Eleven Madison Park (Restaurant Week), Jan. 24, 2005
Eleven Madison Park 11 Madison Ave.The Winter Menu on their website lists less than half of what they offered today. I couldn't believe the options this time around...I think even more than last RW. Good start.
My wife, father and I dined this afternoon at our usual table...which was great. None of us ordered the same, so I got to try a bunch. I got there earlier and had a glass of the Graves, 1992 white burgundy. Very nice, but I find that the wines were too cold at first. Personal preference I suppose.
Ok, to the food:
French Lentil Flan (wife, Danna)
Sunchoke Velouté (Jambon de Paris, Celery and Marscapone) (me)
Some sort of chicken liver and pasta dish (Dad)
The sunchoke veloute was wonderful. I would order this again in a heartbeat. Unfortunately the french lentil flan was not only unappetizing-looking but somewhat flat/subtle in taste and thus I switched with Danna. I understood the concept of the flan, but the execution faltered. Not worth getting. The veloute...oh you betcha! The chicken liver and pasta dish with foie gras was gobbled down quickly by dad. He loved it.
Seared Mahi Mahi (Braised Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Greens, and Bacon Buerre Fondue) - Danna
Smoked Leg and Breast of Capon (Parsley Root Purée, Chestnuts and Chicken Jus) - me
Fluke dish of some kind - Dad
The bacon buerre fondue was far too overpowering for the mahi mahi, which was cooked nicely enough. I tried a piece with the chicken jus in my dish, and it was lovely...oddly enough. But the bacon buerre fondue was just too much. A shame. Toned down, it probably would have been excellent.The capon dish is just not good. I found the brocoli rabe they included in it to actually make the entire dish too bitter. A real shame. Honestly, I wasn't going to order this, so it is my fault, but I wanted to try something different for the sake of enjoying as many dishes as possible. Just not a great dish. The puree was very good and the jus that wasn't bittered (blocked) from the broccoli rabe was very nice...and as I said, went well with the mahi.The fluke dish was the standout...and while we were on our desserts, Chef Heffernan came out to the table next to us and, in responding to a new diner's question, said that the fluke was his favorite seafood dish of the day/moment/whatever. Another thing to note...it seemed as though everyone was ordering the Mahi. I had to have seen a dozen go by.
Pumpkin Cheesecake - Danna
Assortment of cookies - me
Key Lime Tart - Dad
Danna has an aversion, not an allergy, to nuts. So this was difficult for her as every dessert had nuts in it. The pumpkin cheesecake really had a strong essence of the pumpkin, but wasn't adored by the wife. I happened to like it, and the accompanying vanilla ice cream...although she did specifically request the cinnamon ice cream. Pretty much the only hiccup in service. The cream that came with it was unnecessary and probably even inappropriate. I am not a cookie guy, or actually a dessert guy, so I got the cookies so that Danna could have an "out" if the pumpkin cheesecake didn't work for her. This is a huge dessert - 6 cookies total, 2 each of the following: raspberry linzer tart square (quite good and crumbly to the bite), dense chocolate and homemade marshmallow "sandwich", and a chocalate fudge blondie type of thing. No idea what it was called (the best of the three). This was all very rich and would no doubt satisfy those who love chocolate. Too much for one person. My father, who spends half the year on the west coast of Florida, knows his key lime desserts. This stood no chance, and I heard him mumble "this is so good" at least twice during bites.
Overall, a good RW and EMP experience, despite some flubs. I highly suggest avoiding the capon, and the lentil flan, but enjoy the rest. Oh, we also had a bottle of the Muscadet for lunch - which was the suggested white wine pairing (apps). Worked very well with all of the dishes, actually. Chef Heffernan came out and welcomed us back. He continues to be the friendliest chef I've come across in New York. So open, talkative, friendly and genuinely cool. If I'm not mistaken, the cut on his hand is from a surfing accident (is that what I overheard?? Don't quote me, but someone please find out). And as a surfer myself, this just adds to the coolness of the chef. I had no idea. Lastly, they did give out $20.05 gift certificates like they did last year. Hooray!
Otto, Jan. 21, 2005
1 Fifth Ave.
This was my first visit to Otto and was lucky to have had the opportunity to try an assortment of dishes thanks to my in-laws who took me out for my birthday. Diners included my wife, in-laws, brother-in-law and his girlfriend - who we all met for the first time last night. Here's what I tried...
Olives (Gaeta, Sicilian, Alfonso)
Cauliflower "alla Siciliana"
Sformato di Parmigiano
Arugula with Tomato
Everything was very good. The Caponatina and sformato being exceptional standouts. The Sformato was really quite excellent. I'll have this again. The Caponatina was good, perhaps NOT as good as the kind at I Trulli, but we'll get to that in a little bit.
Wild Boar (special)
The prosciutto was perfectly cut, room temp and simply phenomenal and the Wild Boar had the most complex taste - truly excellent. I couldn't get through the testa...try as I might. The stuff is just really unpleasant to look at and the taste is just not for me. The Lonza was dry and not so good. The Soppressata was the sweet variety, unfortunately, and the coppa was pretty good but nothing exceptional.
Prosciutto Arugula Tomato, Cacio, Mozzarella, Crudo,
Balsamic Onion & Goat Cheese
The prosciutto was the standout but I liked both very much. Despite negative reviews of the pizza, I found them to be quite good. The crust was crispy as I like and better than the bread they gave us at the start of the night. Blech. Terrible bread. The pizza really isn't worth ordering as "take out" but the pasta would be...
Penne con Noci e Zucca Hazelnuts, Butternut Squash, Smoked Ricotta
Spaghetti alla Carbonara Pancetta, Scallions, Black Pepper, Egg
The smoked ricotta was dense and delicious. An interesting dish, perhaps 2 months too late to be on the menu. But very good. It screams "November" to me. VERY good, but not the winner I thought it would be. The carbonara was delicious. Wow! Batali really knows pasta - even at his "lower eschalon" locales. Very good cheek meat peppered throughout the dish. Wonderful. All of these pastas were a full notch above anything you will get at I Trulli. I'm not bashing I Trulli just to bash them, but let's just say my expectations for I Trulli were higher upon (each) visit (its just around the corner from me) and my expectations of Otto were less, with greater results. Excellent pasta.
Gorgonzola Dolce, Cow LOM
Pecorino di Fossa, Sheep EMI
Brillo di Treviso, Cow, VEN
A mistake in the cheese ordering gave us an extra brillo di treviso. All right! A staff member brought out 3 mason jars each filled with an accompaniment to the cheeses. They were: Apricot Marmalade (?) Black Cherries w/sauce Honey with black truffles Goodness me. This was wonderful. The gorgonzola and black cherries was the way to do it. The pecorino and apricot and the brillo di treviso went great with the honey and black truffles. Wow. Yum. Wow.
Olive Oil Gelato, Blood Orange & Pomegranate, Capezzana Olive Oil & Maldon Salt
We didn't share our desserts and thank god for that. The above mentioned dessert was wonderful. The only criticism I have is that it was a very "spring-like" dish for me. Granted, pomegranates and blood oranges aren't in season come April/May/June, but this tasted like Easter to me...if that makes any sense. A wonderful dish. The olive oil gelato was delish. It started off quite salty, but really developed as it warmed up and as you got closer to the end. Yum.
I guess this was an espresso of sorts. I was naive and thought it'd be something else. Good though.
The sommelier was helpful and spot on. Unfortunately I don't remember what was ordered. The waitress was good but not stellar. It was very busy, so not so much her fault. The busboys and other staff were quite friendly too.
Mr. Batali actually showed up last night...he walked right in a minute or so after we did and beelined to the kitchen. Cool. The space is much larger than I thought it would be. Cozy, warm, a bit loud and jam packed...although not too crowded, surprisingly. Tonight would be an excellent night to go there...hmmm Enjoy the snow everyone.
Blue Ribbon, Jan. 6, 2005
9 Sullivan St.
Four of us went to Blue Ribbon celebrate a friend's birthday in early January. It was all of our first time there and I think we were all pretty excited about trying certain dishes that have been hyped up before. Then...we hear that the wait will be an hour and 15 minutes. Ugh. Plus there was no room in the bar area - jam packed. Then some people started to leave and the bar patrons moved to their seats and some people gave up and left so it got a little roomier pretty quick. Thirty-five minutes or so passed, and another party of four apparently gave up..so we were graciously given the big booth at the front of the restaurant, which was perfect.
To start we ordered four of each of the oysters (12 total) that they had on ice at the bar. Unfortunately the guy who delivered them to our table couldn't speak clearly and we never figured out which ones were which - other than the kumomoto which are pretty recognizable. The only glitch in service the whole night. They were very fresh and came with three sauces...none which were excellent, but my favorite being the cilantro/onion one. The balsamic vinegar-like one was too overpowering and the cocktail sauce one was, well, cocktail sauce. (FYI - the Capital Grille does a great seafood platter and has very good sauces for their oysters).
My wife had to try their onion soup....whoa you could smell the cheese from across the room. Very strong, very large serving (bigger than usual) very tasty and overall wothwhile.
And then there was the beef marrow and oxtail marmalade. Wow. It was everything its been described as by previous tasters. It is really an unappetizing looking dish (the gelatinous marrow is a bit odd), no doubt about it...but fortunately the lights in the room dimmed a bit more just as we were about to get the dish. But the taste. Wow! Spread on the delicious, buttery toast points with a bit of the oxtail marmalade on top, and on top of that a small sprinkly of sea salt...and you have yourself a very tasty and unique dish. Definitely worth trying.
For our entrees, my wife had the NY Strip Steak (average, nothing too special - fries were just okay), the birthday girl ordered the Striped Bass (good, delicate flavoring of the fish. Nice) and both my friend Doug and I ordered the paella...which got spicier as you reached the middle of the plate. Very good...but perhaps not "saffrony" enough.
The entrees were all "good" to "very good". The appetizers were "excellent" and the service was "very good +".
Another quick word on the service. The staff are a very happy bunch for the most part (except for the mumbling and bumbling oyster deliverer) and very good at what they do. We never felt rushed at all. Everything came out to us in perfect flow and they made you feel welcome and a part of the place as if you were a regular, from the shellfish bar guy to the bartender to the waiter to the guy that cleared the crumbs off the table. Total before tip for four came to $230.00 - a bargain if you ask me. Oh...that includes drinks (2 vodka tonics and 2 7 & 7s), a vanilla creme brulee and the lemon and raspberry sorbet and a cup of coffee for dessert. Truly a great deal. I'd go back again.
Chikalicious, Dec. 31, 2004
203 E. 10th Street
New Years evening we decided to go to the east village for dessert since the "good" movies at Kips Bay were sold out...so off to Chikalicious...
Let me start by saying that I had very little interest in actually eating by the time we got our seats. It took forever. It was, to the "restaurant's" credit, partly the very slow customers and a line of about 8 people in front of us. But the whole process (the VERY slow process) of making these desserts one at a time was not only annoying...but hard to look at. It was like a really bad performance piece.
Chika and her assistant seem to work at an unnaturally slow pace. Painful to watch...I'm thankful we got a table. A very strange duo. You never see them talk, but then all of a sudden they would start to laugh...but not audibly. Ugh. Bothersome.
The desserts themselves were good and pretty to look at but not at all satisfying nor extraordinary and I believe overpriced. The 3 course dessert looked like this:
Kiwi Marinated in Lavender Soup with Yogurt Sorbet This was good. My favorite item.
Brown Sugar Panne cotta with blood orange sorbet. If I tried, I could have eaten this in one and a half bites. It was disappointing in size and taste. My wife had the Apple Pudding Cake with Granny Smith Sorbet and Creme Fraiche Sauce. This was the better of the main desserts we ordered. Slightly larger, but again, nothing that wowed us.
photo credit to HalfChinese
Coconut Marshmallow, Almond shortbread, Chocolate Profiterole The wife isn't a fan of nuts nor marshmallow, so I had most of this. The marshmallow was weak, the almond shortbread was tasty, as was the profiterole...for something smaller than a nickel.
Overall...it was a weak dining experience. I like the idea of the place very much, but the size of the place, the unnatural and annoying pace of the chefs and the average-at-best desserts for $12 each before tax and tip will not see me back there anytime soon.
If you are eating dinner at Hearth or anywhere else in the east village...stay there and eat dessert.