Cafe Sabarsky/Cafe Fledermaus

Cafe Sabarsky/Cafe Fledermaus

Danna and I had a rare lunch together and because we were in the area, we went to Cafe Sabarsky. Unfortunately we didn't have time to view the Klimt paintings in the Neue Gallery upstairs, and were pressed for time for lunch, so we ate downstairs at Cafe Fledermaus.

The menu is filled with items I wanted to try. They offer a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches entrees, coffees and desserts that are more interesting than your usual lunch fare, at moderate (or at least fair) prices taboot.

But before I can talk positively about the food, I must set the record straight about this place. The service is horrendous. It is awful. It is pathetic. It is slow. It is sloppy. It is every negative adjective you can apply to waitservice.

There were two waiters (one of them ours) who were remarkably pathetic. The lone waitress looked like she might know what she was doing, and in fact looked skilled but harried because of the lack of effort from the other clowns. I could go on and on at great length to describe how bad the service was, but what's the point?

The food, however, was very good though wasn't without it's problems.

Danna and I shared a bowl of chestnut soup which was perfect. The right temperature, the appropriate inclusion of prunes, the right texture. Excellent. The bread and butter we had was pretty good too as was the Kaffe Klimt (coffee with whipped cream). At least I think that was the name of it.

Danna ordered the spaetzle for her entree ($15), which was served with wild mushrooms, peas, sweet corn and tarragon. It was excellent and was pretty much exactly like the rabbit spaetzle dish at Wallse. Unfortunately, as we were halfway through the dish, we noticed a hair in the food...one that definitely did not come from either of us.

I ordered the Viennese sausage with goulash sauce ($10) and was pleased, all though next time I'd try the Bavarian sausage instead. The goulash sauce was fantastic and even had a nice chunk of meat in it.

The food, for the most part, is great. But again, the service is downright insufferable.

For someone so seemingly strict - he has absolutely no control over his dining establishments with the exception of Wallse, which is most likely where he spends most of his time. Wallse was an excellent experience (save for the wobbly chairs and tables and cheesey lucite vases) but my other Gutenbrunner experiences have failed greatly in certain categories. The fish I had at Blaue Gans should never have been served looking the way it did, the service and hair issue at Cafe Fledermaus was beyond bad and the refusal to serve us dessert at Thor (at 10pm) was completely unacceptable.

Note to Kurt: Your staff doesn't take you seriously.


The Red Cat and Varietal

Red Cat

Went to the Red Cat for the third time last night, and once again enjoyed it thoroughly. Visiting from D.C. by way of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and an unwelcome delay in Charlotte, my friend Matt and my new friend (and Matt's boss) Jeff met up at the Hudson Hotel to grab a bite to eat and, more importantly, a few glasses of wine. They deserved it after the commuting hell they'd been through.

We started with lobster pierogies with mushrooms as well as the tempura green beans. The green beans were as good as ever but I think the mustard dipping sauce wasn't as hot as it's been in the past. Still good, but I'd like it spicier.

I had a sea bass dish (special) which was excellent. I also tried the skate, which was delicious and served somewhat similar to the traditional grenobloise style (capers, instead of caperberries, brown butter sauce, etc.). Very large portion of skate.

We washed it all down with a light but interesting white Bordeaux called La Rame (2005).


We then went over to Varietal which, in my opinion, is a case of The Emperor's new clothes. Average selection of wine (too warm), questionable design choices and an overall incongruent feel to the place. We enjoyed it though (how hard is it to enjoy wine and intelligent conversation with great people?), especially the wine glass chandelier - it's not as over the top/kitschy as some have suggested - but the stools were more an experiment of style than of function. Not at all comfortable and unsettling in the getting on/off experience.

Sadly, I think this place is doomed. It's been twelve weeks since it opened, there was nobody in the restaurant/bar at midnight on a Thursday night and they just don't seem to have a good handle on what they want to be. Just look at the space (modern, bright white, a little Sunset Strip circa 2005 meets I Dream of Jeanie) and look at the chef Ed Witt (tattoos galore and a CV that includes the refined Il Buco). It's an inconsistent, way-too-juxtaposed concept to survive. Not to mention Ed Witt's insane decision to never serve kobe beef or foie gras based on the treatment of said animals - yet he serves octopus, which I promise you goes through much more painful and traumatic last moments than any duck living on Ariane Daughin's farm.

In any event, a fun night for sure. I think we solved all of the world's problems last night, or at the very least, had a great time.


Grand Central Oyster Bar

Oyster Bar at Grand Central

I don't like going out to eat on Valentine's Day. In fact, nothing about it feels right. I like to cook, especially for my wife, and it's an especially nice gesture on this most Hallmarkian day of days.

Alas, we decided to go out. Or rather, I did. Danna wasn't feeling all that great and wanted to just go to bed. The sleet and slush wasn't making it any more fun to be outside. But I didn't want to have to deal with cleaning a pile of dishes. Note: we don't have a dishwasher in our tiny NYC kitchen and knowing that I have a great big, new kitchen at our new home, it was hard to get interested in cooking this evening.

My goal was to have a nice night out with my wife, regardless of the "holiday", to a truly NYC place not serving a special Valentine's Day menu or prix fixe dinner and where there might not be a lot of lovey-doveyness taking place.

So we went to The Oyster Bar in Grand Central.

I love the building itself - it's easily one of my favorite structures in the city. I also love the ceiling at the restaurant and the fact that it's been around since 1913 - just three years older than our new house in the 'burbs.

We went in with few expectations. And they sort of met those expectations.

Before we got our water, we were given a printout of the items they were sold out of already: Blue Point oysters, haddock, mahi mahi, crab cake appetizer, crab cake entree, etc. Nothing says romance like the number 86.

When the time came, here's what we got:


Oysters. You have to get them here. They were very good (but not the best) and still cool, i.e., recently shucked. We got some Ninigret (Rhode Island) which were very good and very briny, Olympic Miyagi (Washington St.) which was meaty and rich and Ships Point (British Columbia) which was an all around solid specimen. They were out of Kumamotos and others.

Lobster Bisque. Terrible. Don't ever order this here. I've made much better myself at home. I think they neglected to include cognac (or sherry), but even that wouldn't have helped.

Clams Casino ($9.95). A very good interpretation with a thicker cut bacon of which they weren't chintzy. Several clams were doubled up with the stuff. Not as good as how I make them (I learned from the master: Seth Van Dorn of 18th Street Cafe in Barnegat Light, NJ), but very good.


We both went for the pan roasts because I've been told several times that the best dishes they serve are the pan roasts. Well, we were mixed on this. Danna went for the lobster pan roast ($21.95), I went for the lobster/shrimp combo pan roast ($20.95). I was a bit perplexed when it arrived, as it looked like a bowl of soup with chunks of lobster/shrimp and a slice of bread in it. I had to ask one of the 3 waiters that came to our table during the course of the evening if this was the stew or the pan roast. He confirmed it was the pan roast and that the stew was "milkier". Okay.

The flavor of the broth was rich - almost too rich. Most of the lobster and shrimp were good but I did bite into one piece of tough, overcooked lobster. Nothing terrible though. I enjoyed it for its simplicity but didn't care for how overly rich and buttery the vast amount of broth tasted - or rather, felt in my stomach. Danna didn't care for hers at all.


You have to get something on the side here and much like Luger's, they charge you mightily for these mediocre dishes. Steamed vegetables ($6.95) and god-awful, Burger King style french fries ($4.75) were our picks. They even had the audacity to use "baby carrots" instead of buying, at the very least, a horse carrot and cutting it. Blech.


As you'd expect. Fairly gruff, boom boom out the door, kinda treatment. Food came out fairly quickly, though our pan roasts were sitting at the waiter stand for a few minutes while the group of waiters tried to figure out to whom they belonged. Utensils and tabletops were dirty.

Overall, my expectations were met. It was romantic in that the location and architecture and old school charm met my criteria and I knew going in that the food was mediocre to satisfactory. Unfortunately I don't think Danna enjoyed it as much as me, but we had a nice night together, which in the end is really all that matters.

When Worlds Collide

I had a moment of pure joy a few weekends ago at the Union Square Greenmarket that I need to share. It was a Saturday. It was cold out. And after getting myself some warm apple/pear cider I walked over to one of my favorite places, selling some of my favorite things when all of a sudden one of my favorite female forms approached that same favorite place. Yes, it was a moment of pure joy, as I sampled some stinky Hooligan cheese at the Cato Corner Farms tent with Helena Christensen.


Momofuku Ssam Bar

I've been here at least 10 times now, so I figure I might as well put down a recap of the items I've had. It's all good. Believe the hype. And if you don't, good - more room for me at the counter. The service is particularly good as well. Great bunch of people working there.

I've had the following dishes:

Pork Belly steamed buns - I've had this 3 times now and I'm done. A heart stopper.

photo courtesy of Lady Caterina

Pork Shoulder steamed buns - very flavorful

photo courtesy of Jane!

Chicken steamed buns - okay, but can be a bit dry.

Brisket steamed buns - Solid.

Pork Ssam (burrito) - One of my favorite dishes in the city, but can be greasy.

Tofu Ssam (burrito) - pretty good but overly tofu-y

photo courtesy of cchen

Chicken Ssam (burrito) - okay if a little dry

Bahn Mi sandwich - unreal. A little small but it goes a long way.

photo courtesy of kathryn

Grilled Lemongrass Pork Sausage - Texturally interesting and nicely seasoned.Marinated

Hanger Steak Ssam - solid dish, seared just enough.

photo courtesy of lady caterina

Pork short rib stew - excellent. Rich and flavorful.

photo courtesy of 100 Five

Dr. Pepper - I love that they serve this. It goes great with just about all of the food.

photo courtesy of kathryn

Hitachino Red Ale - one of my favorite beers at the moment. $9 hurts though. Even my wife, who doesn't care that much for beer really liked it. Figures, it cost $9.