Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Had lunch today at EMP with dad. Reminder only have two days left to use the coupon you received during Restaurant Week.

We both had the torchon of "Elevage Perigord" Foie Gras with Venezuelan Cocoa in a gelee to start. It was served with an average piece of brioche that also had a swirl of cocoa through it, much like the foie gras. The foie gras was, naturally, delicious and topped with some salty shavings. It was cut in a thin round and elevated above a gelee of sorts. Was it worth $28. The simple answer is no. The serving was meager at best. No question that the presentation and execution was flawless, but the amount to cost ration makes no sense. I see why some people are turned off by this here. I'm glad to have been able to use the coupon to pay for this.
Dad went with the Scottish Salmon "Mi-Cuit" which he said was fantastic. I've had it before and yes, it was very good ($29).

I ordered the slow-cooked Loup de Mer (Branzino or Mediterranean Sea Bass) with saffron endive nage and ginger ($32). Again, the presentation and execution was flawless. The portion size here was appropriate and the flavor and texture was fantastic. Great.

For dessert, we both had the 'Chocolate-Peanut' - a tart of sorts, similar to what you'd get if you married a twix and a snickers bar. It was served with peanut butter caramel and brandied cherry chip ice cream. The ice cream was a disappointment but the rest was very good.

Our waiter wasn't that good. He had zero personality and didn't do much to earn his tip. This is the first time I can say that about a meal at EMP. It's always been top notch. The sommelier on the other hand, was great as usual. He picked for us a Franz Hirtzberger, Rotes Tor (Smaragd, 2004) (Gruner Vetliner) that did the trick. Same to the general manager and host staff.

And it is simply wonderful to be sat in the same seat everytime. Must be the wonders of OpenTable or just good service, but they listen and really treat their guests how they want to be treated.

It remains one of my favorite restaurants, though after absorbing others' recent critiques (small portions, lack of a strong flavor profile on some dishes, etc.) I can, to some extent, agree with them. For starters, they need a new pastry chef and I vote to bring back the leaf-shaped butter.


Black Pearl (2.0) and Shake Shack


Walking from my wife's office to Madison Square Park on Tuesday, we passed Black Pearl. I'd heard that it resurfaced after closing down operations at the back of Julep, a dive in the East Village, but didn't know where.

Well, we kept walking and ended up at the park, to find ourselves waiting at the end of the longest Shake Shack line I've ever been on. And rightfully so. Tuesday was the nicest day we've had so far this year. And that's why the 1 hour and 10 minute wait didn't bother me. Everyone on line was happy and the people watching was entertaining enough.

We ordered a bunch of stuff because our Shake going days will be limited this year, as we are moving away from the area.

Shack Burger - As good as ever though Danna claimed that there was a lack of shack sauce on hers. My burger was slightly overdone, but all in all, a great burger. I sense a slight lack of consistency so far in the overall operations but not enough to deter a visit.

French Fries - Different this year. Same crinkle cut, but better potatoes. Still not excellent though.

Chicago Dog (with everything on it) - The sport peppers were really hot (hotter than I remember) and that's a good thing. I'm still not a fan of yellow mustard, but what can you do. The best change here is that the dog is griddled, not boiled. A very important change for the better.

Root Beer Float - As good as ever...or was the custard even better than I remembered. Either way - very good.

Concrete Jungle - I didn't sample any of this, but I imagine it was good.


The next day (yesterday), I walked Danna home again and decided to try out the Black Pearl, knowing that it would be easy to lure Danna there with the promise of a lobster roll.

Lobster roll - fantastic. It is the best in the city from what I can tell. Pearl Oyster Bar, Mermaid Inn, etc. have nothing on it. Fresh tasting lobster on a buttered hot dog bun and lightly seasoned with barely any mayo. Delicious. There was an entire claw, unchopped, as well as other larger chunks of room temperature meat (not ice cold like some places).

Fries - mediocre frozen fries. They HAVE TO do better than this.

Pickles - from Guss. Good thinking

Cole Slaw - VERY good. Might be better than Mayrose Diner's. Little mayo present.

Mussels Bangkok (thai curry, onion, coconut milk, etc.) - the mussels weren't the best (clearly New Zealand variety). I like them small, but these were huge and meaty. The broth was good, but the bread they give you (2 pieces) was too hard to enjoy/sop up the broth. Need to work on that. The portion size was very (too) large and served in a cheesey oversized martini-like glass.

Oysters - Kumamoto, Canada Cup, Mala Spina and another variety I forget - were all very good and clearly just-shucked.

This, plus a side of haricot verts (just okay) and two Brooklyn Pale Ales came to $69.
Service was very friendly but the room is less than cozy, interesting or generally well designed.


BLT Prime

My wife and I were craving a great big steak last night. The only requirement of my wife was that it be walking distance as we'd both been tired from a long weekend of activities.

BLT Prime was our first and really only choice. Wolfgang's has some pedigree and for a brief moment was considered, but it was too stereotypical an atmosphere. And this is one area that BLT Prime really works - it's a steakhouse in the sense that it serves steaks and has a fare amount of masculinity in its appearance but it doesn't look dated, typical or for that matter - too-steakhouse-like (i.e, missing the gruff service, boring side plates, wood paneling, etc.). The tables, for example, were made of beautiful, polished wood and the booth backs were suede - masculine but stylish.

We went fairly simple this evening, skipping any appetizers to go right to the main event: the "BLT cut" double sirloin for two. We ordered it medium rare and got a side of the braised carrots, the french fries, and a trio of mustards.

Before I get into the details of the main course, I should mention that we were served an amuse of chicken liver pate served warm in a glass jar and toast. Holy cow was this excellent. Slightly grainy and not all that pleasant to look at, but it tasted wonderful.

We were also served popovers (a favorite of many) with butter and sea salt. These were as good as they've been touted elsewhere. A little doughy in the middle, but really, really good.

Back to the beef. It had an excellent char with a fair amount of saltiness to it. Though we asked for medium rare, there was a patch of truly rare meat. It was slightly undercooked, but in this case it was fine...and we were starving. It probably wasn't the best steak I've ever had, but it definitely had excellent marbling and satisfied the craving to a tee. The trio of mustards (one was a typical dijon, the other tasted like a tarragon dijon and the third, a grainy, reddish mustard was very tasty though I can't figure out the flavor) added a nice touch to the meat and more importantly, the fries which were very good but not great.

The braised carrots on the other hand were phenomenal. I'd recommend these in a heartbeat. Expect a sweet take on this vegetable.

To finish, we were given chocolate chip petit fours that were warm and oozing chocolate. An excellent way to wrap up the meal without going overboard with dessert.

Service was very good, though it slowed down considerably toward the end of our meal. Our waiter disappeared for a good ten minutes, delaying our ability to get the check and get home. The steak was big, and so I was able to have some of the leftovers for lunch today. The smell of it reheating in the office kitchen got my colleagues to salivate and inquire about what it was/where it came from.

If you want a good steak, with great sides, good service in a pleasant/not stodgy steakhouse setting - definitely consider BLT Prime.


Porter House New York

Porter House New York

I'll start off by saying that the two experiences I had at Porter House this week should only be taken at face value, as you will see, I never quite got to the main event - which to me is a big juicy steak. That being said, here's a quick review of my two brief experiences this week.

I met up with three girlfriends (friends that are girls) from high school who happened to be in the area (one lives at Trump Int'l, the others were visiting her) and enjoyed a quick bite - as I was running late and wouldn't be able to stay long. Great to see these girls. They are truly awesome.

Here's what I sampled:

Caesar salad - pretty good though standard. Overpriced at $11.

Baked Clams Casino w/pancetta, smoked paprika butter. For clams casino enthusiasts, you'll be disappointed. This is the breaded variety (blech) than cancelled out any possible flavor. Also, the clams weren't pre-cut, making getting them a messy chore as the bread crumbs would fly off when trying to pry the clam from its shell. Granted, you get a good size portion (10 clams or so), but for $16, not a bargain. The ones at Grand Central Oyster Bar are worlds better (i.e., loaded with bacon) for much less ($9.95).

Seared Sea Scallops w/capers, brown butter, crisp parsley ($18). Three plump scallops for $6 a piece. You do the math. Okay, they were plump, but the brown butter and capers were barely evident. I'd rather have seen some fruity relish with this dish. Leave the grenobloise-style for skate.

Oyster Pan Roast with smoked bacon, brioche, tomato-tarragon cream ($16). This was pretty good. It was presented much better and was less over-the-top-creamy than the version at the Oyster Bar. But the difference was the amount of seafood. You get more seafood at Oyster Bar, but you pay more ($21 for a lobster/shrimp combo) too.

Burger with aged Cheddar and shoestring Fries ($15). This was presented with the skimpiest amount of ketchup I've ever been served. Maybe one tablespoon full in a round ramekin (monkey dish). The burger was nearly round, which was a bit unusual. Sadly it was overcooked (I asked for medium rare, it was medium) but still quite juicy. I should say that it was medium in the middle, more like medium well (gray) on the outside curves (there were no edges as it was nearly round). The cheese was flavorless but the burger had a nice outer char and was generously seasoned with salt.

I'd put it on par with the burger at Quality Meats. You get more fries at PH, but they aren't as good as the ones at QM. The presentation at QM is better too. The flavors are pretty similar though. I'd say that if the PH was cooked properly to order, it might be the better of the two burgers.

A good burger, no doubt. But this isn't for New Yorkers. We should stick to the Corner Bistro, Shake Shack, burger joint, Paul's and DuMont burgers this city has to offer. Rather, it's for visitors to the Mall or those staying at the Mandarin Oriental or the Trump Int'l. And sadly, I think the restaurant as a whole is the same way. Great room and view though, and service is VERY friendly and accomodating from hostess to bartender to waitstaff.


Jean-Georges (Nougatine Room) - 2 Reviews

Jean-Georges Nougatine Room

I had lunch in the Nougatine Room at Jean-Georges the last two days (Wednesday, March 14 and Thursday, March 15, 2007)'s a report.

Ate with three colleagues and ordered from the a la carte menu.

Tuna tartare with radish "tower" in a spicy radish/ginger broth. This was excellent. The tuna was blue fin and was rich and creamy, if you will. There was a layer of guacamole underneath it and was topped with a crown or tower of perfectly assymetrical (you read that right) radish slices. All of this sat in a spicy, acidic and slightly oily broth. Very good.

Braised Short Ribs. Also very, very good. Seared perfectly and easily falling apart because of perfectly executed braising. This sat in a meaty broth on top of a whipped potato and was topped with perfectly julienned granny smith apples and jalepenos. A great combo that I look to recreate some other way at home.

Molten Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream. This is the original. Anything you've ever had called this is a spin off of this signature dish. I just had to try it to compare to the copy cats. I assure you it was excellent. The vanilla ice cream and sugared vanilla pod sealed the deal.

Service was excellent. Water and bread service, ice tea refills and plate removal was all spot on.
Sat by myself at the bar and ordered from the Prix Fixe menu.

Kabocha Squash Soup with shrimp and cippolinis. This was a disappointment. The soup itself was cooked properly but it lacked any oomph. The shrimp/squash combo didn't work for me at all. I might have finished half of it.

Braised Chicken with onions and haricot verts (?). I may be wrong but I think they were haricot verts. The chicken was served with cut breast meat layered on top of a cripy thigh and leg portion. Chicken was cooked perfectly and tasted great. It went well with the vegetables and broth, but the amount of broth in the bowl was absurd. It was like a soup and made eating a slightly sloppy situation. But it was good and worth getting.

Apple Crumble-type dish. This was very good but nothing to be wowed over. The apple chip it was served with was really good though.

I went for the Gewurztraminer juice and loved. Nonalcoholic juice from the very aromatic grape was the right call. It went well with the sliced red hot peppers that were in the chicken dish.

The final cost before tip was $34 and change. Not bad at all. The bartender was very nice but I saw something that utterly shocked me for a 4-star restaurant. The bartender was stirring the fizzy drinks with a straw - which was left in the drink and served to customers! How can a 4-star restaurant not use proper cocktail stirrers? I didn't see one in sight, but I did see the bartender stir the drinks with the straw on at least 2 occasions...and there was no white paper at the end of the straw either.

But aside from that and a less than stellar soup, lunch at Jean-Georges is a lovely, sophisticated experience.

The Mermaid Inn

The Mermaid Inn

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I've been once before and had a very pleasant dinner. Tonight, with the exception of the jackass sitting two stools down from me, was equally pleasant. As I was dining solo and had to get back in decent time, I sat at the bar and decided to try dishes I'd skipped last time...

Hurricane Harbor (Nova Scotia) - very salty and, though not thin, not the meatiest. Overall very good and remarkably fresh.

Malaspina (British Columbia) - nice, even color and full bodied flavor. Not that salty. Tasty and, like the others, very fresh.

"Hearty fish soup" is what they call it...and is served with pieces of cod, melted leeks, yukon gold and other vegetables. This was served really hot (which I like) but not too hot to not be able to eat it right away. Very flavorful and rich for a soup. For $10, I'd have liked to have seen a little more fish but it was good enough to order again or at least recommend it.

U-Peel Shrimp (Daily Special)
I knew about this Wednesday-only special from various sources and was excited to give it a shot. 1/2 a pound of really tasty, well-seasoned oven-roasted shrimp (I think it was oven roasted vs pan cooked, but could be wrong). Slightly messy, but fun, filling and overall satisfying. I'd guess that there were 8 or 9 shrimp served.

No dessert menu means complimentary chocolate pudding. Perfect. If you like fudgsicles, you'll be happy with this.

I had two bottles of the Whale's Tale Pale Ale. A solid beer, nice caramel color, served ice cold. Solid.

The bartender (Anna, I think) was great as were the hostesses. Attentive but not overbearing and not missing in action at any point.

The only thing is that after 2 visits, I've had nearly everything on the menu. Granted, the first time we went it was a group of 6 of us and shared a little, but some new daily specials other than the shrimp and oysters might be well suited for repeat visitors. But the place has a great vibe to it.