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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Annicka


What a funny story! We were set to see Diane Krall at the Capitol Theater in Portchester on a cold, drizzly February evening. I inquired about dinner with two frients (clients that turned to friends) residing in some proximity to the theater. One paused significantly and then recommended a place 15 miles west and out of the way. The other scoffed at the idea we would leave Brooklyn to eat in Westchester. He recommended finding something delicious in Queens en route. Well, that concept got me thinking about places I desire visiting near the BQE. Selecting dinner options via highway proximity feels foreign and returns to days' of great old journals like The Michelin Guide and The Green Book. So we selected Annicka and it was delightful.

From the setting to the service to the food, all facets were nearly perfect. The image shows our dishes. I won’t detail all of them, just the charred cauliflower. It was such a revelation. The florets were charred just shy of burnt and then sprinkled with a seasoning that was salty and lemony. Those florets then sat in a lovely beet and cauliflower stem sauce. This sauce was closer to pesto texture than a puree. Annicka is worth going to, no matter your current location. As delightful a meal as we’ve had in some time. Maybe not quite as impressive as Semilla yet in that direction. Long live Annicka!


Atla


Consistency in concept. As a few weeks pass since my lunchtime visit, that phrase best describes Atla. It feels like a casual offshoot of Cosmé. And I actively disliked it as much as I dislike Cosmé. Now, nothing is wrong with the food. I didn’t get sick. The service is fine. Nobody insulted me. The space is airy and clean. It all feels like a television set. Like at any moment a series of Haddad trucks could double-park on Lafayette and break down Atla in 2 hours. Future passerbys would ask did it really even happen? Did I even eat at Atla? And if you did, the food quality would not be the reason you’d remember it. On my visit I had the ranchero eggs with avocado. It was fine except not aligned with the service. I asked the waitress to help me select a dish (something spicy and not messy; note: I was in a suit). She struggled so mightily that I selected the ranchero to put her out of the misery I induced. What a messy dish. Large pieces of torn of tortilla covered in a nice sauce held two poached eggs. Stale tortillas don’t cut easily. The eggs will make the sauce messier. I asked myself how am I going to eat this mess? I tried and succeeded in staying clean though after 50% I stopped trying. It wasn’t worth the potential risk. I ordered an agua fresca to accompany my lunch. The drink is served in lovely glassware with a dozen small ice cubes (perfect cubes). Each time I lifted the drink to my mouth, the ice cubes came tumbling towards me. And this agua fresca was purple! What a potential mess. I asked for a straw and the check, finished my beverage, paid the bill and wondered: did that really happen?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 Restaurant Wish List

Each year, I aspire to visit 12-15 New York City restaurants and somehow only manage to enjoy 8 or so. So 2018's list has some carryover from 2017 (sadly, even from 2016).
  1. Annicka - Farm-to-restaurant? Can't wait to see how the beverage service works.
  2. Atla - I have some apprehension here. That stems from my (incorrect) correlation of all-day restaurants with mediocre everything. People love Atla though.
  3. Bamonte's - In 2017, I took the kids to Queen. We had so much fun even if the food was adequate. The old man was in his element: lovely suit, seating customers and checking in on his regulars. So let's continue visiting the legendary places (I'm still mad at myself for missing Gage and Tollner).
  4. Chez Ma Tante - Reviews abound and all say: fantastic. Sounds like a place where I could learn a bit of technique.
  5. Chumley's - I remember loving it in the late 90s for a drink so now that the reboot's newness recedes, hopefully I can enjoy a meal and drinks.
  6. Dirt Candy - Nobody wants to come with me to Dirt Candy. I agree with their slogan: anyone can cook a hamburger, leave the vegetables to professionals. So I'm going alone in 2018!
  7. Freek's Mill - My favorite wine shop proclaims a favorable wine list that matches the food beautifully. Why do I expect to see a lot of freekeh on the menu?
  8. Hanoi House - My pho game is pathetic. I aspire-expect to have great pho here and ask a lot of questions.
  9. Lilia - A 2018 home cooking goal: to master classic pastas. So I hope to go on an evening when the dishes are simple and I can observe the art of saucing effectively.
  10. Mike's - All these years and still never a trip to Arthur Avenue. That ends this year!
  11. Metta - I know this block pretty well and so have an impression of a highly inviting and comforting place to share small plates. 
  12. Mu Ramen - I haven't had a beef-based ramen broth. Ever. So that and a chance to learn more about LIC; please!
  13. Okonomi - How I swoon for a donburi or Japanese set lunch! What exactly is ichiju-sansai? I don't know and will not learn ahead of time. Surprise me, please.
  14. Roll-N-Roaster - Ok, late night PAC12 football games come with some strange commercials. I eat so little roast beef but can sing this damn jingle.
  15. Superiority Burger - Can the sandwich be as good as people proclaim? And anybody can cook a beef hamburger, what about a meatless option.
  16. Tokyo Record Bar - This concept is genuinely foreign to me but sounds so fun.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Emmy Squared

A few Saturdays ago the family found itself without any activities and nowhere to be. So, in that case, what do we do but ... eat!

I'd wanted to visit Emmy Squared as we're semi-regular at Emily's. So answer to the obvious: I prefer the pizza at Emily's to Emmy Squared. I appreciate the Detroit-style but prefer a thin-crust made with a live-fire.

With that said, the pizza is delicious and the service, like at Emily's is poor. We ordered 5 pizzas for 5 people that they squeezed into a 4-top. We don't mind the seating. But we did mind that all pizzas arrived at once. I don't believe the wait staff needs a "bring them in sequence" to understand that if you drop five pizzas at once, the fifth pie will be cold by the time people even get to a single slice. It's a pretty straightforward service aspect and one that they missed here. Aggravating. With that in mind, I enjoyed the Colony-squared most (it was my second pizza slice so still pretty hot) as the kitchen puts just enough honey to balance the chilies and pepperoni in a trio of sweet, sour and spicy.

The Progress

In early June, I ate a decidedly delicious and relatively straightforward meal at The Progress. The conceit is beautiful: choose 4 items and pay a single per-person price. Unlike a fixed menu, you have choice and the dining experience is communal.

All the dishes were top-drawer so nothing to really critique. The kitchen did enough to provide contrasting flavors via sauces yet let each dish's ingredients shine through. And the service was knowledgeable and fully capable.