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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Eating at Walter's

We walk by Walter's in Fort Greene frequently. And it looks so inviting. Something about the lighting and bar layout make it feel like a neighborhood restaurant that I'd want to make "our place." Last month, we went as a family (I rarely like going out for dinner with the little ones, but that's a different story).

Walter's was great. We had a great time. The food was fantastic - from the spicy, crunchy wings to the shared steak. There wasn't a single dish we didn't enjoy. That steak was something special. Not in a melt-in-your-mouth way. Strangely, I felt like the meat was seasoned from the inside-out. The steak had chew, not tough. I still think about it a month later.

Talde (6 out of this year's 12)

We visited Talde in August and had a fine meal. It was our 6th of 12 restaurants to visit this year. I've been trying to figure out why we didn't love it. Finally, I realized: at this price the service and atmosphere felt too casual. In many ways, Talde has the feel of a poor-man's Blue Dragon (in Boston). That's probably unfair; Ming Tsai's been a restaurateur for 12+ years. And liking a Boston anything over a Brooklyn anything pains me.

You can see what we ordered.

Strangely, I'd say our favorite item was the Chow Fun. It was flavorful and had a great texture capturing crunch and chew. The Kung Pao wings were also delicious - great exterior and moist (slightly bland) meat.

Then the other things were fine, not great and nothing terrible. The BBQ Negroni was much more innovative and interesting than the Navy Grog.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mai Tai - my dismay

So I put a lot of work into making the mai tai a reality at home. And after all the work and effort, tweaking and note-taking, I realized something. I don't think I like the Mai Tai. That makes sense because I dislike almond flavored anything (aside from straight almonds).

To make an authentic Mai Tai, you need to make falernum and orgeat (pronounced or-ZHAT). Neither is particular difficult to make, but I found that orgeat doesn't keep well (maybe one week in the fridge), so that means you need to make many drinks, in a hurry.

My final recipe:
2 part white rum
1 part Lemon Hart overproof rum (or other Demerera rum)
1 part orgeat
1 part falernum
1/2 part lime juice
1 Luxardo cherry

  1. Smash ice in a lewis bag or crush ice somehow. You really want small, small pieces but not a slushy. Fill Collins glass with smashed ice.
  2. Add ice cubs and all ingredients except cherry and Lemon Hart to a cocktail shaker.
  3. Secure shaker top and shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
  4. Open and strain into Collins glass.
  5. Pour in Lemon Hart slowly.
  6. Float cherry on top of ice
  7. Provide a straw to stir and drink through
If you'd like me falernum or orgeat recipes, comment below and I can send them (they're long).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gwynnett St. (5 of 12)

On Friday night, we dined at Gwynnett St. for the first time. Everything about the restaurant is wonderful. We could see a lot of trial and error went into each dish. There were strange and wonderful combinations that I loved. There were others that the wife loved. For all that trial and error, I'd expect to pay significantly. And pay significantly we did ($170 - all-in - for 2 with one cocktail each).

I had it in my head that this was as remote as Roberta's and it clearly isn't. It's right off of Grand. We noticed (reservation at 7 on Friday) we were amongst the youngest diners there. And we're old!

Onto the food and drink.

1) "Same, Same, But Different" - Perfect for the wife; more sweet than bitter but not overly sweet. The cocktail (served in a beautiful coupe) was also a great shade of green and highly aromatic.
2) "Crow's Nest" - Kind of reminiscent of  a lot of cocktails (Old Fashioned and Sazerac) but with the aged rum there was a caramel/wood flavor. Two thoughts: (a) this is delicious and (b) I have a long way to go before I'm making drinks this original and this good.

(note: I was starving.)
We started with "Whiskey Bread" which was the most amateur and uninteresting dish. If you've ever made irish soda bread, you can make this at home. But, it came with this tremendous butter. We eat some awesome butter at home but this was something entirely different. The butter was salty, grassy, creamy and even slightly sweet.

We ordered two appetizers: the stinging nettle soup and the chicken liver (fine mousse consistency). The soup was really average. In the end it tasted like a broth with finely pureed any-green. The chicken liver was the opposite. The tiny pieces were so complex and delicious, redolent of chicken, animal fat and then a lot of other tastes. We could order it four times over and be happy and full (and broke!).

We ordered an entrĂ©e to share as a middle course. Tofu. Tofu? This is homemade from cashews served with cauliflower and black garlic. Tremendous. If you go, you'll think about not ordering this and that would be a critical mistake.

Our entrees were dorade with wheatberries and pork with parsnip. Both were lovely, I think the dorade was a bit more enjoyable than the pork, but maybe I just like fish more. The wheatberries seemed like there were steamed, deep-fried, and pan-fried, all at once. I liked them even more than the fish.

Two appetizers and three entrees. We were full but had no problem going for a bit of a walk. But I'll think about that butter and chicken liver for a long time beyond today.

Yopparai (4 of 12)

Last month we ate at Yopparai with my cousin and her husband. Yopparai is a self-proclaimed "sake bar and restaurant." It is a hard place to describe accurately. There are numerous sakes. The staff is well-versed, helpful and willing to talk sake. There's some sushi (we didn't order any). There are numerous cooked dishes (we ordered a lot).

First and foremost the service is great. We never felt rushed or obligated to order more. The food was fantastic. We ordered the homemade tofu. It was nice, but not as lovely as the tofu at Hibino.

We ordered a series of onigiri that were grilled. They were lovely.

Then we had simmered dishes that came bubbling in clay pots. Those were fantastic. I can't think of a single dish we didn't enjoy. A month later, the Jidori Tamago Toji was the most memorable dish.

There's a timely and more eloquent description at the New York Times.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hibino - The best in a long time...

Earlier this month, we made it to Henry Public and Hibino for a cocktail plus dinner. The evening was tremendous.

At Henry Public we ordered two drinks that were both delicious and interesting. I ordered the Kings County Sour. It's shaken with an egg white and so has a viscous, lovely texture. I thought the whiskey was there and added flavor but didn't take over the drink. S.O.S ordered the Oddfellow. That drink combines rum, lime, grapefruit and some homemade syrups to make something that is full of citrus and an appropriate amount of sweetness.

Next door at Hibino (technically two doors away), we enjoyed our favorite restaurant meal in a very long time. We had the fresh made tofu, which comes in a little pitcher along side a mushroom dashi and grated ginger/scallion. Really worth the trip alone and so good that we ordered a second instead of dessert. We ordered two appetizer specials: a perfectly diced bowl of vegetables in broth (picture) and simmered pork belly. Both were fantastic. S.O.S had to console me after I looked through the diced vegetables and remarked on how my bad my knife skills have become and how I could never dice like this anymore and well, I'm a total failure in life! The excellent Albarino along with her consolation worked.

We ordered a broiled salmon (wanting something warm) and a massive sashimi platter. Both were satisfying, not revolutionary. The salmon was a perfect intersection of rich, charred, and fishy (in a great way).

Overall a highly worthwhile experience. Hibino has great service and fosters a very lovely atmosphere.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

eating at kin shop (2nd of 12)

Last week we took the kids to kin shop. Going out with them often devolves into something like less than ideal. Anyhow we went with an open mind and weren't disappointed (hey, the kids even got along.).

And the food was very good. I think this was my favorite Thai food outside of the three meals at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. The restaurant space and design are not great, not even very good. The chair backs are marked up. The bar looks a little dusty. The floors have a cafeteria feel to them. The space and design remind me of a high-end restaurant in Flushing.

The food and service were excellent. We had the following:

  1. Miang of fluke - 5 lovely bits of fluke, each on a shiso leaf (do they have shiso in Thailand?)
  2. Stir fry of aquatic vegetables - delicious stir fry with a very light touch with the oil and salt
  3. Stir fry rice flakes - the most unusual dish, these were wide rice noodles shattered into pieces and stir fried with tremendous shrimp (and I usually dislike shrimp intensely)
  4. Massaman: braised goat - the curry was delightful with enough peanut taste (not heavy), great texture and an aroma of, well, everything it seemed (fish sauce, cardamom, star anise...). The goat was bland. I sold the goat pretty hard and the kids ate it saying it "Daddy, isn't it just lamb?" I was hoping for gamy.
  5. Crispy roti - I always associate this with Malaysia. We're glad to have seen it. The kids rejoiced in eating it and we ordered a second (nearly a third). It was perfect: crisp, aromatic, slightly oily. 
The cocktails and wine didn't really jump out at us so we stayed with water. And with tax and tip the bill came to ~ $105. We would definitely go back.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Five favorite spirits of 2012

We tried a few new (to us) spirits in 2012. One or two were awful, many were simply fine, and five were favorites.
  1. Carpano Antica Formula - You can't find a bar that doesn't feature Carpano (well, unless you're in New Jersey) now. And rightfully so, this is delicious any way you use it.
  2. Banks Island 5 Rum - Never has a 750 mL bottle been finished as fast as this one. We couldn't make enough daiquiris and mojitos with this rum. Delicious in every way.
  3. Pierre Fernand Dry Curacao - In small doses, this made every drink better. We added it often to Daiquiris and even to an occasional Brandy Crusta.
  4. Brooklyn Gin - So far this is my favorite all-purpose gin. I use it most often for a Negroni or Gin & Tonic. Really delicious in that it's not too much heat nor are the botanicals so strong in any direction that all you taste is a specific flavor.
  5. Luxardo Cherries - Not a spirit. But this redefines the garnish to me. Going through some domestic and German competitors, nothing is even close to this cherry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Allswell Review

On Friday night we visited Allswell on a very busy stretch of Bedford Avenue. We haven't been out in Williamsburg at night (daytime coffee trips happen) in a long time. Honestly, maybe it's been ten years. So our first observation was the level of foot traffic, cabs, and yelling. It reminds me of 2nd avenue in the East Village. Second observation is that Allswell is not a comfortable restaurant. The benches and stools are low and short. You are not really going to want to sit here very long. In summary, we old!

Overall Localvore rating - Meh, fine. Worth going to if you live nearby.

Our menu covered all the basics - some fish, some beef, a flatbread. It's not challenging or particularly interesting. Aside from the herring and mussels, there's nothing on the menu I couldn't procure at the Food Coop on any given day.

We had the mussels, scallops, and short ribs. Far and away the mussels in green curry were the tastiest of the three. The kitchen does something pretty difficult. It made a curry that is both very flavorful and not insanely spicy. We loved it. Strangely, they serve this with a little piece of baguette. We asked for additional bread. That took some time to return with and by that time the curry was cold.

The scallops and short ribs were fine. They were tasty enough; fresh scallops, creamy polenta, etc.

Actually we enjoyed the cocktails more than the food. Allswell makes their own orgeat and featured it in a cocktail. I don't recall the names, but if we were nearby again, we would stop by for a drink.

Allswell is similar to The Vanderbilt, but not quite as professional or interesting.

Friday, January 4, 2013

12 Restaurants for 2013

Happy New Year. 

It's been a long, slow blogging process. So if anyone reads this, I apologize for the delay. 2013 will be more fertile with posts about drinks out, drinks made, dinners out, and a recipe here or there. The photography will not be great. This blog will not compare to smitten kitchen or lady gouda.

So this year's first post will be the 12 new restaurants we'll visit this year. We made it to 9 of the 12 in 2011.