Sunday, May 20, 2012

Checkin' In

Great: Chicken or the Egg (LBI) Good service and even better food. Food comes out fast, casual atmosphere, and BYOB. BOOM!

Good: Lamb burger at Connoly's was flavorful and cooked right; but don't expect a refill on your water.

BAD: Piccolo Roma in Hoboken (sat outside and was BYOB so it wasn't a bad experience; but the food was awful!

Texas/Arizon (Hoboken)
Sports bar right near path, so it gets packed; but its a good spot. The female bartenders don't really know whats going on; but I won't hold it against them.

McSwiggens (Hoboken)
On weekends, this place is packed so its hard to enjoy; but during the week its not a bad place to swing by. On Wednesday, they had a guy jamming on his guitar and the bartender hooked us up. I did see a roach scurry across the pool table while we were playing; so maybe you should skip this place.

Great Sushi

Its not hard to find "good sushi" in a city saturated with sushi dens; but its always a treat when you find "great sushi." You could find great sushi at 15 East right outside of Union Square. Masato Shimizu runs the kitchen and takes more of a traditional approach to 15 East's menu. The menu is broken down into two main portions "from our sushi bar" and "from our kitchen". Under the sushi bar portion you could find a list of tempting appetizers like slow-poached octopus, firefly squid in a sweet miso vinaigrette, oysters, or yellowtail sashimi three ways. It then goes into main courses: sushi omakase, sashimi omakase, tuna flight, or sushi & sashimi omakase. The appetizers from the kitchen consist of a degustation of sea lettuces (11 varieties of Japanese seaweed), crab croquettes, grilled swordfish, and Kuruma prawn tempura. Their were 4 main courses--Awabi risotto, seared scallops, ribeye kobe beef, and a duo of wild salmon and yellowtail. 15 East also offers handmade soba noodles--both hot and cold. Try the cold noodles with sea urchin, salmon roe, or caviar while the hot noodles work well with duck or prawns. Though 15 east lacks the maki section of crazy sushi rolls (thank God) it doesn't lack an awesome lineup of fish to pick from. The list consist of fish that me and Stef never heard of and that to me is exciting. 

What didn't excite me was the service or the wine list. Not saying the service wasn't good; but when you pay $70 for wine and you're one of four tables in the whole restaurant, you don't want to pour you're own wine. The server who looked more like a maitre d' seemed to be well informed of the food and wine list; but he wasn't overly helpful (but thats fine). The only thing that annoyed me more than him not pouring our wine was his "my pleasure" response to everything i said--"hey have a good one" was responded with "My pleasure". But he did a good job, so lets leave it at that. Back to the wine list! It was frustrating looking over the wine menu; because they only had 3 bottles under $50. That $70 albarino that we picked was delicious and paired very well with our food; but I think 15 East would be more of a regular spot if they had wines with more reasonable price tags. The food is pricey so you could expect the wine list to sync up; but it was such a buzz-kill knowing that we didn't have very many options. 

Once we tasted the wine and started eating, all was well and I couldn't complain. The chef started us with a soft shell crab than progressed to the sushi & sashimi omakase, and ended with cold soba noodles with sea urchin. Everything was delicious and I'd definitely return. What stood out about the sashimi and sushi omakase was the variety of fish they gave us. So often, even at "good sushi" spots they chef prepares fish that you eat all the time--tuna, salmon,shrimp, etc. At 15 East they gave us a variety of fish that made me think it was really today's best fish. The fish included were all delicious and ridiculously fresh. The raw pieces of sashimi melted in your mouth like butter while the sushi had a similar effect. Soy sauce and wasabi were not needed; but there for just like salt and pepper at an American restaurant. 

15 East has received much attention from critics all around the country including Alan Richman (from GQ) who awarded 15 East his tenth spot when asked his top 10 favorite NYC restaurants. 15 East is definitely among the best sushi I've ever had-only to compare with sushi staples like Sushi Yasuda. Check it out!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Change of Plans

I woke up to my alarm or maybe it was my phone? Either way, I woke up and checked my phone. I had a voicemail from one of my managers informing me that I didn't have to come in today--I was relieved and caught a few more hours of sleep. By 10am I forced myself out of bed and got out of the apartment. I skipped my normal breakfast routine and started walking uptown. The streets were alive, but thats no surprise considering the dampness of the last few days. Heading up Fulton Street, I pass tourist looking for the Seaport. Trying to avoid scaffolding and construction, I ended up on Greenwich which was loaded with families. Dodging strollers, I kept my eyes open for a breakfast spot; but nothing really stood out. I knew Locanda Verde was just a few more blocks, so I didn't want to settle for just anything. The only other place that had a crowd was Sarabeth's; but that seemed a little too child-friendly.

Arriving at Locanda Verde, I was surprised on how many families were there with their kids. I grabbed a seat at the bar and was greeted by a bartender with a menu. I read the menu and took in my surroundings. The atmosphere but bustling, but controlled. Dress shirts and ties worn by the staff gave the restaurant a serious tone while their jeans made you lean back in a more casual vibe. Casual elegant seemed to be an ongoing theme at Locanda Verde, where Andrew Carmelinni runs the kitchen. Carmelinni was mentored by Daniel Boulud, so expectations were high. Locande Verde was chef Carmelinni's first venture; but then he shortly opened The Dutch in Soho than another Dutch in Miami. 

Looking over the menu, there was plenty of mouth-watering options; but a few dishes stood out. Nothing seemed overly exciting; but sometimes the simple food is the most delicious. I started with Sheep's Milk Ricotta with burnt orange toast. The ricotta was drizzled with truffle honey and herbs--a delicious combination of fresh, aromatic, and sweet. Although my antipasti came first, they start you off with a piece of garlic focaccia bread that just got out of the oven. Its hard to resist warm bread; but I did have my ricotta with burnt toast in front of me and another course coming. My second course was hazelnut-crusted french toast with sour cherries and mint. The french toast was perfectly moist while the sour cherries only complimented the maple syrup and powdered sugar. I finished my meal with a double espresso and wandered back out to the streets where I walked off an indulgent brunch. 

I'm definitely going to go back for dinner. The food was delicious and the prices very reasonable for Carmelinni's talent. The space is tavern-like, but polished. The service is professional though not over-friendly. My favorite response from the bartender was his reasoning behind liking the french toast: "they use dark rum in it". But the pacing of the food was right on point and they weren't pushy. They charged me for the wrong bill; but an honest mistake thats not a big deal (unless I see it on my next statement). All in all, a great Saturday brunch that prepared me for the day's festivities. Head over to Locanda Verde for an early dinner and sit outside as the weather stays beautiful.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Awesome brunch at North End Grill. Started with a Jack Rose at the bar than made our way into the dining room. Kate picked a nice bottle of white wine to get us started while we waited on our pastries. After the pastries, we each got a main and shared the Jonnycake Benedict. Dave got the steak hash and fried eggs while Kate got the coddled egg with peekytoe crab, bacon, and grits. I didn't get to try their dishes, but they seemed pretty happy with them. I got the lobster omelet which had good flavor though my chattiness with an old coworker brought me back to cold eggs! They also sent out a side of chorizo. My favorite was the Jonnycakes!

By this time, Jason (the wine director) brought out a lovely red from the Rhone just in time for dessert. For dessert, we got one scoop of birch beer ice cream, the ecckles cake (out of curiousity), and the butterscotch pot de creme of course! The kitchen sent out this delightful chocolate pecan layer cake with their compliments! Alex Ray is definitely making a name for herself with outstanding desserts!

After finishing the wine, we moved onto espresso and scotch. A five-hour affair made me forget it was miserable outside. I put on my jacket and braved the walk home in the rain, feeling good!

A Friday Off!

After much success at Eleven Madison Park, chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara took their talents a few blocks north to recently opened NoMad. Yes, Humm and Guidara still run the show over at EMP; but the NoMad project (backed by The Sydell Group & GFI Capital Resources) is what prompted the sale of Danny Meyer's crown jewel--Eleven Madison Park. The NoMad named for its location north of Madison Square Park is Humm's and Guidara's attempt for a more accessible restaurant; thought much of its sophistication stems from EMP. Its Eleven Madison Park (three Michelin Star/NYT four star) quality brought down to earth. Sure you could have an extravagant dinner here and drop coin; but you could also have dinner for under $50.


The space is divided into a series a rooms--each with its own personality and vibe yet all harmonious in elegant fashion. We started in the bar room with a few cocktails and appetizers than migrated to the library for a few more. Between the three of us, we probably tried 8-9 cocktails off the impressive list. I was pleasantly surprised on the menu's depth. All cocktails were delicious and well balanced though Satan's Circus might have been a bit too spicey. I don't mind heat, but the chili infused Aperol had a slight stinging effect on the finish. I loved the flavor combination, but that slight on the back of my throat kept me from ordering another one. 


As for food, we got a few snacks while we sipped on our cocktails. The Fruits de Mer was a collection of seafood for one including crab, lobster, scallops, sea urchin, and an oyster. Although the platter was bite size, the flavors were worth the $24 price tag. We also got a chicken appetizer that reminded me of chicken tenders--boring yet tastey. The salmon rilette with sorrel and creme fraiche was served in a mason jar and was accompanied with bread for spreading. 

The NoMad is expensive; but definitely worth a visit. The cocktails and food are top notch. It's definitely a young money crowd; but a jacket is not required. The return of the serious hotel restaurants seems to be in full swing and The NoMad's potential will leave New York with high expectations. 

The Wren
A hip bowery gastropub serving cocktails and late night food. I stuck with beer, but the cocktail list looked interesting. This place got packed; so packed I almost didn't stay. I did manage to squeeze through the crowd to the back where I met some friends. I was surprised the crowd of people pushing to gain position to the bar didn't go downstairs or even sit at a table like we did. Either way, I'm glad they didn't because it gave us plenty of space. After a few beers, we ordered a few snacks. Prawns in a pint were solid, but the fish and chips stole the show. The fish was fresh and perfectly battered. The fries that accompanied the fish were worthy of being on the same plate. Minus the crowd, The Wren is a solid spot whether you're grabbing a beer or looking for some food. 

Yankee Stadium Eats

The new Yankee Stadium has some good eats including Brother Jimmy's pulled pork sandwiches, garlic fries, cuban sandwiches, carl's cheese steaks, and much more. Just avoid shots of jamo at the Hard Rock, they will run you $17.25 a shot. Beer and food are expensive, but its all good when at THE STADIUM!

Share Our Strength: Taste of the Nation

Cocktails of the Future

Booker and Dax:
David Chang partnered up with Dave Arnold to bring the East Village a cocktail spot that brings a scientific edge to it. The spot is located in the old Milk Bar space and is named after Arnold's children, Booker and Dax. The menu is short, but is quite different from other cocktail bars in the area. Not only do the bartenders chill their glasses with liquid nitrogen, but they get people thinking --not just drinking. Try a gin and Juice with clarified grapefruit juice or a mustachi-ode --a shaken cocktail with nardini amaro, becherovka, bourbon, egg-white, a house made pistachio syrup. For stirred cocktails, you could get a Manhattan; but for something unique get the Laurel and Hardy--a mixture of cognac, rye, maraschino, benedictine, fernet, and mole bitters. Bols Deep, Son of a Peach, and Jenny & Scott are also solid drinks that come served with one large ice cube. Arnold and the crew over at Booker and Dax aim to make cocktails better through a scientific approach. For their Lady of the Night--they clarify siracha,tomato juice, and worcestershire and distill horseradish into an essential oil; giving them a truly unique twist on a bloody mary. 

Booker and Dax is a solid cocktail spot; but I'm scared the appeal might be lost after your first or second visit. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the kitchen serves pork buns till 2am; but the cocktail list isn't too long. Maybe the menu changes frequently? I don't know. Its a comfortable atmosphere to grab a drink and chat up the bartenders about the gadgets that look like they were stolen from a laboratory. Just don't drink too fast, $15 drinks could add up.