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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. Atla - I have some apprehension here. That stems from my (incorrect) correlation of all-day restaurants with mediocre everything. People love Atla though.
  2. 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).
  3. Chez Ma Tante - Reviews abound and all say: fantastic. Sounds like a place where I could learn a bit of technique.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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?
  7. Hanoi House - My pho game is pathetic. I aspire-expect to have great pho here and ask a lot of questions.
  8. 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.
  9. Mike's - All these years and still never a trip to Arthur Avenue. That ends this year!
  10. Metta - I know this block pretty well and so have an impression of a highly inviting and comforting place to share small plates. 
  11. Mu Ramen - I haven't had a beef-based ramen broth. Ever. So that and a chance to learn more about LIC; please!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Superiority Burger - Can the sandwich be as good as people proclaim? And anybody can cook a beef hamburger, what about a meatless option.
  15. 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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Izakaya Rintaro

Last month, I ate dinner an early dinner at Rintaro. I scheduled a 6pm dinner for 1 and asked to sit adjacent to the pass so I could watch the chef de cuisine (CDC) and kitchen staff (it's an open kitchen). Both the food and experience were fantastic.

Food: I ordered the fresh tofu (yosedofu), chicken katsu (chiizu tori katsu), and a few yakitori. I appreciated Rintaro's focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients with very little seasoning and flavor enhancers. For instance, katsu can often include significant salt, togarashi, and other things in the coating. This was the opposite; a very clean crisp coating surrounding very flavorful chicken with a strange and wonderful cheese additional within the chicken. The heart and chicken oyster were especially delicious yakitoris.

Experience: This was a lot of fun for me because I could sit and what the CDC work with the staff and observe how she plated different dishes. And as a bonus, by 6:30 the GM and CDC were having a very real argument about pacing for two or three larger parties seating in the lovely front patio.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Pines

I was fortunate to get out for a meal and drinks at The Pines late last month with a highly knowledgeable technician of the capital markets. Besides picking his brain for 3 hours on how markets really work and what will occur in the upcoming years, we enjoyed a very creative meal with attentive service in an oddly casual (if uncomfortable) setting.

We started with thoughtful cocktails. I had a "Legends of the Fall" which combines rye with Prosecco and apple cider to give the whole drink a bourbon barrel-aged sour beer taste. I don't think that beer style exists (yet) so ... congrats! The technician had a few of "The Pines" which is a resiny Manhattan. 

For food, we enjoyed the ricotta, bread and chive oil immensely. It's a really simple idea and one I could easily lay out at home. And I will starting this weekend! Even if I don't bake the bread and serve a Bien Cuit (and upgrade from Runner and Stone in my eyes), this will be devoured by the monsters. The chive oil was perfectly piquant and a nice foil to the ricotta.

We shared four different vegetable dishes. The highlight was a brilliantly executed romesco to accompany the ubiquitous shishito peppers. Our waitress was taken aback with our reluctance to order the peppers. She persisted and I'm happy she did so. The other veg were nice if not transformational.

 What was? Well the venison! It may have been the single-most complicated dish I've had in 2017 as I chatted with the sole cook (chef?) before leaving. It was marinated, cooked sous vide, grilled, marinated again and something else. I'll remind myself to order the meat dishes next time I go.

Onto comfort. This was a Tuesday night and noise wasn't an issue. The tables, chairs and placement were. These were folding chairs surrounding a table that did not seem up to the task of holding our food and Croatian wine.

[18 months ago, this is what Pete Wells had to write.]