Thursday, December 31, 2009

Aldea - Review

Aldea - Recommended
31 W 17th St, New York 10011
Btwn 5th & 6th Ave
Phone: (212) 675-7223

Took the wife here for her birthday, since the decor and the menu reminded me of restaurant Moo in Barcelona - a favorite of ours. It was a great pick as the modern decor and food impressed the wife...all in a relaxed comfortable environment. Chef George Mendes has some heavy credentials and it shows - from Alain Passard, to Bouley to Roger Verge - the food here rocks. Overall, I give the restaurant an 86/100.

Our Menu
Knollcrest Farm Egg
bacalao, black olive, potato
Nice flavor with the egg and good texture, but the dish overall was too salty. Needed more potato to balance out the salt code and the olives.

Sea Urchin Toast **
cauliflower cream, sea lettuce, lime
Nice piece of uni that was completely elevated by the cauliflower cream and the pungent mustard seeds kinda having a wasabi type effect.

Rustic Pork and Duck Terrine **
muscat wine gelee, arugula
Spectacular in flavor and texture. Huge porkiness and the muscat gelee helped cut the richness The only thing that I could complain about is this may have been a case of too much of a good thing. Intense porkiness and duckiness was great for 5 bites, but after that it was a wee bit too intense - too much flavor and too much fat.

Foie Gras Terrine *
nectarines, cocoa nibs, nectarine sorbet
A decent foie gras terrine, but once you had great ones it's hard to be wowed. Beautiful texture though.

Baby Cuttlefish **
caramelized lychee, mentaiko, squid ink
Incredibly tender cuttlefish with some great flavor...salty squid ink and sweet lychee made for some heavenly balancing

Jardin ***
baby lettuces, young vegetables, flowers, aged country cheese, port vinaigrette
Best salad for me by far in 2009. Each lettuce had purpose and the flavors of each leaf were pronounced. It was a zen like yasuda moment where each fish was completely different and unique. Add the wonderful texture/flavor complements of the brie like cheese, pear, pomegranate seeds, sunchoke, and cumin flavors and you had something magical.

Arroz De Pato **
duck confit, chorizo, olive, duck cracklings
Great rice texture, crispy duck skin with huge flavor. The chorizo and salty olives just made all the flavors pop.

Anderson Farms Lamb **
loin and belly, seckle pear, celery root
Amazing to have the lamb belly as a cut of meat for the first time - fatty and delicious and huge lamb flavors. Lamb loin was perfectly cooked, but you had to cut against the grain to make the lamb tender. Otherwise it was slightly chewy. Still a great dish overall.

House-Made Sorbets *
green apple, blackberry, coconut
Coconut had the best texture and flavor, but it was more like an ice cream. The green apple and blackberry tasted pretty good, but the texture was more like a puree. What I love about sorbets is a nice crisp, but creamy texture. I still enjoyed the sorbet though, but it somehow missed the mark.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience (86/100)
  • Food (8.7/10) – Food had huge flavors and everything was plated beautifully. Definitely reminded me of a lot of restaurants back in Barcelona and San Sebastian.
  • Service (9/10) – Server was incredibly helpful and actually excited about the food which was kind of refreshing to see. The food came out quick and they cleaned up the crumbs after every dish - my mini pet peeve for expensive restos.
  • Atmosphere (9/10) – Another flash back to the restaurants of Spain, except on a less grander scale. Minimalist/modern decor - all white walls, blond tables, and white leather chairs. Crowd consisted of primarily couples both in their 30's and 40-50's. Made reservations one month in advance and was seated promptly. Place was still full considering it was a blizzard that Saturday.
  • Price (8.5/10) – About $180 (tip/drinks included) which seemed good considering how happy and full we were.
Closing Comments
Really happy with the restaurant selection although my ordering of dishes needs to change. I tend to go with the heavy hitters in terms of flavor and you can only take so many heavily flavored dishes...ordered a wee bit too much huge flavored dishes and it was a bit too much towards the end. Need to break up the ordering with some crudos or more salads next time. Scores would have been higher were it not for my heavy flavored ordering...also apologies on the camera work as I was still playing with the droid for the first time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Marea - Recommended
240 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019-1457
(212) 582-5100

This is the perfect place to take clients or guests from out-of-town for lunch.
Located right on Central Park South (2 minutes from the Time Warner Building), seconds from the park, it's perfect for a full afternoon of showcasing midtown.

I ordered the "business lunch" special. 2 dishes for $38.
Yah, it's a bit expensive considering a lot of places are doing 3 course prix fixes for under $30... but the food is top notch here. Many times restaurant week-esque menus really suck.

The menu has tons of great dishes to order from. As I recall, about 8 first course choices and about 12 second course choices.
I had the Grilled Octopus on Cous Cous. That deserved an "A" for sure. Perfect in everyway.
And for the main I ordered the Creekstone Sirloin with Braised Leeks, Bone Marrow Pearls, and housemade croutons. Another solid "A" for the dish.

I couldn't resist ordered dessert after the first 2 home-run dishes..
So naturally, at an Italian place, chocolate and hazelnut sprung to mind. The Gianduja dessert was sucked down as quickly as the rest of the dishes.
Another "A". So so good.

In conclusion, the meal is extremely solid. My only issue with the place is the price. It's honestly a tad on the expensive side for NYC standards. I understand the location and scenery is prime, so we all end up paying for that.
So keep in mind, it's perfect for a business lunch where you can expense it. Otherwise your guest better be darn special. : )

Racist Australian KFC Advertisement?

What do you think? I think not; people are just being too P.C. And I bet those complaining aren't even black.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chestnut Ale

I got to my lunch appointment a tad early and decided to order some suds.  Marea is a relatively new Italian joint on central park south.

Birolla Malthus : Italian Chestnut Ale with Honey
This beer I'm trying is a chestnut brown ale.
Great nose and medium body. Makes for a great starter for sure.
I'm now thinking mushrooms and seafood soup.

Buche de Noel

Been having a ton of these Christmas Log cakes this year.  (first time)
And quickly becoming a fan. 
There's chocolate, coffee, soft fluffy sponge cake, frosting, and (in some) fruit jelly. 

Julie & Julia

I “bumped into” this movie a couple weeks ago at the redbox. I knew there was something relating to Julia Child in the movie, so I thought I’d give it a go. Loved the movie. I actually saw it a second time before returning it by 9PM the next evening. I learned a lot about Julia Child. Ironically, I was talking to Porthos about it, and it was quite the opposite for him. Of course, food is his life. No, literally – food feeds him by way of mouth and paycheck. Since more people would be more towards my level, I can see why the last few weeks I’ve noticed several of my friends on Facebook recently watching the movie and loving it, too. A couple friends even tried to cook Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. I guess I should take a crack at it. Any recommendations on which wine or burgundy I should use?

Anyway, if you’re into food and haven’t seen Julie & Julia, do so. You’ll enjoy it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Do Hwa

Do Hwa - Recommended
55 Carmine Street
New York, NY 10014-4305
(212) 414-1224

I had given up on Korean food in Manhattan for some time now. K-town is simply just K-town. Nothing extraordinary, just garlicy and sesame oil flavors I guess. For the good stuff, you need to trek to Flushing in Queens, or Fort Lee area in Jersey.

But last night, my wife and I dined with Devin and his wife at Do Hwa in the West Village. Not only was it very delicious, it was filling and probably a fraction what it would have cost if we were to eat at any of the midtown K-town eateries.

I think it was about 9 dishes in all, and a few drinks for $40 a head.
It's probably not the most authentic Korean food out there, but we all have a favorite Americanized Chinese restaurant right?
Think in those terms, plus really good comfort food. And for a full meal at that price, you really can't beat it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gyoza Dumplings

The day after Christmas, my wife and I were invited to our friends' place in Astoria for dinner.

We ended up making Gyoza dumplings as a group activity and watched The Hangover after dinner.
Relaxing and entertaining. Can't ask for much more.
Our friend K also made a Buche de Noel for dessert. Go K!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

X'mas at Aramis's

Aramis had his fam over for X'mas dinner and graciously invited my wife and I over as well.
Cooking with friends and family couldn't have been more fun.

And in many ways, a lot of the dishes that came out that night were influenced by Jacque Pepin.
I'm willing to say, Jacque would have been proud of us amateurs whipping up this menu for our loved ones.

On the menu December 26, 2009 :
- Roasted Capon with Scallion Ginger Puree

- Salt Crusted Salmon with Creamed Fond de Poulet

- Asian Waldorf Salad

- Carp Stew (Chinese Style)
- Wok Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli
- Pan Seared Wagyu Beef with Shiitake and Konbu Tsuyu Emulsion
- Seven Layer Caramel Cake

Friday, December 25, 2009

Green Flash - West Coast IPA

If you love hops in your beer. This is a must have.
Simcoe, Cascade, Centennial and Columbus all dumped in this massively hoppy brew.

Merry Christmas to me and to you too.

Merry Christmas from the Dudes

Just like it says: Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Probably one of the last great (old school) butchers in Manhattan.
And looking by the line outside, they haven't missed a beat.

Last minute shoppers don't hurt business either.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Croque Monsieur

Had a craving after watching an episode of Jacque Pepin and Julia about their favorite sandwiches. 

My variation used roast chicken breast instead of baked ham.  And Brie instead of Swiss. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spaghetti and Gravy

After checking out our local Italian restaurant in da burbs, I had this craving for some spaghetti and gravy. I'm usually more aligned to the classic minimally sauced pastas from Italy, but I was craving an old school Italian American pasta. You know, the long cooked red sauces with big flavors, and noodles swimming in sauce. This time I made sure the noodles were cooked perfectly...fuggetaboutit - friggin delicious.

1/2 box spaghetti
2 boxes white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes (NJ preferably)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 sweet onion diced
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup sake (wine would do, but I had none)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Set a pan over high heat. Drop some oil in and add the mushrooms and tomato paste - salt and pepper. The key to cooking any mushroom is make sure you cook the f out of em so they develop an intense flavor - getting almost crispy on the outside. About 7-10 minutes.
2) Bring a whole mess load of water to a boil in a large pot.
3) After the mushrooms are good, drop in the onions and cook for another 5 minutes until soft. If there's a ton of mushroom juice in the pan, remove the juice for later. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce.
4) Drop in the garlic and after 20 seconds, deglaze the pan with the sake making sure to scrape all the brown bits up. Add 3/4 the can of the tomatoes - cook for 10 minutes.
5) Salt the water and drop the pasta in the pot.
6) When pasta is 1 minute from being finished, put pasta in the saute pan with the sauce and add a ladel or 2 of pasta water - the sauce needs to be thinned out. Cook over high heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute and stir well. Cut the heat and serve with parmiggiano and more olive oil. If you have reserved mushroom jus, top the pasta with it. Buono Appetito!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ed's Lobster Bar - Review

Ed's Lobster Bar - Highly Recommended (for the lobster roll)
222 Lafayette Street, NY 10012
At Spring St
Phone: (212) 343-3236

Ed's Lobster Bar is another place I've been wanting to check out for a while, but never got around to it. Ed was the sous-chef at Pearl Oyster Bar before branching out on his own. Although the owner of Pearl claims Ed ripped off her ideas, he's executing it better as the pasta and the lobster roll kick massive ars and taste better than Pearl's place. Overall, I give the restaurant an 84/100.

Our Menu
Oysters *
Decent oysters. Nice and crisp with decent flavor. Haven't had great oysters since our trip out to Seattle. Porthos mentions that Bean-Town does some solid oysters up, so I need to check it out.

Lobster Roll ***
With all the influx of lobster rolls joints the last 5 years, I wasn't expecting much. Ed's however is the best I've had in the city. Tender, sweet lobster perfectly dressed with mayo - not drenched and a nice subtle flavor with the celery seed. Add a great hot dog bun that was buttery and flaky and you end up getting a lil piece of heaven.

Lobster Fra Diavolo **
As most people know, I'm pretty damn picky with my pastas. Pasta texture is something so simple that it seems crazy to me that most restaurants can't do them right. Here, they definitely got the texture and flavor down well - nice and al dente. A great fra diavolo although I wished they served more lobster with the dish.

Ice Cream Sandwich
This felt like a moment right out of Pulp Fiction - me asking the server what the f a $7 ice cream sandwich tastes like. Basically, the same buttery hot dog bun topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce...not worth it at all.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience (84/100)
  • Food (8.5/10) – All the entrees rocked, but the dessert kinda sucked.
  • Service (7/10) – Took a while to get our order, but the food came out in a reasonable amount of time. The server was knowledgeable and very friendly though.
  • Atmosphere (7.5/10)– Standard looking oyster bar. It was comfortable and didn't seem as cramped as Pearl.
  • Price (7.5/10) – Still find it silly that you can charge $28 for a lobster roll, but it's totally worth it for the happiness factor.
Closing Comments
Great entrees here and definitely need to go check out more of the apps and entrees here. I think this maybe my new go-to over Pearl now. Funny note - I saw one of the heavenly Lobster Rolls being sent back with the bun only. I guess the dude was rolling an atkin's diet or something...sacrilegious I tells ya.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sushi Class

I took part in a sushi making class yesterday at the Japanese Culinary Center and was pretty impressed with the guy next to me. 
It was his first time making sushi and he pulls this out. 
Good job guy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Worst Fast-Food Burgers

Check out this article that lists the unhealthiest burgers. Of the burgers listed is the:

Hardee’s Original Thickburger (1/3 lb) at 910 calories. Surprisingly, the Baconator wasn't listed at all.


Friday, December 18, 2009


Matsuri - Highly Not Recommended
369 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

I've had my fair share of disappointments in my life.
Ranging from a bad magazines I pick up at airports, to girls never returning my phone calls.

But I gotta say, when you go to a restaurant you've been to, and expect to have a good time, but actually don't, that just hurts.

And that's precisely what happened Monday night at Matsuri.
About 18 months ago, when I first went to Matsuri, I had a great time.
The food was on, and so was the service. Great time, and was looking forward to going back.
I really don't know what happened to the place, but everything was a train-wreck.

The food actually made me sick when I got home. We ordered a sashimi platter, and I guess the shrimp had turned. Like wtf guys?! You can't serve old sashimi to guests!

And to make things worse, the new floor manager there seems to have no clue what he is doing.
He spent most of the time (while we were waiting for him) at the stereo queuing up a mix of terrible ethnic music from all over the world, his servers were crass, and the food took forever to get to our table.

I don't think I will ever go to Matsuri again.
Just can't do it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mccormick & Schmick's Seafood - Review

Mccormick & Schmick's Seafood - Highly Not Recommended
175 Riverside Sq Mall, Hackensack, NJ
Phone: (201) 968-9410‎

Living out in the burbs now, I am very lucky with my access to authentic ethnic food - Mexican tacos, great Greek food, Filipino, Yakitori, and the list goes on and on. However, being out in the burbs, you also see the standard chain restaurants. I've heard from some people that McCormick and Shmick's is actually very good, but definitely the quality blows at the one in Hackensack. I know I sound like a hater, but I actually think Legal Seafood does great stuff and that's another big name chain. I give the restaurant an 50/100.

Our Menu
Oysters ---
Definitely not fresh tasting at all. Texture was not crisp and more slimey...I've had these exact oysters out west and they were night and day difference. The mignonette was all acid and no shallots...pretty gross. I didn't get sick afterwards though...

Mahi Mahi
Fish was slightly dry and the rice was undercooked.

Flounder and Crab Cake ---
Flounder was oily as hell and the flavor of the fish was completely gone as the parmesan crust was completely overpowering. Crab cake had way too much breading and absolutely no crab flavor. Plus crab tasted off as well.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience (50/100)

  • Food 6/10 – Food was very subpar, but not inedible. I guess that's a plus?
  • Service 6/10 – Waiter tried his best, but he still forgot to place our order and the place was completely empty. He was enthusiastic at least which bumped him up some points
  • Atmosphere 7/10 – Place was dark and had almost a steakhouse feel. There were 3 other tables in the whole joint at 9pm on a Friday. We were seated as soon as we got in.
  • Price 4/10 – To pay almost $100 for that food was completely ridiculous. 100% not worth it.
Closing Comments
Like I said, I don't mind the chain restaurants at all, but bottom line is the food has to taste good and I should be happy for the price I paid. If you're in the burbs and you're craving fish, I would stick with Legal Seafoods.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oursin - Sea Urchin

Never, have I felt the ocean burst in my mouth, as the way it did 2 weeks ago in France.

Cracked open 5 seconds before my first bite, it was a total out of the body experience.
With what I can explain on this blog, my vocabulary does not do it justice, and therefore I must apologize to you all.

Like so many "first times"... this, you will remember for ever.

People say, the first time you try Sea Urchin/Uni, you'll know if you love it or hate it.
I think it's true.
But if you are like me, and love Uni, you gotta do this.

*** I cannot say it will be the same elsewhere in the world... (although places like Japan, California and Maine will most likely not disappoint)

So if you ever find yourself in France in the early months of Winter, do yourself a huge favor and search for "Oursin" (sea urchins). And ask where you can have them raw.
It is a bit luxurious, it is humbling, and it is one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Huître - Oysters

I'm a huge fan of raw oysters on a half shell.
Well, be honest, I love them in a Stew, or Baked, or Steamed as well, but for all intensive purposes, this post will focus on my love for them raw.
And there's only been 2 places I've been to that have really brought that game to a different level.
Elliott's in Seattle, and Eastern Standard in Boston.
These two places have nearly made me weep when sucking down their amazingly fresh bivalves.

And now, a third.

L'Huitrier in Paris (near the Arc de Triomphe) - Highly Recommended
16,rue Saussier-Leroy
Paris, France
A complete treat in itself. And to be in walking distance to my favorite monument on earth was a traveling plus.
They had a variety of oysters I've never experienced, including the coveted Belon.
All amazingly fresh and delicious in their own ways.

I hold 3 key elements to be the tenets of serving raw oysters.
1. The quality of the waters. The temperature and the purity of the oyster bed.
I like my oysters small to medium in size and slightly plump but not creamy. I find this particular characteristic to be oysters from very cold waters with relative busy water currents.
2. Logistical haste. It must be served less than 8 hours from harvest.
I refuse to believe we aren't able to get the very best here in NYC. But it's a fact. Geography is geography, and it will take a longer time for oysters harvested in the best beds of Cape Cod or Washington for that matter to reach the purveyors in NYC, then the extra leg to the restaurants themselves. It's best when you have the best farmers selling their goods to the restaurants direct.
3. The shucking. If you don't know what you are doing, all is lost in the hands of a neophyte.
Even with the first 2 factors in place, you aren't doing the oyster justice if you are a splintering the shells, or spilling the liqueur while opening. For me, a perfectly shucked oyster has been cracked open, loosened by cutting through abductor muscle, has been turned over once and is gently floating in it's own liqueur. You really don't need the mignonette sauce or heaven forbid Tabasco and cocktail sauce. I like to add a drop or two of lemon juice just to kick up the acidity and help bring out more of the oyster flavors.