Thursday, October 11, 2012


A month or so I read about a restaurant swap between Alinea (out of chicago) and Eleven Madison Park and I was instantly interested to learn more. After watching the youtube video of the switch and reading in anticipation, I secured 4 tickets to the last night of the swap. Tickets were expensive, but an event like this was hard to pass up.

Grant Achatz is one of America's most admired and inspirational chefs leading the way in molecular gastronomy. Chef Achatz has worked with top chefs all around the world including Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Napa. Grant brings fun and creativity to dining rooms that would normally seem stiff and robotic. Alinea was ranked number #7 on San Pellegrino's top 50 best restaurants in the world. The only other restaurants to reach the top in the United States are Per Se at #6 and Eleven Madison Park at #10. I was so excited for the experience as I've heard amazing things about Grant Achatz and both of his restaurants: Alinea and Next.

Our reservations were on the last night of the swap, so it took me all self control not to read reviews before we went. I was happy that we had the first seating at 6:00 as early tables really got the full experience. Not that later tables didn't get that experience--its just that the dinner was full of surprises and EMP is an open restaurant so surprises could easily be spoiled.

As I entered the revolving doors at EMP I was greeted and directed to a tub of clanking glasses. The decor and the smell brought me right into fall and that's were I'd stay for the next four hours. I grabbed a glass of apple cider and couldn't help but think of bobbing for apples. The initial apple cider was non-alcoholic but a generous splash of calvados seemed like a no-brainer at the end of your meal on your way out.

We sat down in a comfortable booth in the front of the restaurant. The table was covered with leaves that we would later push off the table. The idea of pushing leaves onto a floor of a 4-star restaurant seemed a bit weird, so we probably could have had a bit more fun with that. But it gave us our first indication that this meal was going to be fun.

We waited for every course like kids waiting for presents on Christmas eve. The meal was very interactive and really made the experience. Excitement filled the room and it truly an unbelievable meal. I think its safe to say it was the best dining experience I've had. Not only fun and inventive; but delicious. And the service was great and not stiff as one might think. My company also made the experience unforgettable.

Pics by Grub Street

Lunch, an underrated affair

Everyone always talks about dinner, but some of my greatest restaurant experiences have been at lunch. Whether its discovering amazing flavors in a sandwich or having a 4 hour lunch at Gramercy Tavern while it was snowing. Two recent lunches that proved to be worth mentioning...


Chef and restauranteur Daniel Boulud's first downtown venture features a more casual atmosphere and menu compared to his uptown restaurants. DBGB Kitchen and Bar named after the music club CBGB offers Lyonnais-inspired bistro cooking with a solid beer list of 22 draft beers and over 75 bottled beer. Mr. Boulud takes his expertise and makes it more simple--makes it affordable. 

The space is perfectly designed for the Bowery with a masculine charm of steel and glass. Beer and sausages reign supreme on the menu; but you shouldn't stop there. A look around the menu will reflect Boulud's knowledge and his plates will reflect his technique. Souch and I went for lunch today after thumbing through all the places we want to go. We sat at a table in the bar area right by the window. The floor was sunken beneath street level; but you still had a good view of what was happening on the bowery. During the warmer months, they have outside seating available which is always cool. 

We started with DB's Smoked Salmon--crispy potato latkes and creme frache while also getting the charcuterie plate--tasting of pate, jambon de paris, and rillettes paired with sourdough bread. For entrees, I got the cod sandwich while Andrew got the house made turkey sandwich. The cod sandwich was excellent! They beer battered the cod and placed it on a warm sesame bun with a spicy ranch dressing. The sandwich was accompanied by a arugula and frisee salad. Souch seemed to enjoy his turkey sandwich. We also got these house-made sodas which weren't bad--weren't that great either but interesting for sure. 

The service was a bit lackluster. Our server might have said 5 words to us the whole time not including her trying to up-sell a side dish when I asked if we ordered OK. I would have probably listened to her if she seemed at all excited rather than fumbling around the menu looking for something that she could sell me. But the service wasn't bad--it just lacked hospitality. But maybe thats just me drinking the Danny Meyer kolaid. 

Overall, a good lunch for sure. Definitely want to go back to attack the beer list. 

Mary's Fish Camp
A West Village gem for any seafood lover. Grabbed a corner table with a great view overlooking Charles Street. Fish was super fresh and flavors were subtle and layered. I really enjoyed my lunch here with my sister and would probably go back more if I could afford it. 

  Fish Tacos!

 Cod Sandwich!

 Tuna Sliders!