Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Frightening Food

Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d post pictures of food that is considered frightening that I personally have eaten. I have eaten a lot more, but I don’t have pictures. Some of you will look at the pictures and wonder why some are frightening, but then again, that was the point I was making with my Matrix article.

And since it’s Halloween, let’s talk about candy for a second. Who doesn’t love Whoppers??? Those chocolate-covered malt balls are one of the pieces of candy I used to look forward to when I was younger. I gave some to the British girl in my office once, and she literally spit them out into a napkin. Then she went back to her desk to eat spotted dick. It’s that whole comfort zone again.

Please click on the slide show to bring you to another site where there are captions that accompany the pictures, so you can read what you’re looking at. Then again, try looking at the pictures without the captions. It may look tasty. Then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s something you thought would be awful. These pictures are in no particular order, either; just random pictures of food I ate.

Happy Halloween!

No Trans Fats = No Good

I'm not really sure what happened the other day, but I had a bad experience at a KFC.
Yah, how can Fried Chicken be bad? It's unfathomable.

I really don't know how to sugar coat this so I'm going to give it to you straight.
Kentucky Fried Chicken now Sucks.
I have a sneaking suspicion it's their new No Trans-Fat Oil they use to fry the birds. The result is an underwhelming, no crisp but soggy piece of burnt protein.
fyi - I ordered both the "Original" and "Crispy" and they both were soggy. A major let down.

Corporate, Take Note!!!
Yah, it's probably better for you in the long run, and you have to adhere to government policy, but if you are going to sell Fried Chicken, you better make it damn good. It's your business!
You've had generations of repeat customers come back for more because you gave us a product we couldn't easily make at home at a reasonable cost.

Well, you are now serving us bad fried chicken and any suburban housewife can replicate that.
I'd rather pay more and receive a better, if not great product than being utterly disappointed with a horrible product cause you guys skimped out on the cheap oil.
Either you change your oils to a significantly higher quality No Trans-Fat Oil, or crank up the fryer and rework the flour seasoning to make sure it crisps up better.
What the hell is your Corporate Chef doing? Fire him and hire a new one!

You've already lost one big fan. How many more can you afford to lose everyday?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tomato Sauce and Tomato Soup

So I was watching Colameco's Food Show and noticed they were doing a profile on A Voce, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the city. One thing that caught my eye is the really simple tomato sauce they make - it's basically just tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil with minimal manipulation. Now I have to say, Mario Batali and his informative show, Molto Mario, got me into cooking food like they do in Italy, so I always used his basic tomato sauce recipe. No more, A Voce's tomato sauce blows it away. I tried the real deal at A Voce and it was a complete "what the f" moment.

Tomato Sauce alla A Voce
On the show, A Voce uses fresh tomatoes, but tomatoes suck now so I used the canned San Marzano's - Italy's best tomatoes. I had a San Marzano can from Costco - so hence the 106 oz can can obviously use less. The key is the tomatoes have to taste real good just plain - pop one in your mouth and it should be slighty sweet and very rich. The sauce will be a revelation on how a tomato sauce should taste - real tomatoes, nothing else - it really helps to strain the juice, since most sauces use the juice which mutes the tomato flavor.

106 oz of canned San Marzano Whole Tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig of basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

1) Remove the whole tomatoes and poke a hole with your thumb to let the juice out. Place all the whole tomato pieces in a strainer in a bowl - make sure there's enough room so it strains properly. Let sit for 2 hours.
2) In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes. After 3-5 minutes, the room will smell like garlic and basil.
3) Remove the strained tomato pieces and place in a pot over high heat. Salt and pepper the tomatoes. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add oil - not all of it, just use your judgment - should probably be about 2-3 tablespoons worth. Stir around and break up most of the pieces. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Taste and re-season if necessary. If you like the consistency and flavor of the sauce, remove from the heat.

Tomato Soup
With the strained tomato juices from the sauce, it made perfect sense to make tomato soup. Make sure to save one or two pieces of tomato to give the soup more body.

106 oz of canned San Marzano Whole Tomatoes, juices only
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 sprig of basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
toasted white bread cut into cubes
salt and pepper

1) Set a large pot over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and shallots. Saute for 3-5 minutes - make sure it doesn't burn, but just gets soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to one minute.
2) Add tomato juice and a tomato or two to the pot. Bring to a boil then simmer the mixture. Add the parsley and basil and salt and pepper.
3) Simmer for 15-30 minutes until it tastes right and has the correct consistency.
4) Pour the soup mixture in a bowl and add olive oil, the bread cubes, and pesto. Buono appetito!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sushi of Gari

Sushi of Gari - Highly Recommended
402 E 78th St, New York 10021
Btwn 1st & York Ave
Phone: 212-517-5340
Fax: 212-288-9235

I've been obsessing to go to Sushi of Gari for a while and so Sunday was the day my dreams came true.
My wife and I got a call from a friend from Japan and he invited us to have dinner in the city.
Good sushi was due and we made the call to visit Gari. My first, my wife's third time.
When it comes to sushi, I'm a purist.. and I gotta say, I didn't want to "love it", but it was just that good.
Gari himself wasn't there, but this place definitely gives Sushi Yasuda a run for his money...
Polar-opposites when it comes to the execution of sushi... but like anything good, when you are the best at what you do, you're doing something right.

Sushi of Gari is Extremely PRICEY but well worth the experience.
Therefore unless you print money in your basement, this is a once a year "treat yourself cause you deserve it" kinda place.

As always, at any qualified Sushi joint, the rule of thumb is to go with the Omakase Menu... and so we did.
I was informed (after sneaking in 3 shots) that pictures were not allowed... booooooo.

** - Madai with Salad Greens (vinaigrette sauce with a fried renkon chip)
- Snow Crab with sweat Ponzu
* - Tuna with Grated Daikon and Ponzu
* - Smoked Salmon
*** - Salmon with Roasted Tomato
*** - Toro with Takuwan
** - Mirugai with Sauteed Parsely in Butter
** - Tuna with Tofu Sauce
** - Charred Ika with Uni Sauce
- Kohada with Kabu
- Hirame Ceviche
- Sawara with Mekabu
* - Shima Aji
** - Foie Gras with Daikon
** - Karasumi with Daikon
** - Uni
** - Anago with Sansho Buds
*** - Chu Toro
- Oshinko Maki

* - Aka Miso Soup with Mitsuba & Nameko Mushrooms
* - Robert Mondavi 2002 Chardonnay

$750 later, we walked out happy and full.
Yes, it's a hit to the wallet, but an occasional treat is definitely good for the soul.
Can't wait to go next year.


- Key to the Stars -
* - Great
** - Excellent
*** - Out of this World !!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Meatballs Extravaganza

Will there be too many Meatballs?
That was the question I asked myself 5 minutes before I got to Aramis's place Saturday for a little planned potluck dinner.
Aramis, Mr. Risotto and I each made some kind of meatball dish and brought it over to the eat-fest.
We ate, and ate, and ate... until we couldn't move anymore and found ourselves sitting slouched on a couch as if ready to hibernate for the winter...
All the meatballs came out "excellent". I'm glad we got together and kicked ass with a little home cookin'.

Porthos - Greek Meatballs with Tatziki Sauce
Side Dish: Mac 'n Cheese - Penne with a bechamel/cheese sauce made with Artisanal cheeses (Piave and Roncol)

Aramis - Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce
Side Dish: Spaghettini with Garlic, Oil, and Pecorino Romano
Side Dish: Roasted Broccoli

Mr. Risotto - Swedish Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce (subbed for Lingonberries)
Side Dish: Creamy Mashed Potatoes and Mr. Risotto's Bomemade Bread

I still want to dabble with the Chinese "Lion's Head" meatball, Japanese "Tsukune" Chicken meatball, and perhaps some kind of stuffed meatball... One with a cheesy center, or foie gras mousse center core. So when you cut into it, goodness just oozes out onto your knife and fork...
Mmm mmm good I say.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reason Why I Love Pasta - Pantry Raider

Not panty raider...sinners. The great thing about pasta is it's an easy and delicious way to clean out your pantry and fridge. These are dishes that I enhanced by going through the fridge to see what I needed to get rid of.

Farfalle with Roasted Broccoli and Croutons
I love roasting broccoli until it gets almost blackened. You really taste the sweetness of the broccoli that way and get a nice roasted flavor. I had some leftover bread, so I toasted up some croutons which added such a nice nuttiness and texture to the overall dish.

1/2 box farfalle
5 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 bunches of broccoli, trimmed and cut into pieces similar in size to the farfalle
extra virgin olive oil
3 slices of multigrain bread (any bread would work)

1) Add olive oil to cover both sides of the bread slices. Toast until crispy. Cut into cubes and add salt and pepper.
2) Set pan to medium high heat and add oil. Add broccoli stems only and add salt and pepper. Turn until sides are really dark brown or almost black. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove stems.
3) Add the broccoli crowns - salt and pepper again. Make these nice and caramelized as well. You can do this method in the oven, but it takes much longer to get it to caramelize. Add garlic and remove from the heat after 1 minute - make sure garlic doesn't burn.
4) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large handful of salt and throw in the farfalle.
5) Add all the broccoli pieces back to the pan on high heat. Add farfalle to pan when it's almost al dente - 1 minute under the box time. Add a little pasta water (if needed) to loosen up the mixture. Always taste the pasta to make sure it's perfectly al dente.
6) Add farfalle and broccoli to the pan. Add bread crumbs around, top with grated parmiggiano, and finish with more oil.

Linguine Octoberfest
So I was thinking of doing some type of sausage and cabbage thing. When I looked in the fridge, I saw a nice German wheat beer leftover from one of the UFC fights, so I said why the f not. The dish came out great - the beer adds such a rich flavor almost like an intense stock. I added balsamic vinegar cause I was thinking apples and cabbage are usually a good combo. Didn't have any apples, so I added balsamic vinegar to get the sweet sour thang that Italians do love.

1/2 Box Linguine
Some type of Italian Sausage (preferably not from the grocery store)
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
2 boxes Brussel Sprouts
1 bottle of your favorite wheat beer
2 tablesppons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1) Half the brussel sprouts, remove the core, and slice up the sprouts.
2) Add a gallon of hot water to a large pot. When water comes to a boil, add a large handful of salt and the pasta.
3) Set a large pan to medium high heat and add the oil. Brown the sausage on both sides and remove from the heat. When cooled, slice into bite sized portions.
4) In the same pan, add brussel sprouts and sautee with garlic using the sausage fat still in the pan. Salt and pepper. Add maybe 1/2 the bottle of beer (should 1/2 cover the sprouts) and place the sausage back in the pan. Add the vinegar, cover the pan, and finish cooking the sausage, but make sure not to overcook. More beer may need to be added if not the pot, then to your belly.
5) Add the linguine when it's just about al dente. Cook another minute or until the pasta is perfectly al dente.
6) Plate the dish and finish with some oil. Buono appetito or guten appetit!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

After Hours with Daniel: Season 2

My favorite food related tv show, After Hours with Daniel, has started airing new episodes again. This time the focus is the Los Angeles area. Although it's always amazing seeing Daniel's command in the kitchen, so far the two episodes (Pizzeria Mozza and Hatfield's) have more guests from Hollywood instead of the food world. I guess it makes sense considering it's in LA, but I'd rather hear stories about food and the kitchen instead of the casting couch. A tad disappointing, when last year, the majority of the guests usually were master chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pepin. Still it's fun seeing Daniel making heavy, anti-Californian food like tripe and head cheese and serve it to these Californians.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Little Owl - Brunch Review

The Little Owl - Recommended
90 Bedford St, New York 10014
At Grove St
Phone: 212-741-4695

I’ve been dying to check out The Little Owl since everyone has been raving about it. I was reluctant to go for Brunch though, since I wasn’t feeling the brunch menu. Good thing that I acquiesced to the fiancée and stopped by – this place serves a killer brunch. Overall, I give the restaurant an 80/100.

My Menu

1) Poached Eggs – Highly Recommended
2) Mushroom Omelette – Recommended

Dish Comments
1) Perfectly poached eggs, braised greens, hollandaise sauce, and a sausage bun concoction. This dish was wonderful and the richness of the eggs and sauce were cut by the greens. The sausage buns were a little odd, but still good. Even better with the crispy slices of baguette.
2) A perfectly cooked mushroom omelette (reoccurring theme) filled with parmesan cheese and topped with either truffle oil or truffle butter. Such a fluffy omelette and inside are tasty crimini mushrooms. The only thing that I had against this was I wanted a more eggy and creamy taste – which were probably drowned out by the truffles and parmesan. Also, the fact that it came out insanely hot probably didn’t help either.

Overall Restaurant Experience (80/100)

  • Food 8.5/10 – Perfectly cooked eggs. A great brunch.
  • Service 7.5/10 – Food came out very quickly. For some reason though, I didn’t like the attitude of the waitress. She came off as a little bitchy. Also, noticed there were some black bits in the milk for the coffee – not cool…
  • Atmosphere 7.5/10 – Super tiny place – seats maybe around 20 tops – and it definitely felt a little cramped. We sat at the bar which was nice since you could see the cooks with the open kitchen. Place was filled with a mix of groups of girls, solo eaters, and young and old couples. We got there at 1pm on a Saturday and ate immediately.
  • Price 8.5/10 – Place was reasonable for brunch – dishes were around $12. For the quality of the food (and quantity), it was definitely worth the price.

Closing Comments
The dishes were cooked very well, so I’m very curious to see what they can do for dinner – although it’s much pricier for dinner – around $25-30 per entrée.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sushi - My Take

Random thoughts –

People reading this might want to flame me right away - but hear me out first! I think sushi is overrated. Okay, okay; calm down. What I mean is, I feel people eat it to say “I ate sushi last night for dinner” while stressing sooo-sheeee. It’s like Starbucks. I hate the place. It’s not that I hate drinking it – or eating sushi – but it’s how people make it out to be: trendy. If you really do like eating sushi, appreciate the way it’s done, know what you’re eating, how to do it, then more power to you. The same with Starbucks. But if you do it, well, just to do it, please stop making fools of yourselves when you’re with people that do appreciate it. Take your California roll, your newly found knowledge of using chopsticks, and your cup of green tea with the sugar packet, and sit in the back. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy one of my favorite scenes from the movie Fight Club where they destroy a coffeehouse chain by letting a piece of art roll through it, smashing the glass, and demolishing it. Bravo!

Now then, to those who truly enjoy sushi, I am your apprentice. I tried it before, and while I didn’t dislike it, it wasn’t too exciting for me. Now that I’ve read about it, heard discussions, appreciate new food, I now have a new found appreciation for sushi. So much so that I have found myself having cravings lately. Thanks to The Dudes, they gave me a menu that I bring with me to the sushi chefs, and they prepare what they have available. So far, I never went wrong. Until yesterday. And it was baaaaaad.

If anyone has said they didn’t like sushi when they ate some they picked up from a grocery store to try at home and completely wrote it off – GIVE IT ANOTHER CHANCE AT A PROPER SUSHI ESTABLISHMENT! See, a couple nights ago we had a craving for sushi. It was 11PM. Every place around me closed at that time, except one Ichiban Sushi ( Well, they were closed, but they told me they would wait for me. 15 minutes later, and I walked into a dark restaurant where they were waiting for me with delicious toro, unagi, spicy tuna rolls, Philly rolls, and more. We ate nicely that evening. The next day, we wanted more. We didn’t want to drop another $40, though. We opted to go to the grocery store. You can see where this going already: MISTAKE! For half the price, we had a lot to choose from. Yes, I know sushi grade seafood needs to be fresh. I understand the significance. I know this will be lower quality that real sushi places. But how bad could it be? I found out. As soon as I opened the package, I smelled fish. One thing that fish should not smell like, ironically, is fish. This was not in my face, knock me over, but enough that I knew right there the sacrifice should have been made to dump the extra cash. I opened the other two trays. Same thing. We opened our soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi packets, and we dig in. My gosh, it was awful. I still put up with it. In fact, I ate about half, but at the end, I couldn’t take it. In fact, the last piece I spit up into my napkin. I don’t think I’ve done that since I was a child when my Parents made me eat vegetables. Horrible. The mixture of imitation crab, avocado, mayonnaise with brown rice was not good.

So people, please, take it from my hard lesson learned: when ordering sushi, do so at a restaurant. And if you’re just starting out, make sure it’s a good sushi restaurant, and you’re with people who “get it.” You will not do it, so you can be seen eating it, but you will grab the pieces with your fingers, dunk it in the soy sauce, tilt your head back, and insert it in your mouth. You will feel and taste the creamy goodness of a toro fatty tuna. You’ll sense the texture of the tako octopus. You will appreciate sushi.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bobolink Farm Tour

Went to Bobolink, a small cheese farm, yesterday for their farm tour with the fiancee. Quite a long ride (more than 1 1/2 hours from the city), but it was great driving in the countryside with the beautiful autumn colors surrounding us. The tour at Bobolink was a great time - learned a lot about their breads and cattle but strangely enough, not as much about their cheeses...still well worth it though. It's refreshing seeing such passionate people producing such great products properly - free roaming cows and even chickens. And, you can definitely tell they are doing things right with their amazing cheeses, which are different depending on the season.

The cheeses that we bought and love:
1) Baudolino - my favorite. A very full flavored stinky cheese that is much softer than a brie.
2) Cape Aged Cheddar - a very full flavored, yet light feeling cheddar
3) Drumm - tough to describe, maybe almost like a semi soft brie with a richer flavor
4) Jean-Louis - A blue cheese that is strangely light and sweet.

Btw - was curious to try some raw milk, but they mentioned up front they're not allowed to sell due to some regulations.

Rutt's Hutt - Review

Rutt's Hut - Recommended
417 River Rd
Clifton, NJ 07014
Phone: 973-779-8615

After recently having such a stupendously good, yet bad for you burger at Shake Shack I wanted to continue that taste good, feel bad feeling with hot dogs. Only one place comes to my mind that fits the bill - Rutt's Hut. Rutt's serves Jersey style hot dogs. What makes a Jersey dog you ask? Most dogs are boiled or grilled - jersey dogs are deep fried till they split open. Kinda felt bad about going here after having such wonderful artisanal cheeses at Bobolink, but I wanted hot dogs and I'm glad I went. Overall, I give the restaurant a 75/100.

My Menu

1) Hot Dog – Highly Recommended
2) French Fries with gravy – Recommended

Dish Comments
1) Very crispy and very oily on the outside and juicy on the inside. Buns are serviceable and don't interfere with the dog. Goes great with the mustard and/or relish that is housed in a tin box on the counter. Generally, I like a very rich, flavorful dog (ala Katz's dog) but there's something about having a dog with insanely crispy skin and juicy meat. Betcha can't eat just one - I had 3.
2) As the name implies, it's basically french fries coated with gravy. The gravy makes the fries soggy, but you know what...I don't care that much - it still works well. Again, usually I would prefer crispy fries but these fries drenched in gravy goes well with the dogs.

Overall Restaurant Experience (75/100)

  • Food 7.5/10 – Deep fried hot dogs...they're cholesterol-rific.
  • Service 7.0/10 – You order the food yourself at a counter and the dogs come out immediately. When it's busy though, the fellas there are like the soup nazi so you definitely need to know what you want.
  • Atmosphere 8.0/10 – You order the food, get it and stand around a couple counters to eat. Place looks like the inside of a bathroom (not because of the dirtiness), but for the white tiles. Everyone in there is male and gets three dogs and either frenchie (code for french fries) gravy or cheese, chili, or onion rings. Kinda like a men's club for eating, with no one interacting - maybe it's the shame of eating such a bad for you dog by your lonesome. For some reason, this works perfectly for me when I'm eating hot dogs.
  • Price 8.5/10 – Hot dogs and frenchie gravy are $1.80 each. Great bang for the buck considering the dogs are larger than Nathan's and also cheaper.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Second Avenue Deli to Reopen

Most new openings in NY these days are for bank branches, haute eateries and condos. While I certainly love not having to walk more than 3 feet to find a BoA atm, the fancy food and the open houses to check out cool real-estate I cannot afford, I'm just a little more excited about the revival of a revered NY institution.

A Counter History

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shake Shack - Revisited

Decided to give Shake Shack another try for lunch since I was attending a presentation across the street. My first visit to Shake Shack was unimpressive trying the Shack Burger, but this time I decided to go for the Shack Stack based on Porthos's recommendation.

Man this was a phenomenal burger. The burger meat itself is not thick and juicy, but more like ground up steak meat - kinda like fast food style, but way better. In between two burger patties is a fried portabello mushroom and top that off with a drenching of artery-clogging cheese sauce and some type of sweet mayo concoction. The burger patties themselves aren't that juicy, but the mushroom and drenching of cheese sauce makes it feel juicy. The waits are still very long - about 30 minutes at 12pm on a Tuesday, and the waits are even longer after 5pm. You have to try this burger once though and do yourself a favor and avoid all the other burgers and dogs.

I do have to say that I prefer the classic thick, juicy burger with a simple topping of a little mayo - however this is a great alternative. Definitely recommended...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen - Chicago - Review

Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen
Corner of Jefferson and Randolph
1141 S. Jefferson
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 939-2855

When you think of food in Chicago, there are several staples and institutions that stand out. There is the Chicago hot dog with the nuclear green relish, celery salt, NO KETCHUP, and more making it the “salad on a bun.” There’s the stuffed/deep dish pizza that could fill you with one slice. Don’t forget the Maxwell Street Polish sausage, Italian beef and Italian combo, and so on. Walk through the different neighborhoods, and you’ll taste food from around the world. 26th Street makes you feel like you’re in Mexico. Just south of downtown, the start of the South Side where the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus is lies “Jew Town.” This is where the famous Maxwell Street Polish sausage is located that hot dog places everywhere try to mimic.

Jew Town holds another institution in Chicago called Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen. This place has been around since 1942. It was my favorite deli until Porthos introduced me to Katz’s Deli in NYC, but this is a very close 2nd. In fact, it may even be able to top the list if I try other foods. Though I’ve only eaten the corned beef sandwich at Manny’s, they have so much more comfort food there. Corned beef is to Chicago what pastrami is to New York City. I’ve been going to Manny’s for years, and it’s always the same order for me: corned beef sandwich. And it’s a beautiful sandwich. They are the textbook definition to “piled high.” It also comes with several spears of a dill pickle and a large potato pancake like none other that you’ve seen. These sandwiches are generally made and served by Gino Gambarota who is, himself, a known name in Chicago when it comes to food. This guy has been working at Manny’s since I started going there many years ago. I was surprised to see him this past weekend with grey hair, since I was used to him with dark, black hair – but he’s still got it! He adds to the experience of Manny’s.

The guy has a smart mouth. Try barking back, and he’ll bite. He’ll snap off some wise cracks, compliment little, old ladies, and all the while making your sandwich quicker than anyone you’ll see at a Subway. He’ll have several pounds of corned beef in his hand, shaving it on the slicer, twirling a large serving fork, throwing it like a dart so it stabs one of Manny’s large potato pancakes, grabs a plate with another hand, flipping it, then catching it, set it on the counter, flip the fork with potato pancake, letting it land on the plate, scoop a very generous helping of the sandwich meat, place it on the bread, magically make a knife appear in his hand, slice it in half, and plate it. All within 2 seconds. Amazing. Every time, daily, without skipping a beat. This time around, he tells me to try some of the pastrami, and adds some to my plate. I ate some, and gave the plate back, you know, playing the smart ass role. He asks me in his very Chi Town accent: “What, you don’t like it? Then don’t come back!” I reverse it and tell him: “No, don’t be so cheap. Plate’s down, so you can gimme more!!” He laughs and piles on some more. He throws it back at me and says I shouldn’t eat any more. He’s good. And quick – both at the mouth and hands.

My problem with this place is it closes early. That is until this week. Those of you in Chicago are lucky, since it’s opened till 8PM for dinner. They had a party, and even Mayor Daley attended this. Many famous Chicagoans go here and eat along side truckers, construction workers, white collared workers, ghetto-fab people, students, and more. You will see that I included a picture of our possible future president Barack Obama eating a corned beef sandwich at Manny’s with Mayor Daley. Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, and Tommy Lee Jones were in a movie called The Big Town where part of it was filmed here.

The sandwiches are pricey, but they are worth it. Eating half is enough, and there are bags and paper to wrap the rest readily available. While there, be sure to partake in other foods that are offered. They have everything from the very Jewish to familiar American, but all in the true sense of the deli. They do open early, so breakfast is served, too. Look for matzo ball soup, roast beef, knish, borscht, kreplach, tongue, soups, liver & onions, short ribs, and so much more. In addition to the corned beef sandwich plate and sampling of pastrami, I also sampled a turkey sandwich. The bad thing about poultry is how dry it can be, and the meat was moist on this sandwich. Can Manny’s do no wrong?

The bill for the two sandwich plates and one drink was about $25. A bonus, which is something new (to me), is valet parking. Complimentary valet parking. It helps a lot, since a lot of times; parking isn’t readily available around there.

To try to help you experience Manny's, check out the videos below. The first video even captures part of Gino in action when making a sandwich if you fast forward to 3:20. As you can imagine, being there in person to smell, feel, and, of course, taste, is the best way.

Congrats Lan Restaurant

As you all may know, I'm a huge fan of Lan Restuarant.
And it's my pleasure to report the latest Zagat's Survey ranked Lan a 25 for Food.
That's 2 points up from last year. And a very respectable number.
Job well done guys... Keep up the good work.

Dishes : To Try
Shrimp Shumai
Red Snapper with Hot Oil Dressing
Chicken Yakitori

Dishes : Must Try
Pan Seared Foie Gras with Simmered Daikon
Braised Beef Tongue in Red Wine Reduction Sauce
Braised Pork Belly
Blue Fin Toro

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Riva - Chicago - Review

Navy Pier
700 E. Grand Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

I visited Chicago this past weekend, but before going, I knew I wanted high-end seafood. I’ve been to Shaw’s, Nick’s Fishmarket, Bob Chinn’s, and a few other places, so I wanted something different. Several names appeared like Catchy 35, and Joe’s (not Joe’s Crabshack). I chose Riva, because of the atmosphere knowing that I may have to sacrifice some quality. I read many mixed reviews about the food, but my review will go into the positive category. It seems that the dishes to order was Dover Sole and Chilean Seabass. I had the 28 oz. Dover Sole but 1 ½ pounds of Whole Maine Lobster, since I didn’t want two fish dishes. An appetizer of Grilled Octopus and a side dish of Asparagus Parmigiano accompanied the two entrees along with mojitos and cosmopolitan martinis.

Floor-to-ceiling glass doesn’t allow for a bad seat anywhere, but I still wanted a table next to the window. Though I made a reservation a week prior, they couldn’t guarantee a window-side table but did notate the reservation. Upon arrival, they indicated there was about a twenty minute wait for my table, so I took a place at the bar and watched people walk up and down Navy Pier, dinner cruises and boats lazily passing by, and the patrons drinking and eating at the nicely built bar. It wasn’t overly done, not uber-trendy, but just right. I was called for my table, but they asked me to pay for my drinks at the bar rather than adding them to the tab, which I thought was odd, but okay.

The table had the typical white linen, and warm bread with a large, crisp flatbread was served with butter that was too hard to spread. The flatbread was very tasty with a strong garlic presence, which I enjoyed. The bread smelled and felt fresh.

For starters, I ordered the Grilled Octopus. I was thinking it would be something similar to calamari. I waited for the appetizers. And waited. And waited. And ate bread. And butter. And waited. And ate flatbread. And… oh, the waitress stopped by and finally asked about it. She was very surprised to learn about the wait, so she followed up with the kitchen. She returned, apologized again, and stated she will remove it from the bill. Shortly thereafter, a plate with a few much-larger-than-expected octopi arrived on a bed of salad. The presentation was above average but not outstanding. The plain-view of a few octopi the size of your hand, purple in color equipped with tentacles and suckers made for a lovely show. Being grilled, I was imagining a dry dish, but remarkably enough, it was not. The texture, flavor, and enjoyment of eating this dish made me forget all about the wait. The waitress ensured the food would not arrive very shortly after the appetizer, because of the wait, so the time between courses was perfectly adequate.

The description of the Dover Sole on the menu says: “Baked on a cedar plank with lemon-honey glaze, or grilled, filleted tableside, served with potatoes.” There was also an option to choose which one of three sauces to accompany your fish: burre blanc, almondine, or meuniere; I chose almondine and am glad I did. When the server arrived to the table, he immediately began to filet the fish. He took his time, diligently ensuring there was not a single trace of bone. He asked if I wanted the sauce on top or on the side, which I surely appreciated, so my almondine went to the side. When the server started to leave, I interrupted him and asked for the head of the fish. “The head?” Oh yes, leave the head behind. He asked me two more times, and I noticed I piqued the curiosity of other diners nearby. I do enjoy cheek and brain and eat the eyeball “meat,” too. When the waitress stopped by later on to check if how things are, she was surprised to see bones on my plate. I stopped her before going to the manger and let her know I requested the head. Again with the strange look, but she was happy nothing was wrong. Speaking of the manager, he did stop by the table to check on things, apologized again, and carried on. I noticed he stopped by other tables to ensure quality, which I appreciated. About a quarter way through my fish, I decided to taste the sauce. The fish was good enough on its own, and that’s how it should be, but my gosh, the sauce had so much delicious flavor. Pretty soon, I was dunking everything in there; from the fish, to the small potatoes, to the side dish of asparagus, to the lobster. Delicious fish, and bravo to the sauce! The asparagus were normal – not very crunchy, but definitely not limp.

The lobster. What can I say? It was gorgeous. The meat came out perfectly done. A simple shake, and it came out of the shell. Little effort was made to find the meat, unless you went hunting into the leg, which I did. Though I dipped most of it in butter or the almondine sauce, a lot of it was eaten plainly or with a slight squeeze of lemon. Lobster comes broiled or steamed, and mine was steamed.

So the food was good. I was satisfied. But wait, there’s more…

The view. Few cities on this earth offer a skyline as magnificent as Chicago, and the optimal place to see it is from Lake Michigan on a boat. Since this restaurant is located on Navy Pier looking back at Chicago from The Lake, the view was fantastic. At 9PM, fireworks erupted outside, and I had box seats to the entertainment. I changed seats on my table from looking at the skyline to looking out towards the lake and watched the show while eating terrific food. One thing was missing, a date. Though my friend gave wonderful company, that was the moment to have a significant other next to you. In fact, I would recommend Riva as a place to begin a courtship to celebrating an anniversary. In fact, the table next to mine was doing so and drove several hours from St. Louis for their anniversary celebration.

The bill was $170 for the two of us including several drinks but not including tip. Valet parking is available for $16, but Riva’s validation will drop it to $10. Since Riva is located on Navy Pier, it’s nice to be able to walk the Pier and burn off some of the calories while taking in the rest of the entertainment all around you. I did notice outdoor seating for adequate weather. The downstairs portion of Riva seemed more for families and not as upscale, but more… Red Lobster-esque?

Try it; you’ll like it. The view, food, and staff made for a pleasant visit, and I would do it again.

Apologies for the bad pictures of the skyline, but the camera captured the reflection too much. In person, you don’t see that.

- Grilled Octopus - $11.95
- 28 0z. Dover Sole - $34.95
- 1 1/2 pound Whole Maine Lobster (steamed with choice of broiled)
- Market Price (didn't look at bill)
- Asparagus Parmigiano - $6.95
- Mojioto - $9.50 (I think)
- Cosmopolitan - $12.50
- Validated valet parking - $10

"dinner meeting"

I had the pleasure of dining with Chef Nils of the FCI (formerly exec chef of Aquavit) Tuesday night. With Modern Japanese Cuisine on the rise and curious, he asked me to make reservations of my choice, so I naturally wanted to expose him to Lan.

I gotta say, and I can't believe I get paid to do it... but talking about food while eating food may be my favorite activity of all time...
Well, besides the horizontal tango. : ) That should just be understood.

Nils and I chatted about food in Manhattan, Restarant Guides, Purveyors, Celebrity Chefs, Top Chef, Knives, Cooking Techniques, and Favorite Dishes. In short, it was tons of fun with a lot of laughs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reason Why I love Italian Food...

Simply - fresh ingredients, cooked well tastes delicious. I stopped by the Union Square Greenmarket the other day and was looking for something fun to cook. Sad to say the tomatoes, apples, and pears all tasted very lifeless compared to the ones I had in Berkeley. What I did see was Puntarelle, which I've had before but never cooked. Puntarelle is a favorite of the Romans and has a nice bitter flavor with a slightly tender-crisp texture. Also, I've never seen baby leeks before - probably just a marketing thing as it looked very similar to scallions. Below is what I made...

Raw Puntarelle with Anchovy Vinaigrette
A nice bitter salad with a very pungent dressing. I added balsamic since I thought the sweet/sourness of the balsamic would cut through the bitter puntarelle. A very refreshing dish.

1 bunch puntarelle
4 anchovies
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1) With a pestle and mortar, add anchovies and a little bit of salt and mash into a paste. Add the garlic clove and mash some more into a fine paste. Add all the vinegar and olive oil and stir around until it becomes a thick vinaigrette.
2) Thoroughly wash the puntarelle and cut into bite size pieces.
3) Add the dressing on the puntarelle bit by bit and make sure the puntarelle isn't drowning in the dressing. Just enough to coat - puntarelle should still be relatively crisp. Add the pepper and if need be, a little more salt.

Linguine with baby leeks
I love pasta and this dish represents why I love pasta. I believe as long as you have very good olive oil, you can cook one fresh ingredient well and the dish will come out great. All you taste is the sweetness of the leeks, the richness of the oil, and the textures of the leeks and perfectly cooked pasta. Make sure you have a very rich olive oil and very fresh leeks, since there's really nothing else besides these two ingredients - they need to be very high quality.

1/2 Box Linguine
1 bunch baby leeks
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
very good extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Add a gallon of hot water and a large handful of salt to a large pot. When water comes to a boil, add the pasta.
2) Throughly wash and trim the leeks and cut into thirds. Sautee the leeks over high heat until the leeks slightly wilt (about 1-2 minutes). Add the garlic cloves and stop cooking when the kitchen smells like garlic (about 30 seconds). Take the pan of the heat.
3) When pasta is finished (always 1 minute before the box says so), add the pasta to the leeks and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the oil and pepper, and taste. Add more salt and pepper if need be.
4) When plating, make sure the amount of leeks to pasta is about 50/50 (again, since there's no other flavorings to the dish you need some leeks) and top off with more oil.

Monday night round up

So I was out with my friend S (who is a Sake Brewerer from Japan) last night, and we went to Union Square Cafe for apps and drinks. The reason we stopped by was, Chef Romano just happens to be a huge fan of my friend's Sake. He says it's his favorite... And actually came up to introduce himself to my friend the other day at a food show.

Unfortunately Chef Romano wasn't in yesterday. He's in Japan for 3 weeks helping out with the opening of Unions Square Cafe Tokyo...

All things aside, I have to say, the Danny Meyer Hospitality is fantastic. The staff took real good care of us and were very approachable... They even sent something out on behalf of the chef. We had :

- Fried Calamari with Anchovy Mayonnaise **
- Pan Seared Foie Gras with Figs and Baby Kyoho Grapes **
- Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Parmesan Reggiano Cheese ***

The Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi is one of those signature dishes that you go, "hmm... where has this been in my life and why haven't I had this earlier?"
I will go back to have every single one of these dishes again. It was great.

So after the amuse, we walked towards Chanto and Hakata TonTon... Unfortunately they were both closed today and so we finally ended up at En Brasserie. There, we had :

- Natto with Pork wrapped in Lettuce ***
- Braised Red Perch in Tsuyu Broth *
- Pan Seared Duck Breast with Grated Daikon Sauce *
- Broiled Beef Tongue *
- Spanish Mackerel Rice cooked in Earthened Pot **

Needless to say, we ate to our heart's content and walked across town back to my car.
Until next time! Bon apetit.

Bif - it's what's for dinner

Jose Luis Calva was writing his newest novel in Mexico City called "Cannibalistic Instincts." I've heard of method acting and researching extensively for accuracy, but he took it too far. Police found pieces of his girlfriend in his frying pan, refrigerator, plate, fork, and more. He even had the audacity of seasoning the meat as police also discovered things as lime besides hunks of flesh. Bones were discovered in such places like the cereal box. Can you imagine finding that prize when you were younger and expecting a secret decoder ring?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dudes Night - Burp Castle / Lan

We started our dudes night out with Porthos last Thursday at one of my favorite watering holes Burp Castle in the East Village. Burp Castle is a great place with my favorite bartender in the city, Rachel. This is not a bar that you get hammered and obnoxious at - in fact you'll be shushed if you do. Just a great place to enjoy some solid beers and enjoy some great conversations - topics that night included raw milk, cross-country traveling, food in DC, and Star Trek: Next Generation. As an added bonus, Thursday night is cheese night with a phenomenal assortment of cheeses from Artisanal.

Part Deux of Dudes night was at Lan for what was initally meant to be a drink and a quick bite. As usual, the rest of the dudes met up and it was a food onslaught. I can't stress how consistently good LAN is with their food - the sushi that night was amazing. Porthos took care of the ordering and this is what we had. Give it a try next time you're at a LAN or any high-quality sushi may run you about $100, but it's way worth it.
  • Radish and Sawara (Spanish Mackerel) Appetizer
  • Sashimi Platter - Madai (red snapper), Hon-Maguro (bluefin tuna), Shima-Aji, and Mirugai (Giant Clam)
  • Chu-Toro Sushi (medium fatty tuna)
  • Uni Sushi
  • Aburi O-Toro Sushi (charred fatty tuna)
  • O-Toro Sushi (most fatty tuna)
  • Negi-Toro Temaki (scallions, fatty tuna hand roll)
  • Anago Temaki (salt water eel hand roll)
  • Uni Temaki
  • Shima-Aji Sushi (yellow jack)
  • Negi-hamachi maki (scallions, yellow tail, roll)
Sushi Descriptions in Detail
This is probably the most absurd batting order in terms of enjoying the delicate nuances of Sushi. But this was after all "Dude's Night" so we went for homeruns at every up at bat.

*Sawara Fry in Light Ponzu Dressing
Madai (Red Snapper), Shima Aji (Amber Jack) ,
Maguro (Blue Fin Tuna) and Mirugai (Giant Clam)

1. Chutoro (Nigiri) - Big Eye Medium Fatty Tuna
2. Bafun Uni (Nigiri) - Hokkaido "Ba-Fun" Sea Urchin
3. Botan Ebi (Nigiri) - A subspecies of Sweet Shrimp
4. Crispy Fried Heads of Botan Ebi
5. Hon-Maguro Toro (Aburi Nigiri) - Blue Fin Toro, torched
6. Hon-Maguro Toro (Nigiri) - Blue Fin Toro
7. Negi Toro (Temaki) - Scallions and Toro in hand roll
8. Anago (Temaki) - Conger Eel in hand roll
9. Murasaki Uni (Temaki) - California "Murasaki" Sea Urchin in hand roll
10. Shima Aji (Nigiri) - Amber Jack
11. Negi Hamachi (Maki) - Scallion and Yellowtail Roll

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Most expensive dishes...

Occasionally, I don't mind spending $100 for a great dinner. That dinner usually will include at least 5 dishes and a drink or two. However, I can't see myself spending $1,000 on an ice cream sundae. Maybe, I'm just conservative...
Any man who throws this out on a date is compensating for something seriously lacking...
I've heard of guys driving around in their flashy sports cars, or even an H2...
But to dazzle a chick (cause no dude is eating this) with this, is purely desperation.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Foodie Bad-Boy

This is awesome... Bourdain calling out Ray on the grounds of "sellout". It's like Genghis Khan telling Hitler to lay off a bit.
They both think in terms of "$$$" ... but luckily for RR... she's cuter than her antagonizer, and her bubbly "personality" doesn't hurt corporate and TV executives make objective decisions in signing her on multi-million dollar deals.

Compliments of People Mag...

Chef Anthony Bourdain Attacks Rachael Ray's Dunkin' Donuts Ads
By Brian Orloff

Rachael Ray and Anthony BourdainBourdain Attacks Rachael Ray's Dunkin' Donuts Ads | Anthony Bourdain, Rachael Ray
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is turning up the heat on Rachael Ray – calling her out for endorsing Dunkin' Donuts, the New York Post reports.

"She's hugely influential, particularly with children," he says in the November issue of Outside magazine. "And she's endorsing Dunkin' Donuts. It's like endorsing crack for kids."

The No Reservations host, never one to hold back his commentary, adds: "I'm not a very ethical guy. I don't have a lot of principles. But somehow this seems to me over the line. Juvenile diabetes has exploded. Half of Americans don't have necks. And she's up their saying, 'Eat some [...] Dunkin' Donuts. You look great in that swimsuit – eat another doughnut! That's evil."

Ray's rep responded to the Post: "Anyone who knows Rachael and watches her on TV is aware she promotes balance and moderation, instead of living life in extremes."

In fact, when the company announced her endorsement and advertisement deal, Dunkin' Donuts said it asked Ray for her insight in creating what they term "better for you" food and beverage options – lighter fare that includes smoothies and a reduced-carb bagel.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Michelin Guide

The 2008 Michelin Guide: NYC was released today and as usual I just don't get it. Spotted Pig received one star which puts it in the same category as Aureole, L'Atelier Joel Robuchon, and WD-50. Spotted Pig is basically a bar that tries to do pub food well, but fails miserably. Aureole, Joel Robuchon, and WD-50 are fine dining joints that are in the upper echelon of NY restaurants. My other gripe is that I've been to both Daniel and Jean Georges and Daniel 100% deserves to be 3 stars if Jean Georges is.

Our country in general loves rankings - watch VH1 anytime of the day and you'll probably see some top 100 ranking for Celebrity Disasters or Celebrity Sex Tapes. Even the weather channel has the 100 worst natural disasters. The problem with these rankings are they're a matter of opinion. Everyone's opinion differs and most of these rankings or lists, Michelin and Zagat included, don't give you enough information to decide which ranking/list aligns with your tastes.

I get asked a lot about where to go eat or what lists to use. In general, I try to stick to the Chowhound website since you get a wide sampling of what people's opinions are and these food geeks are super detailed on their reviews. If you need a place to start, try the local newspapers to get some opinions from the locals. Obviously, we hope our website will provide you a detailed glimpse of what to expect. Also, something I've learned is regardless of what people say, if you really want to go check a place out - go do it. Your taste might be different from someone that despises a place...

Oh ya - don't use the Michelin Guide in Italy. Love the French and their food, but the French based Michelin Guide has no idea what they're talking about when it comes to Italian food...
Porthos said...

Restaurant Politics - These stars are probably accurate if you are a Michelin Food Inspector or NY Times Food Critic. As someone in the industry, if I call in advance and reserve with the use of connections, I am usually taken care of very well. I am assuming most restaurants will go above and beyond the call of duty when they are being rated by an internationally known restaurant guide. This gives us a skewed rating scale and in many ways, it's counter productive to go by their rankings.

2 years ago, I actually sent in my resume and application to become a "Food Inspector" for Michelin. I had worked in the industry for 3 years by then, and had extensive training working with our staff and in-house chef, isolating flavor profiles of regional foie gras, beef, pork, chicken and duck. Not to mention all sorts of mushrooms, charcuterie, cheeses and even some exotic game.

But the Michelin family, with their snootiness quickly wrote back saying I was still under qualified and too young to have the palate necessary to assess with their ratings scale.

Oh well... I'm not losing any sleep over it. And after the past 2 editions of Michelin NYC... I'm proud to say I am not a Michelin Guide Food Inspector. I completely disagree with their ratings.

Snootier the better.... You could feed them a HotDog from Coney Island or one from Yankee Stadium, and they would all rave about the water logged Sabrett's dog from the Bronx because it was $8 as opposed to the Nathan's Dog at Coney Island which you could pick up for $3.75.

2008 NYC - Star Notable Restaurants

Every restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide is recommended by our team of professional inspectors. The ones listed below have earned stars that reflect their exceptional culinary achievements, regardless of cuisine style. Stars represent only what is on the plate. They do not take into consideration interior decoration, service quality or table settings.

star Restaurants Borough Neighborhood Reservations
Annisa Manhattan Greenwich Village Reserve a table
Anthos Manhattan Midtown West
Aureole Manhattan Upper East Side Reserve a table
A Voce Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Babbo Manhattan Greenwich Village
Blue Hill Manhattan Greenwich Village
Café Boulud Manhattan Upper East Side Reserve a table
Café Gray Manhattan Midtown West Reserve a table
Country Restaurant Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Cru Manhattan Greenwich Village Reserve a table
Danube Manhattan Tribeca Reserve a table
Dévi Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Dressler Brooklyn Brooklyn
Etats-Unis Manhattan Upper East Side
Fleur de Sel Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Gilt Manhattan Midtown East
Gotham Bar and Grill Manhattan Greenwich Village Reserve a table
Gramercy Tavern Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Jewel Bako Manhattan East Village
JoJo Manhattan Upper East Side
Kurumazushi Manhattan Midtown East
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Manhattan Midtown East
Oceana Manhattan Midtown East Reserve a table
Perry Street Manhattan Greenwich Village Reserve a table
Peter Luger Brooklyn Brooklyn
Saul Brooklyn Brooklyn Reserve a table
Spotted Pig Manhattan Greenwich Village
Sushi of Gari Manhattan Upper East Side
The Modern Manhattan Midtown West Reserve a table
Veritas Manhattan Gramercy Reserve a table
Vong Manhattan Midtown East Reserve a table
Wallsé Manhattan Greenwich Village Reserve a table
wd~50 Manhattan Lower East Side Reserve a table

star Restaurants Borough Neighborhood Reservations
Bouley Manhattan Tribeca Reserve a table
Daniel Manhattan Upper East Side Reserve a table
Del Posto Manhattan Chelsea Reserve a table
Gordon Ramsay at The London Manhattan Midtown West
Masa Manhattan Midtown West
Picholine Manhattan Upper West Side

star Restaurants Borough Neighborhood Reservations
Jean-Georges Manhattan Upper West Side
Le Bernardin Manhattan Midtown West Reserve a table
Per Se Manhattan Midtown West Reserve a table

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Scary Spice

No, not the "singer" (put in quotes purposely), but what is used in a spicy dip called nam prik pao that was being made in London’s SoHo district at a Thai restaurant called Thai Cottage. While the bird’s eye chilies were deep frying, it caused people to cough and gag resulting in a chemical attack scare. Firefighters broke through the door of the restaurant to find no attack.

I wonder if they laughed and ordered satay and the dip. At least that’s what I would have done. Sure, owner has no door, but it’s good advertising. Being a chili-head, I’d be there the same day to try the sauce. With a gasmask…

Friday, October 5, 2007

BarFry - Review


BarFry - Recommended

50 Carmine St, New York 10012

Btwn Bedford & Bleecker St

Phone: 212-929-5050

At first, I was disappointed that 50 Carmine – a great Italian restaurant was closing it’s doors. Fortunately, a fun new restaurant has opened in it’s place – BarFry. The concept is simple – take a wide range of ingredients, apply a tempura batter to it, and provide fun dipping sauces (jalapeno soy, wasabi remoulade, red chili citrus, sweet miso). Surprisingly, it works pretty well. Overall, I give the restaurant an 79/100.

My Menu

1) Pork Cutlet, Kimchee, and Cilantro Po Boy – Recommended
2) Crab Cake Tempura – Highly Recommended
3) Scallop Tempura –Recommended
4) Shitake Mushroom Tempura – Not Recommended
5) Veal Terrine Tonkatsu – Highly Recommended (must have)
6) Oyster Tempura – Highly Recommended (must have)
7) Avocado and Wasabe Tempura – Recommended
8) Concord Grape Sorbet, Yuzu and Pineapple Sorbet, Green Tea Sorbet – Highly Not Recommended

Dish Comments
1) Nice po boy stuffed with a relatively tender pork cutlet, crunchy kimchee, cilantro, and fried tempura bits. Unfortunately, the cilantro was way over powering. Still fun to eat especially dipping in the red chili citrus sauce.
2) A decent crab cake wrapped in a bird’s nest of fried tempura. The fried tempura was amazing – not sure if it was authentic, but it was perfectly crunchy and not greasy at all.
3) I love scallops and this was decent. Not great and should be much better, but again – I love scallops.
4) I have no idea how he did it, but they managed to completely eliminate all the flavor from this mushroom – very bland and no mushroom flavor.
5) This was stupid good. Basically, ridiculously tender veal filled with a whole bunch of good stuff - probably cartilage and other gelatinous type things. Perfectly fried and amazing with any of the sauces.
6) Incredibly rich oyster flavor that was still very juicy and tender even though it was fried. Second favorite dish of the night.
7) Avocado is nice and rich, the wasabi wakes up the flavor a little, and the perfect fried texture is a nice balance.
8) I like making ice creams and sorbets and after visiting Italy - I think I know how it should taste and feel. The sorbets here break every single rule in the book. When I stuck my spoon in the sorbet, I could tell that it was too icey and even worse the texture was also like baby food. Also, the fact that they were fresh fruits made the sorbets very sour. The ice creams fared better, but still was not that great.

Overall Restaurant Experience (79/100)

  • Food 8.2/10 – Great crispy texture on the outside and the food was generally very good with lots of tempura options. Dessert was terrible though.
  • Service 7.5/10 – Food comes out very quick, but the waiter is very pushy on ordering more food.
  • Atmosphere 9.0/10 – Walking into the place, it looks like Pearl Oyster Bar but sounds like Pearl’s angst-ridden stepson. There are classic marble counters and tables, mirrors on the wall, and white table cloths. However, they blast their music loud which I kinda liked – only because they played my type of music (e.g. Rage, Pearl Jam, Wu Tang, Outkast). Place was very empty, but it was around 6:30pm on a Thursday. I definitely like the feel of the place and could see myself sitting at the counter and chowing on some tempura and drinking some beer.
  • Price 7/10 – This place looks cheap (around $4-7 per tempura), but it adds up since the orders are 2 ounces small. Example, the avocado was one slice and that was $5. I still had a great time trying the food, but the bill came out to be $40 a person with only one drink. I was OK paying that amount, since we sampled a lot but the money to food quantity/quality ratio didn't seem right.

Closing Comments
I definitely liked the place a lot for the fun in sampling all the types of tempura, but the price may prevent me from making more frequent trips. I'm still going to come back with the dudes and sample everything...