same old wheel. Montreal restaurant scene has hard time pulling off some new excitement, which I thought was the point of cooking (having fun, showcasing creativity, believing in something different but done well) ever since I started cooking in my tender childhood. But still, some places do maintain the bar high:  it was a pleasure to  continue to find Pizza Bottega on St-Zotique (not just a Pizzeria but also a great Italian Bistrot) to be as great as ever  as well as enjoying what I do believe to be the best rib eye steak in Montreal at this moment (Le Marchand du Bourg’s 40 days dry aged Certified Quebecois Black Angus rib eye). Mr Bourg is an inspired artisan, now more and more busy  because of his success, but I trust that he will keep his exceptional artisan standards as high as they are right now and his success is well deserved.

My pick for #1 fine dining destination  in Montreal is now  Restaurant La Porte (It used to be Hotel St James XO Le Restaurant, but Chef Michele Mercuri is not working there anymore, so I can’t tell if XO Le Restaurant is still as great before re-visiting the place). Au Pied de Cochon, even if I find it less spectacular compared to the days under Chef Hugues Dufour  (now at M. Wells Dinette, Long Island City, NY), continues to stand out as a bistrot that does something refreshingly different and doing it well. Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon remains  a top bistrot that is not roaming away from what food needs to essentially be: delicious.

Worth noting:  a serious coup de Coeur in 2013, in Montreal, was the discovery of Ramen Misoya (2065 Bishop St / (514) 373-4888). Before going there, couple of friends I know were not that impressed by Ramen Misoya  and have suggested few  other ramen places they highly regarded . So I tried both their recommendations as well as Ramen Misoya. To my surprise, the difference in quality of the cooking  (between Ramen Misoya and the others) was considerable. Ramen Misoya having the edge in all respects: precision of the cooking, depth of flavor, exciting seasoning, great work of the texture, better technique, a really good Cha Shu. I can understand that taste is subjective, but I was still surprised that amateurish takes on ramen (most being a tad better than the dollar store instant noodle)  would  have a chance to be compared to Ramen Misoya, let alone considered as being better. For me, there’s, in Montreal, at this moment, just one fabulous bowl of ramen soup and it’s cooked at Ramen Misoya.

Lately, one of this city’s serious Chefs (Chef Aaron Langille) found himself at the helm of a Chinese restaurant called Orange rouge in Chinatown  (106 De La Gauchetiere West – 514-861-1116), a table that I have not tried. I have discovered Chef Langille’s work when he was working at Café Sardine and there was no doubt in my mind that his talent was undeniable. His seriousness continued to impress me as I realized that he was the kind to express his talent where we need him to: his kitchen! A respectable great Chef, indeed. Talking about respectable great Chefs, Chef Charles-Antoine Crête (Toque!, Brasserie T!)  seems to have a new project in his boxes (as/per and Chef Michele Mercuri (Who used to work  at XO Le Restaurant) could make a come back .

Some are not my favourites anymore (for eg, Bouillon Bilk on St Laurent street, Sushi Mikado on St Denis —  both places continue to offer superb service, but I found the food performance to not be as startling at it once was). Others have Chefs who seem to have never been able to regain the spark of cooking  (Lack of inspiration? Success that got to the head?? Or perhaps ‘one hit’ or ‘once hit’ wonders??).

Last but not least, some new restaurants that have just gained their 3 Michelin stars this year: Reale (Abruzzo, Italy), Restaurant Überfahrt (Germany). If you ever have to bet on the country that has the finest 2 and 3 star Michelin anywhere around the globe, bet on Germany!  In Hong Kong, Chef Alvin Leung won 3 Michelin stars. Not that I am interested by his place (certainly not the style of cooking that calls me, anyways), but gotta applaud his exceptional efforts at selling his Xtreme Chinese cuisine to the world. Obviously, he is to the dining scene one of its latest most influential people.

Also: Chef Frédéric Duca (ex alumni of 3 star Michelin and iconic Chef Gérald Passédat, ex Chef at Taillevent/Darroze/Palme D’Or ) who was working at L’Instant D’Or in Paris, till very recently, has now moved to new York. Chef Duca is one of the most promising talents among the current young  Chefs of France, therefore I am  looking forward to hearing more about his next  venture. Something is sure: he has the talent to surprise New York with a 2, even 3 star Michelin level of food, which comes as no surprise given his impressive resumé. The ball is in his court ….

For those who care about the subject, you can find my reported journey through Montreal ethnic food here (kept active).

Season’s greetings!