Sunday, March 25, 2012

Blue Hill at Stone Barns - Review

Blue Hill at Stone Barns - Dude Grade A-
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, NY 10591
Phone: (914) 366-9600

My wife took me out for my birthday and we ended up going to the great Blue Hill at Stone Barns. We've been there a couple of times to check out the farm / farmer's market, but we've never been to the restaurant. 100% well worth the wait as this place rocks. This place shows off their phenomenal ingredients with solid technique ending up in uber delicious dishes.

Our Menu
Raw vegetables from the farm *
Carrot Juice and Mint ***

Raw vegetables simply seasoned with olive oil and salt - my fave was the radish and cauliflower. They do taste delicious and really a great palate opener for the delicious vegetables about to come. The carrot juice was pretty mind blowing - huuuuge carrot flavor and even a meaty flavor thing going on. No idea if they use some stock or seaweed, but it's a big time wtf starter.

Pickled Asparagus and Egg Yolk **
I love me some pickled vegetables and this was bright and acidic which was balanced by the awesome egg yolk.

Beet Sushi **
Smoked and Dehydrated Vegetables **
Beet sushi was unexpected, but it definitely made sense. Sushi rice had the nice sweetness and texture paired with the crunchy beet. I wish they would sell the veggie chips - they're friggin' amazing. Potato, kale, and carrot. More foreshadowing as beets and kale are used in many other preparations.

Beet Burger **
Sweet and warm brioche buns with this delicious beet burger. It had this really meaty flavor which I'm not sure how they accomplished that - maybe stock? seaweed? Pretty damn surprising how good this was.

Roasted Salsify with Sesame Seeds **
Another delicious dish - roasted sweet flavor that had this almost potato thing going on which was really satisfying.

Fish Ball with Field Greens *
Fishball was tasty and the field greens were really delicious. The sauce was a bit too salty for my taste though - I believe made from seaweed and either fish sauce/anchovies.

Beet Salad **
More beets, but oddly enough at no point in the entire dinner was I ever sick of them. This was paired with pistachios, goat cheese cream, and some type of beet marmalade. Very delicious stuff.

Fresh Ricotta, Spinach Marmalade, Brioche **
I've never had spinach marmalade before, which is weird since this made so much sense. Rich, bright, and acidic which paired perfectly with the ricotta made at Dan Barber's (owner) farm. A big thing about this place is the servers take their time to explain where things come from. They brought these ancient grains out (making the brioche) and explained how the restaurant sourced these since they are not grown much anymore. Pretty educational stuff - and ultimately awesome for the diner that they seek out things like that.

Scallop and Chowder **
Perfectly cooked scallop with this really bright chowder. The acidity of the chowder was such a perfect match with the scallop. I love how many restaurants are now making sure there's an acidic pop to balance out traditionally rich dishes. This brightness makes your palate alive and wanting to eat more instead of being dulled down by too rich of a sauce.

Roasted Parsnip and Beet Ketchup *
Loved this dish, but the beet ketchup was completely unnecessary. The parsnip was so sweet and the jus or demi-glace paired perfectly. The ketchup was delicious, but it kind of muddied up the flavor of the parsnip and sauce.

Whipped Lardo, Butter, and Vegetable Salts ***
Everything on this plate was perfect to me. The lardo was stupid good - so porky and delicious. Even the butter was amazing - huge flavor.

Poached Egg, Speck, Kale ***
This was my type of wtf dish. Salty/porky speck, rich and creamy egg yolk, and the awesome brown butter sauce made for an over the top dish. Even the sweet kale was friggin such a perfect match.

Black Trumpet Mushroom Pasta
A pass for me. Pasta was undercooked and didn't have that juicy quality - a tad too dry. Wife enjoyed it though.

Venison, Kidneys, Broccoli Rabe **
Completely delicious dish. Kidneys and venison were friggin awesome - perfectly cooked and seasoned. Probably the best kidneys I've ever had.

Another pass for me - way over seasoned. If you're eating the fatty part of the lamb, it's not bad but when you hit all meat - it's waaay too salty.

Hudson Valley Beef Loin **

The server brought this other dish to make up for the lamb and it was spectacular. Perfectly cooked and amazing with the carrots, sauce, and the greens. Beef had big time flavor too.

Sweet Potato Cake, Pumpkin Seeds
Great dessert - sweet potato had great flavor. Some type of lemony foam and the roasted pumpkin seed added this nutty complexity to the dish.

I love me some cheese and this was decent, but I was hoping for some local cheeses instead. These were from Cali and Wisconsin which were decent, but not great.
Beet Cheesecake **
A really surprisingly delicious cheesecake. The sweetness definitely had this beet type of flavor going on which was really delicious.

Chocolate Cake and Cream **
This reminded me of a delicious ho-ho - chocolate fudginess on the outside and cream filling on the inside. Crispy chocolate topping added an awesome textural contrast.

Petit Fours - Chocolate Cookies, Marshmellows, and Lollipops *

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A-) – Everything was definitely in my strike zone - great products with solid execution. Only a couple of slight misses with the majority of the dishes great.
  • Service (A+) – Someone was always there when I needed something and the food came out at a perfect pace. The servers were incredibly knowledgeable about all the dishes and were generally enthusiastic describing the food. Unlike Le Bernardin, they cleaned up the crumbs from the table frequently. They also were very willing to replace the lamb dish and apologized giving us a free very delicious beef dish.
  • Atmosphere (A) – Nice bright open place with large ceilings. Seeing the fields in the background and hearing the birds chirping adds a nice touch. The place seats around 60 with the majority being couples and groups of couples of all ages - younger and old. Everyone rocked the same attire - dresses for the ladies and blazers, button down shirts for the men.
  • Price (A) – $148 for 8 courses which I felt was definitely worth it.
Closing Comments
A great place for a special occasion fine dining restaurant which I definitely will be back to revisit.

Doritos Locos Tacos

If you haven't yet already taken a bite, we highly recommend you do soon.
My oh my is this good!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shrimp Tempura Udon

There are so many types and makers of Tempura, Udon, Broth. The
combinations are a plenty.
This simple (very common) dish can range from $6.99 to $13.99
depending on the grade of every ingredient.

Can the average American taste the difference?
Probably not.
So how do I educate the public and develop a higher quality demand?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Prime 112 - Horrible

This place is considered the top restaurant in Miami Florida.
On a short list of "Must Go", Prime 112 is right up there with Zuma,
Hakkasan and Michael's Genuine.

But in my humble opinion, this place SUCKS!
Probably one of the worst restaurants I've been to in Miami.
That's including diners, hotel room service, and Sushi Samba.

The steaks are not flavorful at all. The waitress makes terrible
recommendations for the table (but that's probably geared towards
Miami diners so I can't truly fault her for that).
The sides are very basic (meaning made with no particular skill).
The decor is absolutely boring and poorly put together.
And the general staff(runners, bussers, and floor managers) have no
clue what they are doing. NO CLUE.

If you are from a foodie city, and have a decent palate, just do
yourself a favor and cross this place off any "must go" list.

Worst steakhouse experience in years.
Calling this joint a steakhouse is insulting the industry and also the
cows who sacrifice their lives.

This carrot cake was the best dish of the meal, and I'd rather pay for
a Supermarket frozen Carrot Cake any day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Florida Stone Crabs

These bad-boys are in season right now.
But at $35/#, one better have an expense account, cause they just go
down way too easily. 3# later, I'm still thinking what's for the main

That's right, we are doing it Big Willie Style down here in Miami.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Best Wagyu Beef money can buy

Kagoshima A5 Wagyu cooked on Bincho Charcoal.

Hearty Japanese Breakfast

You can't beat a full on Japanese Hotel Breakfast.
The best rice from Niigata, Miso Soup, Salad, Grilled Fish, Croquette,
Tamago, Yakisoba, Sausages, Kimpira Gobo and 2 glasses of OJ.

I'm a happy camper.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Legend Bar & Restaurant - Review

Legend Bar & Restaurant - Dude Grade A-
88 7th Ave
Btn 16th and 15th St
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 929-1778

I was in the mood for some Szechuan food and one of my co-workers from Chengdu recommended this place for Szechuan eats. My former go to joint was the great Wu Liang Ye in Midtown, but this place one ups it for me. This place has such a great balance of flavor and the food is pretty spicy, but not spicy enough where you can't taste anything else. I haven't had a WTF moment for chinese food in the states in a long time, but I was pretty blown away by this place.

Our Menu
Dan Dan Noodles Cheng-Du Style *
Solid texture and chew to the noodles and delicious flavor. I dug the Wu Liang Ye version better for the flavor, but the wife loved this a lot.

Beef And Ox Tripe In Chili Sauce **
The wife and I always order this dish and surprisingly a lot of places eff this up. Most places generally add way too much szechuan peppercorn which adds that buzzing sensation on your tongue (not heat, but like a weird chemical reaction). This place does it right and the flavors are so spot on - rich, a little vinegary, a little spicy. Tripe is incredibly tender and flavorful and there's a lot more beef here than you normally see at most restaurants.

Sichuan Cucumber *
Again, we've had this from other places where it's extremely salty, sweet, and too many peppercorns. This is perfectly refreshing - nice and crispy with a little salt and sugar. Perfect accompaniment for the spicy food.

Fried Lambs With Cumin ***
This was a big wtf moment for me. Think crispy chicken parm coating for texture, with tender and insanely flavorful lamb, and seasoned beautifully with cumin, chiles, and chinese celery. It's friggin phenomenal and so addicting. I generally don't like celery, but it's a perfect match here - great texture and almost bright/refreshing flavor.

Chengdu Fish And Pickled Veg ***
The waitress recommended this dish and we indifferently agreed. Man - this was another big wtf moment for me. Fish soup was so rich, yet light and insanely flavorful. Add the pickled veg and chiles and you had a phenomenal broth. The fish also was incredibly fresh, sweet, and perfectly poached. I was at 90% capacity and I still had 2 full bowls of this that made me disgustingly uncomfortable afterwards - still worth it.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (A) – My new go-to Szechuan restaurant. This reminded me of a much more refined version of Thai cuisine hitting all these notes of savory, salty, sour, spicy, and sweet without being overpowering in any of those flavors.
  • Service (B) – Server recommended great dishes for us and the food came out pretty quick. They are busy as hell there, so don't expect smiling faces - it's all business getting you in and out.
  • Atmosphere (C+) – When you first walk in, you are greeted with a crowd of people waiting for the tables hovering over the tiny bar. Not the most relaxing entrance, but you notice more than half of the joint are Chinese people speaking Mandarin which is always a good sign. Much nicer looking place than your standard Chinese joint - nice modern lighting with dark wood floors and bright yellow walls. We got there on a Friday at 7pm with no reservations and we waited 30 minutes before getting a table for 2.
  • Price (A) – $16-20 an entree for phenomenal Szechuan food. 100% worth it in my opinion.
Closing Comments
Like I said, my new go-to restaurant for Szechuan food. Although I still love Wu Liang Ye, heading to Chelsea is much more pleasant than heading to the nightmare that is the theater district.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mapo Tofu alla Porthos

I haven't been home in weeks to cook so last night, I busted out an
oldie but goodie from the repertoire.
My take on Mapo Tofu.
All I need is a bowl of steaming white rice and I'm a happy SOB.