Monday, April 30, 2007
"from the time I was a young boy in Unterbergen, Austria. We never stocked cans in our pantry. Instead, we ate summer fruit in the summer and winter vegetables when the weather turned cold, just as nature intended. Our chickens were raised to run about the property, and were fed a wholesome diet. Our cows didn't know a thing about bovine growth hormones. And the food tasted better."
Where do I begin...? I guess it doesn't matter really since every part of the meal was disaster.
Service, Food, Bill... Absolutely nothing made sense and can convince me to go back to Nobu (Tribeca). Well, maybe if Nicole Kidman personally called me and asked me out on a date...then maybe...
Sorry, I digress... Onto my rant.
First of all, let me give you a little quick Nobu 101 lesson. Nobu Matsuhisa founded Matsuhisa in LA a few decades ago and through the constant urging of actor Robert DeNiro, they opened Nobu in NY with the famous restauranteur Drew Nierporent.
They hit critical acclaim when their then Executive Chef, Morimoto was the Japanese Iron Chef on the Japanese Iron Chef Television Program. It was the talk of the town. No, it was the talk of the world. Global fusion at it's best. The restaurant boomed with popularity and it spread through out the globe like wildfire. Mr. Nobu himself probably owns a private jet by now and sips Dom Perignon out of the Holy Grail.
Now fast forward a few more years to today. Morimoto has graduated from the Nobu camp to now serve patrons really poor food at his tourist trap Morimoto, misrepresenting cultural flavors with hollywood bravado.
And it's like a never ending domino effect because everywhere you go, you see a bizillion unimaginative chefs replicating black cod miso, spicy tuna rolls, and toro tartare.... Please stop! It's so overkill.
And finally, did I mention the service was terrible and the bill was over 1G for the 6 of us?
I am so pissed and am at a lost for words. I feel like I can't fully articulate my displeasure.
If actions could take the part of words, I probably would do what Anakin Skywalker did in Starwars III and slaughter little babies from an unprotected village late at night when no body was looking. Well, maybe not.. But I just wanted you to know how deeply disturbed I was while sitting at that table eating really expensive garbage.
7926 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD
Subway – Silver Spring is the closest, but it’s still not close
Parking – easy street parking
When I was in Colombia, South America, my taste buds weren’t as mature as they are today, so I had to rely on the meals served to me at Colombian households, festivals, and the several Colombian restaurants I’ve been to around the country alongside other Colombians. As I studied the food, I learned what was good and bad. Last weekend I had a craving for Colombian food and remembered one place I went to last summer when a couple Colombians visiting me from Phoenix, Arizona helped me find online. Obviously the food was good enough that it made me return. The place I am referring to is called Los Arrieros Restaurant. It’s actually a Colombian, Mexican, and Dominican restaurant, but the menu is dominated by more Colombian dishes.
The restaurant is located just outside of trendy downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, which is just over the border of Washington, D.C. It’s inconspicuous, so you need to look a little closely for the address. Next door to it is a tattoo shop, and then one more address down is a Colombian grocery store/bakery. If you like what you eat at Los Arrieros, perhaps you can walk down two doors and pick up a few things to prepare at home along with some tasty pastries.
The restaurant is typical of several Colombian eating establishments where it’s part restaurant and part nightclub. You walk into the restaurant where there are murals of scenes of Colombia on the right, a large dancefloor in the middle, and a stage/DJ booth on the left.
Now then, the food…
Both times I walked in to a relatively empty restaurant, and both times I was hesitant to stay, since these were prime times (Friday and Saturday evenings), and I was thinking the food wouldn’t be that good. Each time I was wrong. The food is not the best Colombian food, but it’s definitely far from the worst. Being 20 minutes from downtown D.C. and from my residence, I’m more than happy to attend a table to fill my craving. For appetizers, I had an order of arepa y chorizo (sausage), an order of arepa y morcilla (blood sausage), and an order of arepa y queso (cheese). It seems that many countries have their bread: Mexico has tortilla, Ethiopia has injera, Italia has Italian bread, France has the French bread, and so on; Colombia has arepa. It’s made with corn meal, typically about the size of your hand, and about a ½ inch thick. The chorizo has a very rich flavor, and is much more different than a breakfast pork sausage or an Italian sausage. It has its own flavor where the closest I’ve compared it to was the sausage served at Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant. The morcilla is made with cow’s blood and stuffed with rice. The casing provides a crisp texture but still somewhat messy when slicing. My recommendation is to simply put it in your arepa, and bite it – like a hot dog. The cheese is queso fresco, which is fresh cheese from the farm. I was disappointed with this, because the description states it’s arepa with cheese, which is typical, but also typical is to make the arepa with the cheese as part of the mix. It was good, but the latter is how it was served, so there’s no cheese to accompany it but already in it. Since my expectations were different, I was somewhat let down.
The last time I was at this place, I thoroughly enjoyed the beef tongue in a red sauce. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it was something like Lengua en Salsa. Delicious.
For drinks, you can’t go wrong with a licuado. It’s simply milk or water with fruit. (You tell them with agua (water) or milk (leche) – I highly suggest milk). There are many fruits to choose from, whether it’s blueberry, mango, passionfruit, and more. Try mango!
For dessert, I had an order of Brevas (dates) y Arequipe (dulce de leche) and an order of Guayaba (guava paste) y Queso. The Brevas y Arequipe is really good if you like dates filled with dulce de leche. Dulce de leche (translated: sweet milk) is a brown, thick sauce made with caramel. It has bits of a crunchy texture that makes it very enjoyable, but one may feel guilty eating this wonderful sweetness. Guayaba y Queso may sound strange (it did to me for many years), but the saltiness of the farmer’s fresh cheese goes so well with the sweet guava paste. It’s a combination that I normally do not like, but this is different. They work so well with each other. I look forward to finishing my meal for this.
In conclusion, the staff could have been better, the owner was delightful, and the meal was well done. The entire dinner was around $35, so it’s well-priced. It would be a good place to go with friends to eat, drink, and salsa/meringue/cumbia the night away. Just remember to bring your money for the cover charge, because the bouncer/doorman may remind you if you don’t pay it.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
La Nacional - Highly Recommended
239 W 14th St, New York 10011
Btwn 7th & 8th Ave
I was craving some authentic paella after watching America's Test Kitchen, but I realized I didn't know where to go in the city. Sure, there's plenty of tapas restaurants (Tia Pol, Casa Mono, Bolo, etc.), but I had no idea where to go for authentic Paella. Luckily, chowhound is a wonderful resource to ask all the foodies where to go. I ended up finding La Nacionale and to my surprise the place was a hit. The food is great home cooking. No fancy presentations, no fancy sauces - just food that makes you happy with a great atomsphere. Overall, I give the restaurant an 86/100.
1) Paella De La Casa - Highly Recommended
2) Campero - Highly Recommended
3) Champinones - Recommended
4) Gambas al ajillo - Recommended
5) Flan - Recommended
1) Saturday's Paella of the day was seafood paella and it was spectacular. The flavor of the rice was so rich with seafood (squid, mussels, clams, shrimp, and chicken). The seafood was perfectly cooked and absorbed the flavors of all the other ingredients. The calamari was so ridiculously tender. After watching Paella made many of times on TV, I know the key to a great paella is socarrat or the crispy bottom, but I've never experienced this before. This Paella had the socarrat and it really makes a difference in texture. You know when a dish is great, when you want to recreate the dish...I'll let you know how it goes in another post.
2) Cured Chorizo, Manchego cheese, and Serrano Ham. Ridiculously good. Chorizo was so intensely flavorful. The serrano ham really is the prosciutto of Spain. I would say this is definitely some of the best that I've had - better than Mario Batali's Bar Jamon by leaps and bounds.
3) Sauteed mushrooms were great. Basically sauteed button mushrooms that are super rich in flavor. It's not like I haven't had this before, but it still made me very happy.
4) Shrimps in a rich, red garlic broth. Shrimps were OK, wish it could have been more tender but the garlic broth was so rich I didn't care. Combination of both were amazing.
5) I'm a huge flan of Flan, but I prefer the Cuban style which is usually more dense and flavorful. This was lighter like the creme caramel, which was nice. The strawberry sauce was the most ridiculous strawberry sauce I've ever had. Explosion of real strawberry flavors, which went well with the flan.
Overall Restaurant Experience (86/100)
- Food 8.5/10 - Food is great home cooking. Makes you feel very happy.
- Service 7.8/10 - Nice wait staff, but not very efficient. When we did order, food came out relatively quick. They didn't speak English so well, but that's a good sign when they primarily speak Spanish at a Spanish restaurant.
- Atmosphere 10/10 - Love the atmosphere here. It's like a Spanish social club, where old guys hang out to eat - in fact there were old Spanish guys just hanging out in front of the place. Restaurant is in a basement with wooden tables, wooden chairs - feels like you could be in Spain. This is a great place to go with friends that want to have some Spanish wine, share a lot of great food, and have a great time. It's also a good sign when the website is basically in Spanish and a lot of the patrons are speaking Spanish. It was busy, but since the place was big, we got in at 7:30 with no reservation and had no problem.
- Price 10/10 - Paella's are $16, some of the tapas are around $6-8. Great food for the price.
After spending $100+ at Oceana with nice presentation, its good to see that there are restaurants in NYC at the opposite end of the spectrum. Solid home cooking at a decent price. Tia Pol which I love seems to have more intense flavors, but La Nacional's dishes just feels right even if it is not as powerful as Tia Pols. I would rate them even in terms of food, but overall I would rate La Nacional higher due to the atmosphere. I can't wait to go back with a lot of people to try everything on the menu.
1193 1st Ave,
New York 10021
Btwn 64th & 65th St
I've been itching to go to a Yakitori joint for some time now. So we made reservations and went. Yakitori is simply skewered food cooked over a blazing pit of charcoal. The better the charcoal, the better the results. Take for instance a chicken skewer. A strong heat source will seal all the natural juices of the bird and lock in flavor and moisture.
And when I mean "strong" heat, I'm talking 1800 degrees F.
The type of charcoal most high end Yakitori restaurants use (and brag about) is called "BinChoTan". It's pretty much the Cadillac of charcoal.
Not only is it made of a special type of wood, but the shape, and size are regulated so that the chef can manipulate the layering of the wood properly and achieve even heat distribution, or heat pockets through out the charcoal pit.
The meal was just OK. I would recommend it only if you have never had a skewers grilled with binchotan. There is nothing exceptional about this place.
They could definitely source better chicken from some other poultry farms. My guess, they are using Eberly chickens from Pennsylvania. I would rather see them try a Poulet Rouge from North Carolina, or even a Giannone chicken from Canada.
But all in all, it was satisfying.
I'm looking to try Totto and Torys next. I wouldn't bother with Taisho.
Tasting: Chef's Omakase
Taste/Texture 30/40 What you can expect in Japan.
Presentation 15/20 Simplicity
Aroma 8/10 Smokey, Smokey, Smokey!
Price 10/20 A bit on the pricey side for "Yakitori".
X-Factor 10/10 Atmosphere is authentic. Walk through the doors and you are in Japan.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Oceana - Recommended
55 E 54th St, New York 10022
Btwn Madison & Park Ave
I really haven't been to any high-end seafood restaurants in NY, so I've always wanted to see how different seafood should be in the hands of a top-notch chef. I've been to Daniel and I still say that the Paupiette of Black Sea Bass is my favorite dish of all time, but I wanted to go to a 3+ star seafood restaurant. I've also been to Pearl Oyster bar (great) and Mermaid Inn (terrible), but those places are not exactly high-end. So, my search for phenomenal seafood led me to Oceana based on the Daniel Boulud show and Michael Colameco's show as well. The chef that both were raving about was Cornelius Gallagher, supposedly an up and coming young chef. Unfortunately, I didn't realize he left late last year for to be head of a catering company. Good thing, the new chef Ben Pollinger has phenomenal credentials - La Côte Basque, Lespinasse. Overall, I was pretty happy with the restaurant. Solid food, but just not mind blowing like Daniel. Overall, I give the restaurant an 83/100.
1) Amuse Bouche - Yellow Tail wrapped in rice paper?
2) Florida Stone Crab Claws Salad - Recommended
3) Pan Roasted Chatam Cod - Highly Recommended
4) Oceana's Cheese Plate - Recommended
1) Got the palate going, but really nothing special. Kinda difficult to compare any crudo type seafood, when I've had the best in Sushi Yasuda.
2) First time trying stone crabs and it was sweet and better than the average blue crab, but I expected it to be ethereal which it was not. I'm assuming if I go to Miami (Joe's Stone Crabs) I'd find out what real stone crabs should taste like. A nice dish though with interesting flavors.
3) Very happy with the sauce and the fish. Sauce composed of Manilla Clams, Fingerling Potatoes, and Linguica Sausage. This was one of those dishes where I needed bread to sop up all the liquid because none of the sauce should go to waste. Fish was great, but I felt it could have been a bit more moist.
4) Sold cheese plate that had around 9 different cheeses. Nothing spectacular on the plate, but every cheese was very tasty.
Overall Restaurant Experience (83/100)
- Food 8.3/10 - Very happy with the food, with one dish being great. The rest were good.
- Service 7.9/10 - Nice staff. Unfortunately food took a while. We were 5 dudes last night ordering the 3 course tasting, however it still took about 2 hours to serve. Didn't notice that much since we had 2 phenomenal bottles of wine.
- Atmosphere 8/10 - Inside the restaurant looks like the inside of a ship, which I thought was funny. Customers were mainly corporate - lots of suits or guys in jackets. Half full for a Thursday, which I'm assuming is not a good sign for the restaurant. We were a little loud and felt very comfortable.
- Price 7.5/10 - Relatively pricey - $78 for 3 courses. I was still happy to pay though.
I thought this was a very good restaurant, but nothing really exceptional. This maybe a curse, but after going to plenty of spectacular restaurants I always have a point of comparison how something should be. Since I have not been to many high-end seafood only restaurants, it's tough for a comparison. I was happier with this experience over my experience at Veritas. Definitely would go back, but not before my trip to Le Bernardin...
Friday, April 27, 2007
I was up in Boston earlier in the week promoting Japanese Sake.
For those of you who don't know, I represent probably the largest premium sake distributor in the nation. We carry over 110 sake labels and about 30 varieties of shochu as well.
While in Bean-town we must have tried 20 different types and also conducted a workshop with a Q&A session to some of the key Sommeliers, Bev Directors, and Retail Purchasers in Boston. Needless to say, it's been a rough week, with too much drinking. Some may say I have the perfect job, but try drinking 8 glasses of wine every day, Monday thru Friday. (It's problematic because I don't believe in the "spit bucket...")
I will post a Sake 101 tutorial shortly.
I have a feeling Sake is about to ease into mainstream America just like how Sushi has arrived to the average American's dinner table.
Sake Name : Dassai Niwari Sanbu
Prefecture : Yamaguchi
Quality : Junmai Daiginjo
Founded : Consolidation of 4 Breweries in 1948
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I’ve been to Hawai’i where the cuisine is different than other places I’ve visited. The Kalua pig that’s cooked in an underground oven called an imu is heavenly yet McDonald’s always seemed to have most of the tourists. I experienced the same thing in Miami where there is an influx of 27 Latin American countries and the Caribbean islands and cultures where Colombian empanadas, Cuban pork, and Jamaican beef patties are everywhere. And the tourists are eating… McDonald’s. I was on the other side of earth, in China, where the cuisine is like none other that I’ve remotely had. You guessed it – McDonald’s and KFC is where I found a lot of the “foreigners.” I’ll admit that I did venture into both places, but that was merely to see what the difference is. There is. In fact, there was a difference in the Hawaiian location as well.
How would you like to eat this?
Take hot water and combine with different types of fungus that helps fermentation. It has a horrible smell, but bake it in an oven anyway. Next, mash tomatoes, and mix in the liquids of other vegetables, melted fat from animals, and add spice. Put this on top of what you took out of the oven. Next, get warm milk from a mammal, add bacteria, and let it sit with acid until it curdles, which means it clumps together. Can you imagine the smell? Add it to the top of the pile you already have. Finally, get some pieces of organs from animals, blood, fat from different animals, and other non-appealing parts from those same animals. Blend everything together and encase it in the intestines of an animal or plastic. Cut it up in pieces, and top off the mess you have sitting aside. Bake at a high temperature, and voila - the result doesn’t sound too tasty. In fact, it sounds like something a satanic cult would use to haze someone into their club. But if I tell you that your matrix finds this an acceptable form of food, and even a favorite treat to many people, you may wonder what country I’m writing this article from. Believe me, I am in the USA. The capital, actually. I just described dough, cheese, sauce, and sausage i.e. pizza. “Ooooh yeeeeaah,” is usually the response I get, followed by a “well, that’s different.” Why is that different? This is just one example. And people will say other things, for example, like people from India are strange that they do not eat beef, because it comes from cows. Indians are weird, because they don’t eat burgers, steak, meatloaf, shish-ka-bob, etc. Asians are strange, because they don’t eat cheese, milk, and other dairy. Well, why are you not abnormal if you don’t eat fried ants, raw seal, or squirrel? It’s my opinion that one should not deem something bad unless they try it first. Of course, morale does play a role, and I wouldn’t contribute in the hunting of a near extinct animal, and I would not eat human. But as far as anything else goes, I’m game. (I try to stay away from penis, too, but admittedly, I tasted one from a bull unbeknownst to me at the time.) I challenge everyone to break the “norm,” venture outside the box, and escape the matrix you’re molded to think is “normal.” Like this:
Monday, April 23, 2007
p*ong - Recommended with reservations
150 W 10th St, New York 10011
Btwn Waverly Pl & Greenwich Ave
Not sure, if there's a concept of a dessert bar in many other towns, but in NY they're popping up all over the place. Basically, it's a place that serves fancy desserts only or desserts with a very limited menu - p*ong also serves light salads. I've been looking forward to the opening of this place forever (it was supposed to open last fall), so finally we made it here opening night last Friday. The chef here is Pichet Ong who has gotten rave reviews as Jean-Georges' pastry chef at 66 and Spice Market. I'll have to admit I was a little disappointed with the desserts after all the acclaim, but they definitely had potential. Since it was the first night, I will give it a mulligan and will try again. Overall, I give the restaurant a 70/100.
1) Creme Caramel - Not Recommended
2) Vietnamese Coffee Chocolate Molten Tart with Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream - Recommended
3) Thai Margarita - Highly Recommended
4) Bliss (a drink) - Recommended
Not sure if these are the real names, since there is no real website but I think it's pretty close.
1) So, I usually love all forms of creme caramel - a rich thick flan or a nice light creme caramel. The flavor of the caramel was very muted and the texture was OK. Add the rhubarb ice and a bunch of other things and the flavor of the creme caramel was completely overtaken.
2) It is exactly what the menu says. Super rich Vietnamese coffee flavor that is molten. Matches perfectly with the sweet thai iced tea ice cream. Insanely powerful flavors here.
3) Probably the best girlie drink that I've had (at least since I remember). I'm never a fan of girlie drinks, but I thought it was appropriate at this place. The flavors were intense. Sour from fresh lime juice and lime zest, a little sweet, and spicy. They grated fresh peppers on top. Spectacular drink.
4) Decent drink that had a whole bunch of stuff. Lychees, blackberries, and panna cotta. The panna cotta was spectacular and should have been on the menu.
Overall Restaurant Experience (70/100)
- Food 7.3/10 - I'm including in the drinks here, since I feel this is part of the draw. Everything was decent, but had more potential. Drinks in my opinion were better than the desserts.
- Service 10/10 - We sat at the bar and the bartenders were incredibly nice and engaging. This probably is because this is the first day, so no guarantees this will always be the case.
- Atmosphere 8/10 - Trendy restaurant with very bright colors. You can sit at the bar and see people preparing desserts and your drink. Crowd is mixed with a young hip crowd as well as a little older as well.
- Price 7/10 - Price was on bar with desserts from a nice restaurant and fancy drink places. Creme caramel was $12.
A fun place to take people in the area if you want desserts and girlie drinks. However, for my buck, I would prefer to go to chikalicious any day of the week. Chikalicious has more subtle flavors, better presentation, and more bang for the buck (3 tiny tastings for $12). With that said, I am still willing to go back and check p*ong out again after he irons out the kinks.
EN Japanese Brasserie - Recommended
435 Hudson St, New York 10014
Btwn Leroy & Morton St
Decided to check this place out over the weekend, since I was looking for some light Asian food in the West Village. To my surprise, it was a pretty solid restaurant. The unique thing about this Japanese restaurant is that it serves tapas like dishes. Lots of small dishes to sample for a reasonable price. The place is not blow you away good, but just a pretty decent restaurant. Overall, I give the restaurant an 79/100.
1) Freshly Made Scooped Tofu - Recommended
2) Sea Bass Kara Age - Highly Recommended
3) Grilled Squid with Uni Miso - Recommended
4) EN Garlic Shiso Fried Rice - Recommended
5) Spicy Chu Toro Roll - Not Recommended
1) Expecting a nice soft tofu texture, but instead it was relatively firm. Still a great texture and good flavor with the salt and soy mixture added
2) Great dish here. Sea bass was super flavorful and moist and lightly crispy, not oily.
3) Good, but nothing special
4) Fried rice is very fun. Simple flavors of just garlic, a little oil, and they added seaweed which gave it a nice contrast of flavor and texture
5) When one mentions chu toro, I expect a relatively fatty piece of tuna with some good tuna flavor. This was fatty, but had absolutely no flavor. It was Ok, when dipping into the spicy mayo, but you could have put canned tuna fish instead...also this was $19.
Overall Restaurant Experience (79/100)
- Food 7.7/10 - Everything is pretty good here, nothing great though
- Service 8.5/10 - Japanese place. See my other comments...nuff said.
- Atmosphere 8/10 - Nice decor - asian motif. High ceilings. Interesting mix of young couples (asian and non-asian), group of guys, as well as younger parents with kids.
- Price 8/10 - I think definitely worth the price. Fun food, good atmosphere, good service.
Overall, a definite go to place for going with a large group to sample many dishes. Great price and solid Japanese food. A lot of the sake was average though. Stay from the expensive sushi and sake and it should be a good experience.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
It's noon on Sunday and Porthos gives Aramis and D'Artagnan a call asking if they had any plans. The boyz were free so a cooking fiesta was organized.
Foods prepared and eaten:
Pan Seared Magret - D'Artagnan
Roasted Lamb Chops - D'Artagnan
Vegetable Bayaldi - D'Artagnan
Artichokes with Balsamic Sauce - D'Artagnan
Chocolate and White Truffled Rice Krispie Treats - D'Artagnan Specialty
Fresh Pasta in Basil Pomodoro Sauce - Aramis Specialty
HotDogs - Porthos
Sangria and Wines : 9 bottles of Red and White - Porthos
All in all, we must have ingested 5000 calories each. But it was a heck of a meeting.
A lot of laughing and joking around. What a great day.