Asiate, Jan. 29, 2008


Several things were at play for this meal. For starters, Jan. 29th is my birthday and my employers are kind enough to fit the bill for lunch on our birthdays...or at the very least its become a tradition and turning back on us now would be gauche. But I respect the fact that it is their money, so I took advantage of Winter Restaurant Week, which takes place around this time of year, to revisit a terrific, fancy restaurant that is normally a bit on the expensive side.

Asiate, as I've said before, is really a great restaurant. The room is terrific and the whole floor that it shares with a cocktail lounge and hotel spa is very welcoming. And of course there is a Dale Chihuly piece as you walk out the elevator. And lastly, the food is very good.

My colleagues and I were seated in a booth, which was excellent and afforded terrific views of the limestone beauty known as 15 Central Park West - also known as the new home of much of the city's wealthiest people (Sandy Weil, par example). Here's what we ate:

Scallop Chowder with root vegetables
The menu today was ripe for comparisons to my recent lunches at Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park. So I decided to repeat my orderings - knowing that it would yield significantly different results. Of the three root vegetable-based soups I've had at these restaurants, this was the weakest. As far as chowders are concerned - this was very good. Nothing at all wrong with it, per just didn't wow like the soups at the other places. Presentation was also weak in comparison.

Beet salad
This was served with some micro greens, pomegranate seeds and I believe a blue cheese of some kind. By my two colleagues accounts who ordered this - it was just fine.
Crab with Tagliatelle
I've had this dish before at Asiate and remember it to be very good but a bit stingy in portion size. I think they are consistent. My colleague Nick, who took many of these photos (thanks Nick!) thought it was delicious. Looks good too.

Salmon with asparagus and spaetzle
My colleague Betsy and I both ordered the salmon which was served with an incredible baked uni sauce on top. Wow! The sauce alone made this dish. The salmon was cooked perfectly well. It was much better than the salmon I had at Jean Georges a week or so earlier and was probably more exciting than the salmon at Eleven Madison Park though not necessarily prepared better. The uni is what did it for me.

Sea Bass
Tiffany ordered the sea bass which looked, and apparently tasted, terrific.

Quinoa Chicken
This looked delicious and gives me some ideas for home cooking. The chicken was cooked perfectly, as were the supporting cast of vegetables. The quinoa adding a flavorful and contrasting texture to what could have been a truly plain jane dish.

Chocolate Mousse
Wow. Really rich and a charming presentation. Reminded me of something Will Goldfarb would do and/or has done. Very rich chocolate and a nice, crumbly, buttery cookie to go along with it. My only complaint would be the texture/consistency of the chocolate. It was pretty hard - thus clearly being refrigerated in the glass for quite some wasn't freshly dispensed.

Fruit Dessert
I honestly don't recall what this was...a flan of some kind for sure and I believe the fruit was pineapple and mango. Apparently it was very good. Nice photo (thanks Tiffany).

Overall a great meal and fairly priced for what you got. I also like that they've moved away from the bento box offering for Restaurant Week and give you typical a la carte offerings. If you haven't checked out Asiate yet...I recommend doing so.


Eleven Madison Park, RW - Jan. 23, 2008

Eleven Madison Park
Winter Restaurant Week '08

The last "nice" lunch I had was at Jean Georges, a place that I believe is arguably the best, most consistent restaurant in New York City. I stand by that statement although it is certainly loose footing when you have restaurants like Eleven Madison Park. I've been to EMP and JG about the same amount of times - perhaps a few more times at JG and only a handful of times while DanielHumm has been in the kitchen at EMP. But every time, the food is outstanding. For the second consecutive time, we didn't get our corner seat - though we did get (again) the table next to it. So at least they are consistent in some regard. When asked if we could have that particular table (which was, truthfully, set up as two tables together), the staff girl said it was, um, reserved. Now, no one sat there during the duration of our meal and the restaurant was practically empty, so I call BS on her for that. If I wanted to sit there...the Danny Meyer playbook, I assume, would say that I should be sat there. Whatever. The young, bespeckled sommelier recognized us and was, as usual, awesome to work with. He picked out a great Mersault to go with our salmon. A '94 with just the right minerality. Anyway, the room was nice as usual, service was awfully chipper minus the hostess, bread and water service was efficient and the food...well, the food was great. And, on purpose, I chose more/less the same dishes that I recently had at Jean Georges. I must say that in all respects, each dish was better at Eleven Madison Park.

Parsnip Pear Veloute with Chestnuts
Differences here include that a) it wasn't poured tableside, I guess because of the foam; b) it was free of annoying strands of rosemary; c) it tasted better and looked better. The even consistency and coloring of the soup was remarkable. The flavors were perfect, and completely identifiable.

Salmon with citrus (blood orange, etc.)

This was great. Unlike the overly salty version at Jean Georges, this was served skin up, which gave that extra bit of texture in addition to a nicer, fuller flavor to the fish beneath. The blood orange wasn't too sweet nor too bitter and really worked with this dish nicely. Perfectly cooked and presented.

Araguani Grand Cru Chocolate Symphony with Caramel and Maldon Sea Salt
Make no mistake - this was delicious and far better that it looks. The caramel on the plate and in the "cookie" was remarkable. The cocolate ice cream was fudge-like and of great texture. Awesome.


Jean Georges (Nougatine Room) - Jan. 11, 2008

Yet another lunch at the usually fabulous Nougatine Room at Jean Georges. Unfortunately, this lunch wasn't as stellar as others - but still very good nonetheless. Minor quibbles I suppose. The bartenders at JG are, for the most part, awful. This guy has been my bartender about three times now and each time he seems to irk me more and more. He reminds me of a less cockney version of Spud from TrainSpotting with less of a heart. But he's not the worst of the lot. That would go to a female bartender who's name escapes me. And I've delayed in returning to Jean Georges strictly because I don't want to deal with her. But there's another guy who's been at JG since it opened a decade ago who is pretty nice - but is a bit slovenly (time for a new apron! the thing is shredded). Anyway, on to the food...

Parsnip soup with honey roasted chestnuts. The soups at JG are almost always incredible. This was no exception - but, like a dish here and there - had one thing that was unnecessary - the rosemary. The rosemary added little to no flavor but did add the undesirable task of having to eat around them. I was suprised to see whole pieces of rosemary in it - one would expect, perhaps, to see a rosemary oil of some kind dotting the bottom of the plate instead...

Slow baked salmon with crispy mushrooms, etc. This was cooked flawlessly, and was no doubt a very good piece of salmon...but it was overly salty and the aioli was too, making it impossible to try with the fish.

Hazelnut cake, milk chocolate ice cream, passionfruit disk. This was pretty uninspiring. The chocolate ice cream was hard as a rock, the cake was pretty boring but the passionfruit flan or whatever it was, was nice and perky - a good foil to the chocolate. It just didn't wow.