Saturday, March 31, 2007

LAN - Review - Aramis

Intro
Lan - Highly Recommended
56 3rd Ave, New York 10003
Btwn 10th & 11th St
Phone: 212-254-1959


After the upsetting experience at Sushi-Ann, the experience at Lan really delivered. We've been to Lan multiple times and it's always been solid. I'm sometimes wary of going there, since we've been there so many times and NY has so many new restaurants to try. However, Lan is so great and has never disappointed. My overall rating is 85/100.

My Menu (shared by 6 of course)

Organic Chicken & Scallions, Skewered & Grilled - highly recommended
Sweet Simmered Berkshire Pork Belly "kakuni" - recommended
Crispy Warm Red Snapper Sashimi - recommended
Aged Black Angus Strip Loin -recommended
Prime Rib Eye Beef Shabu Shabu - highly recommended
Toro and Charred Toro - highly recommended

Dish
Usually, I'll try to break down each dish completely, so you get a real feel of what the dish is really like. However, after a bottle of sake and a bottle of shochu I don't remember all the little subtleties from Lan. Here's a brief rundown though. Chicken was ridiculously juicy and tasted like chicken. Not supermarket cardboard chicken, but what poultry probably tasted like 100 years ago. Pork belly was solid - nicely flavored and super tender. The beef shabu shabu was spectacular. There's something very primal about cooking your own meats, whether it be grilling steaks on the barby or cooking it shabu shabu style. Toro and charred toro was great. After going to Sushi-Ann where the toro tasted like tilapia, it was great to see what toro really should taste like. However, there was sinew in the toro which prevented the toro down from being exceptional. Sushi Yasuda may have ruined me for sushi, since his is the only toro where there is no sinew.

Overall Restaurant Experience (85/100)
  • Food 8.5/10 - Everything is generally very solid, with some items being exceptional.
  • Service 8.5/10 - Very accommodating service. Waiter was nice. Typical great service from a Japanese restaurant. (same comment as my review as Sushi-Ann I know, but these Japanese restaurants have great service)
  • Atmosphere 8/10 - I like the atmosphere here. Exposed brick wall and a nice energy to the place.
  • Price 8/10 -For the quality of the food, the price is well worth it. Definitely a little pricey, but you won't be disappointed.
Closing Comments
Although there are plenty of new restaurants to try in Manhattan, LAN is a good old stand by. LAN is a place where you can take family, buddies, and the ever-important significant other to impress. There is something to be said about consistency in a restaurant. Many restaurants have off nights which I feel is sometimes unacceptable (e.g. Babbo, Bouley). At Lan, you can always expect to have a solid experience.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Redemption

So what happens when you make mistakes? You learn from them. So tonight I did just that. I had to try another stir-fry dish. I know; it’s pretty simple. Sure it is, but to take something simple and to make it stand out against other simple dishes is what makes it your craft. For me, a salad is a salad is a salad. Until I was in San Diego some years ago. My friend took me to a little French Bistro on the ocean where I had the best cob salad in my life. It was so small, but I wanted it to last. It was really that good. Well, I made Mongolian Beef tonight. 3 basic things served over sticky white rice. It’s the sauce that makes it. Now I’m not going to try to sell what I did tonight to anyone, but I did receive a wonderful compliment when my wife told me it reminded her a lot of her brother’s cooking. Her brother owns restaurants and cooks wonderfully. Uuhh yeah, I’ll take that as a compliment. I’ll explain what & how I did it, but the problem is, when I start throwing things together, I don’t remember what I did, the proportions I used, etc. I simply open my cupboard and experiment. Anyway…

I made the sauce first. It had crushed red pepper for the kick in spice, soy sauce, some hot water, and then… other stuff. Apologies, but I just can’t remember. The even sadder thing is this is what made the dish stand out.





Next up, green onions. Not a whole garden’s worth like last night, but definitely enough to please me, and I really enjoy the green onions. I especially like the way it sort of explodes when you bite down, and then it’s stringy at the same time. This is why I slice them yet leave them a few inches long.









Now the beef. Straight from Mongolia to make it authentic. Okay, that’s a lie. In fact, there’s no “Mongolian Beef” in Mongolia, Inner or Outer. But hey, that’s the name of this dish, so I’ll just roll with it. I picked up some Angus, and cut it into strips. I left a little of the fat in there, since it adds extra taste.



I placed the (Calphalon) pan on the stove, turned the flame (not electric) all the way up, and let the pan heat up. I added some Canola oil, and when it was hot enough, I added the beef. Mmmm… can you smell the stir-fried beef? Vegans, you’re missing out, and I don’t pity you – just ridicule your thinking.


Once the meat has browned nicely, I add the green onions, stir-fry it some more, add the sauce, turn down the heat, let it sit for another minute, and, voila! It’s done.






I serve some steamed white rice from the rice cooker, add some Mongolian Beef on top, and enjoy.









The results:
I don’t think I’ll be this lucky the next time I attempt it. Perhaps I should write down what I do from now on, so I won’t make it worse. Then again, if I keep doing the same thing, how will I ever make it better?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another guy's night

SAT flashback : Sushi Ann = Your daughter is a Stripper

A: Both Major Disappointments.
B: Things you never want to experience.
C: Reasons to re-evaluate life.
D: All the above.

Sushi Ann - Not Recommended
Japanese, Sushi
38 E 51st St, New York 10022
Btwn Park & Madison Ave
Phone: 212-755-1780
Fax: 212-755-1788

So when my foodie buddies and I get together for dinner, we aren't fooling around. No-no-no, we mean business. And it just so happens Wednesday night was sushi night for us.

Everyone gets into work that morning and the initial 9:30 "watup" e-mail is sent.
"Guys, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means.... HUMPDAY!"
We made it halfway through the week and we deserve a little guy's time.

Someone says they are craving Sushi, and it was like Frodo putting on that stupid ring for the very first time. Clouds hovered over Manhattan as Middle-Earth broke into War. We rallied our swords and shields to the Horn of Gondor and crack open the Zagats next to our keyboards, feverishly turning the pages for some Restaurant that will satisfy our manly cravings.
Now remember, it's towards the end of March so we all have one goal in mind. Fucken TORO! Yes, that fatty, juicy, melt in your mouth piece of Tuna that is the covetted prize of all sushi gourmands around the world. Yes, we knew what we wanted and we were going to have it.

Sushi Ann is brought to everyone's attention and the decision was made. We hadn't been there in a while and were determined to have our fill.

We all get there and order up a round of Sake.
We decide upon a table's worth of the Omakase Course(Chef's seasonal tasting), to only be majorly disappointed. It was one of the blandest sushi days of my life. I was thinking Kaiten (the conveyor belt) sushi is better than this. The toro was more like chu-toro at best and had zero flavor.
Needless to say, our palates were not satisfied and we suddenly found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. After sitting down and having what normal people call "dinner", we were left confused and still hungry. Where we Hobbits?

So we stormed out of this Midtown hell-hole and were on a hunt for something that would wash away this terrible memory and potentially salvage the night.
We walked from one eatery to another that night, only to be denied service&food time and time again. Midtown was bumping and everyone was out having dinner. 40 minute wait here, 30 minute wait there... it kept going on all night. (Yakitori Totto, Porterhouse, Faces and Names)

Our entourage finally arrived at Lan (which is one of my favorite eateries in Manhattan) looking for justice. There we ate like Mongolian Warlords. We had our fill of booze and food.
We were happy once again.
If it weren't for this place, I don't know what would have happened to the world as we know it.

Sushi-Ann Review

Intro
Sushi-Ann - Not Recommended
38 E 51st St, New York 10022
Btwn Park & Madison Ave
Phone: 212-755-1780


Ok. So, I've been to Sushi-Ann multiple times in the past and have always been super happy after feasting on sushi there. So, to go and not be happy is like finding out there is no Santa Claus.

We started with ankimo (monk fish liver) which was really average. They call ankimo the foie gras of the sea and is usually rich and creamy. It was completely indistinguishable this night. This was disappointing but still ok, since we really came for the sushi.

The sushi arrived with a grand entrance. It was such a beautiful presentation - a wooden block with about 50 pieces of sushi. However, the flavors and textures were pretty average. Nothing was remarkable, which was a complete shock to me. Usually, sushi brings a smile to my face instantly - on this night it did not. Now don't get me wrong, there was nothing bad - everything was just OK. Even the toro and negi toro was pretty unremarkable. With the expensive price (about $80 a head including sake), the sushi should be much better and contain more pieces. Sake was good, but good sake can be had at any decent sushi place in Manhattan. Overall, I give the restaurant a 68/100.

My Menu
Still working with my review system, but only dishes (or restaurant) that are above average will be recommended. Ankimo was not bad by any means, but it was OK, so not recommended.
Ankimo - not recommended
Sushi Omakase - not recommended

Overall Restaurant Experience (68/100)
  • Food 7.5/10 - Average Sushi - still better than most sushi places though. Not bad, not good.
  • Service 8/10 - Very accomodating service. Waiter was nice. Typical great service from a sushi restaurant.
  • Atmosphere 8/10 - I like the atmosphere here. Nice and serene. Makes you want to eat sushi.
  • Price 6/10 - I thought the price was way over priced for the amount of sushi and the quality. It used to be different, but maybe they're going on cost-cutting mode.

Closing Comments
Back in the day, I used to think Sushi Yasuda was #1 for sushi and Sushi-Ann / Hatsuhana was #2a/b. Not anymore. Save your money and check out Hatsuhana which should be a better experience. Caveat - haven't been to Hatsuhana in a while, so I'm basing this on a prior experience early last year.

An average night out with the dudes on foods...

So, the dudes on foods wanted to go out for a nice meal on a random Wednesday night. These meals are usually spur of the moment and below is an example of our average conversation:
Dude #1: So, how's your day going?
Dude #2: Good, how's your day?
Dude #1: Good. Enough chit chat. I've been thinking about sushi all day. We're going to Sushi Yasuda. 6:30pm for 6. Do it.
Dude #2: Done.

This Wednesday, we 6 dudes were thinking about toro, aka fatty tuna, and our coordinates led us to Sushi-Ann, a formerly great sushi restaurant. Ordered the omakase (aka chef's choice) and a bottle of sake, but for some reason the sushi was average. Even though we had about 15 pieces of sushi per person as well as apps, we were not satisfied and realized our quest for dinner must continue.

We narrowed down our choices to more sushi, steak, or yakitori (grilled japanese food). Makes sense no? We set our coordinates for PorterHouse, Yakitori Totto, and Faces and Names for some mini burgers. NY is so great, since a walk to all three places are less than 10 minutes from each other. Unfortunately, all three places had a 40 minute wait which makes NY not so great.

Where to go after we've been c-blocked three times...you know what the c stands for. Only one place made sense for our cravings - LAN. Lan is a solid Japanese restaurant that always delivers. Somehow we convinced ourselves the 20 minute walk nullified our dinner at Sushi-Ann. Makes sense no? Any who, 2 1/2 hours later we finished our meal that consisted of steaks, shabu-shabu, pork belly, beef cheek, fois gras pate, multiple servings of chicken skewers, and desserts. Oh and just to let you know, we also got our toro craving satisfied with toro and charred toro...an average night out with the dudes on foods.

Lessons

With my new day job, I’ve been trying to make a good impression at work by tackling big projects and putting in all types of hours. 10 AM – 6 PM is just not enough, so I’ll work until the late night. Hell, I’ve even put in a few weekends and a couple 37-straight-hours. Because of this, I’ve only been in the kitchen to use the microwave lately. So yesterday I got out of work early. This means I get to do some cooking. Since I haven’t done some real grocery shopping in a while, what can we do with the few things we find in the fridge? Stir fry! Not to mention, I’m back on a health kick that I was on last year but fell off of when I was in China where eating is an event. About a month ago, I picked up a 5-quart Saucier. It’s a Calphalon, and it’s their professional line. Normally I’d make stir fry in my Calphalon pan, but I gotta break this thing in some time.

The first thing I did was to prepare a little sauce. I threw in a little corn starch, salt, crushed red pepper, white pepper, and a few more things. I whisked everything with a few tablespoons of water and put it aside.





I sliced up the large mushrooms I had. I like mushrooms. I reeeeally like mushrooms. I don’t slice them too thin like I used to, because they sort of melt away. I also leave them thick, because they act as sponges and absorb the flavors around them.





Next, I cut up some green onions.
Okay… a lot of green onions. Then I took my last white onion, and I sliced that, but I sliced it very thin. I like the texture of a thinly sliced onion.




I diagonally sliced two stalks of celery. I do this thin, because I’m not a big fan of the flavor, but not too thin because of the presentation and color it adds. I also like the crunchy texture.





I took my last three-quarters-of-a-red-pepper, and sliced that in thin strips.






I had four chicken breasts, and I sliced those thinly as well, since I feel it works best for stir fry. Now I’m ready to get down.





I took out my new pot , put the heat on high, added about two tablespoons of Canola oil, and let it heat up. Once the oil was hot, I added the chicken.




As the chicken hit the hot oil, I heard the sound that’s so familiar but so inviting: sizzling! I stir fry it a bit, and now it’s time for the veggies. Since the chicken was frozen, there’s too much liquid for my tastes, so I dumped everything into a strainer, and replaced the chicken back into the pot with some more oil. Ah, the sizzling again. In went the red pepper and celery. More sizzling! Now the white onions. Mmmm, the aroma. Now the green onions! And whoa… no more sizzling. There is a lot in the pot. And I STILL have the mushrooms to add. Well, I can’t stop now. I stir fry it until the green onions are “tame” and settling down into the pot. Now the mushrooms. Uh oh. It’s almost to the brim. Luckily I decided to use this pot instead of the pan! Again, too late. What can I do? So I added some more water to my sauce that has been sitting there, some more spice to compensate, and then I add it to the food. I stir fry it a bit, and I let it sit to thicken and cover everything. Not this time. There’re just too many things in the pot. Don’t forget, the large mushrooms that are sliced thick are absorbing everything. I give it another minute, and the sauce is still thin with no thickening at all. I guess this is as good as it’s gonna get.

Normally, I can take my pan, tip it over, and serve it onto a dish. Not this time. I picked everything out of the pot with tongs, and served the food into bowls. At first, my wife used the word “nasty.” Wow. I sort of agreed. It’s not that the flavor was so bad, it’s just that when you think you’re getting stir fry, and you get something that’s almost soupy… you just know it’s wrong. The more we ate, the more we got used to it. The texture is not there, so I actually added peanuts to get SOME crunchiness. It helped, but it felt more like someone-threw-in-some-peanuts-to-get-crunchiness.
Well, lesson learned: either make more sauce to compensate for everything you’re throwing in, or better yet, do not throw everything in. I guess I was just trying to make room for groceries. As the expression goes – do not quit your 37-straight-hours day job. And now I have soggy leftovers from last night.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Here's a little slideshow a friend put together of what you can expect if you were to walk into one of Robuchon's restaurants.
Impressive isn't it?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My hero drinks Diet Coke!

For as long as I can remember, I have worshipped Joel Robuchon like a god.
His skills and achievements opened my eyes to the world of fine dining and how gentle manipulation can make good food great.
Take a look at his achievements and it is not hard to see why Chef Robuchon is nicknamed, "God of French Cuisine".
And furthermore, the fact that he drinks Diet Coke makes him even cooler. A lot of French chefs "poo-poo" Coca-Cola. Hence this amazing contradiction / disturbance in the "force" prompted an immdediate post.
The following paragraph is borrowed from today's NY Times Dining & Wine section.


Three Fish Walk Into a Bar...

By JANE SIGAL
Published: March 28, 2007
FOR almost two hours on a recent afternoon, Joël Robuchon cooled his heels in the lounge by the entrance to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. He ordered a coca light, which made the hostess hesitate for a few seconds until she realized he wanted a Diet Coke. He was waiting to give a lesson on cooking with shellfish (“March, April — these are the best months for seafood,” he said), but lunch customers were still lingering in the dining room. Worse, they were still sitting on the tall, comfortable stools at the restaurant’s heart — the horseshoe-shaped counter that surrounds the open kitchen...


for the rest of the article, (click here).
***

Airport Chocolate

Childhood memories are often triggered by foods we eat. That's probably why home cooking is so great. Nothing beats mom's cooking.
Well, I found myself craving chocolate the other day. But strangely enough, I wanted some mass produced, machine made cheap stuff.
Not chocolate truffles from Maison du Chocolat, or a Michel Cluizel assortment. I wanted stuff you find at an airport duty free shop. Yah, you remember these. The TOBLERONE, and the GOLDKENN chocolate bar. Don't know why but it satisfied my sweet tooth and I was able to continue my day happy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kimchi Chige


Pronounced : (Kim-Chee-Chee-Gay)
Which is just Kimchi Soup. There are a bazillion variations to the dish. Today's meal was Kimchi, Clams and Vermecelli.
I was feeling a little under the weather with the recent climate changes so I thought it best to sweat out any cold like critters in me.

Catalan Oasis

Despana - Recommended
408 Broome Street (between Centre & Lafayette)
New York, NY 10013
Phone : 212-219-5050

I love this city.
For just about what ever craving you have, there is an answer to.
Hence today, I wanted some cured Iberico meats and Despana came to mind.
This haute Catalan shop has it all. From cured meats, to cheeses, to olive oils, and even white anchovies. My mediterranean cravings are satisfied for now.
But just incase it pops up again, I now have Despana's number programmed in my cell.

2002 Alexander Valley - Cabernet Sauvignon

This was an eye opener. I seldom go for such gusto but it was one of those days where I wanted my palate to dance the tango. I wasn't looking for anything low key to play second fiddle to my meal. I wanted a bold, passionate partner that would take charge and Jordan did certainly that.
The Chef's Tasting Menu at Payard finished off with a course of braised veal cheeks, duo of beef and later some roasted squab. This Cab married beautifully to each course.
I definitely recommend a Jordan - Alexander Valley CS to pair with your next winter meal. It was great!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The ozone vs the tortilla

So, it looks like the US is making a real push to use ethanol to replace gasoline in our automobiles. The interest in ethanol comes from the fact that ethanol use in automobiles produces much less pollution.

Ethanol as you may or may not know is made from corn. The same corn that Mexico is reliant on as their main food source. An increase in ethanol use may increase the price of corn, which will directly affect millions of Mexicans. In addition, it will directly affect my tortilla consumption in the US as well.

An interesting catch 22 that we have here, but after visiting Mexico my vote is for the tortilla and not the ethanol. Hopefully, some other alternative fuel can be found. Just take a look at the picture of that pork taco. Wouldn't you rather have that? Btw - yes, it was by far the best pork taco ever.

Lan - Review

Lan Restaurant - Highly Recommended
Japanese, Sushi
56 3rd Ave, (btwn 10th & 11th street)
New York 10003
Phone: 212-254-1959

What a hidden gem. It's great to find a place that is so focussed on honing their craft. The food at Lan is exquisite. From the a la carte menu, to the sushi, to the shabu shabu dishes, everything here is done extremely well. And if you are a Japanese Sake fan, you are in luck. They have a Sake Sommelier on staff that is at the forefront of the Sake movement in NYC.
I can't say enough good things about this place. I make it a point to go at least once a month with some friends and we are always pleased when we walk out of the place.

The next time you find yourself looking for a place to have Japanese food, go to Lan and treat yourself to a great experience.

New York City Food Fight

The current food feud between New York Times food critic Frank Bruni and restauranteur extraordinare Jeffrey Chodorow is quite, for lack of a better word.... AWESOME.
Two men with huge egos and neither one can stand the other. Mutual dislike stemming from snubs behind the scenes (private functions etc...), and just only recently surfacing to the public's attention.

lowdown -
Frank basically went to Jeffrey's brand new place in midtown, Kobe Club a few weeks ago and said very publicly, it was shit. His New York Times weekly article awarded the Kobe Club zero stars.

a quick NYTimes star rating tutorial :
* Good (i.e. Les Halles, Alfama)
** Very good (i.e. Aureole, Payard, Kai)
*** Excellent (i.e. Gotham, Aquavit, Bouley)
**** Extraordinary (i.e. Perse, Daniel, Le Bernardin)

Kobe Club is a steakhouse in Manhattan that serves all sorts of Beef. They showcase the Japanese "Wagyu" Beef as their top of the line. Now I understand a restaurant needs to sell a concept with cool themes and space design, but dangling 1000 samurai swords from the ceiling right on top of the main dining room is a little... shall we say, Retarded. It's almost culturally insulting! Why not have a giant gong ring when people enter and leave the place. And while you're at it, have all waiters dress in a karate outfit... since we all know all Asians know kung-fu. Luckily Asians (generalization), especially the Japanese, are extremely non-confrontational people and will just go about their way and just think to themselves Chodorow is an untraveled ignorant idiot. (ahheghm)

but wait, it gets even better -
The beauty of all this lies in their credentials. Frank Bruni was the Rome bureau chief for the New York Times before becoming NYC's #1 most influential food critic. Never a food columnist nor chef for that matter. Countless people have quesioned his opinions on food, and to this day, receives no respect from guys in the food industry. Foodies read Bruni's column mostly for entertainment, rather than legitimate food recommendations.
"What's he got to say this week?" is usually the attitude in our minds. It's almost Howard Stern-ish when you think about it.
Then you have Jeffrey Chodorow on the other hand.
Mr. Chodorow is a convicted felon. That's right! While attempting to resurrect a failing airline in the early 90's, Braniff. As CEO, he may have dabbled in a few illegal dealings. (cited : smoking gun)Pleaded GUILTY and spent time in jail. Now he owns something like 40 restaurants (through China Grill Management) and will probably open up more. Spreading bad food to all corners of the world.

Intro to Chinese Food 101

My culinary mission in life is to expose and educate America to the beauty of Chinese cuisine.
Mirroring what Julia Child did for French food, I want to do the same with Chinese Food.

No more General Tso's or Sesame chicken nonsense. No more Moo Shu Pork or Wonton Egg Drop Soup. And definitely no more fried wonton skins with radioactive orange sweet sauce.

What the F is that?! Do you think people in China eat fried wonton skins while dipping them like nachos and salsa into orange syrup?

Like any large self sustaining country, with thousands of years of history and Imperial Dynasties, there are literally thousands of regional dishes making up the Chinese-Food genre.
For purposes of this introduction, I will break it up into 4 main regions.
Pekin(Beijing), Shanghai, Szechuan(Sichuan), Canton(Guangdong).

Take a look at a map, and you can logically make conclusions to what each region is famous for. Whether it's seafood, pork, rice, noodles, spicy, hot, cold... Breaking up food by regions just makes sense.

Pekin - Although not considered part of the great 8 cuisines of China, this is where the Emperor and many of the Aristocracy lived and therefore it's important.
Like any Imperial/Royal cuisine across the globe, food is never spicy nor messy at the ruling houses. Everything is done so that the final product is easily consumed and digested.
The Pekin Duck is probably the most famous dish known to this part of China.
Shanghai - Food tends to be sweeter in Shanghai. A lot of "drunken" dishes along with excessive amounts of sugar are used in the marinades, braises, and also stir fry dishes therefore lending a sweater finish.
Szechuan - Geographically further away from the ocean and trade ports. In order for food to get there, it would have to be cured or spiced. And at times, masked with stronger ingredients to hide the "not so fresh" taste of fish and other rare protein/meats.
So food here tends to be spicy and stronger in flavor.
Canton - Well located with tons of ocean exposure, seafood is a common dish in this region.
Most typically shrimp. But due to the fact that it's a major trading zone in China, chefs can get their hands on just about anything and therefore the cuisine in canton is amazingly diverse.
I will even go so far as to say, if you had the cash back in the day, you could have been eating just as well as the Emperor of China.
So there you have it. A quick 2 minute read on chinese food. I hope this gets the wheel turning and gets you ready for my next installment of Chinese Food 101.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spotted Pig - Review - Aramis

Intro
The Spotted Pig-
Highly Not Recommended

314 W 11th St, New York 10014
At Greenwich St
Phone: 212-620-0393


1 star Michelin, 1 star NY Times, 2 star NY Magazine, the raves go on and on - except none will be coming from me. I have no idea what these reviewers tasted, since this is one of the worst restaurant experiences I've ever had. From the long waits, to the terrible service, to the awful food, this place is all about NY hype and no substance. The burger, fries, and chowder were completely inedible due to the salt content. One of the first things that a chef should be taught is to taste before you season. It seems April Bloomfield was not taught this lesson (and yes, she was there last night).

Example, the burger already has salty roquefort cheese on it, so to add a lot more salt to the burger is insane. It's rare that I can't finish a dish, but the burger, fries, and chowder were so ridiculously salty, I only had 1/2 the burger, 1/2 the fries, and 1/2 the chowder. The appetizers and sides were OK. Roll mops (sardines) were pretty tasty and the champ was very nice too - hard to over salt mashed potatoes I guess. Devils on horseback (bacon wrapped prunes) were to sweet for my taste - felt like the bacon should have been crispier and a smoky, rich bacon flavor should have more of a role. This place is like a lot of NYC restaurants out there, lots of hype with no substance. Overall, I give the restaurant 20/100.

My Menu
Roll Mops - recommended
Devils on horseback - not recommended
Smoked Haddock Chowder
- highly not recommended
Chargrilled Burger - highly not recommended
Champ - recommended

Overall Restaurant Experience (20/100)
  • Food 2/10 - April Bloomfield must own a whole bunch of salt commodities
  • Service 1/10 - Hostess and waiters had attitudes. Waiter took for ever to take our order. Bus boy spilled water on our friend.
  • Atmosphere 7/10 - Bar atmosphere. Packed with a hip crowd.
  • Price 7/10 - Generally the food prices were average to a bit pricey (burger was $15, sea bsss $28).

Spotted Pig

Uhhh, in a nut shell, this place sucks.
We went on Saturday for dinner.
Never again. It's ---------------------------->
This was the worst meal I have had in recent years... and that's including dinners served on Northwest and Continental Airlines.
Yah, it was that bad.
Nothing annoys me more than a bad restaurant that has a line out and around the block.

First of all, the waitstaff are all obnoxious queens with "I'm too cool to work here attitudes". The only attentive person working there was the water boy. My water glass was never not topped off for more than 2 minutes the whole meal.
They have no idea how to wait tables. Our six top was completely neglected. What a train wreck.
Reason two, and more importantly, the food is horrible. The chef cannot control the salt! Every single dish was way over salted and frankly quite disgusting. Degoutant!
Chef Bloomfield, taste as you go! Rookie mistake, except I don't think you are a rookie.

This place would be great for people with extremely low blood pressure. They season every dish with enough salt to de-ice greenwich street in the winter.
I do not recommend this place to anyone. Not even if you are a tourist and want to check out a "cool" manhattan scene. There is nothing cool about the "Spotted Pig".

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Veritas - Review


Intro
Veritas - Recommended
43 E 20th St, New York 10003
Btwn Bway & Park Ave S
Phone: 212-353-3700

I have been looking forward to going to Veritas for about 5 years now, but some how I've never made it to the restaurant. Finally, for my birthday *<:) my girlfriend took me out to Veritas last night. If Daniel and Jean Georges were the best in the NYC restaurant scene, I always thought Veritas would be one notch below it. Unfortunately, I would say it's 2 or three levels below. It was still a pretty good meal, but I was definitely disappointed. Overall, I gave it a 82.5/100.

My Menu
Crisp Pork - recommended
Tender braised short ribs - recommended
Maple Creme Carame
l - highly recommended

Girlfriend's Menu
Mushroom Ravioli - recommended with reservations
Scallops and Risotto - not recommended
Chocolate souffle and thai ice cream - highly recommended


Dishes (82/100)
Amuse Bouche - Octopus with Eggplant Caviar
Pretty good amuse bouche here. Octopus had a perfect texture with an Orange Juice and pepper dressing. The eggplant caviar was heavenly - perfectly smoky. Add the two together and it was a great flavor combination

Crisp Pork (85/100)
  • Flavor 8.7/10 - Nice porky flavor that went very well with the balsamic, port reduction. Arugula and roasted cipollini's (small onions) gave it a nice contrast.
  • Texture 8/10 - It was very good, but for some reason I felt it could have been more tender. Still a juicy piece of pork though.
  • Aroma 8.5/10 - Great pork and sauce aroma.
  • Presentation 8/10 - Very clean and nice. Nothing extraordinary.
  • Price 8/10 - Since this was a prix fixe, the price refers to how happy I was for the overall price of the prix fixe. Vey good dish and worth the price.

Mushroom Ravioli (75/100)

  • Flavor 7.8/10 - This was a tough call. The sauce around was very intense, however, the actual ravioli filling was ok. Mushrooms surrounding the dish could have been more mushroomy.
  • Texture 7.5/10 - The texture of the pasta and the surrounding mushrooms could have been better. I like my ravioli to be silky with a little bit of al dente-ness.
  • Aroma 8.8/10 - Intense mushroom aroma here, but when you use truffle oil - it should be that way
  • Presentation 8/10 - Ravioli island in a sea of mushroom foam sauce.
  • Price 7.5/10 - Expected more bang for the buck, but still a pretty good dish.

Braised short ribs
(83/100)
  • Flavor 8.5/10 - Very good flavor here. Nice contrast between the short ribs, barolo reduction, celery and parsnip puree. Interestingly enough, Neyla (DC) should take lessons here on balance. Parsnip puree added the right amount of sweetness and did not take over the dish.
  • Texture 7.8/10 - I felt the texture should have been much more tender here. It was tender, but not enough to my liking. Crunchy celery added a unique twist to this dish which I've had many a time.
  • Aroma 8.3/10 - Intense meaty aroma
  • Presentation 8/10 - I liked the presentation here. Very rustic and simple.
  • Price 8/10 - Price was well worth the dish.

Scallops and Risotto - special of the day - (60/100)

  • Flavor 6.5/10 - Scallops had a nice crust, but there was no sweetness there - which I feel is key in eating scallops. The risotto was too fishy.
  • Texture 6.5/10 - Risotto was undercooked - still chalky on the inside...completely unacceptable. The scallops were done well with a nice crust and soft on the inside.
  • Aroma 6/10 - Unpleasant fishy smell.
  • Presentation 8/10 - Dish looked pretty good and made me want to eat it.
  • Price 6/10 - For the price of the menu, this should have been much better.


Creme Caramel - (91/100)

  • Flavor 9.1/10 - Nice and rich creme caramel. Matched perfectly with the crunchy sweet pecans, and sour cherry sauce. I'm a sucker for creme caramel (or flan) though
  • Texture 9.2/10 - Nice and silky. Even though I like a flan dense, creme caramel is supposed to be lighter and it works well.
  • Aroma 9/10 - Mmm. Caramely
  • Presentation 8.5/10 - Looked good.
  • Price 9/10 - My favorite dish of the night.

Chocolate Souffle- (90/100)
  • Flavor 9.0/10 - Combining the Chocolate Souffle and the thai ice cream was heavenly. I'm going to make thai ice cream soon...
  • Texture 9/10 - Souffle was wonderful.
  • Aroma 9/10 - Mmm. Chocolatey
  • Presentation 8.8/10 - Definitely made me want to eat it
  • Price 9/10 - Great dessert


Overall Restaurant Experience (82.5/100)
  • Food 8.2/10 - My dishes were pretty good, but I was expecting more. My girlfriends dishes were not so good.
  • Service 7.8/10 - Waiter was very friendly. However, sommelier was an ass. He never stopped by even though the waiter asked him to and he definitely had attitude. Food came out a little slow.
  • Atmosphere 8.5/10 - Clean decor. Kinda reminded me of Nobu - asian-esque.
  • Price 8.3/10 - Price was great for NY ($79 tasting menu), but still expected the food to be better, especially after the scallop and risotto disaster.
Closing Comments
Back in the day, I would have been pretty upset since my expectations for Veritas would have been very high. But after going all around the world to eat, it's hard to be blown away by a restaurant any more. Veritas is a pretty solid restaurant, but there are better ones in NY. I would say Union Square Cafe serves the same style of food, but done way better. The short ribs and ravioli I had at Union Square Cafe blew Veritas out of the park. However, the one thing I have not mentioned is the wine. The wine list at Veritas is pretty intense. I'm not a big wine guy, but this wine from bordeaux was one of the best I've ever tasted. Super complex that paired well with my food. I would say if you want some great wine with pretty solid food Veritas is a great choice. If food is your number one choice, Union Square Cafe may be better (the service and decor there is more casual though)...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hooters

Believe it or not, the chicken wings at Hooters are quite good.
They are crispy on the outside, juicy and meaty in the inside.
I challenge you to find a restaurant chain that produces wings this good.
My gripe with BW3s is that their wings are too small. No meat on them and always covered in too much sauce.
Hooters does it right. I'm getting a little tired of their weird outfits though. Some of those girls should not be wearing what they wear.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reason #467 why I love NYC

Fried chicken truck. In response to Porthos's loving ode to fried chicken, there is a fried chicken truck down near wall street (usually near the corner of Pine and William Streets). Only in NYC, can you get anything you want in truck format - fried chicken, falafels, soup, barbeque, hot dogs, empanadas, crepes...the list goes on and on.

Payard - Review

Payard - Highly Recommended
French, Bistro, Desserts & Bakeries
1032 Lexington Ave
New York 10021
Btwn 73rd & 74th St
Phone: 212-717-5252
Fax: 212-717-0986

Man I love this place. The menu changes at least once a month and it's always a delight. We had guests from Japan tonight and they were very pleased with dinner. A bottle of Puligy-Montrachet (Burgundy White) and an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon really hit the spot. I would recommend this place for anyone who wants to treat themselves to true Nouveau French Cuisine.

5 Course Tasting Menu
*Amuse Bouche
*Foie Gras Terrine
*Maine Crab Salad/Pan Seared Skate with Fennel Seeds
*Sea Bass with Chanterelles/Cod with Maitake
*Veal Cheak and Tongue/Roasted Squab/Beef Duo
*Plethora of Desserts

Taste/Texture 35/40 Fantastic
Presentation 18/20
Aroma 10/10
Price 17/20 Bit on the Expensive side ($120.00 a head)
X-Factor 10/10 Sauces were outstanding. You can't duplicate this at home.
Total 90/100

Overall Experience
Food 43.75/50
Service 25/30 Very good
Atmosphere 10/10 Relaxed
Price 8.5/10 On the Pricey side
Total 87.25/100

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fried Chicken

What's more "dude food" than fried chicken?
Major food chains such as KFC, Popeyes, and Roy Rogers all have carved a place into the American Fried Chicken hall of fame. And if there isn't such a place, there ought to be.

I want to talk about Chicken Wings as well, but that's like a totally different ball game all together.

Fried chicken is awesome and people should just eat more of it. (sidenote - I'm a stickler for humanely raised birds. The Purdues and Tysons out there can go to hell. Imagine how good an organic raised fried chicken would be?) Sure, it's fatty and probably not the healthiest thing out there to consume. But can you think of anything that can replicate the joy you get when you bite into a nice juicy thigh from your favorite Fried Chicken joint? It's glorious!

I'm getting so excited just writing about this right now. I wish there was a fried chicken delivery service out there. Or better yet, instead of an IceCream truck, a Fried Chicken truck. Boy wouldn't that be awesome?!


Kitchen Cutlery

Just the other day, a buddy from DC wrote to me asking about kitchen knives and what to get. This is kinda like saying, "What car should I buy?"Along with weighing the monetary issue, you need to factor in what kind of performance you are looking for. How much maintenance are you willing to invest, and not to mention Esthetics, Durability, Purpose, etc...

So I basically broke it down to Needs and Wants.
It's nice to have a knife for every job in the kitchen. Boning, Filleting, Chopping, Carving, Slicing, Peeling, Dicing, Spreading, Poking, yada yada yada.
But you only need 3 in my opinion. The rest you rely on practice.
I find cooking to be fun and therapeutic. You learn something everyday from cooking and knife skills is something you can visibly see improving as you continue to cook.
I recommended a basic 7 or 8 inch chef's knife, a 2 to 3 inch peeling knife, and a cleaver.
With these 3 knives you should be able to tackle 99% of the cutting chores of a kitchen.

Now the next step is finding a make and model that fits you. Like a car, some people like BMWs, some like Chevys. Take your pick.
Commerical and retail kitchen knives in the past 5 years have become a booming business and the options are endless. Each maker will have at least 3 series to choose from. Some up to 10. From Professional series to Everyday, to just funky Artsy styles.

Better knife companies will offer various types of forged metals and blade/edge angles.
Balance and weight also play a big factor in all this.

I personally don't know enough to talk about all the choices out there today. But I can definately share with you what I like and find to be superior kitchen knives from a personal standpoint, both in use, and also by my visits to various kitchens in the city.

Basically, Japanese knives are the weapon of choice in today's top kitchens.
The Germans once dominated this field but the Japanese have taken over. Hmmm kinda like cars. Anywho, I digress.
A few brands, and the models that make very good western style knives are :

my picks for the common foodie -
Glestain Indented-Blade
Kikuichi
Misono UX-10
Global G Series

professional grade - you can get these too if you don't mind sharpening every week. it's like having that ferrari where you have to pay attention to it even when it's not in use.
Nenox
Masamoto

Emeril is the best Food Network Restauranteur...

Notice, I did not say chef or even teacher. Out of the big three remaining chefs on the Food Network - Emeril, Mario, Bobby - I really feel Emeril has the best restaurants. Now, does that make him a better chef than the other two - I definitely think not. However, for some reason, the Emeril's restaurants I've been to were far and away better than my experiences with Mario and Bobby.

Just a recap, I've been to Emeril's Delmonico Steakhouse 3 times and the first two times were spectacular - I still think it's the best steak I've ever had. Yes, even better than Peter Luger's. The third time was good, but not as amazing - probably an off night. I've also been to Emeril's New Orleans Fish House Las Vegas and I was blown away by the flavors and the moistness of the seafood.

In comparison, I've been to Bobby's Mesa Grill (the worst chicken I've ever had), Bolo (good, but nothing to go crazy over), and Bar Americain (the worst steak I've ever had). Don't mean to bash the guy, since I still watch his shows, but seriously his restaurants served two of my worst food experiences ever. I would expect more, especially for someone of his status and also the prices they charge.

Last but not least - Mario. Mario was my food godfather at one time. If Mario was Don Corleone in the hospital, I would have stood in front of the hospital trying to scare away Sollozzo's goons. He showed me how wonderful Italian food can be and gave me a passion to cook Italian food properly, travel to Italy and even learn a little Italian. This was maybe 4 or 5 years ago where my first 2 experiences at Babbo were breathtaking. However, fast forward 2 years and I don't know what happened. Went to Babbo and the pasta was clumpy and dry...how is that possible from the man who taught me how to cook pasta properly using the pasta water to make the pasta not stick to each other. Otto and Lupa - the pasta was still chalky inside. I mean this is amateur stuff.

I'm assuming the downfall of Bobby and Mario is probably a combination of not training their staff properly, not putting good executive chefs in the restaurant, and also over expanding their empire. I'm also assuming if Bobby or Mario ever cooked for me personally, it would definitely be spectacular. However, with that being said I feel Emeril should get his due. He is never treated in the same respect due to his "Bam" personality, but I would take his restaurant over Bobby's and Mario's any day of the week...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bar Americain - Review

Bar Americain - Average
American (Traditional & New)
152 W 52nd St, New York 10019
Btwn 6th & 7th Ave
Phone: 212-265-9700

As much as I hate Bobby Flay, and will never address him as "Chef", because he isn't one, this place is alright. He isn't reinventing the wheel here. It's just American food done with a little twist. Enough twist that makes it unique.

Clam Chowder & Ribeye Steak
Taste/Texture 30/40 Solid food. Beef was Choice but that's OK
Presentation 10/20
Aroma 7/10
Price 15/20 Bit on the Expensive side ($90.00 a head)
X-Factor 10/10 Tuesday night and packed with hot chicks
Total 72/100

Overall Experience
Food 37.5/50
Service 20/30 Not rookies but not refined either
Atmosphere 10/10 Very cool layout
Price 7/10 On the Pricey side
Total 74.5/100

Ribot - Review

Ribot - Not Recommended
Mediterranean, Italian
780 3rd Ave, New York 10017
At 48th St
Phone: 212-355-3700

Save yourself, it's a train wreck.
fyi - Restaurant apparently named after this horse.
Located in Midtown, you'd think things would be done somewhat proper. Not the case.
Starting with the Hostess. She's in jeans and doesn't ask for our coats till we are being seated and hanging them on our chairs. She then proceeds to give us a look even though she forgot to ask in the beginning.
Two. The waiter had some hygene issue and really grossed my guest and I out.
Three. The puke green tones in the dining room really throws off one's concentration and not to mention, it's hard on the eyes. I really hope there's good reason to the selected colors. Like they were Ribot's racing colors or something. Because other than that, it's just really poor judgement.
And finally, Four. The food sucks.

Lunch Prix Fixe Menu
Appetizer : Seared Scallops with Mesculin garnish - Overcooked
Entree : Grilled Branzino on a bed of Orzo - No continuity nor contrast. And for god's sakes, call it Sea Bass... You aren't importing the fish from Italian waters so give the act a rest.
Dessert : Rum Baba - Disgusting
Taste/Texture 10/40 At least it didn't make me sick
Presentation 5/20
Aroma 3/10 Poor utilization of ingredients
Price 15/20 You get 3 dishes for $19.00
X-Factor 0/10 Nothing positive at all
Total 33/100

Overall Experience
Food 12.5/50 Bad Food
Service 10/30
Atmosphere 0/10 Empty and Ugly
Price 7.5/10 Good thing it was only $19
Total 30/100

J.G. Melon - Review

J.G. Melon - Highly Recommended
Bar Food, Burgers, American (Traditional)
1291 3rd Ave, New York 10021
Phone: 212-650-1310

So when it comes to burgers, I want it juicy, meaty, and fast.
They delivered everything I wanted and then some.
Believe me, it was goooooooood. Located in the upper east side, JG Melon, quite possibly serves the best burger in the city.
Better than Burger Joint, Pop Burger, Better Burger, db Burger, Four Seasons Burger. Better than everyone.
I had the typical American meal. A Bowl of Chili, a Bacon Cheese Burger, a Diet Coke and a Cheese Cake. Yes, it was about 8,000 calories but who's counting.

Bacon Cheese Burger
Taste/Texture 35/40 Tasted more Chuck meat than Sirloin
Presentation 15/20
Aroma 10/10
Price 20/20 Happy to pay it ($9.00)
X-Factor 10/10 Juiciest burger I have ever had
Total 90/100

Overall Experience
Food 47/50 Fantastic. Everything was great
Service 28/30 It's an "All Cash" place
Atmosphere 10/10 It is what you expect it to be
Price 10/10 Happy to pay it
Total 95/100

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Food Rating Scale - Porthos

I'm looking to make things easier to read and so when I do a quick review or blurb of a restaurant, I will simply give it "0" to "3" stars next to the dish.

Grading Scale with hypothetical remark :
* Good - "I would like to have it again"
** Great - "I want you to try this"
*** Excellent - "I'd come back tomorrow for this"

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Aramis makes a great point. Each of us places a different level of importance to each element and this is what makes our flog (food blog) so unique. So here's my $0.02.

Dish Rating -
Taste/Texture 40% - How one marries or offsets the other.
Presentation 20% - Visual satisfaction.
Aroma 10% - Bouquet.
Price 20% - Critiquing ingredients and fiscal justification.
X-Factor 10% - Every dish has it's unique/unusual characteristic,
and an X-Factor rating will address this particular element.

Overall Restaurant Experience -
Food 50%
Service 30%
Atmosphere 10%
Price 10%
***still tweaking***

e.g.
Sidewalk vendor : NY City Sabretts Hot Dog
Nothing beats a hot dog like when you are on the run. Due to some meeting that ran late and your lunch break just went from 30 minutes to 3 minutes.
DISH
Taste/Texture - 30/40
Presentation - 5/20
Aroma - 10/10 (Let's face it, you only contemplate eating one of these things when you are going from A to B and time is of the essence. you're hungry and a single wiff of these dogs stops you like brick wall)
Price - 20/20 (What ever it is, what else can you buy in NY for $1.25)
X-Factor - 10/10 (Something about that "snap")

Total - 75/100

RESTAURANT
Food - 37.5/50
Service - 30/30 (Instantaneous)
Atmosphere - 0/10 (NYC sidewalk)
Price - 10/10 ($1.25 for a Hot Dog)
Total - 77.5/100

Neyla Restaurant Review (DC)

Intro
Neyla - Recommended
3206 N St NW, Washington 20007
At Wisconsin Ave

Phone: 202-333-6353


So I went to DC this weekend with the girlfriend and I heard about this restaurant called Neyla from a co-worker. The place is a Lebanese / Mediterranean (interesting how Middle Eastern and Mediterranean are paired a lot) in the Georgetown area. First time really eating in DC, so I had no idea what to expect. Being from NY, there is sometimes a bias, but I always tried to keep an open mind. Overall, I was happy with the experience, but there some things that held it back from being a very good restaurant. Overall, I gave it a 75.4/100.

Dishes (72.7/100)
Amuse Bouche - Pita Chips with yogurt, olive oil, and olives.
No ratings for amuse bouche's for me, since it is free - however I'll give you my take on it. Pita chips were unbelievable. Really smoky crunchy thin chips which I believe had sesame seeds, cumin, and maybe cinnamon baked into the chips. The yogurt was OK, but the chips were spectacular. This really set the expectation for the restaurant.

Lebanese Tasting (74.7/10)
Consisted of Hommus, Baba Ghannoug, Tabbouleh, Grape Leaves, Cheese Rolls, Fried Kibbeh (beef dumplings) and Chicken Shawarma. Categories will be of the overall sampler, since it'll be too much to break each component down.
  • Flavor 7.8/10 - Flavors overall were pretty solid. Cheese rolls were incredible - basically fried manchego cheese (not sure how this is Lebanese though). Chicken shawarma is kinda like a chicken sausage patty, but this was wrapped in it's own pita making it like a ravioli? Whatever it was, it was hella good. Hommus and baba were a little too lemony for my taste, but still good. Overall, pretty happy with the flavor of this sampler. The hommus and baba held it back from the 8.0 range though.
  • Texture 8/10 - Again, very happy with everything here. The hommus and baba were incredibly smooth, maybe ran through a sieve. The fried cheese and meat dumplings were very crunchy. And the chicken shawarma was juicy on the inside and a nice soft/chewy dough on the outside.
  • Aroma 7/10 - since most of the items were cold, the aroma was not really prevalent. A little, but I wasn't expecting much - hence the 7.
  • Presentation 7/10 - It looked OK, served on a huge glass dish with separate compartments. Nothing special, but not messy at least.
  • Price 6/10 - I thought the price was a tad bit expensive for the quantity of food. $30 I felt was a bit too much. $30 could bought me extreme happiness at Union Square Cafe...

Turkish Pizza (70.6/100)

  • Flavor 7/10 - The "pizza" was phyllo dough, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and merguez sausage. This was setup to be a really powerful mix of flavors, but somehow things were flat. Onions were not quite sweet enough and sadly some of the tougher skin of the onions were mixed in. The goat cheese was baked too long and lacked that pungent umph. Maybe some fresh goat cheese at the end would have helped. The merguez sausage was overcooked and really didn't have much flavor. However, with that being said, the dish still tasted good, but I know it could've been much better. Hence the 7 rating.
  • Texture 7/10 - Again, this could have been so much more. Merguez sausage was Ok, but could've have been really juicy. The phyllo was good, but maybe something super crispy would have had a better contrast. Again, I was OK with the texture and I was not unhappy with it, hence the 7.
  • Aroma 6.8/10 - Same old song with this dish, but I felt like it could have been more. I should have smelled intense goat cheese, rich sausage, and a little sweetness from the onions. The aroma was very toned down on everything. You could barely smell those things, so I have to give it a 6.8. The aroma was not unpleasant, but there was nothing really there and there should have been, so I had to give a sub 7 rating.
  • Presentation 7/10 - Standard small white plate, with the sausage in the center - rims were clean. It was OK and not terrible. Nuff said.
  • Price 7.5/10 - I believe this was around $8, so I felt that for the types of ingredients being offered it was relatively inexpensive. However, this is comparing to NYC restaurants. I gave it a 7.5, since I felt the price was pretty good for the quality.

Moroccan Spiced Veal Cheeks
(75.5/100)
  • Flavor 7.5/10 - The veal cheeks were served with a parsnip puree, harissa demi glace, and creme fraiche. Again, I was expecting much more power here and they really had the balance incorrect. The parsnip puree overpowered the dish, since it was way too sweet and masked any veal cheek flavor. Combined with the spectacular pita, the dish was more balanced and the sweetness was minimized. I gave it a 7.5 here since it was pretty tasty with the pita, but I think it should have been so much better. Could have had a higher rating, but the dish was room temperature and should have been warmer.
  • Texture 7.5/10 - The texture was quite fun opening the pita up and stuffing the veal cheeks an puree in. Nothing spectacular, but really the perfectly chewy pita made it. Pretty pleased here.
  • Aroma 7/10 - The aroma was definitely there and you could pick a little bit of the richness of the meat and the sweetness of the parsnips. However, I feel it should have been a little more. Still good though and hence the 7.
  • Presentation 8/10 - The presentation was good here with the play of the white parnsips, with the brown rich meat and red demi glace all contained in a nice bowl/plate thing. The best presentation out of all the dishes.
  • Price 8/10 - The price was again great for what you got. I believe around $12 for all that and definitely well worth it.

Crab Spanokopita - a special for the day - (70/100)

  • Flavor 7/10 - Flavor was OK here. Crab meat was overpowered by the mayonnaise/yogurt concoction inside. The leeks were a nice touch though and mixing with the micro greens made it more fun. However, I think since the balance again was off here, this flavor got a lower rating.
  • Texture 7/10 - The phyllo dough was light and crispy and the filling was nice and creamy. Nothing special though, hence the 7.
  • Aroma 7/10 - There was a little hint of aroma here, but I wasn't expecting much since it was sealed in a phyllo shell.
  • Presentation 7.3/10 - Spanokopita was in the center of a small white plate. Off of the center was small mixed micro greens with a nice sauce around it. Greens looked nice and elegant, but the large spanokopita in the center took away from the presentation.
  • Price 7/10 - Price of the dish was around $12. Value was not great, but not bad either.

Overall Restaurant Experience (75.4/100)
  • Food 7.3/10 - I was happy with dishes, but something always held a dish back from being greater.
  • Service 7.7/10 - Waitress was very nice and was extremely attentive for the first 75% of the time there. However, towards the end the place was pretty crowded and the service was slower. Still relatively happy with the service.
  • Atmosphere 7.8/10 - Standard hip restaurant with low lights, but at least there are interesting decorations. The noise level was moderate and it was an interesting mix of some hip kids dressed up to go out, to a 30 something married couple, to some 50 year olds. I did feel comfortable here and the place put me in a good mood...not stuffy at all.
  • Price 8/10 - For 2 people, the price came out to be $100 which isn't so bad. Overall, I thought for the food we got, the price was worth it.
Closing Comments
Overall, I was happy with the experience at Neyla. It was fun to try so many dishes that had some nice concepts behind them. The flavors were pretty good all around. However, something always held a dish back from being greater. I would say if I had a large group of people, this could be a fun place to hang out and sample lots of foods. However, I would probably not go back unless I met somebody up who suggested the place. There's nothing that I saw that would make me want to go back versus trying out a new restaurant. Maybe, that's just more curiosity for me of the DC food scene. Either way, Neyla was an interesting glimpse of DC food and I can't wait to see what else DC has to offer.

My review system - Aramis

Before I post my first restaurant review, I'm going to describe how I'm going to break it down for everyone. It will be a very detailed review, but I hope it'll capture my complete experience of the restaurant. If this format works well, hopefully the other dudes will follow the same format. This of course will still be a work in progress...

1) Intro - this is going to cover any basic comments as well as the overall score of the restaurant. I'm putting the overall score first for those who like skipping to the end of a book (or review) to find out what happens. We are a society that enjoys instant gratification and this will help those who don't want to read the whole review.

2) Dish - i'm going to cover every dish and what i liked and did not like. The categories are listed below and their percentage impact to the overall dish.
  • Flavor 40%
  • Texture 30%
  • Aroma 10%
  • Presentation 5%
  • Price 15%
The percentages will show you what I really thought about the dish. As you can see the biggest influence is on flavor, but of equal importance is the texture. That probably stems from my love of pasta where the texture or al dente-ness is as equally important as the flavor. Presentation is nice, but for me it plays a smaller part of my overall enjoyment of the dish - I can only see so many squeeze bottles and ring molds. Price, however does play a large influence. If an entree costs $40, I'm going to expect more flavor/texture/aroma/presentation. If the price is less my grades will be more lenient. The overall dish score may not be an average, however the categories above will guide the overall score. A 70% out 100% score will be a borderline between an enjoyable dish and one that I would not want to eat again. 80% is very good and 90% is excellent.

3) Overall Restaurant Experience - this will include
  • Food 50%
  • Service 30%
  • Atmosphere 10%
  • Price 10%
The percentages overall will represent what I thought about the overall restaurant experience. The #1 criteria is obviously the food. I will try to use the ratings for each dish to guide what I thought about the food. I gave a large percentage to the service since we've all been there when a meal has been exceptional, but the service ruined the overall experience. Atmosphere will include decor as well as the noise level. Price again plays an interesting role since it will drive up the expectations of food, service, and atmosphere. The percentages will be similar to the dishes, since the score may or may not be an average. Also, 70% and above is a good restaurant that I may or may not go to again. Below 70% I would never go again. 80% is a very good restaurant, and 90% being an exceptional restaurant.

As I said before, this will be a work in progress, but I'm hoping this will give you an insight of how my ratings will work.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A little bit about me, Porthos

I'm a traditionalist, and awed by names like Escoffier, Careme, Brillat-Savarin, Robuchon, Bocuse, Beard, Pepin and Child.
I like things done the old fashion way.
So when I see guys like Dufresne, Andres, and Adria do their molecular gastronomy in their laboratories, I don't know what to think. I’m definitely intrigued and extremely curious, but to me, the essence of cooking comes from honing ingredients from nature and crafting them in your kitchen to highlight their natural flavors. Your connection with the earth and relationships with your farmers is sacred, and should be cherished and respected.
I prefer a painter who mixes his own colors and paints the Grand Canyon, to a Polaroid picture any day.
The same goes with food. A chef who starts his day by roasting bones in order to make his own stock is definitely revered over a man who runs a chemistry lab so that he can thicken his gluten count or solidifying an emulsion so that he can “deconstruct” a classic carbonara.
Then again perhaps I just don’t know enough about molecular gastronomy to give it it’s due. There’s so much to learn and so much to try. But being in NY is trully a blessing because here, we have it all.
I believe we are currently living in a food renaissance in the States, and it’s only fitting that guys like us take on this challenge to document all our savory adventures and share them with you. So rest assured, even if it’s 20 below or 90 degrees and humid outside, Porthos, Athos and Aramis are out there trekking the streets of NY, eating, and firing away with our digital cameras all in the name of foodies everywhere.

Friday, March 16, 2007

How it came to be...

Dudes on Foods is based on 3 buddies who love food and everything about it.
This is an open forum to write about anything and everything about food.
We will write about our passions, our likes and dislikes, and our experiences.
Primarily focussing on restaurant reviews, recipes, and food philosophy.

How it came to be part deux...

So the "dudes on foods" have been eating and cooking together for many years now. Many a pasta tasted, many a poultry roasted. We've always had a great time discussing our thoughts on food and people always ask us where to go eat. Thanks to the advent of the "internets" and "the google," we can now share our thoughts on restaurants and food in general. I'm very curious to see how this goes, since we, three dudes have differing opinions. Hopefully, you'll enjoy reading this blog as much as we enjoy writing it...