NEW YORK, NY
With a non-descript and unassuming entrance, this restaurant with an open kitchen is a welcome endeavor for me. The walk through the dark back hallway to the open kitchen bar makes me believe that we are off to an amazing start. There is a casual feel to this restaurant at the counter but not to the point of shorts and crop tops but still more so than I was expecting really. There is light old school hip hop, the kind that was respectful to women playing in the background. Engaging chefs, delightful waitress and tasty food. This was a good meal and while I would definitely recommend and return, someone else will have to be paying.
For the first dish, I was served puffed potatoes filled with sour cream and chives. It is a cold potato chip which I was not expecting. I thought it was a warm and softly cooked potato filled with sour cream and chive kind of like a baked potato. After eating it, I feel that it is not something that I would order off a menu especially since I really do not eat fried foods. It is just okay, almost as though you are eating a bag of potato chips. There is not enough going on here to make me break my no fried food promise. As a side note, only one of my chips had filling so there was not the greatest attention to detail on this one.
Next, we have a lobster rolled with mint and basil in a crisp shell. This was another cold crust but this was quite good with the freshness of the herbs forcefully jumping out as the first flavor you taste. The release of the flavor of lobster was really delayed being the last of the ingredients to make its presence known.
Next up is the chicken oyster topped with honey mustard powder. Initially, I thought that their pace was quite quick here and I am a slow eater so pacing is everything to me. I later found that they really follow your own pace so I just slowed down and they adjusted accordingly. Back to the oyster, THIS WAS PHENOMENAL! Juicy and the flavors of the thigh explode in your mouth at the same time that the sweet and spicy of the honey mustard wake up your palate. This was fried but not greasy and very much worth breaking my no fried foods rule. I could certainly order a full serving of these and sip a glass of Barolo while watching a movie on a cool fall evening.
Sashimi of striped bass from Montauk filled with pickled mustard greens and topped with sea salt and rye Bonji. Bonji is basically soy sauce but with a different preparation. It was a nice bite but it made me crave some fresh sushi from Shoji in TriBeCa. I have a hard rule that food from one restaurant should not make me crave food from another. Something about that is just not quite right to me. At this point, I was really worried that all I was going to get was a series of tasty dishes when I had really been looking forward to the exceptional meal which is what I had been pitched. This meal was falling just a few steps before that.
I love how beautiful the lobster crudo with blood orange was. So vibrant and full of color. The fact that this and the other dishes prepared were so simple and concise was definitely a huge win in my book. For tasting, I took a bite of the blood orange first and there was a delayed burst of the juice flavors and accompanying sweetness. I am not sure how they achieved that. Then a bite of lobster, after having a little trouble picking it up… it has a peppery after taste but one that is not offensive to the senses. In truth, it came quite close to flavor orgasm but just fell short of it. Finally, I tasted both parts together and the spice of the lobster intensified the sweet of the orange in a such a natural manner that I almost cannot imagine having lobster any other way. A part of me wants a bit more of these bites so that I have more to savor and use to describe what I am tasting here. This is the first tasting menu that I have had which is truly just a taste.
An interesting thing to note here is that they pair the wine for you which is a huge plus for me. I love wine but I do get overwhelmed at restaurants trying to figure out what would play nicely with my dinner. Also be advised that you will not be shown the price ahead of time… just a friendly note. The longer I sit here, the more I wonder if I am overdressed. I am not going to get penalized or anything but it is a lingering thought.
Next up, a poached egg with caviar, salt and vinegar potato chips and herbs. I am not sure what kind of caviar this is but I do not like it. It does not taste fresh at all and is lacking that uniquely salty flavor that good caviar gives. I am also unsure of what this herb is. Upon asking about the caviar, I was told that it was golden ossetra… *silence* and not in a good way. My next step to make it better was to get it all on one fork but alas that did not help. This is not the dish for me as there are just a few execution issues where otherwise it has the right idea. There is sweet, savory and salty present but it just did not end up working even with the caviar and egg yolk which is a lethal combination.
I had my standard taste test here at this point, the bread and butter both for curiousity sake and because I was hungry. Unfortunately, this was not great as well and definitely not worth the carbs. I am madly and hopelessly in love with watching their kitchen though. If you are a fan of kitchen gazing, this is definitely the place to go. The mixed scents of multiple dishes being prepared at the same time and witnessing the dedication, focus and craftsmanship of the chefs… it is definitely a spectacle to see. I saw an eggplant grilled to oblivion and funnier still a chef violently grating frozen foie gras for a later dish. Ok maybe I enjoy this part a bit too much.
The next dish was the one month dry aged beef warmed up on the grill and served atop green peppercorns. If you do not eat rare meat then do not come near this dish. Thankfully I do and this is a delicious piece of beef. It is not possible to get a taste of the beef without the the taste of the peppercorns but this comes together in quite a delicious bite nonetheless. Both the texture and temperature are amazing. This was one of their standout dishes for me and is the kind of dish that makes me feel like party time. I am doing a happy dance and caressing my hands for a more risqué kind of party ????. There was this one phenomenal bite here where I was hit with the juice of the peppercorn and *insert palate explosion here*. This is definitely the most satisfying dish of the tasting so far and this time I got a decent enough portion to be able to tell you that.
After that flavorful couple of bites, my mind immediately jumps back to the chicken oyster with honey mustard. Almost as though it was saying, “don’t forget that that was an amazing one too”. Honey mustard powder is certainly something that I am now going to be on the look out for as an ingredient to stock in my kitchen.
Next up, we have a lightly smoked razor clam with pineapple dashi, basil seed and basil oil. Pineapple is the first thing that jumps out at you. I cannot really taste the flavor of the razor clams. They serve as texture only in this dish. Even when I scoop them up out of the soup and ensure there is non liquid on my spoon, I still just taste pineapple. Basil does bring a freshness to the dish, I will say but all I taste really is pineapple. Towards the end of the tasting, I finally started to taste the smokiness of the clams but even then it was VERY light.
My opinion so far of the tasting is that it is really tasty food but I expect so much more for its price tag. There are two savory courses and three dessert courses to go so will see what change that will bring to my review. I should probably mention that I eat very little and I am hungry this close to the end of the meal… that says a lot.
My favorite ingredient, uni, served here with broken rice, macerated tomatoes and olive oil. The flavor of the tomatoes has seeped into the olive oil so much so that I cannot taste its natural flavor. The tomatoes are macerated nicely with just a touch of sweetness and the rice is cooked nicely as well. Unfortunately, the uni is not fresh but I will say that it is still a nice dish despite this flaw. I took a pause to imagine how much better this would have been if it were fresh. Since it is uni and they have all the right pieces on the plate, I will give them a pass on this one. So there is rice in this dish and gut reaction is no bueno. I had to eat it though because I was hungry. Have I ever mentioned that I feel rice is a cop out in dishes? It swallows all the flavors that surround it. So even if you do not season your protein properly rice will swallow it up and make it taste “amazing”.
The last of the savory courses is the dry aged lamb leg (about a week) atop peppercorns. It is served with charred eggplant and what I was told was a chocolate sauce though it did not taste like it. If indeed it was chocolate then it was completely transformed and really delicious. Salty but not overbearing in its flavors atop the eggplant. The peppercorns stand out on the lamb so much so that I cannot taste the lamb age. I am a hard medium girl, maximum on meat temperatures so this is slightly over cooked for me. Lamb and eggplant together are delicious but they do not taste as though they are one cohesive bite. More like two tasty dishes on the same plate versus we were meant to be on the same fork.
Once again they work at your own pace so if you have to rest at this point then please do so. I had to because of the rice which bloated me instantaneously. Anyway, on to desserts.
Concord grape with a beet like vegetable is the palate cleanser but all I taste is grape to be honest. It is not overly sweet thankfully and it sticks to the spoon as I nearly dropped it on myself. Not sure what the gelee atop is and I did not ask though I should have. A sip of my Barolo did not help either, it just got swallowed up by the grape. It is not bad, quite tasty really, I just wish I could taste all the ingredients in it.
As I waited for the first dessert, I looked at the utensil which was an interestingly formed bamboo item that was to function as a spoon. The progression of their utensils has been quite interesting to watch really. It kept me smiling and curious for what was next with every dish.
The first dessert is lychees, pine nuts and riesling jelly sitting on a tart and topped with frozen shaved foie gras. You are to eat the tart with your hands first and then use the spoon. Be careful when you bite into the tart as it crumbles easily. The savory of the foie gras plays very nicely with the intense flavors of the riesling jelly. Scraping the remaining foie gras onto the chunks of remaining jelly leaves an okay experience. It is not scrape the bowl worthy as with some dishes that I have tasted in the past but still good.
Next up, wild rice ice cream made with soy milk and topped with candied seaweed. Looking forward to tasting this one as it sounds so interesting. I love soy milk and I am picky about my brands. I really only drink Pacific so there are not really multiple “brands” to speak of. In this case, it is great tasting soy and I am doubtful that it is store bought. The crunchy texture of the seaweed is maintained as you eat the ice cream. Like everything else, it is just an ok bite. This is supposed to be a lethal and delicious combination with salty crunch and sweet soft creamy ice cream but it just stopped short of getting there. Again, I think I would come back here if someone else was paying.
Finally, we have a mandarin tart with cheddar. I was a bit distracted by something happening around me that I forgot to take a picture of the tart before biting into it. Before serving, they gave an option of cheddar vs Gouda but I hate Gouda so this was easy choice. It is a warm and not overly sweet and rich tart. Now throw that cheddar on there and BOOM! This is definitely my favorite bite of the night. Save the best for last is an understatement…. and I cannot believe that I forgot to take a picture first. I did capture something but please forgive this, “I already started eating you “ picture. Salty cheddar, sweet mandarin… perfection.