Thursday, July 19, 2007

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

One if by Land, Two if by Sea
17 Barrow Street - Map
Between West 4th Street and Bleecker St
New York
American Continental

Another one of New York City's more notable fine dining establishments - One if by Land, Two if by Sea gives you everything you expect to get: decent gourmet cuisine that's not too adventurous, and an impeccable dining environment.

Through my years of eating at dining establishments during Restaurant Week - I've learned a few things. First, if it's a relatively new restaurant, chances are the service and quality of the dishes will still be good. Secondly, make it your business to order some kind of alcohol since the higher-end restaurants generally don't make as much over the prix fixe menu (and consequently, your servers are less likely to give you good service since the tip will be smaller), so the prospect of a higher tip due to the purchase of alcoholic beverages increases your chances of better service.

That said, service at One if by Land could have been MUCH better than it was. First of all, it took them a very very long time to take our orders. In fact, our server took our wine order first, and had it served, and we still waited a while before ordering our meal. In fact, we had finished the bottle of wine between us before any of our dishes arrived. I was also perturbed at the server's attitude when I asked him what he would recommend as a wine pairing to the dishes we were ordering. He seemed annoyed that I would ask him, and he seemed marginally reluctant to help. Either it was because he didn't know crap about wine, or he was just being snooty. If it was the former, then just tell me you don't know and recommend I ask the sommelier, and if it's the latter, then you're not doing much for a good tip. Lastly, even once we placed our orders, it took a particularly long time before any of us received our entrées (hence the fact that we finished the bottle of wine before our food arrived). For an establishment that has such a long-standing and very positive reputation that preceeds it, the experience we had was more than disappointing.

Anyway, on to the cuisine at hand. The restaurant week menu selection was actually quite pleasant with three options for an appetizer, three options for the entrée, and three options for dessert. I ordered their Seared Gulf Prawns, the Thai Marinated Roast Free Range Chicken, and for dessert the Peach Parfait. Of the three, I most thoroughly enjoyed the Seared Gulf Prawns as it was served in a small nest of linguini in a lusciously light tomato broth. I thoroughly enjoyed the married flavors of the prawn and the tomato sauce - distinctly of prawn with the light hint of sweet aroma, then the velvetty acidity of the tomato sauce. I particularly loved the textural play of the linguini.

The following entrée, was also very good. I actually enjoyed the sesame-whipped potatoes and the sweet corn and bok choy more so than the chicken, although that was very good too. The chicken breast was served cooked to perfection; not dry at all, and quite moist. It was crusted nicely with spice rub, of which the most notable flavor was the coriander, which added a really nice kick and texture.

Dessert, not my favorite course, was still a pleasant palate cleanser for the savory dishes that preceeded it, but of no personal particular note. I enjoyed the flavors of the peach parfait, and it's presentation was adequate and on-par for the venue.

I would like, for the moment, to at least discuss One if by Land's strongest quality - its décor and ambiance. One if by Land is most noted as being famous for wedding proposals. Many a gent plan a whole romantic evening to culminate in a fine-dining experience in a locale that fosters a lush and romantic environment (in fact, a couple sitting adjacent to our table had just gotten engaged minutes prior to our arrival). The interior is beautifully decorated with old-style wrought-iron candle-lamps as light fixtures situated above the bar immediately to the left as you enter the restaurant. The low-level lighting and the general low-level lull of talk in the room all the more increase the sense of intimacy and refinery. Upon being seated, the server lights the two candles perched on two tall candle-sticks accompanied by a small rose arrangement in the center. All in all, a very pleasant and pretentious experience.

In conclusion - One if by Land, Two if by Sea was a pleasant enough experience. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have bothered to write a review, but the reputation of the restaurant merited a small write-up. As a foodie, would I go to One if by Land on my own? Probably not, but if you're looking for a nice, intimate dining experience, then One if by Land, Two if by Sea should definitely be at the top of your list!

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Good Fork

The Good Fork
391 Van Brunt St - Map
Between Coffrey Street and Van Dyke St
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(718) 643-6636
Contemporary American

On this one particular evening, three of my recently acquired chef friends (because we graduated culinary school - sorry, I had to plug that in!!) decided to get together and maintain our contact with one another. We figured - what better way to do that then to go out to dinner together and flex our new muscles of culinary knowledge. All week long we were savoring the day where we'd wreak havoc on a dining establishment with our overly critical palates! The (un)lucky winner was The Good Fork, a relatively new restaurant to open in the very up-and-coming Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn (within walking distance of the new Fairway).

We were only able to make a reservation for 9:15 and so we decided to occupy our time at the liquor store across the street, Le Nell's, of which I highly recommend visiting, for a brief tequila tasting and to purchase a bottle of wine. After being graciously educated on the refined varieties of tequila, we opted for a nice bottle of red and decided that we'd enjoy it along the pier as the sun was setting.

Upon entering the restaurant, you can't help notice that the decor of the entire place is reminiscent of being inside the galley of a boat, with tables alongside either wall, and a narrow walkway down the center toward the back where there is a bar in front of the VERY small kitchen. However, there is additional seating in their back dining room - where we were seated - which also leads outside to an outdoor seating area which was consequently open and heated through heat lamps.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the executive chef and wife of the owner, Ben, is actually an alumna of the Institute of Culinary Education - the rival school to our own alma mater, the French Culinary Institute - but we let bygones be bygones and decided to just enjoy our wonderful evening together.

We decided on 5 different starters: the cornmeal crusted osyters, the dumplings, the crab cake, the diver sea scallops, and their special for the evening chicken liver mousse paté crostini. We thoroughly enjoyed all the starters, although we felt that the diver sea scallops tasted to strongly of the bacon, and less so than scallops, but they were cooked to absolute perfection, or as the French say à point. They had a wonderfully brown crust on either side, and the center was perfectly plump and succulent and not rubbery in the least. The accompanying grilled asparagus dressed in a balsamic reduction was deliciously smoky and sweet, and really lovely pairing to the texture of the scallops and their bacony flavor.

The crab cake was also worthy of special note. The cakes were made from fresh crab and the flavor was both delicate and bold. The texture was perfect, while holding together in nice clumps, but brittle enough to fall apart from the larger portion of the cake. The freshness of the crab meat was clear from before the dish entered my mouth - with the distinct aroma of the sea and of crab tickling my nose and dancing a perfected ballet on my palate.

Not wanting to do injustice to the other starters, the cornmeal crusted oysters had a wonderful texture and an even more delicious flavor, wonderfully briny and the crumbly cornmeal brushing against my tongue. While I found the texture of the chicken liver mousse paté somewhat disappointing, with it being more runny than I would expect from a mousse paté, the flavor more than made up for it, and since I'm a huge fan of liver, I was not disappointed.

We were disappointed however, with the amount of time it took to serve the entrée once the starters were cleared from the table. We easily waited at least 20 minutes, but since we were all drinking something or other and enjoying each other's company we didn't mind as much as we would have had we not been drinking.

Finally our entrées arrived. I ordered the seared duck breast served with soba noodles, assorted vegetables, peanuts, and okonomi sauce. The breast was prepared to medium-rare, exactly how I like it. The skin was seared to perfect crispness which of course added torrents of flavor. The soba noodles were also particularly plump and al dente, topped with a few crushed peanuts. The okonomi sauce was both tart and savory at the same time, and went wonderfully well with the meaty duck. I was very pleased with this dish.

I also ordered a side of their shrimp scallion pancakes. These were really nicely prepared, cut into triangle wedges, and served with a teriyaki dipping sauce with toasted sesame seeds. The pancakes did not taste too strongly of scallion, and the baby shrimp added a fun texture and nice delicate flavor.

Overall, I did enjoy this eating establishment very much. I'm excited that they utilize seasonal ingredients, maintaining good quality and delicious food. With the exception of the timing of the dishes, everything else was very good, and overall a pleasant experience. Definitely worth checking out if you're not far from the neighborhood!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Fig & Olive: Meatpacking District

Fig & Olive
420 West 13th St - Map
Between 9th Ave and Washington St
New York
(212) 924-1200
Mediterranean Chic

Fresh ingredients, flavorful palate punches, inviting open-space ambiance.....the list goes on. Fig & Olive couldn't have found a better location than the Meat Packing District by taking advantage of all the wide-open spaces: tall ceilings, full-length windows, open kitchen, warm and light color palette, and fun wicker-covered hanging light fixtures (I particularly loved the wrought-iron olive branch candle-sconces along one wall, opposite a white wall with potted green plants - great touch!). What better venue to truly embrace the feel of the open Mediterranean sun on your face, and expecting light and flavorful food?!

Well, on this particularly beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon, after our hibernation through the NYC winter, a friend and I decided to brunch at this much-talked-about restaurant. Being partial to the Mediterranean palate and spices, I was eager to see how Executive Chef Pascal Lorange was going to coax out some of the more subtle flavors of this prominent cuisine.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by the hostess, behind whom were white shelves lined with various bottles of olive oil. We were immediately seated and allowed to peruse the brunch menu as well as their regular one.

My friend, in his overly cautious attitude toward food, chose their scrambled eggs from their brunch menu. I, however, brought some adventure to the table, and ordered 6 of their crostini, and their Yellow Fin Tuna Carpaccio. The friendly waitress was very informative and was efficient at filling our glasses with water and our mugs with the sought-after coffee.

The scrambled eggs were brought on a beautiful plate, inside a bread nest, served with a side salad. The crostini I ordered for the table were as follows:

  • Grilled Vegetables, Olive Tapenade
  • Eggplant Caviar, Red Bell Pepper
  • Manchego, Fig Spread, Almond
  • Prosciutto, Ricotta, Fig & Olive & Walnut Tapenade
  • Bresaola, Goat Cheese, Olive
  • Shrimp, Ricotta, Cilantro, Tomato

Allow me to describe in detail the play of flavor. First of all, each of the crostinis themselves were toasted to perfection; toasted rim, and soft inner bread.

The grilled vegetables were nice, still maintaining their shape and flavor, and releasing their smokey grilled flavors, textures of eggplant and zucchini teasing the palate.

The eggplant caviar was most interesting, with distinct eggplant flavors, and the subtle caviar undertone to buffet the eggplant - interesting synergy that surprisingly goes well together.

The manchego and fig spread was amusing, with the play of salty and savory-sweet figs. The almonds added an enveloping warmth and delicious crunch to the crostini, and the fig spread while primarily sweet, wisped your palate of a savory deliciousness at the end.

I particularly liked the prosciutto crostini. The deep purple of the prosciutto contrasting with the stark white ricotta was very appealing. The meat had a subtle flavor that meshed well with the soft ricotta, all tied together like string with the tapenade reacting differently and wonderfully with both the prosciutto and ricotta. Wonderful textural and flavorful play.

The bresaola and goat cheese was also magnificent in its simplicity. In conrast to the prosciutto, the bresaola had a lot more meaty flavor, and what better cheese to pair it with than a bold goat cheese? The flavors melded perfectly together.

Last, but certainly not least, and probably my most favorite was the shrimp crostini. The light sea flavor and defining texture of the shrimp atop the creamy avocado was superb. This crostini took me back to Greece, sitting on a beach, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, and the deep and clear turquoise waters at my feet atop blindingly white sparkly sand. The flavors simply washed over me in waves, and I was sad when I took the last bite.

Next came the tuna carpaccio. I have to say, I was impressed with this dish. Carpaccio is usually a raw and very thinly sliced meat, typically served with arugala and parmesan and sometimes olive oil. The yellow fin tuna was dressed in balsamic vinegar, lemon and sesame oil, and served with cilantro, arugala and marcona almonds. I loved that they were able to maintain the beautiful shape of the tuna fillet that was sliced to paper-thinness, with it's ruby hue in some places, and dark purple in others. I particularly loved how the subtle flavor of the tuna was not lost underneath the power-players of sesame oil - as subtle as it may be, balsamic vinegar - bold, but tempered to a hint of sweetness, and the lemon juice - perking up the hidden flavors of the arugala and tuna and emphasizing the cilantro tang. The marcona almonds were a pleasant textural play against the fragile tuna and the crispy arugala - and played nicely off the peppery flavors.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Fig & Olive. I didn't feel rushed and felt comfortable taking my time with the food and laying back occassionally to sip at my coffee. Fig & Olive truly embraces and adopts the Mediterranean cuisine and attitude, and I couldn't have thought of a better place to have this experience on the dawning of Spring in NYC.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Firebird Russian Restaurant

Firebird Russian Restaurant
365 West 46th Street - Map
Between 8th and 9th Avenues
New York
(212) 586-0244
Pre-Revolution Russian Cuisine

Winter Restaurant Week in NYC again. Another opportunity to smuggle myself in to one of the more expensive culinary venues in our great city. This time around, Firebird Russian Restaurant - the love-child of J. William Holt and wife Irina von der Launitz (who is apparently the granddaughter of the late Vladimir von der Launitz, former mayor of St. Petersburg), is housed in a townhouse whose entrance spans two-stories.

Judging by the embellished and pretentious lobby, with green marble-like columns flanking doorways, rich colors, and Fabergé eggs showcased in glass cases, one would expect a mighty fine dining experience. Immediately past the lobby, there's a small waiting area by the bar, with a live pianist playing on the piano, and the bar was heavily stocked with a variety of vodkas from all over the world. The drink menu was particularly impressive with 4 pages listing various vodkas by country. The wine list was also impressive. Firebird was not afraid to show a bit of a whimsical side with a section of the menu devoted to special cocktail drinks with names like Flirtini - vodka mixed with chambord, grapefruit juice, and topped with champagne.

On this particular evening, my sister and I arrived earlier than the rest of our party, so we of course decided to indulge our senses at the bar. I personally was debating between a Kir Royale or the Flirtini, while my sister settled on a cool glass of their Riesling (which, I have to say, was delicate, and apple-fruity). I settled on the Flirtini (I figured, looks like a cosmo, but should taste different!). It tasted more of the grapefruit juice, but the champagne added a nice texture, and the chambord a nice color - even though I would have preferred more of a balanced flavor. I imagine the vodka was supposed to just add that alcoholic kick, I must not have noticed it over the décor. I would like to mention that the bartender, a giant of a man, was not particularly attentive to his patrons. He looked busy, but after careful observation, he was just moving around a lot, and not paying much attention to either mixing drinks or the clientèle waiting to place an order. After waiting for what seemed like an exasperating amount of time, we were eventually served. Slowly, the rest of my party arrived, and the very friendly host (not in a pretentious, but sincere way) caught my attention so that I may round us all up.

We were escorted into the next room, and one of the servers, bedecked in a starched, white coat, with gilded cuffs and buttons pulled the table out of a large booth, allowing 6 of us to slide in comfortably, and seating 2 of our party at the exposed end of the table. We were distributed their restaurant week 3-course menu, and their wine selection. The wine selection was meager at best. They only offered a handful of wines, by the bottle only ($45). When I asked for the more extensive list, I was given a shady answer to the effect of them relocating their wines to a different cellar and so the wines are not all accessible. I doubt it. I think they were just limiting the selection for restaurant week patrons. Ew. Consequently, we ordered no wine at all, and ordered cocktails instead, c'est la vie.

The menu was not all that exciting, actually. The offering for the first course was either the Soup of the Day, which was a silky a lusciously thick soup of root vegetables, with a distinct zucchini flavor - overall, not bad at all, the Firebird salad, a small amount of fresh goat cheese, topped with a mound of mixed greens, barely dressed with a bland vinaigrette, topped with a very thinly sliced piece of roasted pain de mie, acting as a crouton. The last offering was a pork pierogie. I immediately was drawn to that, since it seemed the most interesting of the 3 appetizers. I was mistaken. Two tiny pieces of puff pastry dough, filled with pork, and served with a small arugala side-salad (which, I might add, was undressed). The dough was overwhelming, and the pork was bland. There wasn't even a sauce to dip into to help soften the bready crust and to possibly add another dimension of flavor to the pork. One other member of our group ordered the same dish, and he too reflected my sentiments.

For the second course, they offered the chicken kiev, a vegetable risotto, salmon in a puff pastry dough, and a beef stroganov. Turns out nobody ordered the beef stroganov, so I cannot comment on its virtues (or vices). I happened to order the chicken kiev, which was served as a whole breast with a manchonéed wing tip, and breaded, atop a small bed of steamed small dice of sweet potato. As soon as I cut into the breast, like a perfectly timed show, the inner compound butter juices, which have melted, oozed out deliciously over the entire plate, "finishing it off," so-t0-speak. This being my first chicken kiev experience, I found the flavors to be delicious. The compound butter was delicious, the chicken breast was perfectly moist but meaty, and the breaded crust added a wonderful contrasting texture. Furthermore, the sweet potato was a nice addition to the savory juices. While I enjoyed this dish, I was not blown away by it. There were no sparks. It was just good.

The other dish that I thought was executed well was the salmon cooked in a thin puff pastry crust, and was stuffed with rice and egg. The salmon was not overcooked, and was still deliciously moist. The beurre blanc sauce was garnished around the fish center-piece. I have to say, this was a VERY good beurre blanc sauce. Not too heavy, not too acidic, a perfect balance of the two, and well seasoned. Again, a very good dish, but I wasn't blown away by it. The risotto was probably the most disappointing dish, actually. I didn't care for the texture, it wasn't as creamy as I would have liked, and I didn't like the taste of it. It wasn't bad, just not to my personal liking.

Finally for dessert, there was no option, we all were served the chocolate-orange tarte. Mine was accompanied by a cup of Earl Grey tea (since I didn't care for the other tea options). The tea was served in a tall glass cup, and placed in an ornate metal base with a handle - very traditional Russian tea accoutrement. I asked for sugar cubes, and they looked at me like it was the oddest request. Apparently, Firebird isn't that authentic. The chocolate tarte was really a chocolate mousse pressed into a small pyramid mold and plated. It tasted chocolaty and creamy, but for a tarte, I was expecting at least a crust. The dessert was ok, and I was hoping for a richer chocolate flavor, but I was sadly disappointed.

While my friends and I had a wonderful time at Firebird Russian Restaurant, it was more because of the pleasant company than due to the venue. The food was ok, but if you're interested in the show, and not so much in the substance, then Firebird is probably the restaurant for you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Stanton Social

The Stanton Social
99 Stanton Street - Map
Between Orchard Street and Ludlow Street
New York
(212) 995-0099
Tapas/Small Plates, Eclectic Cuisine

Gastronomes! Gourmands! Welcome to your wet dream come true! As a self-proclaimed foodie, I always run into the problem of so many delicious things on the menu that I would love to try, but really only being able to order one thing, and resigning myself to tasting any accompanying guests' dishes. Now, if I didn't worry about my figure and bank account, this really wouldn't be a problem at all, as I would make sure to make as many return visits to any particular establishment until I was satisfied. However, if any of you share in my plight, then this is the answer.

Through the brilliant collaboration of long-time friends Chris Santos (the chef and owner), Richard Wolf (owner of chic chic lounge and restaurant Tao), and Peter Kane (of the infamous Happy Ending) comes a sexy, elegant, and dark allure restaurant-lounge called The Stanton Social. The idea is brilliant - the entire menu is portioned as appetizer-size designed to be shared. This essentially translates to - the more people with whom you dine, the more variety you get to choose from!

This being my second visit (the first time I went was just with one friend), I learned from previous experience that there's strength in numbers - and this time I doubled it. The Stanton Social truly embodies the new Lower East Side look: mysterious, dark, sexy, and a little dangerous. Crossing the threshold brings you to a dimly lit, and sensuous environment. I particularly loved the wall at the far back which was transformed into a white backlit wine rack with angled shelves, and the white-painted brick on the ground level extends the feel of an airy space. I felt very comfortable in the darker hues of the décor: browns, ambers and luscious raspberry reds.

The upper level has a beautiful bar, which splits the left side from the right side. The left side is outfitted with bench-style seating along the walls, with tables and chairs opposite them. The walls are decorated with creamy yellow rows of dangling threads resembling a 20's-style flapper dress, and along one wall are small hand mirrors of various shapes and sizes hung at about eye level. The right side is more casual with small booth-type sections created by low-seated leather couches, and small coffee tables as a center-piece for more casual dining and drinking. This side of the walls were decorated in a subtle and sensual flowery wallpaper.

As usual, the wait staff were more than just polite. They treat their clientéle with the utmost respect, and definitely give you the impression that they're there to please YOU. I was the last to arrive from my party, and I was immediately escorted to them at the bar, where they were schmoozing it up and having a drink of wine. When I joined them, we were then quickly seated and presented with their menus: food, cocktails, and wine. I particularly loved the hard wood menus which gave the place a more substantial, opulent feel.

Since we were a party of 4, we ended up ordering 10 different dishes and 4 different desserts. Since there was SO much delicious food, I will only discuss the hilights that truly tickled either my or my friends' fancy. Due to such a wonderful selection, I would like to point out that anyone's taste can be satisfied here.

One of the first courses that was brought to our table was the beef carpaccio. Deep purple, thin slices of beef arranged slightly overlapping each other, topped in the center with a small mound of micro arugala - almost resembling spring watercress, with a contrasting sprinkling of reggiano cheese. Since the carpaccio is more about texture than flavor, the pairing of the sharp and salty cheese and the peppery arugala went beautifully with the smoothness of the carpaccio.

Another dish that was worthy of note was the Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogies. They were served with caramelized onions and truffle crème fraîche. These were little heaven bundles. Silky creamy potato centers, with the musky goat cheese flavor. Then the addition of the rounded sweetness of the caramelized onions - and anyone who knows me knows that truffle in anything makes it taste so much better, and I think the earthiness pairs really well with the goat cheese and the
crème fraîche has a very light sourness to it to tie it all together into a perfect bite. This was a beautifully concerted dish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Now, here's a dish that I thought was just ok, but everyone else seemed to LOVE. It was their Wild Plum and Brie Quesadilla with red chile honey. I concede that this was just a matter of personal taste. I like brie. I like quesadillas. I even like plums sometimes. I'm personally not partial to having cooked fruits in savory food, although I did find that the plum added just a light hint of sweetness, and really added more in texture than it did in flavor. The red chile honey was really more responsible for that flowery sweetness, and a cute subtle zing of spicyness from the chile - but I definitely would not use the term spicy to describe it. The brie was deliciously smooth. In the end, I was outvoted by the oohs and aahhs of everyone else while I was just ok with the dish.

Now we come to the dessert. There were 2 that struck me in particular. The Stanton Social Chocolate Tasting and the Il Laboratorio del Gelato Ice Creams and Sorbets. The chocolate tasting came with a small sample of molten chocolate cake, panna cotta, mousse, peppermint patties, and sorbet. The ice creams and sorbet were a sampling each of espresso,
crème fraîche, and ginger.

Of the chocolate tastings, they were all richly decadent, and I savored every bite, but one of the samples in particular really riled me up. It was the molten chocolate cake! It had this chile spicy kick you got only at the end at the back of your throat after you let it swirl over the entire surface of your tongue to maximize the full experience - savoring every flavor from it. The spicy kick was not unpleasant at all, in fact, it was addicting, I kept taking more and more tastes from it just to experience the ride again!

From the ice creams, the one that I really took a fond liking to was the ginger ice cream. Ginger is a very funny root. It has an intense sweet and sharply tangy flavor and aroma. Its dual personality makes it unique but allows it to be paired nicely with the right creative angle. In this case, the ginger ice cream sat atop a small nest of crystallized ginger that only enhanced and counterbalanced the smooth gelato. It was the kind of experience where you savored the smooth texture of the ice cream in your mouth, and experienced the flavor deep in your nose. The most fun was when I took a spoonful of the molten chocolate cake, and dipped in to the ginger ice cream and ate them together. The deep richness of the chocolate was cut by the sweetness of the ginger, and the tang of the ginger infused the spicy kick and created something completely new. It was fun! Alchemy at the table!

In conclusion, this was by far one of the most fun and interesting restaurants I have been to. The chef is not afraid to try new and exotic things, which I find to be very attractive. It's the allure of the new and exciting experience, an adventure in your mouth. The décor is elegant and sexy, with the wait staff to match in both looks and demeanor. This was an excellent experience, I recommend it more for large groups looking for a great time, or for couples looking to have a great and intimate shared experience. The Stanton Social - kudos!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bombay Talkie

Bombay Talkie
189 9th Avenue - Map
Between W 21st and W 22nd Streets
New York
(212) 242-6366
Fine Indian Dining

If you think you've had good Indian food - you haven't! One thing New York City doesn't lack, is its selection of Indian restaurants. Now, I admit that Indian food tends to be a very selective cuisine for most people - some LOVE it, some HATE it, some are scared of it, but very few can just take it or leave it (except, maybe, Indians?). What I loved most about Bombay Talkie was that this was Indian food I've never had before. Their menu carried many recognizable dishes from other Indian establishments, but the execution in the food preparation was superb, perfect, and excellent!

First, I would like to discuss how well Bombay Talkie fits in with the trendy, chic Chelsea neighborhood. With Chelsea's large gay demographic (read: extremely critical and judgemental), it's clear that it passes with flying colors - even the bichiest of them would agree. The restaurant has two levels: the ground level has the bar at the far end, with a white background cocktail menu written out in hot pink, and screens showing various Indian pictures. The wall on the far left is one long mural depicting a bunch of people. In fact, the entire restaurant is adorned with large-scale paintings of Bollywood-esque scenes - all rich in color and detail. The music in the background is upbeat and distinctly of that region, which adds such a nice touch. I totally felt like there was this great fusion with chic New York style and ancient Indian culture. They also have an upstairs section with additional seating, and a nice view of 9th Avenue.

I was meeting a friend for dinner here, and it was decided that instead of ordering entrées, which were undoubtedly delicious, we'd order a number of appetizers, chutney, and naan and that way we'd get the full spectrum and not overeat (which is VERY easy to do here). I would also like to take this opportunity to discuss their menu of Specialty Cocktails. I only ordered one, and I tasted my friend's and they were both really good.

I ordered the "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" which translates into "Truth is Beauty." It was made with jasmine tea that was infused with fresh apple cider, mixed with Apple Pucker, 99 Banana, bacardi and fresh lime juice and garnished with a sliver of "drunken apple." This was a deliciously sweet, not overpowering, and wonderful zing aftertaste cocktail! All the flavors melded well with each other, however, the jasmine undertone was heady and alluring. My friend ordered the "Ankur" cocktail, which translates into "Seedling." This cocktail was a mix of pomegranate juice, tequila, Rose's lime juice, and contreau. Not nearly as sweet as my drink, but deliciously pomegranate - and very in vogue with the new pomegranate juice fad. Me? I like fresh pomegranate, seeds and all - but this drink was a lot of fun, and for pomegranate lovers - this IS the way to go.

For dinner, we ordered their Papdi Chat (Beggar's Purses), and tart lamb Dosa from their "Street Bites" section, and tamarind chutney and grape and mint raita from their "curbside" section. We also placed two orders of naan - one each of cilantro and red chili flakes, and onion seeds and sesame seeds) - and two vegetable dishes: chole peshawari and bhindi. Ok, I know it's a lot, and it all sounds foreign, but don't worry.

Our friendly, cute, and knowledgable waitress was very helpful in taking our order. When the first course of papdi chat and dosa came out, we were eager to dip in to the dishes. The dosa came served with one white coconut chutney and one red coconut chutney. Dosas are a rice and lentil flour crepe that's stuffed, and in this case it was tart lamb. For those of you who are familiar with lamb, you can understand what this may have tasted like, but what I found most wonderful was that the flavor of the lamb wasn't lost in the seasoning, and in fact was enhanced by it. Despite the lamb stuffing being ground, it still had the lamb texture: soft, tender, almost buttery. Each of the chutneys went deliciously well with the dosa.

The papdi chat are these cute little, bite-sized bundles. They're small flour shells stuffed with potatoes and chick peas and individually topped with a tamarind and yogurt sauce. They were easily one-bite servings, but can still neatly be bitten in two pieces. The flour shell was lightly crispy, and the stuffing of potato and chick pea was soft and silky, the tamarind and yogurt sauce gave it a sweet, tangy zing while still not losing the flavors of the potatoes and chick peas.

Once we were done with this course, they brought us the chole peshawari and the bhindi. The chole peshawari is a dish of spicy garbanzo beans in a ginger-garlic paste, green chilies and coriander, and the bhindi is Masala sautéed okra (I happen to be very partial to okra). Both of these dishes were interesting. I enjoyed the complex flavors of the chole peshawari, combined with the simple-by-comparison texture of the garbanzo bean. The coriander definitely had the end-note flavor of the dish, and as for spicy, to my palate I consider it to be moderate. The bhindi, by contrast, was all about the texture, and still had a delicious flavor. The okra was soft, and pasty, but still had distinct-okra shell texture. I also suspect there were pieces of eggplant in it as well, which also went very nicely with the okra.

In true Indian fashion, we ripped of pieces from the naan, dabbed fillings of either the chole peshawari or bhindi, and then topped with either the tamarind chutney or grape and mint raita. The grape and mint raita is essentially a yogurt sauce with pieces of green grape and mint. Almost like a Greek tzatziki - but entirely different in flavor. The tamarind chutney of course had that wonderful tamarind flavor, sweet and tangy, and a beautifully rich amberish-brown color, and also had ginger, crushed red chilies, and jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar) in it. The naan also deserves special mention. They were light, malleable, very flavorful and almost buttery. Either or both types are an excellent choice.

To end the dinner, I ordered a glass of their Chai which they were kind enough to make unsweetened, to which I added a packet of equal (I know, maybe I shoulda just had it with good ol' sugar, but I was going out drinking after dinner - so I figured I'd save on SOME calories). Overall, I loved this restaurant. The décor was fun, the waitstaff excellent, and the food superb. The thing I enjoyed most about Bombay Talkie is that they didn't fall prey to the same pitfalls as other restaurants serving similar cuisine - they flavors of every dish were distinct, and didn't melt into one of 3 basic flavors. I loved that I was able to discern each flavor and texture, while still appreciating the full experience. Also, the drinks are great too! This restaurant comes highly recommended!


171 First Avenue - Map
Between E 10th and E 11th Streets
New York
(212) 475-7899
Japanese Noodle Bar

Momofuku, meaning "lucky peach" in Japanese is a cute little noodle bar in the East Village. Don't let it's small size fool you though, because their dishes definitely throw a punch! Their rigidly crafted menu is varied, but does not allow for any substitutions - ever. This isn't quite a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, with the exception of one dish, the Ginger Scallion, which I personally cannot attest to. Also, there's a $15 minimum on credit card usage.

Upon entering this almost hidden restautant, the construction is very much that of a bar. There's a long, narrow raised table with stools on either side, that connects to a "bar" area right by the exposed kitchen. There is also some seating along the right-hand wall, and everyone sits next to EVERYONE. Very cozy. This is definitely not considered a fine-dining establishment, but definitely serves up a great experience.

On this particular occassion, I was having lunch with an old friend before having to head to class, and after hearing RAVE reviews from a new acquaintance - Jennifer Lynn Pelka, a personal chef - I came to see that Momofuku really is all that it's cracked up to be.

My friend and I decided to split one dish, and each order our own. So, we ended up splitting their Seaweed Cured Maine Diver Sea Scallops which was beautifully served with a small round of baby arugala, cherries, and a lemon purée. This dish was definitely interesting. Most scallops I've eaten were seared and had a nice brown caramalization on the ends, this, however, was essentially "raw" but it was cured. It had a much softer texture, and lacked the suppleness one normally sees in cooked scallops. They were also thinly sliced, which made it somewhat difficult to handle with chopsticks - FUN, but difficult. They had a very nice flavor, the seaweed imparted that rich umami flavor, and it was surprisingly sweet. Not sugary-sweet, but it had a sweet undertone. Most pronounced about it was its texture which was soft. When I added some of the lemon purée the dish was transformed completely! The zest of the lemon cut into the sweet undertone, and completely fostered and built up the scallop. The arugala served to add another peppery dimension. This was definitely a dish meant to be eaten with all of its components.

I decided to order their Momofuku Ramen (which Jennifer told me must be the first thing I ever eat there), described as their Berkshire Pork combo and a poached egg. This was a beautiful dish! A large bowl filled with broth and ramen noodles, the far end of the bowl adorned with two sheets of seaweed, pieces of brown pork swimming around the warm pool of liquid and a perfectly poached egg at the center, hinting at the rich yellow sauce beneath its fragile white cage. I couldn't wait to dip into that egg! I selected a piece of pork, and dabbed at the center of the egg, and watched as the vibrant orangey-yellow yolk burst out and oozed over into the soup, slowly mixing in and spreading outward. It was delicious! The ramen noodles had a wonderful texture: soft, supple, slippery, fun. The pork was almost overwhelmingly flavorful on its own, but when mixed with the blander broth and noodles, it seasoned the mouthful perfectly. Although in the heat of the summer, it's probably not wise to order a hot soup dish, this was definitely worth it. To accompany it, I followed Jennifer's instructions once again, and ordered their Hitachino White Ale. This went so flawlessly well with the dish, I wouldn't be surprised if they were meant to go together. The ale was light, and had a sweet undertone as well, but characterized by distinct flavors of earthy yeast and hops.

My friend ordered their Chicken & Egg which was served with pieces of smoked chicken, a poached egg, scallions, and rice. This was also a wonderful dish. The rice was light and fluffy, and very flavorful. The chicken was absolutely delicious. They were tender, and flavorful, and not too salty - something I've almost come to expect in smoked foods. I don't have much to say about this dish, other than it's beautiful composition, and delicious flavors. If you're looking for a pork-less dish, this makes a wonderful alternative.

Overall, I enjoyed myself at Momofuku. The inexpensive menu, and the novel experience it affords its patrons is worth at least one trip.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


179 Franklin Street - Map
Between Greenwhich St and Hudson St
New York
(212) 941-7661
Fine Greek Cuisine

Thalassa....already the allure of its name is captivating. Residing in New York City's TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) district, which in recent years has become synonymous with the TriBeCa Film Festival instituted by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro as a forum for international film makers and the general public to develop a new appreciation for film and its impact on society. Also, it brought tons of money back into Lower Manhattan. Demographically, the neighborhood is mainly comprised of young yuppy families, tired of the pace of SoHo and looking for quieter grounds to raise their children.

Now that the little history lesson is over, let's discuss the restaurant. Approching Thalassa, you pass large, warehouse galleries of all sorts of artistic things ranging from outdoor sculptures, furniture and the more traditional art pieces like paintings and the like. Given the neighborhood, it comes as no surprise that Thalassa used to be a warehouse for fine Greek olives and cheeses. In the distance, you see a large blue rectangular flag with a large, white italicized Theta as a beacon to the restaurant.

Mounting a few short steps, and passing the threshhold, you enter an environment that isn't Greek-in-your-face (like if you were to walk into an Irish pub and be completely inundated with Irish icons and symbols), but rather a chic, Greece-meets-New-York-City sleek sexiness. The proprietors took the feel of Greece, and married it to a distilled and refined New York elegance.

As soon as you walk in, there's a curved bar to your right, with deep blue lighted panels along the wall, and an array of alcoholic beverages in their bottles. Right past the bar is a large mounting of ice with various sea creatures on ice - fish, lobster, crab. I don't think they were real, but they added a nice cool contrast. Deeper in and to the right, was a dividing wall with large spaces cut out from it with large, conical olive-oil containers that were traditionally used in shipping oil, sitting in metal frames which were used to pot plants with leaves sprouting out from the opening. There was also downstairs seating, which I was told was a tad darker than the already dim lighting on the main floor.

On this particular occassion, I came to Thalassa to take advantage of their $35 prix fixe Restuarant Week menu, along with 4 friends. While a one of my party and I were waiting for the rest to arrive, we sat at the bar and decided to order a drink. I asked to see their wine list, and I was pleased to see a very extensive By-the-Glass list of Red, Rosé, and White - all of which were Greek wines. They had a further extensive By-the-Bottle list of various wines from all over the world - no continent or region was spared! When in as the Greeks I asked the knowledgable bartender what she would recommend for a glass of white wine on that particularly humid day (ok, I know it's NYC - and we rarely have NICE, unhumid days, but this day was particularly oppressive). She recommended I order their Lagorthi from Antanopoulos "Adoli Ghis" 2005. My accompanying friend ordered the same. The wine had an almost water-quality clarity, with a very faint cream tinge. It had a buttery, caramel milky aroma with a contrasting minerally sharp-dry finish but with a smooth body to soften the transition.

When our party finally arrived, we were seated at a large round table in the back of the restaurant along a wall that had various bottles of Greek wine and artifacts. We were immediately served freshly baked bread, cut into slices and baked with olives as well as a plate of sheep's milk butter and kalamata olives as an amuse bouche. Never having had sheep's milk butter, I enjoyed the light muskiness typical of sheep's milk cheeses (feta) in the seemingly light butter. In addition to the regular 3-course menu, we all decided that it would be nice to order two appetizers for the table: one was a cheese plate featuring 3 Greek cheeses - graviera, manouri and kaseri - two of which were cow's milk, the other sheep, the other appetizer was a piklia of grilled pita crisps served with a small mound each of htipi, tzatziki, taramosalata, and an eggplant dip. The cheeses were nice and interesting, and not too heavy on the palate or stomach. The piklia was particularly interesting and a bit nostalgic for me as I reminisced over my last vacation in Greece - particularly the tzatziki! It tasted authentic and freshly prepared, with a cool, sharp acidity from the yoghurt. The taramosalata was also creamy and light, and had a hint of "flavor of the sea" from the mixed-in caviar. I was also particularly impressed with the eggplant dip - it had a heady, smokey-roasted flavor that infused every aspect of the dip, and it too was also light and not heavy on the palate.

For the table, we ordered their Sauvignon Blanc Lazaridi "Magic Mountain" 2004 (Drama) bottle of wine. It too had a very clear quality, but a deeper cream color than the Lagorthi. It had a faintly sweet aroma, but distinct apricot- and peach-forward flavors with a custardy, crème brulée finish. Of course, everyone made fun of me for saying that it tasted of crème brulée - but what do they know about wine?

Following the appetizers, the attentive and helpful servers brought us our first course. I ordered their pan-seared soft shell crab (in season) over olive oil cured giant lima beans. A beautifully browned crab sat atop a small bed of bitter greens and frisée and surrounded by 4 giant white lima beans. The crab was crispy and cut easily, the shell reminding me a bit of an overly cooked egg-white sunny-side up in flavor as well as in texture. The body of the crab was thick and moist and full of the sweat crab meat and also had a distinct "sea" flavor which I have come to appreciate and adore in seafood. The lima beans were soft, trucculent and rich in flavor. My sister, a member of the party, ordered the Rock Shrimp Pizette which was prepared nicely. Thin, crispy and malleable dough, topped with a light tomato sauce, dotted with baby shrimp, and sprinkled with a light cheese and spiced with oregano and basil - it was a delicious mélànge of color, flavor and texture.

For the entrée, I ordered their t-bone veal chop with sautéed garlic broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes. Now, I'm personally not a big veal fan, mostly because I don't like the way that it tastes, and I prefer the more matured beef, however, I was very pleased with this dish. I found it to be flavorful and complex, cooked to a medium-rare/rare doneness. The brown sauce it came coated in was not overpowering, but complimented and fused the flavors of the veal chop nicely. I also particularly enjoyed the tempered bitterness of the garlic sautéed broccoli rabe and it's texture was not mushy as it can so easily become if cooked improperly (ie: too long). I also enjoyed the small rabe florettes as they added a heaftier feel in the mouth. The fingerling potatoes were also nicely prepared. Long strips of idaho potato cut into eights, seasoned and baked to have a golden-brown exterior, and a silky smooth starchy interior.

For dessert, I ordered their citrus parfait with mango coulis. Now, I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I'm not much of a dessert person - and by no means was this dessert life altering, but it was very good. It was lightly sweet, with the exception of a small piece of candied orange peel as a garnish that had an intense, pungent, orangey sweet flavor. The parfait itself was actually very light and the mango coulis added a nice element. I did sample their warm chocolate cake, and in comparison to the one eaten at Pasta Nostra, it was much less intense, and had a softer chocolate flavor. Texturally it was silky in the middle, and moist and crumbly on the outside. I ended the evening with a decaffeinated coffee.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first Thalassa experience. The ambiance was welcoming, and comfortable - surrounded by an elegant and tasteful décor. The hosts were supremely warm and friendly - very much so in the Greek style and attitude. The servers and waitstaff were efficient and attentive when we needed them, and unobtrusive during the actual meal. We did receive the obligatory check-up to make sure we were all pleased thus-far. I was also impressed by the server's knowledge of wine, as he was able to help me narrow down my selection to the bottle that was chosen. I believe we all enjoyed our novel Greek-cuisine experience, and I would definitely recommend this place.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Pasta Nostra

Pasta Nostra
116 Washington Street - Map
South Norwalk, CT
(203) 854-9700
Pan-Italian Gourmet Cuisine

Housed in Historical SoNo (South Norwalk), Pasta Nostra is a dynamic and inviting gourmet Italian restaurant. The waitstaff and chefs are extremely friendly and helpful and you get the sense that their mission is to ensure your delighted satisfaction. What's particularly interesting about Pasta Nostra is not that the food is excellent and delightful every time, but rather that their menu changes regularly. Unfortunately, they're only open Wednesday through Saturday evenings and they are a dinner-only venue.

Upon approaching Pasta Nostra, walking along Washington Street, you get a sense of a quaint, little town. They have cute boutiques and stores along the street. Additionally, there are a number of other restaurants there as well, which appear to be trendy and interesting. And don't worry, if you're looking for some nightlife too, there are a number of bars that you can take your pick from.

As far as decor is concerned, Pasta Nostra took a minimalist, cafeteria-chic approach: tile floors, simple tables with stark white tablecloths. It's set up in an open-kitchen style configuration, which lends a fun appeal to the gourmet dining experience. They also have some interesting art pieces hung up on the walls.

However, where they lack in decor, they more than make up for in quality of service and food. Their dishes never fail to impress, even to my critical palate. On this particular occassion, I and 6 other friends patronized this restaurant so we can share in a common experience. While it's impossible to predict what they're menu will hold, rest assured that you will always find something interesting to order, and if you're not that much of an adventurous eater, there are some good ol' traditional dishes as well - let's not forget, Pasta Nostra does pasta best!

They immediately brought to the table freshly baked bread that was cut into slices, and served us small dipping bowls full of their Italy-imported extra virgin olive oil. This oil is exceptionally delicious. I have never had such flavorful olive oil prior to Pasta Nostra. It had a deep green tinge, even unusual in the higher-end extra virgin olive oils which are primarily yellow with a hint of green. The oil tasted so distinctly of olive it was remarkable. When you dip the hot slices of bread into the oil, and watch as it is absorbed into the nooks and crannies of the white cloudy flesh, painting it with a beautiful green color, you can't help but savor it's heady flavor.

To accompany our meal, I chose a bottle of their Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico 2003 bottle of wine. To quote Nicole, a friend and fellow diner, "The wine and the olive oil, they're having a conversation in my mouth!" The wine was served chilled, and had a clear light cream to yellow color. Mineral-rich flavors balanced out all our meals with noted grassy aromas. It was truly delightful.

I originally was interested in ordering their Melon and Prosciutto antipasti - a dish of various varieties of ripe, sweet melon with their 24 month Parma ham, however, they were out of melon, but one of the chefs suggested I order their Bresaola, Arugala, Tomato and Provolone antipasti - an appetizer that was comprised of thinly sliced air-dried beef, fresh slices of tomato, a mound of fresh arugala, and a few slices of provolone cheese. I was not disappointed with this option. The beef was sliced paper-thin, almost like prosciutto, but lacked the softness one normally finds in prosociutto. It was flavorful, light, and had a slightly sweet after taste that was pleasant. When eaten together with the provolone, I found it to be perfectly balanced with the firmness of the cheese, it's mildly sharp flavor, and the saltiness went particularly well with the bresaola. The tomato and arugala lent a wonderful texture and flavor to the combination, juicy and watery, and a hint of peppery-ness from the arugala.

Another particular antipasti dish that I found to be outrageously delicious and worthy of special note was their Citrus Tuna with Blood Oranges from Sicily. Blood oranges are a novelty to begin with, and have such a beautiful and deep purple color, that went perfectly with the raw slices of big eye tuna. This dish was seasoned with freshly chopped cilantro which not only served to beautify the dish, but lent an excellent counterbalance to the sweetness of the blood orange. Additionally, hints of cumin and garlic were prevalent in the dish, and most surprisingly - hot pepper which helped to tie all the flavors together to round them out. The presentation and flavors of this dish were delightful - and you couldn't help yourself from putting another forkful into your mouth. The smooth texture of the tuna is the first thing you notice, but then the sweetness of the blood orange envelopes your tongue, transporting along with it the savory aromas of the cumin and garlic, and then the last kick of hot pepper hits you in a not overwhelming way, but more of a novel accent.

For the entrée, I ordered the Baby Chicken with Gnocchi di Patate and Artichokes. The presentation of this dish was stunning. A whole chick, stuffed with fresh parsley was cooked to be perfectly crispy and seasoned on the outside, and juicy and tender. Aside it, there were small bit-sized pieces of tender gnocchi smothered in a parmigiano cheese sauce and topped with small chunks of roasted artichoke. The woody flavor and aroma of the artichoke went deliciously well and balanced out the smooth and milkyness of the parmigiano coated gnocchi. While the chicken was delicious, there was nothing exceptional about it. However, this dish, when savored with the wine was transformed into something else. The flavors of the chicken changed subtly to an interesting meld of flavors, almost tasting richer and more robust than alone.

I sampled the Chard Ravioli with Sicilian Tomato Sauce and that was an interesting pairing of basil garnished ravioli with the distinct chard flavors - pleasantly balanced, and the heady tang of the tomato sauce buffeted the flavors of the basil and the chard independently but to one harmoniouos end.

Dessert was a fun adventure in and of itself. I ordered the Tiramisu which was layered with mascarpone and crushed roasted hazelnuts. Texturally, it was such a fun experience, pairing the creaminess with the rough texture of crushed nuts. The flavors melded nicely, with hints of nutmeg and espresso. It was a delight. I also sampled their hot chocolate cake that was served with a scoop of vanilla gelato. It was chocolaty, creamy, and very rich - almost overwhelmingly so, but the gelato served to temper the flavors and round them out to something more manageable. I also requested their inteligentsia espresso which came served in the cutest espresso cup that was decorated with figures in dancing poses. The espresso was one of the best I've ever had - strong, dark and very bitter. It was prepared to have an appealing brown froth on top.

Overall, this experience was a fun and exciting one. We each loved sampling each other's dishes, the environment was comfortable and lax enough to allow us to be relaxed and have an overall good time. I recommend visiting this establishment for something new and delicious, and never disappointing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Petrossian Paris

Petrossian Paris
182 West 58th Street - Map
Corner of 7th Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 245-2214
French-influenced Contemporary

Ahh, restaurant week in New York City. For anyone who enjoys dining out as much as I do, and lives on a budget - this is a godsend, especially when you take advantage of the affordable prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at one of New York City's premium restaurants. Although restaurant week "dictates" that prix fixe dinner's are generally $35, Petrossian Paris has an all-year long running "Theater Prix Fixe" for $35 with a slightly different menu.

Upon first approaching the corner entrance of Petrossian, housed in the Alwyn Court Building, you cross the threshold of two massive convex glass doors in a substantial black wrought-iron frame, to alight a small ascension of stairs into the main dining area. As soon as you walk in, the opulence and character of the decor is evident. The bar, directly to the right, is tastefully decorated with pink Finnish granite, lined with fixed, dark gray leather rotating stools set in front of angled art deco style mirrors (which were situated behind the bar).

My friend and I were immediately greeted by the French host, who seemed rather preoccupied and was quick to seat us more to get us out of the way than out of being hospitable. We were ushered near the back, and we chose a table in the corner. There were mirrors that lined the wall, each decorated with a Lalique crystal doe in a fleeing pose which acted as a prop for a glass platform atop which had a different bronze sculpture. In addition, the low-level lighting all melded into a harmoniously inviting environment.

The table was beautifully set with two elegantly long champagne flutes that strongly reminded me of a flower: a long thin conical stem to flare out wide near the rim. There was also a three-inch dark glass cube that housed one stemless white orchid in water and a tea candle within a egg-shaped dark glass cup. I was a little disappointed at the proximity of the various tables to each other, and I would have preferred a greater space if only to improve on the privacy of each table's conversation.

After being seated, we were presented with their regular menu, their prix fixe menu, and a wine list. Of course, we decided on the prix fixe menu, which offered a selection of three different appetizers to choose from, three entrees, and four desserts. Those of you with fickle taste, be forewarned - the prix fixe menu offers NO substitutions or additions - just eliminations. My friend and I both chose the foie gras salad with green apple, walnuts, and truffle oil, and I asked for a glass of their Chateau La Rame, La Chamille 1er Cotes de Bordeaux (2001) wine to accompany my meal (as was one of two wines that were recommended I choose from - the other was a Pinot Noir - but I felt like a Bordeaux would have been nice). The wine was mild, and had a very clean taste. Distinct flavors of apple and berry - not too dry, but perfectly tannic to balance out the creaminess of the foie gras to come.

While waiting for our appetizer to arrive, we were brought a small bowl with cold butter, and we were each given a whole wheat roll baked with poppy seeds in the dough. The bread was lacking in any kind of distinct flavor, but it was toasty and warmed the butter nicely when spread on it.

The foie gras salad was eventually brought to our table. It was beautifully composed on a square mottled-glass plate, with a shallow depth. The bed of the salad was of a light and surprisingly unbitter frisee, mixed with coarsely chopped walnuts, two or three haricot verts, and topped with an ample slice of foie gras. You could immediately smell the distinct earthy truffle scent wafting from the cold dish. We were each brought a few triangle slices of lightly toasted brioche to accompany the foie gras.

I immediately cut off a small piece of the foie gras and spread it on a slice of brioche and savored my first bite of the evening. For a moment, I was simply in heavenly bliss. The foie gras was not overwhelmingly gamey or "raw" tasting like the first time I experienced it at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn. The texture was richly sublime, rivaling some of the most creamiest of cheeses. The flavor was simply unmatched and then the last flavor to hit the taste buds was the truffle oil - a divine cacophony of flavors! The rest of the salad was exceptionally delicious as well, the sheerest whisper of truffle coated every bite with a delightful surprise of sweet green apple at the end. This dish was so rich, I simply couldn't finish it all. The wine here proved to be a perfect pairing to balance out the richness of the dish with it's light and fresh flavors.

For the entree, my friend ordered their Tamarind Glazed Atlantic Salmon which was served atop a bed of Israeli couscous with mint and toasted almonds. I was permitted a taste, and the tamarind glaze added such a heady yet tangy and exotic flavor to the meaty salmon and the al dente couscous. The fish had a beautiful browning around it but was deliciously pink inside which seemed to go so naturally with the rest of the dish.

I decided on the Roast Organic Chicken Breast which came served lying on a gruyere and rosemary polenta with a brandy mushroom sauce. The chicken was cooked to perfection - each bite sinfully moist as the one before, and the skin was crisp and added a deliciously poultry muskiness to every bite. The polenta was creamy and not grainy in the least and proved to be a wonderful counterbalance in lightness to the chicken breast. The brandy mushroom sauce tied all the flavors together, by complimenting the rosemary and gruyere flavors in the polenta with the moist muskiness of the chicken. Superb in its own right. The wine here, also proved to balance the flavors of the dish beautifully so. The cleanness of it helped to clear the palate anew for the next bite of chicken, allowing for a new experience in every bite.

For dessert, we both chose the Carmelized Apple Galette which was served with Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. The plate was delightfully decorated with a small round mound of cooked apples, topped with a scoop of the vanilla ice cream, coated in ribbons of caramel sauce and finished with a light smattering of confectioner's sugar. While the vanilla ice cream seemed to be a part of the dish more for its creamy and cold texture than for its indistinct and largely absent flavor, the warmth of the caramel flavoring in the sauce with a spoonful of the almost tart but lightly sweet apple galette was interestingly good. While the overall flavor was distinctly the caramel, the flavor slowly faded on the palate simultaneously with the coldness of the ice cream to only make way for the apple which followed right after. A beautiful production in the mouth.

In conclusion, the gourmet fare here is utterly sublime. While the wait staff were not as attentive as one might expect from a restaurant of this caliber, which was disappointing - the food more than makes up for it. The ambiance was intimate, if not a little cramped, the decor tasteful without being overly pretentious - but pretentious it definitely was - and the overall experience a very pleasurable one. I highly recommend Petrossian Paris to anyone who appreciates fine dining at its best!

Monday, January 23, 2006


2745 Broadway - Map
Corner of West 105th St
New York, NY
(212) 866-0600
Traditional American/Bistro

I had the pleasure of lunching at Henry's this past Sunday while on a date. And as far as that goes, it is a pleasant place to go to for a date. The hostesses were pleasant, and one of them found us a table rather quickly, considering the place was full of couples, and a few families with children (all of whom were very well behaved).

The decor was clean and organized with light wooden paneling, and the light fixtures were drop lamps with red shades. Since the ceiling was high, the lamps didn't come down very far. Furthermore, the large windows along the Broadway side of the restaurant brought in a considerable amount of light on that beautifully sunny day. The overall level of noise wasn't oppressive, and one could easily carry a conversation, although eavesdropping on your neighbors' conversations wasn't difficult.

Once seated, we were presented with the menus, and we both started with a cup of coffee. When we requested skim milk, the waitress was mildly snooty about informing us that they didn't have any, but other than that, she was perfectly attentive. The coffee, I have to say, was pretty good: it balanced the right amount of aroma and bitterness that I have come to appreciate in a good cup of coffee. The milk was served warm in a small metal cream carafe, and lightly frothed. I was, however, disappointed to note their lack of sweetner selection, but I made do.

I ordered their Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Beets and Green Beans, while my date ordered their Cobb Salad. Shortly after ordering, we were brought our orders - which marks for high points in my book. My salad was beautifully composed on a bed of mesclun greens, and little beet medallions strewn about on the periphery of the bed. Pine nuts and green beans dotted the the whole nest of leaves, and it was perfectly dressed in a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette that was not overpowering and surprisingly complimented the earthiness and sweetness of the beets. One expects pomegranates to be generally sweet, although the hint of tartness and mouthy feel added considerably to the experience. The crisp crunch of green beans added a surprisingly delicious texture to every bite.

Along the top of the plate, were three slices of baguette topped with a tablespoon of creamy goat cheese, and as per the description, was warmed to just the right consistency to prevent it from melting, but rather gave it an even creamier and smoother texture. I expected the baguettes to be toasted, but I found that the softness of the inner part of the bread was actually a more pleasant accompaniment to the cheese, when paired with the fresh crunch of the crust. I imagine that if the bread were to be toasted, it would have made for a very awkward bite.

For lunch, it was a bit pricey, but the quality of the food and of the service justifies it. If you find yourself in the Columbia University neighborhood, drop in to this pleasant venue for some good quality meals!

Monday, September 12, 2005

La Creperie

La Creperie
2608 Broadway - Map
Between West 98th and West 99th Streets
New York, NY
(212) 865-7334
French Creperie, OU Kosher

One thing I've found about the Upper West Side, is that it lacks Kosher breakfast-type cafes like their non-kosher counterparts (which, apparently, seem to flourish especially so on Broadway's wide sidewalks). While La Creperie isn't exactly a cafe, this small French Creperie comes very close.

Since I was with friends who required a Kosher restaurant, and we were looking for some kind of breakfast/brunchy food, this was the only thing we could think of. The place isn't large, but it had a friendly and inviting store-front, despite the somewhat drab awning. I was a little surprised that they didn't have any outdoor seating out on the sidewalk, but they may not have any control over that. At first impression, I thought the place was cute, but that was quickly amended when I took a better look around, after being seated by the very friendly, and professional wait-staff.

The place had one wall with exposed brick, decorated with hanging copper pots and pans. I found this to be an interesting choice of decoration, but it felt like there was still something missing. It definitely matched the copper-colored vents hanging over the crepe-stand decorated with a variety fresh fruit, which added to the sense of homey-ness - grapes, apples, bananas, pineapple. The wall behind the cooking and coffee stand was decorated with blue and white porcelain tea pots, cups, and jars - which almost seemed to clash with the adjacent exposed-brick wall. The rest of the restaurant had stark white walls, with one wall decorated with a large wooden frame filled with a collage of various French country-side scenes. The wall also had a wooden veneer that seemed to lack a richness in color, instead of a richer mahogany, it was of a blonder variety - which also matched the tables and chairs. While somewhat cliched, but warmly welcomed was the light sounds of French music playing in the background. I would have almost been disappointed if they didn't play any.

The menu had a nice selection of various crepes - both savory and sweet, except the sweet crepes were categorized as Dessert, and were placed on the back of the menu. I chose their Swiss cheese and mushroom, and asked them to add spinach to the crepe. My accompanying friends both ordered the Swiss cheese and creamed spinach crepe. We also ordered 2 regular coffees, and one iced-mocha (which judging by the sounds of it, was very good, but I cannot give you a first-hand description). The coffee was good, and they were out of skim milk since apparently their entire stock "went bad," so we had to resort to whole milk - could have been worse.

The crepes were served with a side of some mesclun greens and grape-tomatoes cut in half dressed lightly with a vinegar-based dressing. I found that the crepes were bland, completely lacking in their own flavor and didn't really have that "crepe aroma" often-times experienced upon being served freshly made crepes. I also was disappointed in that the crepe was too thin, and upon constructing the plate, wasn't folded enough to really allow you to taste the texture of the crepe at all. The filling was ok. I felt that it may have been overdone, and there was much more spinach than mushroom in it. The cheese was also overly used, as everything was oozing out in a way that made it difficult to control and eat. It did, however, hit the spot, and I'm willing to give this place another shot.

The three of us also decided that we'd split a dessert crepe - which upon much deliberation, we decided on fresh strawberries with whipped cream, since we discovered that our initial choice of peaches and whipped cream was canned peaches, and we wanted fresh fruit. I was much more satisfied with the sweet crepe than I was with the savory one. This was served with a healthy dollop of freshly prepared whipped cream (none of this out-of-a-can business), and liberal use of what tasted like freshly prepared strawberry sauce. So far, their points are running on their sweet crepes. One of our party had mentioned that the ricotta and strawberry crepe that she had previously tried was somewhat dry, which I find to be difficult to achieve since ricotta tends to retain a lot of liquid to begin with, and the strawberry also releases some of its juices when you apply heat.

As I understand it, this place is still relatively new, only in operation for about a year. Its value lies in it being Kosher, and it being a decent restaurant. The decor needs to be improved upon. I feel that since the French favor the richer and bolder colors and textures, they should build on that. Go with the exposed brick theme, and try to match that up. I still hope to try their Crepe Suzette - a personal favorite of mine, and I hope that some of their other savory options are better. If you're looking for Kosher, and something a little out of the ordinary, this is a nice place to go.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Total Wine Bar

Total Wine Bar
74 5th Avenue - Map
Corner of St. Mark's Place
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 783-5166
Wine Bar

To salvage what was left from an almost mediocre dinner at Al Di Lá, my friend and I decided to go to Total Wine Bar. Having patronized this establishment only once before, I was all too eager to go, fondly remembering our last excursion to this hidden Park Slope gem.

By no means large, this modest and homey wine bar is particularly inviting. As soon as you walk in, you see a bar situated at the far end of the room, centered against the wall, with a back, swinging door into their kitchen. Along the right-side wall is a long couch that comes to an "L" shape against the front window, with cube tables for patrons to sit at. Each cubed table is decorated with a lit votive candle, and the room is kept at an intimate level of brightness.

My friend an I immediately made our way to sit at the bar, and asked for their red-wine list. Their selection, while not long, was nicely varied, and I found it hard to make a decision. I decided to first have a glass of their South African Red, heralding a smoky and intense description, I felt that to compensate for the crap I drank at Al Di Lá, I needed something intense. I was not disappointed. As soon as I took a whiff of the musky smokiness, I was immediately transported to my visit in Stellenbosch, South Africa's prominent wine country. I was not mistaken in my assessment, as the wine was indeed from Stellenbosch (well, it COULD have been from Paarl!). I was surprised to hear that it was a blend of 26% Pinotage and 74% Merlot. The Pinotage, being the minority percentage, did an excellent job of permeating throughout the wine, and the almost harshly intense smokiness really helped to buffet the floral and fruitiness of the locally grown Merlot grapes. I tried my friend's Organic Pinot Noir, a considerably lighter wine compared to what I was drinking, and I was overwhelmed by the distinct flavor of papaya! It was such a pleasant surprise, refreshing even! That I almost ordered a glass. Beth, the woman who was serving us the wine, suggested I try something else before I order that Organic Pinot Noir.

She poured me taste of the thin, red liquid, and allowed me to experience it. I immediately swished it around in the wine glass, and took a strong and deep breath in. My eyes widened and I was particularly amused at the strong aroma of Lychee! YES LYCHEE! I couldn't wait to get a taste! I took a moutful in, swished it around, and sucked in some air, and the Lychee flavor simply refused to be ignored. I swallowed, and then, an evervescent whisper of strawberry tickled my senses. Needless to say, I ordered a glass. This particlar wine was the Dom. Curot, Sancerre 2003 (a French Pinot Noir).

To accompany the cheese, I had ordered a slice of their Fourgerous, a french cow's milk cheese, essentially a Brie, with distinct grassy flavors, and served with a fern frond. It was creamy, rich in texture, yet light in taste, with an almost dry tannic quality that I would normally associate with wine. The rind wasn't overwhelmingly thick or coarse (which in my opinion is truly a mark of a good cheese), and I couldn't get enough of it.

I've found, that as the evening progressed, the Pinot I was drinking had settled, and evolved into a completely different wine. While the Lychee remained as a subtle undertone, the strawberry, and other distinguishable berry flavors grew in strength, and took over the flavor of the wine. I was not disappointed, and rather invited the evolution of the wine.

What also made this particular experience notable was the crowd. It was friendly, and local. The owner Adam (? I think that was his name...sorry...I was drinking), and Beth were SO friendly, and were striking up conversations with EVERYONE! I simply loved it! Am I going back? ABSOLUTELY! Would I recommend this to anyone? I think the answer is self-evident!

Al Di Lá

Al Di Lá
247 5th Avenue - Map
Corner of Carroll Street
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 636-8888
Italian Venetian (Northern Italy)

Don't let the Italian cuisine fool you - you won't see tomato sauces and lasagnas here! This restaurant is Northern Italian cuisine. After having read impressive reviews, and having heard only praise about this restaurant, I've finally had an opportunity to go. And there enlies the problem. Too much hype, leads to a potentially disastrous restaurant experience, and unfortunately, this one was not a good one.

While I wouldn't call it a disastrous evening, it was just plain whatever. Let's start at the beginning. Upon entering the rather small restaurant, I had to pass a pair of dark navy, velvet drapes (which was wierd considering we're in the height of summer). My friend and I only waited a few minutes before the hostess attended to us and escorted us to the table. The decor was very strange, the walls were bedecked with a seemingly antiquated, floral wall paper with a cream background. The ceilings were certainly not high enough to accomodate the low-hanging, frosted glass chandelier, which were surounded by exposed oven vents - not a touch I preferred. The walls were adorned with various pieces of artwork and photography, that neither contributed nor removed from the total ambiance - which in my book is really not a good thing. An overall feeling of a blase attitude regarding the decor was distinctly felt.

My friend an I ordered their ricotta, sage, and swisschard gnocchi. While the texture and color were interesting, the taste lacked a boldness that I've come to expect of anything with sage. The swisschard, along with the ricotta created a somewhat bland flavor, and only mildly reminiscent of sage. The accompanying butter sauce was negligible in both flavor and quantity with which to coat the gnocchi. I expected was just...ok.

I had ordered their braised rabbit dish, which was accompanied with a polenta and olives. This being the first time I've ever consumed rabbit, I was hoping for a new and interesting experience. I was sadly mistaken. Being that this is the only frame of reference I have for rabbit - it is just some glorified chicken dish. I am willing to concede that there may be a redeeming rabbit dish out there somewhere, so I will not completely remove it from my list of foods to try again, but right now, it's not favorable. Again, I expected something more interesting or exotic, and to just taste "chicken" in both texture and taste, I was somewhat disappointed. I feel that it just wasn't prepared in the ideal way...I don't know, being that I have no experience with rabbit before this, but I've heard that southern fried rabbit is quite tasty, so I can only assume that this was not the way to go.

My friend ordered thier hangar steak dish, and he too was unimpressed. Being an amateur steak connoisseur, he felt the cut of meat was just an inappropriate choice for the kind of restuarant Al Di Lá purports to be. He said that while the accompanying sauce was very delicious, the cut of meat simply did not do the rest of the dish justice. He said it was somewhat "stringy" and would have preferred a NY Strip, or Rib Eye. I can't say I disagree.

Probably the greatest disappointment was the wine that the waiter recommended I have with the rabbit dish. He suggested I order the Masseo, an Umbrian blended wine, of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese (2003 from Podore Vaglie). The wine started out full-bodied and syrupy, neither distinctly cab or merlot. It had a nice sweet floral nose and flavor, which was quickly accompanied with a mild dryness. However, as the evening progressed, and I allowed the wine to incorporate some oxygen, it failed to hold up. The wine simply lost its robustness, and fell flat immediately at every sip. I couldn't finish the glass - which I almost NEVER do. I found this to be particularly disappointing as I had a lot of faith in Italian wines. This by no means has sullied Italian wines for me at all, but they do get one demerit point for this particular blend. Shame, really.

While this review is far from a glowing one, I still would rate this as a 6/7 on a scale of 1 to 10 with a 10 being Blue Ribbon (review to come). Mind you, this scale is strictly for Brooklyn restuarants, as I feel it's a little unfair to compare Brooklyn restaurants with those in the city that cater to a very different crowd (especially a Park Slope restaurant). I feel that for a restaurant that proclaims itself to be one of the only Venetian (not just Northern Italian) restaurants in New York City, it lacked the umph and gusto I would expect of such a rarity. Frankly, the cuisine resembled a local ethnic restuarant that caters to the locals of similar ethnic background, than a novelty restaurant.

I have nothing to complain, really, of the service. While the wait staff weren't particularly attentive, once we were seated, it did not take long for the waiter to approach us and orate the day's specials, and he did try to answer any questions he could. I don't want to make any excuses, but the restaurant was pretty full (considering it was a late Monday evening - 9:30pm) and the wait was not long at all, but it did lack a certain level of personability.

Unfortunately, this restaurant was nondescript at best, just I hear that Al Di Lá Wine Bar around the corner is supposed to be a smidgen better, with a much better wine selection, and the same food menu. Maybe one day I'll go, but for now, I'll keep to something that's been known to be a little better.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Caravan of Dreams

Caravan of Dreams (Menu)
405 East 6th Street - Map
Between 1st Avenue and Avenue A
(212) 254-1613
Latin-influenced Vegan/Macrobiotic, Kosher

Probably one of New York City's best vegan restaurants, Caravan of Dreams should be on anyone's list of restaurants to try. Even non-vegan, meat-lovers would find something redeeming about the delicious dishes this restaurant has to offer!

Among their list of virtues, Caravan sports a teudat hechsher - this little certificate proclaiming it to be certifiably kosher by the standards of Orthodox Judaism. So, all those of you who keep strict kosher dietary guidelines can patron this lively and friendly establishment.

Being a repeat customer, it's almost become a staple to order their Un-chicken Nachos - grilled pieces of seitan - a tofu/textured vegetable protein - (which has an uncanny resemblance to shawarma) strewn in with creamy, fresh guacamole, tofu sour cream (which you could swear tastes just like the real thing), beans, salsa, the works! Accompanied, we almost always order a carafe of their sangria - a deliciously sweet blend of their organic red wine infused with fruit juices as well as fresh fruit.

While I personally don't subscribe to the "live" or "raw" vegan diet, their live menu is particularly extensive, and others have sung its praise countless times. I usually order something from their vast entree menu, which is always accompanied by a starter salad - fresh mixed greens with beet and carrot shavings, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflower sprouts, mixed with an interesting lemon-tamari-ginger dressing.

Of the countless times I have been here, I have sampled most of their entrees, but the ones specifically worth mentioning are: the Caravan Burrito, the Vegetable Medley, the Caravan Feast, the Macrobiotic Platter, and the Santa Maria Stir-fry. While I don't think you can go wrong with any of their entrees (except maybe something from their live menu - just kidding!), the aforementioned were particularly delicious.

Personally, a meat lover, one of the things I always tell people about this restaurant is that you leave satiated like you just ate meat - and for those kosher people out there - the best part is you can now have ice cream for dessert (just not at Caravan - but there is a Tasti D Lite on Second Avenue!!).

I highly recommend going to this place for dinner with some friends/family as the environment is highly accomodating, the waiters are happy, lively, and friendly, and are always willing to make suggestions or recommendations when asked. Reservations never hurt if you're a party large enough (like 6 or more). Their brunch menu is also quite a steal!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green
West 67th Street and Central Park West - Map
(212) 873-3200

Tavern on the Green - one of New York's oldest restaurants, and is touted to be the largest grossing restaurant in the world. I don't know if it is or not, but I can certainly understand why. Tavern, almost synonymous with New York dining (like the Plaza Hotel is synonymous with New York hotels...) left a lot to be desired. For the reputation it carries, I feel it fell significantly short of the mark.

As a native New Yorker, I have had the pleasure of patronizing a whole slew of restaurants, and I don't consider myself to be a professional food critic at all. In fact, just last nite I was watching an episode of The Iron Chef on the Food Network, and I was listening to the judges' review of the dishes served them by the 2 rivaling chefs. Since they have such an extensive background in food, they were equipped to give real professional critiques and praise. But since I'm NOT of those (but one day I will be), I feel I can give more of a "real person" perspective on things.

So, here's my take on Tavern on the Green. The wait staff and hostesses were extremely efficient, polite, and courteous. They accomodated our party of 11 beautifully so, and had a table set up for us right near the windows overlooking their garden. The food was as expected, nothing phenomenal or over-the-top exceptional. Most ordered their mixed green salad which was served with an almond toasted crouton, topped with goat cheese, and dressed with a champagne and shallot vinaigrette. It was light, it was crunchy, and served it's purpose as an appetizer. I, however, broke away from the crowd somewhat, and ordered their seared sashimi tuna, served over a bed of sesame noodles, cucumber, and peanut sauce. The tuna was beautiful, nice and red, with a perfectly seared ring. The sesame noodles were particularly flavorful, and quite whimsical. My mother, who's birthday we were celebrating, was particularly fond of the noodles.

We had all ordered their cedar planked salmon, with the exception of one in our party who ordered their halibut. The salmon was quite filling, and was crusted with breadcrumbs, and served over beet couscous. The salmon was ok, and nothing special to note. The beet couscous was more interesting. Instead of the semolina couscous which is typically a small, almost fine poweder-like texture, they served the larger variety of couscous, which was prepared with small pieces of beet. The couscous dutifully absorbed much of the earthy and sweet beet's flavor, which also added a wonderful dark red/purple shade to the couscous. The couscous was also served with some steamed fennel, which I think didn't add anything to the dish, and in fact, was more of a distraction since it added a sour, almost tart, licorice flavor that I didn't care for in conjunction with the salmon.

To accompany dinner, I had ordered a bottle of their 2003 Domain Chandon Carneros Pinot Noir, which was grown and bottled in Napa Valley. For one who always liked Pinot Noir long before Sideways hit the silver screen, I found this bottle to be particularly delicious. It had a mysterious nose, that hinted toward more interesting things to come. It was medium-bodied, and quite smokey, which I found to be a particularly interesting pairing with the cedar-planked salmon. Others at the table agreed with me.

For dessert, we kept it light, but we did order their Dark Chocolate Cake (that came with a lit candle for my mom) as well as their Creme Brulee. The Dark Chocolate Cake wasn't nearly as rich or creamy as I expected it to be, which unfortunately means I didn't really care for it. It was just ok. The Creme Brulee was up to par, but lacked in it's display, which was really the only thing to the Dark Chocolate Cake's credit.

For anyone who wishes to visit Tavern on the Green, I wouldn't go for their cuisine. I would, however, go because it is in Central Park, and it offers beautiful views. Better luck next time Tavern...

Friday, July 08, 2005


80 Spring Street - Map
Between Crosby Street and Broadway
(212) 965-1785
French Brasserie

By restaurateur Keith McNally (also of Pastis, Pravda, Balthazar Bakery and others), this SoHo gem draws flocks of the rich and famous, and mundane as well. While Balthazar is known for their breakfasts and brunches, chefs de cuisine Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, spare nothing on their dinner menu. While their menu is not overwhelmingly packed, each dish sounds so delicious that it makes it difficult to choose what you would like to eat more.

Having finally patronized this restaurant back in March for my 24th birthday (it was a long-standing desire to finally eat at this well-known establishment), this restaurant made it to my Top 5 list, superceding even Abigael's (which was tastefully chosen for my 21st birthday). While I try to not write reviews for restaurants I haven't been to recently, the experience was so positive, that it remains firmly etched in my mind.

Fearing a lack of reservation, I made mine a month in advance for a party of 8. I generally don't make reservations so far in advance, but I heeded their website's advice - and luckily so since when I called it in, it was apparently the last one left for that day (Sunday evening is apparently a very popular evening dining time).

We started our evening by ordering a few appetizers for the table, which consisted of their Balthazar Salad, Warm Goat Cheese and Carmelized Onion Tart, and their Saffron Risotto. Their appetizers were simply ambrosial, particularly the Balthazar Salad. It was a delicate balance of various ingredients, including but not limited to asparagus and fennel, yet what I found to give the salad that extra umph of surprise was the truffle vinaigrette. It added such a wonderful, earthy dimension to the salad, with a sweet yet earthy, and tart finish - which was just plain fun to eat, combined with the texture of the leafy lettuces, and firm asparagus.

The tarts were a whole new chapter. The musky aroma and flavor of the cheese made my mouth water and yearn for another bite - coupled with the sweetness of the carmelized onions provided for a heavenly experience. The oohs and aaahs around the table as we each sampled from it was a wonderful accompaniment to the savory flavors of the tart.

Finally, the risotto...Ahh, the risotto...All future risotto's are now forever ruined for me. This dish was so perfectly prepared - creamy, delicious, heavenly. The saffron created a beautifully golden hue to the dish, serving as a beacon for the eyes and hands. We were all drawn to it when it arrived at our table. After the round of appetizers, I couldn't wait for the entree to be served.

To accompany the entree, I had ordered their 2001 St. Joseph's Offerus, grown in their Bordeaux region, which was one of the wines recommended by the very French waiter, who wasn't standoffish at all, and was particularly accomodating to everyone's requests and questions (and substitutions). A wine like this, I have not ever experienced. It makes the others I've had almost pale in comparison. It was so complex, so robust, so full-bodied, fruity, and satisfying. It went exceptionally well with the Duck Confit that I had ordered.

This being my first real experience with duck, I am sure I did not make a mistake. It was so buttery in texture, the meat practically fell off the bone. A small part of my brain was desperately trying to get my attention - warning me that with every bite thus far, my arteries were slowly hardening - I paid it no mind. Each bite was worth it. The flavor was so unique and distinct, I find it difficult to find words to convey the awesomeness of every bite I took. Served over a bed of apple chips, the crunchy apple's went exceptionally well with the buttery duck. The chefs clearly knew what they were doing.

For dessert, I ordered (of course) the Creme Brulee. I now know how Creme Brulee should taste, and have an excellent barometer with which to compare all Creme Brulees against. Deceptively heavy looking, a proper Creme Brulee should be anything but. It should have a deliciously crusted carmelized sugar top, and a light, yet rich creamy custard. The vanilla flavor of the custard infused my mouth, accompanied by the carmelized sugar crust on top made for a wonderful contrast of textures. I've sampled some of their other desserts that others had ordered. Not disappointing in the least - sensory overload more like it. Their desserts are designed to stimulate every sense. The display is magnificent, the aroma robust, taste - exquisite, texture - superb, and the sound of people enjoying it....mmmmmm.....

To say the least - I implore everyone to go to this restaurant at least once in their life - it would not be a regrettable experience!