Dec 11, 2013
Over 100 tracks… my favorites of 2013!
Oct 3, 2013}
Voted New York City’s Best Restaurant by Zagat more than once, 3-Michelin star seafood restaurant Le Bernardin has also earned a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, placing 19th for the second consecutive year. And none of that surprises me because everything about Le Bernardin is phenomenal— the ambiance, the food, the service.
We were running about an hour late to our lunch, but the reservationist and hostess were incredibly attentive and understanding.
Our table was spacious, the setup was clean and modern, the charger plate was gorgeous, and there were fresh flowers. The amuse bouche was a creamy salmon rillette with thin toasts, of which we were given two portions— one for each side of the table.
The lunch menu is extensive and making a choice was difficult, but I decided to go with the charred octopus with green olive and black garlic emulsion, and sundried tomato sauce vierge to start, then pan seared monkfish with pea purée, morels, and Armagnac-black pepper sauce for the main course, and to finish, I ordered the sesame dessert with macerated mango, young ginger and black sesame ice cream. The rest of the table got the tuna with foie gras, oysters, hake, snapper, striped bass, dark chocolate parfait, and berry desserts.
My octopus was tender and the sundried tomato sauce vierge, very reminiscent of Mediterranean cuisine, was on point. The fishes were all cooked with finesse. The monkfish was cooked just right—temperature was perfect— and the flavors were natural and subtle, which reinforced Le Bernardin’s idea that the fish is the star of the plate. Not one ingredient was overpowering, and I can say that this was the most flawlessly prepared fish I’ve ever tried.
The desserts were stunning. Mine, the sesame-mango composition, had a mix of fruity and nutty flavors and various textures: foamy, creamy, crispy, pulpy. The mignardises were warm and fluffy black currant financiers sprinkled with powdered sugar.
The meal was exquisite, every dish was beautifully plated, and service was outstanding. If you love seafood, this is the place.
Sep 16, 2013}
Currently ranked number one in the US and fifth in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Eleven Madison Park is situated on the ground level of the Credit Suisse building across the east side of Madison Square Park. Its atmosphere, decor, food and service are laid back and unassuming, and reservations are not difficult to come by if you book 28 days in advance.
The 16-course tasting menu, somewhat theatrical and undoubtedly experimental, consisted of a mix of simple and complex dishes, some of which were accompanied by drinks such as tomato-basil soda, pale wheat ale brewed by Ithaca Beer Co., and Laird & Company apple brandy. Every course is a surprise as they don’t hand out the menu until the end of the tasting, so you don’t know what you’ll be eating until they serve the dishes. However they did tell us that there would be a foie gras course, which would be seared or brûlée, and beef or duck depending on our choice.
To start, we were presented with a box of savory black and white cheddar cookies with apple chutney, followed by a tiny portion of sea urchin snow with smoked cantaloupe and yogurt, which had a refreshing, cooling effect on the palate.
Then, my favorite dishes of the entire tasting menu: surf clam (tomato, beans and bacon), littleneck clam (Manhattan chowder, razor clam and scallop), tomato (confit with lobster salad and bonito), and the foie gras (seared and brûlée with summer berries and beets).
The surf clam was unexpectedly rich and creamy with just a hint of bacon, whereas the Manhattan chowder was a total different take on the classic chowder. EMP’s version was a broth, served on a tea pot and meant to be sipped directly off a small cup. The assortment of shellfish was beautifully plated, but what I loved most was the freshness and contrasting flavors and textures.
My absolute favorite and the one dish I’d want more of was the tomato confit with lobster salad (buttermilk and olive oil on the side) and goat cheese stuffed lobster claw duo. The confit was a celebration of tomato and lobster, and the stuffed claws were creamy and tangy. Also part of this course, an interestingly odd tomato-basil soda that tasted just like tomato-basil soup, except cold and carbonated.
The bread, accompanied by two types of butter (one regular, one duck fat infused) and sea salt, was good, but I wouldn’t have mind trying other types of bread. In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t offer different choices like many other top, 3-star Michelin restaurants in New York City or London.
The melt-in-your-mouth foie gras was complemented by seasonal berries. The brûlée version, reminiscent of crème brûlée, was rich and smooth with a little sweetness and bitterness from the torched sugar. The seared version was equally tasty. In fact, both tasted better than the foie gras I had at Per Se last fall.
Almost half-way through the meal, we had the grinder clamped onto the table, so we knew the DIY carrot tartare course would be next. We were each given rye toast and a board with condiments that included mustard oil, horseradish, egg yolk, sunflower seeds and sea salt. And while the presentation certainly had a wow factor, the ground carrot was too mushy and the condiments didn’t do much for it. This DIY carrot tartare seemed like a great idea but the fascination died as soon as I had my first bite. I would’ve preferred to see a diced carrot tartare or perhaps a carrot substitute.
The eighth course was poached black bass with zucchini and ratatouille-stuffed squash blossom. The fish was buttery and perfectly cooked, but the true star of the dish was the squash blossom.
The following course was the least tasty and most flat: Sunflower barigoule with sunchokes and black truffle. I still don’t understand this dish and/or how it adds value to the tasting menu. It is memorable, but not in a positive way.
For the main protein, we were given two choices: 140-day aged beef or roast duck. The fact that the entire table was forced to choose between duck and beef was upsetting because some of us wanted the duck and others wanted beef. We ended up settling for the roasted duck with apricots and fennel only because we assumed it’d be as delicious as the roast chicken served at Daniel Humm’s NoMad restaurant. Big disillusion. The duck was a tad bit undercooked for my liking, and even though the skin was well seasoned and crispy, the meat itself was bland.
The cheese course was presented in a picnic basket. Greensward cheese, pretzel, honey mustard, pickled green tomatoes, and beer were all part of the course, which I have to say, wins the most creative and elaborate cheese course award.
Next, we had the pre-dessert. Egg cream with vanilla, seltzer and olive oil drops, which the server prepared table side.
The first dessert was a sassafras sorbet with banana cake, caramel and vanilla. My only complaint is that the sorbet tasted medicinal-like. The sassafras aftertaste was off-putting and not nearly as refreshing as other herbs like basil or mint. The rest of the components did work well.
The second dessert was red pepper cheesecake with strawberry and cashew. The taste of the red pepper was overpowering, and I would even go as far as saying that this dessert was slightly more savory than sweet. But, the unexpected and clever card trick that accompanied this dessert was actually entertaining.
Hidden under this dish was a small plate with a piece of chocolate. Basically, the server plays a card trick and the cards you end up choosing end turn out to be a match to the chocolate flavors hidden under each person’s red pepper cheesecake.
In terms of novelty and showmanship, Eleven Madison Park was a good experience, but I wasn’t mind blown. I applaud the level of inventiveness and format (e.g. DIY tartare, cookie boxes, and picnic) because I had never experienced anything like it, but at the same time, part of me resents the fact that my expectations were not fully met or exceeded.
Servers were friendly and informal, but service was highly inconsistent. At times, I felt rushed and did not enjoy the fast paced food service. Also, we did not see the main server after she dropped the bill— she did not ask about our experience at the end of the meal or said goodbye as we left— though I was given a small granola jar to take home.
Cocktails are reasonably priced, but you do have to pay for the sparkling water and coffee, and gratuity is not included. It isn’t as expensive as Per Se ($295+ per person, gratuity and non-alcoholic beverages included), but you still end up spending $250 per person at the very least. Will I be back to Eleven Madison Park? Probably not, unless they make drastic changes, add more excitement to their tasting menu, and improve their service. I was excited to try EMP and I wanted to love it, but it let me down. In my book, Per Se is superior to Eleven Madison Park.
For more snapshots, follow along on Instagram!
Jul 10, 2013}
In 2012, two- Michelin star The Ledbury won the highest climber award in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and this year it moved up one spot— now 13th best in the world. But the praise doesn’t stop there. This week The Ledbury placed first in the All in One Ultimate Restaurant List, London’s top 100 restaurants list, for the second consecutive year.
Is it really that great? Well, it depends on the comparison. My dining experience had its ups and downs.
Securing a table at The Ledbury last May was not particularly difficult, despite the fact that reservations were made less than two weeks in advance, but that might have had to do with luck. Reservations are available two months in advance, and that night all the tables were occupied half way into the first seating service, so it’s almost a miracle that we were able to hold a spot in so short notice.
Diners have a choice between a 3-course dinner and a 9-course tasting menu, and the latter was a no-brainer for us.
The meal started off with a warm, butter, flaky croissant-like bacon bread and a turbot canapé, followed by a notably delicious quail egg that sat atop a spring pea velouté and a less spectacular scallop ceviche with kohlrabi, seaweed and herb oil, frozen horseradish.
Next, Asian flair grilled mackerel with pickled veggies that tasted somewhat too salty, but the creamy Jersey Royal potatoes with morel mushroom rose to the occasion with its memorably savory simplicity.
The next two courses were some of the best courses of the entire meal: Perfectly roasted John Dory with crab, broccoli and black quinoa, and pork jowl with apple, walnut and parsnip. The fish was fresh and it sort of melted in the mouth, while the pork— cooked for eight hours over very low heat— was just easy on the eyes and palate.
The last savory course was a tasting of Berkshire roe deer with rhubarb, venison and bone marrow. I loved seeing deer on the menu because I had never had it before— I don’t like strong, gamey flavors— but I actually liked it, and thought the sausage was brilliant.
For pre-dessert, there was citrus and mango granite with meringue— tart, tangy, sweet and airy.
The dessert was a mango mille feuille with lime Keffir ice cream— overbaked and underwhelming— and petit fours included eucalyptus chocolate, mini biscuits and fruit jellies.
Presentation was visually playful but not consistent— all plates did not look the same for a given course. Two of the courses were fish, so it would have been nice to see another type of protein, perhaps crustaceans or duck. Dessert was disappointing and that is both, inconceivable and unforgivable. No one should ever end a meal with bad dessert.
The additional charges for the sparkling water and post dinner coffee were unexpected. Non-alcoholic beverages are usually inclusive at top restaurants, so that seemed bizarre.
Things you might want to know:
Favorite dish(es): John Dory with crab and black quinoa; jowl of pork with apples, walnuts and parsnip; creamed Jersey Royals with morels; quail egg amuse bouche
Least favorite dish(es): Mackerel; Mango mille feuille dessert, pâtes de fruits petit fours.
The Ledbury is located in Notting Hill at 127 Ledbury Road, London, United Kingdom.
Jul 10, 2013
Fitz & The Tantrums - Out of My League
May 29, 2013}
Here’s the issue with molecular cuisine: You never know how good it’ll taste until you taste it, but the fact is you know you’re in for a visual treat no matter what.
Chefs experiment with techniques and ingredients, and sometimes it doesn’t taste as good as it looks, which doesn’t necessarily mean that a dish is bad— it simply means that taste falls short of expectations. The reason I tell you this is because dinner at Michelin starred Tom Aikens in London left me with mixed feelings. We sat in the largest, most spacious table and the food looked stunning, but the food itself wasn’t all that and little details threw us off.
Shortly after placing our order, we were wowed by the canapés— beetroot mousse with beetroot jelly, cepe meringue with cepe mayo and crispy chicken, and peas and mint custard. The presentation alone was incredible, wouldn’t you agree? Now, the custard didn’t do it for me— I couldn’t get past its medicinal flavor— but the beetroot jelly and cepe meringue were outstanding and fun to eat.
An assortment of breads and butter (salted, garlic, and mushroom) was brought to the table between the canapés and the appetizers, but only two out of five people were given plates (the same two people who did not order appetizer). Very odd.
Then, the appetizer round. I chose the crab with smoked apple jelly, crispy bacon, and crudo lardo. Others got the foie gras with mousse & granules, white asparagus ice cream, and the baked scallop with yeasted potatoes, osso buco, and toasted bread soup. The crab was mild and tender but it wasn’t spectacular. The foie gras was a bit more disappointing, but the single baked scallop was quite good.
For the main course, I got the piglet belly with aubergine and smoked apple. Overshadowed by the burnt aubergine charcoal-like taste, it was a bit too chewy and it had an overwhelmingly salty aftertaste. Everyone else ordered either the lamb with creamed polenta, cipollini onion, dandelion or the short rib. The short rib with shallot, beef tendons and tongue was probably the best main course.
When it was time to order dessert, I hesitated. But, you can’t give a fair assessment unless you get a taste of every course, so we got the wild strawberries with poached fraises des bois, caramalized meringue and aerated sorbet, and the coconut parfait, mango mousse and coconut sorbet composition. Both desserts were good, but again, not mind blowing. The coconut and mango dessert was beautiful yet excessively deconstructed. The wild strawberries dessert was visually complex and I loved the tiny strawberries and the meringue, but it was missing a wow factor.
The meal did end on a higher note. The spread of petit fours was generous and included a mini key lime meringue pie, doughnuts, a chocolate truffle, milk crisp, an assortment of chocolate (dark, white and milk) and a macaron.
Service was average, although the staff was expeditious and accommodating when I contacted them a few days prior to the reservation date inquiring about adding more people to our party.
Romantically rustic with its wooden floor and furniture, the dining room is dark, but the tables are well-spread and perfectly lit for everyone to appreciate their dishes. While artsy and inventive, most dishes were underwhelming on the palate. In my opinion, the canapés and petit fours were the best part of the meal.
Tom Aikens is located in the Chelsea area at 43 Elystan St, London SW3 3NT, United Kingdom.
May 13, 2013}
The restaurant earned one Michelin star last year, and it sure did live up to expectations.
Les Tablettes dining room is spacious, the ambiance is warm and modern, and the crowd is mostly men in suits, ladies who lunch and affluent retirees from around the area.
The amuse bouche was a light and refreshing tomato soup with lemon jelly. You wouldn’t think those two would go together, but the flavors and textures were exquisite. I chose foie gras raviolis with langoustine emulsion (not pictured) paired with a terrific white wine to start, and braised veal shank paired with a light red wine for the main course.The day’s cheese course was a very rich goat cheese with olive oil, spices and fresh marjoram. To finish, a chocolate-mascarpone composition, cappuccino and delicious mignardises— cream puffs, mini chocolate tarts with meringue, and more chocolate.
Highlights? The amuse bouche, veal and mignardises were all outstanding. Will I be back? Likely. The sommelier, Jennifer, was very attentive and chef Jean Louis Nomicos even came over to the table to greet us.
May 7, 2013}
Subtlety, as it regards to footwear, is dead. This spring/summer, it’s all about structured shoes, and the loafer is my favorite for everyday wear.
I love the edginess of sleek metallics with structure like Nicholas Kirkwood’s pink leather loafers and the sophistication of black loafers with tassels and golden embellishments.
Black, in the warmer months, has always been frowned upon, but this season it is publicly acceptable and I couldn’t be happier. If you’re looking for a black pair of loafers with incredible aesthetic, I suggest Giuseppe Zanotti’s Shark Tooth and Prada’s logo-studded tassel loafers.
All three of these loafers go well with skinny jeans or cropped pants in black, white, pattern or print.
Nicholas Kirkwood slip on shoes, $710 (Net-a-Porter) / Giuseppe Zanotti slip on shoes, $670 (Net-a-Porter) / Prada leather shoes, $720 (Barneys)
Apr 30, 2013}
The restaurant at Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain, Le Comptoir, is a typical casual Parisian restaurant—incredibly small and incredibly busy. Close to the Odéon metro stop and Jardin du Luxemburg, it is a great choice for an unpretentious but delightful lunch.
To start, we ordered oeuf mayonnaise (hard boiled eggs with slightly thick mayonnaise sauce) and sunny side up eggs with asparagus. The former is their most popular appetizer, and the latter is a seemingly simple dish loaded with flavor and texture.
Nicely cooked, the braised pork with lentils was flavorful, juicy and tender. The crispy skin on top made it even more delicious as it added a bit of saltiness and contrast.
Service at Le Comptoir is far from good, but if you can get past it, you will definitely have an enjoyable meal. Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you’re thinking about going for dinner.