Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cookbook Cooking

My buddy N, who lives in Japan, like me, loves to eat.
We had a great meal together at Nihonbashi Yukari a few weeks ago and wanted to replicate the magic at home for his wife. He bought an autographed cookbook by the executive chef and promptly made a beautiful dish using Buri and some root vegetables.

Looks awesome N! Hope to try some of your dishes one day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Babbo -

Babbo - Recommended
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011
(212) 777-0303

Right after a long day at the office, a few of us decided to head out and eat something worth writing about (literally).
My coworker had a craving for Babbo. I made a face and she reassured me that what ever bad experience I remembered from the past would soon be erased.
I took her word for it and put my game face on. We rendevous'd 20 minutes later, in front of the restaurant... The hostess told us there was a 2 hour wait. Eeks right?
But I knew better. From my dining experiences in Manhattan, whenever I'm with extremely attractive ladies, the initial 2 hour wait is always miraculously trimmed down to about 30 to 40 minutes.
Such was the case last night and we were seated rather promptly.

The rest is a play by play account of the parade of pastas (or is it pasti?).

9:45pm (Friday) Sitting here at Babbo, about to start the Pasta Tasting Course.

"Bring it Mario!"

10:45pm Pretty happy so far. 3 Pasta dishes down and already rethinking why I hated this place from the beginning.... Was now waiting for the Paparadelle Bolognese. "OOOO WEEE"

11:05pm Just had the Paparadelle Bolognese and wanted to high five everyone at my table.
Onto the meat dishes.

11:30pm Braised Beef Tongue with Savoy Cabbage and Slow Cooked Guanciale with Mushrooms and Stewed Mustard Greens. Absolutely delicious! I owe this place an apology... I've been a hater for a while, but Mario's guys in the kitchen can cook. Pretty Darn Good folks.

11:55pm About to finish our desserts and whatever euphoric sensation I had for the place prior to the sweets is all gone. The desserts at Babbo are TERRIBLE! All 3 of my dinner guests hated their desserts as well.
What a shame.

12:15am Got the bill and busted out of there like prison break. At $145 a head, it's on the "really" pricey side of things. But the primi (pasta) and secondi (meats) dishes were truly inspiring, and for that, I will give them some credit. I am convinced I learned something that night and will be tinkering in my own kitchen in hopes to replicate at least some of the dishes that night.

Nothing's worse than to end on a low point with dessert. If it weren't for the desserts... I think I would be going right back again next week. And to pay that much for starch and a few ounces of protein is a little hard to digest.

In restaurant speak... desserts have always had the highest profit margins from the kitchen and act as the coup de grâce of the meal.

It was kinda like nailing all 3 triple-axles in your long program and then tripping on your toe pick and wiping out on the ice right before your finishing pose.

Friday, January 29, 2010

db Bistro Moderne

db Bistro - Recommended (for THE Burger)
55 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

If you've never had THE burger at db Bistro, it's worth going to have at least once in your life. (But that's about it for the place)
The burger is a thick meatloaf-esque number with braised beef short ribs and foie gras encrusted with ground beef sirloin and sandwiched in buttery parmesan brioche bread.
All in all, it's a pretty good way to get heart disease. That and a cigar a day will get you there real quick.

I wanted to show a guest from Japan around the NY circuit of restaurants and thought 'db' was a good spot to start off. Sure, the place was packed and guests were all decked out either celebrating birthdays or the usual two top, cheese-dick trying to impress his really hot date.

Putting those factors aside, I wanted the food to speak for itself, but for some reason, I felt the place was flat and wasn't up to date with it's food.
Perhaps I'm a little too critical these days, and I should respect the classics, but I couldn't help but wonder why the flavors of db Bistro were so "passe".

I'll probably never go there again. It's not fun, nor should it be a place to impress a date. Everything about the joint wreaked of the late 90's early 2000 and really brought my energy level down a couple notches.

But I will say, if you want a "Burger Experience", that's the one thing they still got.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi YUKARI - Highly Recommended
3-2-14 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0027

日本橋 ゆかり

This was one of the highlights of my trip to Japan last month.

A 3rd generation run Japanese Cuisine heavy hitter.
Head Chef Kimio Nonaga is amazingly talented, and I honestly don't have the vocabulary to do him justice. So thank god for digital cameras.
Please enjoy.

First dish, compliments of the chef. Redbean rice with yuba and fresh wasabi.

Starters and Sashimi Course

This is a house sake. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that the sake is a private label sake that could rival just about any superb Junmai Daiginjo out there. WOW WOW WOW!!!

Next course was to represent the snow falling by using shaved daikon in a thicken dashi broth.
Fried oyster and seasonal vegetables

Saikyo miso marinated white fish

Yuzu fruit bowl seafood stew

Chef Nonaga original dish. Chicken broth, soy milk, dashi and organic egg poridge.
This dish help clench his victory over Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi.

And finally another original dish by Chef Nonaga. Sake gelee with sake kasu almond jelly.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tofu House BCD

BCD - Highly Recommended
17 W 32nd St.
NY, NY 10079

I wasn't too keen on Korean food for lunch today, but my wife called me up and we were both in the same area so a quick BCD meet up was decided upon.

I gotta hand it to this place. It completely rocked!
The service was really nice (which I was surprised since neither of us speak Korean...and we've encountered our fare share of unpleasant to hostile hospitality at other Korean places on the same street).
The Panchang (complimentary apps) were very good. And most importantly, the main dish of soft tofu soup was fantastic.

$25 for the two of us.
In and out in 20 minutes. Its kind of the perfect lunch spot for the people on the move.


What's a trip to Japan without a good Wagyu meal?
Am I right?

Here's just proof, you don't need "Kobe" or "Matsuzaka" to have a good time.
This beef was raised in the northern prefectures of Japan. A little farm known to have about 4 to 5 cattle at one time. It's grown slowly and as you can see, has a TON of marbling.

I had it grilled right in front of me on slab of earthenware. Holy moly was it good.

Fruits you can't afford

It's not too often I hold back on splurging on food.
I definitely have the, "If it's the best, I want it..." mentality. And especially if I've never had it before. My curiosity just gets the better of me.

But this stuff in Japan is just out of control expensive and I've never dared purchased it on my own.

(clockwise from top left)
$10 per Apple, $50 for a dozen Strawberries, $20 for a Mango, and $100 for a Melon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jim's Revisited

So it's been about a year and a half since my last visit.

Jim's Steaks - Recommended
400 South Street
Philadelphia PA 19147

And I gotta say, it's exactly the same. Nothing's changed. And to that, I salute the cheesesteak brothas cooking behind the flattop.

I ordered a CS with American and Onions, and another one with Whiz and Onions.
What was I thinking right? They both should have been with Whiz.

Cooked to order, great American filler food. The bread is factory style, nothing special, just a means to an end. The meat is probably scary grade 'D' meat, and the whiz is most definitely not cheese at all. But who really cares. It's one of those meals you eat knowing you are being bad and that's OK.
Right guys?

It's become tradition, that when in Philly, go to Jim's.
After all, this is where Kobe Bryant get's his cheesesteak fix when playing the Sixers on the road...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Calpis KitKats

One of the newer flavors to debut in Tokyo.

Not that great in my opinion...

Yards Pale Ale

update : scroll to the bottom

I took a trip to Philly this past weekend and happened to walk past a restaurant serving up Florida Stone Crabs.

I pumped the foot breaks and immediately made a reservation for later that night.
I hadn't had Stone Crabs in about 10 years and didn't want to miss out on this opportunity.
The hostess told me they just received their first shipment of the year that afternoon so it was pretty much "game time".

I gazed over the menu and saw there was a local Philly Pale Ale on the list.

Yards Pale Ale - Highly Recommended
This wasn't your typical Pale Ale by any means.
I think I read that they use Pilsner Malts instead of big richer flavored Malts, so this was particularly refreshing. Also, a good amount of citric hops going on.
I couldn't have been happier washing down the 3 lbs of Stone Crab claws with this delicious local brew.

Beautiful white head with decent lacing. Dark amber color to a pretty clean, well filtered beer. I like a lot.
To this Yankee, Philly wasn't all too bad.
: )

apologies for the brain fart... here's the restaurant info...

Positano Coast-Aldo Lamberti - Recommended

212 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106-3904
(215) 238-0499

Monday, January 25, 2010

Aki on West 4th - Review

Aki on West 4th - Recommended
181 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014-6855
Phone: (212) 989-5440

Met the wife up for date night and we were looking for sushi. Stopped by Aki on West 4th for the first time and we were definitely satisfied. I've stomped around West 4th many a time, but I never had any desire to stop in before. Too bad I didn't because they do some decent sushi for a good price. I give the restaurant an 81/100.

Our Menu
1) Ankimo **
2) Omakase *

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

Dish Comments
1) We've raved about ankimo in the past and this was some pretty good stuff. Flavor and texture was solid and paired great with the ponzu dressing. Oddly enough, at first I thought it was good - not great, but as I ate more I dug it a lot more.
2) Pretty decent sushi here. The rice was pretty damn spot on in texture and flavor - no clumpy ass rice here. The texture of the fish was great, but the flavor from some of the fish was just OK - a wee bit too muted for me. Felt like I had to double dip sometimes in soy to extract maximum flavor which would never be done at most joints. Stars included - tuna, eel, fluke, sweet shrimp, salmon, and mackerel. The fun Americanized rolls were so damn great though - spicy yellowtail rocked. The seaweed was pretty damn good as well - great flavor and texture.

Overall Restaurant Experience (80/100)
  • Food 7.8/10 – Sushi overall was decent with some great ones out there. The rolls were pretty awesome though.
  • Service 7.8/10 – There are only 2 sushi chefs there and they definitely rock the food out at a decent pace. Sushi chef doesn't provide much interaction though, since he's insanely busy preparing the sushi for the other tables.
  • Atmosphere 8.0/10 – The place seats 15-20 heads (6 seats at the sushi bar) and has a very cozy relaxed feel - all white walls. The place was fully seated at all times with people waiting in the hallway. Got there at 7pm on a Friday and we were seated immediately without reservations. The place consisted of groups of 2's.
  • Price 8.0/10 – I had a decent amount of sake and left incredibly full all for the price of about 70 a head including tip. Pretty happy with the value.
Closing Comments
Would definitely go back to maybe order some of the other dishes - looks like they have some inventive dishes like tofu pizza. If I want great sushi, this would not be the place though. However, if I wanted decent value and a mixture of fun rolls and sushi this would definitely be a go to.

Burger Showdown - JG Melon v Corner Bistro

JG Melon Restaurant
1291 3 Avenue, New York, NY‎
Near 74th St
Phone: (212) 650-1310‎
Corner Bistro
331 West 4th Street, New York, NY
Near Jane St
Phone: (212) 242-9502
Went out with the co-workers and we always have the debate over which joint has the best NYC Burgers. My buddy Frank swore by Corner Bistro whereas I was extolling the virtues of JG Melon's offering. After many drinks and many laughs later, we were officially going to put the argument to rest that night. First stop was Corner Bistro where we ordered a bacon cheeseburger medium rare. As soon as we were finished, we got a cab up to JG to order the same. Below are our very scientific results:

  • Corner Bistro Meat - Juicy, moist and pretty good beef flavor. Unfortunately the meat was room temperature which is not a quality I want in a burger.
  • JG Melon Meat - (winner) - Great char flavor on the burger with way more beefiness going on. Temperature was nice and warm, but this burger seemed slightly dryer - still juicy, but not as much as Corner Bistro.
  • Corner Bistro Bun - A little bland and definitely harder than the JG Melon bun. Still decent though.
  • JG Melon Bun - (winner) - Nice flavor on the bun and soft texture was a perfect complement for the burger. A tad hint of sweetness.
  • Corner Bistro Atmosphere - Winner - When I eat burgers, I want it to be like a steakhouse where you want to speak/laugh loudly with friends. Corner Bistro is basically a bar and it's hella loud, so we fit right in perfectly.
  • JG Melon Atmosphere - Definitely more of a normal restaurant vibe, so we were hella loud and it was definitely not appreciated by the waitress or the family next door.
Conclusion - Although we had a better time at Corner Bistro, JG Melon's burger definitely blew Corner Bistro's away and that was a shock to my buddy Frank. Another score for Science!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Could a Beer King Spinoff be Far Away?

Burger King: Beer with those fries?

Fast-food chain will open Whopper Bar in Miami Beach

Image: Burger King Whopper
At the Whopper Bar South Beach, guests can pair a Whopper sandwich with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors brews. With fries, the combo will run $7.99.
Gene J. Puskar / AP

updated 2:46 p.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Burger King is opening a restaurant in Miami Beach that will serve beer along with burgers and fries, the chain's first U.S. location with alcohol.

At the Whopper Bar South Beach, guests can pair a Whopper sandwich with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors brews. With fries, the combo will run $7.99.

The restaurant will offer outdoor dining, a walk-up window and delivery service.

It's scheduled to open mid-February. The announcement was made Friday.

Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy says adding beer at selected locations around the world is part of Miami-based Burger King's effort to reinvent itself as a fast-food restaurant with a sit-down feel.

Hottovy said making the new image resonate could be a challenge in some locations.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nothing says "I Love You"... like a

...White Castle 30 Pack!!!

the White Castle in Newark, NJ has this out on their sign board. 

Hey, us brothas gotta get a little booty anyway we can...

Patatas Bravas con Huevos

After the amazing tapas dinner at Jaleo, I wanted to recreate the spectacular patatas bravas with my own twist. These potatoes came out great and it's quite irritating why most NYC tapas joints can't recreate this stuff. Most in NYC either have no potato flavor or over/undercooked tater.

I ended up baking the tater since it intensifies the potato flavor whereas most recipes require either boiling or frying the potato which mutes the flavor - a potato boiled is a potato spoiled! I was a bit lazy though with the sauces and basically took existing mayo and spiced it up. When I have more time, I will definitely try making my own alioli and spend more time on the bravas sauce.

4 yukon gold potatoes
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup mayo
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 can crushed Jersey fresh tomatoes
2 tsp chipotle powder
1 tbsp honey
4 eggs

1) Pre-heat oven to 400F
2) Make alioli sauce - combine mayo, 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, 1 clove garlic minced, splash olive oil, and enough water to thin the sauce out. The consistency should be like a thin yogurt.
3) Make bravas sauce - heat chipotle powder in olive oil and add to the crushed tomatoes. Add splash olive oil and honey. Consistency should be like a thick tomato sauce.
4) Olive oil, salt and pepper the potato and add to the oven.
5) Cook for 50 minutes and remove. Let sit for 15 minutes to solidify - if you don't, when you cut up the potatoes it'll turn to mashed potatoes.
6) Use a very sharp knife and cut the potato into bite size chunks.
7) Set non stick pan over medium high heat. Add oil and crisp up the potatoes - both sides should be brown and crispy. Remove taters and set aside.
8) Add olive oil to the same pan and drop eggs in. Let sit for 20 seconds, as the white starts setting a bit use a spatula to gently loosen the egg white from the pan. Once the whites starts solidifying on the bottom of the pan (top of the egg should still be liquid), add water and cover. The water will steam the eggs on the top and yield an incredibly tender white. Remove after 10-15 seconds.
9) Top each potato with bravas sauce and add alioli. Add egg on top. When breaking the yolk and combining with the potato, bravas, and alioli you'll be in food heaven. Crispy exterior and creamy interior for the potatos; creamy and bright alioli and sweet/spicy bravas sauce makes an explosion of textures and flavors.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mai Thai - Review

Mai Thai - Highly Recommended
6 King Street, Alexandria, VA
Phone: (703) 548-0600

I'm a big fan of Thai food and when it's on, I'm definitely on cloud 9. Our friend's Wei-Yi and Eric took us here and it was definitely so damn on. Thai food is odd to me where most Thai food is decent, but it's rare to find great Thai food. Mai Thai was definitely in the great Thai food category. Overall, I give the restaurant an 82/100.

Our Menu
Slices of chicken breast in coconut milk soup with galangal, lemon grass, mushroom, kaffir-lime leaves, and lime juice.
Huge flavor. Creamy, sour, sweet, slightly spicy, and huge floral notes of cilantro, lemongrass and kefir lime. Great soup and one of the best Tom Ka Gai's I've ever had.

Crispy veggie rolls served with a mild spicy sauce.
Your basic spring roll. Crispy without being too oily and the filling had decent flavor.

Choices of chicken, beef, or shrimp in a mild green curry coconut broth with eggplant, bamboo shoots, string beans, red pepper, and basil leaves.
Similar flavors to the Tom Ka Gai soup. Pretty f'n spectacular stuff hitting all the familiar thai notes - salty, creamy, spicy, and slightly sweet. The fish sauce was pretty aggressive, but I actually dug it a lot. The veggies were perfectly cooked as well - crisp enough to add textural contrast.

Thin rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, sliced red bean curd, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, scallions, and egg in tamarind sauce.
Pretty decent pad thai. Texture of the noodle was decent and the flavor was pretty good.

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

Overall Restaurant Experience (82/100)
  • Food (8.4/10) – Great Thai food and they're not scared to show the real Thai flavors with the intense fish sauce and the nice spice.
  • Service (8.0/10) – Waitress was very nice and the food came out pretty quickly.
  • Atmosphere (8.0/10) – Contemporary looking Asian place with bright chairs and darker wood tables. The second floor overlooks the Potamic river and it'll probably be a spectacular view during the summer. Got there at 1pm on Sunday and it was pretty empty. There were only two to three other families there.
  • Price (N/A) – Like our Baltimore lunch, our friends were ninja payers so I didn't see the bill. It looked like the menu is quite reasonable though.
Closing Comments
If I'm ever in the area again, I'd definitely want to stop by for a second visit. Drunken noodles is my favorite Thai dish and I've heard the ones at Mai Thai are solid...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jaleo - Review

Jaleo - Highly Recommended
480 7th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 628-7949

After my food altering trip to Spain, I've been checking a lot of restaurants in NYC to find some solid tapas. No idea why, but most of the tapas restaurants in NY were pretty disappointing - whether it be poor execution or the place trying to do too much. I have no idea why it cannot be done since it's pretty straightforward - like Italian food, take great ingredients, apply proper technique and cook it simply. Any who, I've been a big fan of Jose Andres for a while, so figured I had to check out Jaleo. So pissed that I did because this place is spectacular and pretty damn angry that I can't get this stuff in NYC. Overall, I give the restaurant an 88/100.

Our Menu
Huevo frito con caviar **
Caviar on top of a fried organic egg
Bread dipped in a fried egg and topped with salty caviar - completely delicious. The only thing i would change is I would make the egg whites a tad softer using my steam method. Still great though. Can't say enough good things about the bread they serve here.

Pan con tomate y queso Pasamontés **
Toasted slices of rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes with Pasamontés farmhouse Manchego cheese
Simple, but delicious and 100% brought me back to Barcelona. Crispy flavorful bread topped with a sweet tomato and salty, earthy Manchego cheese.

Remolacha con cítricos *
A salad of red beets, citrus, Valdeón cheese and pistachios with Sherry dressing
Fun dish when combining all the ingredients together. Got the sweet sour thing with the beets, sherry dressing, citrus and earthy cheese - kinda like a blue. Very bright and refreshing dish and good to break up the heavier dishes coming up.

Cebolla asada con queso Picón **
Roasted sweet onions, pine nuts and Picón cheese
Completely delicious and so in my strike zone. Almost caramelized onion type flavor with something that seemed like blue cheese. The sauce was pretty intense as well and seemed like it was similar to the lamb. Rich, salty, and sweet - pretty f'n awesome.

Arroz cremoso de setas *
Wild mushroom rice with Idiazábal cheese
Basically a mushroom risotto with less liquidity. Pretty f'n good and sad that I would say this is better than a lot of risotto's served in NYC at some subpar restaurants. Rice was perfectly cooked and had perfect al denteness.

Patatas bravas – 2009 ***
Sliced, fried fingerling potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce and alioli
This might have been my favorite dish of the night, since it was so simple yet so delicious. The potatoes had such an intense potato flavor and was perfectly creamy/fluffy on the inside. Add the sweet tomato sauce and the ridiculously creamy and delicious mayo and you have something spectacular. I have Andres' tapas book and I always questioned is it worth it to take that long to make the alioli...after tasting it, it 100% is.

Gambas al ajillo **
The very, very famous tapa of shrimp sautéed with garlic and guindilla pepper
Very tender and sweet shrimp cooked in the amazing garlic oil. This is so simple, yet so many restaurants do this wrong - either poor shrimp or overcooking the f out of it. A tad salty here though, but still great.

Vieiras con calabaza y clementinas *
Seared scallops with butternut squash puree, clementines and pumpkin seeds
Nicely cooked scallops, though I prefer it a little bit under. The sweet butternut squash and clementines made a nice complement to the scallops.

Lomo de cerdo con salsa de cabrales *
Pork loin with roasted onion and Cabrales sauce
Intensely flavored cabrales sauce that was to die for. The pork had decent flavor, but the pork was overcooked. Combined with the sauce and the roasted onion though, it hid the fact that the pork was overcooked.

Flan ***
I love flan and this was done perfectly. Densely flavored, but the texture easily melted in the mouth. The sweetened cream was pretty damn good as well. Just sick stuff...

Chocolate Torte *
What seemed like a chocolate angel food cake on top with chocolate mousse on the bottom. Almost too intensely chocolaty for me, but still fun.

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

Overall Restaurant Experience (88/100)
  • Food (8.8/10) – Great tapas that brought me back to Spain and the patatas bravas rivaled the ones in Spain. Still pissed that we can't get this stuff in NYC.
  • Service (8.0/10) – The server was very knowledgeable about the menu and was pretty enthusiastic which was refreshing. The food came out way too quick though as dishes came out right away to the point where we had 5 plates on the table. Would have been better to have some rest in between plates.
  • Atmosphere (7.0/10) – Pretty big joint and extremely packed. The place was a bit dark but the walls were white brick. In the center of the place was a huge bar that was pretty crowded as well. Place consisted of equal amounts of couples and large groups. Noise level was pretty damn loud. Funny note - d-bag next to me flipped out at our waiter because he as pissed they didn't have some sissy lime drink which he swore they used to have. His wife was furious which made for some entertaining dinner theater.
  • Price (9.0/10) – $35.10 for 4 tapas dishes and 1 dessert - the restaurant week menu. I'm usually anti-restaurant week since they put the worst menu items on the restaurant week menu and the places are always overcrowded. Here they have some solid items on the restaurant week menu. Extremely happy with the food and great deal for the price.
Closing Comments
Definitely a must go if you're in the area. My quest for NYC tapas will continue though, but I'm still pretty pissed I can't get this quality in NYC. Pretty absurd to me...someone should buy Jose Andres tapas book and just recreate the items pretty easily I would think...