Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Friend and Old Friend

New Friend: Jewel Bako

Jewel Bako, an East Village sushi favorite, was the first restaurant of Jack Lamb's empire. Now Jack has Degustation next door and Jack's Luxury Oyster around the corner on Second Ave. One proclaimed the "Danny Meyer of the East Village", Jack's reputation for quality food is unquestioned. Comparing himself to Danny Meyer might be stretching it, but we'll let him get away with it and get right down to our experience--and by our experience I mean myself and my friend Andrew.

Andrew picked Jewel Bako as its right down the street from him apartment. Not only has he heard good things, but he often peaks through the little glass window on the door whenever he walks by. I was pretty excited about this place--not only because the rave reviews but because I was in the mood for sushi.

We sat at the sushi bar, which in my opinion is the best place to enjoy sushi. Not only do you get to see the chef make you're food with his intricate knife-skills but you get to have a dialogue with him (if you could understand him that is). The bar is small and supposedly its pretty hard to get a spot, but we walked right in. The place wasn't as packed as I was expecting, but maybe because it was a Tuesday night. We ordered the Omakase ($50) which is the chef's tasting menu. The definition of "Omakase"** comes from the verb "makasu" which means to trust, to let someone else take the initiative. In general, "Omakase" expresses the idea of having the courage to place your life in the hands of someone else. Or, in the case of dining...place your dining experience in the hands of the chef. We started off with some Miso soup and then got down to business with some sushi. We enjoyed a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while prepared our food. The quality of the sushi was among the best I've ever had. Delicate flavors of raw fish were enhanced with yuzu and tiny bits of wasabi to create amazing little bites. I was also pretty pumped because the chef prepared fish that you don't always get like sable fish and sea urchin. Sure, we had some old time favorites like yellowtail and tuna; but its always fun to taste new things. We also ordered the scallop roll that was a combination of scallop, yuzu zest, scallions, and chive oil. The best part of the Omakase is that it was a progression of awesome. Each bite that chef placed in front of us was better than the

Not only was the food top notch, but the whole experience was pretty awesome. The service was good and the staff was friendly. Now i could see why this place is a neighborhood favorite. This is a great spot for a sushi date!

Gramercy Tavern: Old Friend

Gramercy Tavern

People often ask me, "what's your favorite restaurant" and although I can never give a straightforward answer --Gramercy Tavern always comes to mind. But then I think to myself, why Gramercy Tavern? Although the food is really good, I've never rushed back for that mind-blowing dish. I think Frank Bruni's New York Times review on Gramercy Tavern describes it best--Gramercy Tavern embodies the comfort of an old friend with its unstrained graciousness and unlabored sophistication. The food is complex, but simple at the same time and that gives it broad appeal. GT also has one of the best cocktail programs I've ever seen. Deliciously balanced cocktails change seasonally while the wine/beer list will put you in awe with its extensive selections. The service is impeccable, not only because of the attentiveness and knowledge; but because of the warmth. Whether you're at the bar or at a table, you get the idea of this being a serious restaurant; but its comfortable.

On my last visit to Gramercy Tavern, I sat at one of the bar tables in the Tavern. I sipped on GT's Fall Classic (Bulliet Bourbon, Green Market cider, Calvados, thyme, and lemon) while I waited on Colette. While I waited, I took in the space and looked over the menu. After much conversation, we started out meal. We started with a bottle of Tocai Sec from Hungary that our server had recommended. I asked him to recommend something off the beaten path that was dry and had nice minerality and acidity. He went on to give a brief description on why he liked this wine and why it was different, so I decided to try it. Colette proclaimed "I only like Pino Grigio" as she was hesitant on agreeing with my decision. She liked it! We both liked it and I think it complemented our meal very well. We started off with grilled ruby red shrimp with buckwheat cavatelli, apples, chestnuts, and brussel sprouts. The kitchen sent us out a complimentary appetizer- Sweatbreads with hen of the wood mushrooms, boy choy, and almonds. Both appetizers were awesome although I might have to give a nod to the shrimp dish. For an entree, Colette ordered the flounder with spaghetti squash, walnuts, and sherry sauce. I got the smoked pork shoulder that came in a bacon broth with salsify and cornbread. The cornbread was amazing! The pork itself was well cooked, but I would have liked a little more flavor. I think the flavors were very subtle and complex; but I would have loved just a little more love. The flounder on the hand was packed with flavor. The sherry sauce that covered the flounder was delicious. Our server joked around saying he could spread this sauce on a phonebook and eat it. The flounder itself was cooked beautifully and it only got better with the walnuts and spaghetti squash that graced the plate.

Pretty full, Colette didn't want to get dessert; but I ordered anyway. The dessert menu was full of mouth-watering options, but I decided on the chocolate pudding after our server described it as chocolate covered pretzels. The chocolate pudding was made with salted caramel and brioche croutons. They also sent out the pear crisp with spiced pistachios and pistachio ice cream. I'm not the biggest fan of pears, but this dessert was pretty damn good especially the top.

Overall, it was another great experience at Gramercy Tavern. I especially love GT in the fall and winter; because the restaurant gives off a warmth. Stop by and check it out. Its not cheap; but Its of great value!

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