Monday, March 5, 2012

Brushstroke - NYC

Brushstroke, David Bouley's new-ish restaurant in Tribeca, has been getting so much press lately and each article keeps reminding me of the amazing birthday dinner I had there and how I have been neglecting posting on this blog. When my friend chose this restaurant to take me to for my birthday, I was so excited. I had heard about it and was so excited to try out "kaiseki" which is basically the Japanese version of a tasting menu.

Brushstroke was recently announced as one of the top ten best new restaurants of America in 2011 by GQ, awarded one Michelin star for 2012, and also named the best chawanmushi in NY by New York magazine (it was SO good - unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of that one between all the courses!).

My meal was a while ago so my recall isn't great. I'll just make three points and then leave the rest up to the pictures: (1) the restaurant is definitely worth all the praise it's gotten recently, (2) their pork belly was probably the best pork belly I've ever had, (3) they have amazing service - our waiter surprised me with a birthday dessert - I love that. Also, I unfortunately didn't get a picture of all the courses - there were about 12 courses.

amuse bouche - the waiter listed about 10 ingredients, so I didn't catch what this was exactly...


pacific oyster

lobster with kabocha squash

black cod topped with uni

pork belly on top of cipollini onion puree

soy sauce ice cream

sweet ending

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rouge Tomate - main restaurant

This is a long overdue review. Whenever I wait this long before posting a review, I don't have great recollection about each individual dish. One of my new year resolutions is to blog more often.

Rouge Tomate 
10 E 60th St
New York, NY 10022

First Impressions:
This is a huge restaurant, with two levels. The interior is very clean and simple with vases of fruit as decor.  The aura really fits in with the restaurant's concept of healthy, quality, locally source food. My fiance and I thought this would be a great place for a wedding reception or large event.

Although the decor is more on the casual side, the service is equal to that of a five star restaurant - there's a maitre'd to attend to all of your needs. We went there with a groupon deal and the groupon prix fixe menu included a squab dish. I really don't like any kind of non-chicken poultry so I asked if they could replace that dish with something else. The maitre'd worked with the chef to replace my squab dish with a fish dish.

I typically find it is difficult to find restaurants that serve more "creative" non alcoholic drinks, they usually only offer ice tea, lemonade, or Coke/Pepsi products. At Rouge Tomate, they make their own sodas and even offer non alcoholic cocktails.
I had the Nieve de Pina, which is pineapple juice, coconut water, vanilla, cinnamon, pineapple soda
It was quite thick and foamy. I actually found it slightly bland, I think the vanilla and coconut totally downplayed the sweet taste of the pineapple.
Later in the night, we ordered the pineapple soda and the apple sour. I'm not a huge fan of their home made soda. It had a bit of a chalky baking soda taste. Not like fresh squeezed juice + carbonation that I imagined it would be.

The bread basket is actually a giant basket carried around by a waiter. They have a variety of breads - pumpernickel, sourdough, "peasant bread", etc. You choose the slice you want, but they do not leave extra bread at the table.
I thought the heirloom tomatoes were quite a nice and unique touch.

Trio of Amuse
 From left to right:
1. local oyster / rhubarb / ginger
2. cucumber / caviar / dill
3. mousseron / quail egg / mushroom cappucino

I really enjoyed these three items. The presentation looks incredible, very high class. My fav out of the three was the oyster - fresh, light, and with a citrus kick. The caviar was also quite good, but a bit too salty.

Cuttlefish salad
I loved this dish. It's very big on taste but light on your stomach. The cuttlefish is cut thin and tastes delicious with the citrus sauce. This dinner was pretty heavy on the citrus items. I guess that ties all the dishes together.

Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho - cucumber / basil seed / sourdough / sherry vinegar
Isn't this pretty? It tastes like gazpacho but made from jelly. I think this concept is interesting and the execution is good. However, the texture of the jelly made it difficult to eat too much of it. I started to feel a bit grossed out when I got to the bottom orange portion. I think for a cold soup like gazpacho, you definitely want to have some texture/something to chew on.

Sweet Corn Farrotto - Santa Barbara sea urchin / Maine crab succotash / basil

I have to admit, this was not a memorable dish for me. I remember the yellow foam of the dish had the rich buttery taste of sea urchin. That's about it. I think I actually forgot about the dish the night of the dinner.

Thomas Farms Squab - local strawberry / foie gras / endive / Sicilian pistachio

This is the dish I did not have. I am sooo glad I was able to get an alternative. My fiance said it tasted very "gamey" and a bit tough. He is more open to different types of meat and he didn't particularly like this dish because of the squab. 

Thai fish and shrimp 
I feel bad I can't remember the actual name of my dish because it was really good! The taste was very strong so this small bite is perfect. Maybe if I had the full sized dish I would think it was a bit overwhelming.

Palate cleanser: I think it's rhubarb soda + cream

Caraïbe Sphere - Pear / Frangipane / Dulce de Leche / Maldon Sea Salt
This is the most beautiful and unique dessert I've ever seen. I couldn't get a before picture of it, but it was basically a giant round chocolate ball. The waiter then pours hot chocolate sauce all over it and the outside melts away. If you really enjoy warm chocolate cake for dessert, then you would like this dish.

Platter of small desserts - complimentary
These desserts all tasted rather similar, fruit on creme and a pastry shell. 

Homemade Cranola - complimentary

Final impressions: It seemed as though most of the dishes in our meal was served cold. By the time we finished dessert, both of us were basically shivering. This really took away from the experience. However, although we didn't really enjoy the cold dishes, the quality of the meal was apparent. The presentation was flawless and you can tell the ingredients used to cook was fresh and healthy. For healthy cooking, there wasn't an absence of flavor either, which is great! Because of its commitment to fresh quality "farm to table" meals, this is definitely a restaurant I would return to and recommend to others. Hopefully, next time we will order some warmer dishes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

panya macarons - obsessed.

I got the best surprise today - macarons from Panya! Most people who know me know that I'm obsessed with macarons. those who know me really well know that I'm obsessed with green tea flavored-anything. So I LOVED this green tea macaron from panya. I was super excited when I opened the package. Then I bit into it and it had a red bean filling! My two favorite flavors in one macaron, topped with black sesames!

Individually wrapped!

Perfect surprise! Also the macarons at Panya are only $1.50, much cheaper than other macarons around the city. The texture is slightly...air-ier than other macarons from typical French bakeries, with slightly less chewy-ness. You can get these macarons at the Sunrise Mart by Bryant Park or Panya in the East Village near St. Marks.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Laut - NYC

Michelin-starred Malaysian/Thai food? Even though I'm Asian, I was still kind of skeptical of how Asian food could be refined enough to be Michelin-starred. I was also hesitant to dish out the money, since Malaysian and Thai food can easily be found around the city at lower prices. Luckily, I found a deal on Groupon and decided to bring my family here for my dad's birthday dinner (my parents are so old school Asian that they would never let me spend that much money on them for food - only if there were some sort of coupon!). I'm a horrible food blogger - I'm trying to update more frequently and right after I eat a meal. Unfortunately, this meal took place over the summer so I'll just fill you in on the memorable details!

We were at Laut relatively early for dinner, so I really enjoyed the setting (I'm a sucker for restaurants with exposed brick walls).

Chili Tofu: fried tofu stuffed with cucumber, jicama, bean sprout & chili sauce

This was my appetizer - I loved the sauce and toppings. Normally fried tofu at Thai restaurants are over-fried and don't really taste like much of anything - I liked that at Laut, the tofu still had a soft consistency on the inside.

Five Spice Pork Roll: Marinated pork with five spice and fried

Chicken Satay: Grilled marinated with spice on skewer with peanut sauce

Roti Canai: Indian style crispy thin pancake with spicy curry dipping sauce

Ikaan Chili Garang: Fried fillet of flounder with shrimp paste chili sauce

My dad ordered the fried fish and this was easily the best dish out of all of ours. It was extremely spicy but the chili sauce had actual depth in flavor, rather than just burning your mouth off.

Asam Lemak Udang: Sour spicy coconut milk with shrimp lemongrass garlic cherry tomato okra

Actually...I remember absolutely loving this dish too. Also very spicy.

Beef Rendang: Simmered until dry exotic spices lemongrass, lime leaves, grated coconut with thick coconut milk

Chili Crab (with steamed bun): Spicy chili crab (soft shell), egg, garlic, ginger, tomato sauce, sesame peanut oil

This was my order and it was very good. It was slightly on the sweeter side, but I didn't mind it.

Mango with sticky rice

Green tea ice cream with toasted coconut flakes

Their green tea ice cream was amazing! My mom was obsessed with this. It was not sweet at all and had a really deep matcha green tea flavor. I wish we actually asked them who supplies their ice cream, or if it's house-made. I've recently discovered really good green tea ice cream from the Maeda-en brand at Asian grocery stores - but the one at Laut was ten times better than even that brand!

Ginger candy with the check - I love these sorts of extra touches from restaurants!

Vapiano - NYC

A lot of times, my friends and I just want to meet up for a quick affordable meal to catch up, something low key. Yet, we always run in to the problem of finding a restaurant for our weekly catch up sessions - it seems like most restaurants in NYC are either too high maintenance or too casual, with more of a "fast food" feel. Even the restaurants that try to pass off as casual neighborhood spots have surprisingly high menu prices.

Some of my college friends had an event at a sports bar near Union Square one night, while I had another event to go to in the same area so we decided to go to Spice for relatively affordable Thai food. I had only been for lunch before and was surprised that the dinner scene was much more high maintenance (think over done mood lighting and house music). There was also much more of a wait than I expected. After waiting for around 30 minutes, and running late for our respective events, my friends and I opted to go across the street to Vapiano, and were rewarded with a much more serene and elegant (yet affordable and low key) atmosphere where we could actually hear each other talk. They have an interesting system where they give you a card, you go to the respective meal station where you order and get your food, they swipe your card at that station, and upon leaving, you give the card to the cashier who then charges you for the amount reflected on your card.

I loved the simple decor at Vapiano, they even had an olive tree growing in the restaurant (picture above is from their website). Their options of Italian and Mediterranean food also all sounded good. I only opted for a shrimp salad, but it was delicious! This is definitely at the top of my list now as a go-to for catch up sessions with friends.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Whirlwind weekend in Atlanta

In August I took a trip to Atlanta for a work related trip. My fiance joined me Friday night and we spent the weekend touring the city. 

My most memorable and unique experience in Atlanta was dining at a pirate themed restaurant (of course it's food related!).  We stayed at the Intercontinental in the supposedly "upper crust" neighborhood of Buckhead and one of the top reviewed restaurants in the area was Dante's Down the Hatch. This is a fondue restaurant started by former Navy Seals and designed to resemble an old fashioned dock, complete with a pirate ship and an Alligator! (Unfortch, I could not see the alligator that night, so sad) We met up with a friend of mine and dined out on the "shore," but for an extra $5 per person one could dine on the pirate ship with a live band. 

The menu looks like a band of actual pirate wrote it (aka disorganized) and for some bizzaro reason included chinese style entrees. But we stuck with good ol' traditional oil fondue:
The boat meets the shore (left side greenish wood = ship):

The food was decent, not anything spectacular and not bad. The ambiance is really what sets this place apart. I think this is the ULTIMATE place for a first date. Food is not bad, and the conversation points are endless!

Oddly, the chocolate fondue dessert needs to be pre-ordered (how hard is it to heat up chocolate) so we didn't end up staying for dessert. Instead we went to Bistro Nikos, right across the street from our hotel. This is a french restaurant and boy does it get the fresh ambiance down!

The open kitchen is sooo cute! I stood there looking like a fool drooling over all the delicious looking bread loaves and cured meats. 

From the kitchen, you walk into the main dining area, which also totally reminds me of a brasserie in Paris.

The only thing that is out of place is the TV at the bar, showing a football game. This is such an American thing, I feel like the french would rather be people watching or having a great conversation with their neighbors than stare at men in tights tackling each other.

I got bored and took pics of my spoon for some reason.  So I'm posting it.

Our deserts:
This dessert is literally toast with some kind of chocolate spread.  Meh, not so great.
I ordered a Sabayon without knowing what a Sabayon is. So when the waitress handed me a creme brulee, I was afraid to question it even though I suspected it was a creme brulee and not a Sabayon. I ate it of course...and when I was almost done my Sabayon came:
I really didn't enjoy the Sabayon (I like saying the word though!). It was liquidy and a bit sour. If you are feeling even slightly nauseous or unwell, this dessert could very well tip you over the edge. But my friend really liked it and helped me finish it.

My only complaint about this restaurant is slow service, but apparently this is typical for Atlanta restaurants.

If you're planning a trip to Atlanta (business or otherwise), there are many more things to do in the city than just stuffing your face (though I regret not stuffing mine full of shrimp grits). We purchased a citypass for Atlanta and went to:

Georgia Aquarium
World of Coca Cola

CNN Center
These were the three main attractions (they're all within walking distance of each other) and if you use all three tickets you'll probably save around $5 than without a citypass. Other tickets includes a choice of the art museum, museum of natural history, Atlanta history museum, the zoo.  Out of these, I only really wanted to go to the Atlanta history museum, I heard the Swan House is a very nice tour. Unfortunately, the history museum was not very easily accessible by public transportation, and its hours were not very "weekend vacay" friendly.