|Flatbread with ramps at DBGB|
I don't know when the last time I wrote about a restaurant was, but I've been to a few foodie restaurants (Momofuku Ko! see the end of this post) in the last few months that were pretty fun! I've been on the road a bit so here are a few highlights, including a few places in New York. These are all iphone pics so they're not the greatest but the food was delicious!
Quinn's Pub - Seattle
I was in Seattle for work and went to dinner with a couple of folks at Quinn's Pub, a beer-centric gastropub. We started with the soft pretzel with welsh rarebit, the crispy pig face nuggets (delicious!), an excellent roasted beet salad, and the seared foie gras - I can't remember the details but it was over an almost gingerbread kind of thing - really nice. I then had the pan roasted trout served with a romesco sauce - a well-cooked butterflied trout with a rich and flavorful romesco on top. I can't remember what beer I tried, but it was pretty tasty. And maybe I've lived in big cities too long, but getting a draft of a local microbrew for only $5 seemed so crazy cheap! The restaurant was pretty casual and comfortable with a long bar, lots of beers on tap and by the bottle. The only strange thing was that there we were in the state of Washington, and they had no local wines on the menu! So I tried a glass of an Italian white with my trout, which was really nice but it still seemed so strange to not have local wine choices.
Naya - New York
This is a delicious Lebanese restaurant in Midtown East and a great place to go with a few other people to share lots of mezze (the appetizer and spreads part of the menu). We went a while back to celebrate a few birthdays with another couple, and the first thing to comment on is the space itself - very mod with a kind of futuristic vibe almost, it's kind of a long and narrow restaurant lined mostly with white booths that seat 2-4, and then an area in the back for larger parties. We had the fried kibbe (fried dumplings filled with ground beef and pine nuts), a pita that was filled with ground lamb called arayess lahme, the Lebanese sausage makanek, the hommus, baba ghannouj, halloumi cheese, the eggplant stuffed with a seasoned rice mixture and tomatoes, the batata harra or fried potatoes and an order of labne, really thick tangy yogurt. We basically just ordered a bunch of mezze, and they were all really well done, tasty and overall, it was a nice meal. We also tried a bottle of fairly cheap Lebanese wine on the menu and it was pretty decent.
I was only there for two days for work and wish I had had a week to eat! The first night, had an okay dinner at The Keg, a mini-chain of what I perceived to be fairly male -targeted restaurants with attractive waitresses and steaks. It was a beautiful day and we had hoped to sit outside but it was packed so we just sat inside. The crabcakes were lovely, as were the tempura snap peas and asparagus, but I had a pretty overcooked salmon dish so was glad I had ordered the crabcakes to start! I had a nice lunch at a restaurant that I honestly cannot remember the name of but it was on a cute street not far from Downtown Eastside where I had been visiting programs, and I had a delicious Spanish-influenced smoky calamari dish with olives and then a duck salad. I also ate at Japa Dog, Japanese-influenced hot dogs but went for the tonkatsu, so no hot dog at all but rather a fried piece of pork on a bun with sauce, an okonimiyaki sauce I think, and mayo. And the FRIES! They have these seasoned fries - butter and shoyu, the taste of popcorn butter and soy sauce together in a seasoning that is shaked on the fries - so good!
Longman and Eagle - Chicago
I made a quick stop through Chicago on my way back from the west coast and had dinner with my brother and his fiance and Longman and Eagle in Logan Square - I had been dying to try this place and was really looking forward to it. It's a really lovely restaurant - bustling and busy, casual and comfortable, a packed bar. It's another place that kind of runs along the lines of a gastropub - serious food and great drinking. And specialty cocktails were only $8 compared to places in New York, where we could easily spend $14 or more on a cocktail at one of the serious hand-crafted cocktails places. I was pretty tired since I had flown in from Vancouver early that morning so we also all split an espresso at the beginning of the meal, which was kind of funny, but I sure felt much better after it kicked in. As someone who drinks caffeine about once a year, it doesn't take much!
We decided to try most of the small plates - seared scallops with braised oxtail, black truffle gnocchi, celery root and butternut squash puree, then an interesting foie gras dish with chocolate, which was really interesting, but maybe the chocolate overpowered the foie a bit. We got the roasted marrow bones, which is always yummy, the pastrami cured sweetbreads which was served almost like a Reuben - sauerkraut, pumpernickel crumbs, thousand island dressing - I love sweetbreads and thought this also kind of overpowered them, but it was a tasty dish. Then we had the Maine lobster parfait with black trumpet mushrooms, parsnip puree, and bacon - so rich and good. Finally, we had the ricotta gnudi with butternut squash, brown butter and sage, which actually ended up being a crispy fried gnudi - a pleasant surprise - and the cauliflower entree with beluga lentils, golden raisins, pickled mango and cucumber raita. Overall, everything was good, it was a great place to go with people that want to share, but I actually thought a lot of the dishes were a little overwhelmed by the sauces and everything else going on.
Wasan - New York
Wasan's whole thing is to do seasonal Japanese food using as much local product as they can. I had read a review in the New York Times which highlighted a few things that sounded really interesting - cold cheese tofu, a dish of tofu mixed with cheese and tomato jelly, and the uni lover - we totally love uni so had to try! We did one prix fixe and then ordered a few other courses we were interested in. The cold cheese tofu thing was really interesting and pretty delicious. We also tried the foie gras rice, which was basically like a piece of sushi except with foie gras, the tortilla chip crusted shrimp and eggplant with garlic sauce, the beef we cooked on a hot stone at the table, and the hamachi jaws - deep fried yellowtail collar - so meaty and delicious! I think there was something else, but I can't remember what it was right now. Overall, an interesting meal with lots of different flavors. It was good, but I'm not sure we'll go back. It's not quite cheap enough to go on a whim and at that price point, there are just so many other restaurants in New York to check out. But it's definitely interesting and worth a try.
Sakagura - New York
The day after our meal at Wasan, we had more Japanese food with a friend in town (thanks Aaron!) at Sakagura, a Japanese izakaya with an extensive sake list in the basement of an office building near Grand Central. If you want to try a lot of different sakes, this is the place - probably the most extensive sake menu I have seen. The food ranged from more typical Japanese food to less traditional and bolder dishes. We started with the premium sashimi, which I can't remember what each fish was, but it was definitely one of the better sashimi experiences I've had - every one of them was delicious and really flavorful and just really nice, and it included a tasty mackerel and uni, which I love. We then had everything from agedashi tofu, one of my all-time faves, to jazzed up sashimis like the fluke carpaccio - fluke sashimi with olive oil, plum paste, salmon roe and shiso. We also had some heartier dishes like beef cooked on a hot stone or the buta kakuni - big fatty chunks of stewed pork, which was ok - more like a tamer version of Vietnamese caramelized, stewed pork, thit kho, but without the fish sauce - but I prefer the Vietnamese version. They offer different daily specials, which we tried a few of that night, including a cold, sliced duck breast that was pretty good. Overall, the food was decent and it's a fun place to share and try different things, though a little on the pricey side.
Piccolo - Minneapolis
I've written about Piccolo before - my sis cooks there! But this was only the second time I've had a chance to eat there. If you haven't heard of it and are going through Minneapolis, give it a try! Anthony Bourdain gave it a lotta love in No Reservations - the Heartland episode. Chef Doug Flicker and is team are doing a lot of really interesting things, and the menu changes seasonally. I went with my colleague while in Minneapolis for work and ended up having almost everything on the menu! For wine, we started with a carafe of white, and then had a lovely bottle of Barolo.
We started with a buttermilk panna cotta with truffled pears, the chopped liver with brioche and caperberries, grilled baby octopus (which could have used more char), agnolotti, scrambled eggs with pigs feet (probably my favorite), and Peruvian lantern scallop with salmon roe and hon shimeji mushrooms - a very pretty dish. Then on to the meats - porchetta and pork kidney and chestnuts, fried chicken egg (chicken formed into an egg) with a ham hock waffle, cipiolini onions and maple syrup, the lamb with molasses and black grape "olives" (great flavors but the lamb was just a bit tough), and the roasted pheasant with figs, cabbage and sesame. For dessert, we had the walnut cake with creme fraiche, and the Calabrian fig brownie with ice cream. It was a really fun meal full of lots of different and interesting flavors.
DBGB - New York
DBGB is Daniel Boulud's casual Lyonnais influenced tavern. They have great oysters, lots of great treats - pates, escargots, bone marrow, and some Lyonnais specialties like the tablier de sapeur, a square of tripe that's breaded and fried and served with a mustard sauce with a side of tomato and tripe salad - our favorite part was the tomato and tripe salad. The fried tripe could've been almost anything fried. And then there is a whole menu of sausage. We've been here a couple of times and have tried the canard, the duck sausage, the chipolata, which is a pork sausage over some potatoes with black truffle, the boudin basque, a blood sausage, and the beaujolais, pork sausage with mushrooms, lentils, and bacon. They're all pretty good. Last time we were there, we had a special of grilled flatbread with ramps, bacon and maybe ricotta cheese? It was delicious! We also had the rillettes de jamboneau provencal, which were okay but were pretty subtle and I think we were looking for more flavor. They also have some burger options, which are probably great but I haven't tried a burger there quite yet. We've always just sat in the large bar area and have never had a hard time getting a table there. The dining room looks kind of fun with the big booths.
Balaboosta - New York
I had a work lunch and wanted to try somewhere new within walking distance of my office in SoHo, so tried Balaboosta and really enjoyed it for lunch. The folks that own it also own the somewhat famous falafel place Taim. The lunch menu is definitely on the smaller, more limited side of things, but what we had was light and flavorful. The Mediterranean sampler had the usual suspects - hummus, babaganoush, roasted red peppers and pita seasoned with za'atar, all done well. Then I had the seared striped bass over a really lovely quinoa with bits of preserved lemon, chickpeas and dried cranberries - lots of great flavors. And we had a rich chocolate dessert that was a nice way to end the meal - it wasn't unique but was well-done.
Momofuku Ko - New York
|Shaved foie gras at Momofuku Ko|
We sat down and thought about drinks for about a second and decided, why not go ahead and do the drink pairing too - it's not like we were coming back anytime soon. The pairing is not cheap, but I'm so glad we did it because it added so much to the meal and the experience, and I just loved all the pairings - we had everything from a gin cocktail, to a few different kinds of sake, a beer, white and reds, sparkling wines and champagnes - everything was great and really made each course better. Of course I don't remember what went with what, and barely remember the details of what we ate, but here's a stab at it, and of course I'm way oversimplifying everything because I can't remember everything on the plate.
Starters included a crab waldorf salad, chicharrones/pork rinds, grilled mushroom - I want to say porcini?
Then there were the crudo dishes - raw scallop over maybe a pea or edamame puree, branzino with grapefruit. I don't really remember the order of the rest of the dishes, but they included a big hunk of halibut - lovely, but I honestly can't remember what else was on the plate so I guess it wasn't that memorable, soft-boiled egg with caviar, potato chips over some sweet and soft-cooked onions, a hearty fresh macaroni with a chorizo meat sauce, a braised or slow cooked lamb or beef that was served with a potato soup poured on top - good, but a little overly peppery that was a bit overpowering. Then the famous shaved foie gras over riesling gelee and lychees - so interesting and delicious! And the final meat dish was a lamb (or was it beef?) short rib that was cooked sous vide then crisped up, and served with ramps and spring onions. Desserts included some kind of ice cream with crispy milk and a rhubarb, pistachio and goat milk ice cream or panna cotta (I can't remember!). I wish I could show you more but this little pic of the shaved foie gras is the only pic my friend Stephanie managed to snap!
The highlights for me were the soft-boiled egg and the shaved foie gras, which I think are standbys on their menu. Overall, I didn't think it was a mind-blowing meal, but it was all well-done and a lot of fun. If you get a chance to go, just go all out and do the drink pairings. They really add so much to the meal and experience. And go with someone you'll have fun with and enjoy it - we did observe a couple across the way from us that did not look like they were having a good time or even were liking each other much and I'm sure they didn't fully enjoy or appreciate the meal. We, on the other hand, had a great time and managed to be the last people there :)